September 20th, 2005
|01:52 pm - Apologies, Fear, and the Isolation of Self-Worth|
I'm enthusiastic about my shortcomings. I love them. Each one. I observe unexpected emotions (from anger to jealousy to sadness to fear) with amusement, and I spend my time laughing about them. I talk at length about my failings and my mistakes because they're valuable to me.
When I look back on the events of the past few weeks, I see a lot of them. It's a virtual treasure trove of golden opportunities to see just how much I've fucked up. I've talked extensively about how I've felt about them, and sometimes appear to have bounced back.
But something I haven't talked much about, except in cagey terms that dodge the issue, is how others have thought or perceived the things I've done and said.
It's apparent, and has been apparent for a while, that through my own voyage of self-discovery (which is really more like a looting and plundering of those golden mistakes), others have been affected by it as well. While I'm not sure why people get affected by my attempts to figure out what's going on, they certainly do. Few have told me this themselves, which continues to make me scratch my head and wonder why more don't just come out and say it, but they've made it obvious to me, anyway.
While I admit that I'm totally lost, totally unable to figure out what's up or down, that's not an excuse for hurting feelings. I'm doing that more and more, it seems. On the one level, I feel I need to work this stuff out. I can't close my LiveJournal. . . it's out of the question for me. I can't stop writing in it, either, because it's become the way I discuss things with myself, and the input of those around me is invaluable to me. This leads, though, to a fierce honesty that is, at times, offensive and perhaps dangerous. In trying to be honest with myself, it seems to display sides of me that are not quite so nice.
Because of that, I offer a sort of piacular apology. If anything that I have done here has offended you, if anything I have done here has been incomplete, if anything I have done here has not been in the proper manner, accept this apology in recompense.
It's got to be piacular, really, because don't know what I may have done, necessarily, or even if I have done something offensive to you, but if you've found offense, incompletion, or (I suppose) "non-properness" in anything I've done, than I really am sorry. I'm thoroughly confused and more prone to push people away than invite them in.
Most recently, I suppose, is the Great Birthday Card Debacle of 2005. It's an excellent example of how I'm trying to figure out what the hell is going on, and how I'm failing miserably.
I wrote a comment to singingwren this morning that really sums up some issues.
Basically, I spent a week following Summerland in a very, very bad spot, for various reasons. Many of those have been resolved, but several have gotten worse. Some, in fact, are so bad that it takes every last fiber of my Chaote training to get around them. Some of them, I've found, have beaten that training and I can't get around them.
So, I turn to an old friend for inspiration:
"If we are able thus to attack an inferior force with a superior one, our opponents will be in dire straits . . . Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is deficient . . . Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak. Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions."
-Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Book 6
My copy of Sun Tzu is old and dog-eared, and it's been read many times since Kori gave it to me a long time ago. It comes in handy quite often.
A lot of this came to a head with a birthday. While I usually despise my birthday, I'd completely forgotten about it this year. In fact, last week someone told me that there was a birthday coming up that she wanted to celebrate, and I asked whose it was. Yes, it's that unimportant to me in the whole scheme of things. If people didn't remind me of it, I'd forget it every year and never miss it.
But enough about such happy scenarios.
With all I've been working through recently, one that has really reared an ugly head is the feeling that I'm *not* special, that I have serious weaknesses and character flaws. As much as I love those parts of me, I love them because they shine as strongly as everything else. They show others that I'm just as weak and frail as them. They show me that I'm breakable (which is important, because I honestly believe I'm unbreakable). They draw out a reality that runs parallel with my own, one that I can look at and agree on. This reality is very important to me.
That's why it made me feel so damn good that no one cared about my birthday. It validated a feeling within me that honestly, I'm not that important. While most people require validation that they are, inteed, important, I require the opposite. This feeling is a huge part of me, and it's the center of my interactions with most people. It reminds me that there are things larger than myself, people who are smarter and better looking than me, and that I need other people. It forms the basis of my worship and faith. No, that doesn't mean that I need to feel small to get a high out of religion. It's something else, something ineffible.
