I have been thrashing about with the concept of “learned helplessness,” the notion that with enough repetition of negative results we learn to avoid even trying to break out of the box that we find ourselves in.
How do you break your own deep conditioned responses? Clearly, the best way is to try something new and get better results, outcomes that reward, support and encourage different choices.
That, though, is not so easy to do on your own. Your mind is already conditioned to see the expected outcomes and to minimize possible flashes of better. When you believe that no one gets you it is easy to look almost anywhere and have that assumption confirmed.
I want to be able to leave the basement and come back with something more than short-dated 99¢ clearance bratwurst, but being able to find the stimulation, affirmation and mirroring I need is far from simple.
Why can’t I just take the risk, just put myself out there with grace, resilience and persistence to build a new audience that values what I have to share in a way that brings me what I need?
Reading an article in the NY Times Magazine about the attacks on Amy Cuddy let me realize what holds me back.
I am enormously easy to slag off. Since, after a lifetime of experience, I know how simple it is to portray me as weird, disconnected, out-of-touch, twisted, sick, over complicated and so many other negative things, I expect to be attacked in passive-aggressive ways that do not engage what I say but rather just slight my queer, thoughtful style.
“Well, I don’t understand it, so how can it be important? I mean, if he can’t say it in simple words that everyone gets, then how real can it be?”
The message is simple: go along to get along. Challenge is not what we need. Help us attack shared enemies rather than asking us to question our own choices and maybe then we can find some common ground. We are all in agreement; why do you have to try and cause trouble?
Trans is a very individual journey. It is a quest to claim our own special heart rather than trying to become one of the crowd. This, though, is a tough idea to own for people who long dreamed of becoming one of the crowd, strong, beautiful and well accepted. Who The Fuck Wants To Be A Tranny? (2006)
The voltage that courses through the grid that walls me off is the power of getting slagged off, dismissed and mocked for my attempt to communicate. That thread started early in my history with two Aspergers parents, continued through public school where I learned to stand on the sidelines as an idiosyncratic iconoclast and got magnified in LGBT spaces where the correctness of identity politics is valued as a comfort blanket. Add to that the hew and cry against queer perversion and I have good reason to be trained to avoid rather than engage, to reside inside my own learned helplessness.
I know how easy I am to slag off, to characterize as a stupid freak not worthy of engagement.
And that, I note, keeps me silent and in this basement.