Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Psychology of hoarding

Psychology of hoarding--explained?

1) When most of us look at an object like a bottle cap, we think, "This is useless," but a hoarder sees the shape and the color and the texture and the form. All these details give it value. Hoarding may not be a deficiency at all -- it may be a special gift or a special ability. The problem is being able to control it. (Randy O. Frost, interview with Thomas Rogers, “‘Stuff’: the psychology of hoarding,” Salon, 25 April 2010)

The hoarder is Robin Williams from the Fisher King: a humble life-poet who sees the magic in the (quote unquote) junk. Or a young Luke Skywalker, in touch with the energy field created by all things.

Future prospects: A future magician who will show us the magic in everyday life, help us move away from a consumption-oriented society. Must learn to control his power, so it doesn't control him.

2) If you spend one weekend with someone with a camera crew, a cleaning crew and no therapy, you’re making some educational contribution by showing people what hoarding is -- and that it’s really an illness [. . .]. (Randy O. Frost)

The hoarder is mentally ill. Tread with care.

Future prospects: One house-cleaning away from the crazy-house.


Patrick Mcevoy-Halston is mentally ill

Tread with care.

Dude, I'm all for esoteric, but WTF are you talking about? (untimelydemise, response to post)

Response

We are offered two different accounts of hoarding here. One (the first quote) makes it primarily a gift, possessed by someone who feels the beauty in things in a culture that can no longer do the same. The other (the second quote) makes it primarily an illness, to the extent that a cruel show that effectively traumatizes those it pretends to help still deserves kudos for it at least making this point clear.

If they're wizards, then not just house cleaners but therapists too need to tread carefully, for they are dealing with those well beyond their capacity to understand, and whom they must primarily not so much try and help but begin to try and learn from.

If they are sick, then all this appreciation for shapes, textures, colors of objects the rest of us understand less meaningfully, has to be contextualized so we understand that the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer appreciated certain objects this same way too.

Hope that's clear.

- - - - -

Culture Changes

In the U.S., we've also gone from a culture where some degree of hoarding was helpful and even necessary (when items were expensive and stores were far between) to a culture where "things" are widely available and cheap. It's not surprising that some people go overboard.

My mother grew up in a poor farming family during the Depression. To my grandparents, saving things was a matter of survival. You saved every bit of wood and piece of string, and reused every container and washed out every bag, because you had to. My mother lived in the suburbs, but she had a closet full of carefully saved plastic bags and magarine tubs - it was just too ingrained in her to save and reuse, she just couldn't throw away something that was still good. She wasn't a hoarder - she didn't buy extra things just to save them and she threw things out when she ran out of space - but that impulse to stock up and save things "just in case" is something that used to be a necessary part of life, especially in rural areas. So many people now think of it as dysfunctional and puzzling now that we live in smaller spaces and when you can easily replace anything you throw out, but the hoarder is just an extreme version of what many people were doing a couple of generations ago. (KayWWW, response to post)

@KayWWW

So if by some odd bit of luck, and if your mother had been born a bit earlier -- in the free-wheeling '20s, not "your grandmother actually knew best" '30s -- your mother actually found way to considerable income during the depression, she wouldn't have developed into a hoarder? Having known an era where treats were, if not quite allowed, still very much enjoyed, every time she went out and bought something new she wouldn't have said to herself, "this is selfish -- I'm selfish," and more or less learned to just sit on her fortune, still reusing the same container, over and over again? Possible, but many people in the '20s thought they were going to be punished for all their fun -- thought they DESERVED to be punished for all their fun: the 30's ruination actually "fit" their sense of justice.

Some people actually take pleasure when the drift in society is toward war or depression, because it makes their own (truly) pathological tendencies (sadism, anal-retention) seem too widely shared and too appropriate to be anything other than rational. For a taste of this, witness how delighted some now seem that the apparently near-certain upcoming ruination of the Earth means that we all need to live as invisibly, as minimalistically, as possible. Should have us begin to suspect that things like wars and depressions, are actually things us still sin-focused people will into existence to make sure we stick to living in ways that make us feel guiltless or properly repentant.

