I'm wearing your t-shirt again.
It hangs off my body
Flows down past my hips,
And covers barely enough.
I'm In your t-shirt again.
Lying in bed.
There's lots of room,
More than enough.
I'm wearing your t-shirt again .
It's the only thing I've got.
To help me feel like I'm not alone.
But it's never enough.
I'm In your t-shirt again.
Pondering to myself
How All of it happened;
Wishing you were here.
It's just Way too much.
I'm wearing your t-shirt again.
I washed it the other day,
Put some extra bleach to keep it white.
Just how you like.
It doesn't smell like you.
But it brings me solace,
While I lay on the floor.
The bed is too empty,
Unlike my head.
By myself -
Yet another night.
The snow is dancing around.
Like powdered sugar,
It's soft and bright.
Glowing in the night.
Just like this t-shirt
That you gave me.
So, I could always have it,
To remind myself of you.
Staring in the mirror,
At the curves of my legs,
Looking at these threads,
That cover me, just me -
As I count the days.
But it's simply not enough.
It won't be until you can
Be here with me.
With how the seasons
If it will ever be enough.
I will be here.
With only Thought and Memory.
Trying to reason.
The Loneliest of heathens.
Wearing your t-shirt again,
Until it becomes almost like skin.
Reciprocate. Reciprocal. Reciprocity. These don’t exist for me. Wearied of investing time. How can it even be measured? Going above and beyond. Sublime. Transcendence. It’s all a lie. There is not a second to waste. Waste. No purpose. Carelessly giving time away. Every day. Have you learned anything? Probably not. Ego says. I thought I did. Who can I kid? No one. Just myself. Credulous. Once again. Down the rabbit hole. I spin, and I spin. Into this cycle. Whirling into another world. Where I give and I give. Nothing is returned. Not that I expect it. I’ve learned long ago that nothing should be. Expected. But here I twirl. Dizzier than ever. The mind is clouded. It makes me sick. Tit for tat. Nope. Never that. I don’t get it. Reciprocate. Do the same. Retaliate. Interchange. Soul swindlers. Empathy embezzlers. Purloining pretenders. Spirit siphoners. Greedily draining. Until nothing is left.
Endings almost always lead to beginnings. In my experience, it seems that way. There’s been a few times in my life where something ending has put me on a completely different path, leading me to brand new and often exciting experiences. Whether these endings came in the form of relationships, jobs, or even the deaths of loved ones, they transformed me as an individual in their own different ways. Each experience contributed to the web that is my life.
Tragedies and new beginnings are often interwoven like an intricate web of fibers bearing all different kinds of colors. Each color and each fiber represent a different aspect of life. Life has this way about it that can leave us confused, questioning everything, or really trying to find our purpose. Ironically, its counterpart, Death, leaves us wondering many of the same things.
Part of our purpose, I believe, is to learn and grow while we are here on earth. We cannot grasp new ideas and flourish if we do the same routine things every day of our life. That must be why we suffer tragedies and have pain and sorrow. It must be why, right? Without these tragedies would we truly be ourselves? Who would be? We become stronger and more resilient with each new beginning that is presented to us by a tragedy.
In my last post, I discussed grief and people who I’ve lost that have impacted my life tremendously. When thinking of them, there is someone who I lost that comes to mind specifically, and losing this person really was a catapult for me to enter into a new beginning. After experiencing such a devastating loss, I was transformed.
In a way, I entirely reshaped my existence and what I’ve done with my time. The tragedy was my catapult to start endless amounts of creation in the form of art and writing, and just simply living my life the exact and precise way that I wanted to; with absolutely nothing holding me back.
