Bonds of Love, Issue One

Nobody’s subjective point of view, no one person’s humanity, is more “right” or valid than another’s.

I’m at the Gorgeous Latter Library on St. Charles Avenue, writing a post called Why Yoga Part One. Quickly, I realized that the answer to “why yoga” should be a series of posts. An hour later, I realized that the first part of this series (just on the physical benefits!) is worth spending a few days to compose.

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But I wanna post something noooooooww!

Fret not, angel. Dig deep into your hard-drive. You know you have something quick and revolutionary to share with the world! See? Look:

Benjamin, J. (1988) The bonds of love: Psychoanalysis, feminism, and the problem of domination. Pantheon Books, New York.

Years ago, while reading an old grad-school textbook for fun (yes, really; why would anybody lie about that -_- ?), I read a passage that compelled me to look up the citation in the textbook’s index. There I saw the most attractive book title I’d ever seen: The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination, by Dr. J. Benjamin (1988). My life was already changed. I searched the public library catalog, and I knew that this book and I were meant to be together.

It was big, and old, but not crusty: just how I like ’em!* We spent weeks together; I probably renewed it the maximum number of times before I decided to just copy down the parts that resonated with me the most so I could share Dr. Benjamin’s insights with my friends, at least! I don’t think I ever planned to post them publicly, but I’m not getting paid for any of this and it’s cited everywhere, so… not plagiarism!

If you can keep up with the academic writing style, I highly suggest purchasing a copy of this book.  If you can afford two, can I have one? Or find it for free at your public or Local University library. For now, I’ll share what I’ve saved, and my thoughts on the material, one chapter at a time. Remember, these are just the parts that I thought were mostly-self-explanatory out of context! If you have any questions that aren’t answered in my discussion, please ask in the comments. I’d love to have a public dialogue about this stuff. 

The Bonds of Love examines interpersonal relationships from a psychoanalytic perspective. “Analytic” may sound like a synonym for “judgmental” ~ and I’d be lying if I didn’t give a shout-out to all the “analysts” who agree ~ but psychoanalysis is a science that was originally designed, like organic/physical medicine, to be as impersonal and universal as possible. Psychologists are just people who observe and record their observations about human emotions and behaviors the way botanists study plants. This is some of what Dr. Benjamin has observed. Enjoy!



(from) CHAPTER 1: THE FIRST BOND

The reciprocal relationship between self and other can be compared with the optical illusion in which the figure and ground are constantly changing their relation even as their outlines remain clearly distinct — as in Escher’s birds, which appear to fly in both directions. What makes his drawings visually difficult is a parallel to what makes the idea of self-other reciprocity conceptually difficult: the drawing asks us to look two ways simultaneously, quite in opposition to our usual sequential orientation. Since it is more difficult to think in terms of simultaneity than in terms of sequence, we begin to conceptualize the movement in terms of a directional trajectory. Then we must try to correct this inaccurate rendering of what we have seen by putting the parts back together in a conceptual whole which encompasses both directions. Although this requires a rather laborious intellectual reconstruction, intuitively, the paradoxical tension of this way and that way “feels right” (p. 25).



Psychoanalysts begin their study of behavior from when we are very young ~ like Rugrats™-young, or even Muppet Babies™-young. Even in infancy, you’re still a human being, with the same natural range of emotions and needs as an adult. For a while, your range of expression is limited to: you feel discomfort, and you cry about it. If you cry because you’re hungry, and if you’re fortunate enough to have attentive caregivers,** someone will eventually feed you. As a baby, psychoanalysts theorize, you assume this happens because you created the source of food.

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Alakazaam, B!tche$!

Everybody knows babies are selfish assholes (literally! All they do is poop and inconvenience everyone around them and poop some more!), but do you ever think about their point of view? To be fair, they haven’t been alive long enough to know that there is a distinction between themselves and the world around them. When they cry, and somebody comes along to wipe their but, babies think “ahh, I did such a good job wiping my butt just now,” because they don’t yet understand that they share the world with other conscious beings.

This is the axis of Bonds of Love, which analyzes interpersonal relationships from infancy through adulthood. Relationships are “interpersonal” because they involve two-or-more people, whether they acknowledge each-other’s person-hood (like you and your friends) or not (like you and your newborn or my ex and me, loljknr). If you’ve ever felt invisible or dehumanized during an interaction, it might be because the other person or people do not see you as your own distinct-but-equally-human self.

