Archive for July, 2013

Counterpolarity a.k.a. the wall between me and the world?

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , on July 31, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

I realized there is something I have been ashamed of all my life, and it is also something which I always felt made me different: I feel I have a very hard time being polite. Social gestures of appreciation, whether I merely have to reciprocate them or initiate them myself, come hard to me. It was a long time until I learned to say “thank you” and “please” and to not react to the shop assistant´s “have a nice day” with a blank stare. When someone asks me how I´m doing, I reply “fine” and forget to ask how they are doing.

Like with my behavior towards Lola, I had plenty of psychological explanations for this. None of them improved my behavior, but at least they served to either add to the shame or take some away. An explanation of the first kind would be: “You only think about yourself, you don´t care about other people, you think it´s natural that they care about how you do, but you don´t care about what they do. You are narcissistic, and that´s probably because your parents spoiled you and didn´t teach you any manners.” An explanation of the second kind would be: “You must have severe social phobia and that´s why you don´t dare say anything to anyone. You think you are so worthless that nobody cares to let you know how they are doing anyway, because they don´t expect any help from you! That phobia must come from experiencing bad things when you were little, like your father´s yelling!”

Fact is, however, I don´t know why I act the way I do. I do feel anxiety in social situations, but that´s more the stress of knowing I will have to use all those difficult, unnatural-feeling social gestures again. I feel like everyone will immediately notice the awkwardness of it, see how unnatural it is for me, see right away that this is a put-on on my part. What, though, am I trying to conceal? That I´m ego-centric and demanding?

 

Huh. How do you know if you´re ego-centric and demanding? Maybe if you don´t feel like asking others how they do but get angry when they don´t ask how you are doing? And do I get angry when others fail to ask me how I´m doing? Nope. Not one bit. I actually hate that question. It just makes me feel awkward and guilty and the answer is always going to be “fine” anyway and I´ll feel uncreative on top of that. If I have a really good day I might improvise a sentence or two about the weather along with it.

Where are those massive asocial traits coming from? Like I said, psychological explanations are failing me. They are a burden rather than being helpful. A few months ago I wrote about the empathy tests I took. I wrote that I feel a general lack of connectedness towards society and its norms. I tried on several subcultures, but they wouldn´t fit, either. I don´t fit in anywhere, and trying to has bad effects on me. When I look at others I only ever come up with negations: “That´s not me, that´s not me, that´s not me, either, and this group of people would downright hate me!” I can only feel like a positively defined being (“positively” as in: “This is me, this is me…”) when I look at myself and myself alone. I´m never in sync with others.

I recently read something interesting on a fellow blog: The author described how she reacted to other people being angry. She didn´t not empathize with their anger, but felt like the target. That is something I can very much relate to. And maybe that is part of why I always feel for the villains, and why this is so personal. The hero is full of self-righteous anger? I feel like I´m under attack, and from this develops sympathy for the villain. I get this in real life, too, when my colleague rants about another colleague or her kids or just anyone. I immediately feel like the target and I start to identify with whatever behavior is being criticized. Ironically, however, when faced with the ones whose behavior is criticized I couldn´t empathize with them, either. I cannot feel the villain´s need to get back at his ex, or the kid´s need to come home late. Which, of course, makes me believe I´m inconsequential and inconsistent. So maybe I actually do lack empathy. I´m just starting to wonder if this is such a terrible thing. Maybe it´s just a different way to see the world. Feeling the contrary feeling instead of emotional contagion is simply a different way to react. It does give you information about the world after all; you do have access to a spectrum of possible emotional reactions. It just makes it hard to be helpful towards the person who is trying to vent to you. To some you will appear indifferent, arrogant and cold. Others will regard you as impartial and unimpressionable.

When I say “I feel like the target”, I both feel like I am the target and I feel like I believe the target must feel. This is why I always believed to have a lot of empathy. Maybe it is some kind of reverse empathy, or empathy from a distance. What remains, though, is the fact that I feel an emotional distance towards the person I am facing, while feeling “empathetic” towards a hypothetical third person. What I perceive is this thing-that-is-apparently-not-empathy, what others perceive is that I don´t empathize with them. Then again, I don´t just perceive vicariously the possible feelings of the third party, I also perceive my own distance and sometimes indifference towards the person who vents to me. Maybe it is because of this that I´m never sure how to answer questions that try to assess my empathy and emotional sensitivity towards others. Maybe that´s why my self-perception wavers between hypersensitive and sociopath.

