Archive for Depression

The compulsion to entertain false beliefs

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , , , , on February 9, 2014 by theweirdphilosopher

If I have any aim in my personal development (which is far from linear), it is achieving what I would call one possible definition of sanity: The absence of any internal psychological compulsion to believe something radically false.

In my view, such a compulsion would not so much stem from genuinely unconscious motives, memories and impulses, but rather from cognitive dissonance. I have had my fair share of experience with false beliefs and delusions based on cognitive dissonance, and maybe even more than my fair share. While someone who clings to an obviously deluded opinion which is completely out of line with his original ideas and his very own interests might not technically be psychotic, his reality testing is obviously impaired. Not by any traceable illness, but, as it seems, by his foolish attempts at avoiding an injury to his self-esteem. And that, for anyone with intellectual standards, is a humiliating place to be in.

It is a situation that shows me my personal limits like no other. Right from the start, there have always been times when I tried to believe the opposite of beliefs I knew to be false, and yet as soon as I stopped intentionally agonizing over how wrong I was, the false beliefs would slip back in place. Not completely, more in the sense of double bookkeeping. My previous realization that specific beliefs of mine were false would remain without consequence. I would, for example, acknowledge that my family was not actually abusive, and yet still perceive and treat them as hostile. When noticing my behavior, I would seek rationalizations for it which relied on very sinister interpretations of events that, other than my original stories, had actually taken place, thus making my explanations seemingly conform to reality as I knew it while still having the necessary exonerating effect.

From what I´ve gathered, some studies on cognitive dissonance show that people who are faced with contrary arguments or even evidence tend to cling to their opinions even more fiercely. If that is the case, then telling myself how wrong I am and agonizing over my foolishness and the embarrassment of it is actually going to predispose me for another relapse! And yet this is precisely the “cure” I´ve been administering whenever I came close enough to even seeing in which way I was ill.

The motive behind that line of action was my idea that in order to cleanse or rid myself of the past, I had to suffer for it. I still sort of sympathize with this view, but I might be overlooking the price I already payed. Fact is, most of the things I agonize over happened 10+ years ago, so my whole occupation with them doesn´t seem quite adequate in the first place. But that aside, those are 10 years which could have been productive. Productive, happy, adventurous. They were so to some extent, and I wouldn´t want to miss most of them, but there was always an element of gloom and self-loathing which wouldn´t have needed to be there.

I do need to sort out my belief system. But I´m doing myself and my connection to reality a great disservice if I try to make it intentionally painful. It is my good days, not my bad days that brought me to the point of even recognizing my errors. I said before that depression is an enemy of the truth. You have a much greater chance of looking at things objectively if you decrease the need to interpret everything in your favour. Depression, however, only makes you more sensitive towards anything that could be seen as failure.

I fear that I cannot muster up the mental strength to reality-test my beliefs. Some people in my past have hurt me a great deal with what they said, and I don´t know if I could stand coming to the conclusion that they were justified in doing so. The thought evokes a sense of despair, like: Was I right in absolutely nothing? Can´t I even rely on the notion that what hurts me cannot be alright? Unfortunately, that is pretty much what going crazy does to you.

Already we are back in the realm of self-punishment. Torturing myself with such ideas gives me a certain sense of satisfaction, at least as long as I can stand them even though I initially thought I couldn´t. It might actually be useful of sorts, but, like I said: Only if I can stand it. If I realize I can´t and stop, I have renewed the cognitive dissonance and in turn my need to entertain false beliefs.

Maybe this phenomenon can be compared to exposure therapy in the treatment of anxiety disorder. It is only effective if the patient makes the experience that he can stand the situation he was scared of. If he ends it prematurely, he makes the opposite experience. Today anxiety patients frequently receive drug treatment, too, so they have to work through less fear during the exposure in the first place, rendering success more likely. Similarly, if I was less depressed, I would probably be more tolerant towards the idea that I was wrong and that others were right telling me so and reacting negatively to it even though it was torture for me at the time. By accepting this idea, I could free myself from the need for it to not be true, which would open up the possibility of looking at the whole thing with fresh eyes.