It doesn't take much for me to rise above this feeling of unimportance, because there's a feeling of importance that is equally strong. That feeling, though, is something I've had to put away recently. It brings discomfort and fear, a healthy dose of self-loathing and a touch of anger that is so intense that it scares me.
The Sun Tzu quote above now comes into play. I've recognized that these feelings are not a part of me that I'm fond of. It's not even that they're a part of this New-Age idea of a "Shadow Self" that needs to be "understood and incorporated" or some other mumbo-jumbo bullshit like that. These are feelings that simply didn't exist before certain events took place, and they are a part of me that is seeking dominance over the rest of me.
They're at war with me.
Sun Tzu, of course, would chide me for not destroying these enemies when they were weak. I've let them fester, and now they've gained their footholds. They're growing stronger and choking off parts of me that I truly cherish. Right now, they're too strong for my meager weapons to destroy.
So, like water, I flow around these strong points. I avoid the enemy's places of strength, attacking his weaknesses. One place of strength is this feeling of worth, of importance. It strikes at the heart of those things I fear most: egotism, narcissism, and jealousy. While I find each of these feelings useful in general (and have exploited each in the past), they have become sources of pain and anger, and it is these associations that are new in my life. Anything that feeds into these feelings strengthens them. Compounding my usual discomfort for praise with a serious issue about birthdays feeds these feelings in horrid, twisted ways.
There's also a serious feeling of helplessness, because very, very few people will accept, "I dislike birthdays and would prefer not to celebrate," without trying to convince me that I'm a) being stubborn, b) being stupid, or c) totally and completely fucking wrong. Explainations are often demanded, counterpoints are made, and I end up feeling remarkably small and wanting to lash out.
This builds the strength further in these feelings and fears. I'm helpless, and I have no allies. It's a bleak way to look at the world.
I imagine, in my mind's eye, that each card and well-wish that directly relates to my birthday is a fearsome, dark monster, shapeless and changing, angry and disgusting, acidic and demonic. These cards, opened, form a greater whole, one which is terrifying and ever more dangerous, one that my mind simply cannot place an image to, it is so horrid. This thing gathers strength from upon a rock built of helplessness, fear, and self-worth.
And so the cards remain closed. I have seperated them around the house after knifing them open to check for any items that require immediate action. Only a few have been read. The others wait until I am stronger than they are, and then I will conquer them one at a time. Until then, as the water does, I will flow against them, eroding them slowly. I will cut off their ability to gain strength.
And once I have sufficiently weakened a feeling, I'll take it. And I will turn it against the others.
Yes, I have a plan. It's not pretty, but war never is. And it's something I need to do on my own. If there's something that you can do, I won't hesitate to ask. But I can't do much with offers of help.
I've always liked to walk alone. Now I have to.
Current Mood: optimistic
Current Music: "Manana", -JB
Mike, you are ridiculous. :)
I thank you for your apology, despite the fact that I initially felt guiltily responsible for it. I saw the title and thought, shucks, I've gone and made him feel bad with my comments. I was fully ready to respond with some sort of hasty mollification.
But, it would be foolish to assume it was all about me because obviously it was not. I should not loftily assume that you owed me some sort of apology just because I was displeased. Because you didn't. If anything, I should have just shut up and respected your birthday wishes. The only reason I didn't was because the issue I had really was not about your birthday, but rather the attitude you were taking. It dismayed me and I didn't understand.
You seemed to like going to extremes when it comes to examining self-worth, and I wanted you to stop that behaviour. I wanted you to just accept people giving you affection without shooting them down in your stubborn fear that you would become egotistical from praise. There is no need to be insecure about expressing or not expressing self-worth -- if you were either a truly arrogant bastard or a pathetic and self-deprecating wuss, I would have punched you in the face long ago and left you to the dogs. ;)
It is possible to be complimented, gifted, praised, honoured, etc, WITHOUT growing either ungrateful or over-inflated, and it seems to me like you were completely barring this possibility altogether. You are so careful NOT to behave in a way that is arrogant that you come off as almost arrogant in your righteous insistence that you do not need people to praise you. I say almost because you are clearly well-intentioned... it's just that you don't (or didn't) seem to realize that it is just as offensive to refuse all compliments as it is to use a handful of them to build a huge and self-involved ego.
