Archive for February, 2013

Defragmentation

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

I´m having this terrible feeling again, the feeling that some inescapable truth will destroy me. I feel disturbed when I do normal stuff like chat with an Internet friend. We´re working on a horror story and I´m much more sensitive to the material than usually.

I feel disturbed when I do normal stuff. This should tell me something important. Because, even though the narrative of my life was broken and my sense of normalcy heavily attacked, over the last few years a new normalcy has developed. Probably not completely new, but at any rate a sense of normalcy. Part of that normalcy is that I write my Internet friend. If I suddenly feel disturbed by the fact that I do this, then something is happening to me that undermines my sense of normalcy.

I wouldn´t want this to happen again. I have a sense of urgency that seems to forbid me to be normal, that demands something should happen. This sense of urgency is part of the crazy states. I had when I was desperate to find out if I had amnesia and what had happened to me. This feeling that I cannot continue with life until something important has happened or until I´ve had a major insight.

I have that feeling all the time on some level. Sometimes I really get important insights or so I believe. Still, it is a dangerous feeling. It threatens my sense of normalcy.

It´s quite natural that I have this feeling. Yesterday´s insights were frightening. What could undermine your sense of normalcy more than coming to the conclusion that you are crazy?

I´m still rewriting the past. While I do not invent events, I interpret them and I try to find out what happened inside of me and what caused these events. I´m trying to repair my narrative, and by doing so I´m constantly fucking with my sense of who I am.

Some of my old personality has always stayed with me or at least returned. Such as sense of humor, dark and dadaistic. Or that I love puns, but if they´re too stupid they make me physically cringe. Both not terrifically original, but as long as I´m joking I know I´m sane.

I need something to occupy my brain. This blog, this whole trying to find out what´s wrong with me – is part of “crazy”. When I started this blog I was in the throes of my second abuse mania, I had just learned to be a lot more careful and objective. Maybe there is hope after all, because giving in to my obsession under the strictest rational supervision I was capable of led me here. I do feel a sense of peace with regards to my behavior towards Lola. I just feel a lot of distress regarding what followed, but maybe that, too, will pass.

In my sane state of mind I have no problems having rational opinions on things, even when they´re controversial. I have no problems evaluating arguments and evidence. I sometimes reach the conclusion that I should stop trying to figure myself out and start pouring my mental energy into some entirely different subject, something scientific. There´s something to it, but I don´t think I can look away from myself for the rest of my life. I want to reach a state where I don´t have to be afraid of myself and I´m not sure if suppressing my craziness is going to get me there. Why would I suppress it, after all, if I wasn´t afraid of it? Suppression is different from “keeping in check”.

I´m not sure right now if my craziness is pathologically crazy or if it is normal irrationality. Maybe even what people call feelings. This “feeling in analogies” thing: If I feel through stories I make up in my head, then maybe I am crazy of sorts, and maybe it is no surprise that I come up with crazy ideas which feel real and important. Would it make any sense, though, to analyse this craziness? I don´t think so.

I tried to analyze the pictures and thoughts I came up with. Especially during the abuse mania. I tried to conclude what had happened to me from them, I thought they symbolized something. That was a dangerous way of dealing with them, though apparently it resembles some of Freud´s methods. I should not try to use my daydreams and stories as sources of personal insight. I´m fairly sure I did that on this blog here, too. I guess a lot of my theories here ought to be revised or even deleted. I wonder if I will become more creative again if I stop analyzing my crazy ideas and just let them float by.

I think one thing that contributed to me becoming so troubled was that at some point I started to make myself responsible for the crazy ideas. I was always deeply in touch with the creative chaos in my head, and maybe too deep, but what I came up with wasn´t my fault. Sometimes you have a violent fantasy, or rape fantasies, or whatever else, and the moment you start to believe this says anything about you you´re on the path to madness. You might start to become obsessed with the thought that you are a potential serial killer, or you might feel like unless your fantasies are caused by a history of abuse they mean you are indecent, disrespectful and self-important. I don´t mean sexual rape fantasies, but when you´re making up stories in your head in which you are a rape victim.

This doesn´t sound acceptable to me. It surely must say something about you if you enjoy such stories. Still, reason tells me that it shouldn´t. It must be allowed to relax and let your thoughts run wild without having to feel like a bad person because of the outcome. What, though, if you get the same thoughts over and over again and they intrude into your daily life?

I don´t know. I feel much too vulnerable right now to think about that question. I think that there is a close connection between repulsion and allure. At least in sadism there is. Perversion is, to some extent, being lured by the repulsive. I think some therapies try to exorcise perversion. They look for a human being who can let his thoughts wander without coming up with such things. Other kinds of therapies try to battle obsessive thoughts by prescribing them. You are supposed to consciously think about how you´re going to stab your toddler. I think I, being the person I am, would start to enjoy the thought in a dreadful way. Maybe the solution is to make it less personal. Exorcise it by writing a story about a mother who stabs her toddler, but most definitely someone who isn´t me. Not that I have a baby anyway. Or any definite answers here.

The thing with feelings and craziness is: The moment they set in, it´s like getting drunk. You know that tomorrow you will feel very different about your behavior, but somehow that doesn´t matter because this drunkness is something that feels right and necessary now. Similarly do feelings feel justified and mania true. Both can, in some ways, be intoxicating, and in those cases your rational self can only run along and try to limit the damage. And there can be a similar moment in perversion: Few things are more powerful than the feeling of “I know this is wrong, I know exactly how wrong this is, but somehow this knowledge has lost its power…I´m free!” Free to do absolutely anything. That damn sure is a state of intoxication.

Since I´m just in a process of defragmentation or something the like, this post is horribly incoherent. Never mind. It will get better. Hopefully.