There is another time when a friend and I were on separate paths in life for about seven or eight years. We did not speak for the entire duration of those years. Something magical happened that suddenly brought us together, and from that tragedy (separation), we were able to start a new beginning. The fibers of our webs once again became intertwined, thus causing a new bond. New beginnings are quite possibly one of my favorite things. I even have a tattoo dedicated to such meaning. Similar to the balance of darkness and light, fortune and misfortune are opposite yet closely related. There is an awakening that happens with new beginnings, like the break of dawn after a long dark night. You cannot have one without the other. Maintaining balance is important.
There have been plenty of times where I’ve had a fresh start. One of the most recent situations I can recall where I’ve had to “start over” was after getting married in a rush, and then getting divorced. When I think of it now, it seems so ridiculous. The choice I made could be considered a mistake. However, if I did not choose to get married, and then go through a divorce, I would certainly not be where I am now. So like those little colorful fibers are woven into the web of my life, how could this be a mistake? The divorce led me to another new beginning and I’m now at a point in my life where I know exactly who I am mentally and spiritually, and exactly where I’m going. Gratitude for the entirety of the situation is a complete understatement of my feelings. Whereas, before, I was just kind of going through the motions of life and not exactly sure about anything. I was still learning how to be me. This tragedy that I suffered through, and the fact that I went through my own depression was absolutely worth it. I wouldn’t wish the pain on anyone, or the confusion, or just downright nastiness of what I’d experienced, but everything that has happened has made me such a better person than I was before.
Breathe. It will all work out in the end.
In my experience, when things don’t work out it is a sign that things are actually working out. It may sound kind of crazy or silly, but I promise it is true. Some doors are just meant to be closed, and that is okay. In one of my favorite books, by Icelandic author Gunnar Andri, something he said in the book has stood out in my mind for several years now. “When one door closes, another opens. And sometimes many of them open at the same time.” Correct! I do agree with him on this statement, as well as much of the wisdom inside of his book. (5/5 stars, I definitely recommend)
And when those doors do open, taking the opportunity to walk through them can seem frightening or challenging. The thing is, with a new start, you must not be afraid. Of course, being scared of change or doing something new is a natural human emotion. Humans don’t like change. It’s been proven. Sometimes though, change is exactly what we need. A new path is given to us at the worst time, which in reality often can be the best time. There have been so many positive things that have happened to me since my divorce or other designated tragedies, and I recall the feeling of starting new friendships and relationships with other people after these terrible situations happened. I’m happier than I’ve ever been and I truly do believe that if the tragedies didn’t happen, I really wouldn’t be on the path I am now. It’s an amazing feeling.
If you’re ever feeling like you are living in total despair, or you just simply can’t move on from a situation or a certain someone, I’m here to tell you that you certainly can. It’s absolutely possible. When your tragedy hits, surely there will be flowers that will bloom shortly after.
Things to Remember:
- Don’t be scared to end something
- Don’t be nervous about experiencing your own tragedy (It will make you stronger)
- Don’t be intimidated about trying something new
- Do try to meet new people, learn from them
- Change is a good thing sometimes
- Take every opportunity presented to you (It’s there for a reason)
- Find your balance between dark and light
- Remember that everything will work out in the end
- Tragedies and new beginnings are interwoven; everything is connected
New beginnings can be hard, and learning something new that you’ve never done before certainly can be a challenge. In the garden of your life, just make sure to tend to the flowers that bloom after the storm; not the weeds.
Grief: An Honest Confession
There have been two times in my life where I’ve been absolutely ashamed of the last words I said to someone before they died. Two different people. Two different occasions. When I think about my actions, I feel a burning inside of myself that represents shame, embarrassment, and pain. I think to myself of how wrong I truly was and how utterly disappointed I am for allowing myself to say such words and have those words be the very last things I’d say to those people before they died.
A younger version of me was angry, spiteful, and I felt like an outcast. Sure, I had plenty of reasons to be mad considering the lifestyle I was in, but it did not give me a right to speak how I did. I was miserable at the way my life was and I had nothing to lose and zero shame whatsoever in many of my life choices including my word usage.
