Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sickness unto Death 1

When I started majoring in Social Work in 1995, I had recently been diagnosed having Meniere. A chronic hearing and dizziness disease. I had daily seizures and dizziness spells. The sickness meant the end of my professional life as a social worker. 15 years as a social worker was now over. What happened? I had to take care of a newborn child and ensure that it received the necessary medical attention at a hospital. The child was born addicted to drugs. The parents felt that they could treat the infant themselves and a conflict was inevitable. The child received appropriate medical help and was later placed in a foster home. The parents were desperate and threatened to take revenge against my family. Threats where made into actions and the stress caused my illness. The pressure of a small organ in the middle ear, the cochlea, was too big and destroyed hearing and balance cilia found there. When they disappear, gradually lose their hearing and balance is disturbed.

I had to find something else to do with my life than I had done in the past 15 years, and took up an old dream of studying. I have always loved to read and can certainly be called bibilophile. However, studies beyond the 3-year Social Work education was nneve achieved. The disease had led me to an opportunity. I had to make a choice in my life. It's not often you have such "omnidirectional" choices in life, but I think everyone experiences this some time or another. What should I do with my life? "Is life worth living?" asked Albert Camus once. He believed that if you answer YES to this question, then one must also take responsibility for ones life. My choice was to take a master in Social Work, which I spent 4 years on. I finished in 1999.
I well remember my first tutorial with philosopher John Lundstøl in 1995. I had written a 30 page note on "a critical analysis of symbolic interactionism." He had read my note and said he had only one sentence in the note that it was a red line underneath. Low and behold I thought. I must be a natural talent. Not only was I devoted reader, I was obviously a good writer also. But the joy was short-lived. Lundstøl said that this was the only sentence that was worth saving in the note. The rest was worthless talk. He said that if I were to learn to write, I also had to learn to read. I said that I read many books each week, sometimes several books every day. He was not impressed. "You have to read slowly and more critical. You must learn to think for yourself. It is not certain that you will ever have an independent thought, but you have to try. If you want me to be your mentor, this is the only way to go." Confidence sank. It felt like diving from 30 feet and landing with a stomach splash. It hurt. I told about my medical history and it seemed like Lundstøl understood what I said. As I was leaving, he took out a small book from his vast bookshelves. The book was insignificant in size. 100 pages. "I want you to read this book to the next session, but you should read slowly, as slowly as possible. When you are finished reading the book, put it down and write a reconstruction of the book to me." He had given me the book: the Sickness unto Death by Søren Kierkegaard. This seemed like a depressing book. But I chose to trust my supervisor. I had decided to change direction in my life and then I had the courage to rely on other people who want me well.

I have in the years since then, read this book countless times. It was a red thread through my thesis: "Paths to self-understanding" (2000). Later, the main theme in my PhD Thesis; "Shame and Sexual Abuse" (2009). This little book is among the books that changed my life. Strange how Kierkegaard, who lived in the early 1800's and almost never outside of Copenhagen in his short life, could write in such a way that my entire existence is put at stake. Thankyou John Lundstøl for the opportunity you gave me and the trust you showed me by giving me this book. It's going to follow me the rest of my life.

1 comment:

  1. I am so proud to be your sister, Kaare. You have also inspired me to read this book of Kierkegaard. I have learned that "at one point in life, who you are, becomes a choice." You have made your choice and I will be eager to follow you also on your blogg.