There are still some therapists, however, who believe that drug treatment takes away from the effectiveness of exposure therapy because the patient isn´t forced to confront the real extent of his anxiety. Likewise, some have the idea that those who take antidepressants don´t want to face themselves. I´m inclined to believe, though, that a stable mood actually facilitates this task.

 

Advertisements

Maelstrom

Posted in personal, philosophy with tags , , , , on January 6, 2014 by theweirdphilosopher

Chapter 1

Demoralisation: To believe you have no right to call others out on their wrongdoings (or to utter any moral opinion at all), because you yourself have done things that were wrong. One of the weapons most frequently used in any kind of argument where peoples´ self-worth is at stake.

The problem with this weapon is that it is not purely evil. Making people reconsider their own ability to conform to moral standards can stop them from being punitive, unforgiving and judgemental towards others. But where is the line between that and opening the floodgates for legitimizing all kinds of reprehensible actions?

Given that this is a subject of plenty of movies, I can hardly be alone with my own struggle against demoralization. In movies, however, the evil the demoralized person is faced with quite conveniently is so massive that it is possible to feel entitled to fight it despite being not a laudable person oneself. Also, the quiet voice in his head that tells him otherwise will be personified through The Villain, whom the demoralized person “mustn´t let win” (this is typically a line said by the supportive friend, colleague or lover). Giving in to demoralization and depressing thoughts becomes a moral evil itself, which is why the protagonist is justified in feeling good about himself again. In fact, he is very much supposed to, because otherwise evil will prevail.

There are attempts at interpreting real life that way, too. The easiest example is the way some abuse survivors see themselves getting well as “the best possible revenge”. Not everybody has a bona fide villain in their life, though. Other than themselves, I mean. The lack of an evil, sadistic genius who is responsible for all those problems and complications can be the most demoralizing thing of all.

Not that this isn´t just another typical narrative. The paranoid, vengeful guy who believes everyone is after him, only to realize sometime late in the movie that he is merely trying to run from taking responsibility for the tragedies that happened in his life. Can we maybe go beyond this hackneyed plot twist, though, and ask ourselves how on earth we are supposed to know which of those two anti-heros we are?

The ultimate answer pop-culture has for that is the phrase “but deep inside we know”. Unfortunately I suck at that, so it´s of no great help to me. Also, I find it highly illogical to ask someone to “just look into their hearts” when we are living in a world which accepts that emotions can actually prevent us from looking at stuff realistically. This concept is rather popular, so apparently it hits a nerve with quite a lot of people, but for me it is useless.

Chapter 2

I always feel the presence of a villain hovering above me, giving me reasons why it is not okay to be who I am. I know that he cannot be real and that he must therefore fulfill some psychological purpose for me, and I guess this purpose is that my need to fight him is the only thing that can justify remaining the person I am. Having to prove a point against a superior force idealizes my being me and turns it into something worthwhile, which it might not, in fact, be.

What would become of me if you took the belief in that villain away? It wouldn´t make sense to me anymore who I am. I would see nothing glamourous or romantic in it. I´d probably be ashamed of the deluded defiance that made me be proud of staying me for so long. My self-image would be turned on its head. Instead of automatically assuming future greatness, I would have to come to the conclusion that I am a mess. Someone who should be glad if he will at some point manage the daily challenges of staying sane.

Another classical narrative. At worst labeled “inspiring”. I guess I should be prepared to answer to why I believe I have the right to devaluate so many peoples´positive emotions. The expected answer, of course, is not an actual rationale based on persuasive arguments, but an explanation what horrible emotional screwed-up-ness makes me do such a horrible, screwed-up thing, along with the admission that I probably need to change. Since I made the mistake of being clever, no one is going to believe me that I honestly don´t know, so we´d better come up with something; something really incriminating.

Chapter 3

My rational mind, that which carries my original sense of normalcy, tells me that there is a way out of this and that it is okay to be who I am. I don´t think, though, it refers with these statements to all my states of mind and all the things I´ve done. It very stubbornly seems to ignore some of these, particularly those which make me feel very afraid of myself.

