Archive for sanity

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.

 

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Work and mood issues

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , , on September 26, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

Maybe I should keep a diary of my inner tensions and my self-perception. I cannot really tell what has happened to me between my last post and now, but I feel like it happens to me very often. I do know what happened today. I was stuck in angry inner dialogues again. They were extremely vicious. Even visions of people which are normally on my side were attacking me and I started to judge myself very harshly. Now, though, I´m comparatively relaxed (or I would be if I wasn´t down with a stomach bug). It´s like some kind of positive aftereffect. I didn´t do anything to alleviate the tensions, aside from, maybe, getting dressed and putting on make-up. Maybe that´s all there is to it, really. Get dressed. Or take a shower. Or wash the dishes, just anything. Maybe, though, the tensions simply follow a pattern of their own which I cannot decipher. At least not without major observation.

My hypothesis, right now, is that the pattern goes:

Hero

Hero

Hero

Just me

Zero———————

Being in this “hero” state of mind is incredibly exhausting. It´s like I´m a magnet for ideas and projects and ambitions and ideals, and they all add up along with the dirty dishes and at some point I realize I haven´t done anything at all for days and I don´t have the slightest clue how to, either. I´m bursting with ideas but I can´t put pen to paper. I know what to say in my nobel prize speech, but I compared to what I believe I am capable of I have achieved fuck all.

In “zero” state I get hit by all the shame of how out of proportion my ambitions are, and much more than that. It is extremely exhausting, too. Just like I´m stuck in megalomanical fantasies in “hero” state, now I´m stuck in angry dialogues. When they get as bad as they do today, absolutely every thought I identify as mine (I cannot perceive “the voices” as my own thoughts then) is met with such a scathing reply that I either freeze or punch myself.

Weirdly enough, though, now that I´m in “just me” land, I wonder if this breakdown is necessary for me to come down from the manic high which leaves me completely unproductive. I feel like I´m only ever productive over any length of time with a boot firmly on my neck holding me down. I was at my most productive during my recent work when I had an entire hierarchy on top of me making sure I didn´t get ahead of myself. I think, though, as much shame as those bouts of mania cause me, they go beyond a simply character flaw. Even when I realize what is happening I can´t stop it. And I do realize it. It happens mostly when I think about stories I want to write. I know it will give me writer´s block, but I can´t stop my head from spinning into more and more dizzying heights.

I want to stay the way I am right now. Just me. Alone in my head. My thoughts just about quiet enough to allow me to be as productive as writing this blog entry. I sometimes simply don´t want any more ideas. I don´t think I ever suffered from a lack of ideas, really. I often feel like my life is fully planned already and I can´t pursue any wildly different path. Maybe my lack of spontaneity has some roots in this. I always feel like my day is already packed, even when I don´t have to leave the house or make any calls. I cannot take the time to fall in love with an idea and work on it. I cannot put any time and effort into a novel. I should have written it yesterday. If I can´t write it in one night, it will never get done. Maybe that´s why I tended to put off writing my essays until there was just one or two nights left.

You can´t imagine how content I was when I was still being ordered around all day and people wanted me to be in three places at once. I could finally work according to my preferred speed. Working against the clock is the only real remedy against my perfectionism. It gets my focus and creativity up ten notches. Expecting guests is the only thing that can make me clean up my apartment, but then I can do it in three hours. Working against the clock makes use of my mania, and if you have to complete an essay within a day without knowing what you´re talking about, you will need all the megalomania you can get in order not to give up and cry.

But if you´re trying to write a novel? For me, they´d have to invent the national novel writing week. Fifteen days is the longest my discipline has ever lasted, but at least I wrote five pages a day. I doubt, however, it will ever work again.

It´s beside the point, though. I´m bragging. I´m psyching myself up into a state of mania again. And I´m no longer alone in my head. But who says it´s bad? Stop policing me, you traitor!

And so on. It´s okay, I´m not a traitor. As long as I´m alone in my head self-criticism is not self-betrayal. But who am I trying to tell this, really? It gets so bizarre when I start talking to voices in my head. I can´t believe I´m really doing this. I mean – I know there´s no one there, but I feel so different. The “just me” thing is gone and I feel like I could have stopped it from happening, like I could still stop it if only I erased the paragraph above – but my urge to show how crazy I am is stronger and I despair wondering why. Why is that so important to me? Important enough for me to ruin a potentially constructive line of thought?

