On 27 April 2013, Benjamin Nugent's "The Adulterous Sins of Our Father Figures" appeared in the online New York Times. In the article, the author relates the conflict between having condemned a man for adulterous behavior and, a month later, beginning to engage in it himself. Nugent provides context for the condemnation and discusses the results of his own engagement in the kind of activity he had proscribed, noting that the experience drove him to a greater understanding of mercy as a superior quality to loathing of the self and of others. The article is short and intensely personal, but it becomes all the more poignant therefore.
I say "poignant" largely because of my own affective reading (I know that I should be better about it, with my PhD in English, but I am human before I am a scholar even now). I have long wrestled with self-loathing, with self-deprecation, much to the annoyance of those people who love me. While it is good to reflect upon one's errors so as to learn from them and learn how to avoid repeating them, it is not good to dwell upon them; it strips energy away from meeting the demands of the day and all too often generates a cycle of waste and self-recrimination proceeding from the knowledge of having allowed the waste to occur. And I dwell on things rather than reflecting upon them.
Even now, in fact, I am fighting myself to not slip into such a cycle--and slipping is easy, in this as in walking across icy streets in treadless shoes. A part of me, unfortunately well trained, wants to revel in chastising myself for spending time chastising myself when I ought to have been doing something else. (The irony is not lost on me, and I am fighting against that part, now as ever.) It knows that Nugent is right in the assertion that "Hating yourself is a kind of stimulant, anxiety-producing but also energizing. It can be nearly pleasurable." It feels good when it runs me down--it has to, else I can think of no reason why I continue to berate myself for things that happened years ago and are remembered by nobody other than me.
It speaks especially loudly at the moment, berating me for not having a job to return to; I have yet to secure other employment. Another New York Times commentator, Sara Hope Anderson, correctly points out in "The Hand That Feeds Us" that "Job searching involves an uncomfortable mix of constant public self-aggrandizement and the private loss of self-respect," a situation conducive to self-condemnation, and I am very much looking for a job. (If you read this soon after it is published, and you are hiring, let me know.)
I am trying to shout it down, trying to do the things that give me a reason to feel favorably toward myself and others. This blog entry is one of those things. My beginning work on HubPages.com is another (please go there, read my stuff, and click on the ads so that I can get money). The other writing with which I occupy myself is yet another. And I am sending out job applications in plenty, so that I can hopefully make that part of me shut its mouth.