Trauma, Transference, and a Post-Feminist Perspective: To Daniel
27 April 2015
This letter began as part of a reply to your email reply of the same date; however, I believe what I have to say deserves the separate and formal auspices of a letter. I hope you will read this letter when well-rested and attentive. It is important to me that you do. I think it will increase your understanding of where I’m literally coming from and, I hope, may therefore prevent some otherwise potential triggers from firing in the future.
“As one thing to consider which is just one small possible example that illustrates a larger point about recognizing our own personal internal sign-posts, look for clue words and specific issues that you wish to use in emails or online posts during this state and, should you find yourself wanting to use them again, consider that there is a possibility that these terms and their correlation with this stage might aid you in self-diagnosis.”
Yes. Good idea, in general.
My apology, by the way, and just to be clear about this from the outset, covers my last three emails to you, not what I wrote out on the DhO. Keep reading.
You’ve suggested that I look for the key issues and key words in those emails so that I can recognize them when they emerge in the future. Because every bleed-through incident I’ve had has been with you, I suspect that it may be helpful for you to have some background on my issues and key word triggers, as well. You may be less likely to invoke them yourself if you are aware of what they are and why they are triggers for me. This, above all, is the purpose of this letter: to make you more aware of my background and the trauma behind the key metaphors you used at me without the otherwise potential benefit of such awareness.
The key issues and key words for me in those emails, the desperate tone of which I do apologize for, are abandonment, a patriarch’s complete control of his house, and marginalizing to unofficially “influential” space, to hidden private domestic life, a daughter, so to speak, who has tried to clean up some of the accumulated mess in that patriarch’s house, mess accumulated by virtue of a lack of boundaries (rules and enforcement) that protect all the children (community) in that solely owned and patriarch-ruled house.
I’m well aware now, and was semi-aware even as I was writing you those angry/hurt emails, that I’m still reacting to parental abandonment, to my severely alcoholic patriarch, who continually broke my heart by breaking his promises to me to quit drinking and quit the cycle of arbitrary abuse in his household of four daughters and a wife, my mother, who herself was only a few years older than my two half-sisters.
You need to know that I feel a very deep, primal sense of betrayal when I perceive that someone who has set himself up as authority and house owner has broken a promise or has been disloyal to me, has publicly rendered me an illegitimate (unofficial relation), has not parented properly (expressed consistent rules and boundaries for the good of all his children), and has acted in ways that seem like arbitrary power that is not ever to be openly questioned, on pain of constructed banishment.
So, let’s see, here is a list of the trigger words/issues in those email exchanges:
- There is the patriarchal figure’s house and his absolute authority and ownership over that house (your words, your metaphors, used to curb, contain, and deny my pleas and appeals for public consistency regarding my actual roles therein and to deny my deserving the courtesy of your prior communication to me of the specifics of your upcoming actions on the DhO and DhU, actions meant to respond to request that came from only me in the first place).
- My marginalization in your house to “behind the scenes” as an ultimately dispensable and banishable guest (a guest is a highly temporary, not familial, relation). If I confront you with the questionable outcomes of your actions and inaction, no matter how unjust the outcomes in my sincere view are, you respond to my sincerity ultimately with the threat of noncare and dismissal of me from your house, despite my many months and hours of labors for your comparative ease and the good of the community. In fact, my role as your guest, and you as owner are what you invoke as “at bottom” and “ultimately” our relationship to each other. Instead of what you could extend me as courtesy and kindness, you drop our discourse down to the level of your right to be punitive and dismissive. This move by you is unfortunate.
- There are promises, and the patriarch’s seemingly arbitrary reversals and abandonment
- There are your communications that I’m not to be trusted, even as you break your promises and publicly and privately shame me as unworthy of trust and undeserving of your forgiveness, forgiveness which is a sign of your generosity, not my worth to you.
