Archive for January, 2013

Nothing interesting, just me realizing I´m a creep

Posted in health, mental health, morbid, personal with tags , , , , on January 28, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

I talked to my mother about those empathy scores (very matter-of-factly, actually) and she said “yes, it makes sense, when you were a kid you were sometimes obtrusive, even aggressive towards other kids, like you wanted to relate to them but didn´t know how”. She also talked about how, when my cousin was little, I demanded that I could carry her and cuddle her whenever I wanted as if she was a doll and not a human being.

Since that discussion I´m feeling pretty low. It´s something I instinctively want to look away from. It seems to be a fact that sometimes I´m trying to force love. As a kid, I even used physical violence, like holding other kids down when their mothers came to pick them up after playtime, because I wanted them to stay. Which officially makes me a creep.

Wanting to be loved or at least liked so badly that I do stupid stuff is apparently my best kept secret. Half of the time I don´t even realize I´m doing it. While I´m not being violent or aggressive anymore, it still happens that I feel absolutely miserable when I´m alone in a group. Sometimes I´ll try to hard to be liked, and the more I realize I alienate people the more outrageous stuff I say. Now, I usually turn the aggression against myself and keep quiet. Or when people just won´t come home I assume they don´t love me anymore and therefore chose to get abducted or killed. They´d rather die than come back to me. As a result, I keep on calling them or trying to figure out why they might be late. Nice, stalkerish behavior.

What do I do with this realization other than using it as a rationale for suicide? Not that I intent to kill myself. I´m just not sure how the hell to deal with this. Because if there´s one thing I won´t do it´s seeing a therapist. And that seems to be about the only answer people have to this. Other than suicide, because I´m an evil, abusive person who, if she had any decency at all, removed herself from the gene pool.

I´ve got plenty of decency. I committed emotional suicide long ago. Or why else would I have the ability to detach myself from everything, to want nothing? Why else would I be so quiet and shy around people, and ashamed when they think I´m nice?

Because of decency, well, yeah, and most of all because of shame. What a terrible person I am is my own problem, and as long as I don´t make it theirs I have a right to privacy. I don´t have to justify myself or let anyone know how bad it is. I don´t have to talk to anyone about my true feelings and all that. As long as I´m agreeable enough no one can demand to know the truth. No one can demand that I become a better person. No one can send me to therapy programs where I´m talked down to like a little kid, “now how does that make you feel”, “what could be person A´s motivation for acting that way”, “how might it make person B feel if you do y”, “what could you do instead to make person B feel more comfortable around you”?

Nah. Screw that, seriously.

I think what I want is not merely being loved or accepted, but a certain kind of interaction. I mean, most of the time I´m not really interested in the normal stuff people talk about. What I enjoy is banter, discussions (not heated ones, but just talking about a non-personal subject while using logical arguments), and topics that touch upon my sadistic streak (desasters, crimes, serial killers, BDSM itself). If I´m lucky, I´ll get banter. And maybe a little bit of a discussion. Most of the time, though, it´s all about “I´m doing this now, and my professor recently said x, and then my aunt did y….” Or, if I´m with nerds: Computers. Nerdy conventions. Computers. Well.

Hey, did I just realize I simply don´t like personal conversations that revolve around everyday life activities, friends and relatives? Good. Because I´ll have to deal with the fact that most conversations tend to go that way. I go to social gatherings believing something great might happen, like, I might get into a great, profound discussion with someone, or I´ll stand there with someone giggling as we exchange jerk-off fantasies (ah, so that´s my equivalent to people thinking they´ll find some “hot girl” to talk to and possibly get laid…) or plot the perfect murder, or that I´ll entertain everybody with banter and jokes. Not how social gatherings work.

When my expectations are disappointed, I might start to force things. Or, which is more likely, I´ll sit there moping and hope no one talks to be about why I am “so silent”. Okay. Lesson One: Enter conversations and social gatherings knowing that your hopes won´t be fulfilled.

But where and when will they be fulfilled? I´d be much less obtrusive and aggressive if I had any idea how to do that. This is not the same as the need to beat someone up or hold them down. It´s about talking, theorizing, fantasizing, not doing. The worst part is that I can talk about the same thing for ages. I´ll just talk, talk, talk, come back to it, just for the pleasure of having my mind revolve around it. Not just morbid stuff, although, yes, most commonly it is.

Maybe I just need to accept that I´m extremely weird and that there are few people like me out there, and even fewer people who share my specific interests. I have both unusual interests and unusual ways of dealing with them. Maybe if I accept that I can somehow be glad that I have some friends anyway. Actually there´s no reason why anyone would be friends with someone like me. Maybe my interests are something I should predominantly pursue in isolation. Although that doesn´t really work for me. I yearn to talk to people about them. Most of the time when I think about the stuff I´m interested in I imagine I´m telling people about it, and therefore I try to structure my thoughts and think in complete sentences.

