Archive for February, 2012

Crazy-making psychotherapy

Posted in health, mental health, personal, rants with tags , , on February 26, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

Okay, this is going to be a rant, it won´t be a pretty one, and it will probably be pure gibberish. I am so fucking upset right now. It´s not like anything dramatic had happened, I´ve just read something that absolutely ticked me off. It was thread in a forum (I won´t post the link this time, if I´m going to rant about other Internet users I´m going to do so without making even their screen names public). The thread dealt with psychotherapy.

The OP described a devastating therapy session which she had left feeling miserable. She said that her therapist had already warned her therapy would be hard at times. She described how at first she wasn´t cooperating, was running away by answering “I don´t know”, and how she feared that she had disappointed her therapist. Her therapist had been so confrontational, and had not let up, and had pushed her until she finally talked about the difficult stuff.

I think one big reason why I made sure these statements cannot be traced back to the person who made them is that I can´t help talking with disgust about what she said, but actually she doesn´t  deserve that disgust. Actually, this whole thing is terribly sad. This submissive, subservient, helplessly dependent attitude. Because, like she also said, she had developed an emotional connection to her therapist and she feared that she would be abandoned or hurt emotionally.

This is so sick, this is so incredibly sick. In TFP (transference focused psychotherapy) you are actually supposed to develop that bond towards your therapist. Which leaves you completely at their mercy, particularly when you´ve already entered their office at a vulnerable point in your life (which is fairly likely, because otherwise you wouldn´t be seeing a therapist!). I´ve even read in some manual for treating Borderline patients (can´t be arsed to look it up now) that you can keep their self-harm under control by allowing the dependence (oh, sorry! “therapeutic relationship”) to develop, and then you tell them that if they self-harm to the point that they end up in hospital, leave alone attempt suicide, you will quit working with them. And this even though, or rather precisely because people with BPD commonly have abandonment issues! Just how poisonous does pedagogy get? This isn´t therapy, this is secondary victimization!

Okay. Okay, okay, okay, cut the gibberish for a moment and try to explain to the innocent reader what the hell is going on with you. Good. *deep breath*

This thread brought up my own personal inner therapist. Sounds like a good thing, but most definitely isn´t. Not if the therapist is Dr. Stoneface. Alright. So I read this thread. It upsets me a great deal because I had plenty of negative experiences in therapy as well as with people who acted like they were therapists. The person who opened the thread, however, blames herself for her negative experience. Or rather: She describes it as a painful but helpful, important, necessary and thus ultimately good experience.  I should mention that even though or maybe precisely because I have some masochistic traits myself, I can absolutely not bear real life masochism that takes itself for gospel and does not recognize itself for what it is. Okay, that sounds arrogant. Let me put it like this: When somebody explains with conviction that it is truly good for him to be put into an uncomfortable or painful situation, it makes me squirm. Particularly when the situation involves humiliation, such as being grilled by your therapist until you finally “admit” how you feel about stuff and he can think triumphantly: “See, I knew you were lying when you said you didn´t know how you felt. Now why weren´t you honest in the first place? When will you finally be mature enough to learn that you must admit things, even when they are uncomfortable?”  I feel overwhelming shame, rage and humiliation and just desperately try to push it away. And then Dr. Stoneface enters my mind. He encourages me to not push it away, sometimes even mocks me for pushing it away, but of course only to help me! Well, no. In my mind, Dr. Stoneface is absolutely getting off to this. At least on a mental level. He is defeating me.

So, what happens when my mental representation of Dr. Stoneface starts to comment on everything I think and feel? I cannot finish a single thought anymore. It´s like trying to talk to someone and constantly being interrupted in mid-sentence, with a comment that invalidates everything you were just going to say. You get caught up in desperate, impotent rage which you cannot articulate either, because as you try you are constantly interrupted. You see, other people enjoy flame wars and trolls. I cannot take them. I always get triggered as hell, not by the content, but by the fact that one person constantly sabotages the discussion and in the same breath denies doing so. And it is near impossible to ever prove it. It reminds me of Dr. Stoneface. And it reminds me of my father.

Dr. Stoneface did indeed interrupt me in order to ask me for definitions, explanations, elaborations until I lost the plot, and preferably when we were arguing. “You say that XYZ, but it just doesn´t seem right that…” – “Does it always have to be about right and wrong?”

*stunned silence*

I mean, why doesn´t he just go ahead and ask me about the meaning of life? Here and now it is very important to me who of us is right. Our argument is not about whether the Nile is longer than the Mississippi, after all. It is about something that is very relevant for the process of my therapy. He, however, will suggest that we investigate why it is so important for me to be right. Okay, if wanting to be right doesn´t make sense anymore, then apparently nothing does. Of course it matters to me if I am right or not. It would be slightly weird if it didn´t.

But this wasn´t even what I was getting at. The worst part is really when the voice is inside your head and interrupts every thought and argument. The result is racing thoughts and writing gibberish. It really fucks with your mind. You can´t think straight anymore.

You know, when you say something that seems perfectly self-evident to you, like that it is important whether or not you are right about something, and your therapist or any other emotionally important person acts like this is not self-evident at all, but highly unusual and possibly pathological – then you simply don´t know what to reply anymore. It´s like a slap in the face times ten. You just feel something inside of you go numb, giving way to crazy laughter. It is too outrageous. But he fully believes it. Everybody will believe it. Because he is the therapist. He has studied psychology, he has a medical degree, he is sane – and you are obviously insane. You have to be. Or else the entire world has gone crazy. It is less frightening to believe you´re insane than to believe that you are sane and still nobody will believe you or take your side.

Wanna hear Dr. Stoneface´s take on this paragraph? He thinks I´m playing the martyr. Pity-party. I´m trying to portray myself as a victim of drastic psychological torture, and if things go really wrong I might even attract some paranoid, mentally unstable lunatics from the Internet who will believe me and take my side. This is really dangerous, because it might lead to society becoming less acceptant of psychotherapy. But unfortunately we cannot do anything about it. Freedom of speech is even for confused individuals like me.  Now aren´t we being FUCKING generous here?

