Archive for March, 2012

“Think pink” my ass!

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , on March 22, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

I am so sick of everything. Mostly myself, probably. This tiny casket inside my psyche in which I´m locked. The same four walls, the same four types of thoughts, the same four alternating moods. Nothing makes me more cranky than self-loathing and apathy, so basically whenever I leave the house and have to see people (not meet people, just see them on the train) I just wait for an excuse to smash somebody in the face. Not that I´d ever do that, unless I really snap, which I have yet to experience. But I´m looking for something, just anything, that justifies all the hatred I carry around.

I hate myself. When I see myself in the mirror, I shake my head incredulously at the fact that you can look this old at age 24 and still not have achieved anything. In my mind I am still 12. I feel no different than I did at age 12. And now look at yourself. Look at those bags under your red eyes, those wrinkles, the results of countless nights wasted on the Internet, countless nights you don´t even remember anymore! 

And then there is this stupid, preachy voice inside my head that tells me that this is such a great chance for me to realize how much better the healthy lifestyle that I so despise would be for me. Exercising. Going to bed before midnight. A healthy diet. Working hard. A positive attitude.

You know, some people with OCD suffer from intrusive, obscene thoughts. These are my obscene thoughts, and they are intrusive and ego-dystonic as fuck. And the worst thing is that every mental health worker on earth would mistake them for my inner voice, or the voice of my conscience. He would take side with them against me!  Fuck´s sake, I wish this would outrage me, but it seems so goddamn normal! Even right! Because I suck, you know. I am always wrong. I must be punished. Life is really great when you have a collective of voices in your head that has nothing better to do than mocking you all day long with advices which they know will piss you off.

On some level I even want to snap. I mean – how else is anybody ever going to take me seriously (no, this doesn´t mean I plan to go on a killing spree)? Sometimes the thought of starting to scream obscenities and swear words in the middle of the street until the doctors send me to the loony bin is incredibly comforting. I doubt, though, I´d even manage to get out a single word.

With all those voices and states of mind and self-images I´m really losing track of who I even am. I want to be saved, but I don´t know which part of me is the real me who should be saved from the others. Or which voice in my head. I´m scared of seeing a doctor precisely because of that. I just sense a danger that he´d simply make his decision without even telling me so as to disable any resistance on my part(s).

Meh. I´d go on whining for another hour, but I need to go to work. Hurray. Playing nanny for disgustingly clever, brilliant, young, ambitious, promising and noisy students at the library. Being ignored when I ask them to be quiet. Nothing better for your self-esteem, is there.

Fuck´s sake.

Shame

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , on March 21, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

I´m having a moment of self-destructive honesty and for a dead inside, daydream-deluded alleged narcissist I´m having a remarkably honest feeling: Shame.

I don´t normally feel shame. I wouldn´t be surprised if it turned out that my whole personality is based on shame, but normally I do all I can to deny that I feel anything like shame. I am angry instead, and maybe that “instead” explains why I constantly feel like my right to be angry or the authenticity of my anger are being questioned. (Which, of course, leads to even more anger.)

The anger is authentic, though, insofar as I feel like right now I´m selling it out. Betraying it. What for? For some masochistically preachy self-critical reflections on my life? (Yes, that last line was the little punk, spitting out her almost physical embarrassment and discomfort about the humiliating idea of being “self-critical”. “Honest”. “Honest” as in “If you are honest with yourself, you´ll have to admit that…” …whatever. You screwed up in some way.)

The little punk knows that behind her anger she is extremely vulnerable. Even a tiny bit of criticism can upset her a great deal; and she wants to shut that vulnerability down. When she fails she cannot bear it when others are able to see what she actually wanted to do. She does not want anybody to witness her frustration. She cannot even bear having herself as a witness. She even denies in front of herself that she wanted to do what she wanted to do. This is how overwhelming the shame is.

She feels betrayed by the shame, as if the shame was proof for what an invisible, disgustingly triumphant spectator in her head says to her: “See, you cannot do everything!” Like her expectation that she could do whatever she was trying to do had been – arrogant. Ignorant. Ridiculous. Unrealistic.

The voice might torture her further and tell her that in order to accomplish a task like the one she picked, one has to start much earlier than she did, work much harder than she did, be much more dedicated than she is. She is lazy.  Too lazy to work hard on something, and yet arrogant enough to believe she could manage to do it nonetheless. Apparently she feels too good for ordinary methods and paths. Too special. Just one of those days, when she fails for the nth time, she sure has to understand that life makes no exceptions for her? That her attitude won´t do? That she should be more humble?

