Down the pit and into the tunnel

Does it make me a brave person to feel?

Feelings of extreme anxiety, compounding with feelings of extreme despair, sleepless sensitive nights and tiredness all day, no energy to reach safe ground.

Is there any place of safety out there? If there was silence would I just be tormented by my thoughts?

Security and insecurity – evolution strives for us to be safe and secure, but why doesn’t society comply with this. It is not in the interests of the powerful to have empowered or happy ‘lessers’.

Politicizing these extreme emotions puts them into a context, but they are still here to be felt because the political situation is still here to be felt.

Where to go when it feels like the world has run out of love or if it has any left that you will be overlooked for it?

Burdens weigh heavily in the background and sometimes the switch from stable to horrific is just feeling what is already there, what might be called a dark catharsis.

The endless dark way, the nature of reality itself for us material-sensitive-beings is sometimes sheer pain – I know this, to sense is to sense what is good and what hurts and you cannot have one without the other.

But our political situation does not allow for much vulnerability. Trained to be isolated, precarious and desperate. I could have a castle to myself and yet want to commit suicide. It is love and connection which saves us from addiction and self-destruction but where is that to be found? Does anyone know?

You can talk about ‘self-care’ but what if you cannot care for yourself because it is a time for suffering and pain rather than healing? The nature of the universe must contain great black patterns of suffering woven into it, so as to make it unavoidable.

I mean, are we a fucking joke? It feels like it, a sadistic, sick minded prank of a species. We get to die in the end, but that is less to be feared than prolonged suffering or psychological anguish.

Why did all those bad things happen and why do they continue to? I cannot turn a blind eye but to stare into an abyss means to slowly be destroyed by it. There is no one around because they are hollowed-out husks or trying to stay afloat upon their bubble-worlds lest they be burst by ill-fortune or poor foresight.

What most people may not realize is that there is an entire sub-species of us who sees through a different lens, one so powerful that it cannot be stopped and sees through everything, and this means a life with intense episodes of woe and misery that trap and isolate and snare you in despair until it slowly fades away again.

Then life resumes but you know how hard it will again become.

If I did not feel then I would not be alive. This at least is the consolation. You cannot live without feeling, and you certainly cannot live a moral life without emotions to guide you. So even if feeling eventually kills me or makes me want to kill or destroy myself, it would have been necessary to let me be anything authentic in the first place.

I do not believe in health anymore and know that order is impossible.

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Caged beauty

You see beauty in the world and you want to hold onto it.

A beautiful woman walks past you. In that moment you feel the spontaneity of desire. She is framed by sunlight and the trees, obviously at the height of her power and confidence. You manage to just about start a conversation about which bus to take and mention your band. She finds your band on Facebook. You want to see her again, just to be near her; she is so beautiful.

You wait and wait and wait for a message. Nothing. You feel resentful, cheated. You look at her profile picture obsessively. Then she messages you! You write back excitedly. Then again, then again, then again. Two weeks later she writes again, a response with little or no opening for reply.

You message her again, again and again. And again. Your confidence starts to fade, your will falters. You message her asking if she cares about you. She never speaks to you again. You feel a deep sense of loss, an opportunity for happiness crushed.

Beauty cannot be caged or captured. It is the most fleeting of all things. When we let go of it, we gain a chance to refind it.

But there are no guarantees in life. You may find beauty or may end up with only vulgarity before you. This means the only way to contentment is to accept what comes and never to try and cage, or expect, beauty.

The world is in pain, so we are in pain

The first time the Great Anxiety hit I thought I was done for. The second time, I opened myself up to it and let myself listen.

Why are you here? Where do you want me to go? What do you want me to do?

We need, in the schema or narrative of our life, the illusion of control. We need to feel like there is somewhere to go, something to achieve, something to move into, something to resolve. I question, with the power of emotion and the nature of life, how true that control is.

Be healthy, be well, look after yourself – if only these things were ‘internals’ and not ‘externals’! The body gets ill, nights are sleepless, seemingly ‘random’ emotions spring upon us.

The fixation on yoga and mindfulness and healthy eating (and other such things) is a reflex which is misfiring. You can try to be healthy, but I doubt you cannot succeed. These disciplines are useful for taking the edge off life, but to seek to evade anxiety is to eventually be run down and caught by it.

I have strapped anxiety to my back and made it into a pair of dark wings!

