Monday, 25 August 2014

This Time it's Personal ~ part 13

The thing is - I think I've spent pretty much my entire life feeling that I shouldn't be the way I am. I shouldn't do things the way I do, think the things I think, want the things I want. I should be different somehow. I should be a different person. I am not good enough.

All the things I've tried to describe here come to this. 
Whenever I sit down to do something I want to do (like now) there is this churning in my belly to get it over with, because I should be doing something else. 
Whenever things don't go according to plan it is always because of something about the way I am - some failing or misjudgement of mine. 
And, perhaps most importantly, when I am trying to get on with other people there is always the feeling that sooner or later they'll get sick of me and want me to go away - sooner or later I'll be too weird or embarrassing or irritating or difficult or needy or arrogant or assertive or insular or something. I might get away with it for a while, but inevitably, sooner or later, they'd prefer not to have me around any more. 
This last is most important because it is their opinions - real or imagined - that have the power to trash the things I try to do. It is their opinions that tell me I am not doing what I should be and that I am always to blame when things don't go according to plan.

This is odd because at the same time I do have a strong sense of my own capabilities - I genuinely believe deep down that I have a lot to offer, but somehow that doesn't matter. Somehow, when what I do is exposed to the world of other people, somehow, suddenly, it doesn't count. My opinion doesn't count.
This is why I can be optimistic and idealistic, and hopelessly defeatist at the same time. This is why I can spew vitriol at myself for making a mistake and be furious at being so unfairly judged at exactly the same moment. I know who I am, warts and all, and I like myself, but a part of me thinks all that is pointless and contemptible and dismisses it out of hand, and the two are almost completely separate. They can't communicate at all. 

I try to explain this to Emma. I tried to explain it using the old Transactional Analysis (Child/Parent/Adult) model or Freud's Id/Superego/Ego model but she doesn't get it. Above all I don't think she gets this because she has quite a coherent way of looking at herself and her life. She can't relate to the feeling of having two such opposing forces in her head. She thinks my labelling them such has made them real when they weren't before but I argue that that's just another example of thinking that trying to work the problem out is causing the problem (like someone going over to a mechanic and telling him the reason the car won't go is because he's got the engine dismantled all over the shop.) Once again - the phenomenon (the pain, the conflict) exist whether I think about them or not. The names are just an attempt to describe the problem. For those of us not in my position it is incredibly hard to explain. It is not 'voices in the head' like you might experience in schizophrenia. It's just two completely different and irreconcilable ways of thinking (or three if you count the rational me, trying to reason with them). I guess we are all 'in two minds' from time to time but most people don't deal well with permanent contradictions in their thinking - most people like certainty and decisiveness and don't like doubt, but I have it all the time. It's just there. It's how I am. And they don't just agree to differ, my voices - they're constantly trying to get the other to give up - like a marriage based on the one hoping the other will change - it's not a happy scenario.
I assume most people don't have such a split, or maybe they ignore it, but really it doesn't matter what names you give it - you need to accept that that is what it's like in my head - two people battling it out - never listening, just sniping, insulting, crying, shouting. I suspect many people do have something of a split but the two halves get on ok. If not, for most people, I imagine, somehow there is some sort of victory for one half or the other. The child may have all sorts of hopes and dreams but it resigns itself to a more 'realistic' adulthood. Alternatively, the parent may come to accept that the child is who she is and wish the best for her. 
Probably for people to be reasonably content with life there has to be a kind of consonance between what is hoped for and what actually happens. A very energetic ambitious person will be fine if they move in a world where they can shine and get on. A very quiet unimaginative person will be content with a humble place in the world. But what happens to a person with big ideas and high hopes who is forced to keep their life small? (or a humble person thrust into the limelight for that matter?) I suspect there may be many of us. I've met many angry men in my life, many of them (if they weren't pissed or drug-addled) intelligent and keen, and yet bitter and frustrated. What had happened to them? Had they just been born that way? Was the anger to blame - or is that just confusing cause with effect? Many successful people have a kind of fury about them in any case. 
One might argue that maybe there's just not that much space for successful people in this world - not enough top-flight careers to go round but I'm not necessarily talking about great material success. Just having the space and the opportunity to fulfill some of one's potential might be enough. 
There is a lot of politics here about the deserving and undeserving poor and self-made men, as if it is all just a matter of will-power. There are no excuses - someone fucks up - they have only themselves to blame. They just didn't try hard enough. Lazy sods! 'If I can do it, anyone can do it.' In court we tend to assume that the criminal is fully responsible for his actions - that he acted out of free will, unless there are some fairly clear extenuating circumstances (mental illness, being below a certain age). This is the stuff of libertarianism, existentialism and free-market capitalism, not to mention hell fire and damnation.
The alternative view, more associated with left-wing politics, has become a parody - 'Society's to blame' they say, conditioning, the subconscious and genetics. 
The truth of course, as ever, is probably somewhere in between. In my own case I don't think I can be accused of not trying. I did make it to university, three times, to do a BA and an MSc and a Phd and I generally did pretty well. I have my own business, I've done a bit of travelling, had a fair few girlfriends, and generally managed to look after myself without abusing the aforementioned drugs and alcohol. 

Nevertheless, as I have tried to explain over the course of these postings, I think something is seriously wrong, and I believe it stems from what I described in those first two paragraphs above - to wit - it doesn't matter what I do, it will always be wrong, and I am all too aware that that list of 'achievements' covers a multitude of failures:-
I did not ultimately turn my university career into an actual career and am therefore unable to make the most of my talents. 
I have not been able to hold down a proper job - ever, and therefore I've had no spare cash for anything else I want to do. 
I still don't feel comfortable with other people and therefore don't have the kind of network of friends and contacts that make life so much easier in the absence of wealth.
I can't just settle down and enjoy my good fortune here, which would make my other shortcomings so much easier not to regret. 

to be continued...

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