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Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Holding Myself Back

It is strange that I hold myself back in so many ways. This pattern might be familiar to you. You make an assumption about yourself. "I don't really know how to, so..." Of course, one's incapacities are very real. The mistake lies in falling back on them as excuses.

There are several things I haven't done yet. Publish a book of poems, or a book of translations. I haven't recorded a cd, etc... I can make all kinds of excuses.

9 comments:

Leslie said...

What if they aren't real and you aren't making excuses? What if there are only a certain number of hours in the day and you have responsibilities and also priorities?

I mean, I know all about holding oneself back but I don't think this is necessarily paired with "excuses" or laziness -- perhaps this is one more way in which my general attitude is not mainstream

Jonathan said...

I am referring to very specific thoughts, like: I am not organized enough to get together a manuscript of poems, or nobody would publish a book of my poetry. Or, my translation methods are too out of sync with those of the mainstream. Part of my new method is to limit the hours in the day in which I am avoiding doing what I'm supposed to.

I found myself thinking that my fingers would never be fast enough to play piano. This is ridiculous, because finger speed per se is rarely a real issue. Or so what if I can only reach an octave? I could play a lot of piano only reaching on octave.

Jonathan said...

For example, I could eliminate one activity that is doing me no good, and replace it with one that does: eliminate pointless internet surfing and put piano playing and composition in its place.

clarissasblog.com said...

I know what you mean! For years, I told myself I could never learned to drive. And then I did and it wasn't that hard at all. The key to overcoming the resistance was to figure out why I was clinging to the belief I couldn't do it.

Jonathan said...

That's a perfect example. The belief fulfills some function for you so it's hard to let it go. But letting it go allows you to be freer.

Leslie said...

OK. Thinking one is not good at sports because of not realizing that the skills needed to play certain games are not innate -- they are taught. Very many people think that the ability to learn a foreign language is innate, one is either "good at picking it up" or not -- whereas I would say that much of the "language talent" is actually the possession of certain learning skills

Jonathan said...

Things are not equally easy or difficult for everyone, and it is distorted thinking to assume that one's own capabilities are normal. The point is that the belief that one is inherently incapable of something is a cognitive distortion. Since I am prone to these kind of distortions I am interested in this topic. Every time I've decided to venture out and try something new I've found that I could do it.

Leslie said...

Oh, I see -- I tend not to think I am inherently incapable, and also tend to realize how much capacity I have or don't for things. I tend to be realistic and people are always telling me I am arrogant for thinking I certain things come easily, and self-denigrating for thinking other things are harder ... but really I am just looking at facts.

My father believed he could not do math and therefore had to major in humanities and not social sciences. He spent his life telling us social sciences were evil and humanities were better but really that was where he wanted to be (or to have the option of being). He encouraged me to do math so I wouldn't write myself out of science or social sciences, and I did, but I still had to go into humanities because my mother wanted me in music or art (neither of which I have enough talent in to do professionally, I know it, this is not false modesty) and humanities was as close as I could get. This is why I work like a scientist, though, and am not the touchy-feely humanities type. Here I am good enough, better than average, and so on, but I know my genius lies elsewhere and no, it is not arrogant of me to say so.

Jonathan said...

It depends too whether we are talking about doing things at a high level or not. For example, I know I could teach myself to draw, because I started to once and made some progress. I am realistic because I know that I will never be great at it. On the other hand, that is also because I don't really aspire to be, so I know I won't put in the hours it would take to even be semi-decent. Recognizing what one has the patience for is a good idea. Like a language learner who doesn't really have the patience to bother with the grammar. He wants to learn (he says); he loves Spanish and everything about the culture, but actually learn a conjugation, no thanks!