Cognitive dissonance and breaking

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

In the light of my last post I thought I´d probably do best adhere to strictly rational thinking. I read some skeptical views on recovered memories and quack therapies and again and again I was told that one main reason why people stick to false beliefs even after being faced with contrary evidence is cognitive dissonance.

Every theory on the human mind and soul has its list of sins. On some lists, the sins are selfishness and narcissism. On the list of rational thinking, the mortal sin is giving in to cognitive dissonance.

The effects of cognitive dissonance are, of course, depressing. “I mustn´t be wrong so I can´t be wrong”, or “being wrong would be too costly for me personally, so I simply ignore the facts”. This is painful for the individual in question, too, though. It is not “the easy way out”. If that´s the easy way out, I don´t want to know what the hard way is. I think skeptics are taking the easy way out if they treat giving in to cognitive dissonance as a mere character flaw which they themselves are above. I´m not saying that´s what all of them do this, but I rarely see people treating the issue with a whole lot of sympathy.

I think cognitive dissonance is one of the most powerful psychological forces there are. I think it´s ultimately what is behind breaking people. Take a look at 1984: Winston wanting to give up Julia to save himself from the rats is so at odds with his love for her that after doing this he cannot feel love for her anymore.

I think about my reaction to understanding what my priorities were with regards to Lola: “That isn´t me.” Acting like my obsession was more important than my best friend was indeed “not me”. Just one year before Lola herself had told me that she wouldn´t know what to do without me because I was such a good listener. I was generally known as a good friend. Nobody could understand what was happening. And neither could I. How could my obsession be more important than a friend who had been through terrible things? I couldn´t find an even remotely sensible reason. Not even a psychological mechanism. It was as irrational as a rat phobia.

I always sensed there was a connection between Winston´s and my situation. A few months after Lola´s letter I was close to putting it into words when I wrote: “How do you make a person want the wrong things? Make him do the wrong things!” It was more complicated, though, than mere brainwashing or an ideological conversion. What happens in Room101 is psychological mutilation. In my case, that mutilation was accidental.

If cognitive dissonance can kill off two peoples´ love for each other, then we shouldn´t ever take it lightly. “The truth hurts, suck it up!” is not a solution. If cognitive dissonance is a universal psychological power that has the same effect on everyone, then there´s no point in judging people who are deformed by it. Maybe you´ve just been luckier than them. Essentially, it can happen to everyone. Statements like the one above deepen the cognitive dissonance and the shame. They are part of the problem.

If we accept that our identity is a construct based on a narrative of our lives, then cognitive dissonance rips holes into that narrative. Our identities don´t work anymore. We need new narratives which explain how we could do something that is not who we are. Maybe we´ll find reasons for our behavior we can identify with. I tried that. A lot. I tried real and imaginary reasons. It didn´t work.

I wonder what Winston would have done if he´d still had the psychological capacities for doing anything at all other than getting drunk. And the logical step would have been to look into his past for anything that justifies his rat phobia. I´m sure he would gladly have made up any horror story just to be able to love Julia again. Or at least bear look at himself in the mirror.

This has nothing to do with being particularly narcissistic. This accusation is similarly cruel as the “suck it up” response. They are, at their core, the same thing.

Now all I´m wondering about is how you cure this.

Genuine craziness

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , , on February 26, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

I´m realizing again and again that my sanity is a very frail thing. In the past ten years I´ve been trapped in three situations which were either an expression of my frailty or even played on it.

Here is the first one: Me believing I had repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse. This turned into the theory that I had DID.

What was insane about it:

1) This came out of nowhere. I had no reason to believe in it. Since I was a rather strange child I found plenty of odd or even worrying behaviors I showed as a kid, but I never checked for alternate explanations.

2) I was not open to challenges to this belief and I got extremely upset when anyone challenged it.

3) As a theory, it is impossible to disprove. If you have forgotten something, the fact that you can´t remember it doesn´t prove it didn´t happen. Your perception is not reliable. It is, in its essence, a conspiracy theory.

4) Even after I acknowledged all this, two years ago I suddenly fell back into this old thinking pattern and manically tried to prove something had happened to me.

This is scary. I mean it when I say “insane”. I wonder if this actually is some kind of…I don´t know. Mania? Psychosis? Delusion? I´ve looked into the build-up of this, and…oh god, the scary thing is that I often had episodes like these! As a kid, I was convinced that I had superpowers and that one day someone would come and tell me how to use these. I actually tried to prepare myself for this. And this carried on until I was about twelve. When I was fourteen I had a vision about a future dictatorship. I´m sorry if it sounds contrived, but I was actually told so by “the voices”. I had them since I was little and I always called them like that. I was convinced I had seen the future, I was looking for signs everywhere and I got very angry when people contradicted me. Again, I felt like I had to prepare myself. From one day to another, my sense of normalcy and my feeling of connectedness to my past was wiped out. Only when I didn´t watch it seemed to return. Like during family dinner. Or at school. Much of the time, though, I spent in a parallel universe where the future was already happening.

Here´s the thing: Until the abuse mania, all of these fixed ideas had dealt with the future. Therefore, it didn´t have as much crazy-making potential. No one can be sure what the future will bring, after all. I had no alternate conception of the future which contradicted the one I was fixated on. That was different when it came to the past. Also, when looking into the future I could imagine whatever kind of personality for myself without harming my current identity. “One day I will be…” is a relatively harmless game to play. It doesn´t hurt “right now I am” or “yesterday I was”. What happens, though, when you become obsessed with proving that in your own, personal past events have happened which, for all you know and can know, never have happened?