- There is my being aggressively reconstructed by you as a submissive penitent (guest only, in the house of the ultimate owner and silencing authority, the one whose money pays for his rights, which he invokes a the sign of disagreement): “My granting you a moderator role publicly in the Underground is my generosity toward and tolerance and forgiveness of you (which you have not deserved) for your moderation (?) actions (?) on the Overground.” I’m not sure what “moderation actions” you mean, by the way, as I never took a single action as a moderator during the many months I was left with moderator controls after I resigned from that role that I didn’t ask for and didn’t ever want.
- Forgiveness is an extremely aggressive, condescending word and trigger, as is tolerance—the implication being that I’m a sinner, fundamentally flawed and ugly, and undeserving of your courtesy and a presumptive ground of inclusion and friendship. There is your forgiveness of my sins instead of proactive courtesy, and that forgiveness is denoted your overgenerous gift, for which I must demonstrate that I’m grateful, or you may withdraw from me at your pleasure and at any moment, constructively abandoning me, since it is your house and I have no official (legitimate) role there, having not deserved such a role, being fundamentally untrustworthy despite my working like a dog and falling on the sword repeatedly for constructive change for the whole of our family (dharma community). In fact, you say that if I don’t show gratitude for your forgiveness, then I’ll never be trusted again.
- My public embarrassment and shame when you arbitrarily abandon former promises, for I have hinted or said over many months out on the DhO, “Mark my words, Daniel will clean up this site and the governing language,” even though I’ve not said explicitly, “Daniel and I talk on the phone and email behind the official scenes, and he promised me he will eventually do X,” which is the actual truth and one that I had every right to reveal as such, though I did not, out of respect to you and our private communications. After all, there is a limit to the good that rights alone can do; courtesy counts for a lot, and I’ve asked you for courtesy, not my rights. That you keep invoking your rights says a lot to me about you that I certainly would rather think otherwise.
- There is arbitrary and confusing power wielded by an emotionally unavailable man and communicatively unavailable man (ie, which means the equivalent of alcoholic patriarch). Arbitrary power means, specifically, that there was sudden public reversal of your intent to reform the DhO, and shortly thereafter the unannounced dropping of four disciplinarians, one anonymous (arbitrary power), down on the marginalized space I alone took the initiative to revive, hidden, as always, behind the scenes.
- There is the withholding of the daughter’s public legitimacyin relation to the patriarch and his house: “Jenny is [just] the editor of MCTB2,” which lies outside your house, meaning that publicly that you disown and render illegitimate my influencing your thoughts and plans regarding the DhO, while you nevertheless privately seek my counsel on the same—all this being, from a post-feminist scholarship point of view, a patriarchal attempt to marginalize a woman’s thoughts, feelings, advice, voice, and labor to the space of illegitimacy (ie, “she has no official role and cannot be trusted with official authority, even as I privately benefit from her counsel and assistive labor continually). “In fact, I can barely forgive her for protesting that I treat her this way, and if she doesn’t repent, desist, and show gratitude for my generous forgiveness, I’ll without from her the legitimacy and trust she has in fact already earned.”
So, you see, I’m well aware that you are in some respects a father figure to me, your dust jacket rejection of being anyone’s “Daddy” notwithstanding. This reading stems quite well from your own stated “ownership” of your “house,” the DhO/DhU, your own metaphors, which you wield to control me and curb my voice to spaces of illegitimacy. Transference/countertransference, just to be clear.
In terms of enlightenment, you also are a representation of my life’s goal, my development, my growing wisdom. So, unfortunately, sometimes when I’m frustrated with the goal itself, as in Reobservation, that can bleed into my being frustrated with you as the representation of that more realized being I wish I were. I’ve not bled-through with anyone but you, and for months I’ve been contemplating why it is always you. I’ve thought about it a lot, mainly from a Freudian post-feminist perspective, which is one I have deep, scholarly knowledge of and continued reverence for.
Practically speaking, it may also be that we are regularly engaged over this book and you have in fact had a number of conversations with me over improving the DhO. The DhO is important, and the book is important. And we both care a lot about them, really. So just the frequency and intensity of investment on both sides about both of them makes for contact and vedana, at least on my end.
