This post will be more a stream of consciousness than an article or essay and it may be of limited utility as a result, but I’ve decided it represents a perspective worth including here. In order to describe myself on these scales I must be very forthright with myself and just do it, so here I go.
In my depressed state I self sabotaged opportunities and I took on responsibilities I knew exceeded my ability. I took myself completely outside of my comfort zone in terms of employment and socializing, and in less than a year it came apart. I ended up living isolated in an unfamiliar village and my addictions to misery and depression took over.
I removed myself from the objects of my emotional expectations – in my case it was people in my life whose values are incompatible with my conscience. This resulted in my extreme isolation, which made my depression worse. I torched friendships in some cases, family relationships in others. I made myself willing to recognize what I find unacceptable in people’s beliefs and behaviours and I started being true to myself, without knowing why. I was far too miserable with depression to understand why in the moment. All I could really grasp was an unrelenting desire for complete isolation.
In my isolation I abused myself with hunger and neglect until I reached the brink of suicide. I had become so addicted to the thoughts and routines of depression and self abuse that the feelings began to become self limiting. I think the receptors in my brain must have saturated, or something, because my perception of my own misery became more two dimensional, in a sense. It’s a poor analogy but it’s what came to me. Less compelling might be a better phrase for it. My emotionalism became less compelling as I had overdosed myself on it so persistently.
One evening there was a moment where I had a mild epiphany. In that moment I accepted that the nature of my emotions is chemical, and that it’s something I had been inflicting on myself. The way my emotions became self limiting under strain suggested the possibility of more control than I knew possible. I decided that if I want to survive I need to figure out my emotionalism and the related aspects of myself once and for all. I’ve always known the basic science of brain chemistry, in principle and idea, at least. It initially shocked me how little of it I actually accepted as being real and always in play as pertains to my own emotionalism. I needed to learn to accept more of my agency and while I didn’t know how, I had some ideas that turned out to be on the right track.
The first change I decided to address was how I value the value of self honesty. Due to my upbringing I’ve always had a strange and upsetting relationship with the concepts of honesty and self honesty in that they’re things I was taught to value very highly but to practice very little. The resulting conflicts were some of the sources of my depression. Self honesty is the principle by which we distinguish and accept what we think is real, and thinking about it from the perspective of a biologist of anthropologist, perhaps, valuing such a principle highly provides many survival advantages. Where we make mistakes in our expectations of what is real we generally subject ourselves to danger, and this is equally true on emotional interpersonal scales. It’s true on every scale because we exist in a physical Universe of unrelenting rigidity.
Throughout the following process I needed a source of enjoyment and a creative outlet to maintain my sometimes dubious sanity. I’ve enjoyed photography since I got my first camera in 2011, and while I enjoyed it, and I tried to use it against my depression, it didn’t help until I undertook the process I’m about to describe. Coupled with my process it provided me a very addictive form of more honest enjoyment that I successfully used to supplant my addictions to my depressive routines of thought and behaviour. The side effect of this process is the photography on this website. The ideas I’m discussing here are what I was thinking about while clicking the shutter and adjusting my focus hundreds of thousands of times to do the focus stacking that resulted in these photographic composites. I spent thousands of hours taking these pictures and I thoroughly enjoyed it even while it proved very therapeutic to me. I think having some kind of creative outlet is very important and it’s even better if that outlet involves the hands. Something changes in the ways I can think while my hands are occupied with the repetitive but precise tasks involved in focus stacking. I suspect this effect could be reproduced in other mediums, perhaps even extending to music. I don’t think the creative outlet needs to be physically tangible like painting, though there’s nothing wrong with it, either. A person should follow their instincts on this and choose to be free to explore their expressive mediums until they find something that works. On with the process itself.
I needed tools to address my problems. I was sick of reading. I’ve become so sick of reading over the years it’s terrible, and it’s something I’m trying to address currently. My issue with reading is getting through all of the stuff I reject or disagree with in order to find bits of information that might be relevant to my pursuit. I mean, if anybody had really answered my questions about myself and our nature our world wouldn’t look like this – it wouldn’t be this bad because we would have better values, already, and we would do this for the strong survival advantages granted on every human scale. Understanding my and our recalcitrance became my mission.
I developed simple methods of self analysis and reflection using non-verbal self dialogue and monologue, respectively. I didn’t try to split my perspective of self to argue with myself or anything theatric like that. I posed questions to myself and tried to answer them, and succeed or fail I tried to come up with better questions in response to my answers. It seems to me the pursuit is played out in learning to ask ourselves better questions more than in our ability to answer – at least if my methods turn out to be reproducible. I accept I’m taking liberties with grand collective “we” statements here, but I do it with respect to humanizing language, primarily.
