Archive for masochism

Well, didn´t I miss being sane!

Posted in morbid, personal with tags , on January 12, 2014 by theweirdphilosopher

You can probably tell that I wasn´t quite myself in my last two posts. I have a file on my computer dedicated to more of what I´d like to call “my new psychosis”, as I can clearly feel – however accurate what I say may be – that I say it in a state of madness. I now recognize fixed ideas and sudden, manic obsessions in myself; not so much by their content, but by the accompanying feelings. That would typically be: Excitement to the point of physical arousal, absurd euphoria that can give way to megalomaniacal optimism, and the feeling that something big is about to happen and bring by the great change that will make all that I know as misery obsolete.

You wouldn´t think I had such feelings judging by the content of the stuff I last wrote. Indeed, this started out as increased inner conflict and being upset about possibly contradicting myself and changing my mind on things, and then it turned into a barely controlled self-destruction orgy. The resulting feelings are, unfortunately, highly addictive, and they also are the last thing I´d ever want anybody to see in me. And yet I seem to depend on that, as after a few days I suddenly lost the ability to make me feel them myself. At first it was actually hard to bring myself down like that, but then it got incredibly easy, to the point that I thought I could really cope with anything life threw at me because I´d learned how to drop my ego and let it shatter. Or I guess maybe I actually did know better, because like I said:  By now I know madness when I feel it. My judgement was dulled, though; I might as well have been drunk. I guess you could pin it down to a complete lack of sleep, though. I´m clinging to reasonable explanations, which might not be so unreasonable, given that last night was the first night in five that I slept more than roughly four hours. Anyway. Lack of sleep explains the when, it doesn´t explain the what-the-hell-do-I-do-about-this.

I regularly sit there, cranky as it gets, and I want to scream for someone to take me apart and beat the hell out of me for being everything I am because I need it so much I could punch a wall. Trouble is that I can´t communicate this. I can tell someone what to do (if I´m allowed to assume a different identity, speak in vast circumscriptions and a foreign language), but I can´t tell anyone what I want to feel, leave alone let them witness it. I cannot tell anyone my intention behind this, that is the beliefs that drive me, since they feel so damn genuine in the moment and that is at odds with everything I represent. Without this kind of honesty, though, actually doing anything (such as taking a beating) would miss the point. The subtext is sorely needed.

In fantasy, this is solved by mind-reading, but if anyone in reality failed to go through the necessary steps of establishing consent, it would give me very bad vibes and I wouldn´t want to go any dark corners with that person, leave alone those of my mind. So there´s really no way around this problem. And as it is, that drives me up the walls.

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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.

 

 

A journey to all the dark thoughts

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , , , , on November 24, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

Recently, I sent to a penpal of mine a description of my current depressive episode. She replied that she could not imagine that a psychotherapist could not immediately conclude a diagnosis from my, as she put it, lucid self-analysis, and devise an effective cure – effective provided the patient cooperates.

She knows that I have a bad history of psychotherapy attempts, and she appeared to try and empathize, telling me she didn´t want to persuade me to see a therapist again. And yet the tiny little qualification she made with regards to effectiveness speaks volumes about how many worlds we are apart. She has swallowed the blame-the-patient approach to therapy failure hook, line and sinker.

Ever since last weekend I´m struggling with what to answer. Part of me wants to be honest and tell her, without rage, in what way exactly I have been hurt and why I cannot believe anymore those were just instances of bad luck or black sheep. I can also predict, however, what is likely going to happen next: With the best intentions and in the solid belief that she is helping me she will tell me in what way she thinks my views are distorted, how she experienced her own (mostly positive) therapy and that I must have gone through some really tough shit in my family of origin if I interpret the well-meaning offers of highly ethical experts in such a self-defeating way. She might ask me if I´m sure that what I read into their words isn´t just my own depression speaking. She will assure me that of course I´m not the kind of person they made me feel like, and therefore I must have gotten them wrong, because it will go beyond her imagination that other peoples´ perception of me might differ from hers (if anything, she will add: “Of course I don´t know how you behaved towards your therapists, but the way I know you…”). And then what? What do I reply to that without at some point starting to sound defensive, paranoid or closed-minded?