The world is in pain, so we are in pain. There is no hiding from that fact and no resolution within just yourself. What I am, what we all are, is an ego running round and round the grooves of a vinyl record. We want the song to play forever, but it cannot. Eventually, even the best kept record will decay, a stray hand will knock the needle, the electricity will cut out. Chaos will ensue – and from chaos we will be forced to realize again that we must make a mammoth effort to heal the world-pain.

Not that even this will succeed, for the nature of life is pain and struggle. Even with all the advance of technology and civilization, we are still in pain. As of writing this, thousand of brave and colourful activists are blocking the streets of London to bring climate catastrophe and ecological collapse to the fore. They are right in doing so. But all we can do is unmake the damage caused by our ignorance – there is no pristine nature to return to, and even with biodiversity and the climate future assured we would only be taking the edge off reality.

For the very act of trying to fortify ourselves, like the very act of trying to attain perfect health, is what makes us less secure and doomed to failure respectively. The more we want a stable groove the greater the shock when chaos strikes. For the nature of the world contains sparks of chaos, chance and misfortune! Even though I think life is worth living and things will generally be manageable and worth it, chaos will strike. If you try to negate chaos and the flowing forms of the world then you will always be anxious. The perfect-health people will someday decay and die, as will we all.

We can accept that capitalism is trashing the world and has to be stopped. But we should not imagine a utopia to follow it. This is the only way to avert disappointment.

For now, the supreme pain and anxiety inside of me is here and I will let it be. My own life could be good or ill, it would not make a difference. I am not just ‘my own life’, I am the world. The deep emotions of hurt are not random, they are the background noise of reality as a living being itself.

There is no escape. Those who seem like they have escaped it with their capitalist masks will someday be injured at work, or suffer for their happy pills, or just have a good old epiphany of the doomed nature of the isolated ego. Then it will all catch up with them and hit like a tidal wave. No one is beyond it, everyone has whiskers and deeper senses, not just the ‘enlightened’

At least when we are aware of the struggle and suffering, it can be vented off at a more manageable way.

Of course I want good feelings! Love and peace and order for all. These things are as passing as the bad things. Don’t hold on too tightly and don’t try to predict what lies ahead. We also have a spark of chaos in us as the universe does and to deny that spark is to invite great misery indeed.

I believe that the crisis we are in now is a result of civilization trying to entrench itself too deeply, conquering nature so as to conquer chaos. We will all be annihilated if we keep going this way.

 

Ramping down

Take that world of your shoulders.

The weight will slowly bend your spine and one day you will not be able to walk. I thought I was warrior enough to bear it once, but now I just write songs about those warriors. Maybe this is all I will ever be able to do again.

After experiencing the excitement of a few days on the front (even only tentatively) it all came flooding back. Frazzled circuits never fixed themselves properly, flashbacks of tents and loud noises. The effect of endless hours of people talking about all the world’s biggest problems – I may never be well enough to hear that again.

Dropping the burden, ramping down my involvement, already I feel safer and more secure.

If you were fully sensitive to the world’s pain the psychic feedback would explode the mind. No one is strong enough to take on the totality. With this as the high end of the scale and total ignorance at the other end, we find ourselves somewhere along the spectrum. Finding a safe and healthy place on that spectrum depends on each and every individual.  Some people can handle it, others can’t. Some are secure enough to go months in a vulnerable state, others do not have the support or luxury. Some have a history of trauma and a un-privileged status in society, others have solid limbic systems never frazzled by violence and privilege flows through their veins. We all have different needs and abilities.

If you look to see how long the journey is, you might never make it. But if you travel with your head down, there is a chance you can get there.

To be sensitive in this world is to suffer what it suffers. And when society has hostile elements in it, people striving to use you and trample you down, people competing with you, endless expectations of action and ‘productivity’, to take on the big problems and those smaller abuses is a double-drain of energy.

That is why my anxiety brings me to a crippling halt. Not all of us can be warriors all the time. I might never again be a front-liner, this is a reality to live with.

To confront this is itself a massive anxiety. More so if the struggle is your life. But fortunately for myself I can contribute from behind the front lines, daring the trenches of change only to raise spirits and then disappear again. I can still contribute in other, roundabout ways, and perhaps have the strength to fight the pettier demons who constantly try to harass me.

But I have trust and faith in the generation coming up and in those with greater resilience for battle and its anxieties. It is easy to let the burden go, there is a whole legion of brave activists coming forward to fight.

To be an artist and a thinker is my place in this struggle; to want to change things but only to perceive them from the clouds, or at best from the corner of my eye.

Trusting the world

I once saw the most intriguing insect crawling along the ridge of a bench. It was a creature which reached out with its head, forming an arch, then brought the rest of its body forward, lurching forward pace by pace.