I´m tired, though thankfully not as uncomfortable anymore. It´s just that right now every sentence I write down sounds weird and alienating to me. Maybe it´s time to stop.

 

 

More on the empathy test, part 2

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , on January 27, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

I´m continuing my step-by-step dissection of the empathy test.

12. Friendships and relationships are just too difficult, so I tend not to bother with them.

Slightly agree. I typically have one that is very close, but only one. I cannot juggle to many social relationships and friendships. I get into loyalty conflicts, don´t know who I can tell how much about me, who I can spend how much time with, and it all just gets messy. I don´t mind very loose friendships if they are limited to meeting weekly (or less) for an activity we´re both interested in, and I can have lots of fun on these occasions, but only when my partner comes along. Yes, I´m totally dependent and not cool.

13. I would never break a law, no matter how minor.

Slightly agree. I´m not exactly a saint, but I have great trouble crossing the street when the lights are red even if it´s midnight and there´s neither a car nor a kid around. I´m slightly compulsive that way and I´ve looked ridiculous often enough.

14. I often find it difficult to judge if something is rude or polite.

Slightly agree. Typical situation: I´m at the restaurant with my partner and her mother. Her mother pays the bill, I´m not sure if I´m invited or if she expects me to give her back some money. Therefore, I´m not sure if I should say “thank you”, because that would mean to interpret it as “i´m invited”, and maybe that was not her intention and she thinks “great, now I have to smile and nod even though I expected to get some money back!” I fear she might think of me as totally rude. Then again, not saying “thank you” if she was inviting me is equally rude.

15. In a conversation, I tend to focus on my own thoughts rather than on what my listener might be thinking.

In a conversation? Yes, strongly agree. I somehow have to keep an eye on my own thoughts, as they go into all kinds of directions. Sometimes that actually renders me unable to listen at all. It´s different when I´m writing. I mean – just how much time am I spending trying to figure out what the maker of this test might have been thinking?

16. I prefer practical jokes to verbal humour.

Why do I have to think of Sheldon Cooper yelling “buzzinga!” now? But this gets a “strongly disagree”, I love verbal humour.

17. I live life for today rather than the future.

I live for nothing at all. I don´t know how to answer this question. I don´t know what it´s got to do with empathy, either. Empathizing with your future self? Nah, I don´t do that. I always assume that in the future I´ll be a different person who isn´t me at all, so, alright, “slightly agree”.

18. When I was a child, I enjoyed cutting up worms to see what would happen.

Ick, no! “Strongly disagree”! When I was a child, I loved to stare at the meat and intestines at the butcher´s, though. If this is supposed to measure the amount of cruelty present in a person, well, then I guess I´m cheating by telling the truth. I never cut up worms, but I certainly can be cruel in other ways.

19. I can pick up quickly if someone says one thing but means another.

Same objections as in 1). I often feel like others mean other things than they say, but they deny it. How do I know if I´m right or not? Anyway, I do remember a couple of occasions when I was very naive with regards to that, so I´ll give it a “slightly disagree”.

20. I tend to have very strong opinions about morality.

I have no idea how to answer this. I actually don´t like sentences such as “doing x is wrong” or “y is the right thing to do”. I always mentally add “only if you want to achieve z”. Also, I don´t have strong opinions like “it´s always wrong to abort” or “murder is never right”. I prefer to stay out of such arguments most of the time. I sometimes feel like I can see too many perspectives. I guess this gets “slightly disagree”.

21. It is hard for me to see why some things upset people so much.

If you mean that I´ll roll my eyes at people who disapprove of my interest in violent crimes, “strongly agree”. Then again, that question is a bit unfair, isn´t it? Almost everyone has to answer this with “strongly agree”. Nobody understands everything. With enough theoretical background, we might understand why someone with autism is upset when you suddenly touch them, but if people need background knowledge to make sense of someone´s behavior, then they probably have a hard time understanding it. Oh, but I guess “people” means “majority of people”! Yes, “strongly agree”.

This is tedious work, so I´ll stop here for now. More to follow. Hopefully.

Mind in the Eyes Test

Posted in health, mental health, morbid, personal with tags , , on January 25, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

Okay, this gets funnier by the minute. I just came across a website with several tests by Baron-Cohen. One of them was the empathy test. Another one was a mindreading test. It works as follows:

You have black-and-white pictures of human faces, but you only see their eyes and eyebrows, no mouths. You have to figure out which emotions or mental states their eyes reflect. It´s multiple choice, you have four options each.