You stop believing in your memories. Your perception becomes your enemy. Your normal identity is not who you really are. Imagine you´re playing the “one day I will be” game and suddenly you start to believe that your future self is already there, hidden somewhere inside of you, and the person you know as yourself is some sick, crazy alien installed there by people who hate and abused you. A lot of popular psychology seems to come down to that, doesn´t it? Still, people seem to be able to hear such things without going crazy. They take that metaphorically. I took it literally.

Until then my normal identity had always co-existed with my craziness. I lived fairly much like a normal kid, that is I didn´t act on my loony beliefs in real life. They were reserved for alone times and daydreams, and, when I was younger, playing with other kids. When I was alone I would talk to these voices in my head and sometimes ask them to guide me somewhere so I could find something important. At other times I imagined myself as an entirely different person and interacted with real and imaginary others in my head. And by the way the past tense is a lie.

When I started to have fixed ideas about the past instead of the future, though, the craziness started to actively attack my normal identity and my sense of normalcy. My sense of normalcy included, after all, my belief that I´d had a happy childhood and a good family and that I was basically sane. That may all be true or not: It was, at any rate, something I could always come back to. Peace of mind. Something I felt sure of. What happened now, though, was that after years of peaceful co-existence and mutual ignorance the abyss stared at me.

How could this happen? My abuse mania started a few months after I had received the fatal letter from Lola. And…here´s the thing. The reason I had abandoned her was in no way rational. I had abandoned her because I was preparing myself for the dystopian future I´d had that vision of. I was sucked up in a fixed idea. There are probably a couple of good reasons why a sort of troubled 15-year-old would abandon a person who had never been a good friend in the first place, but this was none. You don´t abandon a depressed friend because you believe you will have to fight against an evil dictatorship soon. The harm I had caused her I had caused her because I was busy marveling at an abyss inside of me. Fighting imaginary wars in an imaginary world. How was that even possible? That wasn´t…ME! Not the me that I knew!

I´m realizing now that what was destroyed, what broke back then was my sense of normalcy. Or my sense of identity. The co-existence of sane and crazy lost its equilibrium because my craziness had caused harm in real life. I did not know I was crazy then. I simply did not understand myself. I couldn´t grasp what had happened here and how I could have done such a thing. That sounds like I felt tremendous guilt, but in a way it was worse. I didn´t know what to think of myself anymore. All the damage was done right that moment, and everything else just followed.

It´s a terrible realization, but in a way I´m glad for it. It is, paradoxically, the first time I even come close to being able to tell that story without feeling like I´m somehow lying or constructing something. I tried very hard to find an explanation for what I had done, but the only explanations that came close to the truth were terrible. I looked for motivations as to why I had been so obsessed and the best I came up with is that I wanted to be a martyr and that I had envied Lola her status as the queen of darkness in our group. That, as I realize now, would have implied a level of emotional involvement with her state and the group which I probably never had. Still, I used it as a stick to beat myself with for years.

So…craziness. I was faced with something that wasn´t me. Was too loony to be me. I didn´t know what to think of myself anymore. Then followed the next onslaught of craziness that did harm in real life. The abuse mania. If I may use an analogy once more: I feel like someone who turns into a were-wolf at times, kills the people he loves and then wakes up and wonders how he could ever do such a thing. It´s not just guilt, it´s just that he is completely puzzled by his own motivation. There is no tangible reason why he would do something like that. What else is craziness if not this?

I tried to explain my abuse mania in similar ways as I had tried to explain my abandonment of Lola. I needed to play the martyr, I couldn´t cope with the fact that my needing to play the martyr had harmed Lola (that is: I couldn´t cope with the depth of my guilt), and therefore I made myself believe I´d suffered even worse a fate than Lola. I tried to admit this to myself a million times, but it never brought me relief. I don´t know if the truth really sets you free or if we choose to believe that whatever makes us feel better is the truth, but this particular “truth” never did anything for me other than make me feel miserable and stuck.

If I´m really crazy, then I mustn´t look for typical “neurotic” explanations for my behavior. Such explanations could be repressed guilt or envying the victim. If I´m crazy then the crack in my sense of identity I experienced is not disappointment in myself or the narcissistic injury that comes from defeat, nor is it simple shame over something you did wrong. If there is no way your actions could make any sense, then you can never redeem yourself. Understanding why we did something wrong helps us forgive ourselves. Or at least we try to arrive at that point. We forgive ourselves when we have developed some kind of compassionate understanding for ourselves. If you are insane, there´s nothing to understand. There was no psychological, understandable reason for what you did. Just neurological ones. Without psychological reasons for your actions, though, the narrative of your life breaks down. You can no longer tell your story. You don´t know what exactly you did when you cannot say why you did it or what you felt while doing it. It´s the first time I come even close to being able to tell this story. By acknowledging that I´m not in control of parts of my mind.

I´m not sure if knowing this makes me sane. Can I prevent such episodes from happening by knowing they tend to happen to me? My experience says no. Actually this thought causes me a lot of distress. It is painful, tedious and certainly crazy-making in itself to constantly watch your mind. It´s how I responded to my two outbreaks of craziness (dystopia-mania, abuse mania) for a while. I tried not to slip into daydream states. It was one of the other two crazy-making situations I wanted to talk about, but somehow I doubt I´ll manage to do that now.

The thought of exercising constant control over my mind scares me shitless. I can´t do that without stifling my intellect. Besides, like I said, it´s a form of crazy itself. And not the fancy kind of crazy.

It´s a great relief to just say: “I don´t know why this happened!” By “this” I mean my obsession with the future overriding any concern for my best friend. There is no particularly good explanation for it. No psychological explanation, that is. I´ve never been the kind of person who fights to dominate relationships or get more attention than her friends. I usually accepted the subordinate position without protest. I never questioned, often hardly even realized it. Explanations that play on me being motivated by narcissism and thirst for attention are vastly out of character with my usual behavior in relationships. Also, I´d have to have known what I was doing on some level. At least I should have been able to feel a need for attention. But in fact I withdrew from the group as a whole and only stuck to a friend who, to some extent, shared my obsession.

