Tuesday, October 26, 2010

#10 Perfectionism, OCD

Now that we got #9 out of the way, this isn't going to be too hard. Just take all those same underlying problems and express them in fabulous new ways!
  Perfectionism!  You fear everyone finding out how truly despicable you are, so you kill yourself to look perfect doing all the 'right' things.
  OCD: You take excessive control over (initially) small, controllable things to substitute for other, more important areas of your life you feel essentially deficient in and powerless to change. These things aren't logical at this point in your life, but at an early stage of your development they were.

#9 Being Critical

Herman Hesse wrote, "If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is a part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us."
     A lot of things bother us. The more we learn about the world, the more things we are aware of to be critical of. The most talented (and lucky?) among us become professional critics. But it seems to be de rigeur for most critics, even creative and brilliant ones, to not produce many, if any original works. Why should that be?
     All the intellectualized hatred of other things obscures the underlying problem: we hate ourselves. Why?
Like most "phenomenal" things, this goes back to upbringing. If your parents (primary caregivers) were mostly critical of you, you adopt that warped view of yourself. To you, there is something essentially deficient with someone who, for example, doesn't eat with proper manners, isn't American enough, etc.
Even when you later learn how do do those actions, you view yourself as acting, but still deficient underneath (this ties in with the problems spelled out in post #1). You try as hard as you can to do these behaviors to fit in, but that does nothing to combat the rejection you felt, and internalized, from your parents. Usually, you become super-sensitive in perceiving these things. That allows you to detect it in others way before anyone else could, and even in minute quantities. (Some even become obsessed with this, adopting a belief that this is their 'mission'.)
    But destroying others does nothing to build up your own sense of self worth, your 'self-esteem'. Eventually you realize this, hopefully before you waste too much time deluding yourself.

Friday, October 22, 2010

#8 Following Your Dreams

 I like that song, 'Everything is everything'. I have no idea if this was the songwriter's intent, but to me, it sums up pretty well the state of public discourse in Western society today. The same words have different and opposite meanings depending on who uses them. Which brings me to the topic at hand. 
"Always follow your dreams", we were all told as kids.
Along with, "Attitude is everything", "Believe in yourself", and myriad other watered down pop psychological phrases fed to us, we're chock-full of meaningless aphorisms. Can an elementary school kid trying to follow these timeless life lessons tell when 'always following your dreams', becomes plain old 'wishful thinking'? And does anybody seriously believe that these tidy amorphous psychological nuggets help any kid navigate through their problems?

"Hey, Mr. Donovan, my parents are getting divorced, the kids bully me, I can't get my work done on time."
"Well, did you try believing in yourself?"
"Yes, Mr. Donovan."
"Hmm. Are you following your dreams?"
"I think so."
"Well then, it seems obvious to me then that attitude isn't everything with you. Let's try to work on that. Ok, kid?"
"Uh, I'm actually thinking about saying YES to drugs instead."

The problem with just following your dreams is that if, to you, 'dream' means 'the narcissistic fantasy world I've created to escape from the harsh reality wherein I have no control over my own life', then following those dreams is really not going to end well.  Are you going to kill your friends and family with a chainsaw while they beg for mercy? Or, is God going to turn you into Superman overnight? Will you win the lottery? Marry a dashing Prince Charming? Become a famous actor, spy, blogger?
If I were in Vegas, I'd probably bet my house against it. So, for us, it's actually better to crush all those dreams, burn them, wash away any traces and replace them ones that fit reality somewhat tighter. Though analyzing them objectively with a professional might also do the trick.

Friday, October 15, 2010

#7 Being unique

Yeah, you're unique. Don't like pop music, movies, food. Only hang out with certain types of people. Who do pretty much everything you do. Hmm...maybe it's not about being unique.
You have a problem with conforming to society's rules. Why? Because you feel inadequate to compete in regular society. And you're tired of earning acceptance by following their rules. You view normal society as hostile, so you decide to leave it entirely.
Of course, being a social animal, you need to belong. So you join a group of non-competers. The defining aspect of the group isn't anything that they do, but what they don't do. And you need to be careful not to be too successful here because that's seen as hostile. It's not a very healthy environment when getting a job is looked at as selling out. Eventually, you realize how unnatural this is, and leave this group too.
Now, you're really going to be unique. You don't need to be hampered by this group's insecurities. The problem is that everyone needs to give up some of their liberties (conform) somewhat, in order to create a functioning society. Most people are aware of this and don't view it as a personal attack. Too bad. We do.

#6 Crying at TV. And while watching Mary Poppins (with the kids ostensibly).

Hey, some things make everybody cry. But commercials? What's going on?
You're not crying for the kid who falls down and is helped up by his old grandpa in the insurance commercial. You're crying for yourself. You don't think it'll help to cry for yourself, and you've found a way to repress it and go on with your life, but when a starkly presented situation, specifically designed to portray and elicit a certain emotion is thrust into your face - and it's not about you - you have no defenses built up to it. So it gets you thinking, for example, about your lack of love as a child, and those emotions come popping out of that suitcase you packed them into. Yeah, you're an emotional basket case.

