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Sep. 26th, 2010 | 09:45 am

As I am finishing up my conference presentation, I am gradually making space to resume some other projects that have been abandoned along the way. Among these is resuming reading an astrological book on the 12th house that ties in with a lecture and a workshop I will be attending in October.

Smail has sensitized me to various forms of moralism that lurk within even the most secular, most innocuous-seeming therapeutic approaches. For example, consider the "human potential" model as opposed to the old medical (psychopathology) model. The moralism within the medical model is fairly obvious, while even within the human potential model there is a moralism that pressures the client to focus on the liberation of untapped potential, even when that potential may not be able to realized in the client's present or future environment. It easily becomes yet another way of trying to suppress "complaining" or the expression of "neurotic suffering," when in fact the most therapeutically effective thing would be for the client to be free to express whatever s/he is thinking or feeling in the moment without taking on the burden of "blue-sky-ing" about how his/her life could be endlessly wonderful under some other set of circumstances.

So, as I am reading astrological literature, some of which is sprinkled with psychological terms, I am more aware now than I used to be about hidden moralism in that literature as well. On the other hand, it is of the nature of astrology to consider multiple possible combinations of traits in different individual's lives rather than one norm that is supposed to fit all. Within that kind of environment (and, significantly, outside of the context of a face-to-face therapist-client dynamic), it can be easier to try on various perspectives without feeling blameworthy if one or more of them seems suitable, especially if there is some "negativity" involved. For example, I found it useful to read about people who tend to fluctuate between pessimism and ungrounded idealism. Even though I was reading about Saturn (or Capricorn) in the 12th house, neither of which I have, I recognized these patterns to some extent in my life. The 12th house is often regarded as being particularly Neptunian (transcendent) in nature, so maybe I recognize these patterns because I have contacts from Neptune and Saturn to the Sun in my natal chart. In any event, I recognized the dynamic and was able to see some wrinkles in it that I hadn't seen before.

For example, what about when people are sensitive enough to notice negativity in their environment and "volunteer" to absorb some of the negativity (rationalizing that they can "handle it" anyway) in order to try to keep the peace with people who may have positive potential but who also have some unresolved problems? Okay, but then how does that "negativity" become discharged and who ultimately takes responsibility for it? Simply covering up feelings of depression or depletion doesn't seem to help. In the end, one person has taken on more than their share of burdens and starts to feel burned out. This, of course, reinforces the lesson (learned at some point--or at several points--in life) that relationships are primarily about exploitation and not about mutual support. Does merely repeating affirmations about mutual support or about getting one's needs met in relationships solve this problem? Probably not. (Again, many therapeutic approaches pressure the client to accept moralism and compensatory fantasies as being "for their own good".)

My more recent tendency is to try to drop the guilt whenever I feel totally pissed off by someone's behavior. I'm trying to resist the tendency to abandon my irritation in favor of rationalizing their behavior for them: "Oh, he simply doesn't know any better..." I'm trying to trust that there are good reasons for being pissed off and that it's not a good idea to try to "get over" feeling pissed off until I come to a better understanding of the appropriateness of being pissed off in the first place. I also find that I'm becoming more overt about identifying the dynamics of blame-shifting and failure to accept responsibility (in the classroom and elsewhere) rather than just "take it" when people dish it out and then try to deal with the effects of that afterward. At a certain point, saturation sets in and there is no "afterward," or if there is, it's a state of emotional bankruptcy and burnout which can be really hard to recover from. For what? and for whom? What really justifies allowing that to happen?

It occurred to me today that one of the things that really pissed me off about one of my former friends was the smugness with which he apparently sought to "manage" his social environment by deciding who was "in" and who was "out" at any given moment, and stopping at no amount of exaggerated criticism or lies in order to get that to work. The "wiser" part of me sees that he was dealing with his environment in the same way that he dealt with himself, but that doesn't make it any less obnoxious. The inevitable course of action is to reject such a person once they have been found out enough times and the benefit of the doubt has become completely worn out. Ultimately, that's what I did. Yes, that indicates that I have human limitations and am willing to resort to "negativity" in order to protect myself, but so what? Who says that I always have to be holier than thou and yet appear humble at the same time? Maybe that's the compensatory ego trip that needs deconstruction.

So when, at work, I meet people's insensitivity and "push-back" with unrelenting sarcasm, I realize that I'm trying to block my tendency to absorb their negativity by throwing it back at them in a spirit of mockery. I don't imagine that that's going to make me very popular, but I'm not very popular anyway. At least it gives me opportunities to escape from sticky situations more quickly and sends the message that I'm willing to engage in critical and shaming behavior along with the rest of them: I just choose to be a little less hypocritical about it. And, paradoxically, communication does seem to be opening up with some people where it had been more blocked before. Maybe trying to hide my criticism and frustration wasn't serving my interests as well as I though it was.

Om Kreem Kalyai Namaha,

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