Listen to that deepest impulse

I don’t know how long this will go on for. I don’t know if it will ever be healed or go away, if it will let me live as other people do. I cannot give any guarantees to myself, or to anyone.

No amount of ‘sleep hygiene’ can guarantee a dreamful night. Positive thinking and mindfulness is not going to achieve much more than temporarily helping to cope – at worst it divorces you from your own being. All the new found things, breakthroughs in ‘gut health’, yoga and all that, is not the ticket.

All you can do for sure is listen to that deep impulse, let it manifest in you. It is you, you are not separate from it. Being aware of it will not fulfil it, there is no ‘pure consciousness’ which can perceive back upon itself. When a child cries do you tell them to be ‘aware’ of the reason why they are crying and expect them to be ok with that? I should hope not! You would listen to why they are crying and try to deal with the cause, to soothe their fears if they are unfounded and provide their needs if they are unfulfilled.

Likewise we cannot turn off or turn away from the manifestation of our deep impulses, our deepest pain. For me it manifests as insomnia and discomforting states. They can wipe me out, destroying a routine, disabling me.

But I have stopped using Valium to guarantee me a dreamless night’s rest. If I cannot make it to something the next day, unless it is extremely important, I have to accept I cannot make it. I will listen to the body-wisdom, even in its most debilitating states. This is the only long-term way to move forward.

Actually listening, playing out subconscious movements in the dark, holding the deep wounds and acknowledging them tends to work for me. It lets me rest, it fades into the background. It might never go away, but the more I can deal with it and accept it, the more confident I become that I will never again fall into a total abyss.

Adapting to cope or thrive in this society is not a way to be healthy and true – I have seen how brutalizing it is to those around me. It is an illusion and a sad one. We must fight to transform the world we live in, allow people to live out their pain and be dormant whenever they need to be. Wounded adults will never bring about a peaceful, enlightened society. Ignorant, power-hungry fools know not even themselves – how can they know anything of the world around them.

What would it mean to transcend your own self and be able to function despite the screams of your soul? It would be to live inauthentically, something capitalism demands of us. The destructiveness of our society results from such detachment. It is all around us, and it is all because we are afraid of nature in its truest and nearest manifestation: in ourselves.

When you next lay awake at 3am, unable to sleep, tossing and turning, rather than try to wipe yourself out with pills ask: what is this deepest impulse trying to tell me? Why is my body on strike, what is trying to come to the surface…

 

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Why?

Why were my childhood years destroyed by two abusive guardians?

Why do I have to deal with regular self-esteem collapse?

Why do I have to shut down and monitor suicidal thoughts all the time?

Why do I have to endure a life void of love or romance?

Why is who I happen to be seen as less valuable than others by a racist ideology? 

Why does morality protect the people who are guilty, but not the innocent?

Why do I have to relive traumatic episodes?

Why do I have to live with insomnia and chronic lack of energy?

Why do I have to cope with alienation from society?

Why do I have to live with the rejection that follows all of this?

Clearly the world is not balanced, and certainly not fair. There are some people for whom none of the above questions are ever asked. And some even more unfortunate people for whom life is worse.

There must be some kind of regulatory principle to account for this, to balance people’s stories. We cannot just leave society laissez faire and expect any kind of meritocracy to be established.  Leaving things be means perpetuating an ever worsening inequality of opportunity.

Some people start with an immense view of the world from the top of a hill, others start in a gutter filled with immense hurdles. Whether people succeed or fuck up is ultimately up to them, but how much harder is is to be something if you are emotionally crippled, living in constant poverty and fear of destitution, drained and trapped in your own body by extreme and disturbing emotion.

I do not want all of the shit that happened to me to stop me from reaching a place of thriving. I want support to flourish in spite of it. Society either needs to give more support and balance the books, or something will snap in all the people like me, and the outcome will force the issue.

The price of lying to yourself

The price of lying to yourself is the seemingly arcane depression and insomnia. Red marks on the body, back pain, skin flaking off your hands. Anxiety and trembling, nightmares and endless dread.

The body is communicating to you, because the body remembers every pain and every injustice. It is screaming to be heard, to be acknowledged.

So many of us are writhing and suffering for nothing, serving a morality which does not serve us. Why are you protecting the honour of the honourless?

Seemingly innocent things like forgiveness, understanding and compassion for others, come right back round into uncontrollable hatred and spite, cruelty for others.

Why?