I´m at a complete loss to describe what is happening to me. Okay. What is different to where I just was? There is something. A feeling. A tendency to become enraged which wasn´t there a moment ago. Thoughts which I could simply have a moment ago are now some kind of personal judgment that enrages me. I feel inferior. I shouldn´t need to, because I´d be feeling inferior because of traits which I objectively have, they just subjectively seem to belong to someone else. I know that objectively I am well capable of self-criticism, but right now I am angry and ashamed because I do not feel like I´m capable of it while – well, who?? – is.

Good. Rage. There is rage, and with rage come the voices or vice versa. I was trying to stay away from certain forums in order to reduce rage and voices. Remember the reality checklist. Nothing changes by winning arguments with the voices. You don´t prevent any real life evil from happening. The problem is, at this point I don´t care about reason. There is just pure vitriolic rage. But why would I care? Why would I listen to you? You are the traitor (and stop appropriating my voice for getting your hypotheses confirmed)! It´s true. I really had the thought that for the voice, my reality checklist was written from the traitor´s point of view, so I kind of put that sentence into her mouth. It was true to her beliefs, but immediately she called me out on this. Just – where in all this does my own agency begin? Where in all this could I put a stop to it but don´t?

I´m getting distracted damn easily here. What I was on about is: I appear to be in two minds and they have very different ideas of a desired outcome of the situation. The lists that I write, like the reality checklist, are written from the point of view of sanity. They make very much sense to anyone other than madness. Madness doesn´t really deny it´s mad, it just says that being mad is good because the world is a bad place. It´s the only way to be rebellious, the only way to not be sucked in. The only way to really be me, the only way to have anything worthwhile to say. And it has a point. The world really is a not such a terrifically good place. There are things to lose your mind about, plenty of them. And maybe it feels like the most integer thing to do, but unfortunately it doesn´t tend to be very effective in terms of changing anything.

But that´s not all there is to it. The reason why my sane half wants to be more effective is not noble, altruistic motives. It wants fame and recognition. And that´s where her treason lies. She´s not merely the mask of sanity on the face of a scheeming rebel. She wants to be successful in an allegedly bad world and she´s just using the rebel´s ideas for that. How embarrassing! What a disgrace!

She can´t be relied on. When she actually gets recognition and power, she suddenly isn´t so adamant about righting the wrongs anymore. She can suddenly see the point of view of the enemy. Feels mature doing so. Realizes it has been sour grapes all along. Feels mature admitting so. How bloody corrupt do you get.

Where in all this am I? Nowhere. I am either one or the other. I either perceive myself as a sane person trying to battle her near-psychotic anger and paranoia, or I perceive myself as a desperate underdog trying to maintain her pride and integrity while threatening to be betrayed by weakness and desires. Betrayed to my therapists, society, family, ex-friends, anyone.

What is true, no matter which version is correct? Here we go:

  • All thoughts in my head are mine. I don´t have all those thoughts intentionally, but there´s no other, real, physical person who can read my thoughts or access my head.
  • There are people out there who act just like my voices. Plenty of them. Their ideas are worth refuting and their style of arguing should be criticized.
  • The people in front of whom I´d feel most humiliated if they could see me can´t see me because to 95% they are no longer part of my life. If they could see me, they might feel it confirms their view of me, but that doesn´t make it right.
  • I actually am achieving something by winning arguments against those voices, but I shouldn´t have to do this in the first place. I should be left alone in my own head.
  • I may not be a victim in the sense I sometimes feel I am when the voices plague me (like in: I´ve been bullied and abused all my life), but I didn´t choose to go mad, either, so dear sane part of me, please cut me some slack if I don´t always confirm to your standards of how a sane person should behave and/or think about herself and the world. Please don´t demand that I act sane 24/7 just to…battle the voices who say you need therapy. You´re just as crazy as I am.
  • This blog is the last place in which I need to appear sane. It´s a safe place to throw away everything I have achieved in terms of stability and apparent control of my life.