My treacherous heart, on the other hand, is full of them; and inside of it lurks the insidious notion that not only am I a terrible person, in order to ever stop getting into situations which will lead to anxiety, guilt and fear of exposure, I need to break with my personality structure and accept that what I become after that will not be under my control.

Self-destruction drive

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

Something I have great trouble with when I´m in this depressive, masochistic mindset described yesterday is that I´m having a hard time keeping the rules I made up for my own protection, that is: To not read anything that could trigger more rage and humiliation or increase my inner tension.

About two and a half months ago I stopped reading that one psychotherapy forum I was definitely too invested in emotionally. I´d spent too much time being angry at the people there, or feeling sorry for some obvious victims of therapy and trying to formulate my answers in a way that kept me out of fights while getting my point across. Aside from the aspect of time-wasting, though, most importantly I wanted to remove myself from those peoples´ voices and opinions. I was hoping that my new real life duties and the study of science would speed up that recovery. Maybe even allow for my previous ability to think rationally to return. Instead, however, I became depressed.

I always have withdrawal symptoms when I´m online – the Internet seems boring, something seems to be missing, I don´t have any place to visit. For a while I could replace it with the NaNoWriMo forums, but that´s pretty much over now (and besides, some stuff on there made me angry, too). This kind of drama addiction really runs deep. I still feel like I was pulled away from a fight I needed to win, or from a puzzle I needed to solve, and at times I rebel against it on the inside.

On really depressed days, however, I don´t want to return in order to finally prove all my thoughts right; I want to return in order to get myself hurt. I want to read things that trigger me in the hope that finally something inside of me will break and that rock-bottom humility, that icky moral masochism will take me over and not go away again, no matter what happens.

When you support an inconsistent football team as a fairly new fan, you might find yourself always  wavering between extremes. When your team wins, you think everything is looking up, everything is going to be okay, you´re never going to lose again. When your team loses, you are convinced that you´re going to get relegated, or at least that you´re permanently a mid-table team and that all your wins were down to good luck or bad opposition.  I feel like I´m a little bit like that, and that´s exhausting. Instead of aiming to not let defeats drag me down so much, I aim for not rising so high when I win. Maybe that makes sense, it might be more economic, who knows. (But then again, is it, really? Constantly having to suppress happy thoughts and visions of success? Getting OCDish about it and knocking on wood every time I have one? That´s annoying and destracting.)

But there is more to the urge to make myself miserable. To some extent it is just very morbid curiosity. When I´m depressed I feel both more ill and more sane. I feel like I finally have the opportunity to get intimate with what I´m running from when I´m not depressed. I kind of hope that this way I don´t have to be afraid anymore in the future, that I will be free. But I´ve shown yesterday how this is an illusion, how my demons will always and forever pin the fault on me. If it doesn´t shatter me, if it doesn´t change me, I´m doing it wrong. Still, I just haven´t given up on the possibility that I could free myself if only I could make myself agree with every accusation and then see how long it really stings. If it wasn´t for that other part of me that says: “But if those accusations don´t demoralize you anymore, have you gained inner strength or have you lost your morals?”, I might just do it.

Appeasement

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

Today was a very bad day depression-wise. On days like these I have this vague feeling that it should be allowed to officially distance yourself from the person you are. To say: “I acknowledge that I am a horrible, useless person and I want nothing to do with myself. Please hold that in my favor while you exorcise that person.”

The triggers for this were as trivial as it gets. Last night I whined to my mother about how difficult studying is and how I hate all my fellow students, from which I woke up feeling pathetic; and then I realized that I´m broke again, one week before Christmas, with zero presents bought. It´s not that much of a desaster, I have some money put aside which I can access easily and I´ll probably get some for Christmas, too, so I will neither have to starve nor tell my parents. It still sucks, though, because a) I´ve proven once again that I´m incapable of managing my finances and b) I´ll have to run around like a penitent for the rest of the month questioning every bloody chocolate bar I buy. Maybe part b) is actually worse.