When I was younger I admired proponents of the moral minority. I identified with 19th century atheists, early campaigners for women´s rights and those who fought being outcasted because of their sexual orientation. I admired their passion, their spite, their all-encompassing criticism of society and I could the intellectual sharpness of their arguments resonating inside of me, making me feel good, strong and like a pioneer. When I myself got into arguments that dealt with issues which touched upon my own, very personal conflicts with commonplace ideas and demands, I did not feel strong and in the right at all. I felt stupid, childish and impotent. For the longest time I could not win such arguments, and yet my own most personal stakes were too high for me to accept a defeat. If the others were right, I could no longer live with myself.

For some time I thought that the sheer monstrosity of the suffering this caused me was proof enough that the others couldn´t be right. It could not be reasonable that someone should righteously have to experience that amount of psychic destruction. This argument, however, never seemed to impress anyone other than very soft-hearted people. Whenever I encountered yet another stone-cold rejection of my passionate appeals I could feel my mind both turning dull and starting to race with torturing thoughts; and some painful, hollow feeling seemed to be eating itself through my chest, making me want to cut it out. Not to mention the wish to hurt the person who´d caused it in some way or the other.

It makes me doubt myself a great deal that many of those feelings were caused by my defending of beliefs which I now recognize as false. If much of what those “others” said back then was the truth, then my sense of humiliation related to being confronted with reality. And while the reality of ten years ago might not matter to me anymore, it still matters to me that I might have a problem with reality. I don´t want to be the kind of person who cannot bear to live her life based on what is true. So what do I do if all evidence is pointing towards just what I dread most?

There is no way out of this. I can either ignore or explain away the evidence, turning myself into precisely what I don´t want to be; or I can admit that the evidence is accurate, but unfortunately that noble act comes too late to redeem me. The damage the evidence relates to is damage I have done long ago. I´ve already become the person I never wanted to be, and admitting it won´t change it.

Some might think this is stubborn. The past is gone, and everybody deserves a second chance. Unfortunately, past and present are not so dissimilar. I still very much identify with that old sense of humiliation, I´m still having similar experiences and I can not whatsoever guarantee it won´t happen again. The thought alone of second chances scares me, the life of a penant doesn´t seem a life worth living to me. If I don´t even manage to be halfways decent without practicing a stressful amount of self-denial, how am I supposed to be able to be super good?

My thoughts sometimes work in mysterious ways. I was thinking about how much I would want to ask my former professor for his opinion on my life story and everything I had done. I would not so much ask for a moral evaluation, but rather appeal to his creativity, as he is the one person I could imagine off the top of my head who I´d trust to have a happier solution to all this than life-long penance and self-enforced toxic humility. And at some point in our imaginary conversation he, flatteringly and ever observantly, said: “I think it will be very difficult for you to really get rid of your way of torturing yourself, as this is part of what makes you so lovable.”

Imaginary as his view may be, it struck a nerve with me. First of all, I realized it reflected my own opinion of myself. I would not like myself if I wasn´t like that. Paradoxically, I can only agree with myself when I talk about myself in a harsh, critical manner. It is a paradox I tripped over quite often in my life.

Then, however, I actually encountered that view in real life, in someone else. It was Athena who told me that my ability to self-torture was the one thing she had always admired so much about me. She told me this in a very judging fashion, when I had just started to violently try and shake that fatal “ability” off, and this hit me. If my torturing and dissecting and deconstructing myself is indeed what makes me valuable, lovable, worthwhile to others, then what am I supposed to think of those whose love and appreciation I am trying to gain?! What is so different, so severely wrong with me that I have to persistently scourge myself in order to earn what others get for free? Why are others allowed to just accept themselves the way they are and somehow it doesn´t taint their honour? What am I – some kind of example? Something that isn´t likeable but useful, as long as it does what it does best?