I thought I was going to fail at this miserably, after yesterdays empathy results. In fact, though, I was quite good. You have 36 pictures. If you get 22 to 30 right, you´re within normal range, if you get over 30 right, you are really good. I scored a solid 28 after all.

So I have low empathy, but I can read peoples´ eyes considerably well? Isn´t this endlessly fascinating? Now tearing apart that empathy questionnaire becomes even more important.

The stuff I missed:

  • I thought “upset” was “terrified” (not completely off then)
  • I thought “worried” was “sarcastic”, though I wavered between the two
  • I thought “thoughtful” was “irritated” (the guy was looking to the other side, he reminded me of someone quietly plotting a murder, but then again, that´s thoughtful, too)
  • I thought “doubtful” was “playful” (though that´s not fair, it was a woman´s pair of eyes and her make-up made her look a little more flirtatious than she might have felt)
  • I thought “tentative” was “grateful” (and seriously, Baron-Cohen has never seen subbie eyes)
  • I thought “friendly” was “guilty” (friendly seemed to simple)
  • I thought “interested” was “panicked” (okay, weird one)
  • I thought “confident” was “ashamed” (brilliant, this. I mean…how did I come up with THAT?)

Okay, at least I know now that I´m not completely off. I can tell how people are feeling. Mimic isn´t lost on me. I´ve also tried false-belief-tests, I tend to pass them. I don´t know to what extent it´s intuition and to what extent I´m building bridges, but somehow I seem to have a grasp on other peoples´minds.

Okay, association game: What did I associate with the pictures I got wrong?

The “terrified versus upset picture” showed an old man staring into the camera. His eyes were like holes, like he wasn´t really seeing what´s in front of him. I imagined he was seeing something terrible happening in front of his eyes. Essentially, I thought he might be having some war memories or something. In a way, he´s upset over them rather than terrified in the moment. He´s upset over something terrifying. Well.

The sarcasm/worry picture shows a young man who´s frowning, looking up somewhere. I had the imagine of an actor in a sitcom who pretends to think hard about something he already knows is bullshit. Could it be that sometimes I think around too many corners? (Okay, that last sentence has me laugh. Like: hard!)

Friendy/guilty is another interesting thing. I didn´t see very much in that picture, to be honest. No association whatsoever came up. I figured that maybe guilt is sort of expressionless, an inner void. At least chronic guilt. So I chose that one. Instead, it was “friendly”. So, apparently “friendly” expressions don´t ring any bells with me. Maybe it is too weak, too vague. Maybe that explains some of my social difficulties. In most everyday life social gatherings people prefer to be easy and, well, “friendly”. Not open books that can be read. “Friendliness” might serve as some kind of facade. I mean, is “friendly” an emotion? You are friendly, but do you feel friendly?

Interested/panicked. Again, woman´s eyes. Lot´s of eyeliner, very expressive eyes. I do think that distorts the way we perceive emotions. Though, of course, we encounter that in daily life all the time, it´s just an interesting observation. She doesn´t look straight at the camera, it seems as if she´s just turned her head and I had the mental image of a nervous woman hearing a sound and snapping around to see if it´s what she fears it is. Yes, I have been socialized by horror movies. I can see how this has to do with interest. Something has evoked her attention. Maybe that´s the common ground.

Grateful/tentative – well, I cannot explain that. Or maybe I can. I recognized that look from the look I get from people I top. It makes sense that they´d be careful, like “can I dare touch her arm?” Maybe that was actually a language problem at work here, with “tentative” I associated “you try something”, I didn´t associate caution, leave alone fear. So instead I opted for “grateful”, as gratitude is something people show to me in such situations as well.

 

Ashamed/confident is something that really doesn´t make sense to me. The picture didn´t speak to me too much, but to assume the exact opposite of what it depicts? To be fair to me, though, the picture is not very good. Half that woman´s face is in the shadows. I can only see one eye properly. Let´s say it´s the one mandatory freak result. Anything else I have some explanation for.

Okay, at least now I know that I can tell what people feel. And it´s damn reassuring to know that I haven´t been misreading my partner´s mimic all those years. I´ve been wondering if maybe I´m some kind of monster and they´re just too scared to tell me. But no – with regard to facial expressions I can trust my perception. I´ve been wondering just how out there I am after the empathy test.

So the whole sadism thing is not a lie. Or rather: The intimacy is not a lie. I am in touch with my partner. I do see their emotions reflected in their eyes. I´m not just imagining they like what I inflict on them. Of course the rest of their behavior indicates so, too, like – them openly stating they want it? Still, it´s nice to know I´m not enjoying something that´s purely imaginary.

Guess I´m not going to get any further without continuing my analysis of the empathy test.