From this current place of relative calm from which I now write you, with equanimity, I do own and clarify that I stand by my open letter on the DhO as appropriately and sensitively written and edited to comply with the rules on the DhO and to serve a noble cause, a cause I sincerely believe you will look back on one day and recognize that I embodied out of kindness to the community you say you care about and therefore to you. That it took the form of civil protest of your actions/nonactions, does not change the fact that I did it out of love and compassion for you and yours. Someday, if not today, you will understand this about me and what I’ve done, tried to do.
I understand Laurel’s objection that I outed that you insinuated privately that I’m sectarian. Laurel is a more frequent poster on AN, by far, than she is on the DhO. She brings the very different, more polite (pretentious) ethos of AN to the DhO. She also was on the wrong side of the fence when the Bill Glamdring puppet attacked me for days on end, persisting in believing that Bill Glamdring was a real member that should be taken seriously and negotiated with. I was on AN for a while. Laurel lacks situational acuity. But let’s move on; I consider what she thinks a negligible point on your part and, frankly, not worth responding to with more of my time.
Laurel and Katy had no basis whatsoever to red-flag that open letter of mine, for the letter broke none of the rules stated in writing on the site—which, and I guess you missed my intended irony, was actually part of the point of my open protest, that there is a lack of rules, just “openness” as an ideal. Well, I was open to you out on the site, open to all, and there is no written rule against being thus open. In fact, your ideal is the opposite, so I was a champion of your ideal there, Daniel. Please see that much. Please admit that much to yourself privately, if not to me.
Moreover, that letter was incredibly tame compared with frequent fare on the DhO. I believe you know this to be the case. I believe you know you took it personally, not that I did anything wrong or broke any rule in your house. I received no moderator warning, by the way, and didn’t even have a chance to know I’d been charged by these women of breaking a rule stated in the DhO site language. Acting behind the scenes with me, as usual, you told me that they pressed the little red flags. You told me to what end, since I broke no rule? Just to shame me for having a voice and using it? The little red flags should be tied to actual rules, Daniel. I broke no DhO rules, so I still do not understand what problem that letter posed. Care to explain what rule I broke, other than your unofficial one that I not actually take your ideal of openness as real or applicable to my own public expressions but only to everyone else’s?
In fact, in your latest reneging of your earlier promises to reform the DhO, you did use “openness” as your defensively stated ideal, the reason you decided to make a liar out of me on the DhO for my saying you would do otherwise. That letter was a completely “open” letter to show you, both constatively and performatively, the direct consequences of that unstructured, unqualified “openness” you love so much. The young brawly men go unchecked; Jenny gets a slap in the shadow of the woodshed.
Are you beginning to understand? Well, where logic prevails, you can’t have your cake and eat it too, even if I’m constructed just a nonfamilial guest in daring to say so to you here and yet again.
It is still supremely ironic to me that this well-written and restrained letter I wrote from the heart and for all the people, many of whom are frustrated with the DhO culture, would be flagged by the likes of Katy, who attacked Kenneth viciously for many days on end while you were abroad, in front of the whole DhO. It was relentless and very ugly. Kenneth was passive-aggressively dismissive of her attempts to engage him on the issue of paid dharma teaching, just as you have been passive-aggressively unresponsive to my questions about fulfillment of intention to reform the DhO site language and structure. The situation of Daniel-Jenny is in fact analogous to that one of Kenneth-Katy, actually, although the Katy-Kenneth one was a public blowup that was many times more spectacular than anything I’ve ever done on the DhO, especially in engaging there with you.
Did either Kenneth or Katy stop in over four days of nasty mutual attacks in your house to consider that they were hurting you and your moderators? Incidentally, I was hurt too, in the aftermath, when several threads were spawned (none by me) to beg you to make good on your promises to reform the site. Specifically, Claudiu called me out publicly on the thread titled “Moderation” to give him semantic and legal definitions after Kenneth accused Katy of libel. Claudiu also emailed me privately for legal consultations while all unfolded and you were away, blithely engaged in your powers.