There is no psychological reason for my behavior. Does this mean that I get back my normal character? That I don´t have to make this event part of my narrative and identity?

It actually seems like the sanest thing to do. “I wasn´t myself.” It´s a loaded sentence because we´re used to hearing it from wife beaters. Like I´m trying to avoid responsibility. The truth is that I´ve been trying to take responsibility for almost ten years now and that it doesn´t work! I don´t… In order to feel responsible for it I´d have to know what exactly I did there and why. But I don´t! I tried to tell the story in a way that absolves me from guilt and I tried to tell the story in a way that makes me fully responsible. And neither story did anything to help me understand what happened and make sure it doesn´t happen again. And what those stories had in common is that they played on psychological explanations. An “I´m not guilty”-story could look like this: “She was always mean to me and I was troubled, too, at that time and she didn´t take it seriously even though I was probably only feeling so bad because I was abused, too, and by a much closer relative!” The other kind of story went like this: “I saw she was depressed but I was angry because I wanted some attention, too, and I couldn´t bear that she was more of a victim and therefore more deserving of attention, so I abandoned her!” The truth is, unspeakable as it seems, that me abandoning her had hardly anything to do with her and our relationship. Therefore, I cannot even blame it on her bullying, even though this, other than my “abuse”, did happen for real.

I don´t think there is a reason why those insane states come over me. At least not a psychological one. Maybe, in some ways, I´ll always be broken, there´ll always be sanity and craziness. I don´t think anymore it´s “a personality thing”. Maybe one day I´ll be tested and it will turn out I have schizophrenia or whatnot, and then I´ll have to try to integrate that knowledge into my self-conception, but at the moment trying to integrate things I did while under the spell of such a fixed idea into my identity is trying to make sense out of nonsense. If I still haven´t found any psychological explanation after ten years, despite my openness to the most shameful possibilities, then maybe there really is none. This rings particularly true since as soon as I admit to my craziness I feel like I´m finally telling my story right.

But….and this almost makes me want to cry – could it be that if those were genuine episodes of craziness, that is, something neurological I´m not responsible for, could it be that my actual character is not that bad? If no selfish, petty, aggressive wish motivated these episodes, if those episodes weren´t caused by feelings, or only by feelings pertaining to the fact that I have such episodes, then they don´t really say anything about who I am. Then the person I am is just this sad, humbled human hacking these words into the keyboard, and is that person really so unlikeable?

 

 

 

 

Feeling in analogies, and what are feelings anyway?

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

I´m not sure but could it be that I don´t understand what feelings are? I´m actually asking my readers here because I don´t see how i could answer this question myself.

When I talk about how I feel, is what I talk about what you would describe as feelings? Or could it be that I´m always talking about beliefs and thoughts? Do I often say things like “I feel like I am actually a bad person”? And is that anything other than “I wonder if I believe or should believe that I´m a bad person”? Is that a feeling?

Maybe I only understand feeling in the way some people say “I have a feeling it might rain today!” Feelings as intuitions, possible truths, assumptions which you have without being able to pin down why. I feel like I´m caught in a cage made up of such assumptions and I´m using my mind as a rasp to wear down the bars. But here I´m doing it again. “I feel like…” I only ever feel in analogies. What I´m saying is “in my mind my situation resembles the situation of a person who…” It is a way to communicate because it evokes images and feelings in others. But that´s not very straightforward, is it? I can talk about feelings without knowing exactly what it is that I feel. And once I ask myself how I know what a person in a cage would feel like my confusion is complete.

When I did that mind in the eyes test I solved it by thinking of different situations. “That person looks like a person who is annoyed at his friends´ idiocy.” I identify feelings by putting them into the context of a story. Give me a picture of a person and I´ll tell you a story about her, but don´t expect me to just say “she feels sad/angry/happy”. I might be able to judge that somehow, but I´ll feel like I have no real information. Like I´ve said nothing of significance. Without a backstory and lots of information, those words don´t make sense to me.

I wrote a few months ago how conversations between me and Dr. Stoneface played out. He asked me how I felt. I answered with a complicated analogy or picture. He tried to put it into a conventional emotional term. I couldn´t agree with him for the life of me. The best way to describe the feeling I had in such moments is “just NO”. I guess “just no” is not a feeling, but maybe it will help others understand what kind of feeling I had. I guess it´s more of a feeling than the analogies my mind produces. It could be interesting to look for more such reactions in me.

My reaction to what I write right now is somewhere along the lines of: “Tricky!” If it was said out aloud, it would be slightly amused recognition, like when you see through someone´s tricks but it entertains and somewhat moves you how hard he tries and how sophisticated his attempts are. Yes, another analogy. I take this as a signal that I´m trying to achieve something else by writing this. Like I´m trying to cheat.

Do feelings tell you the truth? If I feel like I´m cheating, am I cheating? The typical answer to this seems to be that if I feel like something is wrong, there probably is. My typical reaction is that I look for something until the feeling stops and there is a sense of satisfaction. But is that an indicator of truth? It is, once again, an analogy. “I feel like I´m cheating.” An intuition. Maybe it doesn´t come from my heart but from my head. Maybe something about my argument is shaky and that makes me uneasy. Maybe I feel uncomfortable because I´m not sure yet of what I write here and yet I make tentative claims. Maybe my claims aren´t tentative enough. Yes, I believe it is an intellectual discomfort. I have no idea, though, how I came to that belief. It just was there. And you can guess how uncomfortable THAT makes me. Do I have any arguments to support my claim? No. Just a vague – feeling. And do feelings tell the truth?

