Dashing off blog posts as inspired by the moment is all well and good, but I should reread my own posts more carefully. The ex-lover has been a friend for many years, distant but with a connection based on the films we saw in our youth more than a fleeting affair. The wistful nostalgia was for a shared time in our youth, not for moi and there is no desire to rekindle anything at all. As it happens and without moralising, I have never had anything to do with married men because deep inside I don’t think they are free to enter into a relationship – and triangulation is not pretty or ethical.
The writer and thinker Gitta Sereny has died at 91: as a young girl she stood in a rapturous crowd listening to Adolf Hitler. She was opposed to the rise of Nazism and worked as a nurse in France during WWII and then worked with Holocaust survivors. She began to study the psychology of totalitarian and fascist thought and wrote That Darkness, a book that used extensive interviews with Treblinka concentration camp commander Franz Stangl, blamed for the deaths of 900 000 people, to explain the rationale behind Nazi atrocities. She also wrote a study of the child-killer Mary Bell and Sereny’s understanding of deeply troubled and violent children shaped approaches in the treatment of juvenile offenders.What courage it must have taken to observe, record and analyse evil in its more extreme manifestations.
Moving on from thinking about depression and anxiety, I now reflect on fear as I wash up dishes and walk the big dog up the hill to where the sharp clean scent of eucalyptus prickles our nostrils in the early morning sunlight. How are we able to contain or endure fear, the fear of annihilation, the fear of loss, the fear of death? And how do we balance hope in tension with fear, so that we do not succumb altogether to negativity but anchor ourselves in the present and realistic assessment of what is? Fear of what may never happen, fear of the unknown, fear of what may happen but differently from before, differently from what we imagine. Reflecting on this remarkable insight from Mary Riefle:
I asked the poet Tony Hoagland what he thought about fear. He said fear was the ghost of an experience: we fear the recurrence of a pain we once felt, and in this way fear is like a hangover. The memory of our pain is a pain unto itself, and thus feeds our fear like a foyer with mirrors on both sides. And then he quoted Auden: “And ghosts must do again/What gives them pain.” It is interesting to note that this idea—fear’s being the ghost of pain, or imaginary pain—figures in psychological torture by the cia; in fact, their experiments with pain found that imaginary pain was more effective than physical pain—poets, take note—and thus psychological torture more effective than physical torture.