Okay, another little piece: The “I don´t know” thing. I don´t know how many times I replied to with “I don´t know” to a question regarding my feelings, thoughts, mood, whatever while I was in therapy. I do know, however, that therapists don´t take this for an answer. They assume you are holding out on them. They assume you are being a chicken. Too bad for you if you are truly unable to access your feelings. Even better when you went to therapy because of that. “Doctor, I cannot seem to feel anything.” – “Well, how does that make you feel?” *headdesk*

It´s not just that you don´t get help – you are also blamed for being uncooperative! They simply don´t believe you! The complete inability to make yourself understood makes you feel like you´re being suffocated. You want to scream and smash things, just to break that glass wall between you and your opponent, to wipe that blank, neutral mask off his face and access the human being below it.

You are ready to believe that somewhere deep down you have feelings. But you can´t feel them. It´s like you´re suddenly somewhere in the Ministry of Love. You are ready to accept that four fingers are actually five. You want to believe it. You want to see five fingers.  But you can´t help it, you only see four.

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The inner kindergarten – report from the battlefield

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , , , on February 24, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

I read some stuff by Barbara Sher, and while I think she is pretty cool in general (of all the psychobabble I read, hers is the only stuff that doesn´t make me want to smash dishes right away), some parts piss me off over and over again. She describes people who have a deep-rooted hatred for ordinary jobs and lives (thus constantly get into financial trouble and demand others to care for them), connects that with narcissism and explains that inside of them lives an angry child who – well, needs to be understood and soothed and treated nicely, but all in all, who most of all needs to grow up.

Those passages piss me off the way stuff only pisses me off when it hurts or threatens me somehow. I´m always torn between thinking “oh shit, this describes me perfectly well” and thinking “but it´s not fair, I´m doing this dull side-job for over three years now and I don´t even dream of becoming a star anymore”.

This is me in two sentences. Seriously. It is true, I am oddly well-behaved most of the time. I floss and brush my teeth regularly (no, that doesn´t mean regularly once a month^^), I write my essays and hand them in (though commonly on deadline day after an all-nighter), and I dutifully say that of course I want a career, I don´t want to stay at home all day and be dependent on a partner.

It is also true, though, that I feel suicidal at the thought of getting up every morning, put on reasonable clothes and go to some godawful boring meaningless office where I stay over time because the boss absolutely needs that report until tomorrow morning. In my defense, I can say that it´s not just ordinary jobs that make me feel like that. When I was taking those acting classes, for the entire first week each time I went home and crossed the bridge over the railway tracks I thought about jumping. I knew I wouldn´t do it, but I felt a deep sense of hopelessness, homelessness and alienation. And I had enjoyed those classes.  Still, the thought of having to be an actor seven days a week 52 weeks a year for the rest of my life made me feel like killing myself. Go figure.

Well, now I´ve gone figure, and I feel like I´ve figured part of it out. The side of me that gets so angry and suicidal is indeed a child. It is a loud, trollish adrenaline junkie of a kid who wants anarchy and adventure – or death. Well, ALRIGHT!, it yells and stamps its foot, You can make me go to work, and you can make me smile and be polite all day, but you can NEVER make me accept it! I will always HATE that life, even if it means that I have to suffer for the rest of my life! FUCK YOU!

I know how people respond to this kind of attitude. They think it is extremely immature, extremely embarrassing and completely irrational. It assumes that there is someone who makes me go to work, after all. Well, who does, really? There is no Über-Parent who kicks me out of bed every morning. I am talking to someone who doesn´t exist. I´m tilting at windmills. I´m only harming myself.

The logical step would be to ask that child who she´s talking to. Trouble is, the child is smart. It´s a smart-ass, alienated, ten year old punk who knows precisely why I´m asking so nicely: So she feels taken seriously and in turn drops that out of line attitude.  Until I actually mean it, until I´m ready to give the child a chance, all I´m going to get is silence.

But why can´t I mean it? Why is asking the kid just a trick? Because “I” am a repressed (and repressive), rigid person who cannot tolerate a trace of imperfection. All “I” want is for the child to shut up and comply so I can be a person who doesn´t cause any offense and therefore will never have to feel shame again. “I” am the opposite of the kid´s total rebellion and refusal. “I” am total submission, obedience and pleasing. No, sorry, not in a sexual sense (Child: “Ick!”). In the sense that I must please everybody, do everything perfectly, and conform to every standard there is, even if they contradict each other. Limitless servitude, always with a relaxed, enlightened smile on my face (Child: “ICK!!!”).

You´ve met that kid before on this blog. She expresses herself through swearing, hyperboles, manic anger and other antics. Other than “me”, she does have a sense of humor. “I”´m the one who anxiously takes everything and everybody seriously and gives crappy theories a third chance just so I don´t cause offense and get attacked or even proven wrong once again and feel like an idiot.  We constantly fight over who gets to tell the story.

Now what happens when I decide that I need to work on my essay even though I don´t want to? Exactly. It´s like forcing a six-year-old ADD child to do her homework.  Good luck, and enjoy the ride.

On the other hand, though, how do “I” think I need to write my essays? Yes. Preferably I´d have written them already. It is already an imperfection that I need to start now. I should always have started long ago (well, okay, I do procrastinate until I get under pressure, but I feel like I should start straight at the beginning of the term, that´s a bit exaggerated). Then, it is completely unforgivable if my thoughts drift off or if I don´t start writing/working straight away. It is already ruined. I´m getting mad at myself. Why am I not capable of being a model worker/student?