Sadly, this is not uncommon. Many people, often without realizing it, never feel a “close” connection to others because, like infants, they only see other people as extensions of themselves that carry out their wishes, not as fellow conscious, autonomous human beings. We all know people like that. Heck, one of them is the president of These United States of America! Unfortunately, a deep, unconscious belief that other people are things can be as lucrative as it is lonely. Remember slavery? I digress, but only a little.

How do people get this way? Well, according to Dr. Benjamin, these profoundly isolated individuals (imagine for just a moment that you were the only “real” person in the world!) do not experience what she calls “self-other reciprocity.” Benjamin uses the image of MC Escher’s Two Birds (No. 18) to describe how challenging, yet rewarding it can be to place equal emphasis on two perspectives at once.

The painting shows two interlocking flocks of birds, flying in opposite directions. Like much of Escher’s work, the piece invites our eyes to dance. Our focus hops from blue-to-white-to-left-to-right until we get comfortable seeing both flocks at once. It’s like changing one’s mind from “only one of these is the right answer” to “these are just two different answers,” much like the drawing where the picture is both a duck and a rabbit. To me, “self-other reciprocity” just means seeing the whole picture for what it is: nobody’s subjective point of view, no one person’s humanity, is more valid than another’s.

Unfortunately, a deep, unconscious belief that other people are things can be as lucrative as it is lonely. Remember slavery?

As the book goes on, Dr. Benjamin and I will go into how this truth, which I like to call intersubjectivity, is learned, partially-learned, or missed in early childhood. Intersubjectivity just means that every story has more than one main character. To be subjective means to have your own point of view; to be intersubjective is to acknowledge that everyone else does, too. There really is room on the planet for multiple POVs, people. Diversity only becomes a “problem” when some folks’ perspective is devalued or ignored in favor of someone else’s.

As The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination (Benjamin, 1988) continues, we’ll discuss how men are traditionally raised (not necessarily on purpose) to value their subjectivity and not others’ (not even other men’s, really), while women are traditionally raised to place others’ subjectivity over their own. It’s gonna be good, y’all! Thanks for reading all of this, Truly. The intro will be shorter in the future, but the passages might be longer. What do you think? Please share below; I’d love to read your thoughts! Namaste, y’all.


*Notes:

* I like crusty books, too. And new books. And skinny books and long books. And short books and fat books. And fiction, nonfiction, science fiction, historical-fiction, novellas, short-stories, autobiographies, graphic-novels, how-to-do-stuff books, how-to-talk-to-people books, psychology books (lol, ya think?), yoga books, racial books, art books, picture books, poetry books, Spanish poetry books, children’s books, young-adult fiction, folk tales, bell hooks, Sandra Cisneros, Haruki Murakami, Chuck Palahniuk, Toni Morrisson, Audre Lorde, PHEW! Okay I should stop now…. But the old ones do smell the best ^_^

If you’ve read this far and you have any book recommendations, whether they fit into the far-from-exhausted list above or not, please share them below! 

** For other babies, there are several outcomes. One is that the absence of someone to meet their needs is still initially interpreted as the baby’s own failure. Another is that these babies understand too soon that their existence depends on entities outside of themselves. The scarcity or unreliability of care makes “ANXIOUS” the poor child’s “default” setting, which explains why trust issues may persist into adulthood.

If you forget everything else, and never visit my website again, please know this: every person is unique, and there is no “A + B = C” formula for how any of us turn out. More importantly, if you don’t like the way you’ve turned out, you have the power and the opportunity to change with every breath you take. Try listening to love songs as if you wrote them to yourself, see how that feels. Let me know how it works, or doesn’t, for you. Peace!

This song is actually LESS creepy now, lol! They won’t all work out that way, trust me. 

Did she really just do that?

Uhh…. Do What? What did I do?

Well, I took The Local Skank’s lyrics literally and Quit My Day Job to become a full-time blogger!!!111 … … … until the money runs out, of course.

Unfortunately, I did not join *this* circus, but their CD Collect All Five is legit!

How did I get here? Well, it really started with what I’ve been calling the MardiGra-calypse…. That’s when my ex-ex-ex café (yes, 3 jobs ago. yes, Mardi Gras is in February. Judge me all you want, just keep reading) closed indefinitely and unexpectedly the day before Mardi Gras, leaving all of us jobless at the end of a busy/hiring season.  Did I mention that the schedule for the rest of February had been sent out  already, so we basically had 2 weeks of anticipated pay revoked?