Even more shame. And the shame seems to be the proof that the voice is right. That she is starting to understand it. Shame means that “deep down she feels her expectations for her ability to succeed effortlessly are wrong”. And then there is desperate rage; a wish to lash out against real or imaginary witnesses, and against all the mean, self-righteous voices which have  been plaguing her for so many years.  A wish to cut open her arms so somebody has mercy and defends her against the voices.

A wish for mercy. Such a tiredness of the constant cruelties. A wish that somebody else could be on her side, because she can´t.

But why a wish for “mercy”? For what is mercy, other than an undeserved kindness?

So does she feel undeserving of kindness? Of anything other than shaming?  Why?

 

Authenticity, integrity and demoralization

Posted in health, mental health, personal, philosophy with tags , , , , on March 19, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

I´ve been reading about Existential Analysis  today. (Oh, how very interesting. I´m getting seriously annoyed by the fact that my blog entries predictably start with “I´ve been reading about…”. Really shows how much of a life I have.)

Yeah, anyway. I don´t know if the link I posted above describes very well what I found striking about EA, but it was the best I could find in English, at least on the quick. Uh, yeah. I´m SO uncomfortable writing about this. It will start to sound all cheesy. EA does take everything DEAD serious, really.

Okay *deep breath*…I´m not so much convinced of EA as I´m scared of it. It gives me the creeps. It feeds my feeling that I´m wasting away my life, like by living in a dream world. And it also makes me feel very afraid of the real world, real life and the real conditio humana. The fact that it is scary, though, doesn´t prove it wrong. Because maybe life isn´t so much about being happy as it is about being authentic. A happiness that is based on lies is a worse state than honest misery. So far EA seems to fit my own ethics and ideals.

Given that I live in a dream world, given that I haven´t made a conscious, awake decision in years, and given that I feel so unauthentic that I describe myself as dead inside, though, it is clear that I cannot confirm to my own ideals. I don´t just fail them every now and then. I fail them all the time. And this has me wonder. Am I really that twisted, deformed and flawed – or are my ideals twisted, deformed and flawed?

For someone whose ideals are all about authenticity and integrity, there is nothing more demoralizing than feeling like he is trapped in a lie. And I have been feeling like that, and fighting against that feeling, for years.

For seven years, to give the precise number.

For the last seven years I have pretty much felt worthless and inadequate. And it is far from over. I still cannot seem to break free. Every now and then I feel like I´d have to do something dramatic, drastic, extreme, whatever that may be. But it is not so much about the circumstances I live in. It is about who I am. I feel like I will be trapped and numb and disconnected no matter what the circumstances.  I normally translate this with “I will never be happy, no matter what career I choose”. But this isn´t really about careers, and it isn´t about happiness, either. I´m just so scared that one day I´ll wake up and realize I´m living a lie.

And that´s the ironic thing, isn´t it? I´m not scared that maybe, possibly, likely I am already living a lie. I´m just scared of realizing it. Which might be why I´m unable to do so.

Why am I scared of realizing it, though?

I just know it all too well already. The intense, mind-shattering shame, guilt, grief, despair. All those feelings that just flash through my psyche, and I am unable to even hold on to them. They just disappear again, and what is left is that same numb, vaguely guilty, vaguely desperate feeling I am already dealing with now.  Feeling vastly inferior to anybody who is living true to themselves, feeling raging hatred towards anybody who might be aware of my inferiority, and even worse: who might have witnessed the shame and devastation it causes me. Trying to hide my rage so at least it doesn´t embarrass me any further. By denying my rage trying to deny that I even feel inferior. Then, when the fit is over, crawl back into my life (lie) and dream myself away.

This, this is what gnaws on my self-esteem; not the fact that I´m not a published multi-millionaire with a Nobel Peace Prize.

The loss of my integrity.

 

My mother and I

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , on March 17, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

I haven´t really seen my mother for one-and-a-half weeks now because first she´s been in her new flat for a week, and then I´ve been avoiding her. Like: Staying in my room, or being away a lot, and it also helped that she was working late. And I was feeling a growing dread of finally having to face her. Not just because of the whole uni trouble. Also in general. Because for some reason she knows me through and through. She knows I´m avoiding her. She knows that I know that she knows. If I denied it, she´d laugh and tell me to stop playing games. The weirdest thing about this is that she sounds like my avoiding her doesn´t even affect or worry her. It is almost like it is in fact she who is playing a game. I´m just not sure what the name of the game is, after all.

This night she “caught me” when I was sitting in the living room. She came to me, put one hand on my knee and laughed. “It´s so funny, the way you have been staring at me when I was standing in the door.”, she said. “Like you thought: Oh god, there is my mum, I hope she doesn´t come in and puts a hand on my knee!” There was a really false note in her voice and laughter; but not the way it sounds when you try to hide that you are hurt. I almost sensed a kind of satisfaction in her tone. “And of course you do it straight away.” I remarked coolly. “Weird, huh?” I mean – if she feels like I don´t want her to do something, why does she conclude that she should definitely do it and then laugh at the look on my face? Really nice, isn´t it?