Thankfully now, I realize the power of words. Words are magic after all, and that’s why it’s important to be extremely careful with them. I absolutely despise ending phone calls and conversations on a bad note. It makes me very uncomfortable considering the experiences mentioned above, which still bother me today. I try to avoid confrontation now unless heavily provoked, because there’s that little voice in the back of my mind, saying, “Hey. Don’t be an ass. Remember what happened before?”. Yes, I say to my conscience and myself. Yes, I remember. I dislike ending things on bad terms. If things must end now, I try to say, “I wish you all the best.” Inside of myself, I simply cannot bear losing another person to this mysterious creature called death, and having my last words to them be something terrible. I’m trying to really work on it now in my adult life. I think much of being an adult is self-improvement anyway, so this is just another area to focus on.
I have now tried to instill this belief in my child as well. Never go to bed angry, never say rude last words. You may never know when or if you will see someone again. Even if you are mad at someone, you should not say something you will regret if the worst were to happen. It can literally eat you alive for years. Trust me, I would know.
The first time I remember grief as a feeling was when I was about 4 years old. Maybe it was not so much grief, but disappointment. My grandpa was sick and I overheard my parents talking about it in the kitchen. My dad was planning to fly to the West Coast to see him because they had a feeling he would pass soon considering his condition and he was not doing so well. My brother was about 2 years old at the time, and for some reason, my dad took my brother on the trip. I remember telling my dad that I wanted to go, and my 4-year-old logic was: “What if this is the last time I see grandpa?”. Naturally, I was brushed off and my parents told me not to worry.
Shortly after the trip, my grandpa passed away and I remember the feeling of disappointment, grief, the satisfaction of being right, and anger because my dad did not allow me to go on the trip. It was one of the first times I can truly remember such a whirlwind of emotions. A short time later, my maternal grandfather died, and I vividly remember that too.
I’m pretty familiar with death. I’ve even written a Letter to Death before. There have been quite a few deaths that have impacted me like I’ve run face-first into a poll on the street because I’m looking down at my phone instead of looking up. Boom! Now my head hurts, and I’m trying to figure out what the hell just happened. I don’t speak about it often, but my dad passed when I was a teenager. My first love died several years ago. Most recently, I lost a very good friend who was more genuine than anything at all. She was incredibly supportive and one of the people in my life who was supportive for no reason at all. People who support you, for no reason are the most special. They don’t ask for anything in return. They just truly want to see you happy and succeed – yeah, she was one of those; a rare gem to find in this day and age for sure. I love and miss her greatly.
People who support you for no reason are the most special.
The death that hit me hardest was losing my high school sweetheart. Even though we were not together when he passed it shook me terribly and then and only then did I realize how much I did love him still. When he died, my world changed forever. I questioned everything about my life at that moment. I even questioned the love I had for the person who I had just married. Sometimes, it takes losing someone for you to truly realize how deeply they made an impression on you and your life.
Sometimes, it takes losing someone for you to truly realize how deeply they made an impression on you and your life.
That old saying, “You don’t know what you got til’ it’s gone.”, is more true than I can ever describe. I cried for two years after he died. Sometimes it was spontaneous. The pain I felt from losing him is the worst grief I’ve ever felt in my life. I remember some nights just sitting at the edge of my bed and crying, and just screaming into my pillow. His words would echo in my mind. “Let’s go to Naples, baby.”, I’d hear him say. I’d dream of him often and sometimes I still do. In my dreams, we fight like lovers. Like we once did. I tell him, “Okay, I have to go now. Come on, let’s go”. He sits near the windowsill and looks outside at the rain. His sketchbook is in his hand and he is drawing, just like I remember him. He looks at me, annoyed, “Kim”, he sighs, “You know I can’t go back with you. I have to stay here.” A couple of times, he asked me to stay, but I told him I have far too much to complete here in this realm yet. He understands, and occasionally we meet up still. If you know me, you know who I’m speaking about and I’ve spoken of him before. Rob was one the most influential people in my life, and somehow, in some ways he still is.
