So there’s a thing I do, and it’s a problem.
If I have time to think, I can stop. But it’s firm-wired in, and so happens pretty fast. It goes like this:
I want a thing, let’s say I want to go window shop for feather dusters. If I’m by myself, there’s no issue. I go look at feather dusters. If I’m not alone, but there’s not much going on, I might suggest we look at feather dusters, and then will back down quickly and readily if there is not mutual interest.
That isn’t the thing I do, and is not the problem.
If there’s lots of things that Need Doing, I will note that I’d like to look at feather dusters, will immediately and dispassionately follow up with an observation that I should Do The Things instead, which is supported by responsible thought and logical analysis.
That is the edge of the thing, but still not the problem. Or maybe it is. But the problem, the real issue, is this.
Having made the decision, almost coldly, I will follow up with all the non-objective stuff, like how I feel about the decision and how it will impact my emotional well-being. I don’t just wallow in self-pity, I brutally attack myself for having the feelings and punish me as harshly as I can. This all accelerates from even-keeled to cooking-the-census-taker in nothing flat, and there isn’t enough gap to slip a thought into the sequence. I am now hurting myself, and there’s nothing to be done until I am worn out. I cannot hear reason any longer. I cannot think new thoughts, only old ones related to the ritual of self-flagellation.
Oddly, this does not leave me feeling fulfilled in the least.
I think it goes way back. I have noted, elsewhere, that I was a child-philosopher, trying for the general case that explains and expands the specific instance. Like most kids, I was not stellar at noticing the intended patterns of attempted discipline, which made me (I suspect) difficult to influence. A couple things happened to work well, and so they were pursued with some enthusiasm by well-meaning and blameless parents.
- Scott wants thing A (let’s say feather dusters); if he fails to meet expectations, remove the feather dusters
- Scott is unhappy without the feather dusters, and does not readily accept that he has lost them due to his behavior. Explain it to him as follows:
“Did you do X, as you were supposed to? Then you don’t deserve feather dusters, do you?”
- Push the conversation Socratic-ally, getting Scott to say these things. “I didn’t do X…I don’t deserve feather dusters. I should have done X if I want feather dusters.”
So. What did child-philosopher Scott learn?
- Stuff you want will be taken from you without apparent reason, solely because it was important to you
- The reason given for the taking will be something indicating “deserve”, which I took to mean that I was lacking as a person, and deserving of whatever abuse others could think up
- Part of losing the things is that I have to take part in abusing me, in verbal form.
When observed closely, those rules explain pretty much what I do to myself in a firm-wired way. It gets better, of course.
After a while, I got so good at this pattern that I didn’t need the things to get the effect. A connection to the things was ample, ie, hope. If I wanted a thing, and had plans for a thing, loss of the thing was disappointing, which hurts so badly (no matter how minor) that my toes clench. Immediate follow-up to the disappointment will be castigation of me by me, pointing directly with accusing finger at my failure as a human being — all delivered with the speed of pre-programming, no volition called for, no time to second-guess or give excuse.
This is the thing. This is the problem.
It’s sufficiently in the way of healthful behavior that I have actually said aloud that I prefer to have no hope than take the chance that it will be dashed. I couldn’t understand why I’d say that, until now. Despair is painful, but self-flagellation for being a bad person hurts so much worse that it would be a good trade-off — if that was the only option. It isn’t, I assume.
I don’t quite know what to do, to remove those macros in my head, but I recognize that I really need to, if I’m not to go rabidly insane.
And that’s what I figured out. I’ll sort out an action that is suitable to the need shortly, I hope.