What might have been most healing about that imaginary quote was, however, that he kind of called me out on my own neglected infatuation with my self-torture. Not in a confrontative, humiliating way, but by validating me. Since that conversation was but a figment of my imagination, I can say authoritatively that he really meant what he (didn´t) say. He finds me lovable that way, but he told me so in form of a self-critical observation about what he enjoys, not in form of a sourpuss moral demand that holds me to different standards than everyone else.

It did not come across as him telling me that I was bringing my suffering upon myself, but rather it felt like a reminder that my being like that isn´t all bad; it is nothing I have to fight with all I have. I am allowed to be this way, play with it, use it to charm others just a little bit. I don´t have to be all sourpuss myself, either – but liberating as that sounds, it is starting to conflict with my need to genuinely self-torture. Here is where imaginary conversations crash hard against their own limits. I have not really been absolved by anyone. It is something I do myself, and on my own responsiblity. As it is, there is no one out there looking at me that specific way. The conversations feel so real that it is sometimes hard to remember that. Again, I appear to have a problem with reality; and yet the conversation with Athena was real, and isn´t my anger about it somewhat righteous, too?

I feel like I´m, in a way, on to something when I say that there was a certain tendency in people in my life towards reinforcing a specific trait of mine more positively than good for me. This positive feedback created a certain pressure to remain that way, but also, I was held by standards set by my best self-critical behavior and those cannot be met at all times without cutting oneself off from life and emotions. “You can be so mature oftentimes, why can´t you be so mature now?”  My maturity, maturity in general became my nemesis; the very thing that made me feel like a failure in comparison. I was mistaken to believe it was the maturity of others I that pathologically envied and raged at; it was my own former behavior others measured me against that I could no longer live up to. Most of the people who confronted me back then were a lot older than me, and yet I feel like a failure for having been less mature than them – and, essentially, they, too, treated me like one because they were expecting me to act differently. Much of my immature behavior back then, however, did not so much consist in trying to get my way in ordinary teenage matters (going out, allowances etc.), but it was solely about the right to be immature, stupid and unreasonable. Maybe that explains some of the more outrageous things I said back then, things I cannot and couldn´t really agree with but which to defend seemed necessary.

My mother seemed to admire me in many ways, and that can be scary. When I think of her – sometimes almost shy – smiles and looks, I feel both lonely and awful, like I´m a person who intimidates others. It is difficult when you feel that a person really wants you to like her. My mother keeps on saying that I imagine her to be more vulnerable than she really is, and maybe that is true, but that doesn´t change my feeling of uncanny omnipotence. I do have a way of feeling responsible for too many things, too many peoples´ moods, and for believing that my own thoughts and feelings can cause terrible things to happen.

As I think these thoughts, I´m torn between two ideas:

1) I´m not really that important, my mother didn´t really admire me, she was just wisely humouring me because I was a demanding child with a terrible temper. My belief that my thoughts can make things happen shows that on a deeper level I´m narcissistic to the point of delusion.

2) I should have recognized the power I have earlier and used it more wisely, I must have caused so many terrible injuries, and most of all, my helpless, loving mother.

Neither idea does me any favours. They merely offer me the choice between a sense of guilt and a sense of ridicule. Neither idea takes into consideration what I want, or that I even am a being of my own with personal feelings that can just as easily be damaged as anyone else´s.

I´m not sure where all this takes me in terms of my original question. Maybe towards the conclusion that I´ve been so conflicted for so long that I really don´t need to try and resolve my issues now by telling my penpal what psychotherapy does to me. Or that I cannot trust myself at all, so that I should better not ever say anything about anything.

Or, of course, that I have no obligation to always be wiser and more mature than everyone else, although there was a certain pressure to do so that did not originate in myself. I can respond emotionally and take this risk that I make a fool of myself, and it will be no more of a shame if I do it than if anyone else does it. I´m afraid, however, this remains a very theoretical option, as my penpal, too, has an ever so slight tendency towards idealizing me – and that never ends well. When someone idealizes you for being something they value, they will never forgive you for managing to convince them that you are not like that, and their admiration will turn into vitriolic disdain if you try to tell them this is actually okay. In their eyes, it will make you weak – weaker than they themselves think they are for not fulfilling their own ideal.

