Y wants to know where my cruelty comes from and why I am so wedded to it. Cruelty is an aspect of civilization, I say. Cruelty is part of power; it’s like the army; you bring it out when you need to. But all your cruelty is against yourself, he says. I laugh. He is displeased. Why do you laugh? he says sharply. I tell him I don’t have much time for the doctrine of self-love. I see it as a kind of windless primordial swamp, and I don’t want to be stuck there. What he calls cruelty I call the discipline of self-criticism.

[Rachel Cusk, Aftermath, 2012]