Best post I can offer right now

Posted in mental health, personal, philosophy, rants with tags , on March 13, 2014 by theweirdphilosopher

I come here. I start a post. I stop writing after five words because I don´t know why I would want to post my thoughts on a blog written by a person who has nothing much to do with myself. The person who has been writing this blog – she simply isn´t me anymore. I´m not her anymore, and I don´t have her largely imaginary problems.

Well. Okay, maybe that´s unfair. But this blog doesn´t really offer room anymore for the feelings I have and for the things that prey on me. I don´t really have a place for that anymore and this bugs me. I want to communicate my thoughts and experiences, but I no longer want to do so in the context of mental health issues. I feel so disconnected from the vast majority of my posts on here. Even now I´m trying to create room for what I really want to talk about, instead of actually getting to talk about it.

Could it be that many people only feel drawn to mental health issues or define themselves as mentally ill because it allows them to talk openly about their emotions? Could this, even when they actually are ill, be part of what stops them from getting well? The threat that if they get well they can´t dwell on their inner experience anymore? Am I not myself constantly looking for a justification to talk about myself, analyze myself, muse on psychological questions? But why does it take a justification? Shouldn´t it be enough that it´s sort of well written? Isn´t it silly how much of a taboo it is to talk about ourselves, yet we are so addicted to it that we make up all sorts of dumb excuses to do it anyway? Like: “I´m only analyzing myself in detail because I hope it will help me become a better person/get rid of my illness?” It´s not even like we don´t believe in those stories! But if we absolutely need a justification, should we maybe try to find better ones? Some that don´t require we stay ill forever so we get to talk about ourselves and be taken seriously?

When I try to write a blog post on here I feel like I´m locked inside a story of which I no longer am the protagonist. It´s someone else´s story I´ve been trying to live, and I´m growing very, very tired of it. Even resent it, as it is the story I deemed more worthwhile than my own. And not just the story – the person. I presented myself as a person I thought was more valuable than the person I really am. I don´t like that person anymore. Hell, I don´t even like that kind of person when I encounter her in real life. I used to think that´s unfair, but is it, really? Is anyone entitled to being liked by me?

Is this meant by the sanctity of feelings? That you cannot demand people stop having a specific feeling because it is immoral to feel that way? Is it really immoral to demand for someone to have different feelings about a subject? I have contrary intuitions on that. I´ll need to think about that when I´m less tired.

 

 

The compulsion to entertain false beliefs

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , , , , on February 9, 2014 by theweirdphilosopher

If I have any aim in my personal development (which is far from linear), it is achieving what I would call one possible definition of sanity: The absence of any internal psychological compulsion to believe something radically false.

In my view, such a compulsion would not so much stem from genuinely unconscious motives, memories and impulses, but rather from cognitive dissonance. I have had my fair share of experience with false beliefs and delusions based on cognitive dissonance, and maybe even more than my fair share. While someone who clings to an obviously deluded opinion which is completely out of line with his original ideas and his very own interests might not technically be psychotic, his reality testing is obviously impaired. Not by any traceable illness, but, as it seems, by his foolish attempts at avoiding an injury to his self-esteem. And that, for anyone with intellectual standards, is a humiliating place to be in.

It is a situation that shows me my personal limits like no other. Right from the start, there have always been times when I tried to believe the opposite of beliefs I knew to be false, and yet as soon as I stopped intentionally agonizing over how wrong I was, the false beliefs would slip back in place. Not completely, more in the sense of double bookkeeping. My previous realization that specific beliefs of mine were false would remain without consequence. I would, for example, acknowledge that my family was not actually abusive, and yet still perceive and treat them as hostile. When noticing my behavior, I would seek rationalizations for it which relied on very sinister interpretations of events that, other than my original stories, had actually taken place, thus making my explanations seemingly conform to reality as I knew it while still having the necessary exonerating effect.