After his death I did anything and everything to connect with him. He was an artist, a writer, a poet, a spoken word lyrical genius, and he made music. He was so creative, and I loved him. He called me his muse. The irony of that is after he passed, he would become a muse of sorts to me, if the definition we use is: a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist; instead of the mythological definition. I created so much art. I started writing more. I became inspired to make it my personal mission to not let creativity die, in my own world and that of everyone else’s too.
When we lose someone we love sometimes these magical things happen where our life is forever changed, but it’s not all bad. We become more caring, hopeful, or optimistic in some respect. We remember them. We learn to love differently. We learn to be more kind to ourselves and to people around us. When comparing Rob’s death to one of my friends who passed recently, there are certainly differences in emotion and feeling but the impact they made on my life will forever be unforgettable. Through every loss we experience, we also gain something. It’s almost like a trade of emotion and energy.
When losing friends in this life, we gain them in another, or in a spiritual realm, or hall – whatever it is that you believe. Having those people in my life helped shaped me for sure, but also by not losing them, would I be who I am now? Probably not. Death is another human experience in which we learn and grow. After everything that has happened, it is easy for me now to look at death in a different way than I did say 10 or 15 years ago. Do you think there is any goodness associated with death? Can death be seen from an optimist perspective? Or is that only achievable after you have recovered from all stages of grief? If you take anything from this post, I hope it’s that you always remember to never go to bed angry, and never say a harsh last word.
Elements of Eros
Isn’t it fascinating that in many pantheons of mythology, there are gods and goddesses strictly for LOVE? Personifications of human feelings and emotions via deities are nothing new to discuss. We have all heard of them before. Freyja, Aphrodite, Cupid, Juno, Parvati, and Eros just to name a few. Eros was the son of Chaos (in some variations). Interesting how love and turmoil have been intertwined since ancient times, isn’t it?
Eros was a Greek god of love. He was the embodiment of passion and desire. Some may recognize him better as the Roman Cupid. Without warning, he selects his prey, the innocent and the lonely. He targets the unexpected. With great force and might he strikes their hearts and they are left feeling fluttery and confused. As quoted by Hesiod, he ‘loosens the limbs and weakens the mind’ (Theogony, 120)
If you have fallen in love, you know exactly the feeling that is described.
I certainly know the feeling very well. When thinking of love, I think of also my own solitude as of the last few years. I’ve been so accustomed to life without that significant other now that sometimes I believe it all to be a myth. A real partner surely does not exist in my world. The only people who exist in my world in that respect are people who do not want to stay around. (Please hear: “People Disappear Here” by Halsey) I’ve often found that I am good enough for a little while, but not for anything long-term. But whose fault is that?
That’s how it feels, it seems. Sometimes. The same ones who crave me for just a little while, are the ones who will not give me monogamy when I ask; but they always return. They always come back. Every single one of my “exes” has always come back at some point or another. Considering I’m “alone” it’s like they think I will just be there for them forever – just for them – even though they do not offer me the same in return. It’s a vicious cycle. Satisfying, but rather annoying as well. It’s one of the most contradictory things I think a woman can experience. I’m sure I’m not alone.
To have one solid person who can just go through life with me and only me would be a dream. I wish I had someone to build with. We’d probably be a great team. I imagine it often! Other than that I do not think anything else is missing from my life. Just a true love. Not lovers. Lovers are easy to find. A true love is not. A consistent love. One that I can make sacrifices for, and one that will do it in return for me. One love that does not hold things over my head. One that does not want to fight, but one that wants to build and go through this very short life together.
If there is something that I wish I still had that was from my past it would probably be my high school sweetheart, but he is long gone now. That’s a pretty morbid statement considering I am just in the earliest portion of my 30’s. We had our ups and downs, but I miss him all of the time. He was a love that I could write a whole book on, I think.
