Archive for October, 2012

The cruel roots of writing and society´s unwillingness to be tortured – or something like that

Posted in morbid, personal, rants with tags , , , on October 31, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

I´ve just had a perfect inner monologue going, but it seems impossible to write it down systematically as it involves too many great questions and answers which all seem to be entangled with each other. And yet I feel obliged to try. I´ll just start somewhere, then.

I´m being torn apart between resigning myself to being a cynic or going on looking for some deep, authentic sincerity inside of me. I understand this needs explaining. Take this example: Some people believe there is such a thing as a dream job, and the dream job is not just a great or prestigious job, but something that helps you fulfill your mission in this world. Which requires that you have some kind of mission. That there is something you were born to do. And then there are others who think that most people who got great jobs got them by accident and grew into who they became. They weren´t meant to be – whatever, a successful start-up founder – it just so happened that they became successful founders. It´s not like their path had been laid out in front of them through divine revelation (or tons of soul-searching) some time in their early twenties. It was made by walking, and they never knew what would be around the next corner. In fact, they created it, and they could have done something entirely different. It´s not like they found their true mission in life and everything else would have been false and misguided. They might just as easily have become artists, and that would have been just as right.

As much as I rationally favor this second, “cynical” opinion, I cannot seem to stop searching. Emotionally, I need the belief that there is one true way for me and that I can find it. In a way, this is nothing but trying to get around making decisions. If only one way is right, and if this is absolutely clear and obvious, then there is no reason to choose a different path. If there is more than one way, and they are all equally worthwhile, making a decision feels like cutting myself off from life. Not even because it might be the wrong decision in the sense that my life could go awry. Or well, maybe in some way. But it´s not the only problem. It just feels as if I´m deciding on what not to use my abilities, and I can´t help wonder if I´m wasting them. Should I write when I could be a scientist? Should I write when I could be an entrepreneur?

It is interesting, and I´m only realizing this now, that I always seem to be thinking of “more worthwhile” stuff I ought to do instead of writing. “But…I´m fairly smart, why don´t I try to cure AIDS instead? Everybody can tell a bloody story, and even if they can´t, it´s not such a great loss!” It makes me uneasy how self-important this sounds, and often I think that it would solve all my problems if I was a self-conscious little girl who is humbled by every tiny bit of success because she always expected to fail. But I´m also sick and tired of being modest when it means that I cannot even admit to myself what my problem is. If I´m really that arrogant then the world ought to see it so at least they don´t mistakenly like me for something I´m not.

So, yeah. My problem with finding a life mission is that I think I can do nearly everything, and I don´t know which problem is worthy of my skills. I´m just fairly convinced that writing is not. I could never feel that awe and respect for literature some people seem to feel. For single works, yes, but not for LITERATURE as a whole. So it doesn´t seem okay to see writing as my whole life mission. It is something I want/need to do while I do something else, but not as my main occupation. I wouldn´t respect myself if I was only a writer, and this is coming from someone who hasn´t even finished a single novel. Quite rich.

Maybe this is not so much of an attitude problem on my part, but on society´s part. Maybe society just doesn´t respect writing a whole lot. Sentences like: “Yeah, everyone can do that!” are not coming out of nowhere. Writers are some kind of luxury, they are there for entertainment. If we lived in a world that fears their writers…

To be honest, I don´t know exactly where that came from, but it captures something important. If books could scare people, if people were frightened to get caught up in a book because they don´t know what it might do to them, if they were scared of what a book might tell them about themselves, if institutions lived in fear of how they are judged in the latest novels…if a book could be a public event of the magnitude of 9/11…

I´m not a nice writer, in fact, I´m a highly sadistic one. I read that´s okay, you have to be mean to your characters to write gripping stories, but for me, characters are just a means to an end. It´s the reader I want to get at. It´s him I want to play god with. And I use myself as a human guinea pig to test my ideas. If I shudder and wince and wish it wouldn´t happen, it´s probably good. Writing is the sublimest display of my ugliest face.

I´m hardly the only writer who´s like this. I guess many others would say the same thing, and sure there are some who would merely use nicer words. They might say they want to move the reader. But moving the reader does seem to imply drawing him in, getting him attached to some character and then cutting him a wound, even though you might stitch it back up in the end and bandage it with a big, fat happy ending.

I have a feeling, though, that readers are not really willing to be toyed with. Maybe they once were, but they aren´t really, today. They want to be smart, stoical, blasé. They don´t like to be moved. They´d rather look like cynics. Sometimes I feel like authors are waging a silent war against readers who think they have seen it all.  Maybe not all readers, no. I think what I´m having in mind here, though quite implicitly, is a sophisticated audience. Intellectual readers. It would be such a compliment to inspire them to awe or stunned silence, but it is in their nature to talk. They always want to outsmart you and then condescendingly praise you for how well or skilled your novel is constructed. You could write in your own blood and you would´t get an honest, emotional reply from them. I think it´s this, the public way literature is dealt with which discourages me so much. It´s what makes me feel that, as a writer, I´m a lesser being. The intellectual public simply refuses to let books move them. The single individuals, privately, might be moved, but in public they´ll always try to say something “smart” that reduces your writings to a footnote in literary history. They deny you the effect you have been searching for, and that is demoralizing. It feels like they´re playing with unfair means, because they wouldn´t admit they´re moved if they were choking down tears. It has nothing to do with literary quality.

With a public like this, writing is almost inevitably ineffectual. How are you ever going to feel like you´ve made an impact on the world? Feeling like you have no impact on the world is nothing “personal success” (fame, talk show invitations, fans and followers) can ever make up for.

