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C113: You find a change in focus, or a change in basic faith as to what can go on from the self outward, or inward, but I mean, depending on the self itself, how it moves, or changes, or thinks. It really revitalizes the whole total experience. S114: For myself, in other words, the approach used on others, if I follow that, results in a certain reorganization in myself. Even the acceptance philosophy sort of clashes a little bit with the hypercritical, interpretative philosophy, where you sit, as I always feel, with your little spear, ready to jab the truth (laughs) (C: M-hm. The skills one gains in school are not necessarily what makes us smarter or better people. I studied mitosis, the process of cell division, in high school and aced that exam. Am I a better, smarter person for it? No, but it did help me get a degree. It's time to end education stigma and acknowledge the value that comes from education outside of the classroom or in less-revered institutions. We also need to be thinking about better conversation starters. I see this repeatedly when I'm in gatherings of people with more money: the get-to-know-you questions are about work or pedigree, whereas in less moneyed crowds, questions about current events or pop culture are more likely. SHAME, ATTRACTIVENESS, AND DESIRABILITY Beauty standards parallel systems of oppression. What gets posited as attractive is rarely referred to as disabled or fat, and often reflects cis-normative masculinity and femininity. Making friends is not as much a problem for me as is developing deeper relationships that I feel good about and safe in, she told me. I know I can get too clingy and too needy for attention, emotional support, and reassurance. I'm always worried about what my friends think of me. Recently, Kayla expressed feeling upset with her virtual relationships as well. A few people unfriended her on Facearticle, some stopped following her Instagram account, and others ignored her Snapchats. Kayla also complained about not getting as much attention or reaction from her posts, status updates, selfies, and pictures as she had in the past.

Kayla noticed a pattern of posting in which she would rev up her social-media activity when she felt emotional distress--for example, if she had a bad day at school or an argument with her mother. During times of emotional upheaval, Kayla would spend hours upon hours glued to her computer, logged on to social media, engrossed in a frantic frenzy of posting. She'd meticulously craft perfect posts, revealing her feelings, thoughts, and whereabouts, with the goal of engaging in any kind of interaction to combat her anxiety and bad moods. During these moments, I go on posting binges, hoping my virtual friends will tell me what to do, how to handle my situation, and reassure me that everything will be okay. It's, uh, sort of, uh -- I've seen that so much in others and in myself. It results in a different type of social relationship. In a later session he also indicates the close interweaving of his past experience, the challenge of the present learnings, and the persistent patterns which must be altered if he is to function in the new way. A lot of moral compulsion in me that I applied to myself and applied to others with a certain contempt of weakness. That's the Napoleon statue again. A contempt of weakness in other people. C352: You feel that you demand the same high standards, but question whether or not it is a too high standard or too great a demand. S352: I did demand. I think that's one of the things I have worked through, so please use it in the past tense! C353: Then you feel, I take it, that that is past tense? Light skin is prized over dark, young bodies prized over old bodies. As a result, many of us feel unattractive--and undesired--leading to tremendous shame. When you don't measure up to arbitrary social constructs that allow you to be seen as attractive, it can be very challenging to hold onto the awareness that the problem is in the culture, not your body, and to avoid internalizing your feelings as shame. Conventional beauty is so significant to our lived experience that there's even a whole field dedicated to the study of the economics of physical attractiveness, called pulchronomics. It's well established that pretty privilege can pave the way to more popularity, higher grades, higher salaries, more positive work reviews, and career advancement. Dating Katie, a grad school classmate and conventionally attractive model, was an eye-opener for me.

Pretty privilege filtered into every social encounter she had. I wasn't just unattractive to them--I was invisible. They never considered the possibility that Katie was attracted to me: sexism, homophobia, and looksism, all coalescing. Every outing with Katie revealed how different her experience in the world was from mine. When my friends do respond with comments, likes, or emoji, I feel better, but only for a little while. At other times, it makes me feel more anxious and depressed, because I end up confused and feeling regretful about my social-media actions, reputation, and relationships on top of all the other issues I already struggle with in my real life! I realize I need to learn why I act this way and how to stop going on social media looking for comfort. Most importantly, I need to learn how I can help myself when I'm upset in my actual life. The Pew Research Center began tracking Americans' social-media consumption in 2005. At that time, only 5 percent of Americans used at least one social-media platform. And many people, like Kayla, turn to their virtual friends and followers on social-media sites like Facearticle, Instagram, Snapchat, and LinkedIn as a way to fulfill their attachment needs. As I got to know Kayla better, it became clear that her struggles with relationships both online and offline were, in part, due to her anxious attachment style. Kayla was using her social-media friends as a base to go to when she needed emotional warmth and reassurance. But since Kayla's way of relating to others was characteristic of an anxious attachment, her attempts to connect to her friends often made her feel more anxious instead of secure. It's uh -- that's the reflection that hit me so hard. The overemphasis of the negative and then the next stage was to tie up the hypercritical and the negative. How in the dickens can a person get freedom if he is always emphasizing the negative? Why, freedom means the freedom to make mistakes. And that's what tied up, well, the accepting concept and its basic philosophy ties in too. What I mentioned in class, to Dr Rogers this morning -- Is accepting a histrionic gesture?

