Posts tagged with "psychology" - Faerye Net 2011-03-25T20:29:14+00:00 Felicity Shoulders "Perfect" needn't be an enemy 2011-03-25T20:29:14+00:00 2011-03-25T20:30:50+00:00 <p>I have had, and thoroughly enjoyed, two semesters of formal training in Latin. (In addition to a few private lessons from my retired Latin teacher grandma when I was ten.) This is just enough Latin to be dangerous: enough to, say, puzzle out the odd inscription or be confused by the differences between liturgical and classical. Enough Latin to see the bones lying under the skin of our own language.</p> <p>I am also a perfectionist. A perfectionist of a particularly pernicious persuasion: a procrastinating one. This is often a problem for me, but in the most important sphere of my life, the writing one, I think I&#8217;ve made my peace with it. Writing can never be perfect, only as good as we can make it with the vision and skill we have available to us. Someday our vision or skill may be better, but now we have to surrender and give up our offering to the world, imperfect.</p> <p>Or is it? We are so accustomed to thinking of perfect in its English sense, (<span class="caps">OED</span> definition 1a: &#8220;Of, marked, or characterized by supreme moral or spiritual excellence or virtue; righteous, holy; immaculate; spiritually pure or blameless&#8221;) but I prefer its Latin origins: <em>per</em>, through or throughout; and the past participle of <em>facere</em>, to do or make.</p> <p>That which is perfect has been gone through; that which is perfect is <em>thoroughly made</em>. That, the shape of the word which I feel through the flesh of use and connotation when I heft it, I celebrate and do not fear. Perfection doesn&#8217;t have to be an impossible, theoretical absolute. All of us, perfectionists or not, can aspire to produce something that is rigorously, mindfully conceived and carried through with care: something that is <em>thoroughly made</em>.</p> Reluctant romantics 2010-11-27T15:25:15+00:00 2011-03-09T20:23:19+00:00 <p>At the beginning of the &#8220;Much Ado About Nothing&#8221; production in the BBC&#8217;s <em><a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-00794051289025'>Shakespeare Retold</a></em>, the credits roll over events several years before the action of the play. Beatrice is preparing for a big date; Benedick is preparing&#8230;to skip town for a big job.</p> <p>Now, some of you may realize this isn&#8217;t countertextual: it&#8217;s a spinning out of one line:<br /> <blockquote><span class="caps">DON</span> <span class="caps">PEDRO</span>: Come, lady, come; you have lost the heart of<br /> Signior Benedick.</p> <p><span class="caps">BEATRICE</span>: Indeed, my lord, he lent it me awhile; and I gave<br /> him use for it, a double heart for his single one:<br /> marry, once before he won it of me with false dice,<br /> therefore your grace may well say I have lost it.</blockquote></p> <p>I could go on at some length about the casting of this production &#8212; Damian Lewis as Benedick, <strong>be still my heart</strong>; and Sarah Parish, the pretty, witty Beatrice with the motile face. But I&#8217;m here to talk about the introduction and one shot in particular where Beatrice scatters red rose petals over her bed, then looks at them, goes off screen, and comes back with a dustbuster to remove them. With her expressive face, you see the whole thought process play out.</p> <p>I love this moment. It crystallizes something very important: Beatrice is a reluctant romantic. She is a romantic, or she never would have thought of the petals: but once deployed they strike her as too much, too obvious, too vulnerable, too earnest. Too romantic.</p> <p>I can sympathize. I don&#8217;t know what scholar put forward the idea of the romance cult, but I first read about it in Ernest Becker&#8217;s <em><a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780684832401'>The Denial of Death</a></em>. Basically, the idea is that as the power of the Church has declined in post-Medieval Europe (and the European-inflected West) the place of Christianity has been supplied by worldly romance. Sure, the Western world is still chock-full of Christians, but Christianity can no longer safely be assumed to be a universal constant. Stories told in the Renaissance and later depend on different universal truths and aspirations, a different transcendant happiness: romantic love. Love, moreover, that transforms and elevates, that is itself a destiny and purpose. True Love with One person, Forever.