That one time when I tried to say too many things at once and published a very unstructured post

Those how-tos and advice I read…

Quite often they´re designed as a kick-up-the-backside. Tough-love motivational speeches. Depending on my mood, I can read them calmly, feeling unaffected, like it doesn´t apply to me (until I reach the passage that says: “and – YES! – this applies to YOU, too! Specifically to you!”), or I will be cast into a dark prison of rage, hurt, self-loathing and demoralizing internal arguments. Actually, if that doesn´t happen right away, I´ll keep on reading those speeches and lists until it does. That´s typically the point where I skip to the comments section, hoping to find affirmation for my feelings. What I will find, however, is floods of: “OMG, brilliant as ever!” – “Oh god, I´m so guilty of all this! Haha!” – “That´s just what I needed to hear right now. Thank you.”

Those comments demoralize me even more. Because they touch upon something that had me doubt myself ever since I can remember:

How do people manage to respond like that to the emotional equivalent of a full-body-thrashing and why is it so impossible for me to respond in the same way?

I´m torn between two explanations, as always. Either everybody else is simply a whole lot stronger than me character wise (need less ego stroking, not afraid to hear the truth, genuinely eager to improve), or those are some very elaborate defense mechanisms they might not even realize they are using.

I´ll explain the second hypothesis first, because that´s easier: Tough-love speeches put their (willing or unwilling) recipients one-down. Said recipients want to be on equal footing with the author again, but they can´t do that by openly contradicting. It´s nearly impossible to contradict those tough-love speeches without looking like “you´re just too weak for them”. The implicit rule of tough-love speeches is that those who contradict are the once who´d need to hear them most. Therefore, you will need to pretend that 1) you absolutely agree and 2) that you aren´t actually a recipient, you´re a bystander. The recipient is someone else. You might applaud the author for his writing style while not talking about the content. You might keep your positive feedback as vague (and possibly even condescending) as possible. You might want to signal “I learned all those rules a long time ago and I have applied them since, but it´s never wrong to hear them from someone else, so kudos”. At any rate, you will want to make yourself sound like an equal.

This part is something I can understand. I apply those techniques, too, rather often. But then I encounter something like: “I needed to hear this, thank you so much!”, and when I´m done cringing I wonder why the hell someone would respond like this. I simply don´t know how this could be a defense mechanism. Sure, excessive self-abasement can be used as a form of subversion. It can shed light on the true nature of some of those speeches, that is: They´re a form of humiliation. But those responses don´t reek of parody. I can only conclude that they are real. Earnest. Serious. And I don´t get it.

Responses like these make me feel dumb and defective. The feelings that could make me want to say such things are a blind spot both in my imagination and my experience. And there surely must be something wrong with that? Beginning with the fact that other people don´t understand my utter discomfort when faced with such reactions. Or the fact that, when such responses are expected from me, I fail to deliver and instead do things that can only be described as irrational, crazy and incomprehensible?

There is, as always, the special snowflake explanation. Maybe something is terrible wrong with a society based on such put-downs, and hierarchies, and all kinds of humiliations guised as child-rearing – and I´m one of those few people who are sensitive enough to recognize the wrongness of it all. I know what tough-love speeches have to say about that. There are no special snowflakes in tough-love, and even if so, YOU are none of them. (This is meme-worthy. This is so meme-worthy.)

I don´t need to be a special snowflake, though, in order to disagree and be right. Tough-love speeches are good at creating an illusion of all-encompassing consensus. No one contradicts, so everyone agrees. Apart from some really, really pathetic twats. Don´t be one of them. Actually, though, the author can be sure only of the agreement of the 159-ish people who cared to comment. That´s not so terrifically much. So maybe there´s hope for me.

Anyway, maybe that´s part of the reason why I can´t stay away from such speeches even though they make me unhappy and unproductive (actually, that was not supposed to be the topic of this post, but never mind): I cannot accept that there is something I don´t understand. It´s a loose end in my belief system, so I need to tie it up. And that´s why I keep on coming back to this issue.

Anyway. How do people do it? How do they feel doing it? What does it take for you to feel grateful for this kind of treatment?

Somehow, I always tip-toe around this question. I kind of – want to experience that state of mind. And I kind of don´t want to. I imagine myself saying those things. I try to strip that idea of its horror. Of the disgust I feel. I try to be sincere. I try to say it without self-disgust. I try to make it sound plausible, real, like the mistakes I´m accused of are the only right explanation there ever was for all my unhappiness. I even imagine trying to forgive myself for not seeing it earlier.

There´s only ever two outcomes: Either it kicks in a a way that it really shouldn´t, or I feel nauseated, depressed and demoralized. Often, it´s one after the other. What doesn´t happen, though, is that it ever feels like a genuine, positive emotional experience. And that makes me feel broken. Defunct.

If I´m incapable of responding well to lectures and criticism, am I then incapable of personal growth? Does my masochism block my ability to react positively to any attempts at improving me? And if so: Do I have to change my sexual orientation in order to become a mentally healthy person?

Those were questions more or less visibly nagging at me when I started seeing Dr. Stoneface. That´s not why I noted them down here. I did so because they still bug me. Part of me feels like the answer to all those questions must be “no”. Part of me feels like this is wishful thinking. Remember, no special snowflakes. Even if there are people who are right, those people certainly aren´t YOU!

Yes. Totally meme-worthy.

I know that many people are inclined to think that the answer to all those questions posed above is “yes”. Dr. Stoneface certainly was. How people answer those questions, though, is my ultimate test of their trustworthiness. It doesn´t protect me, of course. To many people, those questions aren´t even connected. They might think, for example, any kind of masochism or sexual deviation is ill and crazy. But also people who embrace sexual diversity might reject me, thinking I´m an immature twat who isn´t really into their kind of kink but just one of those nutjobs and eccentrics who creep around on the edges and give the “scene” a bad name. And 99% of all people I deal with have no idea of the inner conflicts and the social anxiety I carry around and they will never know that they just failed a major trust test.

I wish that didn´t matter to me so much. Like: I wish I didn´t care what opinions other people have. Fact is, though – when someone I like or even admire has an opinion that makes me feel bad about myself, I sometimes feel unable to continue talking to them. A friend of my partner I always sort of idolized was visiting and I was talking to her about my failed therapy attempts. Suddenly she said that she really took something from her last therapy because her therapist didn´t let her get away with her usual schemes. I felt physically ill hearing her say that. I felt unable to stay in the same room with her. I felt deeply rejected. And this kind of rejection happens to me very, very often, without anybody noticing.

I´m starting to feel depressed, so I´ll just leave it here for a better day.

 

 

 

 

 

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