Rush therapy, Armitage tangential

Therapist: So, you said you feel really terrible.

Me: I feel really terrible. Thanks for seeing me on short notice.

Ther: You told me you didn’t have time to come the second half of this month because of finals.

Me: That was true. But the last two days inside my head have been almost unbearable.

Ther: What’s been wrong?

Me: I can’t turn my brain off. I mean, really can’t turn it off. It’s just one loud chorus of self-hate. Beer doesn’t even touch it, or rather, it might, but I can’t even make myself take a sip.

Ther: I can’t bring myself to criticize that, actually. But what about your healthy practices for self-calming?

Me: I can’t make myself do them. I know part of this is coming from not going to shul for two weeks, and I haven’t been able to pray for four days or so, but I even know, if I load that particular playlist on my computer, I will start crying, and I will eventually be able to write, but I can’t even make myself put the right music on to start the process. I just sit and self-combust.

Ther: What about the waking fantasies?

Me: I’m still doing that. And struggling to write about them.

[we both laugh]

Ther: There’s hope then. You sounded horrible. I’m glad you called.

[pause]

Ther: So why did you call me today and not when this started?

Me: I wasn’t in a good mood but it was okay till this morning, I was doing some professional stuff and I had to google myself …

Ther: When you say yourself, do you mean Servetus or [my real name]?

Me: I mean, me, [my real name]. I never google Servetus, I can tell from my blog dashboard what people know / want to know about her.

Ther: OK.

Me: I hadn’t done it in a while, maybe like fifteen months, but I needed a reference to something I published a few years ago on the web to give to someone, and I was googling myself and when I typed in [my real name], I saw that one of the suggested search terms for [my real name] concerns [the professional disaster in my last job] and I just fell apart. My feelings were intolerable and I was getting set to delete the blog. And then I decided to call you.

Ther: I guess that’s progress, that when you feel frighteningly dysphoric, you want to delete the blog.

[we laugh, a little nervously this time]

Ther: So you want me to save the blog from you?

Me: Yeah. I guess. Though since I’m here I guess I’m not deleting it.

Ther: How did you feel when you saw the search term connected to your name?

Me: Really embarrassed at first. Like: now anyone who looks for me is going to be urged by Google to look into what happened. And then it was like all my emotions turned absolutely off, you know, like I told you used to happen, like a fuse burning out. I thought, I couldn’t give a fuck about all this. People can think whatever the fuck they want. And then I thought, I wish I could erase [my real name] from the Internet. And then I thought, I wish I could erase the last ten years. And then I thought, I’m deleting the blog. Like three explosions going off, right in a row.

Ther: OK. Your blog’s been on my mind as well. What about the pictures of Richard Armitage I saw there this week?

Me: What do you mean? There are always pictures of him there.

Ther: The ones after Monday

Me: Oh, you mean the new ones from Sydney. Yeah, that was sort of the last really pleasant moment this week. It was really odd how that all happened. I finished my grading and the pictures appeared, almost like a reward, or a reminder of something, but I couldn’t figure out what it was and then it was like my brain shorted out from the overwhelming sensory barrage of the pictures, and then there was suddenly all this emotional space for the unpleasantness that descended afterwards.

Ther: You think it was really the pictures?

Me: I know I’m in very deep just now. I showed them to [the professor in the office next door] and she smiled but she didn’t think they were anything special.

Ther: So you don’t think there’s a relationship between these occurrences that’s important for you?

Me: I know you’re a Jungian and you have to say that kind of thing, but honestly, believing that would be totally ridiculous. Even synchronicity wouldn’t explain that. Except that the end of my finals grading and the beginning of his trip to Sydney were coincidentally scheduled for the same week. That’s the only relationship. There’s no way those things could be related — they were planned totally independently of each other, in the case of the university calendar, over a year ago.

[pause]

Me: And I would have felt bad after grading, I always do anyway. I’m worried that it’s gotten so much worse.