I realize that you say it meant a lot to you to be reminded you are not that important. This confuses me a little because you responded with comments about birthday celebrations being forced and empty, which made me think that the act of receiving one made you feel belitted as is. Your birthday, in my opinion, is also not the time to get sensitive about this, because if anything it is the one day of the year in which you are reminded of your own perserverance and progress. It's also a poor day to hold up this attitude because, annoyingly or not, people WANT to remind you of your worth (which they don't really do the rest of the year, according to you) on this day and are more likely to do so. Thus it's an invitation to hurt feelings and annoyed reactions to insist on ego-taming on your birthday. There are other times for that.
Of course, that's probably just my selfishness talking, saying, just indulge us when we want to celebrate your birthday and let it be all about what WE want.... but at least there is a certain tact and wisdom to choosing other days to fight that battle.
Seriously, Mike, I know you are discovering yourself and figuring out iossues just like the rest of us on LJ. Don't hold back and don't worry even if you offend me every single day with every single entry (but do be ready to duck in case I go for a kick to the mouth! :P) I realize that I have been just as troublesome by jumping down your throat rather than respecting the wishes you expressed, so please forgive me in turn. Realize it was only because I was worried about the mind-frame you were approaching things in and it making you unfairly unhappy. I feel like you are creating needless stress for yourself by worrying so hard about appearing egotistical, jealous, etc....
Can't you just trust that, were you to get so, we would immediately let you know and make sure you were accordingly punished? :P
I echo some of Anna's comments. And I think you ought to know that there *are* people who care about you and enjoy you for Mike and not your image.
I respect the birthday thing. You need to understand, though, that most people look at birthdays as an excuse to celebrate and be appreciated ... And most people won't be able to understand your view. I don't understand it, but I can respect it.
I do know it.
Doesn't mean that, when I'm doing everything I can to beat back certain feelings, that reminders are welcome.
I don't forget those who care.
|Date:||September 20th, 2005 07:29 pm (UTC)|| |
Sweet, that makes two martial artists on ass-kicking standby. :)
|Date:||September 20th, 2005 11:44 pm (UTC)|| |
No, you were not responsible for it. Nor did I really expect you to understand my stance on birthdays. No one ever has, honestly. This has caused me to prefer to avoid explaination rather than give it.
But this honestly isn't about ego inflation or non-inflation. The fact of the matter is, self-worth brings up feelings I despise feeling within myself. There are reasons for this that I simply can't go into right now, but I know their root causes. Some of them have to do with experiences at Summerland, some to do with my desire to avoid things being ignored or argued, and some to do with a particular decision I've made.
It is not at all my usual distrust of ego-building. This is something different, and something terrifying. And something I will deal with in my own way, in my own time.
Self-worth IS about your ego, though, to an extent. After all, your ego is your self, so if you are afraid to bolster it, you are afraid to bolster your ego. It sounds like all the negative things self-worth is holding are also things you associate with your ego.
I think maybe you are confusing selflessness with self-worthless-ness. Maybe not -- I haven't given much thought to my own self or ego lately, so I'm decidedly no expert there. But, feelings of self-worth may not necessarily be your target. After all, didn't you say that self-worth was a STRONGHOLD for the cancer and not the cancer itself? Dropping a nuclear bomb on the whole thing could unintentionally hurt things that were in the way. There are many parts to feelings of self-worth that suck, and many parts to self-worthless-ness that rock, but they are not the whole. They are woven together and it is dangerous to cluster them in the "bad shit that sucks" category together. After all, you know even better than I do that self is vitally important to magic -- for ego is directly tied to will, and if you don't know yourself, how can you possibly know what your will is? And unless you are going for the extremist, underground style in which your ego is utterly annihilated, how can you possibly expect to have effect on your reality when you are constantly underscoring your own will? Are you maybe over-compensating in response to having to hold the power of your own will and self above everything else by searching hungrily for reminders that your self is not really worth all that much?
