Without attending to the varieties of constraint and unconsciousness that condition ordinary activity we persist in an attachment to a fantasy that in the truly lived life emotions are always heightened and expressed in modes of effective agency that ought justly to be and are ultimately consequential or performatively sovereign. In this habit of representing the intentional subject, a manifest lack of self-cultivating attention can easily become recast as irresponsibility, shallowness, resistance, refusal, or incapacity; and habit itself can begin to look deeply overmeaningful, such that addiction, reaction-formation, conventional gesture clusters, or just being different can be read as heroic placeholders for resistance to something, affirmation of something, or a transformative desire. I am not saying that any given response or evidence of sentience is not these things, but one should not take for granted, either, that subjects are always involved, universally and in full throttle, in projects of self-extension according to the will-have-been of future anteriority. Self-continuity and self-extension are different things. Another way to say this might be that lives are not novels, and no critic has ever accounted for all the details in a novel either.

Lauren Berlant, “Slow Death (Sovereignty, Obesity, Lateral Agency)”