After the recent introduction of Speed Whippet, I thought I’d bring him in to talk to the monster who gets hysterical whenever I try to have a regular spiritual practice, or any kind of advanced self-knowledge-y practice like Shiva Nata or keeping a dream journal. I reckoned this monster was scared of me making progress, and christened him Fear of Progress aka FOP. So obviously he appeared as an eighteenth-century glamour boy in a powdered periwig and lots of ruffles.
Speed Whippet’s technique this time was to stick very closely to the big questions of NVC: what are you observing, feeling, needing, and requesting? The result wasn’t quite as speedy as last time, but this was a major issue!
FOP: ALACK ALACK ALACK (fans self hysterically)
Speed Whippet: What are you observing?
FOP: FIE FIE FIE
Speed Whippet: You’re observing something you really don’t like, huh?
FOP: (calming down slightly) Well, obviously! I’m a fop. I like to keep things exquisitely superficial.
Speed Whippet: She’s going too deep for you?
FOP: Any depth is too deep for me. I am all surface and no soul. A bubble of nothing in a froth of lace.
Speed Whippet: Poetic! So how do you feel about her getting into all this deep soul stuff?
FOP: La, sir, I am undone!
Speed Whippet: You’re terrified?
Speed Whippet: What do you need?
FOP: I need her to stay on the surface! Where it’s all fluffy and pretty!
Speed Whippet: You need to know she’ll be safe from the pain of self-knowledge?
FOP: How unutterably drab and serious you make it sound.
Speed Whippet: And you need to know she’ll still have playfulness and colour in her life?
FOP: You talk as if I were going to let this happen. (draws rapier with a flourish) Never! I shall never let it happen!
Speed Whippet: Okay, so you need TOTAL CERTAINTY that she’ll be safe from the pain of self-knowledge no matter what.
FOP: Not only that!
Speed Whippet: What else?
FOP: I don’t know. I don’t know! How can I even talk about such nonsense? I don’t understand it, I’m just a beautiful fairy with no soul!
Speed Whippet: You don’t understand the spiritual stuff?
Speed Whippet: So you need to understand what’s going on for her?
FOP: Yes, otherwise how can I protect her? I may look delicate but I’m terrific in a duel. Aha! (flourishes rapier)
Speed Whippet: Okay, so! You’re observing that she’s getting into deep spiritual introspective stuff, and you’re feeling terrified because you need to know she’s safe from pain, and in order to know she’s safe you need to understand this stuff. Which you don’t.
FOP: I don’t! I don’t even know what it is! It’s like asking a dog what’s the problem with going to church!
Speed Whippet: I’m a dog!
FOP: Well, what’s the problem with going to church?
Speed Whippet: …Oh. You get left outside.
FOP: Yes! Outside is all I am! I will always be outside! Don’t let her go inside and leave me here with nobody to pay attention to me!
Speed Whippet: Oh. Oh. Oh. Okay. Wow. You’re feeling terrified because you need attention.
FOP: Do you think I get dressed up like this every morning for my own amusement?
Speed Whippet: Okay, I’m going to ask you to notice something. You spent all morning making her so stuck and terrified that she was literally hyperventilating about keeping a dream journal, and what’s the result?
Speed Whippet: What’s happening right now?
FOP: I’m talking to you.
Speed Whippet: And what does that mean she’s doing?
FOP: Oh! Introspection! I shall swoon! (falls on a chaise longue)
Speed Whippet: So your attempt to protect her from introspection has produced introspection.
FOP: Are you accusing me of being one of those monsters? I refuse to be lumped in with all those dirty beasts. Ugh! (handkerchief to nose)
Speed Whippet: She’s spending more time introspecting about why she can’t introspect than she would if you just let her introspect!
FOP: Egad! But at least I’m keeping her on a lower level. At least she’s not making progress.
Speed Whippet: She is making progress. Whatever blocks you throw up, she’s finding a way round them. It’s just taking her longer and costing her more effort and pain, which I think is another thing you wanted to protect her from.
Speed Whippet: Now I know you’re really upset. You’ve stopped using Restoration comedy exclamations.
FOP: STAP MY VITALS!
Speed Whippet: Okay, nearly.
FOP: What do I do?
Speed Whippet: What would you like to do? What are you requesting?
FOP: Well, I can’t possibly be the kind of – ugh! – ‘monster’ who’s the opposite of what they appear to be. I can’t possibly be enthused about all this soul stuff. I can’t possibly be pro progress. Although, thinking about it – I am a creature of fashion, you know, the latest mode, flitting like a butterfly from one thing to the next – and of course, I always think whatever I leave behind is so last Tuesday, and whatever is now is so utterly now. I love change and newness! It’s just that it has to be meaningless.
Speed Whippet: Why?
FOP: Because I exist to distract, and if something’s meaningful it isn’t a distraction, is it? It’s something you distract from.
Speed Whippet: Because it might be painful?
Speed Whippet: So we’re back to your need to protect her from pain. The trouble is, distracting her from everything meaningful isn’t really protecting her. The pain’s still there. It’s still hurting. Just on a subconscious level where she can’t understand it or fix it. It’s like if someone needs surgery, sure it’s painful and scary but it doesn’t make sense to protect them from it, because then they’ll never get better!
FOP: So I really am just a big useless lump of frippery and I should just go away.
Speed Whippet: No!
FOP: How do you know?
Speed Whippet: Because with these talks, if it’s not happy it’s not the ending. What would you really, really like for her, if you could request anything?
FOP: (crying) Not to need to avoid all the time because there wouldn’t BE any pain to avoid! Gad’s teeth, my makeup is running…
Speed Whippet: That’s a great request! And it sounds like you’d like to help her with that. You know, dealing with her pain so she doesn’t need to avoid it.
FOP: Yes, but how when I don’t have any soul?
Speed Whippet: I never asked why you think you don’t have a soul.
FOP: I don’t know.
Speed Whippet: What is it in you that gives you so much compassion for her pain?
FOP: Well, I’m part of her. So – oh. She has a soul. So it’s not that I don’t have one, it’s that I’ve been disconnected from her soul. I’ve always had access to it, but I’ve been refusing it. Wait… (He twirls around elegantly, and his costume flutters around him in a cloud of lace, shifting, settling again into something different… a beautiful pierrot in white ruffles.) A new image! Do you like it?
Speed Whippet: I love it!
FOP: Pierrot of the moon, the yearning soul… see, now I can support her on her quest, I can go to the depths of the sky with her, I can go deep inside and still be exquisitely pretty on the outside! She can surround herself with images of me, and I’ll remind her to be always longing and dreaming and looking to the stars… And she’ll certainly pay me attention, I mean, look at me! (Holds out his arms, enraptured by his own loveliness.) When I told you I had no soul, you should have told me that I adore beauty! Beauty is truth, truth beauty, how can you love beauty without a soul…
(A silver tear runs down his cheek, the transformation complete.)