Pursuit: The Creative Process


I awoke this morning and
a poem began speaking
itself to me. Softly at first.
Of course, I ignored it, silly poem.

I-do-not-have-time-to-write-a-poem-on-work-mornings.
I have things to do, a schedule to keep.
I brewed my coffee with the
danged poem murmuring into my ears.

Coffee made, I escape to answer email.
Surely, the poem will not follow me.
It should get the hint and give up.
I have things to do.

While answering emails,
the poem became, yes, louder.
Louder! The words more distinct.
“Look,” I say to the air around me—

“I do not have time to jot you down.
You goofy poems take hours to write.
I have to go to work.
No, I will not take notes. Go away, you pesky poem. Scram.”

I answered emails with the poem getting louder
And even typing itself into my emails.
Luckily, I was able to delete those
crazy words it was making me type.

It was not even in sentences, now,
what if my emails were sent out like that?
The email would be senseless responses to
very serious questions. A narrow escape.

But then the poem resorted to
also becoming a holograph hanging
between my thoughts and the outside world
As if I invited it in that place.

I am bemused that this poem is so brazen.
Uninvited entity that it is.
But it simply does not stop.
Now I am getting annoyed.

I can see the verse, hear the words
demanding that I write it down.
I defy the poem—
Who does it think it is?

Commandeering my morning like this?
From the time I awoke, it has been haranguing me
I listened to a podcast while I was taking my walk
or at least I tried—

But the damned poem was louder!
It even blocked my view of the sunrise,
putting its ascenders and descenders all over.
In a font I do not particularly care for.

I tried to shower, and dry my hair,
get dressed because I have a schedule to keep.
But the poem was so insistent that
I was forced to stop and jot the damned thing down.

Are you happy now?
I am running late for work.
Look what you have gotten me into, you creepy poem.
I hate you.

Do you suppose I can just call in
and tell my manager
that I am running late
because a poem hounded me this morning?

That I was trying to get dressed and
all I could see or hear was this stupid poem?
Poem, do you know how crazy that sounds?
Do you have any idea what my boss will say to that one?

Oh, you will have me in the human resource
hall of shame, you bratty-ass poem.
I am going to write you in prose format
to punish you for this disruption.

How dare you. I will paragraph your sorry ass
into common courtesy, I will.
And justify your ragged lines,
finish your incomplete sentences.

Do I look like a poet? No, I do not.
So what are you bothering me for?
Did you get lost on your way to
a real poet? Get a GPS.

You poor-grammar poem,
you will be so sorry you came
to bother me this morning, I have things to do.
Oh, what was I doing when I began telling off a poem?

Okay, I wrote you down, just to stop you
from shouting even louder, do you hear?
Are you happy now? Now there is no way at all
I can get to work on time.

I call in with allergies.
That should cover us, poem.
So here I am spending
the morning with a rude poem.

Miffed, then you retreat for
exactly as long as I called you a blinking pest.
But I am going to wait you out, poem.
Yoo-hoo, poem, I am here waiting for you—

Hmm, I am beginning to miss hearing
you whisper and your holographic verse
all over my morning.
Are you there, poem?

I really have nothing better to do
this morning than
write down exactly what you tell me
I should write. Not really.

Oh, poem, I have written down
everything you asked me to write.
Are you going to return like now
and help me make sense of this?

I have a bunch of crazy scribbling on this
notepad in my bathroom, the birds have
not been fed and I called in with sinuses
or something like that, I forgot.

I am waiting for you, poem.
Are you aware that I’d be called a lunatic for
saying that a poem spoke itself
into my ears this morning?

And that I would be accused
of having hallucinations for
confessing that you displayed your verses
all over my reality this morning?

Can I coax you back by saying how much
I liked the way that you
read to me while I was having coffee
and answering emails?

Before I realized that I have nothing
better at all to do than
spend the morning with a poem?
Way back when I thought I had things to do?

