2023 Self-love notes

Step into your wild self. Access your Dark Feminine energy to rediscover your full strength and unlock your untamed power. Recognise dark energies, but don’t fear them. Deconstruct the fortress of the self. Reweave the fabric of your world in innovative, transformative, driven ways. Embrace your Underworld i.e. shadow self, fears, normalise “negative” emotions, seeing them as an opportunity to embrace authenticity. Allow yourself to experience nuanced emotions. Resist the temptation to bypass. Connect with yourself without neglecting the parts that you may have become disconnected from: reclaim them. Trust your instincts and assessments of reality, they’re usually accurate and you owe yourself self-belief. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Your intuition always sees through the fortresses of personas. Reframe your whole existence in your favour. Embody the witch / alchemist archetype: Transform everything. Start by transforming your inner life, which will empower you to enact change (including shifts in consciousness). Expand your vision, expand your knowledge. Only you have the power to hold yourself back from personal fulfilment. Some situations require control, others would be better navigated through an approach based on surrendering. You are the only one with the tools to discern between the two. Aim to be impervious to other people’s visions of your life’s trajectory. Avoid circumstances that don’t bring out the best in you. Don’t feel a pressure to approach interpersonal relations as if they’re a performance and avoid situations where there is that expectation whenever possible. Healthy relationships don’t require you to change, pretend, cross your own boundaries, or feel depleted or uncomfortable in any way. Remain at home in yourself. Tap into childlike wonder and blissful maiden-like playfulness. Connect with nature more often. Be emotionally mature and empowered without losing a sense of connection with your innocence.

Uncanny encounter

Lifting the white veil, I open the old, mysterious drawer. Inside, next to a fairy tale-infused wooden music box and some forgotten Christmas and birthday cards that seem to either yearn for my full attention or yearn to be left alone or be destroyed, I see the charming box where the photographs are stored – those prosthetic memories that seem to have developed a life of their own. Where I currently live, few objects that are explicitly mnemonic tend to survive the memorabilia purge I execute regularly sometimes in my attempts at minimalism and sometimes for the sake of symbolically shedding the past and starting afresh – a peculiar habit, perhaps, for someone fascinated with archives and the archival process and antique stores. Any letter or card would have to be extremely emotional, soul-stirring, and potentially heart-wrenching for some reason (for instance reflecting the cavernously deep feelings of the sender) in order to coexist with me for long periods of time. I’d have to feel like throwing it away would be a blasphemous act. Or alternatively, there should be something within that object that propelled my mind to get spiritually irrational and make up a superstition about it, specifically a superstition of what might happen if I got rid of it, so I just let it rest in some corner instead, where it’s cast into oblivion.

Any physical diaries I have ever had have been burnt – I couldn’t get rid of them in any other way: flames are symbolic. The process is more cathartic than deleting a LiveJournal account, but everything has been digitised and that works for me, despite the supposed deprivation of the haptic pleasure and of the magic of writing with a fountain pen in a beguilingly beautiful notebook. With the amazing texture, designs, and cover art of some notebooks nowadays, I’d probably decay with indecision whilst trying to decide what thoughts were noble enough to be written in such a diary anyway, and if I managed to decide, I’d still curse myself whenever I have to cross out one word and I would embellish the hell out of those noble thoughts to the point where it would be more of an exercise in literary style, imagination, and language rather than one in authenticity, self-awareness, or memory preservation. I suppose I’ll stick to the occasional LiveJournal entries and notes on my phone for that.

I have also deleted many photographs along the years and there are long chapters in my life that only ever still exist, in some vague, distorted form, in my mind. Rather than doing so out of an impulse or lapse in judgement, it was always planned and I have always been at peace with it, which is even more sacrilegious. Freud would be disappointed – he praised the power of photography to act as a reliable mnemonic device, since physical proof of a memory combats the decay the memory would face if it were only stored in one’s mind – hence liable to distortions over time. In his view, diaries, photographs, cards, are all part of a chain of mnemonic devices which free us, helping us unload the burden that we would have to hold if memories were permanently retained in our minds. They are extensions of identity, of your inner life, aiding our capacity to remember, which in turn allows us to absorb new information and conceive fresh thoughts. Eh, anyway, family photos, in particular, lie by omission – in addition to being an enemy to individuality, which is sacrificed in favour of an unreal collective past. Belonging whilst losing one’s self. Not to mention the notion of counter-memory and how trying to retain the past might only bring about its destruction, ultimately alienating you from your past and from life and making you construct false or weirdly altered memories. Photographic self-obliteration as a form of resurrection or metamorphosis. The intersection between the other and the self, photographic depiction and identity: the end of existence.

I open the charming, memory-preserving-or-destroying box. The photo album has an imposing, magnetic presence. As I turn the pages, I remember most of the photos, so they’re hardly nostalgic artefacts. I’m quite desensitised due to this observation and the fact that nothing seems to elicit an emotional response. But then I reach one portrait that I must have seen before, surely, and yet there’s something I haven’t read on her face before. Am I imagining this? It seems uncanny. The girl in the picture, a defying, atemporal doppleganger, an embodiment of a spectral condition, seems to want to tell me “I refuse to exist as an afterthought in this simulacrum”. She wants to step out of the frame and haunt. “I want to smell like Alien, not naphthalene. And this curse of only seeing the light every few years during the holidays…” She reprimands me for forgetting her, for misunderstanding and misconstructing her, for only reanimating her as a “Screen Memory” on rare occasions. I want to hug her. Tell her she is more myself than I am, in a way. Tell her she wouldn’t like it out here. But I remain silent. My expectation of chasing decaying memory traces has turned into an uncanny Blow-Up moment as I catch a glimpse of resignation and almost grief on her face. As I notice this, the door to the unconscious is slightly open, but not enough for her to escape. I know I was supposed to integrate her. But she will be here until next time, feeling trapped. And I will still feel both protective and afraid of her. Perhaps next Christmas it will be different.