[pause]

Ther: That’s could be because you’re planning to go and if you do, the end is in sight.

Me: Yeah, I even said that twice in comments in [my real name’s] facebook feed this week.

Ther: How did that feel?

Me: Frightening and liberating. Former professors of mine who were really proud I made it as a professor are in that feed. But you know, it was really strange, it was like people didn’t notice it all.

Ther: Now you know how Richard Armitage feels.

[pause]

Ther: Look — back to Monday and how you felt afterwards. Although your steadfast refuge in rationality is endearing, you really need to stop looking for these superficially causal relationships and discounting evidence about your mood on that basis. The point isn’t what causes things to happen, but how we notice patterns in their occurrence and recurrence. I mean, that there’s this general euphoria in the world Servetus inhabits, it lasts most of a work day, and shortly after it begins, [my real name] shuts down? What does that mean?

Me: I don’t know. I’ve been trying to figure it out. I thought at first it was jealousy, like those fans just decide to get up and go and meet him and then they meet him, but honestly, I really don’t want to see Richard Armitage in the flesh or try to meet him. Except maybe from a distance.

Ther: Yeah, we talked about that in November. You could have gone to Canada or NYC or even London.

Me: Yeah, and I felt zero desire to do that. It’s not about the “real” body of the “real” Richard Armitage.

Ther: Except if his thumbs are involved.

Me: Yeah, I could make an exception for the thumbs.

[slightly more robust laughter]

Ther: What did you think about when you saw the pictures?

Me: You mean, aside from wanting to rub my face into his beard?

Ther: Yes. [smiles]

Me: You’re grinning. You wanted to rub your beard in his beard, too.

Ther: [smiles] No avoiding the question. What did you think about when you saw the pictures?

Me: All right. What basically everyone thought. How he’s looking right out of the picture without any shyness, and how calm he looks in his skin.

Ther: Ah. Everyone thought that.

[pause]

Me: I mean, I know those are just pictures. But the stuff that the fans were tweeting, especially the pictures, but also the comments, all emphasized how relaxed he seems to have been in these situations. He’s come a long way. It’s like he’s perfecting how to be himself in public — he’s just a slightly different person than he was the last time we saw him.

Ther: Ah.

Me: I have to say, it’s fascinating, it definitely keeps me on the hook insofar as I wonder who he’ll be next, even though the appearances are more shadings of the same person than really different people, though who he appears to be now is really starting to be strongly different from whom he used to appear to be …

[pause]

Ther: So, based on what “everyone” is saying, where’s the euphoria coming from?

Me: You want me to say that it’s not how attractive he looks, it’s how he’s looking–

Ther: Yeah, in the sense that the picture represents a mood transmitted by an action or a state of mind. I think you are jealous.

Me: No, I’m really not. I mean, I see their pictures with him, and I’m genuinely happy for them. But I can’t see myself doing that kind of thing. I didn’t even tweet a question, and I could have done that, too.

Ther: Which is a bit odd, but your desire to maintain the walls of the bubble is a separate question. I agree; I don’t think you’re jealous of other fans. Do you think you could be jealous of Richard Armitage, though?

[pause. I am floored.]

Me: Why… [trail off]

Ther: Now, before you get angry, reflect. You’ve been posting a lot of fluff the last two weeks; it’s been ten days since you’ve done any analysis of Armitage’s work or fantasy writing related to him or even discussion of your own fantasies–

Me: Because of all the grading!

