“(…) safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives. (…) Social support is the most powerful protection against becoming overwhelmed by stress and trauma.
Social support is not the same as merely being in the presence of others. The critical issue is reciprocity: being truly heard and seen by the people around us, feeling that we are held in someone else’s mind and heart. For our physiology to calm down, heal, and grow we need a visceral feeling of safety. No doctor can write a prescription for friendship and love (…).
Isolating oneself into a narrowly defined victim group promotes a view of others as irrelevant at best and dangerous at worst, which eventually only leads to further alienation. Gangs, extremist political parties, and religious cults may provide solace, but they rarely foster the mental flexibility needed to be fully open to what life has to offer and as such cannot liberate their members from their traumas. Well-functioning people are able to accept individual differences and acknowledge the humanity of others.“
Do we suffer from too little reciprocity? From too much selfishness? Is the hyper-individualistic lifestyle of autonomy at all cost, isolation, and “every man for himself” making us miserable and sick?
How many of us feel truly seen, heard and understood? How many feel forsaken? Trapped between anger and absence? How many of us self-medicate (or are medicated!) just to cover basic human needs like safety, forgiveness, acceptance and connection?
How many live a life without rapture, life as rupture, as opposed to the healing powers of love, kindness, joint experiences, of breathing, movement and touch… What does it take to feel agency, to overcome duress?
This book has been a revelation and I cannot recommend it warmly enough. You’ll understand your body and brain like never before.
“Totalitarian propaganda perfects the techniques of mass propaganda, but it neither invents them nor originates their themes. (…) Everything hidden, everything passed over in silence, became of major significance, regardless of its own intrinsic importance. (…) Mysteriousness as such became the first criterion for the choice of topics. (…)
They (the masses) do not believe in anything visible, in the reality of their own experience; they do not trust their eyes and ears but only their imaginations, which may be caught by anything that is at once universal and consistent in itself. (…)
What the masses refuse to recognize is the fortuitousness that pervades reality. They are predisposed to ideologies because they explain facts as mere examples of laws and eliminate coincidences by inventing an all-embracing omnipotence which is supposed to be at the root of everything visible. Totalitarian propaganda thrives on this escape from reality into fiction, from coincidence into consistency. (…)
The masses’ escape from reality is a verdict against the world in which they are forced to live and in which they cannot exist (…)
Before the alternative of facing the anarchic growth and total arbitrariness of decay, or bowing down before the most rigid, fantastically fictitious consistency of an ideology, the masses will always choose the latter and be ready to pay for it with individual sacrifices (…)”
A possible explanation why Eastern Europe is rife with conspiracy theories and a distrust of the state and its official communications, especially during this pandemic. Communist regimes have always played the game of blaming their failings on some Western or world conspiracy against them, “fitting reality to their lies”. In some parts of the world, this has become a reflex.
The brain is a funny thing. And funny things happen when your brain goes on vacation. I consider myself bilingual (Romanian and English) and I’ve been living in Germany for more than 15 years now, but never would I have thought that the German language would end up infiltrating… my dreams!
My dreams, yes. For the first time ever, I had a dream in German while I was at home in Romania, which makes it even stranger. And that’s not all. Not only did I dream in German, but I dreamt a whole poem in Goethe’s language! It ruined my sleep, of course, because I was so in awe, I had to make sure I could remember it well enough to jot it down in the morning. I managed to, but – alas! – only the second stanza. The first stanza (up to “Die Schienen…”) is a later addition (which, needless to say, has cost me a lot more effort and a couple of visits to the online dictionary), but the rest is entirely the creation of my subconscious.
Romanian online publisher Liternet.ro has graciously accepted to publish my latest short prose (a travel-cum-anthropological report of sorts) in their Atelier section. The three pieces of this feature will appear on Monday, Thursday and Saturday and can be found here:
“It is said that some Bolsheviks, deeming that a love based on choice and exclusivity was only a prejudice infiltrated by the bourgeois spirit, tried to abolish it, treating love as an instinct, an instinct like all the others, falsely adorned hitherto with a passionate halo. (…) The big mistake was that they thought love resides in free mating… But two individual people on a beach, where there is a clutter of hands and feet, think and feel themselves completely different from all the others (…). Love is preference and, even possessed by an entire platoon, a woman cannot be prevented from preferring in her mind and smiling with her eyes, just as no one can restrain the pride of knowing yourself the object of someone’s preference or your tender gratitude for it. For if preference itself can be forbidden, the thought of preference escapes all obstruction. Love requires no more than this.”
Camil Petrescu – Patul lui Procust (The Bed of Procrustes), 1946
“Uniformity in the opinions expressed by teachers is not only not to be sought, but is, if possible, to be avoided, since diversity of opinion among preceptors is essential to any sound education. No man can pass as educated who has heard only one side on questions as to which the public is divided. One of the most important things to teach in educational establishments of a democracy is the power of weighing arguments, and the open mind which is prepared in advance to accept whichever side appears the more reasonable.”
Bertrand Russel (philosopher and Nobel Prize winner) – in an essay called “Freedom and the Colleges”, 1940.