Fear like fog

Of human emotions and affects, shame settles in like a dense fog, obscuring everything else, imposing only its own shapeless, substanceless impressions. It becomes impossible to establish bearings or orient oneself in relation to the broader landscape. Like fog, shame distorts visions and influences what is seen. But more. Shame also feels like a weight, a heaviness, a burden, pressing down often at the top of the back, forcing the body into the characteristic posture … shoulders hunched, the body curved forward, head down, and eyes averted. The burden of shame can settle into different parts of the body — the pit of the stomach, the face or eyes, or externally, an aura encasing the entire self. Shame induces a wish to become invisible, unseen, to sink into the ground or to disappear into the thick, soupy fog that we have just imagined. — Andrew Morrison

I like that quote by Morrison, not because I’m feeling shame today, but because of the way it evokes the link between fog and the emotion. These days, the view of the mountain from our house is often obscured by a dense mist-like cloud which creeps down, bringing cold and rain. Four mornings a week I leave home at 6.30am when it’s still dark and cold.

This morning I had to leave the dog outside in the laundry where she at least has her dog-bed to snuggle up in. But there’s a lot of anxiety in that simple leaving. This is the same dog that bit her way into a previous house, breaking the same window twice and cracking it the third time. She has bitten her way through a (flimsy) garage door and also bent the bars of a security gate with her teeth. So a simple act of leaving my dog alone for the day is filled with anxiety. I’m half expecting a call from my neighbours to say that the dog has escaped and is now with them. Last time she landed up at the Kirstenbosch nursery.

And then there are other hassles, including my ever-unreliable tenants in Johannesburg and another upcoming long-distance trip for work.

On the reading front, I’m mostly enjoying a friend’s The Halo and the Noose, a book on using stories in business, and also finishing Charlene Smith’s Committed to Me, which is a combination of self-help, feminism and personal anecdotes and is subtitled “making better decisions in life, love and work”. And then there’s Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture, which has been languishing for too long on the bedside table.

The only other thing to report is that I’ve been watching too much sport on TV, including the Super 14 rugby and also the Indian Premier League Twenty20 cricket. The team I chose as “my team”, the Royal Challengers Bangalore, narrowly lost to the Deccan Chargers last night in the final. For me it was a struggle of brute aggression (Deccan) versus the more elegant style of Bangalore. I realise that comparison doesn’t really work but at a more visceral level I just can’t bring myself to like Herschell Gibbs or Andrew Symonds. Bangalore had a revitalised and innovative Kallis (also Boucher and van der Merwe) and included the Indian greats of Kumble and Dravid. They were cruising to victory and got muscled out by the Chargers, leaving me to reflect on why I allow myself to get so worked up about silly things like cricket.


13 Responses to Fear like fog

  1. adevotedreader says:

    I’ll be interested to hear what you think of The Secret Scripture when you do get to it Pete.

    I’ve been enjoying the IPL as well, although have to disagree about the Deccan Chargers. Any team with Gillie on it is the team for me!

  2. boxofbooks says:

    That sounds like perfect weather for reading Wuthering Heights, if you’re still into Great Lady Authors.

  3. Effendi says:

    join the cricket ‘club’, Pete. So near for Bangalore. Now we can relax til the Lions tour starts…

  4. Pete says:

    Sarah – I have to agree that Gillie is an amazing cricketer. And also amazing that two ‘retired’ Aussie cricketers (Gilchrist and Hayden) dominated the IPL. Maybe Deccan aren’t so bad 😉

    Ella – Very appropriate! Will dig it out and add it to the reading pile.

    Effendi – Which is next week right? Should be good …

  5. sandy says:

    Shame is one of those emotions that is rarely volunteered on the couch. Embarrassed must be egged out. Ashamed is seldom forthcoming. It’s too intense and buried, even to reveal to a therapist, apparently.

    I, too, like to read the Great Lady Authors, as BoxOfBooks says. Will have to swap harder to find authors lists.

  6. sandy says:

    P.S. I love how your sidebar pops out a picture of my blog when I hover near it. Cool.

  7. doctordi says:

    Pete, that quote on shame was so sad and bleak… a great description, and the fog metaphor is perfect, but it was deflating, too. I guess we never forget the feeling.

    Your dog sounds like a Dr Seuss character. Very cool, despite your very real anxiety.

  8. litlove says:

    I think that quote is marvellous – I’d like it even more if it didn’t describe how I feel at the moment – certainly foggy and upset. It must be such a worry leaving your dog behind. I feel for you, and I can’t do early mornings – they ruin my outlook on a whole day. This is a very dreary comment, so I’ll end by saying that a bit of healthy displacement onto sport sounds quite sensible to me!

  9. Pete says:

    Sandy – I also think that’s cool re the link to your site. And very true about how difficult it is to talk about shame, especially in therapy. Good luck with the book swapping.

    DoctorDi – Yes, bleak quote but I like the way it describes how an emotion like that can just take over our thoughts. (The same with anxiety I find.) And my dog is very weird. Some days she’s a quivering wreck when the garbage people come, but yesterday she apparently just calmly looked at them through the gate. Did she really mellow out in the space of a week?! (BTW, check your spam queue for my comment on your post.)

    Litlove – Sorry that you’re feeling upset. I hope whatever it is starts to lift with the mist. And I’m also sorry that I still can’t comment on your (or any other wordpress) blog. As long as you know that I do read your posts. And I’ll have to think whether sport is healthy displacement or not – my team’s loss threw me into a funk for days!

  10. mmaaggnnaa says:

    Hey, Pete –

    I really liked the quote about shame . . . and I like that fog, like shame, dissipates when it gets warmed by sunshine!

    – Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

  11. Ally says:

    That is a great quote about shame. Reading about the hunched shoulders and body curved forward really got me. In my 3rd or so session with a new therapist, my current one, I told her that I felt I was hunched over a “sack of shame” and I couldn’t lift my head to look forward or meet anyone’s eyes. It helped to pour out some of the nasty black sludge in the sack and have it met with compassion rather disgust.

  12. Pete says:

    Ally – Welcome! And so glad you found such a good therapist (or good therapy experience).

  13. doctordi says:

    I found ’em, a whole heap of ’em… so annoying to think your comments have been there all along. And maybe your dog’s just messin’ with the garbos… keeping them on their toes, toying with their fear… a girl’s gotta keep herself amused somehow, you know.

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