So, Jenny, this woman, this Jill-of-all-trades back-office assistant, is continually sought after by the official moderators and the owner-patriarch for her labor, research, writing, editing, and advice. And then she is denied public roles and legitimacy by the patriarch on the basis that she alone, not the patriarch, is unworthy of trust and stands a penitent mere guest at the pleasure of her lord and master (you). Do you begin to see your actions and tropes in the clear light of day? Do you begin to understand how my suppressed and repressed rights for an official role and voice turn in the dark of my heart to resentment of you? Is it any wonder that during a hellish Reobservation stage, after running out of my antidepressants, I might completely renounce you and lash out?
I trust that, as you can read and have a brilliant mind and often tender heart, you are beginning to see how your silencing me, your rendering me merely an invisible and illegitimate assistant, serving in the margins of your “house,” completely at your pleasure and as someone who must repeatedly earn your forgiveness or at least be damned grateful for it—how all this would retrigger in me very deep hurt harkening back to the arbitrary abuse my father inflicted over my childhood’s actual house of four daughters and his very young wife, my mother.
My father drank a fifth of gin a day. Straight gin! He was emotionally unavailable to me. He drank himself to death by age 45. He would routinely come into my bedroom before I went to school, while sober, and cry in my lap (talk about drama), promising to stop the drinking and arbitrary violence against two of my sisters. Now, what did he issue as the guarantee of his intent to make good on his promise? Why, his paternal love for me: “Jenny, I’m going to stop drinking as of this day, because I love Emily, your sisters, and you.” Daniel, I loved my father with all my heart. And I believed him every single time he cried in my lap, at my feet, and made this promise, every single time sobriety and clear seeing temporarily prevailed.
Invariably, the very same day he made such promises, sealed with his love for me as guarantee he would keep them, he broke those promises. I remember walking home from school in the rain, holding the hand of my little sister, and missing ballet lessons, because he was home on the family room couch, completely naked, unemployed, drunk, and passed out. He couldn’t even pick his little girls up from school in the rain and get them to ballet.
So promises were broken, repeated, broken, repeated, broken, repeated—to a mere child, who was told by this father that his success in acting well by her and the family depended on how lovable she proved to be. Moreover, he wielded terrible, arbitrary, and unchecked power. Because my older sister was talking on the phone too long one night, for one among many examples, he once took out a pistol and held it to my pet basset hound’s head and told me and my little sister that he would blow the dog’s head off if Judy didn’t get off the phone in five seconds. I think I was 8 or 9 years old, so my sister would have been only 5. Think about it: He would blow our pet’s head off in front of us, his children, if someone else we couldn’t control, my older sister, didn’t immediately do what he said. Talk about traumatic disempowerment!
Other times, my older sister Judy would utter one word of protest at some arbitrary rule Daddy laid down at the dinner table. When she did, he would punch her in the mouth, with his fist. I watched the blood run down her face and the tears and look of betrayal and incomprehension fill her eyes. I think she was 16 during one of these incidents that I’m thinking about right now.
I’m trying to make you understand some context for how your words, metaphors, and other ways of constructing spaces in which to relegate me to unquestioning silence affect me, way beyond what you consciously intend. So, as you ask me to identify the words and issues that are triggers for me, I ask you to be aware of the same. I was likely traumatized by much that happened in my childhood, because of the owner and patriarch of a house in which I was never made to feel loved, secure, and legitimate as a voice and a devoted, obedient daughter.
One of the subtle ways in which my father caused me harm was in not being the adult in our interactions, but the child, and then turning around and being the punitive parent. So, during his morning cries and promises in my lap, I looked at him and realized, “He is out of control.” On some level, I also realized, “This man is a child, and he is asking me, the actual child, to parent him.” That I was made, repeatedly, to see my father as helpless without me, as a child I had to parent, left me in abject terror. I was not secure. Who was going to take care of Jenny if her own father was so helpless that he expected his small child to be morally responsible for whether he quit drinking and lived to see her graduation, her wedding day, her newborn son? And what would happen then to Jenny’s mind and heart if and when he died instead living to those times? What would happen to this little girl, knowing as she did that she was responsible somehow, knowing that she failed to prove sufficiently lovable to guarantee her father’s good will and very life?