So, interesting. Here, the objective is not to really get the essays written, but to…be a perfect student. Lead a perfect life. Well, THE perfect life. I must be the only one.  It is a subtle revenge against everybody else. I´ll be perfect, and perfect means that I outshine everyone in everything. Which is highly paradoxical. You can´t outshine everybody else in modesty and asceticism and at the same time outshine everybody else in being a star who has a wild sex life. Doesn´t matter. It will work.

Huh. Looks like this, too, is actually a child. But not a child child. It´s a child who was always an adult. Or the caricature of an adult. What adults look like from a child´s point of view. Super-disciplined. Super-industrious. Impeccable. … Robotic…Dead inside….Slaves.

In a way, the same kind of despair seems to emanate from both kids, and yet it is also very different. The little perfectionist decides to figuratively kill herself (that is, feelings, wishes, personality) and just accomplish, accomplish, accomplish. The idea of genuinely wanting and enjoying some of the stuff she does, or even focusing on stuff she enjoys, is perfectly foreign to her. Her life is a To-do-list, and her greatest joy is ticking off the stuff on the list she´s already done. To make clear the absurdity of her thinking: She´d try every sexual position once, just to have that gotten over with, and the sole pleasure she´d get out of that would be that she has gained sexual experience now and won´t die a virgin loser. Okay, what´s next on the list?  (To be fair, she´d probably want to achieve multiple orgasms so she is not a-loser-who-doesn´t-enjoy-sex.)

The punk kid despises adults and the adult world the way only a child or a grumpy teenager can (or a child in an adult´s body). To her, adults are pathetic hypocritical slaves who claim to be acting on their own free will: They get dressed up in business suits every morning “because they want to” (sneering, scornful voice), they wear make-up “because they want to” (and not because they are sooo concerned with what other people think of them), they go to work “because they want to, they *snicker* enjoy their careers! How brainwashed do you have to be in order to enjoy doing stupid, dull, meaningless, robotic work from 9-5 every day of your life??? This could never happen to me!”

And yet this child´s greatest fear, and object of her raging paranoia, is that “this” might, indeed, happen to her.  She might be brainwashed. She might start to enjoy a career. And then, suddenly, someone she used to despise will come and ridicule her and she will realize she lost her integrity.

Deep down she fears that she has this coming to her for being so disdainful. The impossibility to escape having to grow up, become mature and enter that slave life feels like a particularly sophisticated punishment to her. “You are forced to become what you despised. How appropriate.” She feels humiliated at the thought of having to go to work, and she feels equally humiliated at the thought of being dependent on anyone, particularly her parents. Nothing she can do except hope for a miracle which will never happen.  Or maintain her integrity by seeing work life as a martyrdom. She vows to never stop suffering. And this is why this dead-inside, aimless near-complacency that characterizes so much of my life is such a shame. Why feeling nothing significant makes me feel homicidal. Because the punk kid inside of me is banging against the walls of my chest, screaming “LET ME OUT! LET ME THE FUCK OUT! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING TO MY LIFE?!?!?!”

There is another version of the perfectionist, however, who is a martyr of sorts as well. “Look”, she says with a strange, mischievous glee in her voice, “look, here I am, smiling while I´m murdering myself. It looks so splendid from the outside, I bet nobody would believe I´m not happy.” *manic chuckle*

I guess she does want to evoke pity, but she would never accept pity. She mustn´t even know that she wants to evoke pity. She is the one who believes that shutting up is the only suitable way of expressing – uh, “our”selves. She feels such disdain for the punk kid, because all that kid ever does is throwing noisy, whiny, passive-aggressive and so terribly unsubtle  pity-parties; and worst of all, that kid is demanding.  The kid demands to have a great, adventurous, fulfilled life! Now, everybody knows that´s pathetic! Being demanding just shows you are dependent. You need to shut up and stop wanting anything and be perfect, then you have a right to feel silently and righteously unhappy. Well, too bad that right to be unhappy expires as soon as the unhappiness is voiced. Really, all you may do is drop very, very subtle hints and hope that someone saves you.  Oh, and the shame each time the hints go unnoticed! Of course they were heard, just nobody responded because they were pathetic and my demand is unreasonable! People are nice not to mention this, actually! Learn to be more modest and shut up next time. You will be saved if you deserve to be saved. If nobody saves you, then you don´t deserve it.

One last word on the punk kid: When someone demands something from her, like some kind of behavior or attitude, she feels attacked and humiliated. You could tell her to wash the dishes and she´d throw a fit (Yes, I do, when my mum tells me something. I just don´t always let it out because I´d feel like an idiot.). So is she just spoiled, lazy and ungrateful, with a massive sense of entitlement?

Maybe not. I don´t think so, actually. I think she feels disrespected – but not because of the demand itself. The demand seems to imply something humiliating. I think it is the concept of punishment, once again. She is fighting against someone who she believes wants to break her. The thing is, I have no emotional problem with washing the dishes after my girlfriend and I have been cooking – if and only if my mum isn´t home yet to ask me if I´ll wash the dishes later. I might feel listless and lazy, but I don´t feel humiliated. I just wash the goddamn dishes. Whereas, when my mum is home…

I don´t know what it is that pisses me off. But something about her tone or attitude does. It makes me feel like I´ve already done something wrong. Not in the sense of guilt, but…like I´ve already acted like a spoiled child. Even when I´ve just had dinner, which should be within the boundaries of acceptable behavior, shouldn´t it?

Okay, I´m getting a clue, but I´m not sure if it ever happened in precisely this way. Let me give you a little scenario: My mum is coming home. I haven´t washed the dishes yet, because I hate to jump up right after dinner and scrap the rests of the meal I´ve just eaten off the plates. It´s kinda disgusting, and besides, yes, I am a little lazy. So she looks around in the kitchen, and says to me in a hushed, apologetic voice: “But you will wash the dishes, will you?” So what does that voice seem to imply? That something about the situation is embarrassing. Like how it is embarrassing for a child to be scolded in front of her friends. So despite her apologetic tone she is, in fact, scolding me, or at least her request comes from a position of authority? The way she handles the situation clearly suggests that something about asking me to wash the dishes is humiliating for me. She sounds as if she expects that I´ll throw a temper tantrum. Like she needs to be careful when talking to me because I´m wild, crazy and dangerous. A real problem child.

