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Some of the Psychology of Interdisciplinary Thinking, the Covid Pandemic, and Erectile Dysfunction (Sunday, July 26th, 2020)

Learning to Reach for the Northern Star and Toss the Anchor into the Sea

It is one of those mornings when the mind struggles to focus, not so much as a symptom of Attention Deficit Disorder…though some people claim to believe A.D.D. is my fundamental ailment or struggle with my constant shifts on objects of intense study and creative/academic/activist projects the issue can actually be traced back, I believe with confidence after decades of relentless introspection, to a likely inherent fascination and fixation on holistic/interdisciplinary thought with a scarceness in explicit guidelines on best applications of such inclinations and predispositions. For example, last night I was reading a memoir by Franklin VeauxThe Game Changer: A memoir of disruptive love

https://www.franklinveaux.com/  ; http://morethantwo.com/polyamorybooks.html

 (perhaps best known for his book More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory)

http://morethantwo.com/polyamorybooks.html (link goes to both his memoir and his “practical guide”)

and he makes a remark about being polyamorous before the word for the concept existed.

Granted, words do exist for my interests but that which tends to most interest me is specifically geared towards working what exists to create something “new” even if it is only a new surge of enthusiasm adding further light to… you know…the wheel which one need not reinvent.

But to make myself a bit clearer… what I mean to say is that when one thinks holistically and interdisciplinarily, I find one of two…psychological challenges one may be prone to occur more often than others:

  1. when the mind is going through a period of widening it’s perspective—what I often like to think of as heavily “fractal” thinking such as you might relate to when you recall yourself surfing the web very liberally as if it were the mere traces or foot prints of your contemplations– it can feel as though it is in a sort of dizzying free-fall because it is not focused on…to borrow mindfulness and meditation expert/ Headspace App founder Andy Puddicombe terminology…because it’s not focused on an anchor…it lacks a sense of that guiding Northern star; it is a dice in the midst of the roll, or so it can feel…

2.)  when the mind is narrowing and honing in on* a concept that it’s especially interested in (gravitating towards) it can lead to very myopic thinking and fixation – sometimes lasting just a couple minutes, other times lasting up to half a year—that makes one forget the “bigger picture.”

*( the “honing in” versus “homing in” question has been bothering me for awhile, so I was glad to find some clarity here)

Had I gained more self-awareness of this process as part of a more stable but complex purpose earlier on in life…on the one hand it would have saved me a lot of frustration, grief, and slow sense of constructive productivity but…as not to be negative and thus make the most of it, that it has led me to this diary is for me…knock on wood, but miraculous.

It feels miraculous MOST OF ALL because it has enabled me to do this one thing I always felt was undercut by the tough and rigid confines of other endeavors: to attach my elaborate thought process directly into it. A really good example that comes to my mind is where I was in my last “creative writing phase”—let us call it the prosimetrum/prose poem phase.

While I was cultivating sharpened notions of genre as a general concept and that which distinguishes the variety of genres (just as I had done when studying the “Liberal Arts” and was gaining clearer ideas of the various academic or industrial disciplines/fields) “at the end of the day” even “the essay” (in its more conventional sense as a polished, highly meditated on literary piece, which is arguably the most liberal form of creative writing… at its most zany or “creative” one may have the “lyric essay” or one can pull a Charles Lamb and create a whole cast of fictional characters 1)one for himself included that hide behind the essaying of thoughts—the borderline between fiction and non-fiction we might say) frustrated me in the sense that it was still lacking that purer transparency I craved to provide in my writing which was a more direct elaboration of my thought process.

My thoughts on a given aim/goal/objective more so than a topic also required me to re-examine how I believed writing could best serve me and how I could best serve writing and this may not have happened unless I’d reached a state of unusually intense self-honesty in a time where… not to sound cliché…but in a time where I was feeling just pitiful and it was beginning to look like either self destruction or picking myself up was going to be what I could choose between.

The Impact of the Covid Factor

A number of things happened at once. In the broadest sense of context, if you are reading this pretty close to when it was written you likely relate to the Covid pandemic factor. How such an unprecedented crisis-disaster (unprecedented for the last several generations… if you are counting GLOBAL crises we have to go back really I think to World War 2—nearly 80 years ago….almost a century ago– to get an idea of how profoundly and elaborately things have been DISRUPTED.)

The variety of impacts of these disruptions…well, indeed, there is variety. Alcohol producers for example have increased attention on producing hand sanitizer, people are out of work, many of us more or less stuck at home or walking outside unless we’re shopping for the most necessary of things which still require social distancing, face coverings, and still result in shortages of things…for example, related to hand sanitizer… antibacterial wipes.

Can’t find them. At least I can’t.

I’m lucky not to be out of work but I have lost 2 of my 3 jobs and figuring out the most reasonable way to move forward remains confusing for me.

But it is a fact that I’m basically stationed…so to speak…at home (even when I am working… as I work remotely) with significantly more time on my hands.

How is one to make the most of the time as one tries to adapt and march towards more productivity after feeling knocked out and fallen down? In my view, or at least for me, what feels most reasonable for me, is indeed, to put my thoughts together somewhat so that my next several moves are done in a place of greater physical and psychological health and greater confidence enabling me, for example, to earn more income and regain a sense of increased power over the direction of my life and circumstances.

The best analogy I can offer is that life feels for me almost like a sort of sequel to Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain – as it is a time of medical related isolation and very wide ranged contemplation from the biological to the practical and philosophical as much for me as it was for the novel’s protagonist Hans Castorp. (I submitted an essay about this for a literary magazine. I wonder if it will be accepted and published). Naturally, in such an episode, such a chapter, such a phase, such a context, I think it would be difficult not to have sharper, deeper, and wider range reflections of one’s self permeating within and rippling a bit within one’s introspections.

Some of it is disorienting. Some of it more soothing.

Admitting to Myself That I am Polyamorous

The more disorienting comes from an increased awareness of my polyamorous feelings which means not just admitting to myself my sexual feelings and capacity, and not just a sense of more romantic openness than I admitted to myself, but sort of METAPHYSICAL paradigm shift, a shift in my ethics… both of which go deep…decades of embeddedness and entrenchnment of the mind. More concretely I am terrified about the impact of my openness about it.

(This was another factor in my current move to strive at committing to the diary as my chosen literary genre—you see, I noticed that along with a feeling of utter terror associated with admitting to myself, let alone to society—of my polyamorous feelings—was a wider terror in just speaking straight forwardly. While polished writing is precious and I am in favor of reading it quite often one of the inevitable drawbacks…in my humble opinion, is the inevitability of self-censorship. Not in a spirit of self-censorship but in an effort to phrase things as technically well as one can thus at the expense though of erasing, backspacing, deleting the trail of the PROCESS. To put it another way, there’s a real symbiotic relationship, in my opinion, again, between Jack-Kerouac-ian “spontaneous prose” and keeping a diary. They both pertain to tracking thoughts day to day and they both assist each other. By being spontaneous I’m able to fill a diary up with thoughts in the mode conducive to it, by still thinking of it in a literary/artistic/aesthetic context I’m able to think of it as MORE THAN simply “a little journaling project” and instead think of the greater potentials).

As I was coming to terms with being real to myself about my thoughts and feelings about love it also occurred to me that in reaction I felt terribly CONFLICTED since one way or another this will impact my love life and I do not want to ruin a sacred relationship as much as I don’t want to unduly suppress myself. With this in mind I realized I was in a most unpleasant place psychologically, doubting whether I was even thinking what I thought I was thinking and feeling what I thought I was feeling and was it a bad series of thoughts and feelings I needed to try and make go away or ignore or was I not supposed to? Was I miscalculating something in the ethical sphere?

Self Esteem Crisis and the Challenge of Addressing and Opening Up About Erectile Dysfunction

THIS I also found was directly tied to my lack of self-esteem. I almost always knew self-esteem was a challenge for me and at least a topic I found fascinating but only in the past two months or so have I known how low my self-esteem was even when I thought I’d addressed the worst of it when I started doing well in college, when I truly believed I possessed a capacity to retain, process, and apply a little knowledge and… get good grades.