 

 

More on the empathy test

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , on January 25, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

I think I´ll go through that empathy questionnaire step by step and analyze how I reply to the different questions. It works as follows: You get a statement, and you check boxes that go from “strongly agree” over “slightly agree” to “slightly disagree” and “strongly disagree”. So let´s see what´s up with my empathy scores and where those deficits are coming from.

1. I can easily tell if someone else wants to enter a conversation.

Nope. In most social situations I´m locked somewhere inside my head and wonder where the hell to look in order to avoid people to think I want to enter the conversation. Most of the time I´m not even part of the conversation, if anything I listen to it, and that is exhausting enough since my thoughts tend to drift. Gah, I feel like I need to defend myself against the idea that I´m an egocentric, selfish asshole who doesn´t care about the poor, shy outsider. Fact is, I am the poor, shy outsider. Still, though, I do seem to lack the ability to understand that other people can be outsiders, too. I always think everyone knows everyone and I´m the only one on the outside.

I´m not sure if I rate this “strongly” or “slightly disagree”. I mean, I can definitely not easily tell if someone wants to enter a conversation, but if I say “strongly disagree” it sounds as if I cannot tell that at all. To be honest, I cannot think of an exemplary situation which could help me to say how well I can tell if someone wants to enter a conversation. Does this situation happen often in my life? I mean, isn´t this again some kind of epistemic pitfall? I might think someone wants to enter a conversation and, in fact, be wrong about it. Or I might overlook it and think that people around me simply never want to enter conversations. This whole question is illogical! Answering it requires that I already know if I have empathy or not!

2. I prefer animals to humans.

No. I like to watch some animals, but I don´t like to get close to them. I can predict human behavior better than animal behavior. I´m fairly convinced that most people won´t suddenly jump onto my lap. I can never be sure with animals. So this gets “strongly disagree”, even though I feel like an animal hater for saying it. Or like someone who loves humans. I really don´t like how radical this option is. At any rate, it probably gets me some empathy points.

3. I try to keep up with the current trends and fashions.

What. The fuck. Is this item doing on an empathy questionnaire? I do hope they don´t measure mental health in fashion compliance. Oh wait, yes, they actually do that.

To answer the question, though: “Strongly disagree”, and quite heartfelt this time. No, I don´t care about having the latest iPod, cooking the fanciest meals and wearing the hippest clothes! Does it really indicate a lack of empathy to not care about the stuff everybody seems to obsess over? According to what definition of empathy? Honest question, because the longer I look into this, the more ill-defined and vague the term seems to be.

4. I find it difficult to explain to others things that I understand easily, when they don’t understand it first time.

I guess this question is aimed at the ability to understand what the other person doesn´t understand. I guess I´ll give this a “slightly agree”. I tried helping kids with their homework once and failed miserably. It´s different when I´m communicating via Internet. I have plenty of time to think then. I can go through all the possible interpretations of my post and write down a list of suggestions what the other person might not have understood. This tends to work.

My god, just how much work am I putting into simply understanding what this questionnaire is all about! I just love it when I´m told to “answer spontaneously and as quickly as possible!” – “Alright, how about you have your lunch break and I´ll see you in about two hours?”  If I answered spontaneously, I´d get radically different results depending on whatever state of mind or mood I´m in.

5. I dream most nights.

Uh, yes, strongly agree? Again, what the fuck is Baron-Cohen on about? Has he read too much Dexter, who allegedly doesn´t dream?

6. I really enjoy caring for other people.

Yes, I do. I just spend at least half an hour giving someone a massage, and I´m always the one who makes tea and hot water bottles and aspirin for everyone. What the questionnaire doesn´t ask is whether I´m a nice, caring person or a manipulative control freak. Strongly agree either way. Guess this item measures sympathy rather than empathy, but Baron-Cohen tends to lump these together. Never thought studying philosophy would be good for anything, but right now it really pays having read stuff by this guy before.

7. I try to solve my own problems rather than discussing them with others.

I´m wavering between agreeing strongly or slightly. On the one hand, I hate to discuss things with others as it tends to confuse me. This is typically stuff for uni, intellectual things, or maybe my writing. On the other hand, I´m completely helpless when it comes to many things and in those situations I do go to other people for advice or help. Then again, I only do that when I can´t somehow ignore the problem, and I really have to make myself do it. So let´s say “strongly agree” and wonder in what way this relates to empathy.

8. I find it hard to know what to do in a social situation.

Strongly agree.

9. I am at my best first thing in the morning.

I never know how to answer this. I don´t wake up in the morning, I wake up around noon or later. I normally don´t enough sleep, and so I´m usually very tired when I wake up. It does happen, though, that I can solve problems I couldn´t solve the night before when going to bed. So let´s say “slightly agree”. Though I´m really not sure. Could as well be “slightly disagree”.