I know that I am generally not as confident and assertive with my own will as I would like to be. I am learning, but I sometimes feel very egotistical or crappy when I go into I-am-unstoppable-my-will-can-do-anything mode. It's like... damn. You are not a goddess and you can't just inflate your ego like that and pretend you can do anything. But then, the magical side of me goes, why CAN'T you do anything? Why limit your self and say it is worthless when its will is responsible for everything you do? Faith in self is paramount and that is why magic is sometimes so damn hard and othertimes completely easy. I don't know, maybe I just have this constant struggle because I am still new to magic and generally stupid about life in that regard... but it's a thought.
Maybe you are attacking self-worth because, through magic, you know how terrrifyingly powerful self can be... and you afraid to acknowledge its power and worth at a time when, were you to let it reign, it could potentially do anything because its will is still shrouded to you.
Explaining the feelings self-worth brings up is not possible on this forum.
But they are not good feelings.
They are the ones that left me on my knees in the mud on Saturday night at Summerland.
:( I'm sorry to hear it and I respect that you don't want to talk about it all on here. It's not the best place for it anyway. But, you need to quit working and go to the Ovan for free dinner. That's where I'm headed.
Sorry again if I am excacerbating things I should leave alone. I know you need to fight this on your own, but if you need any help on whatever, you can still ask. I do have experience with fighting...!
I'll be happy to tell you about it later. The specific causes really aren't anything that anyone can help with, and metioning them here will cause more problems than do good. These are my issues, no one else's. And no one else can even begin to take ownership of them.
You know I'll ask if you can help.
|Date:||September 20th, 2005 11:55 pm (UTC)|| |
You are so careful NOT to behave in a way that is arrogant that you come off as almost arrogant in your righteous insistence that you do not need people to praise you.
I can agree with this and have seen this with you. But knowing you to be complex, I've looked beyond this indifferent isolation thing. But yeah, it does come across sometimes as being arrogant. I think I've seen a small side of you that does likes the praise, although you keep it very firmly in perspective at all times.
I on the other hand have the opposite problem. I have an over-riding need to be appreciated and adored. Not sure where it came from, but it can be irritating. And I don't like that part of myself. But it is such a big part of me.
Oh, certainly there's a side that likes praise. In fact, my ego really, really likes to gorge on tasty compliments, decadent and excessive flirting, and other such empty calories.
However, I've seen first-hand what a bloated ego can do, and I prefer to keep mine healthy and trimmed down. That's the primary reason I like to be reminded of (and like to seek out) my shortcomings.
Of course, the idea that my ego isn't all that big is an egoism in itself. Because of that, I rely on the responses of others to what I say or do to actually verify the size of my ego. And more importantly, I try not to accuse others of having a bigger ego, which would result in a wonderful "holier-than-thou" stance that is a perfect indicator that one's ego is far too large.
I think that you and I, with our opposite problems, can and have learned a lot from each other. It's interesting to see how we deal with the issues ourselves. And, I'll be the first to admit, kinda amusing.
|Date:||September 22nd, 2005 04:23 am (UTC)|| |
In high school I found a book called "Cosmic Consciousness." I can't remember the author, but it was in the New Age section. It talked about doing away with the ego as that got in the way. I worked hard at this and came to some success. I have been told in the past that I have no ego. But I found that I needed an ego and was way too passive. So since then it has been a struggle to rebuild my ego up. I met another woman who had successfully destroyed her ego. When she thought of herself she could only see herself as reflected by others. She had no sense of self. She was also very bland and un-interesting. I have learned that we need our egos to be strong. All the best magicians through out history had very strong egos. But I agree that egos need to be kept restrained so as to not cause the obvious problems.