Good. So much for my sanity, “just me” and my potential productivity. I don´t feel productive when I ramble like this. I don´t feel productive when I don´t stay in the same mood while writing a blog entry. I don´t feel productive when I drift into meta-writing.

I feel like I get flooded with an ocean of detailed observations, especially about myself and everything I do, and that kills me. I can´t pin it all down. I can´t think straight anymore. I sit there feeling unproductive. It´s what I get when I write and suddenly have a million ideas. It´s what I get when I build up an argument and get filibustered by mysterious voices in my head. There´s a common thread in all this. Maybe I´m not entirely crazy after all. Maybe I should worry more about the structure than about the content of my thoughts. A very comforting idea.

How to know when I go wrong is simple. I recognize a flood of ideas, thoughts and observations when it happens. I just don´t know how to stop it. It goes with a great deal of impatience and a sense of urgency. I don´t know if I can make myself stop working on what I want to do because it seems terribly important. And the vicious voices? I might even have a better shot at getting rid of these. I can try to write a calm and structured argument, or I can just give in and say: “Yes, I´m just what you say I am. You are right. I´ve actually been ashamed of myself all the time, I just didn´t want to admit it.”

Or maybe I just need some mood stabilizers or ritalin and everything will be okay. Just because it feels unthinkable doesn´t mean it can´t be true.

Restrictions

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , , on September 18, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

I have enforced a strict mental diet upon myself. In particular, I´ve stopped reading psychotherapy forums. I want to reduce my anger.

It´s not a whole lot of fun. Zimmer was right when he said that the constant drama in self-help and psychoanalytical groups can be addictive – addictive even to the point of self-destruction. It is very, very easy to become addicted to drama, especially when you´re still hoping to find your own views confirmed. The first step out there is to understand that this is not going to happen. The next step is to understand that you are not going to win arguments with people who apply circular reasoning, make claims without providing evidence, snub science and live in a world of relentless subjectivism and relativism. The best thing, however, is to understand that even winning an argument or two would accomplish nothing, which also means that losing them doesn´t matter. Actually, everything those people say doesn´t matter. Why am I even listening to them? What is the virtue in listening to everyone, even if you know they neither know the facts nor care about them? It is a virtue of the same relativism and subjectivism I´m trying to escape.

Being in such forums for too long turns a dissenter into a hypocrite. It is very hard for any civilized, well-mannered person to tell another person (even via Internet) that she doesn´t respect their opinion, especially when it comes to touchy, personal subjects such as psychotherapy and mental illness. I don´t even know how well-mannered I consider myself, maybe it is my lack of manners that forces me to be hypocritical where I don´t want to be downright offensive. But I´m tired of hearing myself weaken my own points and sugar-coating my opinions to avoid the level of clarity that would create a backlash; and also I´m tired of listening to me telling myself that I do, in fact, respect the other person´s opinion, it´s just that….

It isn´t. I don´t. I believe that everyone has the right to state their opinion. But I also believe it is inhumane to demand that we should have respect for everything. No. Sometimes we just think something is bullshit. Hilarious, even. Some opinions, some lines of reasoning make us laugh incredulously. There will always be people we consider stupid. If we wanted to avoid this, we´d have to switch off our brains. We make such judgements even if we try to suppress them, reprimand ourselves, try to humble ourselves. Actually, those exercises are missing the point anyway. Even if you were able to put yourself down to the point of not considering yourself worthy of criticizing anyone or anything – it would change nothing about the fact that you´d believe in a hierarchy of character and intellect.

Maybe it is inevitable that such hierarchies exists in peoples´minds.  The ideal of not judging is merely another way to create a hierarchy: Who´s most non-judgemental? While many people will notice this ideal is paradoxical, they will merely consider this evidence for its esoteric truth. It doesn´t matter that you cannot obey a paradoxical order. At least trying to gives you something to do for the rest of your life. Anyone who has ever been bored and dissatisfied for a longer period of time will understand the allure of this. Besides, the idea you might be able to make sense out of nonsense is a promise of future superiority. Another thing that is very hard to resist, especially when you aren´t happy with what you have achieved.