Thoughts

[Clip transcript]

There has been a paradigm shift in the sense that in the past I was obsessed with our ephemeral nature and I used to drown in ruminations about mortality – not that I’m immune to that now, but I feel the focus is now on something else. Initially this shifted towards rebirth and re-emerging from myself and leaving behind any psychological material, any thought patterns, any people, events, or memories that no longer serve me and that I need to shed in order to become a better version of me or step into a new, more enlightened self. The idea of identity is very limited – there’s this tension between being and establishing an identity because the latter is usually based on worldly things- accumulating things e.g whatever your idea of success is or knowledge. I’m reading an interesting book about the difference between knowledge and self-knowledge, which I will elaborate soon. You’ll still have this nostalgia for who you used to be, you’ll be haunted by the ghosts of past versions of you, with their own dreams. Unless you are able to shed all those layers and not repress but step out of that state towards a new you and embrace the now, embrace the current experience and let yourself be guided by the subtle currents of mindfulness and gravitate towards the reality of wholeness.

The difference between knowledge and self-knowledge is that objective knowledge is disembodied knowledge, it can be alienating and, paradoxically, it’s all about ‘me, me, me’, about how you can profit from something, how you can use information and map out the structure of reality in such a way that it allows you to manipulate the reality around you and it’s focused on the wrong values like being in control, because it’s the realm of the ego, having a sense of power and control over others – this makes you feel good. At the opposite pole you have self-knowledge, which is a world-centred view of the self, it’s all about felt experience and how you relate to the world around you, to nature, to people. Self-knowledge is used in the sense of embodied knowledge and integrated information and it’s all about your body’s attunement to the world and about felt relationship and felt experience, when parts of you become illuminated. It’s not about thinking about the self in limiting, ego-driven ways, on the contrary, it’s about turning the focus towards the world and being in harmony with the world rather than trying to establish order and control. It’s not about control, it’s about surrender in a way and about being present in the world and allowing yourself to integrate all aspects of the self as well. It’s something that reaches the depth of who you are by shedding all those layers that you were perhaps conditioned or wired to adopt. When you do that you are able to experience the wholeness of the world and the fluidity of being as well. And you will be able to resonate with the world around you and your entire world has the potential to change in a very beneficial way.

Self-integration should make you get rid of anxious self-conscious musings. By embracing all those aspects, you are able to become yourself. You can just witness emotions- this is a classical stoic teaching- you can witness an emotion – no need to numb it down- then distance yourself from it, allow it to pass, observe it, learn what you need from it, and then move on, with that knowledge in mind. As long as you are attuned, your body is attuned, your whole being is attuned to the diversity and the wholeness of the world, I believe that is the secret to happiness, inner peace, harmony, and comfort – being at ease with yourself. It’s not always easy; we do have a tendency to let certain things define us like a certain emotion especially if it’s a negative emotion, one that you’ve experienced too many times you feel like you might let it define you – especially if external factors like people around are also pointing that out, emphasising that or only choosing to see that. So you shouldn’t let yourself be defined or tainted by anyone’s perception of you, by your own focus on a particular negative reaction or emotion, because you are so much more than that.

Regarding success, even when you want to separate yourself from other people’s ideas of success you have to do it successfully so in a way that feels successful to you based on your own frame of reference or system of values which means you have to have a lot of faith in that in order for it to withstand the currents of opposing views. I think for me success would be the idea of integration and harmony, especially inner peace. That looks a certain way, I have a vision of what it means. I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have the capacity to make things vanish. The capacity to move on, step into new selves is important to me.

This made me think of that line from The Tree of Life which I will always remember- amazing film- the dichotomy refers to what I was talking about before about the self-centred view of the world versus when you look outwards and try to establish a relationship and with the world around you based on harmony.
“The nuns taught us there are two ways through life, the way of Nature and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow. Grace doesn’t try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things.”

As beautiful and poetic as it sounds, I have always had mixed feelings about this quote. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked? That’s not the way. But I can see what they mean: the way of Grace is about transcendence; it refers to not letting external things affect you, it doesn’t necessarily mean you stay there and endure hardship and mistreatment, it just means you are strong – it’s about real power and transcending and about how the other – the one who was metaphorically referred to as nature has a false sense of power gravitating around the concepts of control, entitlement, order, wanting to establish order rather than focusing on harmony. Seeing the darkness in everything, which is basically a reflection of what is within. Not that there’s no darkness around you, but if you only see that, that says something about what’s inside you. Grace, on the other hand, only accepts insults and injuries in the sense that those things don’t change grace; there is something immutable about grace that makes it so that she doesn’t change in the face of adversity to the core. Her system of values doesn’t change. Things that don’t matter can change. So in this sense I do agree with the way of grace, however I have my doubts about the way this is expressed. I do stand by stoicism and the stoic world view, I always have. These are not opposites: You can preach about the fluidity of the self whilst at the same time holding onto that immutable aspect of you. A balance between the way of grace and of nature would probably be ideal – taking the best characteristics out of each and synthesising them and there you have it. This is kind of like how self knowledge and knowledge have to go hand in hand to be balanced and the more one grows the other one has to grow with it. As you cultivate your objective knowledge, the one responsible for accumulating information to use it in certain ways, you should also work on and nurture your self-knowledge.

The two ways of seeing the world (self-centred & world-centred) are also reflected in Only Lovers Left Alive through the two protagonists. Tilda Swinton plays an insightful vampire, sharing her perspective with her perpetually despondent blood-drinking lover.
Eve: “How can you have lived for so long and still not get it? This self obsession is a waste of living. It could be spent on surviving things, appreciating nature, nurturing kindness and friendship, and… dancing.”

