WRITING SHORT: 48/50

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[Come summer heat, much of my blogging momentum melts away. Hence an experiment until Labor Day: fifty minimalist posts about whatever.]

Here’s an interesting subject: The deep-down feelings we don’t talk about — not ever, not to anyone.

It’s a no-brainer at work. “Keep your mouth shut” should be a mantra for anyone who wants to stay employed and get ahead. That doesn’t mean, of course, that one ought not offer carefully phrased, constructive suggestions for improvement of the workplace when asked, as long as one holds tight to “carefully phrased” and “constructive.” Deep-down feelings are never the first, almost never the second.

Relationships outside the office? Consciously or not, we’re all doing cost/benefit analyses all the time. Is it better to suck it up? Or spit it out? Saying “I’m sorry” afterwards doesn’t cut it. Bitter, hateful words are like winds flying from an opened bag, never again to be recaptured in the interests of negotiated calm.

And the Other? (If there is an Other.) I used to dream of transparent honesty coexisting with a lifetime of unquestioned love. I go on dreaming, but longer believe. There may be couples still so entranced with their idea of one another that they’ll declare I’m wrong. I suspect they permit themselves to see and hear the Other selectively, safely burying disruptive perceptions, then hiding the key to the vault. The rest of us shut up and make do, if it’s at all do-able, and sometimes go take a walk till the feelings pass.

What’s the alternative? Appearances to the contrary, nobody has it all. And after a while life itself begins to wind down. Then we count ourselves lucky someone’s still at our side, so we don’t face the eternal dark silence alone.

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20 thoughts on “WRITING SHORT: 48/50

  1. That is, indeed, an interesting notion to ponder — the withholding of our most private thoughts. I agree with you: Unspoken thoughts are a triumph of civilized society. I’d like to know what Bill thinks about this, however. Wasn’t he in the business of hearing the most guarded secrets? Does he advocate withholding one’s deepest thoughts from one’s psychiatrist?

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    • First, Beaujolais — a correction. This piece is about deepest feelings, not thoughts or “secrets.” There’s a difference, and I believe your question confuses guarded “secrets” (“I slept with my sister”) with feelings (“I really hate your guts but you’re my boss so until I can find another job I have to shut up and put up with you.”)

      That said — as my partner, Bill doesn’t disagree with what I’ve written about deepest feelings. He reads all my posts, often before they’re published, and has expressed reservations about some, because he’s more old-fashioned than I am, but not about this one. (I might add that where he thought I shouldn’t publish, he was invariably wrong; those were among the pieces which met with most success.)

      It’s true he’s a psychiatrist, now retired, but I was never his patient, so my inner psyche is none of his business, nor is his mine. However, I might add that one’s deepest feelings about one’s psychiatrist always come through — whether the patient articulates them or not — to the psychiatrist, if to no one else. That’s what’s known as the “transference,” and it may be positive or negative, but a good psychiatrist can work with either one, if the patient is willing.

      As for the feelings — and secrets — you keep from other people, the people you’re in a real relationship with, if you want your therapy to be effective they would eventually have to come out to your psychotherapist because he is in the business of treating counterproductive feelings, and that’s what you sought him out for. But you’re never in a real “relationship” with the psychiatrist, other than as doctor and patient. It would be like a Catholic having “feelings” about the priest to whom he or she makes confession. So the post is not really about what you tell psychiatrists (or priests) about your feelings, and I find it curious you should ask the question you do.

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  2. Nina, you’ve gone the gamut on this one. What kinds of relationships have I been in? From work to family, then individual with friends & significant other. Seems there’s coping adjustments and different depths to each one. Chryssa

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  3. “I go on dreaming, but longer believe”. Is that an error or am I reading it wrong again?
    Deep feelings, thoughts and secrets surely do blend at times, and I am not sure that one can be so strict about the differences at all times.
    I always dream and they are mostly my secret thoughts that I feel. This is most annoying to my partner/wife who accuses me of not listening.
    Of course I do get out of dreams in order to pay the bill and stare at the petrol bowser and buy salmon cutlets.

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    • How should it be an error, Gerard? It follows directly from the sentence before it, which is the reference point for what I might be dreaming about. Best not to drift off, though, when in the company of another who’s awake. (Nighttimes are preferable for this kind of thing.) And yes, bills and salmon cutlets are important, even if not dream-worthy.

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  4. Compromise, compromise, compromise is what it is all about. I’m in a long and happy marriage, but yes, there are thoughts and feelings that I don’t share and I am sure the same is true for him. I have long since accepted this as part of keeping the equilibrium of our relationship.

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    • So wise and well balanced, Hilary. Compromise is certainly the word for achieving equilibrium. It’s what unwise and unbalanced me might call “making do.” That said, the unwise and unbalanced (like me) continue to wish for everything, even when we’ve learned in the school of hard knocks to keep it to ourselves. 🙂

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  5. This is one of the “secrets” of a successful relationship. The “knowing” when to share and when not to. Sometimes you can’t “call it” either. One of my best friends was doing something very annoying and I called her on it (finally after a year) about 3 months ago. That’s when the chill moved in and it hasn’t been the same since. I wasn’t angry and was careful (I think) with my comments. To be honest I wouldn’t have shared my thoughts with her had they not affected me. Somewhere along the line that’s the guide I have used. Does it affect me negatively and will it hurt someone. Maybe I have more quirky friends but I think we are all quirky in some ways. There are some things I just would not share with anyone. Not that they are harmful but that the fact that they exist may be troublesome. I love when you post about something that stimulates comments. Makes reading fun!

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    • Almost everything that’s not undiluted praise and affirmation hurts to some degree — hurts the “sensitive” more than others perhaps, but still hurts. I too once blew a “friendship” by answering a question about our “relationship” honestly. (Direct questions are tricky. What do you do? Lie?) And yes, everyone’s quirky, when you get to know them. So good on you, Kate, for keeping at least some stuff to yourself.

      About comments, your posts are way up there in the subsequent chat department. I often wonder how you manage it. But if you mean that you love when I post something stimulating, thank you, thank you. I don’t hit a homer very often, and when I do, it’s by accident. I love it too.

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  6. Isabelle selikoff

    You hit the mark with this post, Nina. It’s lonely out there without that partner who drove you crazy and with whom you couldn’t and didn’t want to share all those deep feelings. But there is much to be said for having a hand to hold while lying in bed at 3 AM. We can’t have it all, that’s for sure.

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