I´m staying away from psychotherapy forums because I want to get all this false thinking out of my head. Arguments and lines of reasoning become an automatic thing if you´re exposed to them long enough. I know from experience, though, that they can go away again if only you stay away. It doesn´t mean I will no longer deal with why they are wrong. Doing so is absolutely vital. I will not, however, knowingly expose myself to lines of reasoning and styles of debate that cloud my judgement and lead nowhere.

By staying away from the drama I´ve been following, I´m ensuring my mood doesn´t depend on whether I get confirmation or food for doubts. I´m trying to make this irrelevant to me. I guess to be absolutely sure I´d have to stay away forever. Of course the key to that is having something else to do, something that is more worthwhile. Such things aren´t always easy to find. I´m bored a lot lately. I feel caged in.

 

 

Language, concepts, confusion

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , on May 10, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

I sometimes feel like I have to re-learn things that once came to me naturally. One such thing is rational thinking. Maybe I´m giving myself too much credit when I say I have to re-learn it, maybe I was never as good at it as I thought. What I have to re-learn, though, is the confidence that logical thought leads to correct conclusions, or that logical thought is even possible.

A few years ago everything seemed to dissolve. It´s like I wasn´t sure anymore of the meaning of words. I felt like I couldn´t make any definite statements anymore. Instead of saying “I feel lonely” I would have wondered if what I feel can really be described as loneliness. This would have come with a sense of being an impostor. Did I even have the right to claim such expressions for myself? I felt like if I got it wrong and said something untrue that would be some kind of lie, crime, philosophical sin.

Rationally seen, this is a matter of statistics: Which feelings, sensations and thoughts does the majority of people label as “loneliness”? Maybe you can give this a philosophical edge and ask how much freedom you should have in using language, if you can use words at will and in unusual ways. If you could, if you felt like it, use the word “loneliness” in the way other people use the word “hunger” and still be right in saying you´re lonely when your stomach growls.

Language, for all I know, is a mere convention. We might as well call things by different names. So in a way my question was meaningless. Calling something “loneliness” which other people wouldn´t call loneliness is, from this point of view, not a sin but a simple error – like using a wrong word in a foreign language.

This argument doesn´t take away my deep sense of mystification and confusion, though. I wasn´t concerned with signifiers, but with the signified. I think I tried to explain this some time before: When I thought “I feel lonely” I was wondering if how I felt was how lonely people feel. “Lonely people” were a definite group,  and there were strict rules as to who could be part of it. And that was true for every feeling, every statement about my inner life. Those groups were looming over me like angry judges, and if I tried to become part of a group whose membership I didn´t deserve I was treated as an impostor, a liar, someone who undeservedly wanted to gain the benefits of being part of that group.

I think I had started to think in a psychological way. In order to explore the human mind scientifically you need strict definitions of the words you use to describe it. The words used to describe mental processes, though, are often derived from everyday language. Shame, guilt, fear. When I was younger I could use these words without thinking much about it. Now, though, I constantly have second thoughts: Is what I feel really guilt? Or is it – JUST! – shame?

I think these definitions are not so much derived from actual scientific studies in psychology. They come from books and articles written by psychotherapists, from self-helf materials, from blogs and forum entries by patients. This is a problem in itself, as apparently the only vocabulary I had left signified concepts of mental illness. The idea that my inner life could be described in a different fashion was alien to me.

I don´t think I´ve ever perceived myself as normal. But before I anxiously submitted my use of words to the use suggested in psychotherapeutical and “emotional healing” literature I had no qualms about describing my feelings. I could use words like fear, shame, guilt, self-loathing and depression in an informal way, feeling deeply serious about it and at least I still had the satisfaction of being expressive.

Insight therapies are all about talking. They were not, though, at least in my case, about me just telling my story. I said something, and often I was interrupted in order for me to clarify something, like a word. Or Dr. Stoneface took what I had said and expressed it differently, or, as I thought sometimes, not at all. I sometimes feel like psychotherapy is some kind of word-policing, language-policing, where the way you describe your inner and outer life is corrected until it corresponds to reality as the therapist perceives it. It is less absurd than it sounds, language shapes consciousness and once you´ve learned a certain jargon it´s hard to unlearn. The words in question, after all, all signify complicated, abstract entities. Shame is an abstract entity. Narcissism, the Ego and the Id are even more abstract. They don´t exist anywhere inside of you. They are mere concepts, and yet in therapy they are treated as real. Shame, at least, is something you can feel. Words like narcissism, Ego and Id are purely derived from theory.  Theories you can buy into or not.