Sometimes it does feel like I’m destined to not have certain things. For example, once I had my son – the only thing I really craved was normalcy. I wanted a “normal life”, which I don’t know if I even knew what that meant. I don’t know if I even know what that consists of. All I knew is that I wanted life to be different than what I witnessed in my childhood. At one point, someone told me, “You can’t have a normal life. You’d be bored with it.”
Sometimes, I think that is true. But as life’s circumstances have caught up with me and I’ve finally realized the extent of my anxiety – I now disagree heavily, even more than before with that particular quoted statement. All I want now is simplicity. That is really it. The belief that I’m not destined to have certain things probably stems from my experiences. Failed relationships are to blame for the belief, but I am personally to blame for failed relationships. I’ve purposely chosen (in the past) people who were not good for me. Trying to solve childhood trauma via adult relationships will never end well. That is something I’ve learned. I have also learned it is okay to be alone, and it’s okay to be quiet. My solitude now is my joy.
After three major long-term relationships, all of which so far have not worked out completely for a variety of reasons, I guess I thought at some point that having “the one” just is not possible for me. I did think that before, but I do not think that now. Thoughts change over time of course. If I was in pain and mourning the death of a relationship or marriage, of course, the “woe is me” mentality would be in effect. It’s easy to be bitter when you are hurt! It’s natural to feel that way. But feelings are a temporary state. Love is a choice.
Thinking of people around me, there is one couple that stands out in my mind. I will not name names, for obvious reasons. But they have been married for many years now and are actually happy. They have a sense of teamwork in their household. There is no misery or hostility. They celebrate their love quietly. They don’t blast all of the social media with their love. They keep it within the home. They get mad at each other of course, but it’s not something publicized. They have balance! I am now thinking about another couple I know just like the first I mentioned. The two couples each have something in common. They are not from the United States! Is this a coincidence? It could be. I’m also partially biased now because I’ve been reading more and more about the differences in mentality of Americans vs. Non-Americans. The differences in thought processes, relationships, and methods of raising children are ASTONISHING. I love this country, but many of the things we have learned are very questionable and should always be questioned!
Personally, I think my “true love” is missing because I have not been able to experience, or meet that person yet (at this phase in my life). I believe I have had “true loves”, before. I’m also questioning, like mentioned before if “true love” is even a concept that exists or makes sense. What is even a true love? Is it possible to have several over a lifetime? Of course. Is a true love something you feel from another person, is it another person themselves? Or could it be the actions taken by someone who can prove in a sense, that this “true love” thing is not just a fallacy? Is it all of what is mentioned, combined? I’m sure I could put more effort into “finding” this “true love”, and recently I believe I have put more effort. The only one who really knows the answer as to whether or not my effort will work is time. Time knows all things. I like to imagine that, at least.
As humans, it is in our DNA and very existence to crave love and desire and the want and need to be connected to people around us. In many ways, I feel connected to people “around” me. That is mostly due to social media. If social media is taken out of the equation, then will I be as connected? Certainly not. There seems to be a drought in my life and country (it feels to me at least) that there is a giant lack of community and family (outside) of social media. In the future, if time allows, I would love to start an organization of my own that can help people establish a sense of family and community – without social media being involved.
In the last 15-20 years, technology has been both a blessing and a curse to us all. However, before technology, meaning apps like Facebook, IG, and TikTok took over our lives, things were so different. I just remember not knowing where my friends were. I remember not having cell phones. I remember going outside to find them. I remember randomly running into them at random bus stops, parks, or at the train stations in Chicago. That is what I remember. We felt more connected back then, and we actually met up and made plans. Not everyone was easily accessible via social media. We were more connected back then than we are now in a sense. Things were more personal. They were face to face. It’s such a strange time we are living in now. We are connected, yet so disconnected.