I decided I needed to observe my emotions more, so I started to spectate myself. This became quite uncomfortable, as for most of my life I’ve had issues with social anxiety and self-consciousness, but I took my discomfort as a sign that I was actually doing something, which in extreme isolation can sometimes be difficult to accept. I deal with this more on the page about expectations. In any case, it was an important technique for me to learn to accept the self inflicted nature of my emotional addictions.
I needed to find ways to deal with the intolerable emotions I was still feeling. For this I created a simple check of conscience, a habit I taught myself with the intent of intercepting my emotionalism sooner, before it gets out of control and feels intolerable. The check itself is a question I challenge myself with whenever I remember to do it while feeling an emotional reaction beginning: Is this emotional response honest in its derivation? Is it something I truly want to feel based on my conscience and my values, or is it a dishonestly derived emotion I’m abusing in furtherance of denial of something real? Over time, as I made this challenge a habit I developed a kind of mental shorthand for it. I know what I want to do in that instance so it doesn’t necessitate spelling out the thoughts every time, which is nice. It’s such a simple little trick but it has added an extra interlocutor to my system that I’ve been able to use to guide myself into making better and more honest choices about my emotionalism.
And this is the big step – accepting that emotionalism is a choice. There are different scales of emotions and emotionalism and I deal with those more on the appropriate pages, but in this context it is our elective emotions I’m speaking to. It’s the emotions we choose as we think and process the stimuli from our senses, even as we pretend we can’t really control it. And they are potently addictive. Our emotions themselves “make us” not want to see how addictive they are. And this is ultimately the undoing of our species. They’re just too potently addictive for us to want to address our abuses of feels over reals based denial. I had to ruin my life and break myself to see it, to really see it, and now I can’t see anything else. I accept that I’ve ostracized myself for my values and my pursuit of understanding myself, and I’m not bitter on those grounds. I’m apprehensive about other people who value beliefs and expectations based in such dangerous falsity. We’re racing toward extinction abusing each other along the way and pretending it’s the best we can do, and that it can be no other way, simply because this is how we’ve ended up – but it’s really our addictions to the emotions we induce at every step of the thought process holding us back.
This is why we collectively fail to address addiction very well as a medical problem. We demonize the objects of each person’s addictions – varied as they may be between behaviours and substance abuse – but we deliberately permit the real culprit to escape unscathed every time. It’s not the drugs a drug addict values – I know, I was a drug addict. It’s not the money or the game that the addicted gambler or gamer values – it’s the feelings at every step of their rituals. If we accepted that addiction is really endogenous addiction, first, we could solve it and heal ourselves in ways I can only imagine, currently. Ways I’m limited from imagining due to the hypothetical nature of the synergy of belief I believe would happen if more people supported each other in accepting reality in this way. I believe the benefits scale because I believe I have identified our fundamental issue – that which must be resolved before we can resolve other more tertiary issues. It’s like how we blame greed and capitalism and all of these ideas and concepts for our problems but we refuse to accept that valuing any of those ideas is fueled by dishonest emotionalism – and we refuse because of the addictive nature of our emotions. Once I accepted this I started making much more rapid progress and I started consistently feeling better.
I then set about purging my worldview of what falsity I could find and scrutinizing my held values and expectations, including the emotional expectations by which I was dispensing my day to day feelings. This was a fairly involved process over several months, with periods of great interest and also periods of stagnation. It comes and goes, and we can only push ourselves so hard before we saturate the relevant receptors, for a while. This is an imprecise analogy considering the complexity of the processes in our brains, but it suggests the gist of it. Sometimes a lull in the feeling of progress with this stuff can result from a need to subconsciously consider things longer. Subconscious thinking is something I believe we severely underutilize due to our poor understanding of it. I’m not claiming to understand it well myself, but I’m experimenting on myself with interesting results. It seems to me that I can learn to kick ideas down to subconscious thinking more easily by accepting this is its role. By hiding this layer of thinking from my conscious self I can think about things without conscious and emotional biases, and I believe this is why sometimes an answer “comes to me” after a period of idleness or distraction. It’s an intelligent system we could better exploit. I mean if we could observe the process of subconscious thinking consciously it would just be conscious thought. The separation is intriguing and I hope someday we understand the physiology of it.
What I learned during this phase of “purging falsity” is that many of my poor and dishonest emotional habits hinged on beliefs that were only marginally true, or true through unnaturally restrictive perspectives. And there were cases where I held outright false beliefs I needed to correct. We all make mistakes and we must accept this, too, if we’re to experience growth. I found that my general emotional stability improved proportionally to the falsity I corrected in my worldview and I attribute this to the increases in self worth and self trust I realized as I started to accept myself.