And here is what I think: I think that this extreme resentment against washing the dishes is not originally part of me. It is an artificial feeling she produces in me. I feel like she acts sympathetically (apologetic tone, she is so sorry that she has to demand this from me), but only to embellish any feelings of not wanting to wash the dishes I might potentially have, and in the same breath she makes it clear that I´ll have to do it nonetheless. It´s like telling a kid: “I know you don´t want to do your homework, homework really sucks, homework is an abomination – but you absolutely have to sit down and complete it, and there is nothing you can do about that! Ha! … I meant…”poor thing”!”  

It sounds crazy, but I wonder if this is some kind of emotional vampirism. I never now if my family´s “sympathy” is genuine and I´m just too fucked up to interpret it correctly – or if their “sympathy” is indeed fake and just a way to capitalize on my emotions. Like when I had an argument with Irene about how I should start looking for a flat NOW NOW NOW and then she suddenly said, in a voice that was dripping with understanding: “You really don´t want to leave home, do you?” I was stunned into silence. I really didn´t know what to say. I didn´t have any feelings about moving out in general. I want to, after all, at least at some point. All I wanted was to not be kicked out all of a sudden when it suits our parents best. So what made Irene think that there was some deep painful sentimentality behind my anger at our parents´ behavior? Was she really inquiring how I was feeling? No, you do that differently. You don´t make assumptions, you just ask. So what was she trying to do? Trying to get me psyched up into some painful feeling? Was she trying to make me cry?   

 

Thoughts on asexuality

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags on February 23, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

I´m really at a loss how to start this post. I´m not even sure if I should write it. I could as well write it all down in my private, personal diary, because that´s probably where it really belongs. Not onto a public blog. It´s not like I want to talk about anything “dirty”. I want to talk about the opposite of “dirty”. I want to talk about asexuality.

I feel resigned even trying to talk about it. Bringing up a subject like this is bound to evoke disbelief. “What, you think you´re holier than others?” You see, I´m wondering if the concept of asexuality might somehow apply to me, and still I have all sorts of negative reactions when I think about it. The images I connect with this (completely erroneously, as a short look into a major forum will demonstrate) are as follows: 1) Moral snobbery, holier-than-thou attitude. 2) Religious fanatics, or purity fanatics. 3) People who are opposed to any kind of sensual pleasure, militant ascetics. 4) Desperate people who are unable to have sex due to some psychological condition or physical unattractiveness and now try to make a virtue out of a necessity by denying that they even want sex (translate: “losers”). 5) Selfish women who wear pretty clothes and get dressed up and flirt, but don´t “fulfill what they promised”. Basically, women who use asexuality as an excuse for being a tease. (I would like to add that I don´t think women have any obligation to sleep with a man just because they were wearing make-up and flirted with the guy! I´m only describing my irrational feelings and worries here!)
You see, it would make a lot of sense if I identified as asexual. I do not feel any more desire to sleep with a man than with age 12. I don´t enjoy being explicitly sexually stimulated by others. I don´t lust after people. I find it very hard to express my attraction towards others (because I do have crushes or something similar), because I never know what exactly it is that I want from them. I know what it is not, however. Sexual interactions.
The thought of defining myself as asexual, though, even without making it public, gets me into a real inner conflict. I know that asexuality is an orientation and celibacy is a choice, but I still feel like by defining myself as asexual I´d sign up for a life of celibacy. I feel like I´d lose my credibility as soon as I enjoyed any normal physical contact (as opposed to the masochistic stuff I´m into). But why is it so important to me to credibly deny that I have any sexual feelings and desires? Or rather: Why do I feel so threatened by the insinuation that I could want to be touched in (explicitly) sexual ways?
“I feel like it would pull me down onto somebody else´s level.” This is the first sentence that came to my mind. I think it requires some explanation, lest every sex-positive reader feels I disregard him/her. The level I mean is not sex in general. Naturally, I only have various images of sex, and not one big picture of  “sex in general”. But my attitude towards “sex in general” is that consenting adults can do what they want to each other as long as they don´t harass me with their activities, and that no sexual or non-sexual activity is by default superior. So what I mean is not that people who have sex reside on some lower level than those who don´t.
I also don´t mean that sex is somewhat animalistic. Nothing wrong with animals. Besides, whenever I imagine sexual encounters (which I do), these encounters are quite brutish and violent (though, believe it or not, consensually violent).
So what I really connect with the idea that I, too, could be turned on by sexual stimulation, is some kind of sleazy camaraderie, the type displayed by a person who – sorry to be this blunt – rubs your clitoris and nods knowingly at your reactions (a normal person´s reactions, not mine, I´d play dead), grins in a disgustingly intimate fashion and says: “Oh yeah, I know, that gets you all hot and bothered, doesn´t it?”  You know, this trace of disdain in his voice, that shows you he´s not taking you seriously at all, nor he is in any way emotionally involved in the situation. Making a woman orgasm just makes him feel macho. Like: “Women are so predictable. One just needs to know which button to push. But it´s kind of endearing, isn´t it? How emotional they get when you make them come?” It´s not pure, cold, icy disdain, there is this disgusting, patronizing “good intention” mixed into it. They want to make you feel “real good”. Be “nice” to you. This is what creates this disturbing, degrading godawfully sleazy intimacy and camaraderie which makes the idea so unbearable!
So this is what, in some muddy corner of my psyche, I associate with being sexually turned on: Being vulnerable to a patronizing, humiliating exploitation of your natural reactions. And if I defined myself as asexual, however accurate that might be, one purpose would be to avoid having to look at myself with that disgusting, knowing grin. It would be a way of dealing with my personal problem with the idea of sexuality, or the idea of me having a sexuality of my own.
Wow. That is the key. Of my own. In this icky scenario above, my sexuality does not belong to me. It belongs to the person who operates it. So, defining myself as asexual feels like a way to take back my sexuality. Also in other ways. I don´t have to define myself as a “loser” anymore. I don´t have to feel fundamentally deficient anymore. And I can put up definite boundaries. Like a heterosexual man can rightfully claim that he is not interested in gays.  I can just say: “There is no persuading or seducing me – I won´t have sex with you. I´m asexual, end of discussion.” Because I have a lot of trouble putting up boundaries. Those are different stories, though.
And yet these are all the wrong reasons. Good reasons are the ones I mentioned somewhere above, like me not responding to sexual touch. Or me feeling deep sensual and emotional pleasure at the thought of being smashed to death by an apocalyptic meteor-induced tidal wave; at an age where my best friend was getting her kicks from fancying a boy she had never even talked to before (aka the typical love life of a teenager). Yes, I was weird in my early teens. In my later teens, I was clinically weird.
Why are these reasons bad? Because putting up an impenetrable facade (no pun intended) doesn´t teach me to truly defend my boundaries. It doesn´t change a thing about how angry and degraded I feel at the thought of having sexual responses. It doesn´t change a thing about the fact that I´m wondering if I´m missing out on something, and that I´m frustrated with the disparity between the feelings I get from fantasizing and those I can obtain by realizing said fantasies – especially when the fantasies aren´t sexual.
In trying to obtain satisfying or at least pleasurable physical experiences, though, which admittedly is a goal of mine, it might be quite useful to focus on the sensual more than on the sexual. Forcing myself to understand myself as sexual, just because I might have some wrong reasons for understanding myself as asexual, is really taking the concept of masochism too far, you know?^^
Well, more on that topic (maybe) when I´ve had a good night´s sleep, sorted out my life (still not getting anywhere with my essays) and won the Nobel Peace Price (or in this case the Nobel Sleaze Price?).  Okay, I´m really overtired.