Ther: Yes, of course. I’m not your superego; I wasn’t saying you were being lazy. But all spring, all year really, you’ve been dealing with these remnants of your professional identity and their potential attraction to you as related to your own past; that process ended suddenly when you got the phone call from [Erebor]; you decided you’re abandoning or at least modifying that self-definition and trying to put another version of yourself together for work and for writing. You’re asking yourself around what and you don’t have a very exact idea. Immediately after that you write two fantasies based on photos of Richard Armitage that refer to your youth and feelings of being carefree, and to pressures on the self for cleanliness and order that in turn link to other fantasies about the joys of dressing badly and everything you can do with a fantasy man in a wornout t-shirt. Your readership gets frustrated with you on the cleanliness question — and you shut them off unfairly because you are oversensitive to questioning around that fantasy. And finally, you write an analysis of a scene of Armitage’s work where all of the pressures on his character’s identity come from outside commitments and all he does is react to them — where Guy of Gisborne is forced into a self by others for whom he has to struggle to perform it.

Me: I don’t know what to say.

Ther: When you called unexpectedly, I thought I’d better look at the blog more closely this time to get ready. You sometimes say a lot more there than you’re aware you’re saying. But this is my question: what does all of that stuff mean, together, and why was the dysphoria triggered this week when you saw those pictures? Think about that hard. That’s the real synchronicity you should be looking into. I’m going to make some tea. Do you want some?

Me: OK.

Ther: I’ve got green gunpowder.

Me: OK.

[several minutes pause while tea is made and then blown over and then thought over and then sipped]

Ther: Any preliminary thoughts?

Me: This is good tea. I don’t really know where to start.

Ther: What about the fantasies? What do they have in common besides the candid pictures of Armitage? Think about you in those fantasies.

Me: Well, I am younger. Not so worried.

Ther: Not so worried about what?

Me: Impressing people. What was going to happen in the future. I just thought things would work out. Like I could just be who I was and follow my desires and everything would be fine.

Ther: OK. Did you know who you were?

Me: I didn’t think about it, that’s for sure.

Ther: And just now, about Armitage, you said, “he’s figuring out how to be, he’s just a little different every time” or something like that.

Me: OK.

Ther: Do you think Richard Armitage worried about his identity back then?

Me: Probably. I mean– or rather, I don’t know what he thought, but I know that my thinking about what he thought is my fantasy. I know he really worked hard without a lot of immediate reward. That’s probably hard on the identity unless you really believe in something. And I know he’s said he didn’t have blind faith in himself.

Ther: And now? Does he worry about his identity now? Does he have blind faith now?

Me: I have no idea. I have a hard time figuring out who he is and I guess that’s intentional. I assume he worries about how he appears to others. Most people do. Isn’t that an actor’s general problem anyway, and then there’s the whole question of selling himself now that he’s a big deal and wants to be bigger? Isn’t that why he got the great clothes and so on?

Ther: I assume he at least thinks about it. And yet, here he is, comfortable in his own skin. Something you can’t really manage at the moment.

Me: Ouch.

[pause]

Ther: You’re uncomfortable with your identity, and the object of your transitivism shows up so blithely–

Me: Yeah, you know, I did get in a couple of conversations yesterday about whether things he said this time were consistent with things he said in the past.

Ther: And?

Me: Well, of course, they weren’t. No surprise.

Ther: How did you feel about that?

Me: Well, none of this is real. He’s just being who he needs to be in that particular moment.

Ther: And Armitage? What was he doing, then, when he was being inconsistent?

Me: Some people thought he was not thinking about it, or didn’t remember correctly, or he was making fun of us or trying to rile us up or something.

Ther: And you?

Me: Well, you know me, I’m always for multiple interpretations. Context means a lot; he says what he needs to say in any given setting and I think he wants to make people happy, to please, to entertain. To some extent he wants to please the interviewer. I’m sure he doesn’t want to tell us everything, who would? We’re not there personally, so that adds another perceptive problem to the puzzle. All those things can be true at the same time, and yet I still want to place everything precisely.

Ther: Why?

Me: Because I want to know who he is.

Ther: And if he is your transitive object, when you know who he is–

Me: I’ll know who I am. But I know I will never know who he is.

Ther: Why is that?

Me: Because I only know how he appears through my computer screen, and because in public he’s still trying on all these possibilities.

