Last evening, I finished up my Reason and Imagination course work by reading Thomas De Quincey's essay, "The Pains of Opium." This was an interesting work to read because it was so personal, and consisted of his experience with addiction to Laudanum. Laudanum was a popularly used medicine in the 17-19th centuries. Used primarly for the treatment of painful conditions, it was highly addictive and a psychotropic drug (inducing vivid and often harrowing dreams). Several major writers of the period were frequent users of this drug, Samuel Taylor Coleride to name one. De Quincey took the medication for relief of neuropathy, a painful and debilitating condition affecting the hands and feet. In his essay, De Quincey painfully articulates his journey from one of excitement and fascination (with altered mind-states) to that of an infernal hell.
As I read this work, and then the commentary on it, I was struck by the realization that De Quincey was one of the first personal confessionalists. This genre included Coleridge to some extent, and Charles Lamb (known for his great work with Shakespeare). The confessional writer often wrote from personal experinence, and while not directly seeking self-knowledge, found relevation and recollection necessary to experiencing life more passionately. In the true Romantic sense, these writers found joy in writing about their emotions and passions as moved by Nature, God or even altered mental states.
I didn't realize this until last evening, but I am also a confessional writer. I write from personal experience, and I find great joy in revealing my inner most thoughts and processess. In difference to the Romantics, I seek self-knowledge through my writing (as a means to deeper understanding of my psychological bearing). The Intellectuals of the 19th century would use this medium to explore metaphysics and other psychological discoveries, and later develop theories on many scientific topics. I don't consider myself to be an intellectual, but I am drawn to the exploration of knowledge of the mind, how it works, and how we process life. This is probably my greatest area of fascination, and one topic that I constantly strive for deeper connection.
Like De Quincey, audiences do not always appreciate deep personal revelation; suggesting instead restraint or even refrainment from the activity. I have received criticism on this point as well, and while difficult to take, I do understand it. Some people simply believe that personal feelings, sensitive topics and such should be kept private. I agree to an extent, and have refrained from posting some more specifically pointed articles for that reason. However, since my desire is confessional, I find the process of writing about my emotional and mental state to be incredibly liberating. I find freedom, which for me is the expression of joy, through my personal recollections and explorative journey. I may offend some people, and I may even cringe at times for articles written in haste -- however -- in the long run, I feel that I will have benefitted greatly from this process, and will gain a much richer appreciation of my fellow man (and kindred brethren). My hope is to understand myself better so that I can in turn understand those around me. My point is to develop compassion for the suffering of others, and then to respond with merciful kindness when I come across a suffering soul. To do this requires personal experience, and writing about these experiences helps me to extract the necessary data, formulate opinion, and generate sympathy. I don't know why this is my process for understanding suffering, but it seems to be what works for me at this time in my life. Will I always be confessional in nature? Probably so. I have been this way since childhood, and it seems to suit me well. Not everyone will like what I have to say, and not everyone will understand my views or reasons for publishing such personal comments. I know this, and I accept it. Vunerability always comes at a price, and it is this price that I pay daily when I choose to print my innermost thoughts and feelings for the public spectre.