“Of course I do!” she replied instantly, in a tone that was only pretending to be playful. “Just to annoy you!” I felt a little jolt of helpless, homicidal anger somewhere in the back of my psyche; the type I always get when I feel defeated. I knew that there was nothing I could do: Me showing anger would have looked both hilarious and inappropriate to her; so she knew precisely that there was nothing I could do but bear her behavior.  My anger made me feel inadequate; like uncontrolled emotions were a reason for shame. I didn´t want her to know that she made me angry, so I kept up a blank face. “But of course you know that!” she added in a soothing tone. Suddenly I was starting to feel guilty. It seemed to me like she was trying to establish some kind of connection between us, and I just kept on pushing her away. What a bad kid I am. Avoiding my mum, and then getting childishly angry because she teases me about my aloof behavior. Instead of being grateful that she even puts up with it and doesn´t just kick me out (hey, wait a sec, that´s basically what she is doing atm, isn´t it?).

What is so uncomfortable about being with my mother?

It is really hard to pinpoint. But I think it might be the fact that she makes me feel like I´m being scrutinized. She picks up on the subtlest changes in my tone or the look on my face; or she remarks on my choice of words. She analyzes me just the way I described above. Almost all of our conversations start with her probing me about my behavior, the look on my face, my tone or – most harmlessly – the make-up I wear. She always seems to read deep meanings into my every gesture, and then wants to know what they are all about. What is wrong with me. What it is with me. What is going on inside of me. (Ironically, she loves to accuse me of “being paranoid” or “being dramatic” whenever I read something deeper into something she does. That never occurred to me until now.)

For a long time I was really dependent on my mother. But for a few years I´ve been trying to live my own life, now, and I´m behaving in ways she doesn´t like. I´m unreliable. I don´t call. I cannot tell her if I´ll be home for dinner. I avoid her. I go out at night. What happens is that she demands explanations. Not excuses. She wants emotional explanations. She basically wants to know what type of extreme emotion or conflict makes me act in such ways. Because my behavior isn´t the normal behavior of a young woman, you know. My sister was much more reliable, after all.

And now I´ve done several severe things at once. I´ve been avoiding her for almost a week. And I´ve failed to enlist for my exams. Of course she will establish a connection between these two things. She will infer that I felt guilty for not managing to enlist, and therefore I tried to avoid her. She will say that in this knowing tone; signaling that I´ll get away without being scolded, but only because she is so proud of her cleverness for having figured me out. She will also infer that, because I feel guilty, there must be something I have done wrong. She will grill me about it.  She will grill me about my feelings over having failed. “Huh. Well. Now that´s really annoying, isn´t it? I mean, not because of us (my parents), just that you have to wait for another six months, having nothing to do. You sure would have liked to finish college soon. Or wouldn´t you?”

I´m dreading this. I´m so dreading this.

It is such a humiliating procedure. I will feel both numb and resentful and probably either get loud and “insolent”, declaring that I didn´t mess up at all and that everybody else is at fault (and I´ll hate myself for it because that´s pathetic; after all I know it is my fault to a great extent, I didn´t care enough and I still don´t!) – yeah, or I´ll just fall silent, stare at the floor, grumpily shrug every now and then and make it clear that I don´t give a damn about the whole thing. Both these things might look like some kind of resistance, but they are not. I´m basically just rolling over and demonstrate to her satisfaction that I am a difficult, ungrateful brat. I make a fool of myself. That´s all she needs. Basically, by “acting out” I´m admitting defeat. It proofs, after all, that I must feel deeply ashamed of my failure. (In case you wonder if my family is in fact a bunch of highly intellectual sadists: I´m wondering the same thing.)

What would be truly empowering (and what would also take a shitload of courage) would be acting. Like: “Yeah, it is sooo annoying, I could kick myself in the teeth for not dealing with that application earlier!” Feeding her fake emotions. I´m sure she´d be extremely disappointed. Admitting to shame (even if you don´t really feel it) is one of the most mature things there is, after all. It shows so much strength. It would take away all of her power. Her power, after all, consists in seeing me warding off shame and guilt by acting out in a childish manner and generously allowing me to do so. Not reminding me how childish I am. Not scolding me even though she feels she could. Yes. This is where her power lies. In being in the position of being generous towards an undeserving child.

And my position is as unfavorable as it gets. Either I need to masochistically accept responsibility and consequences I don´t need to accept if I rely on her generosity. (I´m talking about emotional consequences like shame/guilt rather than about material consequences.) Or I need to be deserving. That is: I need to do everything completely right. I must be morally, psychologically, academically immaculate. I need to be perfect.

