Friday 9 April 2021

"Genuine objectivity is the fruit of authentic subjectivity"

That, my friends, is the kind of thing that was drilled into me at Canadian theology school before I (and shortly thereafter my academic career) went South. It's a teaching of the late, great Fr. Bernard Lonergan, S.J. (1904 - 1984), and it contains an argument that things can really be known and there really is such a thing as THE truth. (By the mid-20th century, people were casting great doubt on this, and of course today there are ideologies presenting outright lies as "my truth.") 

According to Fr. Lonergan, the way to get to the truth is to examine your own mental processes. It's not navel gazing as much as stepping outside of your brain, for a moment, and asking yourself what you are experiencing, and what you think it is, and if you might be wrong about that. It's an incredibly useful exercise if you are prone to catastrophizing--as I currently am. 

Here is a sadly common train of thought for your poor cooped up correspondent:

"OMG, Revenue Canada has sent me another letter, and they think I owe them money, and I don't understand, and I pay taxes in the UK, and I'm going to end up in jail and lose EVERYTHIIIIING!"


"OMG, the investment platform doesn't like that I signed up with my maiden name when my married name is on the bank account. I'm going to lose EVERYTHIIIIIIIIING!"


"OMG, I didn't remember to cancel my free trial of Amazon Prime in time, and now I have lost almost NINE POUNNNNDS! HATE SELF! HATE SELF!"*


"OMG, I only got one article done today. I don't remember when I last got three done in a day. I'm going to be FIRRRRRED!"

This is obviously not unique to me, and I would not be surprised to find out that there is a genetic component, since in her last year at home my grandmother used to lie awake at night worrying. 

"What are you worrying about?" I asked.

"Everything!" said Grandma with a small sad giggle. 

Happily, Benedict Ambrose--who does not come from a "call a therapist" background--told me to call  a therapist. So I got a [Catholic, naturally] therapist, and he is very helpful, for he tells me that tax stuff and financial platforms sort themselves out and also that I probably have PTSD and need a long vacation. 

(Incidentally, there is also an accountant in Canada to whom I sent all the Revenue Canada paperwork who said what every frightened woman wants a man to say, i.e., "Don't worry about this. Leave this to me.")

Sometimes authentic subjectivity means you accept the view of people who really do care about you (either professionally or personally) that your reasoning process is sometimes (or often) quite faulty. And this is a good reason why you should, occasionally, ask proven-to-be-very-trustworthy people questions about yourself. It is just possible that they may know better than you do, since they see you from the other side of your eyeballs, if that makes sense. They are also more familiar with the up-to-date you than with the teenage you, which is when you may have taken onboard a lot of negative remarks (possibly justified but possibly not), which sank into your very marrow.

"Am I too hard on myself or too easy on myself?" I asked Benedict Ambrose, whose eyes bulged with concern at the naiveté of such a question. 

Recently I asked "What really makes me happy?", and I was surprised to hear that B.A. thinks I like being a guest better than being a hostess because when I am a hostess I get very distressed if the smallest thing goes wrong in the kitchen. (HATE SELF! HATE SELF!) 

I first learned the secret of asking the trusted person 14 years ago or so when I asked my dear friend Lily why I was still Single. Lily went away to think about it and then told me that it was because I wanted to marry someone more intelligent than me, and there were not actually a lot of men like that, so I was stuck. 

"Are you mad?" she quavered.

Naturally I was not at all cross, for that struck me as a highly flattering reason to still be Single. (And subsequent research has led me to understand even highly intelligent men are not as supremely interested in marrying highly intelligent women as vice versa.) I deeply intuited that she was quite right and subsequently married a fellow impractical, impecunious PhD-dropout. We lived happily ever after, despite brain tumours, PTSD, a catastrophic flood and other such recent disasters. 

However, you must be careful to limit these heavy questions about your precious self because otherwise you will bore and exasperate your loved ones. Asking someone to drop a truth bomb on you is rather a big deal for the truth bomber, who naturally doesn't want to blow up along with your faulty self-image. 

Here's another bit of advice about men, incidentally. Although men are definitely men, and should not be thought of as bigger, stronger, emotionally dumber women, men of your generation are not necessarily like men of your father's generation. In fact--astonishing thought--in some ways (if only one or two) YOU might be more like your dad than your husband is. When you figure this out and accept it, you may cut your husband more slack for not doing stuff you (however secretly) think is men's business, e.g. business.

"Look at you reading money blogs," said B.A.

"Arr," quoth I. 

*Happy ending to that story: I swiftly cancelled Amazon Prime and got back the almost £9.

UPDATE: Speaking of men, have you checked up on yours recently? I mean the brothers, nephews, grandsons, friends and colleagues. Whereas lockdowns are unpleasant for almost everyone, they seem to be particularly bad for the mental health of boys and men, young and old, and I saw one Facebook post--from a friend--that alerted me to the fact that some feminine sympathy was in order.

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