Following on from last night’s grousings about the difficulties I have had in accepting my work as something of intellectual value, it’s worth considering the idea of ‘disjunction’ more fully. By disjunction, I mean the mental gap between the projected, external self and the internal workings of the private mind. I don’t intend to address this from an ontological perspective, although I might betray a weakness for pseudo-existentialism – but only because those kids of May 1968 looked so damn good with their Gitanes and Breton jerseys, regardless of how flimsy their house of revolutionary cards turned out to be. But I digress. Rather than looking at disjunction as a phenomenon of abstract consciousness, I’ve been thinking about what it means as a lived experience. A psychological analysis, if you like.
I am genuinely curious as to whether the feeling that my ‘projected self’ is false, is a neurosis shared by many others. Of course, I don’t for one moment think that it is a unique, or even an unusual feeling. But I do wonder if it is universal, or whether other people find it to be a near-constant state of being, as I do. What a feeling it must be, not only to ‘Know Thyself’, but to know that you can and do project a valid representation of that inner self to the world around you. To paraphrase Alexander Pope wildly out of context, the happiness of the blameless vestal’s lot comes not only from her spotless mind in relation to the world around her, but from her unconsciousness of any disjunction between her internal and projected self.
Unlike the blameless Eloisa, I am fully aware of the possibility that I may be a massive fraud. The conversations I have, the books I read, the tastes I profess, are all to some extent a performance for the benefit of others. That is not to say, that I derive no enjoyment from these things, that give shape and parameters to the thing I dub my personality. But enjoyment is also derived from the notion that I can allow this grand performance to define me, and that I can – so easily! – allow myself to be placed in a number of convenient intellectual and social categories by the people around me. There is a sense of power that comes with knowing that one’s projected self is a character, to be played to the pit, the gallery or the boxes as appropriate. With knowing, too, that even if I am a fraud, I must be a bloody good one, to have fooled so many people for so long.
I don’t care, at this point, to get into the specifics of my own disjunction, which is of course rooted in my own neuroses and issues. Suffice to say, that the self I project – or should I say, the various selves I project – are more or less divergent from my private mind. As I write this, however (it’s not planned out), I look at the plural ‘selves’ in the last sentence, and a new idea begins to form. Up to this point, I have been thinking of the self in terms of a dichotomous binary (yes, that is a tautology, but I liked both words and couldn’t pick just one). One is public or private, internal or external. But wouldn’t it be more productive, and more honest, to allow the self to exist on a spectrum, rather than a binary? Both the public and private sides of the binary self are mutually influential, and equally valid. Of course, this approach still leaves an important question unanswered – if all aspects of the self exist on a spectrum, is there a single nugget of truth – a core self – that holds it all together? For now, though, demolishing the binary allows me to let go of language like ‘fraudulent’, without preventing me from moulding and adapting to social circumstances. It’s not an ideal conclusion, but it is an oddly comforting one.