I think I lost my ease and also my joy in writing fiction when I lost my innocence in language use. Athena once told me I´m not cut out for science, I´m an artist. It was not very much of a compliment, and I think it isn´t true, either. What was implied, in our complicated private world of meaning, was that I didn´t understand the truths I spoke through my writing, that I was accidentally right, but that understanding these truths would devastate me and make me unable to write. She, of course, was the scientist, braver, more stoical, breathing clarity. Maybe it was this statement which ruined writing for me. I want to know what I´m saying. I´m lost in a labyrinth of confusion, though, and I need to find my way back to clarity. What I need to re-learn, maybe, is not so much the technique of rational thinking, but the definite truths that can be derived from it.

Reality Checklist

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

This checklist is personal. It is not intended as advice, not even for me. It is my best shot at what might be a realistic conception of my own psychopathology, whatever its nature might be in clinical terms. At the moment I don´t even want to know anymore. I need to re-define myself on my own.

This checklist is something to come back to when I have another attack of madness in the broadest sense. It could be angry inner dialogues, it could be theories about the origin of my illness. I will look at this list, feel invalidated by it and thrust it aside. But once the acute phase is over, I can go back to the list and re-orient myself. I hope that this way I won´t have to figure all this out time and time again. Like I said before, my (inner) life is subject to constant disruption. Maybe you could say that this list is a lifeline from the sanest perspective I´m capable of. It might help me integrate my latest experiences of madness. I hope to be able to understand where I went wrong, where I strayed from realistic and identity-building thinking.

A short, very simplified theory of madness which might prove helpful to me:

  • It lies in the nature of madness that the symptoms (feelings, attitudes, perceptions…) make no sense. Looking into the past for an explanation that gives a seemingly understandable meaning to them is to deny their nature as expressions of madness. If I get terrified in my own room and conclude that something terrible must have happened there I am denying that my fear is irrational and that I am mad. Fear is not a proof of past or present danger.
  • Madness proceeds in several stages: You start with having symptoms like panic or other emotions which seem out of place in the situation you´re in. This is something that simply happens to you. How you deal with it determines if the madness can proceed to other parts of your psyche or if it is stopped, that is, you stay sane, though ill. If you look for explanations for these symptoms which give meaning to them instead of acknowledging their insane nature, you let madness take over your cognitive capacities as well. Not only do you have false responses to situations, you also start to cognitively distort reality. Hearing voices is a hallucination, a disturbance of the senses. Attributing them to CIA mind control is the beginning of a delusion, a disturbance of cognition.
  • There are two different ways of looking at your history: You can acknowledge that you are mad and look at how being mad has influenced your life and your self-image. And you can look at your symptoms and try to deduce from them what must have happened to you in order for a (as you believe) sane person to develop such symptoms. The first way can be helpful, the second way leads to delusions.
  • Sanity is to be free from delusions, not free of symptoms.
  • By believing that your symptoms are meaningful, you make it harder for you to gain inner distance and freedom from them. If your fears and other problems are rational and make perfect sense, then it would be mad to break free from them and stop being frightened. Thus, delusions prolong and intensify your suffering.

How to obtain a narrative which gives me a sense of identity:

  • You can only gain a workable identity from a narrative that focuses on agency. While, of course, sometimes things happen to you, focusing on these things won´t tell you who the person is to whom they happened. If I view myself as a passive object floating in a cruel sea, I´m victimising myself.
  • The answer is not to simply claim responsibility for everything, and especially not for the actions of other people.
  • When evaluating past situations you feel guilty about or ashamed of, ask the following questions: 1) What situation did I believe to be in? 2) What did I want to achieve or avoid? 3) Which observable actions did I commit? 4) What situation was I really in, seen from a distance? This also includes my level of knowledge at the time. 5) What could I at best have expected to achieve?
  • A perspective of agency does not imply that you brought everything upon yourself. It is a biography focused on your thoughts, actions, motivations and evaluation of situations. It doesn´t really matter if much, little or nothing bad happened to you – you´ll probably always need to develop a perspective of agency in order to move on.
  • Look at what was important to you in past situations, not at what turned out to be important after the fact or at what other people deemed important. In order to judge your behavior you need to know your own perspective.
  • Just because you develop a perspective of agency doesn´t mean that all of a sudden nothing happened to you anymore. Things still happened to you, you are just looking at something different for a change.
  • Identity is fluid and needs to be constructed and reconstructed steadily, especially after (social) defeats, attacks on your self-esteem and current identity, being at fault. If you fail at this, you will fall into an abyss of demoralization. Overcoming this abyss is the implicit aim of everything I do.