I´m trying humour, and I´m trying hard work. Studying helps, but underneath my almost manic behavior is a steadily deepening abyss of horror. Maybe it has to do with the penitent role my depression forces me into currently. I´m play-acting that I´ve learned something from this, or that I´ve changed in some way, that I´m now the kind of person who studies hard and forgets about how pissed off she is that other students appear to have an easier time, but this is just a perversion of my real feelings. In fact, I am so crushed, frustrated and tense that I have no idea where to go from there. This moral masochism is the only way I can move into any direction; and while I´m really trying to feel what it suggests to me, I know that as soon as I feel better again, it will pass.

I feel very anxious about happy thoughts right now. To think, for example, that I can drop the act if I pass my upcoming exam, even seems to jinx me. I don´t deserve it, both morally and judging from what I learned yet (but mostly morally), it would be better for me if I failed it because if I pass that would allow me to still think of myself as superior to the other students, and therefore, I must make a pledge to stay in this masochistic mindset even if I pass. In trying to pass this test, I´m essentially fighting myself. It´s like a part of me is hell-bent on sabotaging me in order to put me to justice. I´m not going to contradict that part, as this only seems to make it stronger, and besides, it has so much power over me that I simply don´t dare make it “angry”. The only thing it approves of is rock-bottom humility.

I´m sometimes tempted to give it what it wants. It wouldn´t be difficult to figure out. But then, at some point, another part of me cries out and asks me what I´m doing here. Don´t I want to maintain some sincereity? Can I still bear looking at myself after groveling like that? Isn´t it just a cheap thrill, anyway? Am I throwing away years of defensiveness for what will probably be nothing? Do I want to compromise myself like that?

It´s true that quite possibly nothing would come from it. To every internal accusation I would say “yes, it is like that, and yes, I feel awful and pathetic for it, please help me change.” The reply would be: “Well, you´ll have to stop being like that yourself, you can´t expect someone else to sort you out. It´s your responsibility!” To which I would say: “But I don´t know what!” The reply: “Well, think harder!” – “I´m thinking as hard as I can, it´s like my head is going to explode!” – “Actually you don´t want to think of anything. You don´t really want to change, you are not sincere, you are phony, you´re every bit as bad as you were before. You have not really distanced yourself from who you are!” And there goes my peace of mind. Nothing about me is acceptable.

 

 

An enemy of the truth

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , on December 1, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

Waking up with an awful feeling. I feel like I did back then with Athena the morning after an argument. Well, maybe not all of the anxiety. But the massive feeling of worthlessness. Not so much in terms of skills and abilities. It´s a moral worthlessness. It´s a feeling of: My character, my whole personality is so massively flawed and disordered that I cannot do ordinary everyday life things. What business does a person like me have trying to study?

My priorities shift, from really urgent things (I desperately do need to study!) towards my personality. It is an almost delusional shift. My mind is fixated on my own inherent badness, though not without accusing me of trying to dodge my responsibilities that way. “What is more pleasant: Actually studying or lying around here thinking?” That kind of question could even come from Athena.

Dear madness, let me rephrase it for you: “When I feel like this, studying is indeed more painful than just lying around. Because it sucks when you cannot focus and when your inability to focus and the fact that you didn´t start studying earlier is constantly being held against you until you want to give up because you deserve failing the test anyway. But if I had the choice, I would most definitely rather study all day than feel like this.”

I guess I´m a study in depressive thought. The way things are going, I´m actually starting to consider medication. It is something I angrily refused when I was younger, but I´m starting to see that I was misguided; by prejudices, yeah, but also by my own illness. My depressive thoughts were a trial, and I was desperately fighting to be aquitted. I didn´t just want to block out the accusers. I thought “depression” was just another word for “truth”.

Maybe if I had simply taken medication as soon as I was diagnosed for the first time so much could have been avoided. Such as trying to lie to the judges. I´m coming more and more to the conclusion that depression is what makes you unable to accept the truth. And that´s human. It is impossible to accept the view of the world and the self as depression colors it. You can accept that you made a mistake, even that you acted selfishly and out of petty motivations, but you cannot accept what depression makes out of that.

