Blog post – 29th January 2023
By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling
The unexamined life versus the frank autobiography
How to change your future by changing your past
Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2023
Sex-love and gender wars – I don’t suppose anybody knows for sure what Plato meant by his slogan: “The unexamined life is not worth living”.
But, in the modern world, the unexamined life equates to “not doing your therapy”.
How do I mean that?
Everybody is harmed to some extent in their family of origin; some more than others; but nobody escapes completely. And what most people do with their childhood harm is to cover it over with a layer of something sweet and superficially nice; a socially distorted PR job. A false self.
Mostly, people do this because doing one’s therapy hurts. It hurts like having a tooth out; and the costs and benefits are similar. If you have a decayed tooth out, it will hurt, having the injection; having the extraction; and when the anaesthetic wears off, the wound will hurt for a day or two. Blood clots may become visible on the tongue, and so on.
However, if you do not have the tooth out, it rots in your gum, and causes worse pain later on, including the possibility of brain damage, because of the proximity of the infection to the brain.
- The unexamined life; the downside…
The unexamined life is just like that rotting tooth left in the gum. It rots away, causing low level problems for a long time, before it flares up into a much worse problem. Better to have it out (or filled) as soon as the problem becomes visible for the first time; and better to get into therapy as soon as you spot that something horrible happened to you in childhood, which you have never explored or digested.
- The frank autobiography, and the problem of getting hold of repressed memories…
You can do your therapy on your childhood in a face-to-face encounter with a helpful psychotherapist or counsellor; or you can do it yourself in a journal or notebook. If you decide to write it out, you can do it as autobiography; fictionalized autobiography; drama; poetry; or letters to your childhood carers which you never send. I did some of my therapy on my horrible childhood in the form of psychoanalysis, but I have also written a lot of it out in the form of fictionalized autobiography of my alter ego: Daniel O’Beeve.***
- Hack writing versus principled writing…
If you decide to write your autobiography, and to publish it, then up comes defence mechanisms. Will people dislike me for this? Will I look good or bad? How can I sanitize my public appearance? How can I distort the story in order to look like a hero instead of a victim of circumstances?
Considerations of those kinds can lead you to abandon principled writing, and to substitute hack writing. Hack writers get well paid for producing rubbish and garbage and pulp fiction. They add nothing to the world, except more junk. Principled writers add some value to the human condition. They liberate or ennoble or rescue; or encourage the growth of hope, compassion, charity, love. They strive to contribute to the creation of a better world, by exposing the underbelly of our current forms of life.
- The determination to keep going…
Hack writers are beloved of the publishing industry. Principled writers are unpopular with vested interests. They are a nuisance to the forces of political expediency. They undermine the evil side of human nature.
- The courage to face the unadorned truth…
And principled writing, including writing autobiography or fictionalized autobiography about a difficult childhood takes a lot of courage. Fortitude. To look ugliness and pain in the face is not an easy task.
- The importance of leavening of the text…
But principled writers do not unnecessarily strain or drain their readers. They strive to sustain the flame of hope in the darkest caves that they explore. The work with the principle of leavening their texts. Of finding the moments of humour among the images of pain and suffering.
And the therapy of principled writing heals. Old wounds dry out, and begin to heal; leaving small but almost invisible scars as medals of honour. And the writer is stronger in the broken parts that have been honoured in their texts.
This is what I strove to do in *Daniel’s Disconnected Heart*.
And that is what I am now working on in
*The Sex-Love Question and the Gender Wars*.
Whatever wounds you have, hidden in your childhood history, I do hope you will try to dress them; process them; and heal them. And one way to do that is to practice principled writing about them, whether as private autobiographical writing, or published fictionalized autobiography.
“The unexamined life is not worth living”.
And travelling incognito is not nearly as exciting and enjoyable as telling the world who you are, and where you have been!
With my very best wishes for your happiness and healing.
Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling