Archive for meaning of life

Fear of illness

Posted in health, morbid, personal with tags , , , , on November 9, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

I´m constantly worried about my health lately. I feel like I´m losing too much hair, I´m not happy with my teeth and my stomach troubles me, too. It is making me anxious as it appears to crush an image I always had of the life I would live one day. Going bald, being ill and feeling like I can´t maintain sufficient dental hygiene no matter what I do was never part of that image – and so I cling to the hope that somehow miraculously everything will be okay again and life doesn´t have to end yet.

My anxiety got worse and worse over the last few weeks until today I finally realized something of value: That life isn´t over until it´s over. Few people whose actions we still remember were perfect the way I envision it. I guess if we admire someone for something our brain irrationally completes our picture of that person in a misguiding way. We admire someone´s poetry and assume that he or she must have been beautiful; but by today´s standards, no one from one or two centuries back above the age of 15 and below the highest income class could have been regarded as anything other than a tramp. So we either have to assume that people can create something of value despite being gross and ugly, or we have to quite ignorantly trash all of our cultural history whenever a widespread increase in health and hygiene comes along.

Mind you, I´m not trying to give myself permission to completely let myself go. I´m trying to give myself permission for existing in a society whose beauty standards are devised in photoshop and in which illness becomes more and more a matter of moral failure. I´m trying to break free from the idea that if I was diagnosed with a chronic, life-shortening and gross illness today (like anything intestine-related) I am not allowed to have dreams anymore. And should I continue to lose as much hair I don´t want to feel like I need to adjust my self-esteem and my expectations for life to my dropped levels of attractiveness. If this sounds perverse, here´s a story from a forum I used to read: A woman suffering from severe hair loss kept on beating herself up over having preferences with regard to the looks of others! She felt she no longer had a right to find some types of men unattractive because she, having nearly no hair left, needed to take whoever would take her! At the same time she complained that her relationships never seemed to be symmetrical. Well, guess why! She basically defined herself as inferior to everyone with hair (and even without hair).

Does it make her a hypocrite to have standards even though she has hair loss? No. If anything, what is hypocritical about her having standards is that she desires the company of someone she perceives as valuable while offering something in return that she perceives as worthless: Herself. I still don´t think, however, that´s a particularly humane approach to her predicament. Since she wrongly perceives herself as worthless, she´s not actually ripping anyone off. And if she isn´t, then what´s the point in making her feel bad for wanting a relationship with someone she feels attracted to?

So, yeah. What I´m trying to drum into my head is that I don´t lose my right to feel really, really awesome if I should get ill or otherwise damaged. One thing I really dislike about many writings by and for people affected by one condition or another is that they don´t talk about happiness, they talk about life quality. That in itself is something I find scary. That for people with chronic illnesses, there is a separate term, a separate thing that can never be as good as the real deal. It increases my feeling that should I really have a serious illness I´m somehow no longer part of the ordinary human population. That absolutely everything has to change and no part of my life, my self and my psyche can remain unaffected, and that I will never able to experience the folly of believing I´m the king of the world again. Which is really sad. Since that feeling is never justified, there is no reason why being ill should exclude you from it, right?

It seems like the adequate emotions for a chronically ill person are gratitude, humility and the infamous seeking of pleasure in small things. Wow, no surprise people fear diseases! Come to think of it, this kind of mindset is characteristic for people who have lost all their hopes. Sure, you might think, hope for healing or getting better would be misguided in many cases. That is true, but given that everyone is mortal, isn´t all hope misguided eventually? What separates ill people from us is not the fact that they´re going to die, but the fact that they know how they´re going to die (minus the occasional ironic accident). And yet we carry around all kinds of silly hopes: That we´ll meet the love of our life, that we´ll get a nobel prize, that we´ll get to buy a luxurious house. Why are we entitled to aiming for that level of happiness and gratification, while ill people are expected to content themselves with  the dubious and often artificial pleasures of “small things”? It does happen that people are so miserable that a day with no or less pain is like a miracle, but that´s completely different from expecting people to stop being hungry for life.