Terre Spencer
June 2011

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Change Your Metaphor—

How tragic that so many men treat their own precious sexuality like it were a sports statistic, something to be documented on the front page of the Sports section of their favorite newspaper. To wit: keeping score, always wanting something better, keeping mental, and sometimes actual, statistics, turbo-charging it with porn, taking Viagra as if it were a chemical cast for a sprained member (or perhaps, a fix for a flat tire), etc., all competitive, linear, sports metaphors for one of the greatest mysteries of life.

Therein lies the problem. Such men are applying a one-dimensional metaphor (sports statistics) to their sexuality. Genuine sexuality cannot be flattened, captured, bought, sold, possessed, understood, measured, quantified, dominated, enhanced or diminished—none of those things, not at all. Poetry alludes to sexuality, great music dances with it, literature and art express our yearnings, our joys and frustrations, but such things are the closest we humans are allowed to “document” sexuality. The metaphor for sexuality is Mystery itself.

Genuine sexuality requires full-on masculinity. That means a fully-developed man—including his heart. A man’s penis is invited to participate by his own heart and his partners’ heart. Taking Viagra is a complete misunderstanding of where and what the dysfunction really is. Given that many men do not bring their hearts to their sexual experiences, it is especially poignant that Viagra is dangerous to the heart. These men continue having “experiences” and try to make quantity the cover for the vague emptiness they feel somewhere in the vicinity of their chests.

Change the metaphor for sexuality, guys. Forgo the Viagra and read Robert A. Johnson’s We, (and everything else that man ever wrote). Read Robert A. Masters’ work. Allow Mystery to be your sexual metaphor and the Viagra will be exposed as the marketing ploy to flatten your sexuality that it really is.

Resign, Weiner

I work with spouses of sex addicts/narcissists. The incredible stupidity that any compulsive behavior demands of its subject seems exponentially multiplied when the addiction is sex/porn. When sex addiction is compounded with narcissism (a very common co-morbidity), we get men who do exactly the things Weiner, Edwards, Scwartzenegger, and the ilk have done.

Yes, he endangered progressive politics. What he has done to his wife is just as lethal to her precious trust and affections. That matters as much in the world—lest we forget that increasing the quantity of pain felt by others makes this world horrid in the micro, which is played out in the larger world.

Weiner’s actions have created a torrent of disappointment and pain on at least several levels.

Many years ago, I would have said that a politician’s personal life did not affect their ability to be a decent public servant. Now I know that we humans‚ try as we might—cannot successfully compartmentalize ourselves. A narcissist cannot be a good politician if he is destroying trust and hearts in his inner realms.

C.G. Jung best described the effects of such attempts: a shadow counter-side that acts out atrocities upon others, usually leaving less powerful individuals (wives, children and subordinates) to take on the shame, pain, despair and rage of the offender. That matters to me now. I do not want a seemingly great representative who is causing his wife, children, employees and volunteers to take on his shadow material. That is not making this world one iota better, no matter how many “good” pieces of legislation get passed while he is engaging in personal atrocities. Such sociopaths create so much pain in their closest realms that it is not worth it in the bigger picture.

Resign, Weiner.