 

 

 

Maladaptive Daydreaming – Narcissism or Dissociation?

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , on March 15, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

I´ve always been a dreamer. I don´t mean a dreamer as in “I have a dream”. I mean a dreamer as in heads-in-the-clouds-earth-to-the-weird-philosopher-scatterbrain. I can spend hours and days submerged in fantasy scenarios. And at some point those days add up to years.

Now, dreaming away your life sure has a bad name. It´s what losers do, right? Instead, I should rather go out there and live. And many of my dreams are about doing just that. For some reason, though, I can never really muster up the willpower to do it. To be honest, I don´t even know how to do it. Because I´m pretty sure by now that I enjoy my dreams a whole lot more than I´d enjoy them coming true. I feel like there is just nothing out there for me.

I have real trouble truly experiencing things.  I might go to a concert, or to a club, or to any kind of event and still be dreaming, not getting anything much out of the event itself. I cannot seem to snap out of it. It´s almost like I don´t know how to be awake and how to feel alive. And while I wish this would shake me up, I just have a stupid, uncomfortable feeling, like the guilty conscience you get from overeating. I´d be lying to myself – or much rather: I´d be dreaming – if I thought that after writing this blog entry I´ll suddenly start living.

So this is my situation:  I don´t experience things. I´m cut off from life and while I dream I don´t even feel like I´m missing anything because I have such a vivid imagination. I can imagine things so vividly that I grind my teeth, grimace in imaginary pain/rage or float in ecstatic feelings that I´ve never gotten out of any real (inter-) action. And yet it is never quite the real deal. Nothing ever comes from it. I´m spinning around in circles. When one fantasy is finished, the next one begins. Or it is just repeated.

It seems cruel to me that I have a vivid inner life, and yet the feelings and states of mind it contains are never directed at anything that happens in reality. I feel completely high while I imagine running down a hill, but if    I´d really do that I´d just be scared I´ll fall. Or I´d be dreaming. Also, I might crave somebody´s touch, but as soon as I felt his fingertips on my skin the rush would be over. The sensation might actually feel quite profane and boring. It drives me crazy. There is this old Greek saga of Tantalus, who was forced to suffer thirst and hunger while standing in water that disappeared every time he bend down to drink; just as the fruits above his head were out of reach by mere inches. Now imagine you are Tantalus, just that you know the fruits and the water won´t even still your hunger and thirst. Even if you could reach them, you suddenly wouldn´t want them anymore. That´s me.

I believe the daydream dilemma is really at the core of my depression.

Like I said above, I have been dreaming all my life. Most of the time I was unaware of it. Or let´s say: I was unaware that the good feelings I got out of it were just imagination. Now, I guess it is a philosophical question how real a good feeling is if it is directed towards an imaginary event. But even if you want to claim it is somehow real, that doesn´t make a difference in my case. Because to me the events were as good as real. Sometimes I nearly told someone that today I´d saved the world again. Or what I had said to imaginary friend number 2145. Even my self-esteem stemmed from things I did in my imagination. Sounds scary? Well, it is.

During my teens, though, it became obvious to me again and again that my fantasies were fairly detached from who I was and what kind of life I was leading. One main reason was the growing jealousy I felt towards people who actually did the things I was just dreaming about. Whenever I tried to do them, though, I didn´t seem to get anything out of them. I could not motivate myself to try things, leave alone trying them again. I was a complete follower, just drifting along with my friends. I more or less let my best friends dictate who I was. On the one hand, I was completely self-absorbed, the lone sun of a parallel universe, and on the other hand, I was a mere side-kick in everybody else´s show.

And then came the point when I was starting to believe those dreams were something evil or reprehensible. Why? Because they were illusions. Illusions I had about myself and about the options I had in life. The way I saw it, I was living a comfortable lie, which was bad enough, but it was worsened by the fact that I got jealous at others who were living their dreams and trying to improve themselves. And because I was jealous, I was trying to harm them. Even my best friends. I really crashed. From the great, brave, admirable person I was in my dreams to the pathetic loser who harmed others in order to keep up her illusions and life lies. The higher they are, the deeper they fall – or so it seemed. Because apparently I´d never been anywhere near the upper end of the hole I was living in.

So I tried to go without those daydreams. I decided to give them up for good and see myself in all my ugliness. And I found out I couldn´t do it.