Waiting for the end of the world

Posted in college, health, mental health, personal with tags , , on February 20, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

I´m in one of those dreadful states where I absolutely feel the need to do something but unfortunately can´t. I need to write my essays, but I can´t think and nothing makes sense to me. I don´t even know anymore what I wanted to write. If I can´t write my essays, at least I should look for a new topic for my thesis. But the thought alone fills me with dread. I feel like this time things have really snapped out of my control. There were plenty of close calls over the last few years, but this time failure might be unavoidable. And here I sit, like the rabbit before the snake, letting the seconds tick away and turn into days.

In a way I´m waiting, or even hoping, for some kind of apocalypse. Maybe this is the reason why I don´t really try to ward off failure. I´m more or less inviting it in. Huh. If this was a movie, some real disaster would happen. Like someone who matters to me dying in a stupid, random, meaningless accident. In a way, I´m scared that fate (something I don´t even believe in) will punish me for hoping for the big crash.

I´ve always had a thing for apocalyptic scenarios. If we were told that tomorrow this time a meteor will smash us all to dust, I think I´d feel like finally my great day has come. The national holiday of everyone for who this life was always just a waiting room and never a home. I see all those people who love this life running around like frantic ants, pleading with a non-existent god, while I walk around serenely, taking in the crying and killing and plundering with some kind of calm excitement. Not because I hate mankind or anything. The scared people are really just decoration.

I feel like I´ve lived like that all my life. Starting to live, or starting anything at all, is not worth the effort. Soon everything will be turned over completely/end/explode anyway. In some way or the other I have always believed this. Somehow I always felt the need to be prepared. I don´t feel safe if I´m not ready to die. Being happy scares me. Even feeling safe scares me.

I´m so incredibly empty. I don´t feel empty. There really is nothing inside.  I´m not suffering. And yet somehow I appear to be in agony. It´s like crying without tears. Suffering without pain. I cannot express myself. Being empty inside, I have nothing to express, and the only way to express nothing is by shutting the fuck up. And yet I waffle on and try to make myself understood, with expressions that necessarily dramatize my so-called misery. Worst of all, they might cause people to respond with emotions I cannot reciprocate. In fact, I cannot even take them seriously. So above everything else, I´m a lying cunt as well.

Have I ever told you about the voices? Voices I have been talking to in my head when I was younger, like other people pray or have imaginary conversations with real or fantasized partners. The Voices were some kind of spiritual entity who, yes, talked only to me. They were always a collective of some sort. I built a mythology around them. It was them who warned me of dangerous days, who told me which actions to commit and which to avoid, and be it putting both my feet on each step of the stairs and other pointless OCDish activities.

So much for “talked to them”. I don´t believe in the mythology anymore, but they still talk to me. Or rather:  They´ve started again about a year ago, preferably when I have to make choices. “Take this bottle of water or your girlfriend dies.” – “Fuck you, I know you´re not real, but okay, I will. Better not to take no chances.” – “Well, maybe you should take the other bottle! Maybe that voice was trying to misguide you!” – “No, take the first bottle!” – Me, pretty pissed off: “Well, which one, for fuck´s sake?” Trust me, sometimes I end up taking both even if I only need one.

The thing is: I just fear that by saying “fuck it, I don´t believe in them” I´m challenging fate. Just like by saying that I don´t believe in fate.  And I realize that this first sentence is mistaken anyway: I do believe in them either way. What I mean is that I can´t just say: “Fuck it, I don´t believe them. I don´t believe in what they say.”