C354: What? S354: Is it a histrionic gesture? One puts on an act of accepting, and is the client not going to see through it eventually? So in order to be really accepting I think all of us here at the course all have to undergo terrific reorganization of self, to a greater or lesser degree. It was a regular occurrence, for example, that if Katie fiddled for some change to pay for coffee, the person behind her in line would cover it with a smile, or the barista would take it from his tip jar to cover it. Even straight old ladies had an extra smile for her (and offered to set her up with their grandsons). Knowing she was considered beautiful didn't help Katie feel better about herself. She never trusted people--which makes sense, as people seemed to respond to her beauty rather than who she was. She was deeply insecure, always questioning whether an invitation or job offer was earned based on merit or merely because of her looks. This distrust and insecurity were so central to her character that they eventually overwhelmed me, making our relationship untenable. Our experience mirrored the lessons learned from research7 conducted by social psychologist and professor Christine Ma-Kellams and collaborators, who conducted four studies exploring whether physical attractiveness plays a role in relationship satisfaction and longevity. Among their provocative findings: people deemed attractive were married for shorter durations, more likely to divorce, and--get this--more likely to have their relationships be threatened or dissolved due to their partner's poor relationship satisfaction. While conventional attractiveness comes with many privileges, there's a dark lining that's less discussed: it may work against that sustained connection many of us seek, and get in the way of us feeling seen and truly valued. Culturally constructed beauty ideals also inform how we view others, influencing who we consider attractive. We tend to treat others the same ways we were treated; So, securely attached parents are likely to raise securely attached kids. Anxiously and avoidantly attached parents are likely to raise anxiously attached kids who later become anxiously or avoidantly attached adults. Kayla's behaviors, though typical for an anxiously attached adult, were confusing to her friends, causing them to pull away from her at times. Back to Kayla Sometimes my parents were emotionally available, and at other times they completely ignored me, Kayla told me in session.

So as a kid, I often felt confused and anxious! I never knew what to expect from my parents. But I learned early that in order to get their attention I had to be clingy or in a state of desperation. Especially with my mom: she was anxious and self-absorbed when I was growing up, and unfortunately she still is today. Of course, Dr Rogers thinks almost anybody can counsel with more or less some degree of effectiveness. I don't know. But that's the way I see it as far as I am concerned, that I will find a certain growth, that in the accepting of behavior of others I am also learning, or making it easier to accept myself. And that of course should reduce the pressure in my marital situation. I'll have to accept certain of my wife's weaknesses more. I don't know yet whether it was a good marriage or not, but at least my role hasn't been a very free or mature one. And I at least can improve my role, whether the improving of my role will be -- will result in a positive solution, I'm not sure. I don't know. I do know I can't sit here and debate about it. The first thing I'll do is try to behave in a more mature and independent fashion. Desire, in other words, is not innate, but deeply political. And desire affects more than who we want to date or have sex with; It saddens me how we are all denied full opportunities for love, sex, friendship, and so much more due to people internalizing desirability constructs. I've learned to become vigilant when my behavior mimics oppressive structures, and my desires have broadened over time, though there's still more work to be done. Writer, activist, and teacher Caleb Luna advises: It remains important to me to interrogate desire--not to then become attracted to everyone, but to be aware of what powers are informing my desire and what I am upholding with my desire--but also so that culturally ugly folks who remain publicly and visibly undesired can still receive the justice of interpersonal value and appreciation, especially in our most intimate relationships. In a keynote speech, Moving Toward the Ugly: A Politic Beyond Desirability, delivered at the Femmes of Color Symposium, writer, educator, and community organizer Mia Mingus pushes us to challenge the exclusionary beauty constructs that erase disabled people, People of Color, trans and gender non-conforming folks, and fat people, and move towards what she calls magnificence, a concept that embraces ugliness and celebrates the diversity of bodies--of every body.