I´m trying not to blame myself for that, I´m trying as much not to place the blame elsewehere. I´m not going to accuse people of not forcing on me something I adamantly refused at the time. I also, though, will not accuse 16-year-old me of being stubborn and arrogant and a horrible know-it-all. Maybe I was all that, but the primary reason why I couldn´t see how ill I was – was that I was ill. I felt like a fake when my mother took me to a psychotherapist. I couldn´t take any of it seriously, not me going there, not them for not calling me a fake right away. They had to see that I wasn´t really suffering, right? That it was my friends who should be sitting here, that I was just robbing the attention they should be getting.

I cannot help but feel that to some extent this simply was true. I did want attention rather than help. And I´d be so glad if there was any conclusion to be drawn from this, anything on the basis of which I could move on to somewhere. But there isn´t. All I can do is pointlessly judge myself. I´ve gone the way of trying to find out why I would be such a horrible person, and I ended up accusing others of being even more horrible persons – apparently that´s the sole purpose of the exercise. I´ve been considering finding other ways of getting attention, and the result was that it took the innocence out of writing and that I acted out of character. Yeah, I know. “What is more comfortable – acting like you´re a hopeless case and enjoying the pity you get, or trying again and working on yourself?”

Huh. Maybe the most comfortable thing would be to be allowed to just forget things after 10+ years. If what you once did at some point stopped defining who you are, even without a pompous, official “I have now changed” moment. If crimes can become time-barred, why can´t shame? Isn´t there some point at which you have suffered enough for one single thing, regardless of who you are now?

My imaginary mentor once said something beautiful to me with regards to my self-lacerations. He said: “In the society you live in, no matter what anyone does, he is not obliged to punish himself. He might be punished by others, but if he had to punish himself we´d consider that a perversion of justice.” – “Well, what if no one else will do it?” I replied. And he: “That´s called getting away.”

What he “intended” me to take away from this last line was that, maybe, if people hadn´t turned away from me no matter what, then it was okay. Not great, maybe, but not a reason to abandon me. I tend to feel that I don´t deserve to have relationships with other people, so if I do, I either think they have to be immensly generous (that makes me feel even smaller, which makes me feel resentful), or extremely blind (which makes me lose respect), or I believe that they are on the verge of losing their patience with and about to dump me. What he also meant was that there is no higher judge who can decide whether or not I should be in a relationship – only my relationship partner can decide that (yeah, well, and me, of course), and if they decide to stay, that´s the final verdict. (Then again: How final? If they dump me five years after I did something I feel bad about, I´ll still think it´s about that.) My relationship partners should have more of  a say in how dumpworthy something makes me than the voices in my head, and yet I stubbornly keep on ignoring the evidence. (I bet I´ll be dumped five minutes after writing this, just to prove the voices right.)

I think his point was not to tell me that from now on I should let my partners decide if I´m okay or not. What he meant was that if they think I´m okay, then I am not morally obliged to tell them that they´re wrong because it is up to them to decide what is and what isn´t alright with them.

***

So, I´m feeling just a little bit better, but that mood is far from stable. I´m still scared of trying to study. In my new life, it that´s how you want to call it, I feel like an impostor. I don´t really deserve to be there, either, so how can I expect to understand anything I´m reading, or to memorize what I learn? I understand and I memorize, although my focus indeed isn´t as sharp as it could be. I already passed one test. Still, I cannot take myself fully seriously. Cannot take uni seriously for accepting me. It´s basically the same problem. The truly ironic thing is that I was accepted because of the GPA of my high school graduation, something I did years ago. And, other than with shame, this one doesn´t count. It was years ago. I told you I´m a study in depressive thought.

I´m trying to tell myself they haven´t accepted me permanently, with all those tests they are still weeding out (though the drop-out rates don´t reflect this idea). This, however, doesn´t get me motivated, it just gets me scared – and it makes me feel arrogant. Again, there seems to be no way out, no way to get it right. Either you scare and intimidate me and beat me down all the time, or I will lose respect immediately. That´s about my self-image.

The truth, however, should be different. It might be along the lines of: “You had to make a risky decision rather quickly when you went for this new path. It is allowed to make such decisions. You don´t need to make sure you know that it is the right path for you before you even walk it. That is impossible to do.”