I have a couple of thoughts going on in my head now. I thought about writing. I think I don´t just express my feelings through analogies, I also express them through stories and sort them out with the help of daydreams. It´s not so much expressing and sorting out, maybe, than it is exorcising. I have a feeling of existential loneliness, I write a story about the last man on earth, the pressure is gone. This may be why I cannot stop writing, but at the same time I cannot plan to write. I don´t think I could make writing my profession. I need something else to occupy my mind. Something that is my life. Writing just happens. My writing gets better when I don´t think.  I always had the strong feeling that I cannot “just” be a writer. I need another job, and one that gives me something intellectually. I used to distrust that feeling and try to convince myself that I want to be “just a writer”, but I will forever fail at that. Now, see, that was another instance of me feeling. A stubborn idea. Or maybe just another intuition.

I might have been dealing with these intuitions the wrong way. It´s like this: I have plenty of them. Plenty intuitions, assumptions, possible truths. And to those I react with something that could, in the most primitive sense, be described as pleasure and displeasure.

Instinctive assumption: “I need to find a profession where I feel at home and at ease, besides being a writer!” Reaction: Somewhere between pleasure and displeasure, either burning hope and yearning or fear, despair and frustration.

Instinctive assumption: “I have a personal vendetta going against psychotherapy and therefore all my thoughts about it are distorted to fit my agenda!” Reaction: Extreme displeasure. Impotent rage, despair, nagging feeling that it´s true.

What can my reactions to these assumptions tell me about the assumption? In the first case, the answer might be that very much depends on me finding such a profession and realizing this plan. Actually, my reaction might tell me that this is my life dream, my implicit conception of the right way to live, and that I should try to realize it. Which is all fair and well if you can also tell me how to overcome the terrible fear that I´ll fail.

What does my reaction tell me about the second assumption? You know what reaction I have to that question right now? Kind of “ugh!” Not that again. I can´t be arsed right now, so I won´t discuss it. The simplest answer might be that my reaction tells me I need to look into the subject. It´s something that is important to me and therefore ignoring it is pointless, even though I´m getting on everyone´s nerves with it, including my own.

Listening to your feelings seems to be a remarkably simplistic strategy once you´ve figured out what feelings are. I´m not sure I can get used to this. I don´t like to base my decisions on feelings. But reason can be quite misguiding. There are good arguments for many life choices, after all. I´d like to have arguments that go beyond “I felt like it”, but maybe “I feel like it” is the most important argument sometimes.

I don´t like things that cannot be reasoned for, against or with. I could probably give you good reasons for that, but in its essence this dislike, ironically, is a feeling, too. When someone tells me to “listen to my heart”, I´m like “ick! go away!”. Yeah, “like”. Like a five year old boy who´s supposed to give Auntie a kiss. Feeling in analogies works for me. It makes for good writing, or at least the best writing I can do. It means, however, that I´ll never get rid of my daydreaming. I need to take care, though, that I don´t believe in my analogies. I might feel like someone has beaten me numb, but that doesn´t mean that at some point in my life I have physically experienced such a thing. The line between analogy and imagination blurs easily. Since I feel in analogies, I can easily transfer my own feelings onto situations I have not physically been in. It has been torturing me for years whether or not I´m right about how people in these situations feel. It´s probably why I took the empathy test and why I took it so seriously. This leads way too far right now, though.

I´ll try to sum up what I figured out about myself today:

1) I feel in analogies. I always feel like [insert drastic or not so drastic image].

2) I´m not really motivated to change how I perceive my emotions. Whenever I come to the conclusion that it would be impossible anyway I feel strong relief.

3) I enjoy looking for just the right analogy. Finding it has me go all like “hell yes!” It´s almost physically satisfying.

4) Writing about stuff or staging conversations with imaginary allies in my head does more for me than talking to actual people. At least I´m much more comfortable with it. It´s so incredibly me.

I doubt this is in any way coherent, so if it doesn´t make sense to you, it´s not you, it´s me.

 

Weaponry

Posted in health, mental health, philosophy, science with tags on February 20, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

Since apathy didn´t work, I will now try reason.

1.) Haley makes it clear that the entire point of psychoanalysis is that the patient can´t get it right. This means that I´m not really inadequate and stupid. I was set up for failure, but I am none.

2.) This technique punishes every kind of human behavior. Therefore, I don´t need to be particularly flawed or vulnerable to be punished by it. The punishment has nothing to do with me in particular.

3.) Haley gives a couple of typical patient reactions, and I´ve seen similar lists in other books on psychotherapy. This indicates that the number of possible reactions is relatively limited. Therefore, it would seem that the choice of behavior is not particularly unique to the respective patient and doesn´t say much about his personality.

Comparison 1: There are three possible reactions to life-threatening situations: Fight, flight and freeze. If you categorize people according to those reactions (ethical concerns set aside, I mean, how are you going to find out?), you´ll get groups which are still very mixed otherwise.

Comparison 2: One hundred people are supposed to choose between three kinds of ice cream: Vanilla, chocolate, and banana. Of those one hundred people, 51 choose banana indepently of each other. Each of those 51 believes this choice is particularly unique to him and an indicator of his very own personality style. The researchers observing the experiment know, however, that more than half of the subjects chose banana and that, other than this, they barely have anything in common. The psychoanalyst who was invited, too, believes that the choice of ice cream is the only meaningful way to describe human beings and comes to the conclusion that there are only three kinds of personalities.

4.) If all possible reactions are punished, the fact that your behavior is punished doesn´t mean it is pathological, evil or otherwise undesirable. If all behavior is punished, the fact that you are punished shouldn´t discourage or otherwise bother you. You may calmly walk away, knowing that psychoanalysis cannot show you whether you are normal or not since it has the same effect on everyone.

