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Wednesday, August 20, 2003
On Things Never Quite Being What They Seem

That's Lindsay Vaughan in the picture at the left. She was Dharma Girl until recently. Until, to be more precise, I wrote Insignificant Others here last week. Afterwards, she said in private mail and on several blog sites that she felt I was trying to humiliate her. I wasn't. Though, yeah, I wasn't very nice. Not being one to offer anything so gracious as an actual apology, and not like it's any real excuse, but I plead being pissed (more like wrathful, enraged) about certain essentially anti-relational ideas that are floating around about relationship. Writing as Dharma Girl, Lindsay appeared in the cross-hairs of my starlite night-vision scope because she was, to my mind, presenting a near-canonical example of some of those ideas. She stepped blissfully unaware into a hail of machine gun fire intended for more deserving foes. These ideas are being propagated through many (i.e., many) books and websites today, and blogs are the least of it. As an example of what I'm on about these days, and for the seemingly endless days since encountering the phenomenon in a manner you might call up close and personal, here are a couple clips from a book that saved my ass in the first of those dark broken days, when I was hanging with Gary Turner in London...
"When the focus of life is on determining one's own needs and finding another who can fulfill those needs and wishes, any relationship is in danger of being flawed by narcissistic expectations. It is increasingly difficult for people to enter into loving relationships and to maintain them once they begin. Obligation to others as a primary value has become a concept either denied or distorted into a pseudo-love, a wish to embrace all mankind but no one in particular.

Many have come to expect fragile relationships that break easily, although they do not usually understand the nature of that self-fulfilling prophecy. Coupled with this belief is an increasing demand for effective independent functioning without emotional reliance on others.The result is an inability to invest freely in deep feelings for others."

"Autonomy is a relative state requiring another person... Without others, there is no autonomy, only isolation."

"The importance of one's independence and self-esteem is a basic tenet of our society, but it makes little sense to work toward separation and differentiation exclusively when the whole purpose of an intimate relationship is mutuality and interdependence."
But not everyone thinks mutuality is such a good thing. Increasingly, no one seems to think so. Here's a definition of one half of Dharma Girl's original post title: "Relationship vs. Attachment." This from The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology, 3rd edition (2001):
attachment 1: Generally, a binding affection, an emotional tie between people. The usual connotation is that this kind of emotional relationship is infused with dependency: the persons rely on each other for emotional satisfaction.
Note that it's "the usual connotation," not a sometimes thing or an "under extreme conditions" kinda deal. No, it's business as usual. Note moreover what dependency equates to. Heaven forfend that anyone should rely on another for emotional satisfaction. Or be able to depend on someone. Or -- really getting into the pathological end of the scale now -- need someone. Finally, note the embedded warning against outright psychotics like Grace Slick. "Don't you need somebody to love?" Yup, that pretty much sums up everything wrong with the world today.

By this point, we all know what's being described here. It's not "attachment" or "love." Of course not. It's codependence, an affliction suffered, says Melanie Beattie, the reigning Queen of CoDA, by as many as 94% of the U.S. population. But if everybody's got it, what do these amorphous diagnostics differentiate? Hey I know, let's build a table!

Happy M. Beattie

Morose RageBoy
Codependents have difficulty identifying what they are feeling. Hungry, horny, halfcocked, homicidal? Fuck I dunno. Depends on the phase of the moon, and even then...
They minimize, alter or deny how they truly feel. I truly feel like murdering you in your sleep. You better hope I keep minimizing it!
They perceive themselves as completely unselfish and dedicated to the weblogging of others. See blogroll, upper page left.
They do not ask others to meet their needs or desires. And if I do, I'm "needy" and codependent. GO LOOP.
They do not perceive themselves as lovable or worthwhile persons. Like you think I'm lovable and worthwhile, right? Oh sure. Then how come you won't go to bed with me?
They are extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long. So if my lover is having some kind of trouble that inconveniences me, I should dump that person ASAP. Well shit, that explains a lot.
They lavish gifts and favors on those they care about. And if I don't, I'm an insensitive prick. Can you spell D-O-U-B-L-E  B-I-N-D?
They accept sex when they want love. I accept sex even when I don't want love. When what I really want is a bagel with a schmear. And you don't, I guess. Explain to me again who needs help here?
They use sex to gain approval and acceptance. And...? If I do gain approval and acceptance that way ("oooh baby... Oooh Baby... OOOOOH! OOOOOH! RAGEBOY BABY!!!"), you're telling me this is a problem. Uh-huh.
Etc., ad infinitum... I'm dancing as fast as I can...