</p> <p>It&#8217;s natural, perhaps, that this world order should have its cynics, just as the religious one did. But most of us &#8212; not all, I note &#8212; do crave companionship, and the idea of a lasting partnership that will fix us and save us from ourselves has been programmed in from an early age. Even those of us who believe more in density than in destiny often have a yearning heart.</p> <p>And so, for us, there are the reluctant romantics, the bickering lovers, the banterers and sarcastics. Beatrices and Benedicks, Hans and Leias: characters who are strong and self-reliant, resistant perhaps to the vulnerability of love or belief in it, characters who demonstrate with every barbed word and cynical protest that they will not go gently into the sunset. It&#8217;s become an overused device itself, but done right, it still enchants. In the process of convincing their doubting hearts, they convince ours too.</p> Birth order and sleep? 2010-11-18T22:44:42+00:00 2010-11-18T22:46:27+00:00 <p>I&#8217;m currently watching over the baby monitor as my sister and brother-in-law take in a show. When they left, they asked me to go in and check that the younger nephew was sleeping in five minutes, which I did. Fast asleep. And this, mind you, with his door cracked and next door, his older brother keeping up a running dialogue with himself about whether he wanted to be a construction worker or an &#8220;old-time car driver&#8221;. Yes, he was supposed to be asleep. No, he didn&#8217;t want to be.</p> <p>It made me wonder if those two perennial favorites of psychological study, birth order and sleep, have ever been considered together. When the older boy was this age, surely, we tiptoed around as he slept? The younger one is learning to sleep through all sorts of outbursts and upset. It might be interesting to find out if many older siblings are, like Ryan, light sleepers. For myself, a younger sibling, I am a deep diver into the sea of sleep. Probably a specious theory, but perhaps worth looking up tomorrow, when I&#8217;ve completed my night&#8217;s dive.</p> Dream Locations 2010-06-14T23:03:04+00:00 2010-06-14T23:10:31+00:00 <p>I recently visited the <a href="" target="links">Kennedy School McMenamin&#8217;s</a> for the first time, and upon driving into the parking lot, was a little disturbed. Despite being quite certain I&#8217;d never been there &#8212; and despite its being a glorious summer afternoon &#8212; I remembered being there in a dim twilight, issuing out of the double doors and milling in half-reluctant revelry with familiar strangers. In short, I&#8217;d dreamed about a place that looked quite like it.</p> <p>Usually my dreams take place in locales I <em>have</em> actually visited, but I find they often are set in the same places, over and over. There was a house of a casual schoolfriend that appeared often &#8212; this confused me until I realized it shared a layout with at least six other houses visited in my suburban childhood. I also have the odd dream set in the house where I grew up &#8212; we lived there 12 years, after all. One thing I notice about indoor dreams is the presence of stairways. The dream-images of my childhood house are of the basement stairs, or the kitchen nook between them and the upstairs flight. That friend&#8217;s house, the oft-repeated house with the familiar layout? A split-level. I&#8217;m usually coming in the front door.</p> <p>Almost every dream I&#8217;ve had set in my high school, too, during and after my stay, was set in the great hall or the two stairwells that bracketed it &#8212; going up to a mezzanine, down to a basement. Small surprise, then, that after over a month&#8217;s cumulative substitute-teaching in that remodeled school, I still occasionally head for a stairway that isn&#8217;t there.</p> <p>What locales recur in your dreams?</p> Water and film 2008-08-14T11:31:34+00:00 2009-12-15T23:20:55+00:00 <p><strong>Spoiler Warning:</strong> <em>This post contains extremely mild spoilers for</em> Dark City, <em>medium-sized</em> Batman Begins <em>spoilers, and sizable spoilers for</em> Signs <em>and</em> The Wizard of Oz. <em>I will put a friendly bold phrase after the spoiler paragraphs are done, for your skipping pleasure.</em></p> <p>I watched the Director&#8217;s Cut of <em>Dark City</em> yesterday. The movie was already splendid, but the Director&#8217;s Cut was more or less flawless.