Ah, it can make life difficult from time to time when your basic fear is of annihilation. I'm afraid of my personality being squelched, of my person being killed, of my being being obliterated, not to mention my soul. I went to a Psychic Healer (neuropsych consultant at Plain University) because I'm concerned about my memory loss. I told him and his minions that when I was 16 I had some tests, and I became hostile toward the tester. Later I said I realized why: It was the individual's response to the notion and action of the testing experience, where the tester is trying to capture you in the confines of the test. So of course what happened was, after giving me tests that made sense (repeat this list of words, repeat this list of numbers, recall this image, add these numbers and these numbers, recall the animals in the first list but not the second list, etc., etc.), though were also annoying because they showed a cultural bias, the minion gave me the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Profile to fill out at lunch. I was hoping to eat lunch at lunch and read about Reconstruction (of the South, not the breasts). Instead I answered True and False to statements like, I believe that working hard mostly leads to success. (In this economy? Among *all* people in this unequal world?) And: I fear earthquakes. I fear snakes. I fear spiders. I'm afraid of flying. I get upset before short trips. (Separate statements.)What is a short trip? I was anxious before driving to Valparaiso because I don't drive on highways much and I had to get myself organized to talk to a class and do a reading and an interview. Is 90 miles a short trip? Is going to Trader Joe's several blocks down? How about going half a mile to B and S's?
I was annoyed at the cultural bias (The world is generally a fair place.) and also at the lack of subtlety. Either true or false. Nothing in between. It was also decidedly archaic: I don't read all the editorials in the newspaper. If I were a journalist I'd like to cover sporting news. I remember that phrase exactly: sporting news. There were several statements about being a journalist. There was none, strangely enough, that said, If I were a journalist I would be depressed to be in a dying profession, and I'd probably be out of work and freelancing for my former employer at one-tenth the pay and without health insurance besides. Another statement was like this: I'm as happy as most people. What does that mean, in this land of foreclosures, in a world of war and suffering? As happy as most people? Even Freud famously and modestly attempted to restore people to ordinary unhappiness. Other statements: I have many brilliant ideas. I could be famous. I know more than some experts. People think my ideas are strange or peculiar. I could be a comedian. I'm assuming that a True would indicate mania and unrealistic ego inflation. But I have had brilliant ideas. Ten percent of the people I went to grad school with are famous. I know three MacArthur-certified geniuses. I was paid as a comedian in grad school. People do think my ideas are strange, and I think that's a positive. I've been analyzing culture through, as they say, feminist and Marxist lenses, for 25 years. I do know more than some experts. (But, Cancer Bitch, what if the statements have more to do simply with self-esteem and in the case of the comedy career, with optimism and sense of humor?)
L and my friend G the therapist say I shouldn't try to out-psych the test. Wanting to do so is probably a sign of a controlling personality and inflated ego. But I could have told you that.
And, said my other friend G: What if Maureen Dowd or Steve Martin took the test? What if a Nobel-Prize winner with truly brilliant ideas?
I decided not to turn in my answers. The Psychic Healer was annoyed. He said that the test helped him in his diagnosis. (Do you want to know what I fear? What I tell myself? What my faults are? If I'm anxious? For $20 I'll sell you any of my books and you can find out in any five pages. Or read this blog for free.) Yes, Cancer Bitch is hostile. Just like when she was 16 years old. Which disappoints her, she who wants to change into a better person. He gave me a test that he didn't like as much, but which I liked better, because there were gradations: False, Somewhat True, Mostly True, Very True.
But the main thing is, probably (and I could have told you this not much after 16), that I am afraid of being pigeon-holed. I'm afraid of a world going on without me. Of that old demon, Thanatos. Who isn't?