Some people seem to understand themselves as the helpers of “genuises”. They enjoy the thought that they might be able to understand a genuis better than he understands himself. Instead of climbing all those other social prestige ladders that all too slowly lead up to the “genius” and trying to earn themselves a place of their own, they jump to the top of the invisible hierarchy and merely try to get one up on the person up there. All they need is someone who is clearly bright and creative, but just as clearly suffering and somewhat dysfunctional. What could prove their own, the helpers´ intelligence more convincingly than their ability to understand the mental workings of a misunderstood, outcast genius? It seems to indicate an intelligence that is superior not just to oh-so-ignorant society, but even to that of the object it studies. I feel a certain sense of caution towards people who call me a genius without a trace of sarcasm or hostility in their voice. It seems perfectly natural to me to have a great problem with the idea that someone else might be more intelligent than oneself, so those who have no problem whatsoever with that appear to be unnaturally superior to average people in at least one department: Self-confidence and how to display it. And it seems like a good idea to be just a little bit wary of such people. Clever, convincing displays of self-confidence are, after all, key to social dominance. Maybe it´s the sum of my experience, maybe it is sheer envy of the pure, selfless souls of somehow more mature people – I don´t know. If I dare trust my gut, however, I´ll remain cautious to spill my guts when people assure me one time too often that they think I´m brilliant and wise. I´m quite sure that their respect and adoration don´t go far enough to a) change their minds on things and b) not use everything I said against me should I develop a will of my own.

I think with those last bits I´m being horribly unfair towards my penpal. That was more directed towards a long-time friend who managed to both put me on a pedestal and look down upon me. It is amazing, though, to understand where so much of my paranoia is coming from. I discount many of my thoughts and perceptions as narcissistic and judgemental, but once I try to understand how I reached those conclusions, I find that they were formed based on observations and experiences which are perfectly valid.

I still don´t know what to write my penpal, but I think I´ll have an easier time figuring it out now.

A true anniversary post as it sums up this blog quite well

Posted in morbid, personal with tags , , , , on November 4, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

Wow…if WordPress hadn´t alerted me, it would have completely eluded me that this is my blog´s second anniversary! Well, happy birthday, Possible Truths!

I feel a bit foreign on here right now. For the last few weeks I´ve been working on some larger post, yet I simply didn´t have the time to finish it. Additionally, I´ve been feeling ill for the larger part of October. Still, I can try to note down some quick snapshots of the thoughts I´m having lately.

1. One thing I noticed about feelings of guilt and inadequacy is that they can make me want to surrender to something – just about anything. I don´t need to believe in it, I just need someone who takes out of my hand the responsibility for my being a decent person. I´m going through another patch of depression, and often I feel like I´m a failure on so many levels that I simply cannot fix it on my own. Health, personality, household, studying – even hobbies. Worse than that, little actions, emotional reactions and thoughts seem to reveal just how inadequate I am. And at this point I realize I´m incredibly tense and stressed out and I would feel so much better if only someone forced me to act better. If someone else told me that my thoughts and feelings are just me feeling sorry for myself. It would be so comforting if I could do something right just by accepting someone else´s reign over my life. If I could earn approval just by agreeing.

2. I also read up on attack therapies. And I realize that, in a way, it is just an external version of what is going on in a depressed person´s head. Or maybe even worse. In the early stages of my first depression, I could still believe that I somehow had a point in being depressed. I could proudly refuse what I thought was superficial happiness. Then, however, I was slowly broken down towards seeing those thoughts as something that made me an insincere person. I “learned” that my depression was self-serving. A non-depressed person might have concluded that there were better ways to stroke their ego. I, however, came to the conclusion that I had the duty to be truly and solely unhappy. I worked hard at eliminating all secondary gain to make sure I was genuinely suffering. Of course this is an endless regress, as the moment I would have become aware that I reached that goal I would have gained something.