With regards to inner tension, angry dialogues, shame:

  • No one is saying anything to me at the moment. It is not real.
  • The people who write things that make me feel any of the above are not talking about me. They don´t even know I exist.
  • Whatever the solution to my problems is, it is never that I should feel this way. A real solution will not feel like this.
  • Imagining humiliating scenarios is simply something I instinctively do in order to try and relieve the tension. It might not be the only way, and even if I needed such things to happen to me in order to relieve the tension, it wouldn´t mean that I deserve them.
  • Just because the voices in my head aren´t real doesn´t mean I was never bullied or verbally attacked. While they certainly use every interpersonal defeat or even conflict against me, though, they are an entitity of their own and they consist of more than things that were actually said to me. The dialogues in my head are no flashbacks of dialogues that have taken place in real life. They are fantasy. They have never happened and they are not really happening right now.
  • I feel angry at people I argue with internally even though those people (real people) have never said the things they say in my head. It´s because of this that I don´t feel sure if they have really given me a reason to be mad at them or if I´m just a vengeful person who cannot cope with herself. This, by the way, sounds like a black-and-white distinction.
  • Just because the dialogues aren´t real doesn´t mean it would be alright to talk to me this way. It´s normal that they make me feel the way they do. It´s just not really happening. Therefore, even by winning discussions with them, I don´t stop any kind of real life evil from happening.

Me and Others:

  • It is okay, even expected of me, not to expose my innermost secrets to everyone.
  • Lying and keeping my feelings to myself are two different things. I can give my honest opinion without having to give away how personal the issue in question is for me.
  • People who meet you for the first time don´t know that you believe you can make yourself invisible. It surprises them when you don´t greet them, look away and fail to display a normal amount of self-confidence.
  • People who meet you for the first time don´t know how you think about yourself. You can actually shape how they think about you.
  • Trying to influence peoples´ view of you is not per se an act of people – pleasing or self-denial. You can use it as an act of self-protection. It is very reasonable to keep your vulnerabilities away from people who have views which might hurt you.
  • It is legitimate to protect yourself. You don´t need to use relationships to other people as a punishment.
  • Nobody can read your mind. Most people probably aren´t even noticing you.
  • You don´t have to agree with others. You don´t have to discuss everything. You have a right to private thoughts and opinions and no one can first demand to hear them and then be upset.
  • Other people aren´t all out to psychologically demolish you. You have experience with this. You´ll recognize it when it happens. Relax.
  • It is okay to postpone discussions and responses because you want time to think.
  • When in doubt, keep your emotions under wrap, politely tell people you need time to think, remove yourself from the situation, sleep over it, rethink it, respond.
  • Other people are not the Holy Inquisition. They have just as many issues as you, and those who act like the Holy Inquisition probably have most.
  • When criticism is mingled with aggression, cruelty, scorn, the way you´ll feel about yourself receiving it does not reflect who you really are, even if the criticism itself is justified.

To be, I am sure, continued.

On Delusions and Accountability

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , on April 16, 2013 by theweirdphilosopher

I wrote before that I´m starting to believe my abuse obsession was a form of psychosis. It´s not the whole story, but it´s starting to look more and more likely to me. At least it feels somewhat consistent with my experience of it. It is another time of my life for which to take responsibility I can try endlessly, and yet there is never a moment when I can just say: “Yes, I did something very wrong here, but it´s long ago, I did what I could to repair the damage and I feel at peace with it now. I won´t suddenly fly into a fit of self-hatred if I encounter the subject somewhere.”