I´d get up in the morning and feel lost. Everything around me seemed strange and far away; hostile, cold and anonymous. I felt disconnected from the people around me, like I was living in a whole different world. (As I write this I realize how ironic it is that as long as I was dreaming, that is, truly in a different world, I felt at home and safe.) I was both desperate and numb, as if something terrible had happened or was still happening. I felt like I could never feel safe or happy again. I tried to keep this up, stay present, not distract myself with anything that could make me dream – be it music, books or even letting my thoughts wander. In the evening I was so exhausted that I fell asleep at 8 p.m., the way you fall asleep after a shock or a crisis.

Over time I realized I couldn´t stay present. I believed this was some kind of resistance against seeing me the way I truly was (and I thought the sight would be ugly). I lost an important relationship over my inability to stay present, because said person blamed me, too. I had already wrecked my mind trying to overcome my numbness and detachedness quite a bit by the time she left; and when she did, it dealt me the final blow. I went into what I´d now call a state of shock. For weeks afterwards I was shouting, crying and throwing things because it tortured me that I still couldn´t break through that numbness and feel something about my loss. When I wasn´t crying out for help, I was walking around like a zombie. I  couldn´t believe I was doing normal things, like seeing people or going to school or dreaming – how could I do stuff like that after my world had just collapsed?!  But what else could I do? Because I didn´t feel anything. Anything other than numbness and a vague sense of despair and anxiety. This is the state of mind I was in when I consulted Dr. Stoneface.

As my complaints, I listed to Dr. Stoneface all the things I was accusing myself of: Self-absorbed, narcissistic daydreams which ruined my relationships; jealousy; inability to live and experience things; inner deadness. Basically, all I could get out was gibberish. And, inexplicably to me, he simply swallowed all that. He didn´t see through my state of shock, even though a colleague of his had already diagnosed me with Adjustment Disorder. He merely assumed that what he saw before him was the “typical” case of a repentant narcissist who had just fucked up her life. “Adjustment Disorder” doesn´t even show up among the diagnoses he gave me.  In retrospect, as the full amount of his incompetence slowly dawns me, it just makes me speechless. Even psychology textbooks say that you shouldn´t diagnose a personality disorder before you´ve treated the acute problem. You have a client in your office who is distraught, cries, talks gibberish and constantly interrupts herself – and you never once question the accuracy of her self-accusations? Wow.

So what am I left with?

The same old impossibility to stay present, and the same old inferiority complex that goes with not really participating in life.

The same old fear that life merely has nothing to offer me which is as good and safe as my dreams; along with the same old fear that I´m living a lie.

The knowledge that the clock is ticking and that I´m still not making anything out of my life or myself.

Is there any kind of help for this kind of thing?

I´ve heard there is an informal diagnosis called “Daydreaming Disorder”, or “Maladaptive Daydreaming”. Apparently “therapies” for this thing work mainly like drug withdrawal or dieting. Use your willpower and some therapeutic methods to free yourself from your addiction/unhealthy habit. Apart from the fact that this would trigger a whole lot of humiliating memories from the time when the friend who eventually left me tried to push me towards breaking that “habit”, the thought of not being allowed to dream anymore is simply panic-inducing. I feel like the world is collapsing down on me.

“Well, see?” I hear in my head. “You just don´t want to. If you don´t want to, nobody can help you. But remember that you only live once; and you are wasting your life.”

I don´t know how many times I´ve tried to make it clear to myself and others that I truly can´t stop drifting away. It´s not a matter of willpower. But nobody ever believed me. They just saw “resistance”. And it really does sound like a cheap excuse, doesn´t it? Dreaming is a lot more pleasant than working hard in real life, isn´t it? So what kind of motivation would I have to not live in a dreamworld anymore?

This inner (and sometimes outer) debate isn´t facilitated by the fact that quite often I ask myself the same thing. This is what I meant with dreaming being connected to my depression. I simply don´t know what there is that´s worth living for. And this makes me feel like some kind of drug addict after all. I need an artificial happiness which is greater than anything life has to offer. I can remain an addict, sure, but then I´m a loser and I will harshly regret this on my deathbed.

If it wasn´t for those dreams, I probably wouldn´t worry too much if I´m a narcissist. But something about these dreams really seems to fit the picture: If I don´t live in my dreams, I feel uncomfortable, even depressed or suicidal. Apparently I am unable to cope with reality. I prefer my dreams, which are quite naturally self-serving. I control that world. I win in that world even when I lose. I might be defeated, but I always know I am the hero. I´m on my own side. I know that all the important people are on my own side. Sounds pretty narcissistic, huh? And I cannot cope without that kind of “supply”. Sounds even more narcissistic. Tough luck for me.