Now, there is a certain allure in the idea of having someone who makes sure you suffer enough. Someone who, in exchange for your submission, allows you to have a clear conscience. While you are still a horrible person who regularly needs to have it pointed out to her, you earn basic acceptance for surrendering to your guru in the widest sense of the word. I never wanted to reach a point in my life to understand this. Or maybe I always did. I guess I kind of wrote so in my last post. It might be the greatest ambivalence my psyche has to offer.

It could create inner peace to know that you don´t have to monitor and doubt yourself – someone else is doing it for you, and if you fail, you will feel the consequences immediately, without ever being given up on. And yet I know from experience how horrible this kind of situation can be. It was precisely the kind of threat Athena was hanging over me – if you don´t make an effort or if you whine too much or if anything makes me think you do not really want to change, I´m going to give up on you. It is weird that you can experience something painful, have it ruin you to the point of complete mental breakdown, and yet you continue to idealize it without even making the connection.

And then again, with Athena I was responsible for monitoring and fixing myself. While she tended to go colder and colder rather than become emotional, she still didn´t have herself and her own fears under control, and it was because of this, because of her dependence on me that she had to treat me as (emotionally) brutally as she did. She needed me to answer in certain ways, she needed me to be a certain kind of person and most importantly she very much needed me to not be certain other things. It was her weakness, not her strength that made her abuse me. I don´t think I ever saw it as clearly as this, and despite all the humiliations she dealt me I can´t feel inferior right now when I think of her harshness and that´s incredibly liberating.

Unfortunately, though, I know that my ideal of non-judgmental, all-forgiving listening and correcting can never come true. Neither can I fulfill it, nor can anyone else encounter me like that. Everyone has needs, opinions and an ego and you can only deny yourself for so long. I´ve been on both sides of the fence. I´ve been trying to be the perfect guru, I´ve been trying to find myself one. It is a beautiful illusion, but it is an illusion. Maybe a solution to many of my problems would be to 1) stop searching and 2) stop beating myself up for being an actual person. I actually do feel guilty for having opinions, as they make me more judgmental. But then again, if you really believe you have to accept everyone and take everything anyone says seriously, you´re not doing yourself a very great favor. You cannot let just anything and anyone into your mind unless you want to lose it. In a way, there is something spineless about never just speaking your mind, never risking to offend people by giving an opinion. It seems I can easily feel ashamed for one thing and its opposite at the same time, as I feel like I´m both spineless and judgemental.

I was raised an atheist, but I was always just a little bit hesitant to call myself one. I simply don´t have that kind of psychological make-up. I don´t want to be responsible for the ways of my soul, or, in modern terms, my thoughts and emotions. I might be relieved to accept a punishment for my thoughts if only it eased my anxiety a little, but I feel like the order to “take responsibility for my thoughts” is to demand that I dash it out myself. And that seems cruel and degrading. In reality, it probably means no such thing, but I guess this kind of misconception is what happens when you face a person of such a masochistic mind-set with modern-day morals. I cannot treat myself the way I would accept to be treated by others, because I cannot give myself the general approval and ease of conscience I´d get from others for taking that treatment.

Again, more reason for shame. Dependent, unable to be responsible for herself, and so eager for a regressive, somewhat dodgy relationship towards a fantasized father figure…what does this tell us? I don´t know. I deal with those thoughts the same way I deal with everything else – I imagine to get what I deserve for them, but in a somewhat safe way that doesn´t endanger anything that is truly important to me. It seems to be the only way to ward off the anxiety that my being who I am will cause something terrible to happen.