 

 

Confession Time

Posted in college, morbid, personal with tags , , on October 23, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

There are so many things that make me feel guilty I´d keep ten confessionals blocked if I tried to get it all off my chest, but I´ll just get started anyway. At least it satisfies my urge for self-torture, which appears to be at a new high.

Alright, I have this professor who was teaching at my uni for one semester. I took his class, we found there was a subject we were both interested in, I wrote an essay about that subject, he suggested I should revisit it and submit it to a journal. He even offered to read my revisions, and I´ve been failing to send them to him for almost a year now. I´ve last written him six months ago. And the really bad thing about this is that I happen to have a serious crush on him.

I don´t feel guilty for having a crush on him, no. I´m not even worried he might stumble upon this blog, recognize me and find out about it. I´m fairly sure he knows, anyway. There were times when I´ve been wondering if it was mutual.

I just cannot cope with how much I´ve fucked this up. I could still write him, yes, if I managed to finish my revisions, but I´m scared of his reaction. It would be a relief if he´d be openly mad at me, but what if he´s just cool and polite and all the time I feel he doesn´t like me anymore?

I believe the really sad, tragic thing is that he might never have liked me in the first place. I sort of made myself believe that if only I could write a brilliant enough essay we could become friends. He could value me as a person. God, I act as if he was a pop star or something; someone so detached from “ordinary people” that I´d have to be special to mean anything to him. Do something especially awesome. It is sad, but this is just how I feel about him. Like I´m an annoying kid who somehow has to earn being liked.

He moves me in all those stupid ways; he makes me want to be vulnerable to him, even look foolish to him; I´d let him deeper into my mind than most people if only I could be sure he likes me. I wish he would write me, ask me if I´m alright, but even if he should like me he couldn´t do that. Our relationship has always been that tiny little bit closer than the ordinary teacher-student-relationship, and I guess it could get him into trouble if any suspicions arose.

The terrible thing is that this unspoken bond, maybe unspoken mutual liking, has never been explicit, so if I lost it, if my long silence has hurt his feelings or angered him, then we will never be able to talk about it. This is so awful.

I´m still not sure if I didn´t just imagine everything. What if I´m making a complete fool of myself thinking he might like me? Or maybe he does like me, but it doesn´t mean so much to him? I could live with him not reciprocating my feelings as long as he respects me. Sometimes I just wish I could write him and tell him everything, risking to make a complete fool of myself, and he would reply: “My feelings are not as deep as yours, and if they were I´d probably lose my job, but I definitely like you and I enjoyed working with you.” If he would say: “I value your courage for admitting this to me even though you knew I wasn´t going to reciprocate!”, then he would be giving me all I need. I´d feel understood. If I ever told him about my feelings then I wouldn´t do so in the hope for a relationship (I already have a happy relationship, after all), but in the hope for a reply that shows me that he understands and values me.

My feelings for him are, of course, ever so slightly twisted; he is an authority figure, and not just formally. He´s one of those people I feel special respect for. I feel so much respect for him that I´d let him reject me. I wouldn´t be angry, or at least not too much. I would cry, but I wouldn´t feel the need to hide I´m hurt. That´s about the greatest proof of trust I can offer a person. That I would let them make me cry in front of their eyes.

But what if he can´t take this? Even worse, what if he doesn´t understand this? I always felt like he completely understands me even without words, I never believed I could hide my crush from him and gladly so, I wanted him to know! What if I told him all this and he´d be embarrassed and awkwardly try to be nice about saying no to me, as if I had ever expected anything else? It´s only then that I´d feel truly rejected. Or, in the words of Winston Smith:

Maybe one does not want to be loved so much as understood.

Well, maybe yes and maybe no. It is so hard to work on that essay without feeling like he´s looking forward to reading it, like he is looking forward to hearing from me. Sometimes I wish I´d run into him on the street and he´d ask me what the hell is wrong with me. I would so love to tell him everything that´s wrong, both with me and the world. The way it is, though, a simple “are you still working on this”-email would do. But he´s not going to send one. Not after so much time. Just what the hell am I supposed to do? Rework that essay, send it to him with a thousand apologies and hope for the best, sure. But it is so hard to keep working.

 

A long post about how breaking isn´t healing, about voluntary self-abasement and communication fails or sabotage in psychotherapy (and parts of this might be too much info and not safe for work)

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

Sometimes when I feel really bad I read websites about therapy options and offers, and for a while I feel better imagining I will see a therapist again and I will be cared about and someone will pay attention to me, and when I notice something about the offer/program is annoying me I realize I´m obviously feeling better again. I did so today, too, and I came across a group therapy institution with principles inspired by this quote by Richard Beauvais:

We are here because, all in all, there is no escape from ourselves. Until a man has encountered himself in the eyes and hearts of his fellow men, he is on the run. Unless he allows his fellow men to share in his inner sanctum, he will not experience security. As long as he fears to be seen through, he is unable to recognize himself or others – he will be alone.

This type of statement would have caused a whole lot of self-torture on my part a few years back. I would have been thinking: “Oh no, I fear to be seen through, so I am deluded about myself and unable to love or understand anybody! I´m am completely isolated and alone!”

Now, and with the background of futile self-torture I have, this type of statement makes me roll my eyes. I still feel like I know exactly what this quote is about, but I have a hunch that this “security” and intimacy are not so terribly desirable. Maybe not even healthy for a person who aims for emotional independence.

***

In my entry on masochism and the ego I wrote about a feeling of intimacy that always sets in when emotional boundaries are crossed – especially when they are crossed forcefully. I gave the example of how I felt after talking to my sister. She didn´t respect that I didn´t want to cry in front of her and pushed the issue that was making me so uncomfortable. I cried, was disgusted with myself and later felt close to her and childishly clingy and grateful. This kind of thing happened to me on a larger level with the coach I´ve consulted over career choices.

I´ve said a whole lot of good things about this woman. From a distance, now, this disturbs me. I still feel sort of bonded towards her, but I wish I didn´t because I have a strong feeling she isn´t really all that good for me. To begin with, she is an intimidating woman. I was intimidated the moment I entered her office with the other people who formed our group. I, other than some of the other group members, though, knew very well how to behave in order to make her happy with me, and I followed that script A-Z. You wouldn´t think so when reading this blog, as I´m constantly saying controversial things or ranting about stuff, but when I encounter someone confrontative or intimidating I mostly turn into a lowly little mouse. I was very shy at the beginning of the session, until I started to cry as she was poking around in some painful issues which were never hers to deal with, as she is no therapist. She immediately turned soft, but in a way that made me feel like she was pleased with this; things were going according to plan. She actually told us that in her sessions people cry all the time.

Afterwards I was feeling more relaxed, open, willing to share. I believe, though, this seemingly desirable state was the result of my boundaries being broken and overwhelmed, and not of me truly trusting her or being willing to share so much of myself. I think so because when I got out there I felt estranged from everything – the trains, my home, myself. I actually got a nasty anxiety attack on my way home. And the next morning, having slept it over, I was furious at her. The next session, though, was even more extreme than the first, and I ended up feeling helplessly grateful and clingy towards her. Still in tears I shook her hands and thanked her for everything she´d done for me, to which she replied: “Well, I´ve done my work, now you need to do your part and get going with your healing and your career!”

Just before that she had been having a go at another member of the group because she didn´t comply with her requests, and she had left that girl in tears. I had been sitting there in my duck and cover position knowing the yelling wasn´t directed at me, still being intimidated by it, feeling like I ought to be saying something in favor of the girl and wondering why the girl had brought this upon herself instead of just complying because that woman simply wasn´t someone to be messed with and wasn´t it obvious to everybody what you could and what you couldn´t say to her??? The woman saw it distracted me from the task we were supposed to perform and gently told me to keep going and I felt guilty towards the others for being favored, and I felt guilty or anxious towards the woman because she wouldn´t be so nice to me if she knew I didn´t approve of her behavior towards the girl.

The days afterwards I felt like a saint. I was full of good intentions and I was bent on following every advice/command the coach had given me. From now on I was going to take care of myself properly! I was going to see a therapist again and this time I simply wouldn´t be difficult and just subject myself to his authority. I didn´t feel like myself, but if my self was the price for healing, then I was going to pay it, because my self had so far not done me a terrifically great service in terms of making me happy.

Then I was playing a game with some friends, I lost, and I was (though just on the inside) childishly pissed off and sulking. That ruined my saintly feelings, and with some despair I thought that the determination to be healed was slipping through my fingers again. “What is wrong with me?” I thought. “I thought I was over this kind of thing, I wanted to stop being difficult! Why can´t I stop being like this?”

Yeah. Why can´t I stop having an ego? Why can´t that happy, saintly, compliant state of mind stay right in place? Why do I have to be such a damn difficult, proud, ambitious and sullen person? Why do I have to be so bloody complicated? Why can´t I just believe people and accept their authority and do/think as I´m told? Why is there always the need to know things better, do things better, win, be famous, have something to say of my own? Why can´t I just listen to the experts? Why do I have to be thinking stuff over all the time, questioning it? That way I´m never going to get anywhere! I´m going to ruin my life because I´m too arrogant to believe someone else knows better what´s wrong with me and what I should do!

***

So we´ve just seen what happens to me when someone forcefully breaches my emotional boundaries. It may look like I benefit from it, like I “finally admit to myself I have a problem and understand that I need to do something about it and comply with the treatment” yada yada, but that is very short-lived and alienating. Actually, it appears to be acutely anxiety-inducing whenever I have to face the real world again where people 1) see me as a normal person, not as a disturbed, neurotic patient (and therefore treat me like an equal) and 2) reward qualities like humour, sarcasm, wit and knowledge and even a certain callousness, instead of treating them as defensive mechanisms. I feel infinitely relieved to be allowed to be part of that world again, but I also feel guilty, like I´m slipping back into a bad, unhealthy life style which corrupts me and makes healing impossible.

Healing, oddly enough, never means I just feel good. Feeling good might include being sarcastic, aloof, obsessive, radical, angry, unreasonable and cocky. During the times when I felt good I was manically reading police reports all night, trying to prove or disprove crackpot conspiracy theories; or I was sitting in the park getting drunk with my girlfriend while we were singing our lungs out until the neighbors slammed their windows. I knew all the time that my life style was lunacy, but I loved it. I didn´t want to take things seriously, neither uni, nor my career, nor anything else, and least of all psychotherapy. If the purpose of my therapy truly had been that I feel good and enjoy life, then Dr. Stoneface would have been obliged to say: “Right now you seem to be doing great, so by all means go out there and live, for you are only young once! If you feel bad in a few years, there´ll still be time for you to come back, but don´t worry about it now!” He didn´t say that, though. Instead, he told me he was the most important person in my life. My current joy of life seemed to be an obstacle rather than progress.

I believe that, as much as therapy claims to be about enhancing the ability to enjoy things, it often fails at that. I don´t think any treatment that makes you feel guilty for your everyday life ideas and activities is fit to make you a happier person. There seems to be a moral component to healing, or maybe a clichéd Hollywood idea of what a healed person must be like: calm, worldly-wise, detached, gentle. A healed person just doesn´t act crazy. A healed person doesn´t stand in a pub taunting the opposing team´s supporters with songs about their lack of trophies. A healed person doesn´t feel homicidal or melodramatic about football results, even if she would never get into a physical fight over football. A healed person probably can´t even have dirty sex because to the healed person it is all “good, pure, beautiful, natural and an expression of love”.