I just wonder who the hell The Voices are. I mean – why exactly are they having so much fun terrorizing me with worst-case scenarios and then demanding contradictory actions from me in order to prevent them from coming true? It´s pure sadism. Or utter confusion. Well, I guess the confusion is mine. I do sense some cold triumph coming from them. But sometimes I feel an urge to defend the poor voices, the only companions that have always and ever remained true to me. Thinking of them as evil makes me feel a mixture of pity and heartbreak, like a child looking at a broken toy. Oh, and a wish to make it alright again. Because I feel like they have to be very sad now because I don´t reciprocate their love.

All these feelings I described in the paragraph above are actually just fragments and traces of feelings. Hollow shadows, ghosts, little voices and outcries in my head. I´m never really sure if I´m not just imagining it all. Making it up to cover up the emptiness. It doesn´t affect me deeply; it´s rather like I´m completely distracted for a moment, and then afterwards it´s irrelevant. Like it never happened. Like my thoughts had just wandered.

It is absurd, isn´t it? How I seem to believe that my only hope for redemption lies in expressing myself accurately and being heard by the right people, whoever and where ever they may be, and yet at the same time I believe that the only way to accurately express myself is falling silent forever and losing all awareness of myself. Which reminds me of the paradox of narcissistic blogs. To end a dramatic blog entry quite succinctly.

 

 

 

Failure will set you free

Posted in college, personal, rants with tags , , on February 20, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

I´m in trouble. I need to have a topic and a supervising tutor for my master thesis until the sixth of March, and while I do have an idea for a topic, I cannot seem to find a tutor. The professor I asked told me briefly that he doesn´t believe my topic is appropriate, so he won´t do it, bang. To be honest, I was quite devastated. Not because I love my topic so much. But I´ll have a hard time making up a new one within two weeks and finding a tutor. Particularly when I´m not entirely convinced of the topic. I saw clearly the difference between uni and school. At school, I would have had to pick some topic. I might not have liked it, but I wouldn´t just have fallen off the edge of the world. I had a right to be admitted to my exams, even if I didn´t have a right to choose the topic. Whereas now…I have to think of something I want to do, and then advertise it. If nobody likes it, well, tough luck. There is really nobody in that entire fucking institution who gives a damn if I graduate or not.

I could feel as if I am completely at their mercy. But oddly enough, as I had locked up myself in the bathroom to cry in peace (thanks to some nice escapades this weekend I´m a lot less tense and can actually show some feelings, and even the racing thoughts have shut up for a moment), I realized that I was free. I spent a moment in my head all alone with myself and I felt that, to me, it doesn´t matter if I graduate from college or not. It doesn´t even matter to me which subject I´d get a degree in if I should, after all, manage to graduate. Degrees genuinely don´t matter to me. Alone in my head, I don´t feel like I´m worth less if I don´t graduate. It wouldn´t take a thing away from my ability to think, formulate theories and question things.  And dropping out of college would most certainly not stop me from doing these things. And right now as I am working on  my essay about Freud´s “seduction theory”, a subject which genuinely matters to me, I realize that the most wonderful moments are those when I am simply absorbed in a subject, developing my thoughts without giving a fuck if what I write is what my teachers want to read. What I write there is probably the most readable thing I´ve ever written for uni. So many other essays were just…sucking up. Ass-kissing. Trying to conform to some standards and please a nitpicking  judge. They have nothing to do with intellectual integrity, even if I correctly quoted all sources and used the right formatting.

I also knew, though, that I would be blamed if I failed to apply for my exams this winter.  Everybody would criticize me merely by gracefully mentioning that there is no point in criticizing me now, but please do learn from this for the future. Irene would be all over me for not preparing a concrete, agreeable subject and convince a tutor in time. She told me a million times that it is never too soon to start, after all. I should have started a year ago, and what do I do? Start a month before the deadline! How can such an intelligent person be so dumb?

Well. I don´t know. Maybe I am not as goddamn intelligent as my family always claimed. Maybe I simply am dumb. This, too, is an oddly liberating thought. Because to me, this does not mean that I cannot do anything. It just means that I can´t do everything. I have limits. If I have limits, though, I have to focus on what matters to me. For the first time in my life, restricting my options feels like a good, liberating idea. Until now, I always felt like I need to pack absolutely everything into my life. If I haven´t done one thing, it means that I have failed overall. Like one person could excel in everything there is. Cooking, dancing, being a writer, being a singer, being a scientist, being a mother and saving the world. Or so. I felt obliged to be all that because I couldn´t feel I have limits.

If this sounds like megalomania…well, maybe it is. But there is another side to this. If you don´t know your limits (and make them your boundaries and defend them), you are bound to be exploited. If you don´t realize that you will feel miserable when you constantly try to please absolutely everyone, then you will keep on trying (and failing) and mistake your misery for normalcy. You will feel obliged to conform to every standard, even contradicting ones, and forget who the hell you really are. We are our limits. (I admit this statement is debatable. But I don´t mean it in the sense that we are our flaws. What I mean is that there is nothing wrong with limits, and that they can help us get a sense of who we are.)

I wondered if I should just drop out of college if I don´t manage to find a tutor on time. I could still try to apply next term. But somehow I feel like this could kill me. It would cast me into some very dark, deep hole. You know…spending six months doing nothing before I can apply again? Really nothing? Just because I was too stupid to start working on my application in time? I couldn´t take my family´s reaction to this. I think this would make me feel low and worthless to a dangerous extent, without me getting anything in return that truly matters to me. It would completely devalue my degree, even if it was excellent. My family thinks I already spent too much time in college. I could have done it all faster, if only I could have been bothered to work properly. They would probably congratulate me in a patronizing manner, mentioning how nice it is that I still managed to get such a neat degree after it took so much time or something equally friendly. And the worst thing is that they´d believe they are actually being nice.

I do recognize another limit of mine, though. I cannot cope with how my family will react if I fail to successfully apply this winter. My newfound acceptance for myself and my limitedness is very, very frail. As soon as I face any member of my family, it could vanish again. So I will need to get this application done somehow. Not because I totally want it. But even less because they want it and wrote an academic degree into my CV before I was even born. No. Just to protect myself. This is a legitimate motivation. I am being absolutely true to myself in doing so.

