A double bind

There’s hardly any time to write these days. There is not even much time to think. Someone talks to us for 3-6 hours a day depending on the day. Then there are social activities. The suspicion is that they are deliberately keeping us busy and that that is the main purpose behind what we’re doing, although why they think we need to be busy, I can’t work out. Do North Americans need to be busy all the time?

Perhaps. But it’s driving me crazy.

I am bored out of my mind and it worries me also. How will I be prepared if there is no time to think?

It’s driving me crazy that there is no time to write.

In between, I have had two thoughts. One of them is a discomfort at being different. Now, I don’t know that I mean much by different. I assume we are all different and that I am as different from the others as they from one another. This is not the dominant view. The dominant view is that it takes a certain kind of person to want to live in a place like Country X and we are all that kind of person. But I look around and still see diversity.

So that is one thought. The other thought that comes out of this is that I am not afraid of difference for the reasons I have been told I would be afraid of it. I am not worried about rejection or social disapproval. The group is my link to my home culture and it will be an important source of support, so I will need them. But most people don’t like you or dislike you based on who you are. Their opinion of you comes from how you treat them. Mostly.

The worry is about rejection by God or something else nebulous and abstract. I must “fit in” the way I was raised to. And yet I can’t fit in with these people. They are “outsiders.” From them, I have to be separate. It’s a double bind. I must fit in. I can’t fit in.

And what I feel most commonly is an uncomfortable sense of contempt for the group, although I like the others in the group, or at least I like most of them. I think they’re good people. But I was raised to view all other groups of people aside from the Two by Twos with contempt.

You stop believing in all these things, and yet the familiar responses don’t disappear. We believe that thoughts and feelings are linked and yet they aren’t with feelings and thoughts triggering one another. We are more like Pavlov’s dogs, salivating before our meals. The thought and the feeling and the action are all part of a response. You can take out one piece of the response–the thought–but the feeling remains.

There are some theories of psychology that see us as immensely complex and our problems as very “deep.” As time goes on, I see myself as less and less complex. I am merely an extremely intelligent primate. What I can do better than a chimpanzee is think about the future. I can also remember the past better. And I can better control my impulsiveness. But in other regards I am much the same.

Change is difficult not because we are so complex, but because we are so simple. Very often, we are not behaving or thinking purposefully–and by purposefully, I mean in a way that is directed towards a goal. So we are not attempting to defend ourselves against pain or because we want to maintain a positive self-view. In many cases, we are behaving more like biological machines.

So there isn’t any deep meaning behind my sense of contempt. It’s conditioned and no more meaningful than saliva.


8 thoughts on “A double bind

  1. Kelly January 30, 2014 / 7:55 pm

    Your way of expressing yourself is so sharp and astute, and I have to tell you how grateful I am that you have chosen to express yourself. You articulate feelings and thought processes so well-objectively but not inhuman-and in doing so you have helped me understand much about myself. You have directly assisted in my feeling better about myself. The fact that you are in this other country blows my mind. You are a bad ass. I have deep reluctance to put myself anywhere other than places I have designated in my mind as safe. Even then it can be a challenge.
    I found myself in a situation the other day where I had the thoughts and feelings flood forth and I was able to discern my thoughts were a product of trauma. The feeling, however, was still present. I had to pace through the house and felt so unsettled, but I understood it was classical conditioning. So I just kind of said “nevermind” to the thoughts, but that nagging feeling in my gut remained. Good luck in the Land of X. Thoughts and compassion your way, fellow primate. 🙂

    • Ashana M January 31, 2014 / 6:17 am

      Thanks so much. It’s nice to have you around. 🙂

      It seems like even if you know what the feelings are about, you still have to deal with them. Ignoring them just seems to lead to discomfort. Being mindful can help, or doing whatever calms you down helps. But you still just have to be with that feeling. Still, I find it’s good not to have that other layer of being alarmed about the thoughts and feelings.

  2. desilef January 30, 2014 / 9:14 pm

    I was also (without being anything like a 2×2) brought up to look at all other humans with a critical, contemptuous eye. It’s been hard to get over that, but awareness (which you’ve got) surely helps. Often in a group that leaves me writhing with impatience, I notice another person who doesn’t see the point of the interminable meeting either, and we end up being each other’s support. I hope you find one of those. Life should improve once the work begins. Be amazed. When I was growing up, Country X was entirely closed to the West and all our corrupting influences. It’s unsettling to think of this cohort of people who need to be kept busy all the time descending on the land! But soon, your support will come from the students who smile at you and want to learn.

    • Ashana M January 31, 2014 / 6:42 am

      I think I’m more patient with the interminable meetings–so long as Country X-ers are speaking, I feel there’s an opportunity to learn–but I’m not so patient with my fellow Westerners, mainly because they can’t seem to internalize the values of respect or consideration as quickly as I think they should. One young man wore a baseball cap all through the meetings. Another decided to wash all his pants yesterday and turned up in shorts. The head of the office that hired us here can’t pronounce anything properly and that seems to me to be about respect too. In fact, the returning teachers can’t say the name of my village correctly although they’ve been there more than once and are fond of it. But I think what seems to me to be about being bothered to learn is about an ability to learn a form of awareness and I am expecting too much.

      • desilef February 2, 2014 / 11:08 pm

        You are right to expect nothing less than respect for Country X on the part of Westerners who show up to “teach.”

      • Ashana M February 3, 2014 / 11:04 pm

        Thanks. Yes, I suppose it comes from that place. But then I think I’ve forgotten some people are really here for an adventure…

  3. ridicuryder February 1, 2014 / 9:49 am

    If I was on a mission to Mars or somewhere, I’d like you along . . . the contempt from your end would be pretty thick for a few years, but I would grow on you. I would put serious effort into pronouncing places properly, it would be nice to see you mixing with Martians and other travelers who undoubtedly would find you charming.

    • Ashana M February 2, 2014 / 12:27 pm

      I really do try to conceal the contempt that flashes through my head. I really do think it’s my own failing when I feel that way.

      I’ll give you a buzz when I make my next trip to Mars. 🙂

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