After Life

Book Two: Purgatory

From Journeys and Transitions

by Melanie

Chapter 88

Man in the Pocket

November 19, 2005

Saturday morning.  As with most plans, once they are put into play they are adjusted and refined to conform to changing circumstances.  So too, it is with my initial self-defensive mental shift of yesterday.

The plan still works.  Whenever I feel pain rising by comparing my own features to those of Teresa or other women, I simply remember that I am just a feminine man who dresses as a woman, and the pain goes away.

Still, with all the physical qualities I have, it is difficult to think of myself that way all the time.  In fact, I found myself slipping back into thinking of myself as a woman while I wasn’t looking.

In investigating my feelings, I discovered that trying to force myself to think of myself as a man when the triggers of pain were not present created a different kind of discomfort.  This new negative experience was not pain, but a deadening of my spirit.  As I hammered my mind into the new perspective, I felt my emotions subside, my joy of life lessen, and my sex drive diminish.  Clearly, these were side effects I would rather avoid, if possible.  Yet, if it was a choice between the pain and the side effects, I’d rather suffer the results and sidestep the pain.  But if I could reduce these new problems or mitigate them altogether, so much the better.

So, late last night, I began to explore the situation.  Teresa, on her own without having conversed with me on this issue, sensed the same thing, and approached me as she always did, treating me as a gentle, feminine, female creature.

I had told her earlier that it was still okay to call me by female pronouns, since that seemed more appropriate, but she extrapolated the meaning behind my words, unknown at that time to myself, that I really didn’t want to live in the “I am male” attitude perpetually.

I found that the new attitude precluded me from fully embracing and responding to her overtures.  But letting go for just a while and adopting the old point of view once more opened the flood gates of involvement.

From this, I came to realize that treating my problem with the new mind set was like treating a physical condition even when there is no outbreak – under those conditions, it can do far more harm than good.  Selective treatment is the order of the day if I were to maximize my happiness and minimize my pain.

Of course, I am familiar with such a psychological model.  In my work as co-creator of the Dramatica theory, we developed the concept that if a character is driven by a personal problem, it is like a disease.  The solution to his problem would be the cure.  Sometimes the cure is not available for most of the story; sometimes not at all.

In the meantime, the problem creates symptoms, which though they are not the cause of the difficulty, are usually the only signs that the true disease, which remains hidden, exists at all.  Our minds tend to focus on the symptoms, which are in our face (in my case quite literally), when the cure does not exist or is not available.  Then, we seek treatment for the symptoms in order to salve them, to drive them away for a while, knowing full well they will return again down the line.  This determines the direction we take in our quests to resolve our difficulties.

So, Disease, Cure, Symptom, and Treatment, are a satisfactory analogy for the psychological attributes of Problem, Solution, Focus, and Direction.

My issues are not really gender related.  Rather, I still suffer from issues of low self-esteem, a sense of little self-worth.

Right now in my life, this very real disease (meaning literally Dis- Ease) is triggered, symptomized by gender issues.  So, seeing myself as not being a real woman isn’t the actual problem.  The problem is my negative self-image.

There is no cure for that right now.  Perhaps, someday, I will uncover one.  But for now, all I can hope to do is find a treatment for the symptom – something to Focus on, which will then determine the Direction I take.

Have you figured it out?  My treatment of choice is to try on different attitudes to see what works, as scientific a method as placing bacteria in a variety of growth media to determine which Petrie dish is most effective in beating back the Hun.

Therefore, the Direction I choose, is to keep a lab notebook, this journal, where I document the impact and ramifications of each new treatment that is tried.

There-in lies the reason for such dramatic shifts of mind during the course of this discourse.  As the data from each new experiment are tabulated, patterns emerge, and other experiments are suggested by the results.

One hopes that, somewhere in the process, a promising treatment turns out to be a cure.  Some cures are found simply by sticking with it long enough to find it among the potential treatments.  But other approaches, like gene therapy or stem cells, will never show up in the family of conventional treatments and require developing a completely new approach, sometimes a whole new science before one can even tell if it truly holds promise.

Either way, treating the symptoms often teaches us enough about the disease to get a sense of it without having ever been able to observe it directly.  And this information can help us conceive of the new science that might be necessary to eradicate it once and for all.

Stepping back now from the conceptual to the case at hand, it became clear over the night and early morning that I was far more comfortable thinking of myself as I have recently, as a true and real woman, but if I find through some physical comparison the rise of pain, I can combat it with a dose of “I am male” and the pain is virtually dissipated.

Therefore, I must return to the default position of seeing myself as fully female, but keep my “male inhaler” in my purse at all times, should I suffer an attack when out and about.

Now, we are all aware that some treatments become less effective in time as the organism becomes acclimated the preparation.  Other treatments remain effective as long as you need.  Usually, the symptoms of non-fatal diseases continue to respond well to ongoing treatment, but the symptoms of potentially fatal maladies become resistant to any treatment, requiring either a succession of different approaches, or a rotation among several, much as one might rotate crops.

In some cases, treatments must be stopped altogether for a time due to their collective impact on the health of the body as a whole, just as when a field is left fallow for a season.  Assuming that the disease will not consume the patient during this time, another regimen can begin and once more dilute the impact of the symptoms.

So, whether this “man in the pocket” approach will remain effective is unknown at this time.  But for now, it does provide a respite from the suffering, allowing me to more fully concentrate on discovering a true cure for the malady, m’lady.

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