But clearly there was still problems lingering in my unconscious and it was impacting me not only psychologically but physically. I mentioned this a few times I think but it’s a theme unfortunately until pleasantly eradicated: I struggle lately to achieve and maintain an erection and to orgasm. And to an extent that is at it’s all-worst, comparable only to when I was 19 when self esteem was likewise an impediment and I didn’t think I even was “good enough” to have sex and my body accepted the inner-claim.

(I mean, I’ve had trouble getting or keeping it up here and there, perhaps just like the next guy. (I was watching a video yesterday—a fascinating discussion on, especially, the psychology of the monogamy to polyamory transition process—“ Polyamory & Consensual Non-Monogamy | Jessica Fern

and participating in the discussion was a married man with his wife; they opened up their marriage about two years ago) who talked about how when they first experienced the “opening up” he, on numerous occasions, could not get it up, because of all the guilt, shame, anxiety, and what have you. It felt nice to see a guy who appeared so self confident admit to erection troubles. It made me feel more hope, like I will get my erection back).

I cannot speak for every male on the topic who has experienced this misfortune but there’s almost a sort of traumatizing feeling to it. Especially when other aspects of one’s life feel also out of whack. So… socially distancing, processing lost work/money, having a whole new outlook on love and sexuality, the fear of what this could disrupt, general self-esteem issues, anxiety, depression (and blah blah so on and so on…not going to focus on the negative…just going to acknowledge and redirect towards more optimism)—I mean…it does feel rather shitty.

(That said, by the way, I am quite aware that my challenges do not even compare to what people have gone through, especially in the midst of the pandemic. All things considered, I do not think in terms of how I “have it bad” but rather, I am noting that I’ve got things I really want to improve which will always be these but here are the things I want to improve now and what I am thinking and feeling about it.)

Frankly, an interesting thing about being frank, publicly, in the context of blogging/social media, about erectile disfunction (not so differently than likewise being frank about polyamorous thoughts and feelings)…I mean… it FEELS awkward. I mean what are you going to do about it? Get pills? Viagra? No.

If I can help it that is not going to happen. My theory is that my body is aware of my mind’s profound apprehension, guilt, shame, and is for the time being, growing shy…even with itself, thus hindering even a masturbation life. If that’s the case, I can fix my thought patterns and circumstances and attitude and revive myself sexually.

But like I was saying… in terms of concrete action…whatchya gonna do about it?

Sure, I can talk to my psycho-therapist about it but that still feels for the time being like a “slow train coming” (ah, no pun intended, dear reader).

Nietzsche’s ‘Will To Power’-?

One consequence regarding how I thus have come to feel about my life is that I feel…like…exceptionally powerless. Supposing Nietzsche is right on when he theorizes that all human action is motivated by a perception that a given action feels like most empowering action one can take, then feeling powerless actually puts the human psyche in a fascinating though not enviable situation.

What I mean is that that old cliché saying “necessity is the mother of invention” – if you are to sustain an optimistic mentality—and so you resort to things you might not have thought about. For me, this appears to result in two things: 1) resorting to opening up about it on my diary blog with whoever might read; 2) resorting to deeper and more vivid and complex visualizations of what life will be like when erectile functioning is once again…shall we say…up and running? Fully functional again? Ha ha.

But perhaps that it makes me feel so uncomfortable to TALK ABOUT MY OWN IMPOTENCE is an indication of something in of itself to talk about and examine. That is to say—should I feel so uncomfortable? Should I feel “ashamed?” Why can I not talk about it? What, in the nuances of my anxiety, fear, et cetera, is it that actually CAUSES me to feel this way? From a Positive Psychology perspective, and based on my reading on the impact of psychology on neurology, somewhere in my thinking is a “limiting belief” and a mentality of “scarcity.” This means there is re-framing to do! That we have the capacity to re-frame feels empowering.

References   [ + ]

1. one for himself included

By Sean O'Connor

Hi, I'm Sean O'Connor, a poet and writer pursuing my MFA in Creative and Professional Writing at William Paterson University, where I also work as a learning generalist and where I received my BA in Liberal Studies.

Currently. I also work as a writing tutor at Raritan Valley Community College and Mercer County Community College.

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