At least I tell myself so. Somehow I feel a great deal of resistance at the thought of writing another professor tomorrow. Rethinking this, I can see why. If my family´s reaction limits me, then I am not free. And if I´m not free, where should my motivation come from? I´m not true to myself at all. At the thought of just calling it quits and getting a job, though…I feel a wonderful little jolt of excitement. I feel like I´ve waited for that all my life. Just escaping to freedom.

Straight away I hear scornful voices in my head. “You think that having a job is so nice and pleasant? Think about how much your mother has to work. She has no free time at all *now the voice becomes admonishing and accusing* and she is very unhappy about that. If you think you will be free as soon as you enter work life, particularly with no college degree, you should think again. You might harshly regret such a step.” It is a strange mixture of my mother´s and father´s voice. And indeed my parents said similar things to me. (At other times when I was feeling depressed and anxious about the horrible world of work which was lying ahead of me, they shook their heads about my irrational fears and told me that everything was completely different that I imagined it.)

So I dutifully take one step after the other. I had escape fantasies ever since tenth grade when I could technically have left school. And each time I was persuaded (or persuaded myself) to stay and keep on achieving one goal after the other, so the life I would one day escape to would be glorious and successful. And at the same time I could never shake the feeling that such a life wouldn´t really be mine.

***

It is bizarre, isn´t it? Selling myself into slavery so one day I can be free? But it is equally bizarre to needlessly diminish my chances on the labor market after working for a college degree for six years. I just don´t know how much longer I can live with myself. I never made an informed, deliberate, independent choice in my life. I always took the line of the least resistance and followed through with what others saw fit. I remember trying to question if I should really go to college and I realized that I could absolutely not imagine not doing it. But not because there was anything in college I really wanted. It was just understood that I was going to get an academic degree. I was “intelligent”, after all. I had no idea what to study. And then the deadline approached and I picked philosophy because that way I wasn´t limiting myself to a specific subject. I think I really understand now in what way my dream about Dexter was actually about me. I told you it was some kind of lucid dream. Just that Dexter does have a purpose and an identity. He merely needs to hide it. Is there one to, inside of me, hidden even from myself? Or am I empty inside, with no real me and no wishes of my own?

***

Right now I feel some numb, dull, impotent anger.  At my parents. At my university. Not really at myself, though. I´m not angry just because it is difficult to get a degree. I´m not afraid of intellectual challenges. I´m not even scared of having to work hard on something. What makes me angry is the reason why it is difficult to get a degree: Because our professors don´t know us and don´t give a damn about us. And I don´t like to be treated as if I don´t matter. I may not have described my topic very well, but I do have a point. I cannot make it yet (I had hoped I could clarify it for myself and the reader while writing the paper), but it is there somewhere on the brink of my mind, waiting to be developed. I´m a slacker, granted, but I´m not a genuinely lazy, uninterested person who only wants a degree so she gets a higher paid job. I´m not as bad as I´m being treated.

Well, I guess if I was a “good person” I´d be angry at myself now. On the surface I only have myself to blame. But…do I really pass any blame? When I want something from persons who don´t give a fuck about whether I get it or not, then of course it is my responsibility to make them do it somehow, even if it means that I have to start a year in advance – but I can still resent them for being indifferent assholes, can´t I? What, I thought I was the philosopher? And I can´t even answer a question like that? Have I learned nothing?

No, I have learned nothing. I spent my college years sleeping too long, drinking too much and researching serial killers. Again, it is incredibly relaxing to just admit it. I´m a failure. Unfortunately that alone doesn´t make me free. The title is a lie. (Then again, it didn´t say that failure was both a necessary and a sufficient condition for freedom. See, I´ve learned that much.) On a serious note, though, failure is really just one part of the deal.  The other part is to stop trying to be a winner. Failing at that doesn´t make you free. It keeps you prisoner forever.

 

 

Writer´s block

Posted in college, personal, rants on February 16, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

So another day ends.

My days currently look like this: I wake up at some point, drag myself into the kitchen, build up my laptop on the table, have breakfast while surfing the Internet, hoping that something important and remarkable has happened so I´m excused from working on my essays. The Internet disappoints me with a reliability I wish I had when it comes to writing. So I have to work. So I get started…

…or so I try. Currently I´d rather wash a pile of dirty dishes than open a Word document. So opening the document requires force. Sometimes I feel so listless that making myself work hurts almost physically.

The document is opened. I reward myself by getting some crisps, because I am fairly sure I´m already hungry again. No surprise, breakfast was an hour ago. Of course I cannot write while eating crisps. Let me check my e-mails again. Oh, now I´m thirsty. Who would have guessed so?

Okay, but now I really need to get some work done. Let´s focus…focus…. …hey, has it ever occurred to you how strange it is that psychics never win the lottery?

It is afternoon. I have made a lot of progress on the theory of everything; everything except my essays, that is. Also, I have about five different blog entries in mind I would just love to write right now. But that would not be okay. I need to work on my essays, after all. So. Let´s stare at that empty Word document for some longer.

Thank goodness it´s dinner time.

10 p.m. 5 sentences written. Today is a good day.

Midnight. I think I deserve some time for surfing, blogging and reading pointless Wikipedia articles.

2:30 a.m. Maybe I should go to bed now. After all, I have to work tomorrow. Deadlines are closing in. It will be fine. It will aaaaall be fine. *Apocalypse now? Please? Pretty please?*

Okay, folks, how do I get out of this vicious circle? I can make myself sit in front of an empty Word document all day, but I cannot make my braincells spring into action. It is agonizing. Most of the time I even want to work. I like the subjects I picked for my essays. But my thoughts just spin around in circles and suddenly end up completely elsewhere. And it is this awful, nasty, no-good state of mind that makes me dread opening Word.