From what I´ve gathered, some studies on cognitive dissonance show that people who are faced with contrary arguments or even evidence tend to cling to their opinions even more fiercely. If that is the case, then telling myself how wrong I am and agonizing over my foolishness and the embarrassment of it is actually going to predispose me for another relapse! And yet this is precisely the “cure” I´ve been administering whenever I came close enough to even seeing in which way I was ill.

The motive behind that line of action was my idea that in order to cleanse or rid myself of the past, I had to suffer for it. I still sort of sympathize with this view, but I might be overlooking the price I already payed. Fact is, most of the things I agonize over happened 10+ years ago, so my whole occupation with them doesn´t seem quite adequate in the first place. But that aside, those are 10 years which could have been productive. Productive, happy, adventurous. They were so to some extent, and I wouldn´t want to miss most of them, but there was always an element of gloom and self-loathing which wouldn´t have needed to be there.

I do need to sort out my belief system. But I´m doing myself and my connection to reality a great disservice if I try to make it intentionally painful. It is my good days, not my bad days that brought me to the point of even recognizing my errors. I said before that depression is an enemy of the truth. You have a much greater chance of looking at things objectively if you decrease the need to interpret everything in your favour. Depression, however, only makes you more sensitive towards anything that could be seen as failure.

I fear that I cannot muster up the mental strength to reality-test my beliefs. Some people in my past have hurt me a great deal with what they said, and I don´t know if I could stand coming to the conclusion that they were justified in doing so. The thought evokes a sense of despair, like: Was I right in absolutely nothing? Can´t I even rely on the notion that what hurts me cannot be alright? Unfortunately, that is pretty much what going crazy does to you.

Already we are back in the realm of self-punishment. Torturing myself with such ideas gives me a certain sense of satisfaction, at least as long as I can stand them even though I initially thought I couldn´t. It might actually be useful of sorts, but, like I said: Only if I can stand it. If I realize I can´t and stop, I have renewed the cognitive dissonance and in turn my need to entertain false beliefs.

Maybe this phenomenon can be compared to exposure therapy in the treatment of anxiety disorder. It is only effective if the patient makes the experience that he can stand the situation he was scared of. If he ends it prematurely, he makes the opposite experience. Today anxiety patients frequently receive drug treatment, too, so they have to work through less fear during the exposure in the first place, rendering success more likely. Similarly, if I was less depressed, I would probably be more tolerant towards the idea that I was wrong and that others were right telling me so and reacting negatively to it even though it was torture for me at the time. By accepting this idea, I could free myself from the need for it to not be true, which would open up the possibility of looking at the whole thing with fresh eyes.

There are still some therapists, however, who believe that drug treatment takes away from the effectiveness of exposure therapy because the patient isn´t forced to confront the real extent of his anxiety. Likewise, some have the idea that those who take antidepressants don´t want to face themselves. I´m inclined to believe, though, that a stable mood actually facilitates this task.

 

My fundamental error

Posted in personal, philosophy with tags , , on January 26, 2014 by theweirdphilosopher

I feel distraught. I feel a strange mercilessness towards myself; like I will no longer let myself get away with something that was a larger part of my life than I realized.

I think it is all that writing advice that I read. So much about what to keep in mind for the benefit of your audience. I looked over my blog from a distance and I saw how much I ramble and how incoherently I write. And I wondered why it ever occurred to me to publish that. It seems like nothing that belongs in front of an audience. Did I simply lose sight of the fact that there is a difference between a real and an imagined audience? Between a panel of imaginary judges and actual readers?

I think what really makes me qualify as unbalanced is the carelessness with which I put things out in the open that have no business being there. When I started this blog I didn´t want to wait anymore until I had something to say that would benefit an actual audience. I simply longed to be somebody, to have some sort of identity. My model was a fellow blogger with a series of mental disorders who had won several awards for the way she was writing about her life. It actually is an amazing blog. I was just very much mistaken in believing I could create, leave alone be something similar. In trying to do so, however, I merely managed to show just how incredibly fragile my ego is.