There are something like 200 of these surefire signs of codependency. Hell, how can you miss? Great stuff if your goal is to sell your books to every man, woman and reading-age child in the known universe. But OK, let's move on. Now that you've had a little experience with the diagnostic criteria, consider this further definition, from the same Dictionary of Psychology.

attachment 4: In anatomy, the connections by which tissues are joined to other bodily parts (usually muscle to bone).
As an exercise, let's rewrite that, using what we've learned so far. Here's a first stab...
attachment 4: In anatomy, the binding ties by which tissues are joined to other bodily parts (usually muscle to bone). The usual connotation is that this kind of internal (i.e., hidden and covert) anatomical relationship is infused with dependency: people rely on their bones and muscles for functional support and navigation.
Excellent. Remember, just because walking feels good doesn't mean it's good for you! Amputation may be painful, yes, but it's a lot less heartbreaking in the long run than being enslaved to such dysfunctional codependent addictions.

So hey, this is what I've been writing about here for some time now. And what I plan to write much more about Real Soon Now. But wait. This was supposed to be about Lindsay, wasn't it? Yes, it was. Damn. Now she's looking away because we've been ignoring her. But Lindsay, look, all this has been an attempt to explain why I came down on your ass so hard. There's more, so much more, this is tip-of-the-iceberg stuff here. Point is, though, it's all aimed at pathologizing love. New Age ideas have slipped their surly bonds and infected pop psychology, aided by a trope or two from the Mystic East. like that bit of Pema Chodren you quoted re "attachment" -- now transposed into a renunciatory Buddhist key -- causing us to crave the company of others. Oh, mea culpa! Would I crave the company of others? Yeah I would. And Pema can sue me.

All this pathologizing hovers around what Christians call the "councils of perfection" -- but without any of the empathy or compassion. It's perfectionism depathologized and elevated into a positive value, carte blanche to "work on oneself." Which sounds good, maybe. At first. Sounds like a courageous thing to do. Except for this one critical though tacit injunction: that the shadow be excluded. Look within, but blind yourself to anything negative. Look within for the light and the angels and the triumph of the at-long-last-liberated independent and autonomous Self.

And moreover, demonize anyone who refuses to bend a knee to the resulting tinsel gods and goddesses. Reject passion and pathos for the pathetic -- in oneself and others. Flatten the world, make it simpler, less rich, less complex. Make it, above all, manageable. So that all can be manipulated to amplify and reflect our own "enlightenment" and "perfection."

The only problem is that it's pernicious bullshit, which seems to offer comfort and surcease from pain, but only tightens the screws. Don't look at the damage in your life, or what caused it, don't blame, don't be a victim, take responsibility. See that things are the way they are for you because that must have been how you wanted them to be. So change your attitude. Be positive. Affirm yourself. Put on a good front.

Isn't this essentially what your Dad told you to do? Not because it would make you feel better. But because it would make him look good.

This is why I love what you wrote in "WHERE ARE YOU, AND WHERE AM I?" at your "new" post-Dharma-Girl site. Because it's your life you're talking about, in your own strong voice. Not trying to prove how wonderful it all is, but touching the places where it hurts. Because the places it hurts are the places we connect. Especially in those inexplicable moments when our pain is transformed into the joy of recognition. We recognize each other in our humanness. We recognize each other as human by the sound of the voice we are able, if we resist the counter pressure, if we try and keep trying, to pull up from where it has lain buried for so long in our deepest -- and often darkest -- heart.

This is what we're doing here in this chaotic anarchic blogspace. And it's something human beings have never been able to do before. Not ever. We are defining ourselves by who we feel we are from the inside, not by who we've been told we must be by parents, school, the media, the state. The merest joke here is an act of resistance. And it's not all jokes, by any stretch.