I´ve just been wondering if I only have this with regards to anger or also with regards to other feelings. I definitely have trouble sharing the feelings of others. I might be at a party, a concert, in a pub; everyone is having the time of their lives and suddenly I find myself stuck somewhere between melancholy and discontent. There is, again, that distance between me and others, the wall between me and the world. I cannot share the general euphoria. I always thought I was suffering from depression and therefore I was unable to have fun, but this inability to merge emotionally with others is as old as time. Besides, I also have the tendency to calm down when everbody else freaks out or to suddenly feel strong when everybody else gives up, and that´s got nothing to do with depression. It´s like I´m counterpolar.

I used to think I was just being contrary. This put me into a fix. On the one hand I thought that I probably had all the reason because the world sucked, on the other hand I thought I was being immature and unempathetic towards a world that was simply complex. Maybe, though, this counterpolarity is not a result of how I perceive the world, but the way I perceive the world is a result of the counterpolarity. What if these contrary reactions are wired into me, and what if “I react this way because the world sucks / I suck” are just helpless attempts at an explanation? Maybe those emotional reactions simply aren´t determined by my thoughts and attitudes, but my thoughts and attitudes are influenced by my emotional wiring. If so, then this would also explain why I feel for sure that I cannot change. You can change attitudes and thoughts, but not the emotional hardwiring. If I have such fundamentally different responses to social clues, or a general aberrance of empathetic feelings in the broadest sense, then this is more than what psychology can account for or work on. It would be a case of “the material I´ll have to work with”. There would be no explanation that could be cathartic or inspire change.

What I can take away from this is the following: I do have emotional reactions to other peoples´ emotions. They follow a pattern that is beyond psychology. I don´t need to worry about my feelings towards those persons, or about being antisocial.

There is more food for thought. How do BDSM encounters work for me, since they seem to be one rare occasion when I can easily feel connected to others? And does my inability to show feelings in some situations have to do with this whole phenomenon?

I´ll need to look at these questions at another time.

 

Unorthodox conclusions about self-love

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

What strikes me about my last post is the level of fear it reveals. I write as if displeasing my superiors just the slightest bit could lead to my death. We´re approaching a very sensitive spot here, entangled with both pleasure and self-loathing. The self-loathing whispers to me that I´m just so scared because I fear someone might see my true nature, which is none of this good girl crap. For truly I am lazy, selfish and disinterested in other people. And the pleasure, while feeling pure and right in some hard-to-describe way, makes my behavior seem even more artificial. Which may be why I always feel that I can only join the world of work by giving up who I really am. Because who I really am is something embarrassingly antisocial. Nice twist. You´d think when someone says “but that´s not who I really am” he´s defending something precious.

I don´t know for what fucked-up reason I defend something that feels vile to me, but yes, even while watching movies I´ve always identified with and defended the villains. Even the pathetic ones (especially, maybe). I always recognized myself in behaviors that made me cringe while I saw them. And no, I cannot let anyone pat my head pitifully and ask me in a tone of saddened sympathy why I cannot love myself, be less hard on myself, see myself in a more positive light. Hear the lion of loathing roar behind these cynical, ungrateful lines? Because he is. The idea of “just loving myself” is ridiculous to me. Not because I´m such a particularly bad person, I just don´t know how you even do that. What´s it supposed to look like? With some vague terms like these, I have at least a hunch how it might feel to be able to do what they suggest, but “love yourself” is an empty spot in my imagination. Not because I´m such a severe case of self-loathing, but for some other reason I cannot really grasp.

If I think about it, though, could it be that my associations with self-love are just mistaken? I expect it would be something that would make you feel good, but maybe that´s wrong. Love can make you feel quite bad after all. And what is it other than love if I feel unreasonable rage and pain and get into silly arguments with others over what happens to a movie character I identify with? Who ever said that love was seeing everything through rose-tinted glasses? Sure, a person in love often does, but love without those glasses is just a sad, fucked-up loyalty towards someone you know is useless but unrevokably part of you. Someone you can´t let go. Why wouldn´t I have that same relationship towards the personality I believe to have, given that I angrily defended it throughout any attempts at changing it, such as therapy? Oh the irony, if my resistance is but a firm expression of self-love!

I know that my version of self-love is not how the term is used in the lingo of psychotherapy. They, for example, will tell you that not taking care of yourself properly (that is: eating pizza instead of cooking a proper meal, procrastinating, missing opportunities, spending excessive amounts of money, drinking…) reveals a lack of self-love. In fact, they excuse all your bad habits by saying your parents didn´t love you enough, and therefore you cannot properly love yourself. It sounds nice: becoming a paragon of health and efficiency just by doing something as fluffy-sounding as loving yourself. Win-win. I always felt, though, it is terrible to appropriate something which should be a free, personal and maybe conflict-ridden feeling in order to create more conformism towards a current social ideal of how a person should act and be.