The state of brokenness and forced intimacy doesn´t allow for any of these “wicked pleasures”. You cannot, or at least I cannot, move from one to the other and not feel at war with myself. The state of brokenness is despotic, it allows for no other state of mind as to not spoil its own purity. It brings peace of mind, it momentarily relieves anxiety, but only as long as it doesn´t conflict with the requirements and joys of the real world, of everyday life. And yet I fear that this state is all the above-quoted institution has to offer.

Let me analyze the quote in detail: First, it´s tone. The general message seems simple enough, “we need to be mirrored by others in order to know ourselves and feel at home in the world”. What this is turned into, however, is something like: “Unless you bare your innermost self to others, you are scared of yourself, unable to love and ultimately alone, even if you have relationships of any kind.” Baring yourself turns into some kind of obligation, something you have to do in order to even be a full human being who takes part in the most basic experiences of what it is like to be human. Remember that what is meant here is not intimacy between partners or friends. It is intimacy within the context of group therapy. Telling someone he is alone or that he doesn´t know himself just because he has not been confessing his innermost feelings to a random group of strangers is quite bold. It sounds to me like this is bound to result in a whole lot of drama, tears, emotional breakdowns and a catharsis which only lasts until the psychological make-up has been restored and people return to their workplace where they have to act normal. Then again, in that institution, people would be staying for a few weeks, separated from their normal lives, even their families. In such an environment, those sessions could be a whole lot more effective. They might lead to more than just a vague sense of guilt about our commitment to everyday life routine. I have to say I find this idea rather scary. “Maybe you´re just not ready for change!” Yeah, well, probably not. Mostly, though, I´d just prefer to keep my mind intact!

I keep on thinking that maybe I´m wrong. Maybe I´m having all kinds of phantom fears about opening up to others. Maybe it wouldn´t be terrible, maybe they would like me. I might be pleasantly surprised. Not everything is going to be criticism.

That, however, misses the point. It doesn´t matter how they judge or even just see me. What matters is that I don´t want other peoples´ view of me to be such an important part of who I am. I have that feeling which simply cannot be erased, the feeling that I have a right to privacy. Nobody can just trample across my mental boundaries, give me a thrashing and some fondling, and then disappear again and expect me to live by his rules from now on. Well, unfortunately, way too many people can do that. It´s just that it shouldn´t be this way. It´s the disease, not the cure!

It doesn´t mean that I cut myself off from others, or that I build up an impenetrable facade behind which I hide and look down upon the world. It just means that I decide how much of me I show. But why, then, would I ever decide to show my vulnerable and weak sides? Wouldn´t I portray myself as invincible and gorgeous?

That would probably depend on the context. But as I have described in my masochism article, I do experience a state of mind in which I am actively searching for the painful truths about myself so I can lay them out in front of anyone who takes enough interest in me to care. In that state of mind, I truly volunteer information about myself! In that state of mind, I can feel strongly at all times that I truly want to drop the facade and that I most definitely want to say things despite myself, if that makes any sense.

See, here is an example: I would love to be so hardcore it´s intimidating. I would love to be able to take pain without batting an eyelid. Fact is, I´m horribly scared even of the tiniest things, and even more so if I´ve asked for them. Even if I know they will most likely feel good. I guess it would be kind of pointless if I wasn´t scared. Like going on a roller coaster being all blasé and detached. What would happen, though, if I admitted I´m scared?

If I admitted it to Dr. Stoneface or many other therapists, what it would mean to them is that deep down I do not want to be hurt, even though I feel the inexplicable need to say otherwise. They would wonder why I feel the need to pretend I want this, or why I want to want this, and why I cannot be nicer to myself yada yada.

When I admit it in play I would be saying:  “I´m not as blasé and hardcore as I´d like to be! Damn, I wish I was so brave it leaves everyone awestruck, but I´m really just that very ordinary person who would crack immediately under torture!” I would be admitting something that hurts my pride, but the fact that it does so would not evoke any surprise. It would be understood just as this, as an exercise in humbling myself. And while I might still get taunted for it, I´d know my gesture would be appreciated and respected as a an attempt to amuse my partner and to feed their power rush.

I never felt like volunteering much info of that kind in therapy. I was either defensive or completely broken and in tears. I always sort of looked for a therapist to whom I could be honest and open, but up until now I didn´t understand the issue with that is not so much about his opinion on what I tell him, but the way I interprets my communication style. It confuses me when I mock myself and get no laughter. I don´t mean mock myself in a mean way, or in a way that is meant to distract from feelings. I mean the slightly melancholic way you joke about your sorest points when you are tired of your internal fights and conflicts and just want to admit you´re hopelessly inconsequential and paradoxical, unable to meet your own standards and yet so adamant about them. I instinctively expect or hope to get some kind of recognition for that move, some kind of leniency, respect or even sympathy. From my therapists, what I got was an irritated look, or just silence, or follow-up questions that indicated they had no idea what I had been trying to communicate to them: my graceful capitulation.

Maybe they wanted a deeper capitulation, with the help of their non-reaction wanted to push me towards a point where my coping mechanisms (the joking) broke down. Maybe they also didn´t care what happened and just waited for me to figure myself out. Maybe they simply had no idea what they were even doing. I cannot tell. At any rate, I cannot deal with this kind of non-communication and deliberate or accidental misinterpreting of what I´m trying to tell them. I feel exposed and ridiculous to the point of wanting to commit hara-kiri on the spot. And then I get very angry and defensive. And feel like a very deranged human being. Like something that shouldn´t exist.

To me, this non-reaction actually looks like some kind of sadism itself. Unfortunately it´s the evil, intransparent, black-hat variant. The type I can only guess exists in Dr. Stoneface, as he would never let me in on whether he misunderstands me on purpose or by accident.