And also: “They don´t hate you. They don´t want to kick you out. No one can look inside of you. No one looks and you and wonders what the hell you are even doing here because you are definitely not what you´re aiming to be. The others are just as scared as you are. They, too, hate some subjects or feel like they will always fail them. They´re not all working harder than you, some are actually working less; and no matter how much they do or don´t work, they all procrastinate at times or give in to bad moods.”

I´ll write you a postcard the day my depressive mind actually starts to believe in evidence that opposes its view. This fact, however, nicely illustrates what I mean when I say that depression is not a friend of truth. Where it doesn´t make the truth feel so terrible that it becomes impossible to accept, it completely ignores exculpatory facts. Depression is not the cold-blooded scientist who fearlessly names uncomfortable truths. Depression is a trial in a rogue state. It is legitimate to flee where justice is not to be expected.

Apparently me thinking I´m psychotic again, but most definitely a whole lot of confusion

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , , , on December 1, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

I do okay for several days, or maybe experience some moments when I´m really down, but it´s all within reason. Literally. Until suddenly my cognitive functioning breaks down.

Most of the time when I´m down I can describe how I feel and what happens. During a breakdown like this one I can´t. It´s like my mind is cannibalizing itself. I ruminate about myself, then my self ruminates about me, and written down like this it sounds like a witty pun, but in reality I am lying on the bed sobbing pointlessly, unable to put into words or even thoughts what is wrong with me and what I´d need to feel better. This, however, makes me completely helpless. It´s a mental breakdown without any real content; a breakdown of functioning. I cry and cry, and simultaneously I want to dance because there´s a song on the radio that I like; and I´m at a loss to explain where my tears are gone or why they are still streaming down my face while my mind is singing along to Waka Waka. This inability to understand myself or to stay in one emotion for thirty seconds at a time is driving me nuts. Verbalizing is the only real weapon I have against my moods and my mean inner voices, and during those breakdowns it gets knocked out completely.

The only constant during a breakdown is a bizarre sense of guilt. I keep on wondering sincerely how it is possible to reliably do everything wrong all of the time. To be unable to even stay depressed for five minutes. On the one hand, a cheerful song can kick me straight forward into a different mood, and on the other hand, the simple fact that this is so makes me want to kill myself, so what mood am I truly in? I don´t know. It is a circle that perpetuates itself. If I´m actually still depressive, than knowing this should make the unbearable tension go away, but it doesn´t, because the song is still making me happy. I don´t even know how you can have all those affects simultaneoulsy.  And again: How emotional and desperate can I truly be, if I take the time to put the word “have” in italics? Those are questions which, to me, are absolutely condemning, and I don´t even know why. It just seems to me like I am absolutely inconsistent as a person and I cannot cope with that. Maybe according to identity theory (identity as constructs which need to be consistent in order to work) I cannot cope with being inconsistent because it makes it impossible for me to have any kind of self-conception on the basis of which I could try to understand myself or categorize my feelings, assign meaning to what happens inside of me.

I think if the Holy Inquisition still existed I´d go see them and ask if they can save my soul. Now, at the (hopefully) end of one of those breakdowns, I still feel like I desperately need to have all that falseness and absurdity in me eradicated; carved out of my body. I wouldn´t even want it to hurt, though I would want to feel something – the kind of relief you feel when you can at last scratch an itch, or when you finally breach the surface of the water and breathe.

Maybe it is single-mindedness in its literal meaning that I´m looking for. One mood, one line of thought, one emotion. Not all channels open at once. And maybe pain can grant a bit of that. Pain caused by someone else. Get my focus that sharp, fix me there, eliminate. I think my pain perception was a bit dulled during this breakdown.

Oh god, I´d better try to go to sleep now that I have a trace of my usual sarcasm back. Maybe I´m just having that breakdown because I have to study, anyway. Or well…I guess it started because I felt like I´m a complete loser and it just went on from there. Never mind. Never mind, forget it, move on or die trying. Goodnight.

 

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

Posted in personal, rants with tags , , , , , , on September 30, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

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.