Some philosopher said that Homer wouldn´t have written the Iliad if he had been an Achilles. I have often wished to be the character of a novel more than to be the author. A blog seemed to be a fairly easy way to achieve that. Unfortunately, though, even as a blogger I don´t get to decide what history I come with or what dark truth is lurking underneath my confusion. Despite the ease with which people claim identities for themselves nowadays, you don´t become an Achilles by slapping a label on yourself and defining your voice as representative of said label. I cannot resolve my fundamental disdain for myself by treating identities as nothing more than a convenience.

When I was reading to children at a local kindergarten, they often pointed to the pictures in the books, yelling: “That´s me!” – “That´s me!” and, if the desired identity was already taken, they would compromise: “Okay, then that´s me!” Sometimes, of course, they would also quarrel. You got to be the coolest girl in the other book, now it´s my turn! Having to compare myself to five-year-olds is not very flattering, but I did have a similar take on reality for an uncomfortably long stretch of time. On some level I did believe that you could make yourself a certain kind of person just by saying so. And this is also, ultimately, what was behind my ability to believe I had amnesia. It was not my reason for doing so, but it enabled me to do so.

Reality itself still seems incredibly unlikely to me, starting with the idea that I could possibly have erred so much. Yet at the same time I feel that by understanding my error I´m making an experience that transcends the fundamental gap between me and the thinkers I admired most. I always knew I was wrong in some way, and now that I can see my foolishness, I have a lot more respect for myself.

Reality, however, has some far darker truths to offer, and I´m not sure if I will be capable of accomodating my self-image to them, too. Unfortunately, though, I feel like a lot more than just my self-respect depends on that. This reality is the experience and the history life has to offer me, and if I fail to take them, I will forever be a person of no substance.

Well, didn´t I miss being sane!

Posted in morbid, personal with tags , on January 12, 2014 by theweirdphilosopher

You can probably tell that I wasn´t quite myself in my last two posts. I have a file on my computer dedicated to more of what I´d like to call “my new psychosis”, as I can clearly feel – however accurate what I say may be – that I say it in a state of madness. I now recognize fixed ideas and sudden, manic obsessions in myself; not so much by their content, but by the accompanying feelings. That would typically be: Excitement to the point of physical arousal, absurd euphoria that can give way to megalomaniacal optimism, and the feeling that something big is about to happen and bring by the great change that will make all that I know as misery obsolete.

You wouldn´t think I had such feelings judging by the content of the stuff I last wrote. Indeed, this started out as increased inner conflict and being upset about possibly contradicting myself and changing my mind on things, and then it turned into a barely controlled self-destruction orgy. The resulting feelings are, unfortunately, highly addictive, and they also are the last thing I´d ever want anybody to see in me. And yet I seem to depend on that, as after a few days I suddenly lost the ability to make me feel them myself. At first it was actually hard to bring myself down like that, but then it got incredibly easy, to the point that I thought I could really cope with anything life threw at me because I´d learned how to drop my ego and let it shatter. Or I guess maybe I actually did know better, because like I said:  By now I know madness when I feel it. My judgement was dulled, though; I might as well have been drunk. I guess you could pin it down to a complete lack of sleep, though. I´m clinging to reasonable explanations, which might not be so unreasonable, given that last night was the first night in five that I slept more than roughly four hours. Anyway. Lack of sleep explains the when, it doesn´t explain the what-the-hell-do-I-do-about-this.

I regularly sit there, cranky as it gets, and I want to scream for someone to take me apart and beat the hell out of me for being everything I am because I need it so much I could punch a wall. Trouble is that I can´t communicate this. I can tell someone what to do (if I´m allowed to assume a different identity, speak in vast circumscriptions and a foreign language), but I can´t tell anyone what I want to feel, leave alone let them witness it. I cannot tell anyone my intention behind this, that is the beliefs that drive me, since they feel so damn genuine in the moment and that is at odds with everything I represent. Without this kind of honesty, though, actually doing anything (such as taking a beating) would miss the point. The subtext is sorely needed.

In fantasy, this is solved by mind-reading, but if anyone in reality failed to go through the necessary steps of establishing consent, it would give me very bad vibes and I wouldn´t want to go any dark corners with that person, leave alone those of my mind. So there´s really no way around this problem. And as it is, that drives me up the walls.