I´m not sure if I will ever be able to do therapy and cooperate, or if I can even want to do that, no matter how much my anxiety plagues me (and it´s been bad lately). I feel like my greatest strenghts are inevitably regarded as problems in therapy, and I feel like many therapists are frighteningly serious and unyielding. My shy little attempts at connecting with them through self-deprecating humor have failed, and I cannot let anybody do scary, potentially painful stuff to me if I cannot connect to them. If I don´t have the basic trust that they like me the way I am, and that I´m supposed to have an ego and quirks and bad habits and throw all kinds of antics. I don´t want to have to become a saint just to stop getting anxiety attacks. Seriously.

 

A rant about my life, and what writing means to me (inofficially: Polishing up the facade, part 2)

Posted in personal, rants with tags , , , , on October 18, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

Self-harm triggers!

Almost a year ago I wrote a post called Polishing up the facade – part 1. I never wrote a part 2, but you can regard this as a follow-up, even though I´m at a point where I´m trying to polish up a facade which is barely even standing anymore.

I´m still busy selecting kitchen files and arguing with my parents (this noon it was my father who woke me up asking me about stuff and reminding me of things I had already explained to and discussed with my mother), and in the meantime my tutor (yes, I finally found a tutor for my thesis!) is writing me an e-mail telling me there´ll be a meeting with all of his students next week, so I will have to come up with some kind of list of references and a preliminary outline for my thesis to cover up for the fact that I haven´t been working on it so far. Additionally, I´m broke and it´s only the middle of the month. I have some birthday money left that should prevent me from starving, but I also have a dentist bill to pay. Maybe I can delay that until next month. No need to mention, by the way, that my room is still full of bottles.

For the last couple of days I´ve been having abdominal cramps which increased whenever somebody said something to me. At the same time, my thoughts were racing crazily. Uncharacteristically for an emetophobic I never even worried that this was a physical condition. It was blatantly obvious it was down to stress. I just had no idea what the hell to do about it that didn´t involve homicide. I did experiment a bit. I actually considered starting to cut again, not on impulse but deliberately like daily exercise, because my psyche is going to turn against my body in one way or the other, and I´d rather cut and get scars than have cramps and get Morbus Crohn. I´ve never been terrifically efficient at cutting, though, so I more or less dropped the idea.

I don´t think the whole moving/uni/being broke shit wouldn´t stress me out so much if it weren´t for the underlying problem. I know, after all, that I can move furniture, write papers and get a job. The underlying problem is that I don´t know why the hell I should be doing any of this. I just don´t want to. I don´t want to get a job. I don´t care what job it is. It could be the job of my fucking dreams, if that existed.

It´s not like I think all the jobs out there are boring. Actually, I find new interesting things every day. As long as I can explore it from afar, I find the world of work fairly fascinating. I just don´t want to be part of it.

Something about working feels like an insult. It doesn´t really matter whether it´s working as a waiter or as a manager. It just feels terrible that out there my only value as a person is in what way I can be useful to somebody else, and if I´m more useful than my competitors. That´s not because I´m stupid or lazy or shy of competition. I´ve won some competitions and lost others, but I am capable of competing.

I´m not lazy, either. Actually, I keep a remarkable amount of projects running. I have a comedy blog I post on daily, a football blog on which I compose detailed analyses of all our matches, another blog on which I´m writing a satire about two students and their first encounters with “the real world”, and actually I´m also working on a crime novel (I have about 80 pages written and I started last month). Lazy?

Any reasonable person would tell me to drop some of these projects to reduce my stress, but I can´t. I absolutely can´t. They are my only hope. If I succeed with any of them, maybe I will get around having to work, or at least I will get around confusing myself with a my work. Working itself is not such a chore to me. I don´t feel like going there, and there will be days when I´m constantly looking at the clock, but there are other days when it´s just fine, even in the boring jobs I´ve been doing. The problem is that I did those jobs knowing this wasn´t my life yet. Actually, I was a student, and studying would lead to something great. Yeah, but to what? Like I said, I do not want a job (well, sure, I don´t want to be unemployed and starving, but I do not dream of a job). Unfortunately, studying most likely will lead to a job, unless you start a company of your own, and for that I should have studied computer sciences.

I realize that as soon as I´m done studying I´ll be expected to get a job. Because that´s how you earn money, right? And then I won´t have time or energy anymore to work on my projects, and I´ll be sitting at work all day thinking: “So, when is this over so I can get started with my life?”, and then I´ll think: “Well, damn, this is my life!”

I don´t want to come to that. I wouldn´t quite kill myself to avoid it, but I´d do a lot of things below that. At least I think so now. I´d like to believe that I´d pick a shitty part-time job just in order to survive and still have enough time to work on my projects, but I´m extremely scared that I´ll start looking for high-end careers (and having the grades and a bourgeouis upbringing maybe even get one) because if I´m going to have to work anyway I might as well do something prestigious so at least people assume I picked a better life then them.

Maybe I´m being too hard on myself, it might well be that I´ll look into interesting careers because if I have to work I might as well work on something interesting. At any rate, though, it might be the end of what really matters to me. Because I´d always and forever feel like a failure if I pursued my projects just as hobbies. I always wanted to succeed with them. Be seen. I never wanted the rather private success of earning a lot of money in a prestigious job. I wanted to be a public figure who is seen and heard and listened to. Not in the sense that people do as I tell them, but in the sense that people are interested in what I have to say. Or write; I wouldn´t want to be bothered by paparazzi all the time.

I used to think that means I´m just in it for the fame and that I´m terribly superficial and actually don´t have to say anything at all. If that really was so, however, I´d have given up long ago because I get zero recognition for the work I do. I don´t even get encouragement. And yet I´ve been writing for years.