The whole phenomenon also fits another picture, though. Dissociative disorders. I mean – half of the day (understatement) I more or less involuntarily slip away into an altered state of consciousness. I hardly (if at all) notice the world around me. Sometimes at work when people ask me for something I panic because I find I cannot listen to them. I cannot process what they say. I cannot think. When I check the call numbers on the books they want to borrow I do not really read them. I just pretend to be checking them. Happens regularly, almost every time. I hardly even notice it anymore. I barely “wake up” while I attend on them. Sometimes, though, I get a slight rush of panic. What if they notice? And in moments like these I feel like a blind person who pretends she can see.

Here it is, finally, the post I wanted to write about connections between dissociation and narcissism. Told you it was there in my head somewhere. Talk about me being a scatterbrain.^^

The drama of the spoiled child

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , , on March 12, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

Maybe I should give you a quick update. I didn´t manage to find a tutor, so I won´t enlist for my exams this winter. My family doesn´t know yet. This is not what I wanted to talk about, though.

I read an intriguing post on a blog I´ve already referred to before. The post was about  two ways in which people who were abused by their parents might parent their own children.

“Victims and survivors of this dysfunctional family system grow up going one of two ways OR as in the case of my mother, going both ways;

a) they believe that they can BE loved by being compliant and proving love to some people, and they believe that being loved is compliance and obedience from others. My mother made me jump through her hoops just as she jumped through everyone else’s hoops. (This is exactly like a pecking order system; think about who your oppressors, owners or captors are willing to serve.)

b) Others hang on to the belief that compliance and service is love, and they give in to their own children’s every whim falsely believing that doing that will ensure their kids love them. (which is a type of neglect) But because that also isn’t love, that doesn’t work either.”

So they might either treat their kids the way their parents treated them, or they might try to “love” their children the way they were taught to love their parents – while still looking for love themselves.

Option b) made me think, really. What effect will this kind of behavior have on the children? Will they all turn out to be little Eric Cartmans? Some real brats? Unable to take frustrations, unable to bear not getting what they want straight away? An ego that shoots straight through the ceiling?

It is hard to tell who is looked down upon more by society: These kids, or their parents. All I know is that there are entire television shows centered around “setting these kids straight”. We can watch how difficult teens  are sent to boot camps where they “finally get some perspective”; we can watch how violent little monsters are tamed by super nannies. Difficult, “spoiled” kids are the laughing stock of the nation. Everybody likes to see them getting their asses kicked. These shows are wank material for everyone who gets off from how much of a better kid/parent he or she is.

What is it like to be such a kid? What is it like to feel like a spoiled brat?

It means to believe that your parents have just been too nice to you. It means to believe that you have been treated to well; or at any rate better than you deserve.

We all may experience that kind of feeling every now and then, like when we get undeserved praise. It is not very comfortable. And now imagine this feeling to be an integral part of your self-image.

People treat me better than I deserve. I am completely dependent on their mercy. 

What follows? What follows if you are dependent on somebody´s mercy?

I must be nice to them. I must suck up to them. I must please them, because if I don´t, they won´t give me this special, generous treatment any more. They will treat me the way I deserve it, which means that they will be mean and cruel. 

“Hey, wait a sec!”, some people might exclaim now. “Maybe some kids feel this way, maybe you feel this way, but if you do, you haven´t been spoiled! Spoiled kids have a sense of entitlement; they believe they deserve the special treatment they get!”

Oh, but not necessarily. One of my favorite children´s books deals with a little girl who was being spoiled to no end, and yet she has such a strong sense of shame that she refused to rebel or even show any pain even when she lost everything and was forced to wear rags. I´m talking about A Little Princess, of course. Another example of  a spoiled child who refuses to be corrupted by her parents is Matilda. Matilda is also a good example of what the author of the above-mentioned blog says: That spoiling is a form of neglect.

So, let us rethink the situation of the kid whose parents give in to her every whim. Let us not vilify her for a moment. Let us assume spoiled kids are human beings, too, absurd as that may seem (yes, that was sarcasm). Human beings, of course, have feelings, and the feelings of the spoiled child might be worth taking a look at.

I imagine that one of the strongest feelings might be a sense of insecurity. Why insecurity? If parents give in to every whim of their child, then the child cannot rely on the parents knowing what is good for her ( and actually doing it). So who is supposed to know what is good for the child? The child herself? It seems like the spoiled child basically has to parent herself. At an age where she is much, much too young for that.

So what can she do if she wants to be able to rely on her parents? Not have any whims. Not show any feelings. Not want anything.  Being “difficult”, which, in many cases probably just means “being a normal child”, might become very dangerous. Or at least it might feel so, because suddenly your parents aren´t stable, strong and reliable anymore, as you need them to be in order to feel safe. Therefore,  a spoiled child might feel a deeply ingrained fear of being difficult. Because being difficult means chaos, insecurity and abandonment. As a result, the child might be paradoxically eager to be well-behaved. She might not make any trouble at all. She might do her homework, get good grades, not drink and smoke and not go out throughout her teenage years.  She might feel like she simply is that way. She is a copy of her parents. And whenever she “rebels” and behaves badly (like singing in the streets), she´ll start to feel worried, ashamed, sometimes even scared and lost and abandoned.