Link: "Stuff": The psychology of hoarding (Salon)

But they were your friends

Whenever a character serves as an improved or idealized version of his or her author, as a vehicle for the author's fantasies of power, allure, virtue or accomplishment rather than as an integral part of the story, that character is a Mary Sue. He may resemble his creator in most respects, but he drives a hotter car, lives in a posher part of town and has a cooler job. She may be as moody and self-absorbed as the novelist who invented her, but instead of boring the people around her these traits only enhance her crazy-girl magnetism, making her the center of everybody else's world as well as her own.

[. . .]

Because genre fiction tends to trade in wish fulfillment to begin with, you're far more likely to find shameless Mary Sues in mediocre mysteries, science fiction and romance novels.

[. . .]

What irks readers about Mary Sues is that telltale whiff of an ulterior motive. Instead of contributing to the seamless fictional experience readers want from a book, this character, they sense, is really a daydream the author is having about herself. It's an imposition, being unwittingly enlisted in somebody else's narcissistic fantasy life, like getting flashed in the park. And just about as much fun. (Laura Miller, “A reader’s advice to writers: Beware of Mary Sue,” Salon, 21 April 2010)

Come to know your Mary Sues

If someone is prone to create Mary Sues, they've got a psychological problem. If they attend to your advice and keep writing, my guess is not that the psychological problem has gone away, but that they now feed off creating characters that are more pleasing to the high-brow.

If you create Mary Sues, you've got a HUGE problem. Psychological turn-around may in fact come from spending more time attending to the Mary Sues you tend to create, with exactly what you are doing with them, rather than abandoning them quickly for the quick-fix turn to the literary. Also, Mary Sues are likely compensatory: there's a (much) better way to be than that, but until you managed the considerable self-change required so you have no further need of them, their service deserves some respect from you -- they weren't the friends you deserve, but they were your friends.

Link: A reader's advice to writers: Beware of Mary Sue (Salon)

Friday, April 9, 2010

You had your moment

I wonder if they'll regret their decision to celebrate their "night to remember" while shutting out a friend. I know I do.

My own prom date was a hilarious guy named Troy. He was tall, had half his head shaved, and loved punk rock. This was unusual enough for our sleepy Midwestern town, but on top of that, he was also the only openly gay student in our Catholic high school.

[. . .]

Troy and I went to prom as friends. My boyfriend was at college that year, but I wanted to go anyway. I mean, this was small-town USA and come on: Prom's a big deal.

[. . .]

And then came the after parties. Word got back to me that if I brought Troy as my date the meathead football players "would kick the shit out of him."

Years of Catholic teachings and after-school specials and John Hughes films had trained me for this very moment, for this very test … and I fucking failed it.

[. . .]

So, Troy and I went our separate ways. I don’t really remember the party -- aside from the fact that it involved a muddy hill, lots of pot, and that my best friend threw up on her own legs. What I do remember quite clearly is seeing Troy the next morning. As I walked up the driveway to my parents’ house, where we had agreed to meet up for a post-prom brunch, I spotted him through the window. His pink cummerbund was loosened, and he looked tired, and a bit sad, as he chatted with my mom while she flipped bacon. It was only in that moment that I realized the error of my decision, and I felt positively sick.

I had chosen the desire to "belong" over kindness. I had placed my own fantasy idea of a high school "moment" over someone’s actual, real-life feelings. I know, "belonging" and the myth of "glory days" can be pretty powerful stuff when you’re a teenager -- but who am I kidding? I acted like a total jerk, and I’ve never really forgiven myself for my behavior. (Johanna Gohmann, “The night I ditched my gay prom date,” Salon, 8 April 2010)

The moment you grew-up

Re: As I walked up the driveway to my parents’ house, where we had agreed to meet up for a post-prom brunch, I spotted him through the window. His pink cummerbund was loosened, and he looked tired, and a bit sad, as he chatted with my mom while she flipped bacon. It was only in that moment that I realized the error of my decision, and I felt positively sick.