#5 Addictions

Alcohol, drugs, food, sex, work (ok, maybe not the last one so much). We know about addictions, we all saw the videos of drugs' evil addictive chemicals in school. Hmm...Where do doughnuts fit into that?
Addictions start because, if you live in fear, these substances take the edge off (meaning, the anxiety and tension). Alcohol calms the brain. Drugs calm or transport your mind somewhere else. Food is thought to be associated in the brain with validation (as in Dr. Phil's "Food does not equal love", to a gigantic, morbidly obese and green Homer Simpson). Same with with sex. Work is validating if you have low self-esteem and feed off collecting accomplishments and victories to present a one-sided image to others and yourself. Addiction to TV, internet, and video games is based on the alternate realities they allow you to escape into. Your brain (the theory goes) develops a physical dependence on these substances to maintain the level attained initially. Tolerance happens...oh, go look it up somewhere.

#4 Bad Relationships

 On the surface, it would seem that we differ on this. Some of us have "co-dependent" relationships. Some are controlling. And some of them want to be abused. (Hey, they did a remake you know. I'm not that old.)
The common denominator here is relationships absent real love. True love, a giving relationship, makes relationships last. We had competitive role-modeling. If it's a dog-eat-dog world, it's every man for himself, and giving doesn't make sense. If you're in the relationship for sex, validation, or just looking for someone to take care of you, it's going to end badly. But you probably already know that.

Solution: Oy. See #1.

#3 I'm all alone

Yawn. We're all alone. See #1 for your real problem.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

#2 There's no point to it all. (Oh, and therefore I'm gonna kill myself.)

This is usually presented in a logical argument form as if your school counselor is actually going to submit to your superior reasoning and give you the go-ahead for suicide. The funny thing is, even if someone would agree with your logic, it wouldn't give you any closure because you know you'll feel you just convinced an idiot. What your real issue is, is you feel trapped with no power over your own life. You're uncomfortable saying this because you live in a competitive paradigm and are uneasy showing weakness.
As before (in #1) you need to uncover whatever it is you fear that is making you feel powerless. Interestingly, the fact that you're asking permission to kill your own self betrays how deep this feeling of powerlessness is. On the flip side, you are conflicted. You have an instinctive feel for the falseness of your argument. Like all creatures, your primal instinct is self-preservation. No creature needs to rationalize their own existence to get on with life. You just feel you have no control over and nothing to gain from continuing to exist.

Solution: See #1

#1 Nobody gets me.

Nobody gets anybody. At least not your totality. Not with all your personal experiences, thoughts, dreams, skews, etc. The problem with you is that this bothers you to a larger extent than other people. Why?

Diagnosis: At one point, you felt nobody would accept you as you are, so you isolated yourself out of fear (not choice).You try to please others by presenting what you think they want to see so they won't reject you. [You fear this rejection because it's tied to a real consequence at an unconscious level (i.e. some early experience or experiences you've repressed ). Your developed brain, as it is today, could separate the rejection from the fear of physical pain if it was presented to it now. But you're not dealing with that. You're dealing with your child brain (primary process thinking).] This fear-based fraud causes you to be disconnected from society, and unable to get any real feedback about your true self. You are therefore only left with your underlying expectation of rejection. This becomes a vicious cycle.
Unfortunately, this post isn't going to end there. Because here's your biggest problem. Two emotions, in the vernacular "fear" and "love", are the root of all motivation. But they can't develop simultaneously. So, the more fear you felt growing up, and the more you followed that behavior model, the less loving motivation you have. A healthy person has a decent balance of both. Depressed people like us have a huge amount of fear-based motivation and very low love-based motivation. So when the fear is taken away, there's nothing left that we know, because love as a motivator in different aspects of daily life was modeled in such a small to nonexistent way. 

Solution: Psychotherapy to uncover the root of your fear, followed by Behavioral therapy to fix it. Then more therapy to establish a healthy way of looking at life and practicing that until it motivates you. (Even after therapy, you'll need to work on this for a long time.)


So you're depressed.
Excellent, welcome to the club. Well, not exactly a club. I mean technically we do have membership of 5-13% of the population, but I think clubs do things. And usually get together according to some schedule.
But hey, at least we do a lot of the same activities. Like who here's edited Wikipedia? Be honest. And who here spends way too much time watching TV? Or still smokes? Or eats ice cream like you're gonna win something if you finish first? Like, look, I'm at the bottom of the Haagen Dasz and here's a coupon for a date! With somebody of the opposite sex!
Excuse me. What I'm trying to say is that, as a whole, us depressed's have a lot of "habits", if you will, in common. There are reasons for these. And, like any club, it's up to the senior members to show the newcomers the ropes, to guide them through the sometimes perplexing habits of depressed people, and to hopefully shed some light on life in general.
Personally, I only have about 96% figured out now, so feel free to join in at any time with your experiences or insights by commenting or emailing me.

Until next time, I remain your commander in crying at random commercials, 

Mr. Bookman

P.S. I'm just a regular guy, not a practicing psychological professional. My views are therefore lacking the diverse experience and systematic schooling of a professional. They're based off of personal experience, research, loads of therapy, and comparing notes with others in the club.