It was young, tiny, new, full of vigour and curiosity for the world. I held out my bag to offer the creature a safer place to crawl upon. It rose up on its ‘haunches’, making a half-arch with its tiny body, reaching up and out to the new surface, buffeted by the wind and tugged upon by gravity. It hung there for a while, ‘sniffing’ out what must have appeared another vast plane of existence.

It would all be so far beyond its tiny comprehension, where it was, where it might be going, what I was, what my intentions were. This creature had no defences, no knowledge but its survival instincts, no obvious direction, no solidarity with its clan. All it could do was trust and drive itself forth. Reaching up, hanging there, it made some kind of ‘decision’ and latched onto the bag, bringing the rest of its body with it.

If beings of greater time-span and superior mind exist in the cosmos, I should imagine we are would appear much the same. With our tiny scope for perception we must always have to trust the world and trust ourselves.

States of Being

Premise: We all perceive the same world, yet do not come to the same conclusions.

States of being can answer the question as to why some people care about the world and others do not. The fundamental anxiety which drives us to change, the evolution through crisis, is not felt equally in all people. Not even within oneself is anxiety at a constant.

For instance, think of noise pollution. A person does not have a set limit of what they can take before anxiety kicks in. At present I am extremely sensitive to noise. A man shouting in the night will make my fight or flight systems activate. At its worst extremes, mice scratching in the skirting board would have me woken up in a cold sweat! How much sound effects me is not just a matter of how loud or piercing it is, but what my current state is; how well that state can cope with the world.

It is entirely subjective how much we can take. Certain things can be done to help deal with perceived threats – mindfulness can slow down your system and lower anxiety, as can medication or natural remedies. But what can change the fact that your state of being is just deeply sensitive? What can alter you from a state of constantly feeling hurt and triggered, reliving trauma again and again, to a more stoic state where you can just survive the world? Tomorrow it might just happen. In a few hours energy might return. We can take steps towards these things, but I believe there will always be some element of mystery to the complex equation of these states.

It seems like some people are more sensitive than others. There are some, perhaps who do not feel much anxiety, who do not seem to mind too much that our species could annihilate itself. Is it because they are cut off from their own repressed emotions, and survive through ignorant numbness? Do they simply direct their negative emotions outwards onto others and thus escape extremes of their own suffering? Is their morality and core beliefs simply far lower in ambition and thus much less caring?

At the core of our characters we all have our own life-myth or narrative. Could it be that Janet X knows things are bad at the back of her mind, but the immediate life-myth of working in the system gives her the routine-strength needed to endure? I think the answer to all the last four questions is ‘yes’.

The drug of work and ignorance keeps the state of being relatively stable, relatively enduring. It is an unsatisfying, but certain, way to live.

I think that because my routine has fallen apart there is no structure to my amorphous state, so sensitivity is increased as a result. And with increased sensitivity comes increased anxiety and increased anxiety means insomnia, vulnerability, tiredness and so forth. My state of being is partially a result of this choice to engage with the darker aspects of the world. But by fully perceiving problems in the world and in the self, the ability to challenge them or triumph against them diminishes.

Perhaps it is true that the only way we can win against the destructive giant on the horizon is to keep our head behind our shield as we approach him, to sometimes ally with his slave-legions and sometimes to fight them, to cross dangerous bridges and make dark pacts with fell powers to reach our noble ends.

I am standing atop a mountain with a clear view out to the monster which destroys all that is good. I feel my feet on the stone and know of the deep roots of that mountain, all the pain and sadness that is within it, and I give those feelings expression. It is a dual-doom. No wonder my state of being is so shaken and the task seems so monumental.

But sometimes, just sometimes, I feel we need to put our head above the clouds and our feet need to become roots which delve into the earth. If we had never dared this, how would we know there is a problem to deal with in the first place? This vulnerable, sensitive state of being is the reason why I am able to know what is wrong in the first place; to truly care for myself and others. It costs the soul much energy to go to that dark place, but it also frees up trapped energy.

This anxiety is an adaptive tool of evolution, it alone is what will pull us through. Better to suffer it with the promise of transformation than to live in ignorance and folly.

The dark guide I call anxiety

Believe me anxiety, I know things are fucked up!

I don’t need you flaring up and giving me nights punctuated by restless hours, shakes and thrashing. You will anyway, its your function to always be on, but sometimes it is hammering home a point already made.

Never mind.