This doesn´t mean that there won´t be drama. She might start fights with her parents, testing boundaries which aren´t really there, hoping for some kind of reaction that makes her feel like she is being noticed and cared for. Predictably, though, her parents will just give in to her whims, thus abandoning her again, and making her feel deeply ashamed of behaving like a five-year-old just so she can go to bed half an hour later. Because this is what just happened, right? At least on the surface.

When she is older, she might accuse her parents of having spoiled her and not being stricter on her, but deep down she feels ashamed for blaming them for her character flaws and her inability to cope. She is just dodging responsibility again. How pathetic! Even if she was right she should just shut up and repair the damage.

As he hears those accusations, something in her father´s face changes, though. Suddenly she gets scared of him. “Well, I think you got away lucky!” he says in a harsh, aggressive tone. “Other parents beat up their kids, you really wouldn´t want that!” As she watches her sister quickly leave the room, she will wonder if an intelligent man like her father seriously believes these are the only two alternatives. Neglect or being beaten?

That aggression is always boiling under the surface. Since her parents feel compelled to fulfill all her wishes and to give in to all her whims, those whims exhaust them and spur aggression, especially if the parents see their own abusive caretakers in the child. She is given presents and granted favors that don´t come from the heart. She feels like she has somehow forced them to give these to her, and that her parents´ grudge is the result of her being such a manipulative, demanding child. The presents feel like a punishment, and yet she is forced to say “thank you”.

She will learn that her feelings are something dangerous. They are something that causes trouble; something that is so powerful it forces people to do things they don´t want to do. Something that causes aggression. Later in her life, when somebody does something nice for her, she will never be sure if he is doing it on his own accord or if she has somehow manipulated him into doing it and if he is secretly angry at her for doing so. When she asks her boyfriend to drive her home, her mother will find it “amusing” that she acts like a diva, charming him into giving in to her whim. She does not fail to remark that our spoiled child´s strong, independent sister would rather have walked home 10 miles than asking a man a favor. The spoiled child is left to wonder whether she is being inappropriately flirtatious. It is not the first time that her mother interprets the most harmless actions as her flirting with someone.

How will the child feel when is a young adult? She might feel useless, helpless, dependent and deeply ashamed of it. Her self-confidence is probably below zero. She might have a mysterious sense of guilt she doesn´t understand. She might have trouble setting goals, having ambitions, having even wishes or feelings. She might feel an immense pressure to become something special, something great, but she feels unable to even clean up her room or get dressed properly. And she knows that everybody will wonder, and maybe not without a certain amount of schadenfreude, why nothing became of her. Because she´s had it all, hasn´t she?

 

 

 

 

 

Good kid, bad kid

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags on March 3, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

I feel like such a failure. I still have no tutor, and I´m pretty sure I won´t get one until next Tuesday. I´m lying in bed all day, making frantic plans for the rest of my life and I feel like I´m looking into some kind of abyss because these future selves I sketch out are just not me in any way. Meanwhile, my dearest sister Irene has received a three-year-contract for a job as a teacher at a university in a great city at the other end of the world .

Don´t get me wrong. I don´t wish my sister was a failure. I just wish she´d stop thinking I was one.

Of all members of my family, Irene is most worried about my future. When I entered college, apparently she instructed my parents to keep pushing me, telling me to go to my lectures and classes, and she also made sure that my parents were not happy with me when suddenly, instead of an A, I´d get a B+. I have no idea why Irene was doing this. Or why my parents relied on her judgment. Maybe they have outsourced my up-bringing to her, I don´t know. I cannot help being embittered and hurt because of the complete lack of trust I encountered when I entered college. I mean – just before that I had proven that I can, all on my fucking own, work hard enough to graduate from high school with the best grade point average possible. One should think they´d have a pretty high opinion of my work discipline, my ambition and my ability to motivate myself. Oddly enough, however, I encountered some icy cold distrust. “Well, don´t think you can relax now and rely on your high school diploma to carry you through life.” It sounded almost scornful. Just what the hell? Why did they behave as if I was on parole or something?

I don´t remember feeling anything much about it back then, I didn´t even understand the severity of their behavior. Now, however, the memory makes me want to cry. I´m sure they´d say they were “just worried”, and they even believe this themselves, but that doesn´t make it any better. It changes nothing about the fact that apparently they don´t trust me because they think I´m inherently unreliable, troubled and flawed.

