Reality Checklist

This checklist is personal. It is not intended as advice, not even for me. It is my best shot at what might be a realistic conception of my own psychopathology, whatever its nature might be in clinical terms. At the moment I don´t even want to know anymore. I need to re-define myself on my own.

This checklist is something to come back to when I have another attack of madness in the broadest sense. It could be angry inner dialogues, it could be theories about the origin of my illness. I will look at this list, feel invalidated by it and thrust it aside. But once the acute phase is over, I can go back to the list and re-orient myself. I hope that this way I won´t have to figure all this out time and time again. Like I said before, my (inner) life is subject to constant disruption. Maybe you could say that this list is a lifeline from the sanest perspective I´m capable of. It might help me integrate my latest experiences of madness. I hope to be able to understand where I went wrong, where I strayed from realistic and identity-building thinking.

A short, very simplified theory of madness which might prove helpful to me:

  • It lies in the nature of madness that the symptoms (feelings, attitudes, perceptions…) make no sense. Looking into the past for an explanation that gives a seemingly understandable meaning to them is to deny their nature as expressions of madness. If I get terrified in my own room and conclude that something terrible must have happened there I am denying that my fear is irrational and that I am mad. Fear is not a proof of past or present danger.
  • Madness proceeds in several stages: You start with having symptoms like panic or other emotions which seem out of place in the situation you´re in. This is something that simply happens to you. How you deal with it determines if the madness can proceed to other parts of your psyche or if it is stopped, that is, you stay sane, though ill. If you look for explanations for these symptoms which give meaning to them instead of acknowledging their insane nature, you let madness take over your cognitive capacities as well. Not only do you have false responses to situations, you also start to cognitively distort reality. Hearing voices is a hallucination, a disturbance of the senses. Attributing them to CIA mind control is the beginning of a delusion, a disturbance of cognition.
  • There are two different ways of looking at your history: You can acknowledge that you are mad and look at how being mad has influenced your life and your self-image. And you can look at your symptoms and try to deduce from them what must have happened to you in order for a (as you believe) sane person to develop such symptoms. The first way can be helpful, the second way leads to delusions.
  • Sanity is to be free from delusions, not free of symptoms.
  • By believing that your symptoms are meaningful, you make it harder for you to gain inner distance and freedom from them. If your fears and other problems are rational and make perfect sense, then it would be mad to break free from them and stop being frightened. Thus, delusions prolong and intensify your suffering.

How to obtain a narrative which gives me a sense of identity:

  • You can only gain a workable identity from a narrative that focuses on agency. While, of course, sometimes things happen to you, focusing on these things won´t tell you who the person is to whom they happened. If I view myself as a passive object floating in a cruel sea, I´m victimising myself.
  • The answer is not to simply claim responsibility for everything, and especially not for the actions of other people.
  • When evaluating past situations you feel guilty about or ashamed of, ask the following questions: 1) What situation did I believe to be in? 2) What did I want to achieve or avoid? 3) Which observable actions did I commit? 4) What situation was I really in, seen from a distance? This also includes my level of knowledge at the time. 5) What could I at best have expected to achieve?
  • A perspective of agency does not imply that you brought everything upon yourself. It is a biography focused on your thoughts, actions, motivations and evaluation of situations. It doesn´t really matter if much, little or nothing bad happened to you – you´ll probably always need to develop a perspective of agency in order to move on.
  • Look at what was important to you in past situations, not at what turned out to be important after the fact or at what other people deemed important. In order to judge your behavior you need to know your own perspective.
  • Just because you develop a perspective of agency doesn´t mean that all of a sudden nothing happened to you anymore. Things still happened to you, you are just looking at something different for a change.
  • Identity is fluid and needs to be constructed and reconstructed steadily, especially after (social) defeats, attacks on your self-esteem and current identity, being at fault. If you fail at this, you will fall into an abyss of demoralization. Overcoming this abyss is the implicit aim of everything I do.

With regards to inner tension, angry dialogues, shame:

  • No one is saying anything to me at the moment. It is not real.
  • The people who write things that make me feel any of the above are not talking about me. They don´t even know I exist.
  • Whatever the solution to my problems is, it is never that I should feel this way. A real solution will not feel like this.
  • Imagining humiliating scenarios is simply something I instinctively do in order to try and relieve the tension. It might not be the only way, and even if I needed such things to happen to me in order to relieve the tension, it wouldn´t mean that I deserve them.
  • Just because the voices in my head aren´t real doesn´t mean I was never bullied or verbally attacked. While they certainly use every interpersonal defeat or even conflict against me, though, they are an entitity of their own and they consist of more than things that were actually said to me. The dialogues in my head are no flashbacks of dialogues that have taken place in real life. They are fantasy. They have never happened and they are not really happening right now.
  • I feel angry at people I argue with internally even though those people (real people) have never said the things they say in my head. It´s because of this that I don´t feel sure if they have really given me a reason to be mad at them or if I´m just a vengeful person who cannot cope with herself. This, by the way, sounds like a black-and-white distinction.
  • Just because the dialogues aren´t real doesn´t mean it would be alright to talk to me this way. It´s normal that they make me feel the way they do. It´s just not really happening. Therefore, even by winning discussions with them, I don´t stop any kind of real life evil from happening.

Me and Others:

  • It is okay, even expected of me, not to expose my innermost secrets to everyone.
  • Lying and keeping my feelings to myself are two different things. I can give my honest opinion without having to give away how personal the issue in question is for me.
  • People who meet you for the first time don´t know that you believe you can make yourself invisible. It surprises them when you don´t greet them, look away and fail to display a normal amount of self-confidence.
  • People who meet you for the first time don´t know how you think about yourself. You can actually shape how they think about you.
  • Trying to influence peoples´ view of you is not per se an act of people – pleasing or self-denial. You can use it as an act of self-protection. It is very reasonable to keep your vulnerabilities away from people who have views which might hurt you.
  • It is legitimate to protect yourself. You don´t need to use relationships to other people as a punishment.
  • Nobody can read your mind. Most people probably aren´t even noticing you.
  • You don´t have to agree with others. You don´t have to discuss everything. You have a right to private thoughts and opinions and no one can first demand to hear them and then be upset.
  • Other people aren´t all out to psychologically demolish you. You have experience with this. You´ll recognize it when it happens. Relax.
  • It is okay to postpone discussions and responses because you want time to think.
  • When in doubt, keep your emotions under wrap, politely tell people you need time to think, remove yourself from the situation, sleep over it, rethink it, respond.
  • Other people are not the Holy Inquisition. They have just as many issues as you, and those who act like the Holy Inquisition probably have most.
  • When criticism is mingled with aggression, cruelty, scorn, the way you´ll feel about yourself receiving it does not reflect who you really are, even if the criticism itself is justified.

To be, I am sure, continued.

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3 Responses to “Reality Checklist”

  1. […] 10. The philosopher who calls himself weird, but is not. He is lovely. https://possibletruths.wordpress.com/2013/04/27/reality-checklist/ […]

  2. writingthebody Says:

    Those are nice lists by the way…I noticed before, but just thought I would stop again….as I have an interest in honesty too….and its relationship to revealing.

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