5.) In order to prevent people from calmly walking away, psychoanalysis cultivates the myth that there is a way to get it right, but that it is hard to explain and you cannot understand it without undergoing thorough analysis. Please mind that this is how cults work. Such a promise gets people hooked on the hope that one day they´ll stumble onto this right way and get their therapist´s approval. Remember that one person´s approval is not very strong proof that you are doing or thinking the right thing.

6.) If the behaviors people choose in psychoanalysis aren´t particularly unique to them, they don´t say much about who they are. Essentially, this means that ironically you don´t learn all too much about yourself in psychoanalysis. This, of course, also means that people who have been analyzed don´t necessarily know themselves better than people who haven´t.

7.) Psychoanalysis is a borderline situation that can be rarely found in real life (that is: outside the treatment room). As such, it provokes behaviors which the patients will likely not exhibit in real life, especially regressive behaviors. At best, therefore, it can teach the patient how he reacts (emotionally and otherwise) to the analytical setting, and it would seem like the range of reactions is too limited for any reaction to be unique to or specific for a certain patient. It might be an interesting experience for morbidly curious people, but claims that what surfaces in such a setting is who the patient “really” is seem unfounded. Remember that “really” in this context and terms like “true self” have never been properly defined.

Summary: How we react to the analytical setting does not say much about us personally. Therefore, we don´t need to let it affect our self-image, leave alone self-esteem. The negative effect it has on the latter nonetheless stems from the fact that due to the therapist´s manipulation we persistently experience feelings of inadequacy, confusion and impotent rage. Psychoanalysis is designed as a constant blow to the ego.  Those feelings, however, are not indicative of any tangible, relevant inferiority or inadequacy on our part; nor are they proof of the therapist´s hypothetical superior knowledge. They are merely the result of a few simple, but effective rhethorical tricks to which there are no answers yet.

 

 

Talking cure my ass, call it silent treatment!

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , on February 20, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

I´m in no shape to write since I´m dead tired, but I´ll try it anyway. And I´ll even be talking about a nicely crazy-making subject. Maybe, though, that´s a helpful combination. There´s nothing like apathy when the alternative would be feeling like I´m going mad.

I´ve just read Jay Haley´s “Strategies of Psychotherapy”, and especially the last chapter: “The art of psychoanalysis”. I´d recommend anyone to read it for themselves, you just need to google it and somewhere you can download the pdf. If it reads like a torture manual, that might be because it is one. The essence of it is that psychoanalysis is intended as a power struggle. All human communication behaviors are seen as strategies to take control of relationships. The analyst has found a way to maintain the upper hand no matter what: All attempts at “manipulation” by the patient (that is: all attempts at eliciting any response at all) are met with indifference. This is frustrating or even torturous for the patient. Apparently the allegedly non-directive therapist then waits until the patient shows “acceptable” communication attempts and rewards them with at least a little reaction. Which would render psychoanalysis of all things an overcomplicated and yet stunningly primitive and brutal form of conditioning. If Haley is correct, it could rightfully be called “the silent treatment” and apparently if you pay money for them, abusive relationships can heal you, though you should otherwise avoid them. Yes, sarcasm. The only thing that comforts me is that at least some analysts are probably unaware themselves of what they´re doing.

Reading Haley´s stuff I feel like Winston when he reads “The Book”. It tells me nothing I didn´t on some level already know, it feels good to be validated, and now that I definitely understand the how, I can´t help but wonder about the why. I mean – just what the hell? Why do we, in a supposedly civilized society, subject suffering, mentally ill people to such things? Or rather: Why can´t we seem to see the evil of this? Why do I feel like a rambling lunatic when I call this practice a form of subtle, refined barbary?

In Haley´s last chapter, there´s a description of typical communication strategies the patient will use and how the therapist will block them. This happens in phases. When I was starting to read, I thought: “Yeah, well, so the patient gave him that emotion, and then he showed him this vulnerability, and then he proved that he needs….well, goodness, I could do better!” Then, I continued to read, and gradually virtually all possible behaviors were listed. One moment I thought of one, the next moment I saw it listed there. Literally all possibilities at taking control or getting at least a fair share of it are snuffed out. Which means that each behavior by the patient is punished. He cannot get it right. If there was one right behavior that would gain him approval, he could use it to take some control. This reminds me of intimidation techniques where you will be yelled at, no matter what, where the rules you are given are just smoke screens and where nothing is predictable. What Haley describes is a far more subtle version of this, but nonetheless it´s cruel.

I think what is most hateful about this is that the patient is morally condemned or deemed psychologically immature for attempting something the therapist does in excess: Manipulation the relationship and trying to control the other. There are so many psychological texts that talk about how manipulative behaviors are pathological symptoms that cause trouble in relationships. There are so many online forums on which people talk about how manipulative their parents, they husbands or even themselves are. Being manipulative is sold to the public as being something sick and bad. The therapist is viewed as a contrast: authentic, capable of non-violent, honest communication, someone who doesn´t do all those “evil”, “pathetic” things the disordered person does. He wouldn´t be manipulative, ever! He enjoys the benefits of this image, while consciously and cold-bloodedly manipulating the ill, suffering people who come to him as he sees fit.

