“I try to think”: Exploring ‘personal’ criticism

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You can see me

Last month, this comment appeared in the comments of “Extremist: my governments new name for me”:

Are you a disability campaigner or a prophet who understands the universe more than anyone else?. If I was in the government, you would be last person I would consult with. You have no limits, your blog is made up of incessant blatherings and you build nothing. With your “powerful feelings” who else can get an idea edgewise to you?

I try to think

As with any blog, as the account holder I have the choice whether to publish the comment or not; I chose to publish for two reasons. Firstly, there’s a suggestion in the comment that I am unable to hear the ideas of others, even if presented edgewise; secondly, there are some very useful teaching points around personal criticism contained within it and; thirdly; given my present interest in the power of narrative, it would be a shame to pass on such an opportunity.

For clarity, let me first say that  the commenter, “I try to think“, is not known to me as far as I am aware. This means that my observations relate to the comment itself and what it reveals about ‘I try to think‘ at the time of posting. I would like to allow the person themselves the freedom to learn, grow or alter their opinion. If my response was personal, then ‘I try to think‘ is deprived of these opportunities. This is important because one point in the comment alleges I have no limits – separating the comment’s author from the comment itself points to boundaries or limits to my response, thereby demonstrating that this allegation may be untrue, in whole or in part, and leads neatly into matters of projection:

Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against unpleasant impulses by denying their existence in themselves, while attributing them to others.[1] For example, a person who is rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude.

According to some research, the projection of one’s negative qualities onto others is a common process in everyday life

Projection occurs in the absence of fact or where what is being expressed threatens an individual’s understanding of their reality. Whilst there is always an element of truth to ‘fix’ the projection in place, what is subsequently extrapolated from that truth belongs to the projector and has little to do with the ‘projected-upon’. According to this hypothesis, “I try to think” can only be talking about himself – I’m going to ‘project’ that he is male based upon my life experience. Whilst there are women who express such attitudes, they are rare beasts and they use different weapons; the privileges and assumptions contained within the comment seem to be typical of a certain kind of man:

If I was in the government, you would be last person I would consult with.

Firstly, it is not common for women to imagine themselves in government, yet “I try to think” has no difficulty seeing himself in that role. Additionally, he exercises his imaginary authority by excluding me from any and all consultation, which would effectively disenfranchise my reality from government. His form of ‘rule’ depends upon my exclusion, which points to an assumed privilege that allows him to exclude that which he either doesn’t like or, more importantly, what he doesn’t understand. The comment makes it very clear his lack of understanding:

With your “powerful feelings” who else can get an idea edgewise to you?

This is a clear indicator that issues of emotional intelligence are as excluded as my opinions and points to the reasonable assumption that if he cannot cope with my feelings, he is unlikely to cope with his own. If he had any awareness of his own emotions, he would understand that feelings are responsive; they emerge in response to events around us and are coping mechanisms for human experience. Their ‘size’ depends on either the size of the event or growth in response to repeated events. The powerful feelings expressed in my ‘Extremist’ blog were certainly accumulated – they built up as a result of repeated refusals from those who, like “I try to think“, sought to exclude me from society or community. Expressing these powerful feelings through my blog was a way of respecting and defusing their charge so they didn’t undermine my ability to think. My deepest gratitude to all the other commenters on the blog who actually did understand what I was expressing from their own experience and perspective.

So, “I try to think“, the blog you complain about was actually written to enable new ideas to reach me by defusing those powerful emotions that could, if unexpressed, have prevented this occurring. Emotional intelligence understands that trying to teach someone in excruciating pain is impossible – the pain needs to be addressed first. I note that your ‘critique’ does nothing to contribute to pain-reduction; in fact, you add to it which, in an already painful situation, is likely to do what? Did you think about what you wanted to achieve before you posted it? Does adding more pain to already powerful painful feelings get you where you want to be?