In a world full of disconnection, it can be a struggle to exhibit values. Values correlate to community, family, and love. When thinking of values, I think many of my own values that I learned in my childhood and teen years still resonate with me today despite the many changes in our world. The values that I believe in, are ones that I’m also still trying to perfect. Lately, I am trying to practice kindness, empathy within my parenting, and as always – being courageous. Not that I lack any major values (I don’t think), but it’s my personal belief that as humans we must constantly strive to improve ourselves in every single area. Nobody is perfect, and this I know, but room for improvement will never hurt anyone. Unless you of course pull a muscle at the gym! Shit happens. When I catch myself having a negative thought or a serious case of road rage, I try to stop myself and redirect my thoughts. It is the least I can do, for my own mental well-being.
Focusing on well-being, I feel is a good decision and does make me feel like I’m headed in the right direction. Mental health and well-being are important factors for any individual and also for the success of relationships. When things around us go haywire, sometimes the best thing we can do is look within, instead of outward. Look within, right within your heart – right where Eros strikes.
The older I become, the more aware I become. I think this is a sign that I may actually be a normal human; if there is such a thing. When I speak of becoming aware, I mean seeing things, realizing things, or understanding things differently than I did when I was a younger person, for example. I’m 31 years old right now. Looking back, it’s easy to see how my thought process was so much different 15 years ago, compared to today. What pains me though, is that my young brain and self were loaded up with circumstances that should be considered unbearable for a child or young person to have to endure. I’m able to look back and see that now. I knew then that many things were wrong with certain aspects of my life.
As a child, you use your peers or childhood friends and playmates as a comparison. I’d often look at the other kids I knew, and view their families through a very observant lens. Comparing, and contrasting, and even as far as discussing the differences between families. We’d talk and say things like, “Do your parents smoke too?”. Basic and simple observances were made to figure out ourselves and our own community. The difference now though, is when you make certain comparisons as an adult – you are able to find more reasoning behind why certain situations happen. Instead of, “Do your parents smoke too?”, it becomes – Why? (A very in depth “why”, if you think on a critical level).
As children, and humans, we are able to observe and see. We are able to absorb. But we don’t question the depths of what we are seeing. In my adult life, I’m able to dig deep. I’m able to fully analyze and comprehend things in my day-to-day life, and things about my childhood too. The fact that my knowledge and experience have increased over the years has helped me tremendously to process events that many consider painful. Of course, not everything in life is so gloomy or down. Don’t be fooled completely by my words. But the topic I want to discuss is in fact, not so bright – but may lead people to a better understanding of what is happening in their own lives, or around them; which in return can create a figurative or metaphorical brightness.
Over the last several years, I’ve been really trying to find myself more so than ever before. There’s been many things I’ve done to try and better myself and my life. I feel like, considering my earlier years, I owe it to myself and to my child to be the best version of me that I possibly can. I enrolled back in school, and I studied Psychology/Social psychology initially but changed my major to Creative Writing and English instead. The change came this year after some tough thinking, but it was a decision that I felt was best for me and the lifestyle I’m trying to create for myself. I was unsure what it would be like trying to obtain a Creative Writing and English degree, but now I’m finally experiencing it. “Words are magic”, is a belief that I will always hold true and near to my heart and my life! Of course, they are! How can they not be?