It is very simple and very psycho-logical. When you have to forgive the unrepentant, when you have to have compassion for those who treated you like an object, when you have to show trust to those who broke all trust and harmed you when you were helpless, your body will continue screaming in helplessness, and horrible emotions will continue manifesting (however much “Christian love” you think you have).

So long as traditional morality is obeyed, the emotions which run deep beneath the conscious mind will not be brought to the surface and experienced as feelings.

When morality tells us to forgive and forget, rather than to truly love ourselves by acknowledging our bodily wisdom and speaking the truth of what happened, we consign ourselves to suffering – not to mention those who face our “random, unexplainable wrath”. Anger which cannot be directed to the source will be misdirected upon others. The most hate-filled, spiteful and bitter of all will be those who think themselves ‘forgiving and compassionate souls’. It is impossible to be such when you hate those who hurt you, so deeply and absolutely.

It really is not that hard to grasp, and it really is not that arcane. Once you pull your head from morality’s arse that is.

One hurt and humiliated should seek reparation and acknowledgement for that pain. They should find a trusted person to help them rediscover their pain, so that it ceases to control their consciousness. They should listen to their bodies, not to the morality which goes completely against their own interests. They should seek vindication, cutting off whoever they need to from their lives if need be, and start to look for those who truly love and care for them.

Namely, those who do not expect them to lie to protect an abusive partner, or a father who was an absolute prick, or what have you.

This is the way to resolve the pains stored in the body, and to be free from depression caused by feelings of helplessness. Even more so, this is the way to prevent the demons inside turning you into one of them, repeating the cycle, inflicting pain and harm from the infinite source of inferiority and helplessness deep inside.

Fuck your compassion for them, what about compassion for yourself first? 

The false temple of ten thousand misguided years needs to be brought down to the ground, stone by stone. It is time to stop worshipping an illusory Father. A new monument needs to be raised to truth – an open palm facing up toward the sky.

There is nothing good in lying to ourselves, and nothing good in respecting or protecting those who do not deserve it. I speak of course of the irredeemable – abusive partners, bosses, parents, family.

I do not trust those who have suffered and yet speak of forgiveness and compassion for the worst of humanity. I trust people who first serve their own interests through honesty, who free themselves from dependence upon abusers (the wellspring of hatred and vileness), to stand in the true light of their own self interest.

Only such a soul as that can be free from the price their body inflicts on them, and thus able to choose to be truly loving and forgiving, to those who deserve it.

Drained

Once there was a crofter who rode a cart to the nearby village. Every morning he would pass a sage – a lazy, unworldly man the like of which he thought little. Morning after morning the creaking cart and its load would go pass, and nary a word they would exchange.

Then one day the crofter started to struggle to sleep every night. The tiniest of irritations would keep him awake; the light of the moon, a creaking barn door, the bleak howls of fox, footsteps outside. No matter how long he lay in bed he slept little, and in a few months, his entire body started to feel the strain. Some days were so tiring he could hardly rise out of bed, but lay drenched in sweat and frustration.

The sage was surprised to see the crofter again, after a week in his absence. Feeling like he had nothing to lose, the crofter spoke asking: ‘Sage, I am troubled. Nights I cannot sleep, and days I am barely awake. I do not understand.’

The Sage rubbed his chin and gestured to a pouch at his belt. ‘There are herbs and powders for that. Have you tried them?’

‘Yes, all of them.’ replied the Crofter. ‘They help, a little, but I have seen what happens to the yeoman when they start living on the stuff. It is a recipe for disaster. And those who turn to wizardry are even more hopeless. Their life-span rapidly declines, and they trade a few years on top for bleak years without souls.’

‘Ah, then you do have some understanding.’

‘Perhaps. But that will not help me sleep at night.’

‘Then tell me’ said the Sage, getting into his element. ‘Why can you not sleep?’

‘I am anxious and miserable.’ replied the Crofter. ‘There, I admit it!’

‘And why are you anxious?’

‘My life has been a hard one, and my soul much tormented. It is how I have come out.’

‘And the misery?’

‘I cannot say. I just, am.’

‘Oh come now’ laughed the sage. ‘No one is miserable without good reason! Have a think.’

‘I suppose I am miserable because…it feels like we are losing.’

‘Who is losing what?’

‘The good people of the world are losing, to the bad people.’

‘Ah that! Yes, it does seem to be the way of things at this time. But why does that make you miserable?’