The excising of human feelings is as absolute as my exclusion is from political discourse. Whilst I wouldn’t describe myself exclusively as a disability campaigner, I would suggest that “I try to think” is, excepting that his campaign apparently seeks to disable the disabled even further by excluding us from not only the political but from our emotions as well. In doing so, he actually becomes the ‘prophet who understands the universe more than anyone else’ he accuses me of being far more effectively than I could ever aspire to, although his universe is a place where I would not be permitted to exist.

You have no limits, your blog is made up of incessant blatherings and you build nothing.

He places no limits on who he would exclude because he not only shuts me out of politics, he dismisses me because I fail to be as emotionless as he believes I ‘ought’ to be. Emotions become ‘incessant blatherings’ and I am accused, by his measures, of ‘building nothing’. It is reasonable to conclude that these allegations would apply to anyone – particularly any woman – with powerful feelings. Yet his remarks are filled with his feelings, even if he doesn’t recognise them in himself. His feelings are powerful enough to fully exclude another human being from participating in their community on the grounds that they have blatherings, not feelings – a value judgement if ever there was one – about being excluded from society. If anything is being built here, it’s peoples’ emotional responses to exclusion. “I try to think” contributes only destruction to any creative process that may be occurring on the grounds that it ‘builds nothing’ in his intellectually-excluding reality because he places no limits on his ‘right’ to exclude, up to and including violating my human right to participate in my society on my own terms. My participation is only permitted only through the very narrow aperture of his awareness which judges and excises aspects of self that I consider as being of immense creative value. I may be permitted to ‘build’ only, but on his terms.

In psychotherapeutic discourse, it is understood that whatever someone does to others, they are likely to be doing to themselves too. In this case, “I like to think” could be seen as repressing his feelings to the point of unconsciousness. His comment is about how he feels about his own emotions. If it’s permissible to repress his own feelings, then it follows that it is permissible to repress the feelings of others too in his reality. However, the ‘reality’ of the world is made up of a great deal more than simply that of one man and denying that truth is not regarded mentally healthy.

So, in reflecting on his comment, I find this is my reasoned response, expressed in blog so I don’t need to act it out in practice. This is what I think “I try to think” was ‘building’ in the feeling realms of human nature, whether he was aware of it or not. If he ever reads it (which I doubt), I hope this might enable him to really think, instead of just trying.

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2 responses »

  1. Dear Dee,

    Although I rarely comment, I regularly read and follow your blog posts with much interest and often find myself musing over them hours or days later. Your posts aren’t easily digestible, they are full of depth and questioning, so sometimes in going away and mulling them over, the moment to respond is gone. Maybe I also don’t comment much, not because there is nothing to say, but because I feel unqualified to add anything that could be useful to you other than cheering you on. Perhaps I should do that more!

    Sometimes reading your posts, I feel like I’m watching a mammoth psychological battle between your different selves. I find that quite inspiring, as it’s something that we all do to some extent or another, but rarely with such open acknowledgement. Your posts inevitably, given their mix of forthright emotional honesty combined with a professional psychoanalytical perspective, will repel some as much as they attract others. Occasionally they lose me because of the language they are couched in, as it’s unfamiliar and my concentration is mostly shot these days. When I find them challenging to my own perspective, though, I’m of the mind that it can only be a healthy thing.

    I see no reason/rule why you cannot mix disability campaigning with whatever you damn well like in the confines of your own blog. No-one is forced to read what you write! I’ve re-read where “I Try To Think”s criticism was posted. As I couldn’t find anything within the original post to base such a negative critique on, it seems designed to be a personal attack and deliberate attempt to hurt perceived vulnerabilities. What I also read were many positive responses from people who, like me, find inspiration from your writings.

    In summing up, there is nothing to answer in his/her critique. The “questions” are sarcastic and the judgement is twisted and ugly. They come across as jealous and perhaps they are. I hope they get to a place where they can acknowledge that and use it to spur themselves into positive action rather than public bile.

    Regards, JC.

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