10. People often tell me that I went too far in driving my point home in a discussion.

I feel so insecure nowadays that I don´t discuss much anymore. It is true, however, that I can be somewhat radical. When I was younger I didn´t care what other people thought of me, if I had an opinion on something I said it, and I argued for it. So I´ll give this a “slightly agree”.

11. It doesn’t bother me too much if I am late meeting a friend.

What is “too much”? And bothered in what way? In the sense of feeling guilty, or in the sense of being anxious that he won´t wait for me? I do anticipate an angry reaction, if that was the point of the question. I´m even scared of one, though somehow that doesn´t lead to me hurrying up. I just silently resign or something. Sometimes I work up a little bit of anger myself, just so my friend´s anger wouldn´t hit me so hard. I think this gets “slightly disagree”.

Okay, those are like 60 questions, and I won´t do all of this tonight. More later.

 

 

 

Empathy scores are in

Posted in health, mental health, morbid, personal with tags , on January 23, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

Yesterday I took an empathy test. It´s this test, based on Simon Baron-Cohen´s empathy theories. I scored low. The test said that people on the autism spectrum score about 20, while the average range starts at 33. I scored 29. It also said that average women score 47. I´m about twenty points below an average woman´s “empathy quotient”.

Most of all, this confuses me. Because for some reason I tend to be perceived as someone who “understands” people. Well. Maybe in the sense that I´m understanding. I´ve had friends telling me that if it wasn´t for me they wouldn´t know who they could talk to about their problems. Often I felt like I could instinctively relate to people, though mostly to those who were “different” in some way. I tend to have elaborate theories on what might have motivated a certain crime. I also tend to analyze people. Well, and then there´s the most complicated thing. Sadism. How does it work without some kind of empathy? You cannot enjoy eliciting emotions from someone if you don´t get them.

I´m not sure how well-defined the term empathy is. I actually had to deal with Baron-Cohen´s theories for uni and I had the impression that he´s mixing things together that might need to be looked at separately. To him, functioning empathy means that you can 1) correctly parse other peoples´mental states and 2) respond appropriately. Now, when I encounter the word “appropriate” in a psychological theory I feel like I´ve left the realm of science and enter the realm of arbitrary judgement. I tended to think that I had 1), while not having 2). I´m starting to realize, though, that maybe things are a lot more complicated than that.

Let me look at a typical situation: I hear about some heinous crime. People around me are all like: “What kind of person does such a thing? This is completely incomprehendable!”, while I simply don´t have that reaction. I´m curious. I could imagine all kinds of mindsets within which someone would commit such a crime. I´m curious which one applies. I try to find out more, sometimes obsessively so, reading accounts by victims and eye-witnesses, and people wonder why I don´t get nightmares. Then, at some point I stumble across something in those accounts that makes me tear up. It usually is a tiny little detail. I read about a mother who got back her murdered son´s watch, and there was still his blood on it, yet she couldn´t bear to wash it off, as it was part of him. And that line of reasoning was something I could understand. It moves me to tears, while others don´t even want to hear about that.

What does this say about me?

“I can imagine a whole lot of different mindsets within which one would commit such a crime.” Most people can imagine none, yet they seem to have a good understanding of why people in everyday life behave the way they do. To them, some behaviors and mental states are self-evident and natural, while others are sick, crazy and even borderline non-human. I appear to be neutral. I have no strong feeling that it is crazier to chop someone up and arrange their body parts according to some complicated scheme than to dress up for a job interview. I know that we dress up for job interviews in order to impress our potential employer, but why does it impress him that someone wears a suit? It does not in any way enhance his intellectual capacities, does it? And while we might accept that we have to please people who we depend on, I don´t understand why so many people seem to accept that it is normal to dress up. Why don´t more people think it´s pointless, stupid and an abomination? Why don´t more people see their behavior as a result of a power imbalance? Are they all suffering from Stockholm Syndrome or do they genuinely believe in and support social rules? Am I the only one who doesn´t get it?

I also know that it is wrong to chop people up and I don´t feel much of a desire to do it, but I have no “strong feeling” that it is any more random and pointless than the behaviors and goals most people perceive as normal. Maybe this is why I think of myself as nihilistic.