After reading that chapter I felt unable to move. I froze on the inside. Imagine you live in a cage where each of your movements is punished with an electric shock. That´s what Haley´s scenario is, just that we´re talking about mental movements. Once you have internalized the system, thoughts can gain you punishment. Each time you think about how you might break out from your cage, a poison dart of shame, ridicule and impotence shoots you down again. That´s what I mean by “voices” in my head: Imaginary conversations in which I am defeated again and again because they are set up so that I can´t win, and yet I cannot walk away. Not because I´m locked up. I´m hooked up. It´s my own weakness that keeps me there. Being told so from somewhere inside my head again and again, essentially each time when I get angry, is the most poisoned dart of all. It numbs and paralyzes me, as it renders all my struggles so pointless. There are so many great things out there in life I could focus on, and yet I choose to stay here and tilt at windmills! Why am I doing this?! Oh, there´s an arsenal of poison darts to choose from! Maybe I just love to complain? Maybe I need to fixate on something because my small, sad life would be too empty otherwise? Need any more clichés?

Knowing how skillfully I´ve been manipulated and realizing that I still cannot walk away from it, that I continue to slam my head against the same four walls five years after I quit therapy;  in short: knowing how ruined I am – that is utterly humiliating. I can bring it out like this, as anger, I can say: “This is bad, you shouldn´t do this to people, you are assholes!” What I can´t do is acknowledge that I am “people”. That it has happened to me and that it has worked. That I couldn´t beat it and that it continues to make me feel stupid, exposed, inadequate and immature. And do you know where the real fun starts? I know that saying this is a form of manipulation. Making a point of how humiliated I am suggests the opposite because people tend to HIDE humiliation! It makes me look non-defensive, it makes me look as if I could live with myself being the way I am and having been mindfucked the way I was! But I´m not trying to fool anyone! Not even myself! I´m just trying to exorcise all this somehow! And, sadly enough, I cannot even believe myself when I say this. Another thing I have learned: If you say that something isn´t true, that means it actually is! I guess no also means yes to some people. How exactly do people get away with this kind of thinking??

It´s so devastating. I know exactly how nutty and fucked-up this kind of thinking is, and yet it is stuck in my head! Whoever I was ten, fiften years ago – maybe I was difficult, arrogant, callous and insensitive – but BLOODY HELL at least I could THINK STRAIGHT!

This post starts with a new conception of sanity and then somehow drifts elsewhere only to gracefully return to the start

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

Warning: This post contains reference to childhood sexual abuse.

After days of hysteria and wretchedness I got back something beautiful: My sharpness. That practical, analytical state of mind where I look at problems unemotionally. Where I painlessly slice through myself and don´t shy away from anything that turns up. Where I look ugliness straight in the face and try to stare it down. Where no truth is inconvenient. It must be the specific kind of happiness reserved for me. My style of sanity.

It´s a very threatened sanity, a threatened happiness. It is threatened by fear – fear which leads to lies I tell myself (and others). Trying to live a lie is like trying to juggle too many plates at once. The underlying stress and anxiety only increase, until at some point I realize something is about to crash. I´ll have to let go of some of those plates. At least I might get to decide which ones it will be. Today I chose to tell some pen pals the truth about how well I get on with my thesis and that I consider quitting. It was a symbolic act, it felt like writing a manifesto rather than a confession. It was an act of protest, though oddly enough protest and humility exist closely together in me.

One of my pen pals replied, very sympathetically, and yet I noticed with a certain chagrin that she seemed to interpret my admission of failure and my wish to quit as an act of self-destruction. To me, it is an act of saving myself. It gives me back my sense of integrity. Doing things that have outward negative consequences for you can and often is part of maintaining your integrity, though. Actually, that´s the whole point of integrity.

My sister once did something incredibly brave. When she was working on her dissertation, she had a fight with her tutor, an influential professor. She didn´t want to let go of her concept and looked for another tutor, who was much less influential. If she had stayed with her old tutor, she´d have had to adept her concept to his, but he would have helped her find a job at a university in the US and she could have stayed together with her boyfriend. She didn´t, and now she had trouble finding a job and the two of them are living on two different continents.

Integrity can look incredibly stupid. It isn´t particularly practical to throw away the chance for a great job and a future with your boyfriend for a philosophical idea. It might even be seen as incredibly selfish. Maybe it is. Some psychologists would probably see it as a personality deficit. It is bound to lead to decisions which make you unhappy, isn´t it? It´s almost like self-sabotage. And yet, in some way, it can be the only way to breathe. The only way to not be neurotically anxious. I don´t feel much self-respect when I compare my sister´s decision to my own life.

My cold, unfazed, analytical gaze led me to believe I was somehow evil. Now I think that wasn´t true. I think I was a more loving, more helpful person when I was still the old, sharp me. At least I didn´t need so much from other people. Maybe others see it differently. That´s a harsh thought. I don´t want to make them feel unloved. It seems wrong for me to make anyone I love feel like that. I don´t think I could live with me being like that. And still I cannot breathe if I´m not myself. I have nothing to hold on to and I start to get anxious and clingy and dependent.

Maybe the loss of my integrity started with a high school friend of mine, Lola. I had analyzed and evaluated her with my cold, observant mind, and there came a point in our friendship when I emotionally separated myself from her because her behavior became too frustrating. She was sitting around, staring into the void, and, as it looked to me, letting everyone pity her. In my own, cold way I was angry at her for being like this. I still feel like on some level I have a point. That what she did was manipulative to some degree, and that she never cared very much about anyone but herself. It doesn´t mean that my reaction didn´t hurt her, though. I pretty much put her on ignore. She was still an unresolved issue, though, so after some time I wrote her asking how she was doing.

The reply might be among the worst letters I ever got, and there are actually some. She told me that one little detail I hadn´t known about: That she was an incest victim.

