So this is what it’s all about, isn’t it? The willingness to do the work necessary to genuinely and consistently feel better, which in turn affords us more opportunities to better function in our lives, making better and more fulfilling choices, etc., etc. For most of my life I struggled with believing it was possible to do this, and I struggled more with how I might try. In more recent years, since I’ve started making actual progress I have realized that the people in the past who expected and even demanded that I address my issues and conflicts were liars and hypocrites; liars to themselves first, and then to anybody else who listens. None of them had the willingness to do the equivalent work themselves for themselves – not even those family members who pushed and pursued psychotherapy. None of them felt better, either. They were all insisting the only way to address these things is something that doesn’t work. I’ll refrain from a fully fledged rant on this, but a word on the field of psychiatry is warranted.
Psychiatry used to be about healing. It used to be about helping people to analyze their conflicts to resolution to naturally alleviate the symptoms that caused the recognizable problem. Psychiatry is no longer about healing – it is about medicating people to remain more productive in the throes of their emotional addictions and conflicts. It’s about teaching people Boomer style denial by suggesting if that if the headlines on the news are too upsetting the solution is to avoid the news, as if being less informed about our very real and dangerous world can make us feel better – when we know we are predisposed to disproportionate fears of the unknown. At a glance it would seem crazy, the whole thing, the industry that psychiatry has become. On another scale it is apparent that capitalism is a driving force, but this is yet another expression of more fundamental forces running within us. We value money in the ways we do because we’ve taught each other the emotional expectations attendant such beliefs, and so we induce very strong emotions regarding money very easily, and so “money is addictive”.
I’ve just exposed by example the problem with psychiatry. Every person who pursues psychiatry, psychology, psychotherapy, in any form is a normal person encumbered by the same conditions that pervade our species. Every person in a medical field carries their own emotional addictions, and every person is more or less as protective of their emotional addictions as any other. Education and intelligence don’t factor in to how we choose to value self honesty. In our clinical treatment of addiction we actively scapegoat each object of people’s addictions, whether it’s gambling or overwork or drug abuse and we deliberately permit the real culprit to escape unscathed: the emotional addictions that led us to value the objects and rituals of addiction. It’s the emotions we induce before, during and after the addictive ritual that we truly value and it is to them that we remain addicted even as we may choose to substitute new objects and rituals that are more socially acceptable. It’s sublimation on a different scale than we normally consider.
We refuse to recognize our universal addiction to our emotional chemistry in part because everybody sitting in the doctor’s chair would have to switch places for a while, and it would be an uncomfortable process what with the beliefs they hold and the degrees to which they value their beliefs. We’re very far gone as a species, enthralled with our own emotionalism and hurtling toward the oblivion of extinction. But there’s no point getting upset about it because that only adds to the unnecessary suffering in the world. Accepting it so that we might address it more rationally would seem a better choice. It is the addictive power of the molecules responsible for our perceptions of emotions that are the culprit. I wish scientists would approach it from this angle. But wishes don’t help.
In my country mental healthcare is a privilege reserved for those who can afford it out of pocket or through private insurance. I’ve had no reasonable access to mental healthcare since I reached adulthood. I was left with fixing myself, and these pages represent a kind of brief memoir of my process. This despite being told repeatedly throughout my life that I could not cure myself and that my best bet would be to drug myself with SSRIs to try to live with myself that way. All I can think is those antidepressants must be very addictive for so many people to be so pushy about them despite their intense spectrum of side effects and the marginal benefits they seem to provide in terms of comfort or alleviation of symptoms.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I took the approach of approaching myself like a person – and like a person suffering who I wanted to help. I focused on “Why?” based questions but I didn’t neglect the other fundamental questions as I saw relevance. I asked myself about my old values, my current values, and what values I actually want to value. I asked myself how I felt about who I’ve been versus who I’ve become and then contemplated who I would be going forward. I accepted the plasticity of myself and my values, and the power entailed in recognizing we can edit and redefine our beliefs and values based on desire and conviction. And conscience.
