I would love to feel and think and act with less self-evisceration. Here is just one example. Yesterday I was thinking about journaling and then sharing the entry with you here on my blog however, I resisted because I feared that a stream-of-consciousness-ish approach to self-reflection, introspection, et cetera, that one would share… with “the world”… relatively unvetted as such thoughts would inevitably arise, thus being not only relatively unformulated, but furthermore, would merely be an act of “feeling” a “need” or impulse or push to witness, in almost narcissistic or egotistical fashion, the finished product of a concrete, tangible sense of my productivity. Because, you see, I am actually a very slow writer. That’s one reason my why my creative writing projects rarely advance beyond the “preliminary draft” form. Because just when I think it is done I get a new idea on a different turn it should take. Might one call this a sort of obsessive-compulsive perfectionism?
In contrast, one spiritual and psychological and even intellectual benefit that working on an open journal MIGHT offer me is the pleasure of tracking thought process. My therapist asked me “when you visualize your career’s development and growth, what do you see? What do you want for yourself?”
In terms of visualization: the imagery that pervades, (in a sensation or sorts that feels to me like the water spurting out of a whale’s blow-hole up into the air, as if my unconscious was the whale and the content/visualization imagery was what the whale’s blow-hole pushed up out of it) is me blogging. And it just sort of heats up and expands like pasta in boiling water regardless of what my CONSCIOUS critique of the vision (possible intuition) is.
And the thing is… I am skeptical of my more intuitive experiences because in the past my intuition was my epistemological principle/standard from which to deduce what I should believe to be good, bad, necessary to do or unnecessary to do. And indeed, pure, un-processed intuition is dangerous. As a result of pure intuition when a fantasy arises that I find appealing enough, I say, “that’s the fantasy I must now chase!”
For example, when I was 19 and in college at Florida Gulf Coast University, I fantasized about moving to Europe. Because the visions of living in Europe appealed to me, I decided I would drop out of college and move to England.
(I did not end up in England or ever visit any place in Europe though I still fantasize about it…Germany, France, Spain, Ireland. Germany and France attract me because I appear to have a strong affinity for German and French writers, at least when compared to American. Schopenhauer. Nietzsche. Thomas Mann. Montaigne. Anais Nin. Proust.)
What has got me thinking about intuition anyway? This amazing book I’m reading: The Source by Tara Swart. (very fascinating book! Swart is a former psychiatrist turned neurologist who, for many years now, has been researching how to optimize the brain) One of the things she discusses in this book is how we think in certain distinct forms. Perhaps the easiest to point out being logical reasoning.
But she points out, first of all, an interesting thing about just how inevitably biased even the best-intentioned logic can be. She writes:
“To guide the way [of logical reasoning] , emotional value tagging acts as a fluorescent highlighter, telling us which bits of past (and present) information to pay attention to. All of this is informed by emotional responses to the memories laid down in our past—what happened, what the outcome was and how our reaction to it led to success or failure. Each of our memories will be infused by a memory of how we felt at the time, thus informing our logical appraisal of the present moment. Our intuition either backs up or conflicts with the logical and emotional answers. We then decide which pathway(s) are least risky to go with, hence the almost permanent lingering doubt that we could have made a “better” decision. The key here is that every decision we make, however logical, is always biased by emotion. There’s no way to avoid our brain seeking out these tags, and the emotional element of decision-making is key—so much so that research shows that when the parts of the brain responsible for making sense of emotion are damaged, decision-making is slow and incompetent, despite the fact that the capacity for objective analysis is still there. This illustrates the fact that logic cannot function optimally in isolation—it works collaboratively with other modes of thought, especially emotion. There is something we can do to keep our logic on track: keep a skeptical eye on our “pattern recognition” system,[Swart, Tara. The Source (pp. 174-175). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.] (format updated at 5:19 pm EDT)
(One point about this then: it seems to me, it’s not as though we should thus avoid reason/logic so much as we should try to reason, and then run it through the various other modes of thought, as if to purify, and then try to reason through that processing experience. Because, after-all, it is even reason and science and objectivity which advises us in the form of knowledge what best practices in accordance with reality appear to be.)
So, in attempt apply her wisdom, I try to neither so confine myself to logic that this intuitively based push to write an open journal entry is, because of its intuitive nature, inherently a waste of my time. Okay, let me experiment and start writing down some thoughts and see where it takes me, how it feels, if it appears to serve any effort towards self-improvement, et cetera. It made me think then of Anais Nin, Thomas Mann, Robert Musil, and Dostoevsky, who each experimented with concepts associated with the art or practice of journaling.
There is an entirely different angle to this however, which goes beyond the more aesthetic and purely “literary.” It brings to me this wonderful, pleasureful sensation of more assertive social communication. It is as if I am simply talking to you and making believe you care to listen or read and utter something back and this is all that is.
Simply in general I love a deep, impassioned, culture related conversation. My conversations, even when I cannot recall exactly what has been said, are among my best memories. I have been, for example, in conversation with some people I am close to, about the contrasting and compared implications of monogamy and polyamory (there’s an exciting subject!). In my adolescence and early adulthood I used to get into heavy discussions about whether or not a god might exist and why or why not to trust religion texts and their claims. At one of my college jobs, when it would get quiet, some of the most fascinating conversations would arise. One friend and I got into a heated debate about the supremacy of logic and reason, his opinion being that a “non-rational” (as opposed to strictly “irrational”) mode of thought exists such as how one feels in the midst of sexual/romantic attractions, or poetic/artistic musings. In hindsight, I wonder if he would agree that that’s what intuition is?