Introspection

How is life? A work in progress. Just like me. I’m constantly growing and learning; acquiring knowledge of what fascinates me is one of my enduring obsessions. There is definitely more that’s unchanging and relentless about me (including, paradoxically, my regenerative strength), but it’s much easier and more palpable to articulate the ways in which I feel I have changed or the areas in which I invite change. In my life I have shifted from cynicism to idealism to optimistic nihilism to a sort of hedonism to aestheticism (I know I’m merging philosophical and artistic concepts here, but I think of them more widely, as approaches to life), and there have been times when I have ricocheted among them. I’ve spent some time in what may be considered an adrift state, but this has often led to acquiring better knowledge of what I see myself doing, what I enjoy and what I’m good at, a realignment with my deep wishes and interests, and attunement with myself, in all my glory and imperfection. On that note, add an increasing willpower to either embrace or change and improve imperfections, case by case, because that approach makes sense the most, a balance between personal development and contentment is key, and both complaining and self-pity are the most useless ways to spend your energy. Unless you write it down on a blog or capitalise on it or use it as fuel to express yourself through other creative outlets, in which case you can be relatable, earn something, or it can be cathartic. With that being said, perfectionism should be kept within limits, otherwise it becomes a sad quest.

After emerging with more self-knowledge regarding what fulfils me, plans have crystallised, but I need to maintain a healthy self-discipline in areas that are essential to my functioning and leading to a more substantial well-being rather than dopamine rewards. Building self-discipline is a challenge for most, and I’m the type of person who has always been most driven by spontaneous bursts of energy and motivation and outpourings of inspiration more than consistency and routine. I’m naturally inclined towards having a whimsical rather than methodical approach to life, with a lifestyle that may seem chaotic to some, though I can adapt and push myself to add order to chaos. I plan daily routines, but I sometimes end up doing what feels best ultimately, if I can afford to. This has worked for me creatively, in the past, but it’s not a viable or sustainable option as I age and have more responsibilities. I believe personality is a fluid thing, and thus I can adapt to something different and more efficient, but it takes a lot of deliberate effort to change something that has become ingrained in your being. I’m on the right track, though, because I’m getting into the habit of being more productive even when I’m not feeling at my 100 percent.

I want to put myself in the way of beauty and in the way of inspiration and of good things happening, even when my willpower is somewhat tentative- as opposed to resorting to taking the easy way out, or prioritising self-indulgence in the form of distractions, of whatever nature, and yielding to unproductive mental traps that get me stuck, creatively or otherwise. “Everything in moderation, including moderation” as Wilde said. Also, although focusing on materialising plans is necessary, it should be noted that this will definitely not be achieved by obsessing and thinking about the future, but by living in the now and taking steps towards tangible results- even small steps make a contribution. You’d think this should be obvious, but my brain often begs to differ for some reason. Obsessing over things and slipping into problems with self-discipline used to be my Achilles’ heel, but it’s something that I’ve focused on altering and dedication truly helps you forge new neural pathways. On another note, doing good deeds has a very uplifting power and effect for me. So does inspiring someone, either through my words or activity. I used to receive personal, touching messages online, in which people mentioned how I posted, wrote, or quoted the right things at the right times for them to see or read and how they’ve been inspired or helped by posts and that makes me smile. I like influencing and inspiring people, and this realisation has made me reconsider the appeal of certain paths to me.

I should probably nurture my dual & complicated relationship with vulnerability. I know better than to associate vulnerability with weakness, I know it can be empowering and unifying and brave, and yet, I find it so unnatural to open up entirely, I always have, partly because I don’t want to put myself in the position of allowing others to have full access to everything I am, partly because I don’t know how to convey things in an ideal way that makes me feel satisfied because I haven’t figured everything out but also partly because I’m at a point where I need to prioritise other things and don’t feel like I need to make many connections in order to be content. I’m also someone who doesn’t need constant contact to validate a friendship and actually in my book giving each other space and allowing yourselves to fall back into place and reach out to each other whenever you both need or feel propelled to is a love language. Also, it’s quite rare for me to fully resonate with another person so whenever it happens, when everything just flows and feels right I often feel this compulsion to protect it, and worry that there will come a moment when I might say or do something that alienates them, which triggers an uncharacteristic fear of abandonment. There are psychological shadows that I still need to integrate. I think it’s not uncommon, I think a lot of people curate their thoughts and feelings to express mostly positive or flattering ones, especially online. Within the context of a relationship, ironically, not wanting to give all of you can be considered a fear in itself, of sacrificing, of being tamed, subdued, sucked into, or simply, too dependent or entangled with someone else. Actually, I used to be quite the opposite in the sense that I felt like sharing many thoughts with others, I poured my mind and heart out. I still kind of do that, yet, on another level, perhaps emotionally, I’ve never fully given myself, in a way. At least I never feel like I do or that it’s beneficial. It’s also partly because we are all made of multitudes. Even though, in theory, I acknowledge that when you connect and give love (platonic, romantic, or of whatever nature), in a way, there is strength in putting yourself on that path, no matter what happens. But what happens if you become so enmeshed that you forget where you stop and the other begins? What happens when someone doesn’t act the way you expect him or her to? What happens when someone changes?

What else am I still in the process of learning? Learning to let go. Of detrimental or fruitless thought patterns, of the burden of roles other people may cast me in through assumptions or expectations because sometimes I’m not easy to read and other times I’m pretty straightforward and transparent, letting go of my own expectations from everyone in favour of focusing on whomever resonates with me and I resonate with, of unnecessary prohibitions and restraints uttered by a part of my psyche that I keep silencing, instead of reconciling with or making sense of in order to change it.

A game of subconscious associations

There is a cute game you can play with someone you’re just getting to know – potential friends or romantic partners. It’s pretty old and well-known and as questionable as dream symbolism interpretations; I unpublished this blog entry before because although it’s associated with relational psychology, it can be considered pseudo-psychology, but here we go.

Ask them:

  1. What is your favourite colour? And tell me three reasons why.
  2. What is your favourite animal? And why? Describe them using three adjectives.
  3. What is your favourite body or form of water? Again, list three qualities behind your choice.

Answer these questions for yourself now too, before you read further into this. Try not to use superficial, unimaginative reasons.