This term I am currently taking a World Mythology class, and a Critical Approach to Lit class – which is basically a class about different types of Literary Theories. Literary Theory is a term that I’d like to think is a title that we use to describe different ways of analyzing literature. Some have written books on “Literary Theory”, itself, stating that it can be a number of things. I can’t give you a book on the subject at this time, so I’ve only provided a short definition written in a simple way that makes it easy to understand. At first, I really disliked this class. It shocked me to dislike this class. I thought to myself, maybe something is wrong with me? I’m obsessed with books, and stories, and fairy tales, mythology, and legends of all kinds; but this Critical Lit class was boring me more than anything. That is until we started talking about the Psychoanalytical approach of criticizing and viewing literature. I did not care about Structuralism, Marxist theory, Formalism, or New Criticism. I’m not downplaying their importance, they just were not something I was immensely interested in. The Psychoanalytical approach, however, piqued my interest instantly. I’ve studied the works of Freud before, and of course Jung. I studied them before I was even in school again and I admire their thoughts as well as their contributions to humanity. Studying this psychoanalytical approach and how it can be applied to literature was eye-opening for me. Not just due to the way this approach can be used in literature, but because of how this psychoanalytical approach could be applied to life and many of those situations that just leave us thinking: “What the hell just happened?”
You know, those situations, don’t you? The ones where you are experiencing a moment with a person and although it’s a memorable moment, it’s not necessarily a good one. If you have seen some of my poems on my blog, you will realize that the majority have a certain theme. The theme is not something that I have entire control over. Most of it stems from my unconscious as I’m just simply writing experiences that I’ve witnessed in some form or another that have tremendously impacted my life in a significant way.
Applying the Psychoanalytic approach was genius to me. I’ve always wondered why people do the things that they do. People, or characters! I feel like every action we take, or every single thing we do is caused by a deeper thought or feeling inside of us that we may not consciously even be aware of. Freud was able to prove this theory, and I think this is why I fell in love with his ideas. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve only halfway read through, “The Interpretation of Dreams”, by Sigmund Freud. Someday I hope I can finish the book all the way through, in between my studies. I can only hope to read all of the books on my to-read list, in this lifetime! Freud, the creator of the psychoanalytic approach, left us with some amazing and valuable information. So much that I can only fit a tiny bit into this blog post.
From him, my own viewpoints have been confirmed and reassured. He believed that our minds had a way of pushing unconscious feelings to the surface through a variety of actions or circumstances. This goes back to the “Why?”, that I mentioned earlier. When thinking of Literature in general, and analyzing characters or stories, we ask the same question – “Why?” Why is a character doing or saying ______? Literature is full of stories that are left to our own interpretation and this is where critical literary theories come from. Freud taught us that, “the conscious mind often performed significant transformations on unconscious material”, (Michael, 2017) I want to dig a little deeper into what this actually means. Our conscious behavior is highly influenced by thoughts, feelings, or emotions within us that we simply cannot even grasp because they are stuck in a realm of our unconscious. So even if we do not realize something is affecting us, it certainly can be.
The Freud family gifted us with the concept of defense mechanisms. Finally, as an adult, I have learned what to call these mechanisms that I’ve witnessed for so many years from a multitude of situations and human experiences in my life. The defense mechanisms that we are all too familiar with are actions that come from thoughts that have been repressed within us. It shook me to learn that these behaviors are actually named. These behaviors, many of us have witnessed, and some of us of course have even acted out. It is human nature, and none of us are perfect. If the behaviors are witnessed by a child, you have to realize that those experiences are locked away within the child and may influence behaviors as an adult. Making this connection of literature, psychology, childhood and adulthood, is kind of like the same feeling you get when you walk into your own surprise birthday party, or unwrap a special present that was unexpected. It was a wow moment! I will now discuss in a bit more detail, intellectualization, projection, reaction formation, regression, suppression, sublimation, and rationalization. These are the defense mechanisms that humans use in a variety of situations. If you are unfamiliar with these, you may experience that surprise birthday party feeling I was mentioning. Now let’s unwrap this gift.
What is projection? – Projection is a defense mechanism in which an individual will reflect their own thoughts or actions onto someone else. An example of what this could look like would be an extremely jealous partner who is a cheater, but accuses their spouse of cheating. The cheater is projecting what he dislikes about himself, and what he/she knows is wrong onto their significant other. Another example of projection could be a person who is overweight, but is constantly ridiculing how other people look, or the eating habits of other people. Projection comes in many forms and can be found in romantic relationships, friendships, and even family dynamics. Projection takes place most often when a person has a serious dislike about something within themselves, but tries to put a spotlight on another in order to deflect their own thoughts, behaviors, and actions.