Sometimes all I want is someone who believes in me and likes what I do. Someone to say: “Have you been writing again? Can I read it?” And I can say: “Here it is, and let me know what you like and what bugs you!” Someone to ask me questions about my characters, and the story, someone who thinks aloud with me about what some character´s real motive might be. There are forums for that on the Internet, but I don´t want to publish my drafts for everyone to see. I´d like to have some guarantee that no one will steal my ideas. Besides, I need someone in flesh and blood, someone I can talk to. Preferrably someone who doesn´t write himself, as there is always competition among writers.

I used to be part of some mentoring program after winning a writing contest when I was a teen, but I strongly disliked the mentors. They were bossy, self-righteous and I felt like if I succeeded it would be their success, not mine, so I dropped out. Career-wise it was a giant mistake, as they had all the connections, but to me it felt like a matter of integrity.

The big problem with me and writing is that I must write as a form of rebellion. If I had sponsors or a scholarship or something like that, I couldn´t write anymore. I´d start writing something else, maybe, but not the book I´m supposed to write. At the moment I´m writing so terribly much because I´m supposed to be doing something else, and because I feel like this is my last chance at succeeding with writing before I will be swallowed up by a job.

I know many writers have their “day job”, but somehow I feel like I cannot do this. I´d feel defeated. Like someone else had won. I´d have to perform badly at my dayjob to make clear this is not who I really am.

If I translate this into psychological problems, in what way has that person won? What has been proven? That I have to subject myself to the logic of usefulness. That I cannot and will not be loved unless I´m useful. That this is an inescapable truth, a law of the world. Succeeding with my writing (both fictional and personal or philosophical stuff) might prove that the opposite is true.

Or maybe not even that I am loved for who I am, because few people who read what I write would know me personally. But it would mean that I can, just with my own mind, experiences and personality, can create something of value. I don´t have to work on someone else´s ideas. I can realize my own, and people appreciate them.

I believe one person who would have won if I fail as a writer would be my father. He has in one way or the other always discouraged me from writing because it is so hard to succeed, and that in order to succeed you have to write what people want to read. That always demoralized me, because my sole motivation for writing always was that I want people to like my ideas. Writing what I think others want would completely miss the point. Writing is a medium for my thoughts and feelings. If people don´t want them, they don´t want me. Writing according to some recipe just so I´m successful and sell a lot of books and get publicity would be so hollow and pointless. Of course I want success, tons of it, but with my own ideas and on my own terms.

I´ve been wondering why I need that kind of success so much, why I need my ideas and thoughts and feelings to be valued so much. I thought this made me superficial and vain, and maybe it does mean I´m missing something, but if I do, then what I miss is the most basic appreciation: That my own ideas and thoughts are worth something.

Micro-managing mothers

Posted in personal with tags , , , , , , on October 11, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

It´s not like I don´t have anything to do other than sitting here writing a blog entry. In fact, there´s plenty of stuff I should be doing. Most prominently writing my thesis, for which I finally found a tutor. Just for once, however, I refuse to believe it is my fault that I cannot get started. This time, it is my mother´s fault.

I mentioned that I am supposed to move out next month. This alone makes it hard to get started with anything while I´m still here, even if it´s just a file on my computer, which I constantly move around anyway. I´d move straight away, but the apartment still needs to be newly painted, and some other things need fixing, too. So I´ll have to wait for about a month (I´ve mentioned as well that my mother won´t let me paint the apartment myself, so we need to wait for the painter). I should be using that month to get started on my thesis, but according to my mother I should be using it to go through my belongings and decide what I want to take with me, and, of course, throw out all the rest along with the trash that´s stacked in my room anyway. Being torn apart between two things I absolutely should be doing, I feel unable to do anything at all.

I´ve said enough about the state my room is in. It is horrible. It´s not like I WANT to live like this! I´ve tried before sorting things out and cleaning up, and it turns out it´s impossible. It´s just too much. I don´t have enough room in my room to take apart one of the big piles of – whatever, books, clothes, newspaper articles – and sort them out, and if I had, I wouldn´t know where to put these things. My cupboard is too small, and my bookshelves are too crowded. It is impossible to keep my room orderly. I simply need more space.
I couldn´t keep any cardboard boxes in my room right now.

There is a very simple way how I can still move. As soon as the apartment is ready, I´ll get my bed over there. Then, there´ll be room where I can put the content of my bookshelves. I´ll leave all the books, get the bookshelves to my apartment, put them up and put all the books in there I currently read a lot. The rest I will put into cardboard boxes and straight into my new basement. Then, I can move even more stuff. I´ll have a whole apartment where I can put whatever I want to keep. I don´t have to sort it out kneeling on a dirty floor between piles of trash and treasures feeling ashamed of the mess I´m in. The whole thing will hardly take longer than two weeks, probably less. Since we haven´t sold our place yet, there isn´t really any hurry other than the unnecessary stress and drama my mother creates.

Will my mother let me do this? No, most likely not. She will never stop angsting about me “really having to start soon”, and “could we talk about your progress with emptying your room again?” I´m not even sure she is doing this out of malice, I think she is just completely compulsive. It´s like a stove-checker needing reassurances that the little lamp sure isn´t blinking. For some reason she cannot rest her head unless she regularly reminds me that I really need to start sorting things out. Even if we agreed on my masterplan (we get the apartment ready, she goes on holiday for two weeks and in the meantime I move), she would keep on bothering me. As a rationale, she uses scares. “It takes longer than you think!” Well, how does she know what I´m thinking? All I´m thinking is that I´m not going to let this take a second longer than it needs to!

