politics is psychology

caroline wright

if i had to rate my favourite ever messages conveyed on a badge, i think “according to heisenberg’s uncertainty principle i must be lost” would be closely followed by “i’m not a tourist i live here”, but ultimately toppled by “just passing through”. just passing through is so beautiful both in its elegant simplicity and its accuracy. this life business goes by so fast. as someone who has had a shaky relationship with her own entitlement to be here for many chunks of her being here, i now say: you might as well stick around, ‘cos they’ll be turfing you out before you know it.

some things don’t get any easier. others do. or at least, some things get easier on given days and during particular periods. i am fairly certain that depression takes up less of my time as i get older. where i am right now [i saw a few “you are here” signs last week. i like how confident their declaration sounds. i might not know my arse from my elbow, but somebody somewhere is absolutely convinced that i am here. that is reassuring]. anyway, as i was saying, where i am right now might not be the best position from which to make this assessment. i have been sinking into various states of anxiety and depression for a few weeks, so here and now doesn’t offer a balanced viewpoint (or offers an even less balanced viewpoint than usual).

some of the things that don’t get easier are maddening. why can’t i learn to remember that those phases i go through of not being able to write do pass eventually. when i don’t write anything good or interesting or funny, and additionally can’t locate the helpful kind of thinking power which would at least mean i could work on existing drafts and try to find ways of piecing fragments of notes together – when i go nowhere with my writing for weeks and weeks and weeks – why do i still, every single time, believe that on this occasion it – aka the muse, or flow – really has gone forever? it’s not that i don’t try to challenge this conviction. each time i hit writer’s block, i dutifully remind myself of all the other times i had writer’s block, and how good a job i did of catastrophising during all of those previous episodes: how i was convinced i’d never find my flow again; and how certain i was that i’d join the long list of people who had started blogs but given up on them; and how if i’m not going to be able to write anything i consider worth publishing again, then my life has become entirely pointless and i might as well give up – well, it would be really cool if i could remember it does come back. at any rate, it has done so far. it would be helpful if i could take into account the weight of evidence of what has occured up to this point. what a tricksy, slippery creature my mind is, seeking to taunt me at every opportunity.

the first time i recognised that my basic theory behind worrying is to ward off bad stuff from happening in the future, or to attempt to render the effects of bad stuff happening a bit less bad by having gone over the situation of concern so many times that i have prepared for the badness and might catch it unawares and thereby reshape it into a more innocuous form, i was quite pleased with my discovery. but this awareness could only be useful if it helped me to stop worrying, or at least reduced how much time and energy i put into worrying. which it hasn’t.

another thing: blind optimism, when viewed from a distance, appears foolhardy. but i am friends with a blind optimist, and it really doesn’t seem to do him any harm. his optimism stretches so far and wide that when the good thing he was expecting to befall him doesn’t after all, he simply reassigns his optimism and casts off in another direction. if i became an optimist, what harm could it do me? for example, if i did develop lifelong writer’s block, but continued to be certain i was about to reconnect with my flow until the day i died, how could that be bad? yet i feel my innards clenching in rebellion at the very notion: i loathe the possibility of attempting to fool myself; i am temperamentally averse to an easy life.

a long time ago, when i was young, questioning the essence of humanity’s moral nature felt something like a game. it seemed more risque than calamitous to raise the possibility that people might be more bad than good, and that as a species we are fundamentally bent on destruction. i think that was because, even though i didn’t know it, back then i did believe people were more good than bad. which brings me back to the matter of the weight of evidence. it is a terrible shame how the more human beings there are, the more we humans seem to lose touch with our humanity. i want to propose an idea which i reckon could help: i think that if we collectively recognised that politics is psychology, and agreed to apply emotional intelligence and psychological analysis to our future dealings, we might just afford ourselves a fighting chance.

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