I had chosen the desire to ‘belong’ over kindness. I had placed my own fantasy idea of a high school "moment" over someone’s actual, real-life feelings. I know, "belonging" and the myth of "glory days" can be pretty powerful stuff when you’re a teenager -- but who am I kidding? I acted like a total jerk, and I’ve never really forgiven myself for my behavior.

You didn't strut into the after-party with your Ducky, but this retrospective account still feels like a successful John Hughes moment, though. You were of the sort to attract the devotion of the most interesting, idiosyncratic person in school. You left him for orthodoxy, but regret was instant (and enlightenment apparently total) when you saw the remains from your neglect -- that sad but striking and especially communicative moment of loose pink cummerbund and flipping bacon, of downed boy touching casual maternal routine. You've penned here an idealistic account, a to-be-wished-for account, of a sad moving-on to adult realization. You had your moment.

Link: The night I ditched my gay prom date (Salon)

They fey-fearful

I have a great deal of love and respect for my grandfather. He was a B-29 pilot in the Pacific during WWII; he became a potato farmer when he returned home from the war. He always took care of his family and his responsibilities, but he was not an easy man for his family to be around. For all his amazing qualities, he was as deeply conflicted about his life and what he had done with it as many of my male friends are today. For all his "manliness" he was not a particularly happy or fulfilled guy.

Sometimes it can feel like my generation of men was raised by wolves, and that we are trying to cobble some approximation of what it means to be a man through vague and intentionally incomplete recollections of an increasingly distant generation -- or, worse, from media's portrayal of the men who came before us. We want to remember them as giants of masculinity completely unconflicted about who they were.

[. . .]

It is also important to remember that as brave as these men were, as many sacrifices as they made, as many challenges as they faced, many of them were unable to rise to the challenge of even a modest leveling of the playing field between them and their wives and sisters and eventually daughters. The confusion of my generation and my father's generation regarding their role and what is expected of them is a testament to that fact. (Aaron Traister, “‘Retrosexuals’: The latest lame macho catchphrase,” Salon, 7 April 2010)

The conflicted warrior-chief: they fey-fearful, seek elsewhere?

Re: "I have a great deal of love and respect for my grandfather. He was a B-29 pilot in the Pacific during WWII; he became a potato farmer when he returned home from the war. He always took care of his family and his responsibilities, but he was not an easy man for his family to be around. For all his amazing qualities, he was as deeply conflicted about his life and what he had done with it as many of my male friends are today. For all his 'manliness' he was not a particularly happy or fulfilled guy."

The picture you paint is not of Willy Loman. It is of a truly self-possessed, independent man -- someone OTHERS (i.e., weaker, dependent people) had to adjust to, mostly unhappily. Trust you me, many men -- perhaps you too one day -- would/will see this fate as life fulfilled.

Re: "It is also important to remember that as brave as these men were, as many sacrifices as they made, as many challenges as they faced, many of them were unable to rise to the challenge of even a modest leveling of the playing field between them and their wives and sisters and eventually daughters."

Again, you seem to be using your denouncement as a safe opportunity to bring to life, experience, and "validify" old-style heroes. A commanding warrior with absolute blind-spots regarding his "family," is the (true) father-hero we're most familiar with and continue to WANT to give (mostly adoring) life to: see the father in "How to train a dragon," for instance, who needed to learn some, but whom you had some considerable respect for even before he became more appreciative of his son's concerns. Feminism is tolerated most by mother-bullied men when it makes men formidable, well capable of backing people away, if still tyrannical. Feminist men who feel cowardice to some extent moves their crusade, emphasize the bullying in patriarchy -- it's a way to hit back hard at those they champion, without themselves being aware. Women who do the same -- emphasize the power of the bully patriarch -- need him too to create distance from their controlling mothers.

Ann Douglas' "Terrible Honesty," an account of the '20s, gives good insight as to how a different generation made use of angry, lonely, cold male "gods," to make them feel their Victorian Matriarch-ridden predecessors (even though now dead) weren't them, and wouldn't dare make claim to them.


Link: “Retrosexuals”: The latest lame macho catchphrase (Salon)