I just wonder where all that anxiety is coming from, and why I am so ill with feelings of shame and guilt.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

I´d have to re-read this to find an appropriate title and I´m afraid sleep comes first

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

There is something I seek time and time again: Advice and how-tos about things which are very personal to me. Such as writing. Or living at all. It´s not so much practical advice as it is advice about which attitudes to have or what to feel. And I really don´t know why I´m doing this to myself because I always end up feeling like shit and rebelling against it. To make things worse, the latter also adds immaturity and arrogance to my list of personal shortcomings.  I´m trapped in that cage of “but why do I have to be such a horrible person where did I go wrong”, running against the same four walls again and again. It is impossible to just accept you are like this. I should know better than to ask those questions, really. I´m too much of a cynic to believe in a great why, and the “how did it happen” question only gets you into more trouble since you will inevitably look for explanations which take the blame off you or make it look like it´s a proof of your character strength that you didn´t turn out worse.

It sounds much more reasonable to identify my strong reaction to this kind of “advice” as the problem. My only problem, maybe. Nobody is perfect, but I have too strong a reaction when faced with my shortcomings. This doesn´t help me, though. It makes me feel like just as much of an arrogant nitwit. Not accepting you have any shortcomings is ignorant, immature and somewhat ridiculous, if not pathetic. It also leaves you extremely vulnerable. And I hate feeling like I´m at anyone´s mercy. So maybe that´s why I keep on going back to such advice even though I´ve noticed plenty of times it does me no good. After every major or minor life change I challenge how solid or important it was by putting myself to the test: “Can I stand this now? Can I take it with a smile? Can I learn from it or do I maybe find I no longer need to? Can I perceive this as helpful and constructive?” So far, I have always failed.

These failures have always demoralized me. It happens so reliably that you can rightly call it “self-sabotage”. But when I go back to those advice pages I´m always bursting with optimism. I´m dimly aware I´m doing something I had, in a moment of better judgement, promised myself to avoid in the future, but I do it anyway because something about it is intoxicating. It is intoxicating in a similar way as is any kind of transgression, just that in this case I get punched in the stomach half-way through.

It is a pattern I´ve shown even as a little kid of maybe five when I insisted on playing rough-and-tumble with my father even though I knew it would end badly. I was always excited for that part when I would start to get afraid because I was hoping that this time – by using fucktons of willpower, self-discipline and attitude adjustment – I could make it feel good. I never could, I always ended up panicked, pleading, and eventually deeply resentful. I complained to him, I might even have complained to my mother, but it didn´t satisfy me when he stopped taking it too far. It is a great life lie of mine that I didn´t want such things to happen to me. I do, and a lot of my anxiety is tied to that. A lot of my self-disdain as well. It´s probably the same guilt-shame-what-kind-of-an-ungrateful-monster-am-I mixture most masochists suffer from at some point in their lives. I´m sure I´d never have tried to believe I had really been abused if it hadn´t been for those toxic feelings. Or, as I´d say in my darker moments: If I wasn´t that kind of monster. That kind of person (let´s not kid ourselves here; “monster” is a form of flattery. It´s so poetic.).

I digress. What I was originally going to ask myself (before I started to ponder the complexities of masochism) is why on earth I´m wasting my time fighting one tiny little vulnerability. Okay, maybe not so tiny. Vulnerabilities are big and serious by definition. And maybe it is kind of relatable that one would try not to be vulnerable. The only reason to stop fighting vulnerabilities is if there is a chance it might make you less vulnerable. Is there?

Let us do a thought experiment. I walk through life and I still feel horribly upset every time I encounter someone who is better at living than me. Shouldn´t be difficult, as I´ve just proven I´m one of those fools who think life is a competition, so absolutely everyone is entitled to lecture me by default. But enough of the snappiness and self-defense. I walk through life and I cannot cope with the fact that I have serious personal shortcomings. Meaning that every time it is somehow pointed out to me I either fly into a fit of rage and angry internal (hopefully!) dialogue or I feel depressed and demoralized and secretly punch myself in the bathroom. Well. The worst thing that can happen is that things remain just the way they are. Which means that I can keep on fighting or I can give up – the outcome will be the same.