So, okay. Apparently I don´t get social rules. I feel no intuitive connection to them.  I don´t have one theory of mind, though, which is informed and refined by putting it to practice every day. On an intuitive level, I´m perfectly clueless, everything´s possible. I don´t think I would be overly surprised if I ever found out all other people arond me are actually robots. I´m a bit like a child that way. It doesn´t mean, however, that I cannot imagine possible mental states other people might be experiencing. I do that all the time, and I´m very imaginative that way. And this can actually be a strength. Maybe people come to talk to me because I won´t ever call them crazy. If they are worried that they might have offended the feelings of their car by calling it ugly, I´ll sympathize. I might tell them something to make it alright again, like that the car understood it a different way, or I´ll tell them that their car knows they had a bad day and that they feel sorry about it. Yes, I know that objects don´t have feelings, and most of the time I manage to act as if I don´t think they do. It happens, though, that I feel as if they do, which means that throwing things away is very difficult for me. That is actually an interesting aspect regarding the empathy question. Empathy is about attributing mental states to others. I seem to have issues with that, but I do attribute mental states to objects. What the hell?

Yes, well, then the little details that suddenly make me sad. I cannot seem to instinctively relate to the pain of the victims and their families, but when I encounter little details that enable me to do so I have a very strong reaction. I take that as a sign that I´m not actually a sociopath. I´m not sure, though, how I shall interpret my reaction. Is it empathy? I feel like for a short, incoherent moment I can sort of “feel their pain”, but quite literally. Not the overall pain of losing a child, but the pain of looking at that watch. I can quite vividly imagine what it feels like. If I was writing a story about it, I could listen to my own inner signals and come up with a reasonably plausible and, in a way, heartfelt description. This kind of feeling can be triggered by events I read about in the news, but also by pure imagination on my part. I´m very good at evoking mental states and moods in myself just by daydreaming. I use these for writing and since people enjoy the fiction I write I seem to be able to imagine feelings rather well.

Gah. Now for the most complicated part. Sadism. How does it work without empathy? Huh. I feel like when I top I´m really myself. I´m cold, I analyze people, and their squirming proves me right. Nothing is confusing. Now, though, given that I seem to have very low empathy scores, I do feel confused. How can I understand them when allegedly I´m incapable of doing so? And yet I feel like I understand them. I get them. I just have no inclination to stop. Not unless I see they themselves have dropped out of the “mood”, that is, they are really miserable and don´t want this to continue. I mean – I usually don´t need to be told to stop, I realize when my partner is really feeling bad before they say anything. I do seem to be able to parse body language and tone of voice fairly well in those situations. This is so weird. If I had those capacities in ordinary social situations my life would look quite different.

I feel robbed. Topping people was a way to experience intimacy with others. Now it feels like some kind of lie. Last night I felt so detached from everything and everyone that I wanted to be dead. It was like physical pain. Actually, that feeling is far from gone. I still feel that everything is pointless and that I´d be better off dead.

I feel like some kind of monster who tries to crack open peoples´ skulls and press my face into their brains just so I can feel close to them and lose myself for a while. It isn´t even true. I´m not always mean. I´m rarely selfish when I top. I started out doing exactly what others enjoyed. They came with it to me, not vice versa. I had something they wanted. I was giving something.

Do I even have anything to give, when I have such low empathy? It seems that for some reason I do. Could it be that empathy is – if not overrated, then interpreted in a wrong way? Believed to mean something it doesn´t really mean?

A thought experiment

Posted in health, mental health, personal, philosophy with tags , on January 18, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

There is this theory according to which our identities are something that we construct, and, if our constructs are shaken too badly, we must reconstruct them. Let´s say that´s correct. Of course we will want our worldview and self-conception to be consistent, we want to think of our constructs as plausible, otherwise we will demoralized. This means, though, that very often when a theory or someone else´s worldview threatens our self-conception, we will argue with him. We´ll have very personal motivations, a very personal involvement, and that´s normal. It doesn´t mean we´re just quarrelsome. As long as we are fair, as long as we are honest with ourselves and don´t try to believe something that apparently isn´t true, logical and plausible, we cannot really be judged. It also means that there will always be conflict and arguments. It´s part of how we form our identity. Dr Stoneface once asked me if or why it mattered so much who was right. It matters because it affects my entire identity, my self-conception, the actions I will take. I don´t know if his idea of healthy is that I should take a step back and stop worrying about what is correct (not right in the moral sense). Or about my self-image. I thought it was bad if you care too much about your self-image, but it has to do with identity more than with vanity. Wanting to know who´s right is honest and legit.

Resolving conflicts or threats to your identity requires creativity. It´s really not so much about soul-searching and finding some truth inside, but about creating a third perspective that goes beyond the two conflicting ideas. Making sense of them. It might be about synthesis more than about analysis. It takes creativity to resolve what appears to be paradoxical. It´s like writing a consistent story about a very inconsistent character and trying to give it a plausible happy ending even though he´s a very difficult person.