Anxiety will drive me forward and forward. Have you ever thought what it would mean to turn off anxiety? For me it would be to die.

My anxiety is triggered by every act of disrespect I feel. To turn it off is to stop desiring respect for myself. My anxiety is aware, at background level, that I do not own a safe place of my own; that there isn’t really one out there in the capitalist world. To turn that anxiety off would be to also turn off the values that desire safety and dignity.

Anxiety can make you appear a wreck – colour drained from the face, black-rimed weary eyes signalling nights of turmoil. But without anxiety, herald of deep dignity, we are dead anyway. I do not speak of the wrong kind of anxiety – neurotic desire for perfection, misunderstanding of human nature, denial of entropy in our bodies. I speak here of anxiety the dark guide, the eternal mentor that pushes us into better places and cracks the whip when we ‘underachieve’; the thing that makes us struggle endlessly even if it hurts us so, the thing that detects the foe in the powers that wish to drain us, the thing that never lets complacency rear its pink snout without a fight! Complacency is death!

I have spent two years doing – by most people’s standards – very little indeed. I can easily forgive myself these necessary weaknesses, feel no guilt for being inactive in the leviathan-machine. A lot of that was necessary healing time, overcoming panic disorders, a lot of working-shit-out time, a lot of incredibly fruitful endeavour. Now it is like lying in bed after the worst of the illness has passed. If I stayed here good things will still sometimes happen, life would have rays of authenticity and excitement, but less often than I would desire. This isn’t purpose, these attachments aren’t anything but insecure. Caution is wise, over caution is not.

I know that I am bending over backwards to accommodate a partially-inauthentic life. Meditation, anxiolytic oils and valerian tincture for sleep – this is like suppressing the real drive to evolve to the next stage. The things we use to cope in the wrong circumstances can keep us in the wrong circumstances if we do not see them for what they are. In the long-term, we are better off falling and trusting the world to catch us. Then we can see what we are truly made of.

For how much energy we have to cope in the world depends on what we wish to achieve. If you hide in a box room with your gran, your energy will be lessened by your situation. If you stay in the placid lake forever, your body will never need to fill you with energy, your heroism and courage will never grow. Malicious forces will grow everywhere else and eventually come for you. Safety is not the safe option – it is a slow death.

This is why therapy also had to cease. It was like an addiction, a place to be psychically cuddled by a benevolent god. It made me much more powerful, digging up vulnerabilities and learning who I was at the deepest level. But therapy was keeping me here, tied to a plane of existence I know can no longer sustain itself or me. Now I am without it I am tested, and it is always there to return to if the need calls it.

The time is coming when I must stop trying to avoid anxiety and let it do its thing. To get me into the next phase. It succeeded last time, in a jagged and messy way, a terrifying way for someone who did not know themselves. This time I predict a much smoother and mutual process. It won’t be taking me to some magic, safe-place.

I do not want to retreat the peaceful hills or some far-flung shire and live out days in tranquillity. It is not only a denial of instincts – the cut and thrust of life, competition and challenge, striving and defiance. There is simply no real safety there, even if it was an option. Such a life of retreat is a negation of our responsibility to the world and other tribes of humanity. It is like retreating to the centre of an ever-shrinking island; when it comes to your time to be swallowed by the waves there will be no one left to save you but individualistic, New Age hermits whose spiritual bypassing let the merchants of disaster destroy civilization. They will keep retreating until there is nothing left to retreat into, a final act of pay-what-you-can yoga on the final mountain of submerged earth before oblivion finds them!

No – I know security comes by stepping into the heart of power, the eye of the storm, drawing the spiritual sword on the front lines. When you know you are strong enough and ready, taking action. Going forward, daring to step into the shadow of a giant and challenging him, this is how you befriend your anxiety and ensure the safety of yourself and your tribe. This means a life of near-constant struggle, conflict, tension, wounding. This means that peace is a chapter which will always be followed by some kind of conflict. Let it be – I know that I could not have it any other way and would rather die than be domesticated and watch the world and its tribes I admire be slowly poisoned to death, scorched or drowned.

We think and feel so our energy is tried, and we can feel weak. But it is precisely because we think and feel that we have something to fight for, and our morale cannot be broken for long. We are more powerful than we think, even with this anxiety, or rather, precisely because of it. It is the herald of our dignity and everything we want to see in the world.

When we eventually win the fight to evolve from our disastrous capitalist path, anxiety will have done much to save us. But it will not turn off; we will find no permanent rest. New challenges we cannot see from our current perspective will emerge, and anxiety again shall be at our side to protect us.