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This is how the staff all looked at each other when we got the news.

Kind of a dick move, right? Of course there’s a longer story leading up to that, but I’ll link to it here if I write a whole post about it. Anyways, about half the staff found new jobs and never returned. I applied to several cafés and accepted both positions I was hired for, thinking “I’ve had 3 jobs before! I’m only teaching yoga across town once a week! What could possibly go wrong?”

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Seriously? #famouslastwords much?

Don’t look at me like that! Honestly, the worst part was the physical pain/fatigue of working on my feet 6 days a week and teaching yoga during the hottest part of every Thursday. It wasn’t much more taxing on my body than working 3 jobs in the French Quarter back in 2008, and the hours weren’t nearly as long. I just felt it more, in part because I commuted by bike this time. Also 10 years makes a big difference in what your body is willing & able to do.

But what were my options? NOT pay rent? NOT give myself the financial security I might need, in case of another MardiGras-calypse or evacuation situation? OR work really hard until the festival season ends and stack those stacks?

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Hmmm… decisions, decisions…

But how did I deal though?? Well, this time* I complained, and played a videogames, and journaled, and drew mandalas to cope. It wasn’t easy, but I made more money than I had in a while. My sacrifices paid for an awesome Adaptive/Therapeutic Yoga Teacher training with one of my Shri~guru’s, Kelly Freaking** Haas, a long-overdue new laptop, a new passport, and two summer vacations, with plenty left-over.

[Yoga joke! pic of me patting myself on the back w/both hands. Caption: “#secretsecret, yogis only practice gomukhasana (cow-face pose) so that we can pat ourselves on the back… but you didn’t hear it from me!”]***

While I was working, I would fantasize about living off my savings and writing much more. After the Teacher Training over Memorial Day Weekend, I went down to on-call status at one café job. After an awesome trip to Austin in early July, my hours were reduced at the other café job so much it wasn’t worth my time to be there. I continue to teach a public yoga class on Thursday afternoons, whether it makes me any money or not.

The summer months are notoriously slow for the service industry in New Orleans. I’ve heard of people who work their butts off during the busy season to make rent for the whole summer. Now I’ve had the experience myself, and I must say, it was worth it.

Making the money was the easy part (LOL, of course I mean metaphysically). How I spend it & how I spend my time now are what really matters now.

Thanks for joining me! I look forward to more and more musings with you. Have you ever worked multiple jobs at once? Long or short-term? Was it worth it? How did you DEAL @_@???? Please share in the comments below. We all have a lot to learn from each other. Namaste, y’all.

*Notes:

*The first time, I had my very first sketchbook, a knitting project for myself, and an outdoor swimming pool to keep myself feeling balanced and calm. Also I had WHOLE DAYS off where I could go to Adam’s grocery for the cheapest poboys and beer &/or Plum Street Snoball Stand whenever I wanted. Ahh, youth!

**Her middle name is not Freaking, I just get excited whenever I talk about her because I’m a huge, geeky, wheezing, creepynotcreepy, fan-girl for this woman. The admiration just won’t fade! It is a great honor to call her one of my teachers and mentors. My heart and I bow at her lotus feet.

***As soon as I get a photographer (even if it’s a stranger on the street!) to capture this brilliant moment of physical comedy, I’ll edit this post. Pinkie-promise! Days from now you’ll revisit this article an weep with pride at how far I’ve come :,)

What is Yoga Therapy?

What is Yoga? What is Therapy? What is Yoga Therapy?

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I should probably have an answer to that, huh?

Yoga means union between all things, &/or awareness of this union in the present moment. The practice of yoga can be meditation, prayer/chanting, making cool shapes with your body, but most of all, conscious breathing. All you have to do is unite your consciousness with your breath, mind, and body; eventually achieving a sense of one-is-allness with the Universe as a whole. It’s a great feeling!* We good? Good. Moving on.

Therapy (at least according to me**) is a safe space for you to explore what it means to be yourself. True Love is an example of therapy. Not Love the feeling, Love the ACTION. What is Love? Love is patient, love is kind… Love listens for the sake of understanding, not just waiting to speak. Love asks questions to further that understanding. Love encourages true expression with no judgment. Love is curious about who you are the way we’re curious about our lovers’ bodies. If we’re receptive to it, Love ~ &/or Therapy ~ can liberate us from the binds we place around our hearts and minds and actions.