Like other associations that tap into your subconscious, each answer supposedly reveals other aspects about themselves:

  1. How you describe your favourite colour reveals how you view yourself.
  2. The qualities you attribute to your favourite animal represent what your ideal romantic partner is like. Another version of this says it actually represents how others view you.
  3. The last question refers to how you perceive your sexuality or your attitude towards sex and/or love.

Even if the associations are merely speculative, it could nonetheless be interesting to see at least how they/you relate to them. And it’s always good to get a sense of people’s relationships with animals so you can determine any red flags like psychopathy. These were my answers, followed by reflections.

  1. Sometimes it’s black, but that’s technically not a colour and also, for me it’s more of an aesthetic preference regarding fashion style and hair. In this context I associate black with the words dark, elegant, and mysterious. Otherwise, it’s definitely blue – leaning towards dark turquoise hues. I associate blue with freedom, fluidity, serenity, and depth. As far as the implications are concerned, I’m not so sure about ‘serene’. I have a fluid personality, and serenity only applies sometimes, so it’s not a fixed defining characteristic. Because I always oscillate between black and blue when someone asks this question in any context, perhaps this also hints at my dislike for limitations to a particular way of being, or perhaps it’s about seeming versus being.

  2. Dogs, wolves, snow leopards, cats, or polar bears? But I also like deer! I can’t pick one.
    It’s not easy to choose between cats and dogs when it comes to domestic animals, but I’d say my favourites are dogs. Typically, I’d describe them as cute, friendly, affectionate, and loyal.
    I have loved polar bears ever since I was little, probably ever since I read a Romanian story, “Fram, the polar bear”; I love polar bears because they are adorable and peaceful (when they’re not bothered or hunting), and I guess also because I associate them with my childhood (hence a purer perception of the world). It’s fascinating and calming to watch documentaries about polar bears; I like their whole vibe and that they live in the middle of icy nowhere.
    I also admire snow leopards a lot, because they’re beautiful, agile and strong, elusive, and solitary, living their best life in the mountains. Nicknamed “Ghosts of the mountains”, they are crepuscular, like me. Despite their wild, predatorial nature, they don’t generally attack humans, even when they’re feeding. They can be found thriving at the highest altitudes.
    Deer are pretty transfixing to me because they’re graceful, peaceful, and they have depth and gentleness in their eyes.
    Anyway, since I couldn’t pick one, I’m gonna say I appreciate all these traits. Taking into account the other interpretation of this question, as in, if this question actually shows how others view me rather than what I want in a partner, then the feline would probably be the most accurate. My spirit animal is probably a feline. A shapeshifting feline: a cat morphing into a leopard at will.

  3. My favourite body of water would be small streams/creeks/rivers that you can find in the woods. So relaxing and refreshing, elevating, ever flowing. I also like lakes that you can find in certain caves, the ones with transparent crystalline blue water. Because they are enigmatic, pristine, and hidden. I love waterfalls, but I can’t find the right words to fully describe why. Maybe I like their impetuousness and dreaminess. I love the sea and its unpredictability; I especially like being in it when it is windy or after a storm when the waves are tumultuous. Not going to attempt to interpret all these qualities in relation to the subjects of sex and love; I suppose all of this could mean my feelings towards sex and/or love represent an enigma even for me, that I have a changing attitude in this regard or I appreciate variety and self-exploration.

Slice-of-life nostalgia & oneiric landscapes

For me, episodes akin to the Proustian Madeleine cake epiphany are often closely interrelated with one category of the uncanny. There are certain sudden, surreal ‘triggers’ that evoke images from a distant past in a most bizarre manner – the thing is, it’s not always clear whether the memories are real, constructed from narratives, films, and other media, or dream fragments. But they feel real. And I feel like I catch a glimpse into a distant world – again, it’s just a feeling, but I would say this counts as a spiritual experience at times. I used to call this “the fairy tale sentiment”. I will now focus on the glimpses into my own memories rather than those into the more vague “memories” of other lives, which are likely to be fabricated. The aforementioned evocative elements are rarely direct links to that specific memory piece, but they project me in a trance for like 2 seconds whilst those nostalgic images flash in my head. Sometimes it’s not even a particularly visually striking experience, it’s more about the texture of the moment, about ethereal scents, or glitter, pearlescent lights, fashion fabrics; the best type of experience is when several such elements come together. Such moments have an intoxicating effect.

Here’s one instance in which the memory that is summoned up is quite intuitive: a certain piece of fabric, combined with glitter and with a particular perfume – Alien by Mugler let’s say – together recreate a very distant memory of my childhood self in a sparkly, silver sequin-adorned ballerina dress (I used to do ballet, dance, and rhythmic gymnastics so at least the core motifs do belong to a real memory), on a stage with dark curtains. The auditorium was also graced with some familiar visages and eyes that are no longer filled with light in our world. I never remember the actual dances or even the feeling of being on a stage dancing at that age. I just experience those seemingly insignificant, yet memory-preserving details enveloped in obscurity.

