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.

Pouty Face
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.

Magic Baby BIG
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. 

What is Yoga Therapy?

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

Filtered 7.11 avecafe cropped
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!

Cafe Envie ~ Upriver

July 12th, 2018: Changed title of Homepage post from “What is this?” to “Where am I?” I think it goes better leading in to the disco ball metaphor.

On my 2nd or 3rd steep of tea, Café Girl,* L., asked me what I was working on and I told her about my blog, half-jokingly. To me “I’m working on my blog” sounds pretentious AF no matter how you say it, so I might as well say it pretentiously. I also fear that I come across as pretentious whenever I talk about what I do ~ can’t say I do it for a living yet, but here we are: putting one foot in front of the other. What do I do? I’m a Yoga Therapist/Life-Coach.

 

 

7.12 UpperEnvvie Tea
“Life Coach?”… Really?… ::sips tea::

L and I talked about whether Life-Coach still sounds as fake and pretentious as it did the last time I heard it discussed… in a psychology class… 10 years ago… it does. I said “it sounds like I’m full of shit, right?” L said “it sounds like something rich people pay a lot of money for.” To which I replied “hey, I’m not opposed to that.” L agreed.

When I say I’m a Yoga Therapist, people (L included) don’t usually know what I mean, but no preconceived notion is definitely better than a negative one. People who are immediately attracted to my “job title” make the most compatible clients. People who are immediately repulsed by the words “yoga” &/or “therapy” could probably benefit the most from working with me, but I’ve never talked someone from that end of the spectrum into giving it a try. Hopefully I at least plant the idea-seeds that yoga is therapeutic, that people in America who look like me practice yoga and therapy; that yoga and therapy may look different than what most people expect…

Oh yeah, the review:

If you didn’t know, there are two locations of Envie Espresso Bar and Café in the French Quarter. I like the one on UPPER Decatur (308 @Conti versus 1241 @Barracks) because it’s closer to bike to and generally smells a lot better. I was there from roughly 9-11 pm on a Thursday. Totally clean, no line/crowd, as you’d expect. Absolutely Zero cracktivity in all this time, which could be attributed to the New Moon (opposite of full, so no crazys?), how BRIGHT the lights were on, or just really good luck. L’s partner came in and cuddled a bit at an empty table when she wasn’t busy, now he’s helping her with the trash ~ ALL of which I think only makes this experience cuter. Never did his presence interfere with her work & like I said, the place was spotless (Don’t come for her!).

It’s about time for me to leave to catch the last streetcar, but now I want to stay! At first it was difficult to think of what to write about, but once I started editing my first post ever, I was thoroughly engaged, despite how baggy my eyelids feel.

7.12 UpperEnvie Meh
It’s bright, okay! This is why you keep sunglasses on you at all times, people.

Okay, problem solved: the song “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” is playing, and I want to pack up because I know it won’t get better than this ^_^ The only downside is now I’m thinking of Tingyo.. at least I have a cute text to send him. Thank you, The Shirelles ❤

 

 

*Usually I detest calling women “girls,” but I call myself and others Café Girl sometimes because I think it’s cute 🙂 What do you think? Comment below, if you wish.