Look at my current (old) profile photo on the DhU. I was flipping through a folder of photos of me, and that one arrested my attention for posting in your house well before I wrote those enraged, hurt emails to you. I thought little of it at the time. But in the past 24 hours I’ve really thought, “Why did I post that particular picture?” In that picture, I’m holding my baby sister Jill. I am a child there, but I’m posed as a parent. I parented my parents when I was but a child. This is the subtle and perhaps saddest legacy of my father: That I was never allowed to be a child. I could not even have friends over, ever, because of my shame that my father would be naked on the couch, with empty gin bottles scattered around him. The child of an alcoholic lives out a primordial fear of abandonment, a sense of failing to prove lovable and worthy, a sense of shame. It is so with me.
So Katy has a lot of nerve pressing my little red flag. You have a lot of nerve, too, by the way, holding her out to me as the reason I’m still not to be trusted but publicly shamed and privately shamed and called a guest at your disposal, a temporary and utterly powerless voice that you nonetheless rely on all the time as you please to do the parenting of the community the nurturing of your authorial talents. I am just laughing and shaking my head at the absurdities that abound here, and what a field day I could have, if I chose, in writing a scholarly publication on the subconscious machinations of patriarchy in online spiritual communities that only pretend to be egalitarian while actually being quite constraining and subordinating and exclusive of its most devoted and otherwise legitimate members.
Now, regarding Katy, do you know that people leave the DhO on account of her behavior? Jim Luceno has stated out on the DhU that he will participate in the DhU only so long as Katy is kept out. Now did you give Jim the sectarian shaming that you gave Jenny? Or are we once again applying one standard to the daughter, and a different one to the enlightened sons? Jim left the DhO for two reasons, he has said: 75% because of Katy, and 25% because you failed to do something about Sawfoot. You have still failed to take official action against Sawfoot, but you did arbitrarily delete his metacognition practice thread, even though your doing so is patently against your own ideal of openness to anything that reduces suffering. What rule and official boundary did Sawfoot violate? None. But your power is as absolute and arbitrary as you wish with Sawfoot, as it is with Jenny.
Jim is a very valuable member of this community, and was one of the better posters on the DhO. Sawfoot stayed, and Jim left. This tradeoff is due to your ideal of openness. When will you see that ideals have failings in the practical world? When will you practice the nonidealism and pragmatism that you preach?
I have been mulling over the idea of vetting Bill F. (William Finch) as a candidate member of the DhU. He is tight with Vince Horn, and was asked to teach by the latter. He has an extremely committed practice wherein he practices 3-5 hours a day. He has connections to Kenneth, but is currently into Mahamudra and tantric practice. He is also very into the devotional side of tantra, stating that tantra is not tantra at all without that guru devotion, which he defines as “adoration of the teacher.” DW is very reluctant to consider Bill. You know why? Because Devin distrusts practitioners into the devotional stuff. However, meantime, Jim Luceno sucks the toes of a Sumerian goddess, under the auspices of Western magick, and that is a-okay with DW, just grand.
Are you going to address Jim’s and DW’s “sectarianism”? Or am I alone the sectarian here, even though I would like to include Tibetan Buddhists and Chuck (who is already a member but doesn’t know we are active).
All the continual blowups, as well as the “schisms”—they are the results of your “openness” ideal. The speech acts constituting them are all within the Code of Conduct on the DhO, which is minimal and lacks a coherent, communicated-out reporting and enforcement protocol, despite the template I gave you 9 months ago to address these structural lacks, despite my willingness, in all things, to help you help other to awaken. I have no DhO policy basis on which to complain about Katy’s atrocious behavior on the DhO, and she certainly has no policy basis to complain about my behavior, specifically my open letter pleading with you to reconfirm your intentions regarding DhO reform publicly.
My open and public letter was a plea, a final plea, and it still is, for you to keep your public and private promises to reform the DhO, in part by reconsidering “openness” as an ideal that has outlived its unqualified constructiveness.
I did not write this letter in anger. I wrote with equanimity and from a place of personal truth that I hope you will come to value someday, as it is sincere and well-meaning toward you.
Fondly and sincerely still yours,