How is my self-love conflicting, though? On the one hand, I do want to thrive, succeed, achieve stuff. That makes me feel frustrated with those character traits that stop me from doing so. Makes me hate myself even. On the other hand, I cannot wish to expel them, I cannot want to change, I cannot let them go because that wouldn´t be true to myself. Because of this loyalty towards my worse half I am never sure I deserve the approval I get for what my better half does. This loyalty, too, is were my guilt is coming from, not the flaws themselves. I am hard on myself not because I cannot live with my faults, I´m hard on myself because I am loyal to them. Refusing to change is dangerous. You can, of course, pretend that you are trying to change, it´s just that….but if you actually don´t want to, if you are loyal to who you are, then you might experience some severe anxiety. The fear that someone might find you out. You try to avoid conflicts in the first place. You are scared anyone might find fault with you. You feel like you´d have to lie to say you will improve (even though you will indeed probably not make the same mistake again), and lying is a sad, alienating business. Maybe that´s the connection between “I might do something to displease people” and “I will be abandoned and lonely”. “I will never be accepted the way I am” is not “I will never be accepted with all my flaws” but “I will never be accepted with my loyalty towards my flaws”. At least for Athena, that´s true. It´s just what stood between us, and I´m scared to make this experience again. In a way, it´s also why I knew therapy would never help me.  It makes me feel hopeless, like I´m destined to either be alone or anxious. And this – hopefully false – dichotomy is dangerous, too, as it might cloud your love for other people. I feel like my anxiety is a curse I have to live with, a direct consequence of my inherent badness, of my allegiance to badness, of my lack of will to be good, to be more like other people want me.

What causes me the greatest anxiety, however, can also result in unreal pleasure. To imagine that someone could break my allegiance to my worse half is probably the most powerful fantasy I have. This plot lies at the core of all my masochistic ideas, and it also justifies them, because a person like me really needs some breaking, right? Bad people need to be turned into good people and the plot revolves around overcoming the resistance this evokes. The real-life repulsion these fantasies cause me, of course, is easily made part of that plot, and I usually jump right to the idea which repulses me most. Consequently I´m much less conflicted already since I accepted those fantasies as fantasies and don´t take them so seriously anymore. As a kid I sometimes realized during daytime what I was thinking about at night and felt some kind of despair given my own self-betrayal. Maybe my inner conflicts are not so different in kind to those of feminist women having rape fantasies. Then again, have things changed so much since I was a kid? It doesn´t fill me with dread anymore that I imagine those things for my personal pleasure, but the very same fantasies I enjoy at certain times intrude on me during daytime and present themselves as plausible and I don´t even notice it! I always thought I had those intentional fantasies as a way to deal with the obsessional belief that I need to be broken, or maybe even as a way to avoid the necessity of it by dragging the idea into the dirt, but this thought itself could be straight out of one of these fantasies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hierarchies

Posted in morbid, personal with tags , , , , on July 27, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

It´s weird starting to write again after such a long time. Still, I´m glad people are still stopping by this site and some care to comment. The reason for this hiatus is that I´m working full-time. Add to that my work starts at half past six, so I get up every morning at 4:30. Guess how well a night person like me fares at that. In the last few weeks it´s been a rare occasion that I´ve been awake at this time of the day (that is: midnight).

My work is physically exhausting, but it is also emotionally draining. The main reason for that are the many colleagues (that is: superiors) I have to cope with. It would still be exhausting, though, if there was just one person. Eight hours a day I´m at the bottom of a hierarchy. I have to do what others say, ask others what to do, ask them if I can go for lunch. Sitting down at the wrong time can get me into trouble, yet simultanously when they offer me to take a seat I´m not really free to turn down that offer. I have to pay respect to a strict hierarchy and yet at the same time pretend this hierarchy doesn´t exist. I have to pretend that I pay respect to it spontaneously, without being aware of its existence. And this, complicated as it is, is not even my main job. My main job involves learning a lot of procedures and rules at once and applying them while people watch.

Do I wear this hardship as a badge of honour? It would be pointless to deny it. In a fucked-up way it makes me happy, but I´ll also be glad when it´s over. Pretty damn glad. Sometimes I don´t even know how I make it through the day. If I sound different to how I used to sound – I cannot judge that – then it´s because this work experience demands all my focus and mental energy. Everything else seems insignificant compared to the importance of not fucking up. This intense state of focus makes me feel alive, but I don´t know how much longer I can keep it up. I cannot imagine the last day will really come. When I look back at this later I will barely recognize myself, hardly remember the time. And there might well be emptiness and crying fits, just like when it started. I cannot protect myself from that because I´ve lost any ability to find calm in introspection. I can write about what I think is my situation, what I think will happen, but I do so with the same sense of urgency, the same panicked focus I exhibit at work. I always knew I was a kind of stress addict, this confirms it.