Sometimes, in stream-of-consciousness style, this scene cuts to the next one – this time set outside, with me still in one of my dance costumes, only this time I’m holding my favourite doll; she is very special to me. I place the doll standing up in my mother’s open bag, so she can see the world like us. As we walk along a fountain, I hear loud noises and sense agitation behind us. Looking back, I see young adults or adolescents gathering together in a circle like animal predators looking down to check out something on the ground whilst constantly chattering about something I can’t hear from that distance, but presume it’s nonsense. They seem so intrigued. What could it be? What could this group of almost adults be so exuberant about? I look at my mother’s bag. I start panicking: she’s gone. Mom, they’re stealing my doll!! Let’s go back and take her please. I start crying. Or not. I don’t remember. But I was pretty sad. And even more importantly, I felt disappointed and betrayed by my mother in that moment and who knows for how long after that – who knows anything about the inner time of a child? Betrayed, bewildered, and bereft of my “Darling, dearest, dead” doll. For some reason, despite my plights, my mother refused to go back with me and retrieve it from them. I don’t remember what she said, but I think she maybe didn’t notice or want to notice that it was happening right in that moment. In retrospect, this memory doesn’t even make sense. Not in the sense that’s it’s not real, or at least partially real, but in the sense that it’s ridiculous. Why would an entire group of students or whatever be so excited about a doll? Was it a group of freaky doll fetishists? Why would they gather together jubilantly in a circle as if about to perform a satanic ritual or act like they’d never seen a doll in their life? And why would they want to steal it from a sweet (on the surface and in public at least) little girl like I was, leaving the scene super pleased with themselves? Even more importantly, how was this such a memorable event for me? I can’t remember my age at that time, but my pov was very close to the ground, so I can only imagine. If this is a screen memory, I wonder what it masks. I know that one’s mind also stores moments that have been particularly emotionally impactful in one way or another, but how come the very scarce memories I have dating back so far are mostly of negative incidents, mini-trauma, or my own mischief? What about the other extreme? I don’t actually remember a time when I felt particularly happy from back then – I’m glad I have pictures to document it though because there were a few.
Anyway, I wish I could turn back time just to bestow haunting powers upon my doll and warn them with a scary look on my face so they would gradually get so paranoid they’d convince themselves it was true. Happy Halloween Season!

Another memory, that most psychology discourses would deem unreal, constructed, and yet, living quite vividly in my mind is of me as an actual baby crawling onto this glistening white fabric that somehow covers both the floor and the table where my extended family was feasting. I was just minding my own business in my crystal globe, fascinated with the brightness of the room and of being. To be honest the aesthetic looked more like a detergent commercial. But it didn’t matter. I was all there for it: for being alive and exploring silky sheets.

Another type of uncanny experience is given by recurring dreams, particularly focusing on landscapes I’ve inhabited in my dreams rather than actions. Ever since I was little I revisited several unknown places in my dreaming life, some of them so pretty and full of good energy that it’s a sin they don’t exist. For instance: I often find myself in this space filled with abundant ever-expanding vegetation over an abandoned railway and dilapidated trains. Brutalist, sci-fi architectural structures bless the surroundings. Somewhere in the vicinity, there’s an agitated turquoise body of water. The slightly dystopian landscape is somewhat reminiscent of Tarkovsky’s Zone, which of course, I wasn’t aware of when I first had this dream. I try not to wander in plain sight, as if hiding from something or someone who is following me. Or perhaps I’m trying to find someone’s traces in order to save their life. Still, I don’t think this dream is about fear. I might just as well play hide-and-seek, except I keep moving because I can’t find the perfect spot.

This dream image morphs into a totally different location, buzzing with people and little shops, like a scintillating outdoors bazaar. More than that, it’s an entire imaginary city designed by this polarising Unconscious with layers upon layers of life and vivacity, scents lingering as I pass by the fragrance shops, hills to climb, and fountains to rest on to dread the time of waking up if you’re lucid dreaming. I know so many narrow alleys in the city and idyllic shortcuts to get to my favourite places in that sanctuary. Sometimes the city restructures itself in real time. The geography is resplendent, alive. But I know where to go for some peace and quiet- the immutable place where the noise of the crowd ends and the singing of the sirens begins.

Fast forward to another oneiric landscape, this time drenched in scarlet, desert-like, with ominous volcanos. I always ended up there, on top, by following a sinuous trail. There is a lot of tension in the air. Still, not as much as the one present within the ultimate nightmare, featuring…the lift. How can I forget the lift. Probably the most frequently reoccurring oneiric space I find myself in. And I’m usually terrified because, of course, it’s malfunctioning (I don’t have a problem with lifts in real life). Yet in this nightmare, it either races up or descends at an unreal, flesh-unfolding speed and clearly way beyond the 14 floors of the building. Sometimes it stops. And I can’t move. Because if I made the slightest movement my body would be torn apart by the metallic door.

If you happen to stumble upon this blog entry and you have the tendency to interpret dreams and pschoanalyse people, don’t.

Confessional musings of my younger self

I’ve re-introduced myself to my abandoned virtual diary from several years ago; many diary entries are pretty cringeworthy to me now but it’s interesting to see how my thought processes have morphed in time. I’m fascinated with how the brain reorganises itself, how fluid identity is, and how consciousness evolves and adopts new patterns. Indulging in this type of retrospection always makes me revert to my constant preoccupation with our ephemeral nature and cosmic resonance. A lot has been going on since I was last posting my slightly curated stream-of-consciousness there. And I still have mixed feelings about thought curation in regard to diary entries. Still, here are some entries that today’s self has found intriguing or fun.

“Soon I’ll be in Leeds- home of damnation, goth, rain, grey skies, and straightforward people. And of wild clubbing which I will try to avoid.” [24 june 2015, 06:38 pm] This hasn’t aged well, I ended up liking clubbing.



“My Freudian super-ego needs to be sent off on vacation.[…]

The advantages of living on this street include drunk people having aggressive, loud discussions in a Yorkshire accent at 4 am.[…]

If something doesn’t feel right, if it doesn’t make you feel happy, please don’t settle, Self. Realise what can and what can’t be fixed, but also what matters and what doesn’t. Distinguishing the objective from the subjective, the self from the other can get difficult when you are connected with someone on a deep level. Don’t lose yourself. I guess – be fluid, but don’t lose yourself in someone else’s fluidity.

To do: stop projecting and dwelling on past disasters (or perceived disasters). Shed those embedded preconceptions, somehow. Acknowledge your roots, but allow yourself to grow and be fluid. Re-evaluate some principles. Find a balance between judging situations based on previously recognised patterns and accepting that everything is fluid.

I need to throw myself in the cinematic world I am trying to create. My ideas come primarily in the form of short story excerpts, and the second creative layer involves turning this into a script, while imagining the shots with some awareness of details. I realise I tend to imagine narratives in the form of monologue. I often focus on telling one side of the story elaborately. The receiver is too often quite one-dimensional, a receptacle of soliloquies. But I have to shape the other character too, to bring them both to life, credibly. Bring them both to life, figuratively, and literally – for she comes from the past, from hundreds of years before the time of the narrative. She had a brother. She tells their story. We see it, she (the other one) sees or hears it, as if through an otherworldly portal, and inexplicable things happen – things that disrupt the present narrative.