There is one thing, however, I can take responsibility for. There were times in those months of madness when I woke up and experienced a moment of normalcy. Moments when I recognized madness as madness. Naturally, those moments caused me great distress. Who likes to wake up to the realization that he´s been spewing absurd accusations over the last few weeks? In those moments of sanity, I felt massive shame. I felt like my life was over. Also, like I was trapped in some dead-end. If my ideas about the past were wrong, then what was I still supposed to believe, what was I supposed to think about myself? I had no idea that what I experienced there might have been genuine insanity. There would have been nowhere to turn to, no explanation other than that I was a terrible person, and that, too, did not correspond to what I had learned about myself and reality. Here is where madness could pick up again. Because if I couldn´t really be such a terrible person, then my mad beliefs had to be true. For all I knew, there was no third option.

When I briefly dropped back into sanity, I started to feel a sense of urgency, like something was slipping through my fingers. I wanted to be able to hear the voices of my “alters” again, or become them. Live in a different frame of mind, perceive myself and the world differently again. Of course I realized in those moments I was essentially hoping I had been abused. At least that´s how I viewed it then. Under normal circumstances I wouldn´t have hoped so, but I guess most people would experience extreme denial if I they were suddenly faced with the possibility that they had been believing and passionately defending completely unrealistic accusations over weeks and months. You could arguably say this terror and denial is a normal reaction to the disease, in which case it wouldn´t have much to do with my specific personality.

At any rate, at the time I was terrified at the notion that I desperately hoped my delusions were true. It raised the stakes, escalated the false dichotomy. Either I was so rotten that I might as well have been a rapist myself, or there had to be some explanation as to why a person who wondered if she had repressed memories of abuse could want it to be true. And in those relatively sane moments I was actively searching for such explanations, driven by the terror of what kind of person I seemed to be. I was encouraging and fostering my madness.

When I say I can take responsibility for that, I´m not talking about finding grounds for condemnation. All I´m saying is that those were things I did intentionally, and with a purpose of my own. Evaluating or judging my motives is only the next step. First and foremost, I´m trying to figure out what parts of my behavior were sanity/madness and what I can actually hold myself accountable for. And my definition of sanity here is not: healthy, well-thought out, good, functional, well-adjusted, balanced. It merely describes instances in which I felt I was acting on my own accord, intentionally, in response to what I thought was my situation. It doesn´t mean that I wasn´t driven, under massive inner pressure and misguided by believing there were only two alternatives.

 

When I later reflected on this time I always knew there had been moments when I had actively cooperated with my madness. I remembered wanting to prove I had been abused, I remembered wanting it to be true. What I was falsely convinced of for many years, though, is that these wishes were not merely a reaction to my manic belief that I had been abused, but the cause of it.

What I believed was that having abandoned Lola despite her history of having been abused threatened my self-image as a martyr and victim of everything, and so I had to make up a story that was even worse than hers. Actually, I always knew I hadn´t intentionally lied, but needing to believe in a delusion for narcissistic reasons made me just as guilty in my book. In fact, it additionally made me a ridiculous person. Even though it seems more reprehensible to lie on purpose than to go mad, I´d probably feel a whole lot better if the former had been the case.

What I think now is that by the time I developed the manic belief I was already caught up in a similar false dilemma. I couldn´t deny that my delusional fantasy world had been more important to me than Lola, but at the same time I couldn´t see myself in what this seemed to say about me. My illness had started with the “vision” I´d had two years earlier, had probably announced itself far earlier in the form of the voices, which had been with me for ages, and little, anxiety-inducing misgivings.

I just wondered if this is some kind of personality disorder after all, since I must have had it for such a long time, and since it seems to be interacting with my sane mind so tightly. And yet it seems unfair to ascribe sudden, manic ideas and the fantasies that develop in my head to my personality. They do not reflect who I am. I will not be held accountable for the content of my delusions. Where I don´t try to shake them or even let myself slip into them, you can call me passive or lazy and I will consider how I myself judge my behavior, but being sucked into the manic belief that I will have to save mankind from a future dictator does not make me a person who is greedy for fame, attention and a grandiose self-image. If you absolutely want to, go ahead and judge how I dealt with my madness. I´m actually interested in re-evaluating my sense of who I am that way. My deliberate actions and conscious attitudes are what makes me who I am. My delusional thoughts and manic ideas are something that happens to me.