Ther: Still? Do you think that is going to end for him?

Me: No idea.

[pause]

Me: I guess not.

Ther: Does he have to be one person?

Me: No. I mean, I guess it’s not really in his own interest.

Ther: And yet, he manages to look comfortable with that. He breezes into Sydney and talks to all these people he’s never met before. He gives interviews. Says this and that. Laughs. Next month he’ll go on to being Thorin Oakenshield again and when he’s done with that he will be a slightly different Richard Armitage, and then he will play another role and that will change him yet again.

Me: So your point is?

Ther: My point is that if your account of what is happening here is accurate, he appears to be growing comfortable with that need. While in comparison, you’re on a search for identity that’s going to require you to relax the sort of personality boundaries you’ve guarded for years and it frightens you like crazy, your transitive object is way ahead of you on the road.

Me: [flatly] I’m jealous.

Ther: I think it’s a productive jealousy, for what it’s worth.

Me: If you say so.

Ther: It could be motivating if you decide to make it motivating.

Me: Yeah, I know, like that remark about admiring Gary Oldman was. My response to that really got me somewhere.

Ther: You are getting a better idea of what you want and don’t want, and the end of the semester reminds you that you’re abandoning something that’s very familiar for something uncertain, and that it’s going to have a cost.

Me: I know!

Ther: I don’t just mean in terms of life security, which is hard for you, I know. But I mean in terms of identity. You could learn something from him.

Me: It’s not like I don’t already know how to perform versions of myself; that’s the classroom all the time in a nutshell.

Ther: Yes, but I think you have to risk the possibility that you will have to take it a lot further. Try on versions of yourself that are truly uncomfortable. Assimilate them. Perform them for other people.

[pauses]

Ther: OK, we need to stop now; we’re way over the hour. I think you should look back at all those fantasies you’ve written down very carefully. Together, they tend suggest that at some point you had a less defined notion of the self, and that you’re pining for that. OK?

Me: OK.

Ther: That’s your homework. Also: think about the advantages of that — of a more porous self. If you want to think about that with regard to Armitage’s characters–

Me: Thanks. I think.

~ by Servetus on May 2, 2013.

25 Responses to “Rush therapy, Armitage tangential”

  1. I like that — the advantages of a more porous self. Your therapist is a wise woman.

    Like

  2. I don’t know who you are, where you are, how you are or why you are. Then I realized I know more about Richard Armitage in some ways than I do about you. Did you ever interview yourself in your head? Ask yourself tedious questions that he has had to answer charmingly for months? I have not read everything you have ever written, but you seem so self aware, Except you have trouble seeing how great, cool, awesome, loving, etc. you are. None of us are perfect, even Richard, I know you know this. But I feel that perfection (not in everything) is a goal you set for yourself and then you beat yourself up when it alludes you. I don’t mean to be presumptuous. I just want you to know you are appreciated by people you don’t know and that is a gift. On the lighter side, did you notice no circus questions in all those interviews? I guess that means RA has finally arrived.

    Like

    • There are a lot of inane questions I answer over and over again, but most of them have to do with footnotes. 🙂

      I guess they did refer to the circus, right at the beginning — and all the fans groaned.

      Thanks for the encouragement. I’m trying not to beat up on myself, I really am. That also means accepting the disasters that have happened that I try not to think about it. I do appreciate every iota of support you send my way as a reader.

      Like

  3. Really a great post. It just moved me a bit. As Kathy Jones said: we appreciate you and enjoy reading your thoughts. Big hugs 🙂

    Like

  4. Impressive session. Real progress. Re. “You are getting a better idea of what you want and don’t want, and the end of the semester reminds you that you’re abandoning something that’s very familiar for something uncertain, and that it’s going to have a cost,” this is terrifying indeed, very threatening. But the self does not need precisely defined boundaries. The immutable core, the shifting interface with others, any and all of it, the self simply is and refuses to be pinned down like an entomologist’s specimen. You have immense value as a person: Believe it.