Dear Maria Shriver,

I am not writing to ask anything of you. I am writing to assure you that I am not going to give your narcissistic, estranged husband the attention he so badly craves. He is not getting one iota of my attention on TV, the internet or any media. None. If I hear his name or see his face, off goes the media. 
We have a lot in common, you and I: we are both from Catholic families with philandering men that have been especially cruel to women and we have both wasted way too many years with a narcissist/sex addict. NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder and sex addiction are frequently co-morbid). And both of us eventually left the unrepentant narcissist.
I respect your privacy and will not follow your process in the media unless you choose to speak on your own terms. I am pretty sure I know how betrayed, angry, disgusted, lost and hurt you are feeling. I have been there. It is traumatizing to live with a sex addict/NPD. Please take care of yourself and I will keep you and the children in my thoughts. 
Because he treated you and the children as pawns in his sick game, his narcissism is all too evident. He abused his power as an elected official and an employer. That is predatory behavior. Now he is trying to show the world he is a good guy, stating that he deserves the frenzied media attention and criticism—which is intended to appear to be protective but is a cheap political ploy for garnering attention. If his intentions were to be protective of his family, he would not have had unprotected sex with an employee. Nah, he just wants our attention. You know that and we know it also. But I am not going to give him that. I am giving him the “Delete” button. Starving a narcissist of the attention he craves (and they do not care if the attention is good or bad) is the most punishing thing I can do to him. I am asking my friends to join me in ignoring him and asking them to ask their friends to do so as well.
Friends: will you ignore the narcissistic former California governor? Will you ask your friends to ignore him as well? Politics do not matter. How one relates to others matters, and I am asking you to refuse to be a consumer of this kind of behavior. Turn it off. Tell the media that you will not listen/read/view news that props up narcissists anymore. We will no longer feed their monstrous appetite for adoration/attention.
Maria, I cannot make your heart heal, but I can do this one thing and I am so hoping that my friends and their friends and their friends’ friends will join me in ignoring narcissistic predators in the news.
Thanks, 
Terre

Another Huckster Movie—I Am

Oh, yawn. Another movie pitching “positive thinking.” Will anyone actually watch this thing? Yes, sadly. 

I like PsychCentral’s Marla Estes’ review: http://blogs.psychcentral.com/movies/2011/05/i-am/ Her penetrating assessment will not be read by a tenth as many people as those who will watch the movie and swallow its message. Ms. Estes’ core message is:

The director emphasizes being good and having positive feelings, the implication being that “negative” feelings are the cause of our social problems. On the contrary: in and of themselves, emotions aren’t a problem. It’s what we do (or don’t do) with them that causes trouble. If we decide that we must get rid of or overcome  “negative” emotions, they then go into our Shadow, which contains anything repressed, hidden, or unconscious in our psyches. This reflects the operation of splitting, a psychological defense mechanism.

Sadly the “just change your beliefs/thoughts and you change your feelings and your life is bright and shiny and positive” canard is still with us. This falsehood is with us even though brain science proved it dead wrong more than twelve years ago. What really happens is that we experience feelings in the limbic portion of the brain and and later wrap explanatory thoughts around the feelings in the neo-cortex. The process does not work in reverse. Thoughts do not change feelings. Thoughts are the result of feelings.

Since real change, that is, getting in and becoming familiar with ALL of our feelings is a long, long process that takes an enormous amount of courage—no huckster can make money selling it. So they make up the “quick-and-easy-positivity” for those who faintly aspire to transformation vis-a-vis forcing a few thoughts out of their mind and the denial of “negative” feelings. Ascribing to these hucksters’ simplistic nonsense is like dining at McDonalds exclusively and expecting to be well-nourished and healthy as a result. You might leave full, but not sustained or well-fed. The place for positive thinking and thought-control is very similar to eating at McDonald’s—to be used as a stop-gap measure until real sustenance can be obtained. It is not nourishing although it might prevent you from crashing in an emergency. 

Spiritualizing one’s genuine feelings is called spiritual bypassing. No one writes better on the topic than Robert A. Masters: http://www.robertmasters.com/newsletter/February2010.pdf   (see page 9 of the newsletter). Robert  A. Johnson, that beloved Jungian psychologist, calls this “addressing the problem on the wrong level.” Feelings need to be handled on the human feeling level, not bludgeoned with thoughts or wishful spirituality.

Most tragically, these aspirers never get what they paid for (yet, they are blamed by the hucksters for not being positive enough/not doing enough affirmations or whatever) and as a result, they aspirants do a lot of damage with their disowned/denied/dissociated “negative” feelings leaking out covertly all over their lives.