My mother would say this is my own fault. I have always been unfavorably compared to Irene when it came to openness and reliability. My mother told me about how Irene was always on time, how Irene always called when she was on holiday, how Irene always discussed her plans with my parents…and how I tend to be late, don´t call, don´t want to share my plans, don´t want to talk about what I am doing and how I am feeling. It has been like this ever since. According to my parents, my family cares about me a big deal, but I push them away all the time. I never know what to reply to this. It´s true, I ward them off whenever I can. I don´t call. I´m late. I give grumpy answers when my parents ask me questions. But actually I want to be cared for. Just…huh. Maybe not by them? I don´t know, really.

Anyway.

I have a weird, ugly feeling I don´t quite understand. I feel guilty. And I also feel worried about Irene. It was her who always pushed me to work harder for college. And when I first applied for college I messed something up; and as a result I had to wait for another semester until I could start studying my actual subject. And when we noticed that, Irene started to cry. Now what the hell?

Why does Irene cry when I mess up? The thing is, I was crying, too. I was pissed off at myself and at the whole system and at my entire situation. And I wanted to be left alone for a moment, so I asked Irene to go. She wouldn´t. I seriously had to push her out of my room, and she still didn´t leave me alone. What the heck, really?

Somehow I don´t think it had anything to do with her being so sorry for me. Or with her absolutely wanting to comfort me. She was behaving as if she herself was affected by this. Maybe my memory is distorted, but I´m starting to wonder if there was some kind of panic to this. She was upset for herself. Somehow my failure had negative consequences for her, too. And I wonder why.

Irene always seemed to feel responsible for me, and as a result, she was a lot more mad at me when I messed up than my parents. My parents, to be honest, don´t give a damn.

And I´m starting to feel guilty because I wonder what exactly Irene might have gone through. Why does she feel and behave like she is my parent? Do I or did I ever, by fucking up, get her into trouble?

I feel like I´m in a really messed up place with this. I feel like I might be guilty without even knowing it. I already mentioned I live in a bubble, but I also live in a bubble family-wise. I was always lackadaisical, I didn´t care about anything, I was basically selfish. I was granted the luxury to remain a child forever, even when I was already a teen and beyond that. The price, however, was to never be taken seriously and to be left out of all plans and secrets. I´m always the last person who learns about anything. Don´t think I was happy, I wasn´t. My sister was the aggressive one, I was the one who got depressed and started to cut.

Well, Irene, however…Irene seems to have a very close relationship with my mother. They talk about intimate stuff I´d never talk about with either of them, but particularly not with my mum. And my mum tells Irene stuff she never told me about, like when she was love sick. The two of them do not only talk about their own affairs, though. They also talk about me. About intimate details. In a conversation with Irene, my mum once referred to me as “our child”. It´s like I am their little project.

They talk about what the teachers said about me. They are satisfied with the results, so the teachers are recognizing my value, just like they are supposed to. As if I was a product the two of them manufactured, and now the costumers are finally recognizing how great it is. They also talk about my depression. They talk about how much of it has to be show. They talk about how insolent I am towards my mother. They talk about how I should just sleep with my boyfriend, then my depression would go away. A few months later, they talk about how it is my fault that my boyfriend left me because I didn´t sleep with him and instead pretended to be oh so sad and depressed. Don´t ask me how I found out. Definitely not by honorable means. Then again, how else would I have ever found out I´m the family version of the Truman Show?

Why, then, would I feel guilty towards Irene, though? Because even though she is emotionally invalidating to the point of being abusive, she is the only one in this damn family who actually seems to care about me. I´m not just her project in the narcissistic sense. Maybe she is also trying to protect me from making her mistakes. Maybe, on some level, she wanted to help me, even needed to help me, and I did not exactly make it easy for her. I refused her just as much as I refused anybody else. And, other than my parents, I think I might have hurt her doing so. And right now I feel deeply sorry that I failed her all my life, and sometimes out of pure hatred and vengefulness. At the same time, though, I know it is not my job to help her fulfill a dysfunctional role in a dysfunctional family.

I cannot resolve the underlying conflict between us. Irene won´t hear anything negative about our parents. She fervently denies there is anything wrong with them. According to her, I ought to be grateful for them. She attacks me most viciously when I question them. Nothing I can do for our relationship. We do not have a real emotional connection. Just a very twisted dependency, it seems. And so what I am scared of most about all this trouble with my thesis is Irene learning that I failed. I think that she hates and resents me for each mistake that I make. I think she is embittered on some level, feeling like I´m being treated better than her. Maybe she feels that my parents would blame her for her mistakes, but they wouldn´t blame me for mine.

I´m entering a really dangerous zone of my psyche here.