I think I´ve had my self-conception shaken very badly at a point in my life when identity building should have taken place. My understanding of myself was basically torn apart. It was very much a Truman Show moment, but a very torturous one: It seemed I had to realize that absolutely everything I´d ever believed about myself, and the way I had perceived the world and other people, was dead wrong. And there was no nice real world and some lovely girl waiting for me out there, no. I ended up at the bottom of the psychological food chain. I was crazy and toxic. I´m not sure to what extent questioning oneself during puberty is normal, but this lasted many years (is still not over). There is this thought experiment by Descartes: “What if everything I believe, I perceive is wrong? What if an evil demon has been deceiving me? What if I cannot even trust my own mind?” To me, that wasn´t a thought experiment. I felt it.

In my last few entries (well, bar the very last one) I fleshed out several things from which I can construct an identity that will somehow be consistent with my experiences. A character and a story, if you like. Here are those things summed up:

1) Above-average intellectual capacities

2) Raised with two belief systems that contradict each other

3) Strong sadomasochistic tendencies and being a lesbian

4) Tendency towards grandiosity, with all its ups and downs

and now 5) Been through a lengthy period of having my self-conception torn apart and my identity undermined, very ready to believe in anything that could undermine my identity again, mind blown wide open for anyone to walk over it, very vulnerable to epistemic pitfalls, hopefully about to emerge from this.

What do I want most?

What I want most is to arrive at the point of knowing what I want to do with my life and getting started with doing it. That may sound trivial, but overall, that is my most pressing problem now. It is what´s on my mind most often.

What I´ve realized so far is that my grandiosity is currently hampering me in trying to do so. Nothing, no plan whatsoever can live up to the “greatness” that I envision. The reason for that is simply that this greatness is nothing concrete. I could be the Queen and I´d think that this cannot be all I get from life. How to deal with this I don´t know yet, but knowing where it´s coming from might be of some help.

Oh well.

It makes me so happy that this makeshift identity also contains problematic traits. That makes it more likely that it is an identity that can actually be lived.

Here´s a thought: I think my vulnerability to others´attacks on my self-conception might be caused, to some extent, by my urge to be able to put myself into absolutely everybody´s shoes. To be able to see through every pair of eyes and understand every point of view. It has a lot to do with me wanting to be a writer. Writing seems to allow me to slip on multiple pairs of glasses, and the ability to empathize with so many different viewpoints is what enables me to write stories. I was never comfortable being pinned down on just one identity, that seemed to narrow, it seemed to limit my thoughts. So in a way this whole shaky identity thing is my own doing. More often than not I´m the one undoing myself. Still, though, there has to be a possibility to construct an identity which allows me to have both: a sense of self and the ability to put myself into other peoples´shoes and tell others´ stories. That calls for a post of its own.

All these things I sketched out seem to connect, and that, too, is a good thing. They seem to be melting into each other, overlapping.

Uh…actually I just wanted to scribble down a little thought. Now I might as well post this, because it´s not that bad after all. Quite incoherent, I guess, but never mind.

If you want to read something that makes no sense at all, try this entry

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , on January 17, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

Loneliness can turn all the air in a room into something leaden, something that weighs on your chest and suffocates you. Same with silence, which is almost the same. Now that I live alone, and not having a job or anywhere else to go regularly, it happens that I don´t talk to anybody all day. Essentially I´m just waiting for the day to pass, for me to be “allowed” to go to bed, as if tomorrow would bring anything different. Today I went to the store not because I needed to buy something, but in order to get out of the house. I feel like I have no business just leaving the house when I feel like it, not to mention have any contact with other people. I feel like some kind of prisoner, however nice my prison is. Weird.

I´m reluctant to admit all this because it makes me look so dysfunctional. It makes me look like no one wants me. Which isn´t even true, I´m in a relationship. Anyway. I´m in a situation where no one will contact me on his own accord, or at least that isn´t likely to happen. Apart from me, only five other people even know where I live, and three of them are pretty damn far away. If I want human contact, I have to actively “go out there” and seek it. Most of the time I do that online, and I don´t address people directly, I just answer their posts or comment their blog or wait for them to comment on mine. Goodness. Actually, there´s some mails I should answer, but all that´s not the same as going to someone and saying “hey, right this second I´m feeling lonely, could you give me a hug or tell me a joke or whatever”.

I am disoriented. I forget who is “real” and who is just a stranger from the Internet. I forget to write to people I actually know, because they seem so far away from the daily treadmill of my thoughts. On the Internet, I pick acquaintances according to mutual interests, so they seem closer even though I don´t even know what they look like. This, however, is so incredibly impersonal. Most of them wouldn´t care if they are talking to me or to anybody else who holds similar opinions. I as a person am as non-existant to them as they are to me.

I hate to admit how lonely, dysfunctional and disoriented I am. It makes me feel even more helpless. I´m imagining people all day, people who are around me, but in fact there´s no one there. Most of the time I don´t even realize it, I just wonder why I´m so stuck, why I lie on my bed all day, why I´m online all the time. It´s because I´m utterly lonely and unable to deal with it. I am unable to do anything other than distract myself from it, and most of the time I don´t even feel the loneliness, just some strange pain and discontent.

