Backtracking emotional maps

Anne Sexton’s biography by Diane Middlebrook arrived in the mail today. I’ve been sneaking bits and pieces in the library, but now I have my OWN copy that I can write in and wonder and wander through. Some sentences are already highlighted – that’s what happens when you buy a used copy, but I like to see what others find “IMPORTANT” information.

I’m already enthralled by her life and I’m wading through it trying to find pieces of myself inside. I’m amazed by how much psychology it is – how much psychology played a part in her writing. She never fully “discovered” her poetic self without it. Can I say she perhaps never discovered herself without it? I suppose that’s the point of therapy…but she had severe lapses in her own memories, she had emotional explosions and couldn’t remember their source – even from day to day events. She would be angry from the day before, but unable to pinpoint why, unable to map through her own feelings, until she found poetry.

So far what I think is really fascinating was her absorption of other’s symptoms. In one hospital surrounded by schizophrenics, she began disassociating and displaying symptoms she hadn’t previously exhibited. Was it illness riddled with empathy? Her lacking sense of self?

There are times when I’m so emotionally invested in something – a book, movie, life event, crime show on television – I almost feel as if the event is my own, the experience my own because I feel it so readily, so easily it swallows me. At times, I wonder if it’s poetic empathy or more? Is it the need to find a more stable core – am I jumping from person to person to build blocks to myself; picking and choosing traits I admire, traits I hate, at times traits I won’t ever have? And is it making me unhappy with the traits I do have – the ones that inherently make me me?

I’m not comparing my psychology to Anne Sexton’s at all, she was sadly, deeply troubled and entering into her state of mind is at times terrifying, but what I find interesting is our emotional history. We each have one. A map of events and feelings leading up to now – a why we do this and why we do that because of this. I’m more sensitive to feeling invisible because there was a time I felt invisible – sitting in the corner of the couch, wanting to disappear and in effect doing just that. Perhaps my shyness fueled this sense of myself? Perhaps this self was fueled by my perception of what others thought of me? Perhaps this sense of self is arising again because I’m over analyzing her so much and looking for the traits in my past? Perhaps I am overlooking? We are watery stews. I’m my own simmering.

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