These constant reminders make me feel lazy and inadequate. They also make me feel like I am unable to run my life and naive in all things. My family seems to be thinking the same thing. In fact, however, I´m not lazy at all. IF the apartment was ready and I was refusing to start packing my things and moving, then you might (!) accuse me of laziness. Fact is, though, that I´m simply asking my mother to let me cross a bridge when we reach it. There is no reason I absolutely need to waste my time now with thoughts about how to move, when to move, what to move. The moment the apartment is ready, I will grab a screwdriver and take apart my furniture. The act itself is easy. What´s there to think and angst about now?

My mother justifies her behavior with me being unreliable, and unpredictable, and whatnot. That´s actually the worst part. She comes across as incredibly efficient and industrious, while I´m the lazy slacker who lives in a pile of dirt. She´s working overtime at the office, she “needs” to make plans for the other family members, she is carrying the world on her fucking shoulders! I never asked her to do so, but what other choice does she have, with me being so unreliable and apathetic? I think she genuinely believes that. She is so utterly deep in denial about how irrational and pathological her behavior is, and half the time I´m questioning my own sanity for seeing it that way.

I´ve stumbled upon a great term some time ago: Micro-management. It means that a leader will only let you do things exactly the way he wants them done, even if that method doesn´t work for you. You cannot use a method that works, even if the result would be the same or better. The leader will often pay much more attention to little details than to the big picture, which often puts the whole project or business in jeopardy. The result, in extreme cases, is anti-social behavior on part of those micro-managed.

I believe this applies very well to the relationship between me and my mother. Let me spell out the entire saga of the apartment up to this point:

A couple of days ago we had a talk at the dinner table (with my father present) about what needed to be done and how we should proceed. My mother kept on insisting that my father should remove the things he still had in there, while he kept on insisting that she just call “the goddamn painter” so he has a deadline. I find it funny, in retrospect, how my father and I basically want the same thing: A “goddamn deadline”. My mother could set one up, and we get our stuff sorted until that point, but on our own terms. We don´t even demand that we get a say in when deadline day will be. Unfortunately, however, my mother doesn´t want to give us that much freedom or structure. She wavers around the deadline thing, finally saying that her calling the painter depends on when we will be ready, then continuing to urge us to get ready. After an hour of this bullshit we finish the debate with my father saying soothingly: “Well, you call the painter and I get my things ready!” It is quite funny, really, how it is perfectly irrelevant what I have to say about this. Maybe I want pink walls, who knows? Maybe they should ask me, or even ask me to call the painter myself? Maybe the most obvious sign how irrelevant I am is that my mother started to whole conversation before I even arrived.

So, my father has ended the debate without waiting for a reply from my mother, and I ask what exactly the outcome of this conversation is and what I´m supposed to expect. Whatever reply I get, I don´t have the impression that we have agreed on anything at all. Then, today, I have the following phone conversation with my mother:

She: “I´ll cook today, but I don´t know if I will be able to do the shopping because I´m bringing some cardboard boxes for your dad!”

Me: “Uh huh, okay…”

She: “He´s working really hard because he really needs to get his stuff out there, as the painter will be coming in two weeks, and a guy  fixing the toilet, too!”

Me: “Uh huh…and when exactly would you have told me that if we hadn´t accidentally come across this issue?”

No one knows. And I guess the debate we had recently was ambiguous enough for her to justify telling me we had discussed this if I pushed the issue. This unclear communication is making me feel like I´m crazy. I´m starting to wonder if we actually had agreed on this plan. Or at least if she has agreed on it with my dad. Well, maybe some time on the phone, yeah.

It´s like she´s thinking: I need to make a plan, and micro-manage everything my family members have to do to make it work, and if they still don´t do it, I´ll just move things forward without telling them in advance and it´s their own fault if now they are taken by surprise or feel under pressure!

She could just have said: “Alright, I´ll call the painter!”, then everybody would have known where we stand. Let´s see how tonight´s debate will go…

 

 

 

The ego as a condition of humility – and actually this was just supposed to be a post about masochism

Posted in health, mental health, morbid, personal with tags , , , , , on October 10, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

I sometimes experience a state of mind, in which I feel ardent determination to

1) be absolutely honest, no matter how ashamed I will be about what I have to say

2) fully submit to my opponent´s will to the point of trying to feel the way he wants me to feel before he even says it and

3) as a result of the two intentions above – suffer. I´m only comfortable when it´s difficult.

This all sounds like the typical submission/masochism thing, and in a way it is, but it also is not. At least not in the sense that it is a shallow pleasure I engage in for fun. The truth is, I need the artificial, “shallow”, “non-sincere” atmosphere of “play” in order to bear the sincereness of these feelings. The idea that I might demand from myself to be like that for real is scary.

I´d like to compare this to what I wrote about the expectations I had about therapy when I first saw Dr. Stoneface. I wrote:

I was oddly fatalistic and indifferent at the time, thinking that one therapist was as good as the other one for the dirty business that lay ahead, which was basically: breaking me. I felt unfit for making any choices for myself, and I just wanted to get the ugly stuff (therapy a.k.a. breaking me) over with and one day wake up and be a whole, healed, good person. Until then, I wanted nothing to do with myself. I was abandoning myself and made others responsible for making me sane. I felt that was fair, because I believed the process of making me sane would be a punishment more than anything else. I couldn´t want to be punished (only in a very perverted way which would have rendered the punishment ineffectual). Therefore, I needed somebody else to drag, force and batter me through this. My implicit attitude towards therapy must have been somewhere along the lines of: “I will resist all I can, but please be stronger than me!”

