“The downcast, the depressed, the discouraged–people only wanted to be well-liked. Earlier in the twentieth century, the worried masses had been driven to doctors for their hysteria and neurasthenia, but by 1936, when How to Win Friends was published, patent medicines and rest cures had fallen out of favor as treatments for middle-class malaise. Carnegie thought he knew why. “Many persons call a doctor when all they want is an audience,” he wrote. If those earlier cures had worked, it was only because they had inadvertently satisfied this need for recognition.”–“The Almighty Dollar: America’s Self-help Gospel” by Gary Greenberg, Harpers, February 2014
Oh, the talking cure…the internet does seem to provide one for so many of us, but it can become difficult to discern when, like narcotics for pain, the antidote soon becomes the illness itself– the great luxury of being seen becomes an unquenchable need.
And some of us turn neurosis into a virtue, converting our need for recognition into self-styled guru-ism. What better way is there to feel comfortable with your neurosis, than by convincing yourself that it’s actually helping others? The privilege is all theirs.
I know it can be otherwise. Sharing what you’ve been through can help others. It can. But it’s also possible for, “I’m glad I’m not alone in this cruel world” to become, “Let’s be alone together for ever and ever.”
Normalization occurs when we realize that everyone and their mother has been through a situation, and then the situation becomes comfortable. It’s tempting to sit in a transitional position indefinitely.
Pee or get off the pot, my grandpa used to say. If the talking cure doesn’t cure you, what are you going to do, Blogger? How are you going to be well?
We have such a strong desire to be known and seen, but even that desire is difficult to purify, because we often want to be known as someone we’re not. We want to filter, even what we present before God.
So many times in my life, I’ve felt a vague struggle in my soul, discord, dissatisfaction, and I can’t tell where it’s coming from, but it feels as though God has drawn away from me. And then some conversation or interaction will reveal that I have been struggling with some defect in my soul. Some trait or behavior that has bothered me about others, I will learn has everything to do with its presence in me.
I always prefer my own sinful tendencies to those I observe in others. In fact, I’d even say I like my own sins quite well, well enough to obscure their sinful nature in my prayer so that I can keep them. But that also means keeping the internal dissonance. It necessitates a cheap satisfaction with acknowledgement from the lesser gods of psychology, or a small but agreeable audience.
“Trials become precursors to deeper graces in prayer. More significantly, the purifications God imposes parallel the disclosure God is preparing. When he shows himself, it will be in camouflage and shadow, the glimpse of his face often not recognized until later.”–Father Donald Haggerty, Magnificat, February 2014
Can we be satisfied that our lives have been witnessed by a God who only shows himself in camouflage and shadow? Can we even present ourselves to him with openness and honesty, or do we present to him a filtered version of ourselves, one we think will please him, even while we maintain internal division in our souls, a division which seeks to hide our flaws, from God and from ourselves?
I want to be seen and known–but do I really? Do I really want to know who and what I am? Am I prepared for the answer? Am I prepared to be a creature in need of great, but hidden, change and purification, a creature subject to a law and a love I barely understand?
It’s worth talking about.
Caveat: Any critical blog post I write is aimed directly at myself, and this one in particular is the outcome of a long internal catalog concerning the role of blogging in my own life. Please don’t take it personally, unless of course, my own neurosis can be of service to you–heh.