A comparatively reasonable post

Posted in personal with tags , on January 9, 2014 by theweirdphilosopher

It is one of my sore points that I have failed writing. But for all my claims that I´m a failure and for all my arguing that writing tips cannot help me, I never admitted to myself that I see something wrong with my writing.

 

I cannot separate my writing from myself. It was never a discipline which I had to conquer if I wanted to claim it for myself. It was part of my anatomy. To dislike my writing is to dislike myself. Not that it doesn´t happen quite regularly.

Writing was never something I could feel enhanced me or made me a more experienced person, someone who had learned and evolved in the process. It wasn´t a process I underwent that left me beatified and wiser. And yet I jealously claimed it for myself – maybe precisely because I couldn´t get that fundamental experience out of it. I feel unworthy.

I feel unworthy because I never put proper effort in my writing. I wrote the way I knew how to write and I alternately demanded and angsted that/if this was good enough, but I would never seriously have considered the idea that my writing could be better. I never truly worked to convey that special spark that I felt when thinking up stories, I only waited for the ability to communicate it to come.

This is not about pleasing others. It is about communicating, putting to paper the thing that made me live in this story and become the characters.

Writing tips indeed do not reach the core of this problem. This is not about writing an objectively good text or pleasing an audience, it is about getting across precisely the feelings the story evoked in me when it came to my mind. It is difficult, as what is so evocative typically is the story´s summary which comes in form of a drastic contrast or a bittersweet message. The question I really need to ask myself is how to draw that out over the course of the entire story. There will be many single feelings and emotion-ridden scenes, but how do I make the final picture, from a step away,  evoke what I want it to evoke? And this is the part I never worked at hard enough. I wrote one scene that conveyed it all, and then I gave up. I´m good at writing symbolic first paragraphs with tons of foreshadowing, but I feel I´m ruining everything by writing anymore.

The thought that writing could become something manageable, something I know how to do, is very exciting.

Undoing myself, for better or for worse

Posted in morbid, personal with tags , , , , on January 8, 2014 by theweirdphilosopher

If it is true that our greatest fears typically deal with things that have already happened, then I´m fighting a battle that was lost long ago. I´m struggling to justify being who I am, but I feel an increasing alienation towards the me that is doing the struggling. In my mind it takes the form of a noisy, querulent fanatic who is rabidly enthusiastic about every miniscule way in which he can prove his opponents wrong.

My most treacherous feelings are those which contradict what this self-righteous mouthpiece is saying. Their existence is humiliating, but it is quixotic of me to assume that this makes them an illness that must be removed. They are legit. They exist. My feelings contradict my stated beliefs, which means that I state them despite knowing better. What I do is highly unreasonable. I only need to look at my feelings in order to know what is true, at least in terms of the truth I´m looking for. What I do is ill.

Looked at from the depths of my heart I see a troll when I look at myself. I see someone who will humourously contradict everything she resents, a false note in her voice, because humour means she doesn´t have to answer to anyone. I see someone who is using humor in order to justify reprehensible things. I see an abuser.

At this point nausea hits me straight in the stomach and I cannot go on anymore. There´s nowhere to go from this thought. There is no darker thought I can use to punish myself for what I am. I´ve gone from hurting my pride to a much darker place. Trying to challenge myself to stomach even worse thoughts in order to get relief or as a form of atonement seems like a highly indecent act to me. The worst punishment is to dwell on that thought without considering it a punishment. It should come naturally to me. But since I´m apparently emotionally too twisted to react appropriately to the graveness and the reality of my guilt, maybe I should pay my debt to humanity by denying myself things I enjoy. It is the only shot at relative decency that I have. The only way to prove I at least vaguely understand the depth of my guilt, even though I´m incapable of emotionally taking it seriously.

When I look at this groveling, castrated part of me, I see a rapist who was put in a ward for the criminally insane for life because he can never be expected to develop true moral feelings, which is also why everybody turns away in disgust when he whines about how remorseful he is. He is just one step below fully human, and so am I.