For some reason all this makes me feel worthless. It makes me feel like I´m addicted to some imaginary world while neglecting the few real people who care about me, and yet I simply cannot make myself write them back. I lack all motivation to interact with them, and I don´t know why. Maybe I prefer to be lost inside my head. Some voice in my head is scorning me for this, saying that now I finally see that being online all day is not as harmless as I always make it out to be, and then I remember that this voice, too, is entirely imaginary, that no one I know is saying this to me, and I´m starting to wonder just how crazy I already am.

I more or less automatically forget about people, or shun them, or try to make them forget me. I don´t know why. Maybe they are ties to a reality which is too much for me. I wonder if I should even come here to this blog in order to sort myself out. Isn´t that another imaginary place? I feel happy and cared about when someone comments on what I write, but I don´t know the people who do so and in a way that input feels just as fictional as the voices in my head. So what about that feeling? Isn´t it fueling my descent into a whirl of wires and bright screens?

I feel like I´m killing myself. Killing off my mind, that is. I´m turning myself into a rambling lunatic. And on some level I want to. I want to destroy myself because I hate this world, I hate society and other people, and I don´t want to need them. I feel like I cannot be myself around people and I don´t want to not be myself for the rest of my life just for the sake of my sanity. No, fuck off, sanity!

The worst thing is how much I´ve been sucked up by psychological conspiracy theories. All my thoughts are centering around is basically what kind of crazy I am, and what to do about it, and whether or not I´m dead inside… I don´t know. The state I´m in right now reminds me of the mixture of numbness and hysteria I experienced with Athena. My ability to think rationally has gone right out of the window, for the sake of some feelings and other real important deep bullshit without which I´m not properly human, and I´m both disgusted with and ashamed of myself. I feel like I´ve plunged deeply into some preachy, sickly sweet religion that throws around big words like “personal growth” and whatnot, and I´ve swallowed all that and accepted that according to their system I´m a sinner (narcissist) because I´m cynical and not emotional enough yet. Maybe my disgust is a reaction to me understanding that I will never get anything other from this system than hearing that I´m the bad guy. According to that system, I am the bad guy. I am cynical, grandiose, callous and “blessed” with a hypersensitive pride the size of New York City. And, knowing what I am, I feel it´s just no longer appropriate if I stick around. What do I want from this system? I secretly and not so secretly despise it! I´m a non-believer who has no respect for the faith of others!

Two days ago I was at a meeting with my philosophy class. I was supposed to tell them about my work, and I had to realize that while my work was all about defeating the principles of the psychotherapy religion, most of my classmates thought my points were completely irrelevant because there was no rational basis for any of the claims I was arguing against. It was then that I realized I´m surrounding myself with the wrong thoughts. With irrational thoughts. I realized how deep I had fallen. How much time I had wasted. Yes, that´s what hurts most. I pointlessly hampered myself. Just where could I be right now if I hadn´t hooked myself upon this pile of bollocks. And now I can´t stop it, and psychology seems to be the only thing that can help me out there. Oh the fucking irony…

I am such a loser. This blog isn´t worthless, there is potential for some pretty good thoughts on here, but it´s nothing I´d share with other people, nothing that would gain me any recognition other than “you are soooo brave for facing your demons”. Which I´d rather not hear anymore any time soon. What´s worthwhile is writing essays, structured thoughts, that kind of stuff is worth something. I´m trying to do that here. Actually, I´ve battled the voices with rational thought many times. Trying to structure things. Maybe I´m being too hard on myself. Maybe I simply need to accept where I am right now. And maybe these last to sentences are just more of that sickening preachy syrup.

I didn´t take good care of my mind those last ten years. I allowed absolutely everything in, and I screwed rational thought. I was ready to believe everything, ready to believe that my own perceptions where completely wrong and distorted, ready to believe that everything about me was sick, deranged and toxic. I was ready to believe that every word I said was a lie. I screwed rational thought because I believed that rationally I could only come to the conclusion that I was a terrible person, and I didn´t realize that probably wasn´t very rational at all.

Okay, right now basically I´m having fun bashing myself. I guess this is what it looks like when I try to break myself. That is, essentially, what I do. What I´m doing here is nothing but hysteria. This whole entry is gibberish. I´ll post it anyway because for some reason that makes it more real. Even though this is the confusing, illusionary, unreal online world. And another heartfelt oh the fucking irony!

Edit: I don´t want to destroy myself because I hate society and other people. I want to destroy myself because I hate myself and because it feels good to be destructive.