Nonetheless, our collective sense of humor never fails to astound me. It gives me not only a laugh, but hope. That we are so much more than the simple-minded procedural algorithms of science, psychology, religion... make us out to be. We can break the mold in any given moment. And when we do, something wild goes free in an infinitely larger world. Hard to put one's finger on, precisely. Maybe this graphic you just posted will help...

As I commented at your site, Lindsay: "I did not KNOW you had a pink doggie with silky fur! (of course, I also didn't know I looked like a cross between Swamp Thing and some extra from Planet of the Apes.)"

And there is really no way to describe what happened on the following sites in relation to the whole Dharma-Girl-Meets-RageBoy thing. No way, that is, but to go and read them. (Hint: much of the real action is in the comments.)

Brilliant blogging all around. And it probably went around WAY more than this mere handful of links would suggest.

I have to end this post somewhere, so it might as well be here. I've been at it for three days now, believe it or not (believe it), Not that the ridiculous amount of extra time required speaks to the polished-to-perfection quality of the end product, but rather to the disorganized state of my life. There were many wonderful bits and pieces slung around in all of this: stern admonitions, false pityings, expressions of disgust, of delight, exhortations to be fair, to be honest, to be kind, to be authentic. But nothing was so wonderful as the following casting out of demons, which exorcism was performed by The Happy Tutor over at Wealth Bondage...

Since I am myself incapable of empathy, since I delight as a sadist, in the pain of others, and since I can only live with myself when I inflict that pain on a peer or superior who amply deserves it, let me take this delightful opportunity to call Rageboy, Mr. Macho, out into the street:.
Rageboy! You there prancing about with your Harvard Business Bestseller! Thou art a posturing coward and self-infatuated knave! Thy learning and wit are false! Truth sticks in thy mouth! Thy very tongue writhes like a snake. Thou art a Marketer to thy soul and thy debased product is Self! You write at length, tediously, of your inner torment. Would that it were worse, that thou might give up thy pain as down payment on Purgatory (being optimistic about it). You are miserable for good reason. Thou hast perverted thy great God-given gifts. Though hast sold thy patrimony for a handful of potage. Thy very soul is hell nor are you out of it. Those flames you inflict on others redound unto your own precious, ever so vulnerable Self, and will lick your inner life, and turn it to ashes. Turn back to the road of righteousness, while there is yet time. God will rejoice in one Rageboy saved more than in a thousand legitimate intellectuals who never went bad.
As a lapsed Catholic, RB, you know the drill: Make a full and open confession. Do penance. Make restitution. Show contrition. Reform. Then go and sin no more. I provide you this beating, Rageboy, (whack!) not because I enjoy it, though I do, nor because it is my duty as a satirist (whack!), though it is, nor even to protect the norms of civilized society (whack!), though I hold those dear, but for your own good (whack, whack, whack!). The flesh and spirit must be mortified lest they grow proud. (Hold still!) You deserve a chance to repent, reform, and rejoin (whack!) the human race. There, don't snivel. Take your beating like a man. You may now kiss the rod, as I pronounce the blessing. May God have mercy on your Eternal Soul. Go in peace and sin no more!

My friends, this is how A-List Bullies fare in Bloggerville. Be good to one another, lest thou take a savage beating too. Let what happened here today to the famous Bully, Rageboy, never happen to you. Let it be a lesson, a legend, that fathers and mothers pass on to their children for generations to come. Let it be said that out of Rageboy's suffering came good, not only for himself, but for all humankind. It is now safe to return to your Blogs. I don't think you will have any trouble from Rageboy anymore. Thank you all for serving as my witnesses that today justice was done, though maybe it is time we elected a Judge.

And so in the end, no harm was done, and a good time was had by all!

12:46 PM | link |

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"RageBoy: Giving being fucking nuts a good name since 1985."
~D. Weinberger
28 October 2004

Chris Locke's photos More of Chris Locke's photos

Until a minute ago, I had no photos. I still have no photos to speak of. I don't even have a camera. But all these people were linking to "my photos." It was embarassing. It's still embarassing. But I'm used to that.

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