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Urticaria, fear and reassurance

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I just had an episode of urticaria. During the night my body was hitching, and I did scratch. When I woke up my whole body was covered in red marks. Wherever I had scratched my skin was bright red, as if I had been flagellated… Worst: my body was still hitching but now I knew I could not scratch it again.

The doctor obviously gave me the standard antihistamine that does not do anything… she said that I just had to wait a week and it would calm down by itself. When I insisted in having an idea of the cause she said that “we do not know, it could be anything”… very reassuring!

I hated this doctor for the vagueness she left me with, I hated her for making me feel vulnerable, open to a violent allergic skin reaction without knowing what to do to avoid it next time. After irritation and mild hate, fear kicked in: and what about if this urticaria happened again in the middle of a trip in a remote country? If I do not know what provokes it… it could happen anywhere and at anytime…

The fear of not controlling really freaked me out. I needed to understand and find the cause, if not I was in danger.

I am back home now, sipping my cappuccino and thinking about the whole episode… No surprises I am interested in Cybernetics! Was it not called the “science of control”? I am probably a total control freak. Worst: I am resisting it. Although control would make me feel better (if I knew the cause of urticaria I could prevent it next time) it is actually the part of cybernetics that is not about control that interests me.

Andrew Pickering’s “ontology of the unknowable”, Francisco Varela’s ‘enactment’, Gordon Pask’s Musicolor… all the aspects of cybernetics that open the view of life as an unpredictable, multilayered world of possibilities… basically everything BUT controllable…

Is this not ironic? What am I searching in this PhD? Am I trying to escape from my own patterns of inner control?

I somewhere desperately need to get out of the feeling of control, I somewhere know that control is not the answer for the life I want to have… and yet, this is where I am: stuck between the fear of not controlling my own life and the need of freedom and lightness.

I kind of see a pattern of fear here: fear of not being able to cope (with the urticaria, with the PhD, with the building work in the house…). Somehow I would like to be reassured that I will be fine, that I will work it out… why?

Maybe I have not learned as a kid that “I will be OK”.

When I had repetitive cases of ear infection in my teens I was scared, scared of not recovering, scared of being different from the others, scared of pain.

I could see on my mother’s eyes that she was preoccupied too, and this did not reassure me whatsoever. She would deal with the situation on a practical level: taking the appointment with the doctor, handling “what to do about it”, but she did not reassure my emotion of fragility, actually she probably re-enforced it. My father, on the other hand, was disregarding the issue. For him “everything was OK” I would grow out of ear infections just as he did grow out of chest infections at the same age… this seemed to me, at the time, reassuring. By minimizing the problem he made me feel better… things were all right after all. What I did not realize then was that by minimizing the problem he was also disregarding my emotions. Instead of learning that it was ok to feel scared, instead of being hold in his arms to calm my panic, I learned that it was not OK to be scared. I also, as a consequence, did not learn how to cope with it.

The double message was: you should not be scared (but I was) and you should learn to deal with it from a practical point of view (taking an appointment with the doctor). What was completely left out was “me”, me the scared kid that just wanted to be reassured. Understanding my frustration, allowing me to feel lost, and cocooning me in a comforting adult embrace would have probably made the trick. But that was not the style of my parents. Although they truly loved us (me and my brother) they would not expressed it like this. My mum, being French, was loving but not very physical, and my father, although Italian, was escaping from his own emotions, therefore was completely unable to provide any emotional support or attachment to others. I am not blaming them… they had their own past, their own issues, and they did what they could with what they were…

But here I am… more than thirty years later and still fragile and somehow scared…

If as an adult I now realize that controlling and dealing with the practical side of things is not enough for me, but I am struggling to find in me the confidence that “I will be all right”… maybe because I have not experience it as a kid. I just do not know how to do this.

No wonders than that the key words of my PhD are “experience”, “emotion”, “unknowability”, “co-arizing”, “multiple”, “interaction”… all words that point out to a vision of life as fluid, as not controllable, as dependent from interactivity with the others, with out environment… all words that bring me away from a vision of control that did not work for me, as it always addressed only my rational side, leaving my emotional needs on the side.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

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