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Surround me
pull me deep beneath your waves
A few words
"When we describe the Moon as dead, we are describing the deadness in ourselves. When we find space so hideously void, we are describing our own unbearable emptiness."
~ D.H. Lawrence

"Is the meaning of life defined by its duration? Or does life have a purpose so large that it doesn't have to be prolonged at any cost to preserve its meaning?"

"Living is not good, but living well. The wise man, therefore, lives as well as he should, not as long as he can... He will always think of life in terms of quality not quantity... Dying early or late is of no relevance, dying well or ill is... even if it is true that while there is life there is hope, life is not to be bought at any cost."
~ Seneca

"People will tell you nothing matters, the whole world's about to end soon anyway. Those people are looking at life the wrong way. I mean, things don't need to last forever to be perfect."
~ Daydream Nation

"All Bette's stories have happy endings. That's because she knows where to stop. She's realized the real problem with stories-- if you keep them going long enough, they always end in death."
~ The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes

"The road now stretched across open country, and it occurred to me - not by way of protest, not as a symbol, or anything like that, but merely as a novel experience - that since I had disregarded all laws of humanity, I might as well disregard the rules of traffic. So I crossed to the left side of the highway and checked the feeling, and the feeling was good. It was a pleasant diaphragmal melting, with elements of diffused tactility, all this enhanced by the thought that nothing could be nearer to the elimination of basic physical laws than deliberately driving on the wrong site of the road."
~ Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

“It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.”
~ William Blake
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Sense of self, boundaries, being engulfed
Friday, June 15, 2018
We talk in my program about clients who cannot tolerate certain types of people for the fear of being engulfed. These people have poor senses of self and are easily permeated by others. They don't know how to hold their own against someone else's affect/emotions. In therapy, this type of person might fear a therapist who is too warm and supportive, because they don't know how to be loved without losing themselves.

I think there are other types of being engulfed, though. Some people cannot tolerate negativity in other people because they can't separate pain in others from their own pain. They are unable to hold both the feelings of another and their own feelings at the same time, and to maintain their affect, they run from people who are sad, or angry, or depressed; anything that could contaminate them and throw off their own balance is unbearable. This isn't necessarily conscious, although some people do seem to make it their life's mission to cut out anybody who makes them feel bad in some way. It seems like a popular "self care" strategy: Cut out toxic people! Exorcise negativity from your life!

Maybe that is needed for people who haven't yet developed the ego strength to bear the presence of others' emotions in depth, but I think it's a potentially dangerous road to go down. Much like with phobias, "cutting out negative people" is a way to box oneself into a limited life. Negativity is inevitable in life, and learning how to be present with it without being engulfed by it is important. Attempting to avoid it entirely is on some level motivated by fear of being unable to cope for it.

Now, I'm not saying the solution is to keep in contact with people who are severely abusive or unendingly depressed or have anger issues they're making no efforts to work on. When someone has a clear and detrimental effect on your ability to function and it really seems like they're not amenable to making constructive changes, that's a good reason to get out. I think what I'm describing is more about situations where someone seems to have persistent difficulty dealing with distress or pain in the other and their solution is to emotionally skip town.

Emotional resilience and being able to hold one's own boundaries (not in the sense of telling the person when you've had enough, but being able to keep a healthy amount of separation while still interacting and being empathetic) are talents for some and skills for others. They are capacities that can be developed. I think our culture is not particularly conducive to that, since there is a drive to be positive at all times and not "dwell" on negative things by giving them attention.

In the very early days of movies, from what I understand, people in the theatre actually screamed and ran in panic when a train came towards the camera on the screen. I think the way I'm describing being able to hold one's own is similar to that, in a way. Nowadays we understand that there is a separation between the events on screen and us. We can still be affected by what happens, and feel things, but the movie doesn't necessarily become our reality. I'm using this analogy loosely, because I don't want to convey the message that other people's feelings aren't real or don't matter any more than something in a movie, but the comparison seems appropriate.

Hopefully I learn more about how to help people build a sense of self and not become engulfed by others.
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