Yoga Therapy is the application of the physical &/or meditative practice of Yoga in any of the ways in which yoga can be therapeutic… there are many. Mindfulness and Acceptance Therapy could cost you hundreds of dollars an hour, and it wouldn’t change your body. Practicing yoga ~ the way I practice ~ is essentially the same thing, only framed as an unapologetic act of Self-Love.

My relationship with myself had always been shrouded by some degree of clinical depression (see what NAMI has to say about dysthymia here!). Very often, the love that my friends and family had for me wouldn’t register, like there was a barrier between their affection and my heart. I now think that was a symptom of me not yet loving myself; I didn’t even know how to start. More on that later.

If you’re reading this, we probably have a lot in common. Maybe you’re Queer or Blaq or FemmeAF or “too smart for your own good” or in recovery (from codependency, organized religion, academia, divorce, abusive relationships, disordered eating, or all of the above), maybe not. Maybe we could stand touching noses for a week and never see eye-to-eye!*** But if you soften your gaze, and listen from a place of Love, I promise you’ll recognize a piece of yourself. It might not seem like it sometimes, but we really are made of the same stardust. Yoga therapy means reuniting all the parts with the whole with Love. I truly hope my words will bring us all closer.

Welcome to my perspective. Namaste, y’all.

Resources:

“Is Yoga Therapy Supported By Research?”

International Association of Yoga Therapist’s Defininition(s) of Yoga Therapy


*Notes

*Another way to say it is “Divine Consciousness.” Christians might describe the feeling as “God’s Love.” A Buddhist might say “Nirvana.” FSM-followers (What? You don’t know?) would say they’ve been “Touched by His Noodley Appendage.” Same experience, different words. NOTE: Like all feelings, the sensation comes and goes based on the stimuli in your environment. In other words: the more you practice, the more you feel it; the less you practice, the less you feel it.

** I’m no doctor, but I did spend about 4 years in a Clinical Psychology Doctorate program, 3 years as a patient of psychotherapy, 2 years on-and-off of Fluoxetine (knock-off prozac), and 1 year as a bilingual social worker in Chicago…. That’s just the short story. Eventually I’ll publish a longer explanation of why I’m a valid source of information… or not, lol. If you don’t want to listen to me, listen to your intuition (it speaks from your heart and/or gut). Know that fear and excitement are physiologically the same sensation. Sit with whatever your body is telling you until you know what your truth is.

*** Sooooo many bonus points if you get this reference. Please comment below!

The Journey Begins

 

The best place to start is where you are now.

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Where to begin…?

Right now I’m in a café that years ago someone told me was a good place to “meet women.” Yes, like as in “pick up girls.” So far, no good. I’ve clocked a few folks who my Gaydar reads as possibly~family (“family” is Queerspeak for “Also Queer”), but it’s my 2nd time here this year and the aggregate score for the Count the PoC Game* has been under 5… including myself and staff members.

Heheh… “staff members….”

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Pretty sure he’s gay, but… hola!

Not that I won’t date a whyte-passing person, I’m just limiting their opportunities to make up for my dating history, which was sorely lacking in diversity for many years. More on that later. I’m not even out here fishing for women *or* men today. I’m here to put some ink on the ole web~page.

The café is called HiVolt, located in the Garden District, a pleasant stroll away from where Magazine, Camp and a street called Happiness (Felicity) make a lovely pocket-park.

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If you’re biking here, BEWARE THE COBBLESTONES ON FELICITY STREET! The music has alternated between “damn I gotta invest in some noise-canceling headphones” and “ooh, chill grungey 90s alt-rock radio, this is nice!” Everything Else about HiVolt is great: food & drink options are Omnivore and Vegan-friendly. Art, decor, lighting, self-serve water, environmental consciousness, kind staff, clean restrooms… it’s all legit. I’ll be back.

Thanks for joining me!

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This image came with the template… Enjoy!

*Count the PoC (People of Color) Game is the game you play when there aren’t enough Blaq people to win the Count the Blaq People Game**

**Start with yourself, that’s 0-1 point and almost always a losing score. A score of 2-5 is only problematic in large groups. More than 5 is where I feel like I can relax. In a crowd, I look for “at least 5%.” I think I got this number from the racial ratios of the educational institutions I attended growing up.

How do you play “Count the PoC?” Have you n/ever heard of this game? If you like, leave a comment below. Namaste, y’all

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The best place to start is where you are now. ~ Ashley Jemini