Sometimes I wish I grew up with an older brother in my life. A male figure that would have blessed my childhood with kindness, understanding, empathy, and without authority – building up a hardly shakeable faith in humanity. One that would have known me better than anyone. Someone who would let me know my feelings were valid, who would not let cynicism poison aspects of my life. This ideal connection inspired the plot I have in mind” [10 april 2016 06:30 am]



“I just had a serious conflict with […] because he doesn’t acknowledge the status of film as an art form. Initially he said it’s because it’s a collective process, but that didn’t hold up well so he started making up other reasons.

It “inspired” me so much that I am thinking about elaborating my arguments into an essay.

I get quite emotional when I plunge into a debate about something I am very passionate about, which implicitly reduces my credibility, as well as making some people get even more defensive about their own stance. I am perfectly aware that if I changed my defensive attitude or approaches, I would be far more convincing in conveying my core beliefs and making people respect, if not completely accept them. Yet I am often driven by feelings in the heat of a conflict related to something that matters to me.

It happens all the time – Two people can share a belief with you, but their choice of words and the vibes they give off matter immensely. The impact of words and the approach showing kindness or perhaps patience (besides eloquence and confidence) can have a decisive role.” [28 march 2016 02:11 am]



“He said photography, or art in general, does not define me.
That I would be just the same without it; I argued that it (your creative practice) shapes you, it can be a huge part of your life. I felt I was stating the obvious and he was just playing Devil’s advocate, which I found irritating; but he was sort of serious-
He said the experience itself changes you, not the work resulting from it- that the photographs I take, for instance, don’t change who I am.
Yet I find myself in art. I explore my self through art.
We agreed that the process changes you, and the result (the art) is a reflection of who you are.
He said he loves me because I am caring, smart, I observe things around me, I like learning, I am creative, not because of a photographic aesthetic I go for. Fair point, but the artistic concepts are so relevant to how I perceive myself; and how did we end up talking about love? It seems like deflecting” – He also said something really sacrilegious about art, and the words got etched into my mind as my lasting memory of that connection, but I left that out because it was so annoying. [2 september 2016 03:00 pm] Not only does the creative process & outcome alter you, in a way, but the consuming / viewing process can have similar properties too – https://dianamarin.com/2021/11/11/art-is-heightened-life/

Derealisation & Freud’s Uncanny experience

In everyday life, the Uncanny tends to be linked with a sense of unreality that is characterised by a shift in the subject’s self-image, a perception of the self as ‘the other’, an alienation from one’s identity and sense of self, as well as from the nature of reality. Freud points out two sources for the uncanny phenomenon: the uncanny that is generated by repressed infantile feelings and the uncanny that emerges from the resurrection of resolved primitive convictions (such as omnipotence of thought, cancelling the gap of repressed desires, magical thinking, or the return of the dead). In any case, the effect is that your perception of the world around you during such moments becomes less familiar. In clinical terms, this aligns with the characteristics and symptoms of Derealisation and Depersonalisation disorders, which are associated with an uncanny feeling that reality is dreamlike, artificial, or Matrix-like, or respectively, that your sense of self is unreal, you are a character in a film, feeling either robotic, like an external observer of your thoughts and emotions, or the object of an external gaze. The intersection between uncanny modes of thought and the conditions of depersonalisation and derealisation can be reflected through aspects like automatism and strangeness, the blurred line between dream or fantasy and reality, as well as feelings of déjà vu.

The split in one’s identity that happens as part of dissociative disorders is based on the idea that the human psyche constitutes a mix of conscious and unconscious processes. This split is experienced through an uncanny detachment between one’s self (the self that possesses meta-awareness) and one’s cognitive processes. Freud’s uncanny experience on the Acropolis is often referred to when it comes to the experience of derealisation.

He analyses his paradoxical emotional response in a letter, noting its oddness:

`So all this really does exist, just as we learnt! By the evidence of my senses, I am now standing on the Acropolis, only I don’t believe it.”

In his letter titled “A Disturbance of Memory on the Acropolis”, he also writes:

“I managed to write a short analysis of ‘a feeling of alienation’ which overcame me on the Acropolis in Athens in 1904, something very intimate. When, finally, on the afternoon after our arrival, I stood on the Acropolis and cast my eyes around upon the landscape, a surprising thought suddenly entered my mind: “So all this really does exist, just as we learnt at school!” To describe the situation more accurately, the person who gave expression to the remark was divided, far more sharply than was usually noticeable, from another person who took cognizance of the remark; and both were astonished, though not by the same thing. The first behaved as though he were obliged, under the impact of an unequivocal observation, to believe in something the reality of which had hitherto seemed doubtful. If I may make a slight exaggeration, it was as if someone, walking beside Loch Ness, suddenly caught sight of the form of the famous Monster stranded upon the shore and found himself driven to the admission: “So it really does exist – the sea-serpent we’ve never believed in!” The second person, on the other hand, was justifiably astonished, because he had been unaware that the real existence of Athens, the Acropolis, and the landscape around it had ever been objects of doubt. What he had been expecting was rather some expression of delight or admiration.”

“These de-realisations are remarkable phenomena, which are still little understood. They are spoken of as “sensations”, but they are obviously complicated processes, attached to particular mental contents and bound up with decisions made about those contents. They arise very frequently in certain mental diseases, but they are not unknown among normal people, just as hallucinations occasionally occur in the healthy. Nevertheless they are certainly failures in functioning and, like dreams, which, in spite of their regular occurrence in healthy people, serve us as models of psychological disorder, they are abnormal structures.”