What is reaction formation? – Reaction formation is when a person wishes to hide their true thoughts or feelings on a subject; and instead, they display opposite thoughts and feelings in response to what they truly think. An example of this would be a person who is homosexual in secrecy, but on a surface level, they preach to everyone they know about how they despise gay and homosexual people. Have you ever heard the term, “Kill them with kindness”? This is another example of reaction formation. Instead of literally killing a person you don’t like, we use this term to cover up true feelings and insist that we are nice to them; so nice to them in fact that it may make them sick! That is reaction formation.
What is regression? – Regress means to return to a previous or lower state. When regression is at hand, it means we are reversing into a backward or more immature mind state or thought process. When this occurs, a person may display behaviors that seem juvenile in comparison to their actual age. An example of this would be an adult who has a major meltdown over something that is not so major. A parent has just got home from a hard day at work, they are tired, angry and unhappy with their day – and maybe even part of their life; their child accidentally breaks something or spills something. The parent reacts in a big way, when in reality the problem is quite small and can be fixed or cleaned up. This is regression. We return to a thought process that has us respond quickly, often angrily, or temper tantrum like – without thinking. What kind of people have temper tantrums? Toddlers. The answer is toddlers. We are all guilty of this in some way or another perhaps.
What is rationalization? – Rationalizing involves trying to make sense of a situation. Rationalization as a defense mechanism is when an individual tries to explain or justify their behaviors in a logical way. Think of this: Person A. slaps Person B.. Person B. then says, “Why did you do that?”, to which Person A. responds with, “YOU MADE me mad, so that is why I slapped you. It’s your fault.” Person A. is trying to rationalize their abuse by blaming Person B. the one who actually received the abuse. Person B. does not control Person A, and has zero control over the thoughts or actions of Person A. Person B. is not responsible for this behavior, no matter what Person A. says. Rationalization can include blame shifting, and Person A. will try to make sense of their behavior by reassuring themselves that they have a good reason for acting as such, even if the reason is incorrect. This is, according to Freud, an attempt to make the action acceptable according to the ego.
There are more defense mechanisms that we, as human beings use whether we realize it or not. Intellectualization and suppression are also on the list. Suppression obviously includes suppressing thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc. When you suppress something it is bound to come out at some point or another. This can lead a person to “bottle up” and then “explode”. The worst part of this, is since we are all different, there is no telling exactly how or when a person will “explode” and what their actions will consist of. Intellectualization is a more logical defense mechanism, and leads us back to that question: “Why?” When you use intellectualization as a defense mechanism, you try to think of a logical and accurate reason as to why something has happened. When you intellectualize a situation, you will be better off because you will be using logic to find an answer, instead of reacting in such a way that leads you to something else, like, regression, for example.
If you are still reading, thank you so much. Now that we have covered these, I hope you are able to see how the psychoanalytic theory can not only be applied to literature but of course, also to life itself. Literature is a big part of our lives and every time we read a good work of literature, we are using our mind to piece together the story, and make sense of it in our world. Just like we are doing with our day-to-day situations. Most of our actions, or the actions of others have a tendency to come from our unconscious mind. To tie this back in with literature, Macbeth, by Shakespeare shows us exactly what Freud is talking about when it comes to the unconscious mind playing a part in our conscious thoughts and behaviors. In Macbeth, handwashing is a symbol of trying to cleanse what subconsciously cannot be cleansed. I won’t go into much more detail than that, but if you know the story, you will know what I mean. The handwashing soliloquy has also become a meme, thanks to coronavirus.
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Ryan, Michael. Literary Theory: A Practical Introduction. Available from: MBS Direct, (3rd Edition). Wiley Global Research (STMS), 2017.