 

 

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From the psychological to the philosophical viewpoint

Posted in health, mental health, personal, philosophy with tags , , on December 29, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

This blog has been described as a personal journey. It is, but it centers around a world view which, behind a veil of grey shades (I hate how it is impossible to use that expression anymore without evoking thoughts of grey eyes and luxurious bedrooms) is fairly black and white. The main question I keep on asking myself is: Am I the hero or the villain? I´m asking this question in the lingo of psychology, that is: I´m asking if I´m a narcissist or an abuse victim, if I have a distorted perspective or if everybody else is lying, and my most-read post even carries this dichotomy in the title: Maladaptive Daydreaming – narcissism or dissociation?

I´ve been engaging in this kind of inner conflict for almost ten years now. And the worst thing about this is that I always feel as if I actually know better. I know that psychological concepts are just concepts, and flawed at that. I know that one day I´m going to die, and I know that it is very possible that this life is all I have before my consciousness is extinguished and the world goes on without me – forever. In the light of this, how can I justify letting an idea that was invented around one hundred years ago weigh me down so much? A hundred years are nothing compared to the history of mankind, and the history of mankind is nothing compared to the length of time I will be dead. I will be dead forever.

Problem is: In the light of this, I can justify nothing. No course of action I could take is so meaningful that it could stand out against the infinity of time that obliterates us all. And maybe, on some deeper level, this is what´s behind my inability to choose a profession. To talk about professions in a context like this actually seems bizarre to me. A “mission” is the most mundane thing I will accept.

In the lingo of psychology, this is narcissism. I take my own life so seriously that I cannot do anything with it, because no pursuit is worthy to be what I make of such a unique event as my existence. To this, I´ve added a second problem: I take my own “purity” of mind/character/personality – heck, maybe even soul – so seriously that I´m scared of committing myself to any idea, belief, theory, role, identity. Yes, overall I´m scared of commitment.

There seem to be two ways out of this: One way is to say “my life is not THAT important after all”. It is either a way of being cynical, or a way to punish myself. The other way is to find an entity I can ascribe meaning to. That entity could be a god, it could be society, it could be a family. “I need to work because God wants me to be useful to the world.” – “I need to work because everybody must make a contribution to society.” – “I need to work because I have to feed my family.” What I do doesn´t have to be meaningful in itself – it is meaningful because it contributes to something greater than myself. For those who favour this second solution, this must add up quite nicely: Those who cannot see meaning in making a contribution are narcissists, as they lack all connection to anything greater than themselves. They are lonely, detached, dissatisfied, and ultimately unsuccessful.

I´ve been looking inside of me for where, when and how that link broke. How come I cannot connect, how come I´m detached, what the hell is broken inside of me? I´ve subjected myself to the idea that my nihilism* is somehow neurotic and therefore curable, but somewhere in the back of my head there´s always been this conviction that actually it is spot-on. It is a view that maybe, just maybe I might be able to change – but deep down I just don´t want to, and I feel some kind of disdain for the idea of “changing”. It would indeed be a paradoxical endeavour: I´m supposed to teach myself to believe in something which I believe is wrong? Just because it would make me happy?

I´ve always been at war with a world that seemed to embrace this second solution. I always felt like I need to prove to them that I can succeed. And yet, in the sense that I´m talking about, I can´t. I can get good grades. I can´t achieve anything meaningful if nothing means anything to me. And yet success in the broadest possible sense is to achieve something meaningful.

There are two ways to go about this, and I think I might take both. The first way is to look for something meaningful, find something that means something to me. The second way is to remember that the world I am at war with is largely unaware even of my existence, leave alone my war. It is, essentially, my own private struggle, and the opponents are in my head. What other people, real people think of me doesn´t really matter so much. If I fail, is what matters most really that some random people will experience a moment of schadenfreude?

I guess what makes us feel that life or specific actions are meaningful is – feelings. While life might “objectively” (if such a thing exists) be meaningless, overwhelming feelings have the power to make things seem significant. And while I often enough would like to deny it, I do seem to have feelings, too. And if I can´t shake them all off (and wouldn´t that be pointless, in a way?) in order to satisfy my “nihilism”, if I will always have feelings, then maybe I should better start taking a good look at them, and at the meaning they give to things.

 

*I´m actually wrong when I say I´m nihilistic. I still very much believe in the meaning of meaning. I want the things I do to be meaningful. I want to become a meaningful person. What I cannot feel is that the things I could do mean enough or anything at all, leave alone such concepts as society or god.