The resolution of my 30 years of depression turned out not to be in any pursuit of happiness but in learning more acceptance of things I can’t change, including aspects and limitations of myself and my circumstance. It was in accepting my responsibility for choosing appropriate emotional responses so as not to make myself sick in avoidance of life. And it was in learning to accept the terrible cruelty of existence without adding to it by abusing myself with emotionalism.
The struggle continues to an extent. Spring 2022 will be two years I’ve considered myself consistently free of symptomatic, clinical depression. Because depression involves habits and addiction the temptation to engage in old routines remains, but their appeal is diminished and they don’t feel satisfying when I catch myself in emotional mistakes. So I’m still making progress, and still trying to learn more about myself, and to accept myself to greater degrees. I believe this process should be a natural process of self discovery that needn’t be so traumatic, but for our upbringings and our cultures and the false beliefs that pervade every aspect of our lives. I’m better able to dissipate unwanted feelings by diverting myself more constructively, which is a remarkably denial-like tactic, but when applied to attempts at denial through dishonest emotionalism, the falsity cancels out. It’s a healthy diversion toward the path to further healing when it happens, and so only denial is being denied.
Repression of emotions is impossible. By the time we feel an emotional response the molecules responsible for our perceptions are racing through our bloodstreams and binding to willing receptors in our brains, resulting in any of the familiar cascades of emotion we experience. Attempting to repress this ongoing process – and it’s a process that never ends while we’re alive – is akin to pretending it isn’t a real aspect of our nature, and it may in fact be expressed this way depending on how a person styles their beliefs.
The real solution to feeling consistently better is in learning the value of making better emotional choices. This can mean overhauling our worldviews and our held values and attempting to purge the falsity within so that we may perceive reality more clearly. It’s only through learning self acceptance that we can learn honest emotional self control, and to do this a person must value self honesty highly enough to subject their self to the process of healing necessary to correct for the false beliefs taught to them during their upbringing and experiences.
A person who believes they cannot control their emotional reactions falsely imposes a limitation on their self that is much lesser than their innate capacity as a person, and so from their personal perspective the false limitation becomes entirely real. And they then project their beliefs onto everybody else, as we are all wont to do too often. I’m guilty of this myself, but I’m not yet convinced I’m incorrect in my current expectations and beliefs. False limitations we impose on ourselves are something we can never overcome until we change our minds, our perspectives, and decide to care about the reality we’ve obstructed through our emotionally driven false beliefs. The irony in this haunts me because I’m probably impaled on a metaphorical sword or two of my own creation writing this. And it’s OK, because I’ve long since accepted that my worldview must never be static. A static worldview in an existence as complex as ours is a false worldview – there is always more to learn, even within the scope of learning about ourselves. This is something else I’ve always known, though I think the extrapolation to applying the idea to myself was my own choice, I was taught very early that we simply can’t learn everything. I never quite accepted it in the sense that I’ve always believed we don’t need to learn everything, we just need to learn the bits relevant to our goals, and the bits they depend on, and so forth until we get to the fundamentals. In science, I think we get bogged down too often in collecting and analyzing data and details and we lose sight of what we set out to find in the first place. I think we do this to avoid doing the real work of healing and improving ourselves, which is unfortunate because the self investment would let us do better science in every field.
We’re taught to accept the emotional expectations foisted on us by our loved ones and caregivers as being real things we must value highly, and so we grow up governing ourselves by the made up rules of the generations preceding us. We each have the perpetual choice while alive to self actualize and overhaul the expectations and values we choose to hold and value, and to obsolete false and toxic ideas in our worldviews, and to create new values based on our improving understanding of ourselves throughout the process. The process of healing has its discomforts and pain, to be sure, but these things people fixate on in avoidance of the benefits of success: greater emotional stability, self trust, self worth, and a willingness to live and to try to be decent even while our world burns because to do otherwise would be to add to the suffering in the world with our own contributions of dishonest emotionalism. We have the choice to accept that our rejections of how painful and difficult our existence is are the fundamental cause of the excessive unnecessary suffering we endure so that we might make better choices going forward. We’d feel better for it, individually and, if more people tried, the energy of it would synergize collectively. It is testament to the overwhelming addictive power of the molecules by which we perceive emotion that so few of us value really trying to correct it. And time is running, if not out, it’s running on every scale we perceive. Individually our perceptions of our lives seem to accelerate as we age and change becomes more difficult, but it’s never too late to address our self honesty while we remain alive, and it’s never too late to reap the benefits of effort honestly invested in ourselves.
I wish I knew how to make these ideas more palatable to people still overwhelmed by their emotional addictions. I’ll keep trying.