I would say that this, too, is extremely masochistic, but it is very different from what I described above. Both scenarios are about stripping away the ego, but it happens in very different ways. In the first scenario, I give everything up on my own free will. If you´d ask me where you have to hit to hurt me most because that´s what you´re planning to do, I´d answer you truthfully. Not out of fear (goodness, no! That would be horrible!), not even just out of love, but because it makes me happy to be hard on myself. I´m feeling humble but strong – strong, because I dare (and bear) abandon so much of my usual self-protection.

And then there is the second situation. My self-protection failed with regards to Dr. Stoneface. I did abandon it willingly, though in a very troubled state of mind, with the aim to be humbled. To have my “false ego” stripped away, or rather: violently shattered. But why did it have to be such a passive process? Because I was in two wills about this. I wanted it to happen, but I didn´t trust myself to cooperate in it, because there was a very strong part of me opposing it. Feeling shame, anger and repulsion at the thought of it. And this “counter-will” was what I wanted to have broken. I wanted to be unable to say, feel or want anything that wasn´t “good” and docile.

So, in one situation I´m abandoning my ego out of my own free will, and in the other situation my will is what stops me from that and must therefore be broken. The feeling that follows is in both cases rather pleasant. Feeling affectionate and grateful towards your opponent, emotionally intimate, you can freely look them in the eye because you have nothing to hide. It is, oddly enough, a state of no shame.

If it is an involuntary encounter, though, the shame might hit afterwards. I remember a situation when my sister asked me to talk to her after an argument with my father which had left me quite upset. She and I were then talking about my future, my problems with my parents and so on, mostly with her lecturing me and me being too down, exhausted and upset to defend myself. Eventually, I started to cry, which I absolutely didn´t want to, and she pulled me towards her, which felt awkward as hell (and I didn´t want that either, but resisting didn´t seem worth the effort of prolonging our talk) and whatever her feelings about this encounter might be, I felt like I had been stripped naked in front of an audience, but, oddly enough, for the rest of the evening I felt absurdly close to her, determined to do everything she had told me to do, and I was sad she was leaving already. Those were almost infantile feelings, a small kid seeking mommy´s approval, eager to please, happy to be somebody´s little child. They were followed, though, by disorientation and anxiety, and I feel like those infantile feelings were out of character. I don´t want to feel like that about her, it grosses me out.

Where was I? I was talking about how the state of humility and intimacy, be it forced or voluntary, feels fairly good. What I seemed to believe, though, is that this state is also what it is like to be cured. Humility, honesty, openness. The ability to feel intimate towards someone. The very things I believed I was lacking after the break-up with Athena. Reaching that state of mind and making it permanent seemed like a moral and psychological ideal to me. I basically believed that efficient and thorough therapy ought to remove my ego for good. (When I say “ego”, I don´t mean the Ego in the psychoanalytical sense, but “petty” things such as pride, self-image, lust for power, sarcasm, envy, anger, malice, pet peeves, attention-seeking, being a smartass, lack of respect, cockiness.)

The question to what extent psychoanalytic and -therapeutic literature itself has contributed to this idea of mine would be worth an article of its own. I do believe that evidence can be found, both with regards to the process of therapy, where you are supposed to be absolutely honest even though it is hard yada yada, and to the desired outcome. But I believe the most important or appealing aspect of humility as a cure is that in this specific state of mind shame loses its power. If you make a point of embracing an image of yourself as weak, flawed and vulnerable, then you don´t have to worry about finding more weaknesses, flaws and vulnerabilities in yourself. They cannot threaten your self-image. There is this saying “freedom´s just another word for nothing left to lose”. In the same spirit, you could say “self-worth´s just another word for you cannot sink any lower”.

The idea of having to give up my ego in order to be healed or to stop suffering is scary. I have made the experience that, in this submissive mindset, not only is the impact of shame reduced, but I´m not as anxious, either, even with regard to my phobias (see my experience with the dentist). But I don´t want to be healed at the cost of the freedom to have bad habits, a vicious sense of humor and an arsenal of smartass remarks. And I want to feel proud of myself, excited about things I´ve managed to do or plan on doing, I want that little shot of megalomania which keeps me going, makes me write blog entries at 5 a.m. because I´m dead sure I have something to say that will change the way we all see the world.

At the same time I still want to feel the calm, humble excitement of knowingly and deliberately offering up my vulnerabilities to somebody who will use them to make me squirm. If my ego had been erased, I could no longer feel this, as it would be a permanent state of mind. I could no longer pleasantly shiver with the apparent pervertedness of exposing myself to an imaginative sadistic mind, because it would feel right, normal and natural. The way it is now, there comes a point where I, fairly high, think: “This is totally sick, but it feels…right. It must be like this!” It feels right, it feels natural, even necessary, but there is still an awareness that this in itself is crazy (at least compared to our normal instincts of self-preservation and our everyday life “narcissistic” needs). I still realize I´m transcending my normal ego. I´m challenging myself as to how far I can transcend it, how much I can beat and thrash it, how low I can go. Without an ego, none of this is possible. 

I´m just baffled by how deep-rootedly I must have believed that somehow I need to be emotionally abused. Not just in order to be a good partner and friend, but also in order to ever feel good in that certain way and to be intimate with people. Heck, I even believed I need to be broken in order to have a functioning sexuality! It is bullshit. If I ever want to be or have any of this, I need the exact opposite! I need an ego! I can have all the bad habits and megalomania I want!

Even the most humble people must have an ego, otherwise their exercises in humility would be pointless. If they didn´t have an ego, what would they be keeping in check? What follows is that by embracing my ego and being my smartass, sarcastic self I´m not excluding myself from the possibility of experiencing the state of humility outlined at the beginning of this article. I don´t need to decide once and for all if I want to have an ego or be an integer masochist. It is a false dilemma, as I cannot have one without the other, and as long as I want to I can always strip away my ego for a while – its size doesn´t matter.