    Like

    • Lately I feel like I’ve started to write a commentary on modernity — these demands for the rationally consistent self that end up exploding in one’s face. I can be who I am in any moment; that is enough. (Especially when I stop being under the scrutiny of students.)

      Like

  5. Oh, Servetus. Did not realise you struggled with the late developments as well as I did.
    I loved the pictures and found great new aspects in fandom all over again; still they set in motion developments I would not have foreseen. Your therapist really is wise; though I really am hopelessly at a loss with the homework he gives you and which seems to apply so well to myself as well.
    The last week, I so much thought about the discrepancy between RA’s appearance of being comfortable and my unsecure state (of mind / job / self-reflection / self esteem / outside presentation / …)
    So in principle, I just could join your therapy session, though I am notoriously not jealous, as I think you are not as well. (I would not for my life want to change with RA.)
    The discrepancy just pushed me into a state of restlessness and overdrive to urgently find a solution for myself.
    The things happening today – you know which – pushed me further to reflect on my fears, of self commitment, exposure and of possible rejection and my possibly insensible reaction to it, because of previous job experiences.
    At least, I can say my heart rate is normal again, after I went back to my usual coffee after a quite frightening night, though I am far from the solution. My efforts to find one currently are similar to grabbing a bull by the horns. Will have to see, who of us two survives, the bull or I ;o)

    Like

    • I wouldn’t want to lead his life, but I think he’s right that I am impressed by some of the ways that Armitage appears to be challenging his own boundaries. I don’t really know how to do that. I’ve always just gone with my strengths.

      It’s weird, these reactions. I was and am really happy — and yet I have all of these things churning around in the background.

      Like

  6. You are sensitive and valuable person and.. I like you ..very much!

    Like

  7. This. This… thank you for posting this. As painful and exposing as it may be, thank you; because some of the things you’re experiencing/thinking/feeling (as others have said), I’m going through as well. This post really helped me shake some things loose. … WOW.

    Like

    • Thanks, Christine — if it helps you out, that’s wonderful. It’s hard to write this stuff but on the other hand, when I started writing the blog I didn’t know where else to go with it. I just want to know what this journey means and I am determined to find out, by hook or by crook …

      Like

  8. Damn. I think I need an appointment with your therapist….

    Like

    • I have to say: find a Jungian. The theory is hard to take, but the therapy is great, mostly because they are very willing to use whatever symbolism seems important to you — they don’t start off either from the assumption that your fantasies are something pathological *or* irrelevant. That’s been helpful to me — this therapist has taken Armitagemania as seriously as I do. This guy is good but not as good as the last one I had.

      He also costs $180 an hour.

      Like

      • $180 an hour! At that rate I’ll have to just keep reading your blog and hope that some of the insights apply to me?

        Like

        • Yeah, it’s why I don’t go every week, when I go, I take something specific in mind to discuss, and why I make sure I write down what was said afterwards. It’s as expensive as dentistry.

          Like

  9. Actually, at this point, a long time reader of your blog. I enjoy your personal posts much more than the Armitage posts. I feel like I have missed a major plot point here tho, and must follow up offline.

    Like

  10. A great post. I am now at the end of my class with 2 more times to go and we have to write up are thoughts on what we have learned in the class, some what hard and since the grammer police (husband) is proof reading for me I will keep some thoughts to myself as I was going to write on perception and self in interpersonal communication. I give you credit for being able to write about yourself and others read it, at times it must be painful. Take Care!

    Like

  11. Thank you so much for being open about your personal challenges. It helps me take comfort in knowing that someone like you who is so intelligent, well-read and accomplished can also struggle with your personal journey. You are very inspiring.

    Like

    • Thanks, dennib68 — I often think I should be able to handle this stuff better so it’s a comfort to have readers who reassure me.

      Like

  12. […] The triggered shame that drove me to the therapist? […]

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