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7/23/06
Images of Desperation

Kim,

What is your deal with the word victim and assigning relatives to it, like the word desperate?

(Kim: I guess I'm a little short on people taking the victim role. I try to turn things around and ask the person how they can take charge of the situation. I just reread Lynn: Front to Back (husband Mark Obenhaus who went through the lab school and a childhood friend) about a fashion model turned photographer who then got breast cancer, then implant infections, then brain cancer, and now on the Oprah show describing her survival (http://markooo.notlong.com). Also Mary Seager, who I worked with about her going through chemotherapy, is another great example of a survivor.)

What does the word victim mean for you?

(Kim: Someone at the mercy of the gods. You asked if I was taking risks in my drawings, which made me think about courage. I asked Linda if she though Picasso took risks and she said that he once did. Anyway, this question takes more examination than I can give it right now.)

I am just trying to be honest about the various states in which most people move in and out. I prefer to observe and try to understand human behavior.

(Kim: Something is a little off for me with the idea of observing and understanding. I'm sure that we do that . . . but I sometimes think that understanding is as flawed as my idea of "owning"—that we really never understand.)

Not to judge it.

And I am not interested in simply negating a state that is represented by a word.

I am interested in looking at what the circumstances are that allow or foster someone to enter into that state.

(Kim: My mom (as a psychiatric social worker) was good as asking people why they did things.)

Of course, one doesn't like to think of someone or oneself as being a victim.

But it means to me that you are using that word pretty loosely and frequently, and without defining it. And very critically, as if it connotes a character deficiency, rather than a challenge.

Things are just not that simple.

I don't think my girlfriend was being a victim. It is not useful to even think of it in those terms. And it labels her, that use of a noun. Really backs her into a corner.

I do think she was desperate,

(Kim: To me, a victim is one that is at the effect of their world. This is not a black and white thing . . . but a continuum. Though it is also a frame of reference. The interesting question to me is to what extent you were the cause of what she did.)

that she was so afraid of losing me and probably whatever I might represent, that she transgressed important boundaries.Now that I have gotten past my anger at the intrusion of her behavior, I feel compassion for whatever triggers she may—probably around abandonment—that may have contributed to her behavior.

Doesn't mean it was ok what she did. Just that my heart is more open to her. That in this present moment, I am thinking more about her experience of desperation than my own of anger.

(Kim: I think forgiveness is great. We would have eliminated a few thousand wars if we were better at it.)

I like the new smoke and fire drawing a lot. Need to go to bed. Will look for your new drawing in the a.m. before I leave for airport.

(Kim: Smoke and Fire was yesterdays drawing. Today's will be done tonight or tomorrow early. I like the fact that you are ahead of me.)

xJoan

11/12/05

12:23 am


Dear Kim,

I thought I was going to write about desperation, since I alluded to that in my previous email. And it certainly is a compelling topic.

Do you know that the Oxford dictionary says that desperation is about recklessness, impetuosity? (Kim: No.)

It is related to anxiety, craving, hunger, desire, pining.
It is almost to be without hope, to stake everything on a small chance.

Based on that definition, can you recall times that you felt desperate?

(Kim: Not really. I always have known that I could figure things out.)

I know you think there is a relationship between feeling like a victim and being desperate. But please be honest and maybe a little less judgmental or dismissive. One is not always a fully actualized human being. We all have had moments of desperation in our lives.

(Kim: I've certainly had challenges (learning to speak) and disappointments (not being able to do some things and not being liked by some people.)

I am interested in trying to recall a few instances when I truly felt desperate. I think when I ran away from home, I was desperate.

I think there is a relationship between feeling trapped and feeling desperate. As a child, having to live according to my parent’s rules, I could not call my own shots. I was dependent—as are most children—on my parents for my very survival. So I felt trapped. And I felt desperate.

I remember a dead end love affair I had a number of years ago in which I felt desperate.At the time—and that citing of time is crucial—my eyes were so narrowed, I couldn’t conceive of anyone who would be more suitable for me than her. And it was a total dance of ambivalence on her end. She did, she didn't. She would, she wouldn't.

Ultimately, she didn’t want me.So, given my perspective and psychological state, I felt desperate, like it was my last chance.

For what? Love? Sex? To be understood? To share my life with someone? What?

I look back now and it is almost laughable. Billions of creatures of the planet both female and male. And I thought that was the last stop. So I was desperate.

Still, I try to be kind to that younger, more naïve self, instead of scoffing at her. There must be important reasons why I thought I had no options.

But I find myself circling back to words about which we are disagreeing. So perhaps that is where I need to stay for the moment.

I have to tell you, Kim, I don’t like your use of the word victim, as it might apply to me. I don’t think I have used the word victim in description of myself. And I think it is for me to self identify, not to be named.

(Kim: You'll have to tell me more about this. Is this part of some literature?)

There are many significant things that have happened in my life that I might wish otherwise: cancer, assault, sexual conflict, seriously injuring my leg, to name a few. Things that have had major consequences.

In some instances, I think that things just happened. In some, perhaps I was not as conscious and thoughtful as I might have been and maybe I brought them on. And in still others, I think circumstances led to consequences for which I was not necessarily responsible.

(Kim: I keep coming back to a book that I read 40 years ago, Man's Search for Meaning (http://www.geocities.com/~webwinds/frankl/quotes.htm) where Frankl describes how he survives a concentration camp by reframing the experience.)

I have written previously about what it was like to be sexually preoccupied and conflicted as a teenager, and how it negatively impacted just about everything in my life at that point.

For example, homophobia makes it difficult for most young people to comfortably consider options for sexual experience or relationships. I don’t know that I would use the word victim, even as a recipient of active homophobia. I think that homophobia affects everyone.

But when we are living and dealing in certain dominant social realities, we sometimes experience being acted upon more than freely and purely making our own decisions.

A lot of this has to do with power. I would like for you to consider or dialogue more about power.

(Kim: Power is very interesting to me. It is strange how quickly people started treating me differently when I became their supervisor, and how power has led me to do things that I wouldn't have done before.)

There are some things that are within our control, and there are others that are not.

(Kim: I think you'd have trouble convincing me that this was true.)

Later,
xJoan

Wed, Nov 23, 2005
11:57 A.M.

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