So here is a movie that plays right into the hucksters’ hands. This is more fundamentalist New-Agism which is as full of shame and “shoulds’ as any traditional fundamentalist system.

A creed’s conspicuous shadow absence usually indicates fundamentalism, as surely as does an identified bogey-man. So if you are being promised all shiny and new if you just (fill in the blank), run! Run far, far, away. You have ben offered “drive-through transformation” and you are being gypped. And it is critically important that you actually feel how cheated you really have been. Start there. If you get lost or mired, there are guides along the way, seek out a therapist, read Jungian psychology books, enter into group therapy,  journal, do body work, but let the truth about how you feel be the starting point.

Can’t figure out what your feelings are or how to work with them? Try Karla McLarens’ The Language of Emotions:http://tiny.cc/ztmah the best singular volume on feelings/emotions and how to approach them.

If you fail to sit with your real feelings you will spend an enormous amount of energy trying to work from a place that you do not really reside in. A super-sized self-fraud if you will.

What is Empathy Anyway?

I set out to explore the avoidance or criticisms of empathy, to inquire what reasons individuals have for disdaining empathic responses. What I discovered was that everyone certainly has an opinion on the use of empathy, but the definition of empathy itself is more ethereal than fairies and rainbows. With concepts of many stripes floating amid partial definitions, I was left to ponder—what is this stuff—this empathy—that so polarizes us as a culture?

So, after consulting the OED, three neuroscientists, several Jungian therapists and many hours of research, I have come to view empathy as a continuum. Empathy is more than a sensation, an emotion, an internal state; it changes our lives and relationships ever so slightly and, occasionally, it changes our lives dramatically. Not just a point or a short segment within the continuum, but something that begins with mirror neurons and can end in utter altruism.

The Empathy Continuum has Four Criteria: (for which the acronym ACER serves as a mnemonic device)

1. Attunement: Emotional and mental attunement to and/or mirroring of another’s inner experiences as one’s own

2. Compassion, a change in the individuals’ affective state as a result of that attunement/mirroring, creating a safe relatedness between individuals.

3. Equality: the individuals become equals, peers on all levels. Power differentials disappear.

4. Response: action/discernment that evolves from compassionate peerage created by the first three conditions honoring the highest good of all individuals

Emotional and mental attunement of another’s inner experience are a changed inner feeling state and the resultant thoughts from that state, Criteria One, “getting” what another is experiencing.

Criteria Two, compassion, is the full allowing of Criteria One which creates a relationship with the “other.” Compassion creates a completely safe relationship for the individuals. This is in contrast to one who merely “dials in” to another and remains in an unrelated state. The relatedness that results from genuine compassionate relating is in sharp contrast to exploitative quasi-attuenment. From an unrelated “dialed-in” state, an exploitative person is able to pity, exploit, abuse, rape or even murder the “other.” Compassion creates a state of trust and relatedness between the individuals.

Criteria Three: What is frequently missed in definitions of empathy is that attunement and compassion creates a sense of being a peer with the other. No one individual exists as more powerful than the other. Even pity is a power differential state between individuals. Ditto with sympathy. Only empathy creates equality. One gives pity “to” another, something that can be given in only one direction. Empathy moves between individuals quite freely, moving in many directions at once. If the equal peerage is not part of the exchange, the situation is not empathy. It may be a form of lessened power differential, but unless there is a sense of genuine equality, Criteria Three has not been met. Compassion is being withheld in some manner by one or more parties.

Criteria Four is the resultant changes within the individuals and the external actions that they take thereafter. Because a safe and equal relatedness allows all individuals to discern without fear of retaliation from the other(s) also in that state, decisions and actions taken, both individually and as a group have the potential to serve the highest good of all participants. When action springs from genuine empathy, all parties are rejuvenated. There are no exhausted “givers” and over-stated “takers.”

We are human and therefore imperfectly execute this continuum. We have everything from unconscious fears to rational reasons to stop short at any point within the progression. However, if we can hold empathy as a continuum, we can better understand our inner and outer realities.