The desire to engage in more conversations has escalated more and more throughout this persisting pandemic and social distancing. Think about it: I went from driving up and down New Jersey between three jobs constantly infused with rushes of people and varying geographies. Now, I have one job, it’s confined to my laptop, and, though it is a little embarrassing to say, I’m not sure I necessarily have so many friends. On the plus side, I have been fortunate to interact, day to day, with very pleasant people. But… what is that level of “friendship-intimacy” that I even think I’m desiring?
The concept of “friendship” brings me a little bit of anxiety. Communication in general also. One thing I find especially awkward is when you are nearing what feels like the probable end of a conversation but you’re just not sure. Plus, part of you would like to keep the conversation going. Or, sometimes the opposite happens. You maybe feel guilty to admit it to yourself but you wish you could figure out the most polite way to end the conversation.
Sharing with you this journal entry as if talking to you, thus, creates a FEELING that enables me to imagine it is as if I am indeed engaging in a conversation about these thoughts with you!
This might even be a really positive and healthy thing. I’ve been reading up quite widely on different suggestions as to how to best practice “creative visualization” and one suggestion that arises again and again is to travel into your mind and imagine you are doing exactly what it is you would be doing, and begin to add details to that imagined vision as to make it feel more real. Our brain’s neurons then. as a result, are literally being directed to search for the best possible neural pathways from which to repeat this and grow/thicken it and therefore, increase the likelihood that you’re brain will be most attuned to the goal you wish to achieve which you are visualizing.
So “intuitively,” logically, and aligned with my creative imagination, here I am, jotting down thoughts and preparing to share them in as much a spirit of constructiveness and honesty I can tie together.
Unfortunately, the destructive, more negative inclinations in mind want to stop me from writing this. But, if it comes from a place of unkindness to myself, I believe I have reason not to put so much trust in that slew of thoughts. Anyway, why should I chastise myself for journaling out loud as it were?
Open journaling or public journaling or social journaling let us say?
Another point I want to share…and I admit there is some negativity here that is very hard to shake off: because I do indeed write so slowly, but also so constantly, routinely, (typically two to three hours every morning) but have very little to show for it in concrete, tangible form, (beyond, for the pleasure of my ego, a string of A’s in my graduate school courses which, alas, don’t make me money) I mean, yeah, it does get to feel as though one is banging one’s head on the wall so to speak. It’s easy to start feeling like a failure.
My therapist reminded me that graduate school is worth it in the long run between the education as such, that it makes you more qualified in the field you love, and that it increases your odds to make more money, but one simply has to be patient on the slow ride up.
That’s fair enough but it does not deter me from experimenting with the journal-form essay for awhile if only to get the thrill of seeing it published on my website and thus feel like I have accomplished something small but constructive nonetheless!
And…writing to you, dear reader, as if talking to you, does inspire within me the feeling that I am contributing at least prospective material for conversation or contemplation or just the record of thought process. I don’t feel bad about that. Why should I? In my opinion, it’s one of those things which someone ought to do if only to pay tribute to the beauty of thought process.
I continue to read though Tara Swart’s The Source. As I do so, one thing that more and more intensely seems to strike me is how I believe I have a very heightened fascination with THOUGHT and TRACKING THOUGHTS/ THOUGHT PATTERNS and optimizing/adjusting them aligned with best journaling, self development and cultural criticism practices.
How do we come to note our thoughts? How do take time to question them or explore what we associate with a given thought?
Some interesting exercises and ideas Tara Swart suggests: experimenting with mind wandering, making a list of limiting beliefs, identifying what you believe to supporting evidence to substantiate those beliefs and then reevaluate if they really are true. She also suggests journaling and when doing so seeing if you can recall what that day you found energizing, distracting, or something that depleted your energy.
For example, I actually find intensifying my focus on my GOALS and facilitating that intensification of focus by, not merely taking notes, but incorporating those notes into my journaling and reflection.
That reminds me of this guided meditation series I’ve been working with produced by Andy Puddicombe (his HeadSpace App) which is focused on meditating on the idea of making our lives more efficient. One thing he discussed in the last guided meditation was his suggestion that we “simplify tasks and remove distractions.”
What can I do to simply my tasks and remove distractions? What do I think I have done recently in that regard?
Recently, in terms of deciding what topics to write about I reasoned that it would be helpful, since I am really determined to experience the accomplishment of self-improvement goals, to write about that. Also, JOURNALING about it as opposed to trying to write something more “polished” actually makes me feel like I am removing some pressure. It’s like I can take notes when I’m reading. I can reflect after I’ve done such and such exercise, activity, et cetera, and just sink my mind deeper into this and in a sense “kill two birds with one stone” though let’s be clear, I don’t literally believe in killing any animals unless it is for self defense. I am nearly vegan as recently I’ve even lost an appetite for eggs, cheese, and most foods prepared with them. (Thus far the only significant exceptions seem to be the pancakes my wife makes and the butter I spread on the pancakes. And my mayonnaise which I use to enhance the taste of my fake meat and black bean burgers.
Should I thus quit mayonnaise consumption? I think I might just because once I begin to visualize the use of egg. But vegan mayonnaise exists also which I don’t remember ever trying. So maybe I will. Next trip to Whole Foods is probably on Saturday.
5:14pm: A quote I like from Dostoevsky’s A Writer’s Diary:
“My situation is as uncertain as it can be. But I shall talk to myself and for my own amusement, in the form of this diary, whatever may come of it. What shall I talk about? About everything that strikes me and sets me to thinking. If I should find a reader and God forbid, an opponent, I realize that one must be able to carry on a conversation and know whom to address him. I shall try to master this skill because among us, that is to say, in literature, it is the most difficult one of all.” (pages 7-8).