This job – without wishing to reveal to much about it just now – speaks both to my masochism and my sadism. I get ordered around by seven people at once, I have to do gross and disturbing things, it´s hard physical work and I overstretch my bodily limits on a daily basis (in order to avoid false impressions; no, I´ve not joined the army, I´m just very weak and out of shape physically). Regarding my sadism…ugh, no, that would be revealing to much. I assure you that I´m working in an honourable job, though.

Let´s stick with the masochism. What really helps me thrive in this environment is my tendency towards servitude. Forsee other peoples´needs, do as you´re told or what you´re expected to do, don´t complain, don´t contradict, always stay polite. It would seem I´m actually liked for these traits at work. It embarrasses me because that means someone has noted them. They are something I´m deeply ashamed of. I thought that these servile behaviors would be just about enough to keep me out of trouble (me, the disgraceful individual I believe myself to be), turns out now I´m suddenly a model for others. Which is terrible because it feels like I´m deceiving everyone. I´m nowhere near as angelic as this. It´s a role I play because it was the only one that would work for me in this environment.

What all this teaches me, amonst a million more significant things, though, is what I need to feel secure. I need power structures to be open and transparent. If I have to ask someone if I may sit down, I want this question to be acceptable. It isn´t at work. It embarrasses people when you ask them such things. It embarrasses them when you assign so much power to them. They don´t want to be the kind of person you need to ask if you may sit down because that kind of tyranny is frowned upon mostly. The result is that I don´t get to sit down at all, other than during my breaks. I cannot just sit down, I cannot ask if I may sit down, so I must pretend that I don´t need to sit down. The result being that my superiors tell others that I´m so busy they literally have to force me to sit down. They tell others such things about me while I´m present, as if I couldn´t hear them (though they still leave me wondering if I should, indeed, pretend I´m deaf or if I need to smile), which probably tells you everything about the level of authoritarianism at my workplace you need to know. What wouldn´t I give for fixed, transparent rules regarding sitting and standing right on the first day at work! And for everything else, too. Even facial expressions, should they matter.

What this helps me understand is what is so soothing about BDSM play. First, you can have whatever lunatically strict and detailed rules you want, and second, they´re all explicit and you don´t have to pretend you´re not obeying while you are. You don´t even have to pretend it´s not difficult because what fun would it be if there wasn´t an element of struggle? Struggle to comply, of course, not so much a power struggle. Also, of course, you don´t have to hide your feelings. You can, for example, be openly embarrassed when you get praised as a good girl (and this is just what is happening to me at work, in front of people who, to me, are random strangers). And you don´t have to hide that your back and legs are hurting from not sitting down, as this game is perfectly intended for you to be in pain. There is no danger your “superior” could be embarrassed about the fact that you don´t dare or know how to voice your discomfort. While many people wouldn´t change a thing to better suit your needs, they´ll still want you to feel comfortable in their presence and environment and they don´t take kindly to you not being alright.

This must sound like a scathing critique in disguise. I don´t know what it is, to be honest. I do not yet dare have an opinion of my work and my superiors. There´ll be plenty of time for that when it´s all over. Maybe this need not to judge is what makes me feel like I´m not actually thinking anymore even though my mind is working at a remarkable speed. The uncomfortable thing about this stance of servitude is that I cannot shed it at home. I never feel free. What is happening now is exactly what I always feared would happen if I ever had to work. I think I need some supervisor, a different authority who forces me to come down again. That being, of course, an open authority figure.

Since I just fell asleep writing this I guess I´d best go to sleep.

 

Chronic guilt and depression

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , on July 15, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher
  • Waking up from a nightmare feeling momentary relief, then remembering that your nightmares only reflect what would happen to you for real if anybody knew your sordid secrets. You wake up knowing you´re cheating justice.
  • You go to work and feel guilty for deciding to function, as it is a way to escape the guilt momentarily. If you stayed home, though, you´d feel guilty for letting the people at work down and lying to them.
  • You genuinely cheer up for a second and instantly get mad at yourself for being so inconsequential.
  • You imagine seeking help and immediately feel guilty for wishing to waste someone´s time. The fact that you still imagine someone listening to you with genuine interest and compassion (as opposed to the professional edition) is grounds for ridicule. There´s only one reason to seek help: Because you really want help. You don´t even feel embittered as you ponder this;  a melancholic, cooperative resignation softens these thoughts. Being listened to is for better people, motivated people, not for idiots who cling to their disease, like you.
  • There´s always this fluttering, hollow feeling in your chest, like a wound sucking air. A knife seems to be the only thing that could fill it. You don´t even want to die – that would be way too melodramatic – it would just be nice if that feeling stopped already, and it´s not like you´d be a great loss.
  • The thought that other people might love you is terrifying.