 

 

Maelstrom

Posted in personal, philosophy with tags , , , , on January 6, 2014 by theweirdphilosopher

Chapter 1

Demoralisation: To believe you have no right to call others out on their wrongdoings (or to utter any moral opinion at all), because you yourself have done things that were wrong. One of the weapons most frequently used in any kind of argument where peoples´ self-worth is at stake.

The problem with this weapon is that it is not purely evil. Making people reconsider their own ability to conform to moral standards can stop them from being punitive, unforgiving and judgemental towards others. But where is the line between that and opening the floodgates for legitimizing all kinds of reprehensible actions?

Given that this is a subject of plenty of movies, I can hardly be alone with my own struggle against demoralization. In movies, however, the evil the demoralized person is faced with quite conveniently is so massive that it is possible to feel entitled to fight it despite being not a laudable person oneself. Also, the quiet voice in his head that tells him otherwise will be personified through The Villain, whom the demoralized person “mustn´t let win” (this is typically a line said by the supportive friend, colleague or lover). Giving in to demoralization and depressing thoughts becomes a moral evil itself, which is why the protagonist is justified in feeling good about himself again. In fact, he is very much supposed to, because otherwise evil will prevail.

There are attempts at interpreting real life that way, too. The easiest example is the way some abuse survivors see themselves getting well as “the best possible revenge”. Not everybody has a bona fide villain in their life, though. Other than themselves, I mean. The lack of an evil, sadistic genius who is responsible for all those problems and complications can be the most demoralizing thing of all.

Not that this isn´t just another typical narrative. The paranoid, vengeful guy who believes everyone is after him, only to realize sometime late in the movie that he is merely trying to run from taking responsibility for the tragedies that happened in his life. Can we maybe go beyond this hackneyed plot twist, though, and ask ourselves how on earth we are supposed to know which of those two anti-heros we are?

The ultimate answer pop-culture has for that is the phrase “but deep inside we know”. Unfortunately I suck at that, so it´s of no great help to me. Also, I find it highly illogical to ask someone to “just look into their hearts” when we are living in a world which accepts that emotions can actually prevent us from looking at stuff realistically. This concept is rather popular, so apparently it hits a nerve with quite a lot of people, but for me it is useless.

Chapter 2

I always feel the presence of a villain hovering above me, giving me reasons why it is not okay to be who I am. I know that he cannot be real and that he must therefore fulfill some psychological purpose for me, and I guess this purpose is that my need to fight him is the only thing that can justify remaining the person I am. Having to prove a point against a superior force idealizes my being me and turns it into something worthwhile, which it might not, in fact, be.

What would become of me if you took the belief in that villain away? It wouldn´t make sense to me anymore who I am. I would see nothing glamourous or romantic in it. I´d probably be ashamed of the deluded defiance that made me be proud of staying me for so long. My self-image would be turned on its head. Instead of automatically assuming future greatness, I would have to come to the conclusion that I am a mess. Someone who should be glad if he will at some point manage the daily challenges of staying sane.

Another classical narrative. At worst labeled “inspiring”. I guess I should be prepared to answer to why I believe I have the right to devaluate so many peoples´positive emotions. The expected answer, of course, is not an actual rationale based on persuasive arguments, but an explanation what horrible emotional screwed-up-ness makes me do such a horrible, screwed-up thing, along with the admission that I probably need to change. Since I made the mistake of being clever, no one is going to believe me that I honestly don´t know, so we´d better come up with something; something really incriminating.

Chapter 3

My rational mind, that which carries my original sense of normalcy, tells me that there is a way out of this and that it is okay to be who I am. I don´t think, though, it refers with these statements to all my states of mind and all the things I´ve done. It very stubbornly seems to ignore some of these, particularly those which make me feel very afraid of myself.

My treacherous heart, on the other hand, is full of them; and inside of it lurks the insidious notion that not only am I a terrible person, in order to ever stop getting into situations which will lead to anxiety, guilt and fear of exposure, I need to break with my personality structure and accept that what I become after that will not be under my control.