Experiences of hyperreality connected with popular cultural locations (especially those infused with sacred echoes of myth) are not unusual, yet Freud’s perception went beyond this concept and beyond the mixture of familiarity and unfamiliarity, towards something more intimate. Derealisation and depersonalisation are viewed as defence mechanisms, related to the state of “double conscience”, the split self.  Functioning in similar ways to repression, it is also a way for the ego to detach itself from some psychological material. This may seem strange in the context of visiting a pleasant place, yet Freud concluded that in his case the nature of the Acropolis experience was connected to the repressed oedipal wish of surpassing his father – his presence in Athens, in such an overwhelming cultural location being a sign of success. Freud displaced his doubt about finding himself in that location to the reality of the place, hence Athens itself became unreal in his perception. Moreover, he emphasises that this phenomenon is also associated with ambivalent feelings of triumph and guilt and piety in relation to his father. In most uncanny phenomena, there is a mental state of ambivalence, as well as a dimension of desire, albeit previously consciously denied, which suddenly resurfaces.

Derealisation and depersonalisation are forms of dissociation, processes that are more complex than the mechanism of repression (which eliminates the unpleasant or unwanted thoughts or feelings from one’s conscious mind) in the sense that they involve a conscious duality that includes an obsessive meta-awareness and focus on the unpleasant or unwanted thoughts. Always faithful to the psychoanalytical approach, Freud holds the idea that, although it hasn’t been ‘proved’, derealisation is linked to concealed memories and anxiety-inducing experiences which may have been repressed. In his view, his Acropolis experience constitutes proof of this link, due to its culmination in a fabrication of the past and his ‘disturbance of memory’, linked to other desires from his youth. In most depersonalised/derealised individuals, there is a desire to lift that veil of unreality (a characteristic of DPDR) and see the world through a crystal-clear lens. They, like Freud in that instance, dissect their own mind, delving into the unconscious feelings that may have triggered their condition.

If you’d like to explore the rare condition of DPDR, check out my article on Talking Mental Health for further details: www.talkingmentalhealth.com/post/lifting-the-veil-on-depersonalisation-derealisation-disorder

New Year, New Answers to The Proust Questionnaire

Here I go again, unfolding in Proustian style in my relentless pursuit of self-knowledge and exploration of psychic patterns and cognitive shifts. With an almost masochistic pleasure to dissect the mind, peel off layers that only I’m allowed to touch, and assimilate phantoms, the self gazes into self in a way that no one else can or even dares to do lest they be met with the manufacturing of all sorts of defences. Ok, there is always symbolism and mist (not to be confused with smoke and mirrors), as this is a public virtual space where I can design and master my surroundings for my comfort. I wonder whether there have been any significant changes since the last time I completed this. I will add a link to my answers from a few years ago at the end of this post.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I can think of endless scenarios, but regardless of the where, the what, and the when, two constant ingredients are inner peace and sanity. Beyond this, imagine shadow integration, ecstasy, bliss, aesthetic pleasures, decadent fancies and desserts, and multi-sensory stimulation. Full immersion in the moment. A less earthly and less hedonistic answer would be merging with my higher self, exploring this vast cosmos and other timelines, transcending space and time, and having an immortal nature- to annihilate my ruminations about ephemerality. Arcadian wilderness inhabited by nymphs, playful spirits, mythological figures, and other supernatural entities coexisting with sci-fi/ futuristic dreamscapes, all drowning in the smell of orange blossom trees, snowdrops, honeysuckle, and all the intoxicating fragrances one can think of. Having occult powers would be pretty entertaining. I could go on, but this answer is already too long!

What is your greatest fear?
Losing my mind and ending up in a private hell. Self-obliteration. Death.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Taking into account women who have had an impact in the history of literature and art, I have to say there are many women in me, even if some personalities exist as representations of thoughts that I’m unlikely to nurture and materialise. Anaïs Nin, Virginia Woolf, Dora Maar, Francesca Woodman. As for mythological characters, Persephone – I like her dual nature, because I, too, thrive in spring and rule over the underworld.

Which living person do you most admire?
Hélène Cixous, Irvin D. Yalom, Tilda Swinton, Chelsea Wolfe, David Lynch, Godard, Werner Herzog,…Oh, and Jung, he haunts our psyches, his presence is too relevant to not transcend death.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
None.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Malice, duplicity, gossip, hypocrisy, judging others based on a flawed system of reference, & lack of empathy. I also dislike dark triad traits, but I am somewhat fascinated by such pathologies in theory.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Niche and designer perfumes

What is your favourite journey?
Immersing myself in art is always a beautiful journey. And any other journey that involves a form of transcendence.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
For women, specifically: being nice and calm at all times, which would imply bypassing certain emotions that are deemed “unpleasant” and that have historically been attributed to “hysteria” in a disguised act of gaslighting, including emotions that are typically associated with masculinity, e.g. anger, aggressiveness. Anger emerges within you when you perceive an injustice, when some of your boundaries have been crossed. It is healthy and needs to be witnessed and integrated, rather than silenced.

Other overrated virtues are humility / humbleness, moderation, and submissiveness / obedience. Women are especially conditioned to adopt these traits in order to fit into society and not fall out of line. Be disruptive in this respect. You can draw your own lines, teeter on them in high heels, and erase and redraw them whenever you want. If you’re perceptive and self-aware, you’ll be able to tell the difference between self-love and arrogance.

On what occasion do you lie?
When I don’t want to risk hurting someone I care about, I might omit a part of the truth as long as I believe the omission wouldn’t ultimately create more distress.

Which living person do you most despise?
I don’t think I despise one person in particular. With the risk of stating the obvious and repeating what I’ve mentioned in the previous answer about what I deplore in others, I am repulsed by anyone who lacks empathy and commits acts of (emotional or physical) abuse against others.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
C’est la vie. That’s a lie, it’s probably something even more cliched than that.

What is your greatest regret?
Not exploring more and experimenting and actively pursuing my most ardent dreams earlier.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Film, most other forms of art, and fragrances.

When and where were you happiest?
Probably whenever I experienced “aesthetic chills”! Other than that, it’s been too long since I’ve felt any fluctuations or significant spikes in my emotional state, so – I don’t remember!