I´m not even sure why that threw me. I´m definitely cold-blooded enough to believe that this doesn´t oblige me to like, actively pity or spend time with her. Maybe it wasn´t this particular revelation, maybe it was just the terrible caricature she painted of me in that letter. My coldness, my bizarre interests and my cruel rationality. The things I got emotional and angsty about. And not to forget the aggression itself that radiated from the letter. I could hear it scream at me. Add to this my shame about my more or less secret sexual fantasies. Any allusions to this I made to her were now ringing back and forth in my head loud and clearly and, given the background, that sound was demolishing.

Amazingly, I did many things right following the letter. I wrote her back, apologizing, validating her view, offering her that she could talk to me anytime (which she, of course, declined). Then, knowing there was nothing any of us kids could really do, I went to the school counsellor and told her about the case. I don´t know what exact steps were taken and what the outcome was. In some ways I did more than her other friends, and in some ways I had done less. I guess I´d do better as a therapist than as a friend. It´s events like this which make me feel like I have nothing to give. Nothing on the emotional front at least.

I think it is ironic that on the one hand I was able to imagine Lola´s state of mind very well once I knew what was going on, and yet on the other hand I was completely unable to feel any closeness to her while she was feeling so bad and in a way it even seemed fake to me. I was very careful not to disclose her real name to the school counsellor at first because I thought that Lola wouldn´t want a secret she kept so long to spread like wildfire all of a sudden. Before I decided to see the counsellor I actually came up with the plan of killing the man responsible for her abuse, but, besides being realistic enough to know I wouldn´t do it anyway, I figured that Lola might not even want this, or at least that she wouldn´t want things to be taken out of her hands. And yet before I knew what was wrong I was unable to react to her behavior the way a friend would. Even afterwards, I was to some extent glad I didn´t have to be around her. I was glad I could try to help her from a distance.

I don´t know what to make of my reaction to her depressive behavior. Was there really something deliberate to it, something passive-aggressive, and did I notice and respond to something the others missed? Or am I simply an incredibly bad friend? (To my defense, Lola never was the best friend, either. For a couple of months, she practically bullied me.) You could probably argue for both. They´re not necessarily mutually exclusive. It depends on how you define friendship duties. Do you have to put up with months of “I´m the queen of darkness and nobody else´s problems matter! Everybody watch me stare into space and try to make me talk!”, even when the background is tragic? And what are you supposed to think when you´ve asked a million times what is wrong, you get told “I can´t tell you”, and when you finally turn away all of her other, not-as-close friends start telling you “you´d look at her behavior completely differently if only you knew her story, but we really can´t tell you!”? She could tell them, apparently. Even my own fucking boyfriend knew before I did, and even he played this bullshit on me, in his uniquely condescending way! He wasn´t even on our school! He barely knew Lola, so how did he learn about it, other than through the rumor mill? Which could apparently supply anyone but me! And did any of those self-righteous fuckers do anything other than pat her on the head and tell me how ignorant I was and how I´d totally forgive all the bullying if only I knew? Nah! It was me, the designated asshole friend, who had to get an adult involved! Because apparently everybody else was just sitting back and enjoying their goose-bumps!

As much as I did for her in the aftermath of this letter, as much did I maltreat myself. The vague thoughts of suicide I´d harbored at the time turned into a definite death sentence. I. Should. Not. Live. I felt like I neither had a right to be happy, nor did I have a right to be unhappy. Unhappiness inspires sympathy and attention and I deserved neither. I was still analyzing my growing depression the way I analyzed everything else, but analysis didn´t show me a way out, though sometimes I believed to have recognized the problem. My mother kept on bugging me what was wrong, but I, following Lola´s pattern now, refused to tell her. It didn´t seem right to let just anybody know what had happened to her. It was something I could only tell a professional who was bound to a vow of silence. Not my mother. It would have been insensitive towards Lola. My mother knew her, after all. Also – could I rely on my mother´s silence? If it made me feel so bad, she´d probably want to discuss it with my father. And who would he talk to? Thus, it took weeks until I finally let my mother in on why I wanted to die.

I realize that, other than self-hatred, my most prominent emotion when I think of all this is anger. I used to think that I´m only angry to ward off shame, but reading what I wrote I wonder to what extent my anger was actually justified. Maybe it doesn´t really matter. Maybe the belated lesson I should take from this is that conventional friendship behaviors are not my strong side. It doesn´t mean that I´m not helpful, or necessarily more harmful than others. Conventional friendship behaviors seem to include gossip, after all. Or maybe the lesson is that I´m a different kind of friend. I´m not emotionally there when you need me, but I´m the kind of friend who still tries to get you help after you call me an indifferent, disloyal asshole caught up in her ridiculous teenage problems. Being able to emotionally detach at the right time has its benefits. It doesn´t mean the rage isn´t there somewhere.

If the emotionally detached analytical state of mind is my style of sanity, though, I should go into a direction where I get to help people rather than emotionally support them. I´m not completely incapable of emotionally supporting people, I´ve actually learned a thing or two, but other than helping, fixing, looking for the right thing to do, that is something which exhausts me emotionally. It eats up resources, whereas analyzing humans and their problems revitalizes me.

I see a connection between my urge to analyze people and my sadism. It is a similar state of mind. In some ways, though, it is also different. I love the feeling that my mind, or, in the case of sadism, my voice, is like a very sharp scalpel which I drag through humanity´s flesh. In the case of analysis, this is typically the only pleasure, whereas in sadism, there is the added kick of the other person´s reaction. Which, in order to have that effect, ought to waver between pleasure and voluntary suffering. It is kind of reassuring to realize that I actually don´t get anything out of analyzing people who react with anger and protest. I don´t react with triumph to that, but with self-doubt. Good to know. So maybe this whole analysis-thing is not as evil as I thought it was. What both experiences have in common, though, is that if successful, they end with a high. I´m feeling righteously tired, nicely relaxed, and I have a hunch that ultimately everything will be alright.