The advantage is – as long as I´m fighting, I´m aware of my problem. I am anxious to avoid situations which could expose my vulnerability. The disadvantage is that in order to do that, you pretty much need to avoid life. Any attempts at doing something I will suck at initially – and be it writing the first draft of a novel – are such a punch in the stomach that I avoid them, too. The result is more shame. Not good at anything because my ego is too sensitive to be a beginner. Great. Who doesn´t want to be that kind of person?

The promise that lies in awareness, though, is that it might help me avoid humiliation. I always remember to display so much humility that no one could possibly think of attacking me. I try very hard not to find myself in a situation where I angrily yell at someone who´s just scratched my ego (best of all, at the verge of tears, full of self-pity and over-the-top accusations) just to realize they´re not only right, they´re also going to call me out on my behavior. Of course, awareness is a 100% guarantee this is never going to happen to me again. Until the next family meeting, if I´m lucky.

Family meetings are the worst thing ever. You compare notes with anyone roughly your age, you realize they´re more happy, more successful and better sons and daughters than you are, your sister helps your mom in the kitchen while you´re just surfing the web and by the end of day two you are seething with barely restrained self-loathing that makes you want to start fights and take everyone down to your level. Comparing yourself to the person you believe to be at work or around your friends is to look into the mirror and to find your image chuckling at you with just the right amount of pity in their disdainful voice, saying: “You bloody hypocrite!”, before smashing you straight in the face. No need to mention I approach family meetings the way I approach life advice.

So, essentially my only conclusion can be that fighting my vulnerability doesn´t make me any less vulnerable. It doesn´t make me feel less shame or provide less reason for self-loathing. I will run into my that sword all the same. So why don´t I just stop fighting it?

Excuse me, what? That would require anything about my character has changed. It hasn´t. I´m still dead scared of any kind of humiliation. And the thought that I carry the recipe for my own worst case scenario within the foundations of my personality is nothing I can just shrug off and get over. At best, I can find it tragic and inspiring.

Well, there might be something equally good, or maybe it goes hand in hand with “tragic and inspiring”. If the shame, the rage and the hurt pride are somewhat fateful emotions I´m bound to experience again and again, then maybe I can separate them from whatever currently happens to be their object. I cannot prevent myself from feeling them, but I can deal with them more intelligently. Such as by not assuming I should respond to them with therapy or any other attempts at self-improvement. Fate should not be messed with. Those emotional responses are my individual burden and if they are rooted so deeply in my character as I fear they are then I´ll be damned if I let something so personal be taken away from me.

I think your life can be a whole lot more characteristic of who you are if you devote less time on trying to force yourself to be someone better.  You can get realistic expectations of the kind of experiences your life will likely contain by imagining which conflicts a novel character with your sort of character flaws will encounter in various areas. That story is a whole lot more individual and interesting than the happily-ever-after-I-fix-that-one-unforgivable-flaw fairly tales we tell ourselves. It only works, though, when you have a fundamental and not entirely philanthropic liking for predicaments.

This is not to say that you can never try to conquer your flaws. Even swallow your pride. But you should make sure you have your own consent. Are you doing it in order to reach a self-chosen goal (such as learning a craft even though you hate being a beginner with all your heart and soul), or are you trying to escape the stinging bite of shame and the scornful voices of a bunch of people who don´t even know you exist? Doing what you do on your own free will lends a lot of dignity to actions that would otherwise damage your pride. Actually, that process itself is, like any kind of transgression, kind of intoxicating.

And here we are back to where we started. One of my most intense fantasies at this point in my life is to let someone point out to me everything that tortures me about myself and to let him see exactly how much I mind that. Not just anyone, of course. I do have a specific person in mind, but the main point is that it would have to be someone who wants me to be just that flawed. The intention behind this exercise couldn´t possible be to improve me. If it turned out the person doing this to me does not 100% embrace who I am, that would be an unforgivable breach of trust. I´d feel used and manipulated, just like I always did in therapy. I want love for who I am, not help to become someone else. And if I do need help, I want help for the person I am. Telling me that I wouldn´t have the problems that I have if I wasn´t the person who I am is not help. It is a trivial observation with an overtone of dismissal.