Saturday, July 9, 2011

My work, my life

I have often marvelled at how the diversity of my freelance editing work contributes to my knowledge of myself and the changes that occur in my life. A decade ago I was editing books on low self-esteem and would share my stories with the author whenever I saw myself in her theory. She asked my permission to use those stories and editing her books helped me see that even I am highly functional, maybe even overly so, I still had low self-esteem from childhood experiences in my family.

Today I was editing a chapter from a book in progress on child development and parenting and came across this sentence in a discussion of why using rewards and punishments with children is a bad idea. "Using rewards teaches the child that the most important thing is to prolong pleasure—even at the expense of betraying yourself." This sentence so resonated with me that I immediately copied it out into my journal and into this blog.

"Prolong pleasure even at the expense of betraying yourself" is an amazingly accurate description of my addictive relationships. whether they be food, alcohol, work, sex. You name it. The incomprehensible demoralization that the AA Big Book talks about is that very sense of betrayal. And yet I have been so desperate to prolong pleasure because in the either/or world of addiction that I still visit all too frequently in one form or another, there is only pleasure and punishment; nothing else is really living. Both the extreme pleasure I have sought and the deep misery I have experienced have seemed like "real life." As if ordinary, peaceful, semi-contented living isn't real life.

There wasn't a lot of punishment in my early life. My mother had a distinct way of expressing her disapproval that turned us all into pretty good kids. But there was a lot of rewarding done. I remember an afternoon in the summer I was 10 when my mother promised us a big reward (ice cream cones) if we would not make a big fuss about getting polio shots. I was very frightened of doctors for a reason I don't remember and the idea of getting a shot (they used big honking needles in those days) terrified me. But there was no getting out of it and I knew that I could have some food I wanted to soothe the anxiety and make it go away. And it worked and it went on working for decades while I learned to prolong pleasure, even though it meant betraying myself, my health, my career, my spiritual nature.

Lots to think about here.