Which talent would you most like to have?
Excelling in any field I would like to delve into. Erasing certain thoughts before they reach neurotic levels. An impressive vocal range. And the knowledge needed to find a way to prevent senescence forever.

What is your current state of mind?
Reflective. Concerned with future endeavours. I feel like I’m in a liminal state, holding onto the hope that the world will shift and feel more real and less dystopian again. At the same time, certain events from 2020/1 that generated temporary glitches ultimately made me feel more appreciative of and grateful for moments of peace.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Mastering the art of selective caring. Raising my creative powers to unreal levels and expanding into other fields of creation.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I feel it hasn’t happened yet; I will achieve grandeur and fulfil my vision in the future.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
A goddess.

What is your most treasured possession?
My perfume collection and technological devices, because I’m constantly fragrant and wired.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
A descent into sinister madness or suffering.

Where would you like to live?
In a place where pandemics don’t happen. Other applicable answers: in a cyberpunk world on a technologically ultra-advanced planet. The places that currently resonate with my personality type and interests, however, are London and probably NYC. (Tokyo and Venice as well, if there were no linguistic barriers or impediments of another nature)

What is your favourite occupation?
Immersing myself in art. Daydreaming and deriving vicarious pleasure from the adventures of fictional characters. Sublimating thoughts through poetry. Identifying behavioural and mental patterns. Spotting cognitive biases in others. Appreciating nature and cityscapes.

What is your most marked characteristic?
Perceptiveness. Creativity- especially when it comes to creating intricate stories about people I don’t know and being disappointed when their true self doesn’t align with my idealised projection of them. Self-awareness. Intuition. Constantly trying to reconcile the self that wants to connect with the self that wants to detach, conceal, wear disguises, and have privacy. A sense of elusiveness. Having regenerative powers. And an exquisite taste in film and music, if I say so myself.

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Intellect, confidence, imagination, empathy, depth, openness, and a willingness to step into my inner world. Inner tranquility & stoicism that are disrupted by moments of fiery passion connected to subjects that genuinely matter to them. Having a superior olfactory sense, but not taking themselves too seriously all the time because of it!

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Same as above.

What do you most value in your friends?
A kind and understanding nature. Trust. Depth. Caring about me. Embodying safety.

Who are your favourite writers?
Angela Carter, Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Anaïs Nin, Anne Sexton, Mary Oliver, Hélène Cixous, Oscar Wilde, Kafka, Nabokov, Mircea Eliade. Freud and Jung. Andrei Tarkovsky and Ingmar Bergman. Sylvia Plath. Virginia Woolf.

Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
Jean des Esseintes. Morgan Le Fay, Carmilla, Dorian Gray, The Countess from AHS

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
Pass

Who are your heroes in real life?
Angels, poets, and people who have not only overcome mental illness, they’ve also channelled it into their creative work

What are your favourite names?
Morgana, Dionysus, Osiris, Narcissa, Mnemosyne

What is it that you most dislike?
Same answer I gave to the question “What do you deplore the most in others?”. I also dislike unpredictability, unless I’m responsible for it, and unwarranted advice.

How would you like to die?
Since I’ve never reconciled myself with our ephemeral nature (and will probably never do so), this question is oxymoronic and dreadful! I want to live forever – I would only ever “like” to die if I believed in the afterlife, and in that case I wouldn’t care how as long as it wasn’t painful.

What is your favourite motto?
Your interpretation of me isn’t who I am.
Underestimate me and perish.
Do just once what others say you can’t do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations ever again.

Other mottos via quotes:

“Abnormal pleasures kill the taste for normal ones.” — Henry & June (1990)
“I am rooted, but I flow.” — Virginia Woolf
“Find out what makes you kinder, what opens you up and brings out the most loving, generous, and unafraid version of you—and go after those things as if nothing else matters. Because, actually, nothing else does.” ― George Saunders
“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)” — Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”
“We will become our opposite if we do not learn to accommodate the opposition within us.” — C. G. Jung
“I believe in deeply ordered chaos.” — Francis Bacon
“Listen: I always return to myself.” — Vesna Parun, tr. by Vasa D. Mihailovich
“Nostalgia is a seductive liar.”
“A Woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretence and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.” — Maya Angelou
“I refuse to live in the ordinary world, to enter ordinary relationships. I am a neurotic—in the sense that I live in my world. I will not adjust myself to the world. I am adjusted to myself.” — Anaïs Nin


Here is the link to my answers from the past.

Art is heightened life

I’m convinced that, at some point, everyone has left the cinema or an art show feeling more whimsical than usual, or perhaps wiser, or revitalised. What I would like to know is how many times you have been moved, truly moved- on a soul level, by a film, a painting, an art installation. After watching or experiencing a piece of art*, have you ever felt that it impacted you so profoundly, it was almost like you reached a higher state of consciousness? It’s more than an “aesthetic experience.” This is the magical power of art.

What about the process of creating art? Have you ever sensed a creative force breathing new life into you, into everything (re-shaping your perception of the world)? This is the godlike power of art and creativity.

I would like to hear about your unique experiences with this! How has art (and a specific art piece) changed your life, to what degree, and for how long?

As paradoxical as it sounds, art can make you connect with your self, your higher self, as well as giving you the chance to detach from your self-concept and see the world through someone else’s eyes, explore new territories, new experiences, making you feel like you belong, like you are a miraculous, integral part of this universe. This inner journey ultimately brings you closer to your higher self, a self that feels more authentic than the one that is founded on projections of the ego. Hence why there is no paradox, actually. In such moments of exquisite rapture, your existence is enriched with inherent meaning. By running away, “escaping” life as you know it (perhaps dimmed by routine and other ordinary but potentially soul-crushing aspects) you transcend your limiting self-constructs and beliefs and you arrive closer to your higher Self.

*For the record, when I talk about “art” in this post I am referring to the broader -and most valid- definition of art, which encompasses literature and film – the latter being the highest art form in my view.