It’s important to reflect on these things, as well. I’d say the process has been roughly half analysis and half reflection but I don’t attempt to keep track or to focus on one or the other. At this point it comes fairly naturally. Examining old memories is useful and I’ve learned I’ve retained far more memory of my life than I have everyday conscious access to remember. Visualization is another skill that helps tremendously with both analysis and pursuing acceptance of difficult concepts. The single greatest thing holding me back, and I believe holding us back collectively from addressing our problems in this manner are the false beliefs and expectations that it can’t be done by whatever excuse we find compelling. This is a really dumb reason to go on unnecessarily suffering and causing more suffering around us, and as I’ve realized that more fully many of my old emotional habits have become unappealing. The kinds of personal growth we can realize on these scales are as mutable and varied as the beliefs and values we hold and the first step to realizing these kinds of gains is accepting enough of our agency to be willing to try. Once I saw some progress occurring in my notes it was easy to attribute some self worth, and some self trust. I was sticking with it and doing the work and it was helping. No SSRI could have accomplished that nor could they have motivated me to try because that whole “strategy” is about converting people from patients to productive labourers, again. It kind of sucks that I had to break to the degree I did in order to get the support I needed to have the time to try to sort myself out in miserable isolation. Yet I can imagine no other way in this world it could have happened. It’s simply how things are.
My emotions have always been a source of torment for me. For most of my life I understood the very basics of the science involved, in that I understood it was some property of our brain chemistry, but in all honesty I didn’t fully accept it as a fully real concept ongoing all of the time in my body. It’s an example of denial I valued and I valued it to avoid responsibility for the very emotions I used to abuse myself and others. I was addicted, and I still am because I’m human, but I’ve resolved several of these endogenous addictions and found cracks in others I can exploit. I accept how it works now so I don’t feel intimidated by the process ahead.
One of the first little techniques I used was to install an additional check of conscience in my thought process when reacting to stimuli. I taught myself to habitually ask myself if the emotions I induce are honest, or if they’re attempts at denial. I ask myself if the feelings represent a reaction of conscience, or if they’re in avoidance of accepting the information at hand. I use a kind of mental shorthand for this, but this is the content of the thoughts I use, the meaning of them and the intent. It’s an easy Litmus by which I can better decide if an emotion is worth feeling and by the time I answer myself the feeling in question feels much more optional. This is a means to additional emotional self control, and it’s a very simple way of going about it that I don’t think is prone to any particular risks or pitfalls.
I also decided to try to spectate my own emotional state as much as possible through deliberately remaining mindful of myself on these scales. This was very useful to me because there are many instances of unnecessary emotionalism that I engaged in, and that we all commonly engage in, on a kind of autopilot – we do it habitually without thinking about it. This is something that’s a pretty personal and unique experience and as I’ve always had issues with self consciousness due to other people’s expectations, and those I internalized, of course, it was very uncomfortable for me to spectate myself in this manner for the first couple of weeks. I worried that I would give myself some kind of additional complex but my concerns were unwarranted. It became both easier and less necessary to engage in this technique as time progressed and it taught me both to accept myself on more scales while simultaneously devaluing the false and often downright nasty expectations of other people.
Note taking is also a very valuable tool in pursuing this kind of healing. I think it’s probably necessary in addition to being beneficial. We’re just too complex, and so is our world. We cannot keep enough data points in mind and perspective and memory at the same time without recorded or written aids. I had great difficulty in both “getting over myself” and in trusting myself enough to start writing my ideas down on these scales. I suspect this is a common point at which other people get hung up, too. The expectations and beliefs I had internalized regarding things like note taking and journaling and even in taking myself seriously enough to self dialogue held me back for decades, though for most of that time I remained unaware. And there were my issues of low self worth. It can be really hard to start this process but it is possible to achieve real and lasting results. Notes don’t need to be coherent to be useful. They also don’t need to be shared, although there’s nothing wrong with it, either. While deletion of old notes remains an option I’d caution against its frivolous use, and to question yourself about whether you’re really sure you’re deleting something like this for honest reasons. Self sabotage has been my frequent companion in life; I know the temptations of avoidance.
Categorizing and compartmentalizing issues is a perilous process but a necessary one in order to focus on and reach acceptance of complex issues. I learned that the lasting resolution of an intolerable emotion represents the correction of a false belief or expectation within my worldview, and treating this as a template I was able to categorize many of my issues and address them progressively. I won’t spend pages on that here; I just want to assert that it is possible and reasonable to pursue it this way and that I have benefited from doing so.
These pages will be edited and updated periodically as I continue to learn to express myself on these scales. From my notes I’ve recognized there are more techniques I will add as I write more about them. But this can serve as a start.