Cartoon Characters and Child Abuse

A current Facebook trend, well, current through today, December 6th anyway:

A brave friend, Natalie, (name changed, of course) posted on Facebook that she doubted the efficacy of changing one’s Facebook profile picture in the whole schema of actually preventing child abuse, that this effort actually was trivializing the issue. She has a point. Also she was troubled by joining a campaign “against” anything as she felt it was more important to be “for” something.

There was a little back and forth about the place of a social media awareness campaign and child abuse. I could not longer remain quiet when two friends, Natalie and Renee (ditto with the name-change), were struggling to understand each other. Renee, who did change her profile picture made note that merely visualizing safe childhoods for all was ineffective also. She has a point, too.

Here is my post in response to all of the above:

Okay, I’m in after biting my lip yesterday. Look, I grew up with all 31 flavors of abuse. So I know a thing or two about that. I am also on the board of four non-profits, one concerns domestic violence. I know a little about what is an effective public campaign and what is ego-gratification for the participants.

What I am seeing is a confusion of levels in all this. Robert A. Johnson writes beautifully about this topic. Confusion of levels is most apparent to us when a fundamentalist attempts to pray away his psychological problems. Prayer address spiritual matters, but one must do one’s psychological work to nurture and heal the psyche. Or when a Christian Scientist refuses an appendectomy surgery and dies as a result. Or when a New Ager spiritualizes his anger to the point of denying it completely, yet it leaks out all over everyone in his life. All are examples of responding to an issue from an inappropriate level.

I also sense that both Natalie and Renee intuit this confusion of levels. It makes Natalie angry that child abuse is being apparently trifled with vis-a-vis a Facebook campaign with cartoon characters resulting in no apparent difference. Renee as much as said that failing to respond to abuse head-on was an ineffective trifle as well. I have smart friends, both are correct.

No Facebook campaign will prevent a child being molested, beaten, abused or neglected—Facebook does not operate at a level that can reach the realm of abuse. However, it can be useful on other levels. As many charity/social issue campaigns are more about the “feel-good factor” for the participants, this Facebook campaign creates a tribe willing to speak that they have a stance on the issue. That is just fine.

That is why charity balls and various fundraisers are festive. . .the donors feel good about themselves. An imperfect system, but it does underwrite serious work being done in the trenches.

The Facebook campaign is merely a marketing tool to keep the issue of child abuse in the thoughts of the social media sphere for even a few minutes. At that level only is it a response with appropriate level traction.

Child abusers needs to be dealt with head-on. Child abuse is the abuse of power by an adult upon a child. It takes power to stop that abuse of power. It takes removal of denial and really straight talk about what happens. And we have to be willing to say that there is a perpetrator and a victim. Because on that level there most certainly is. Being “against” child abuse is a way of saying one is willing to use one’s power to stop perpetrators from overpowering their young victims. Our language fails us about what we are “for,” we know only what we are against at this level. This is lizard brain-level. When being attacked by a mugger, it is probably a little late to meditate and visualize safety.

Someone offering up quasi-spiritual theories about all of us coming here to learn lessons and that there are no victims in this life will have me foaming at the mouth when someone is indeed being victimized and needs help stopping/escaping/prosecuting a perpetrator.

Would you want a police officer to arrive at a scene of a child abuse case and begin theorizing that the beaten and molested child came to this earth to learn to be abused and perhaps to pay a karmic debt from a previous life? Oh, hell no. You want him to remove the child from danger—use his power—and stop the abuse at the level that it is occurring. Pronto.

As a child who waited years for someone to notice the bruises and tears—which did not happen—I can tell you that what I really wanted was someone to wrap their arms around me and tell me that what was happening was wrong and that I would be safe from here on out. If it takes a Facebook campaign or other such silliness to create even the chance that someone might notice the bruises for another kid sans the intervention, I can live with that, as incomplete as it feels.