</p> <p>I was struck by the fact that the Strangers are afraid of water. This sounds familiar, so I started cataloging all the adversaries in film that are similarly afraid of water. I only got as far as the grays in <em>Signs</em> and the Wicked Witch of the West, but I feel certain there are more. In <em>Dark City</em> it&#8217;s particularly intriguing because the adversaries have a conflicted relationship with the human psyche. Sadly, I could not refer to von Franz&#8217;s <em><a href="" target="links">The Interpretation of Fairy Tales</a></em> as it went in the first box of books I packed, but in it von Franz says that water in fairy tales represents the unconscious (which in Jungian theory is not just the forgotten and suppressed psyche, but the part of the psyche that contains the richest creative potential and which we must embrace in order to be whole Selves.) This makes sense if you consider water as a source of fear for the Strangers, and in fact water&#8217;s central role in the imaginative life of John Murdoch.</p> <p>One of the writers of <em>Dark City</em>, David S. Goyer, also worked on <em>Batman Begins</em>, in which the villains try to use the water which connects the people of Gotham to drive them mad. It&#8217;s almost like they&#8217;re trying to poison the Collective Unconscious!</p> <p><strong>No worries!</strong> I try not to go crazy with the Jungianism, in general. It can be, as von Franz admits, just a way of &#8220;replac[ing] one myth by another&#8221;. But you all know I love water &#8211; water <a href="" target="links">in the ocean</a>, water <a href="" target="links">falling from the sky</a>, water <a href="">running headlong off a basalt bluff</a>. It&#8217;s interesting to think what place this necessary element, this harbinger and nurturer of life, holds in our collective imagination. It&#8217;s beautiful how the tropes of old hold true in our modern myth-making.</p> <p>Any other hydrophobic movie villains to add to my list? Other movies whose waterways make for interesting musing?</p> Heteronormative discourse doesn't just hurt feelings -- it hurts discourse 2006-08-27T12:37:57+00:00 2008-06-08T13:47:01+00:00 <p>I&#8217;m reading a fascinating book for my grad school studies, <a href="" target="links">Meeting the Shadow: The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature</a>. It&#8217;s a well-organized collection of essays introducing the reader to Jungian thought, especially on the &#8216;dark side&#8217; and the construction of the self. It was published in 1991, so perhaps times have changed enough since then that my surprise is unwarranted when I note that so far, there has been no discussion of homosexuality.</p> <p>At this point, I imagine some of you may roll your eyes and think that I&#8217;m being &#8216;politically correct&#8217; by demanding a little <a href="" target="links"><span class="caps">GLBT</span></a> in my human psych. However, the way these theories handle gender is important. The development of the self is linked to archetypes like the &#8216;anima/animus&#8217;, defined as &#8220;the internalized ideal images of the opposite sex&#8221; (MtS, p. 5). While it isn&#8217;t made explicit until later, that is a sexual ideal, an ideal of attractiveness. The anima/animus is in sharp contrast to other archetypes, like the double or twin, which <span class="caps">ARE</span> the same gender as the person in question. It&#8217;s important to the theory that the anima/animus is the opposite gender from the person. To me, reading this, in full awareness of the many female people who aren&#8217;t attracted to males and vice versa, this constitutes a hole in the theory. It makes the theory less useful<sup><a href="#fn1">1</a></sup>.</p> <p> Heteronormative language like this isn&#8217;t just marginalizing or insulting to non-heterosexuals &mdash; it weakens discourse by distancing that discourse further from reality. Theories that attempt to explain or model things in the real world need to reflect that real world more closely, and that real world has gay and lesbian people in it.</p> <p><em>Disclaimer: As I said, this book was written in 1991, so I&#8217;m not raging against its heteronormative oppression. Rather, my frustration at the holes in the theories sparked this musing on the necessity of avoiding heteronormative language in academic discourse.</em></p> <p id="fn1"><sup>1</sup> I do plan to do some research, or at least wiki-digging, after I finish the book and find out how and whether Jungian thought has expanded to consider non-heterosexual individuals.</p>