Thinking complicated thoughts is suddenly impossible. I cannot even focus on the most simple stuff as soon as I try to put it into precise, intelligent-sounding sentences. Whenever I try I wonder if I have any idea what I am talking about, if my teachers will have any idea what I am talking about, and if I´m even using the correct prepositions or if my constantly writing in English has thoroughly fucked up my German.

I wonder if my brain needs more stimulation. Last time I could work on my essays was when I was actually supposed to listen to a speech. Or I need less sleep. For some reason I function better when I´m didn´t get quite enough sleep. There are just not as many things happening in my brain at the same time. My thoughts slow down. I worry and ruminate less, but I don´t get excited about a stream of thought and let myself be carried away by it, either.

So. Either I must tire out my brain, or I must lead a more stressful life so I have to write my essays en passant, with no time to think about each and every sentence. Maybe my mind and creativity are just rebellious, though. Maybe I need to make myself believe that actually I´m supposed to write blog entries. I absolutely must, otherwise I´ll be kicked out of the Internet forever *oh noes*. Huh. Like they´d fall for that.

 

 

Am I just evil?

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , on February 13, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

When I started yesterday´s post  by describing Irene asking me where all my anger was coming from, I hadn´t actually planned on writing the post I eventually wrote. What I had in mind was not my family´s intellectual mud-wrestling, but the fact that basically I have no clue where my anger is coming from. I can make educated guesses, based on whatever psychological theory I currently buy into. But I don´t feel that any of them is true.

So here it is. I hold a lot of anger. And particularly against my family. And yet I have nothing to accuse them of. I did so on and off this blog, but I always feel there is a false note in whatever I say about them. These accusations feel self-serving. I think my family sucks by default. They simply have to be wrong. They must have done something to me.

Just why is that so? And since when? Since when do I see my family members as enemies? It is completely irrational, but I can´t help it. Of course I could say to myself: “Okay, kid, you´re not a sulky teen anymore, so start being nice to your family again and quit hiding behind an I-blame-my-parents attitude.” I try that every now and then. This just doesn´t make my anger go away. It is simply turned inwards – against myself.

I don´t know how to go on from here. I am angry in general, and I am in some weird way vengeful towards my family. I have no idea why. When someone asks me, I give them some kind of explanation on the spot, just like I did yesterday. The explanation might be very plausible. I am not making anything up. My family is quarrelsome; and it can be hurtful and frustrating to never be taken seriously, and to never have the last word. But how does that cause me to have anger issues now? Again, there are plausible theories that would explain why there has to be a connection. It is just that I feel no emotional connection between childhood events and my current issues. Why am I complaining about these old stories when I don´t have any feelings about them? I´m only being vengeful. Passive-aggressive.

I took acting classes a while back and we did a Meisner exercise called “Repetition“. You say something you notice about your partner (like: “you are sad”) and he will confirm or deny it, or respond by saying something he notices about you. And one girl I practiced with said to me: “You want to evoke pity.”

I was dismayed at this notion, but at the same time I realized she had hit the spot. I wish people would pity me.

It doesn´t make too much sense to me. Being pitied all too often means being looked down upon. Telling someone that you feel sorry for him can even be an insult. It was used as an insult against me, actually. In one of those phases at school when I was a complete loner and had no friends at all, two other girls approached me and started to make friends with me. It went well for a while, but we were way too different. They were really the goody-goody type, and I was cynical and grumpy by default. So one day one of them told me that I only ever hurt her, and I, sarcastically, asked her why she was still friends with me then. Her reply: “Because I feel sorry for you.”

I wish I could tell you I was hurt. It would be so goddamn human, and it would show that I have a minimum of pride. But I wasn´t hurt. I was oddly satisfied. Again, I don´t know what satisfied me in particular. Maybe it was the fact that I knew precisely how hurtful and unacceptable her remark was. Not so goody-goody after all. Quite arrogant, actually. Maybe I also felt confirmed in my self-image of a lone warrior. I was strangely glad about the break-up of our friendship.

But – that one really strikes a chord. The lone warrior. An outcast of humanity who has nothing but his cause to live for. Somebody who is isolated, someone who is loved by naive, living souls without being able to love back. Somebody who is beyond all hope. Somebody who has been bereaved of all the things in life ordinary people can enjoy, by some horrible early tragedy. It is in this context that pity feels good. Pity confirms this fantasy self-image.

What I describe here is your archetypal vigilante or rebel. Batman. V. Rambo. And guess what: I still enjoy fantasies of becoming a hero. If my mental age and gender counted I´d be an eight-year-old boy. No surprise I never really entered the princess phase. Being the hateful, embittered avenger who suffers for a noble cause was always a lot more appealing.

Imagining that I am a person with a secret, meaningful mission who is surrounded by enemies makes me feel alive. Even being laughed at and bullied can make me feel alive. I mentioned many times that I was a loner at school, and of course people also teased me and said mean stuff to/about me, but in a way I always felt flattered. I welcomed the challenge. I looked down upon my classmates anyway.

I don´t know when exactly this lone warrior persona became my mode of being. It was in full gear by the time I entered fifth grade. But even in my first year of elementary school, I displayed strange or antisocial behaviors in order to get…well, what? A very specific kind of attention, I guess. I tended to run away from a friend of mine, for example. I refused to speak to him and just ran. Of course he went after me, and I enjoyed that in some twisted way. It was not merely playing chase. I enjoyed that people wondered what was wrong with me, I´m pretty sure of that. I enjoyed it when people thought I was not alright.

Is that the main reason why I have this blog? Do I want people, just anyone, to acknowledge that I´m not alright? I know this is like putting up a disclaimer that says “I always lie”, but somehow I trust that this will not scare readers away. I do not lie, after all. If I lie, I lie to myself as much as I lie to you.