‘I believe that this does not have to be the case, and all around me are miserable people who say otherwise. So I ride this cart everyday, to silence the voice the miserable people have placed there.’

‘You believe it does not have to be the case. Then your misery springs from the very core of your heart, that what you believe in and desire is not being achieved.’

‘I guess it seems a lot clearer now.’

‘Would you rather you did not feel sadness? Would you rather your soul was silent and let the world slide by as it does, deeper and deeper into degeneracy?’

‘Come to think of it, no I would not.’

‘So your misery which leads to agitation and thus tiredness, is it something you can get rid of without fundamentally changing the core of your being?’

‘No?’

‘Well, yes. A little, try some of these herbs and powders.’

‘But-‘

‘The world will not change overnight, and you still have to live in it. But remember ye this – the more it is in your head that your misery, and all its concurrent malaises, are caused by your very own inner-dreams for betterment; the more you realize that your desires for better are being compared to the world and perpetually let down, the less that misery is your enemy, and the more it is a reason to strive to change things and avoid complacency. And rather than wallow in it, as I have never seen you do, you will just have to find a way to express what you truly desire to see in the world, and make it so, as much as it can be so.’

‘Truly sage, I thought you lazy as an old ox! But you speak much wisdom.’

‘I am lazy as many old oxen, stout yeoman. But I do not begrudge myself for it – I would sooner be so than serve stagnant, degenerate lords.’

‘And yet you have no misery to you?’

‘Not now, no. But often. Even when I do, I do not let it destroy my health. I am a sage after all!’

And the crofter went along his way, drained and tired still, but a little bit more hopeful that world could be turned from evil. But it was a long way uphill, and this was little solace in the midst of Winter.

Deprivation

Anxiety prevents good sleep cycle or routine.

Tiredness from the body as a result of sleep deprivation.

Tiredness triggers anxiety. Anxiety keeps body alert for threat.

There is no threat, body realizes this and lowers anxiety.

Body starts to feel tired again when it feels safer.

Tiredness triggers anxiety. Anxiety prevents body from resting.

We see from this basic formulation how sleep problems are a symptom. Trying to solve the sleep problems with lavender drops or any other practices can only reduce the impact of them. It is so naïve, looking at all the pills and products out there, thinking some wonder self-therapy will do it.

The man at the shop today looked very tired too. But he was in a context which required him to be active, and motivated him to do so. I have no context at the moment, weeks float past, surprisingly quickly, almost completely aimless. They are not necessarily meaningless, but are without structure or routine. I have no wider context in which to exist, no great narrative arc to pursue. This I suppose is the cause of depression – inactivity.

Depression and anxiety are closely linked. It is hard to escape this cycle because anxiety does not want me to escape this cycle. It longs for familiar demons. But this isn’t some mastermind in control of my subconscious. It is a poor long-term planner, and it doesn’t realize this fundamental truth.

If you do not live, you die. If you do not strive, you fail. Not living is not safety from death, it is death. And not striving does not keep you safe from failure, it is failing.

The neurotic inactivity and circularity of anxiety is not some zen state of enlightenment, where you can do without effort and just be. It is a forced state, ultimately destructive, hiding from invisible predators. Insomnia is its inheritance, and that means sleep deprivation. This is at least ultimately proof that something has to change and that anxiety has to go.

Have to keep on remembering – its Winter. Its cold and its dark and all the plants and trees are sleeping or dying.  I know all about the cycles of nature, and the inevitability of suffering was taught to me from a young age by destructive relationships with authority. But knowing this does not make things any easier.

Here we are now all these years later and still needlessly suffering; still not in a free place. And the sad thing is so many people are not in a good place, and cannot find a permanent good place in the deranged social order. So why are so many suffering here, tossing and turning through frustrating nights and losing the chance to dream.

Anxiety is behind the sleeplessness but what is behind the anxiety?

Deterioration / Recurrence

As of yesterday, my mental health started to rapidly deteriorate. I had sensed it slowly coming in on me, but never thought I could be taken back to that state.

Yesterday, it was precisely one year since this crisis began – when I thought my brain injured, close to possible death, on a traumatic journey to the hospital. I had been dreading this time quite a bit.

But correlation does not imply causation. It could be some kind of PTSD symptom, or it could be closer to a coincidence. The weather has been consistently bad, things to do have dried up a bit, and the person  I am currently living with (not out of choice) has spent the last week or so being extremely critical and occasionally demeaning, herself clearly in the throes of depression and misery.

Whatever the reason – and I strongly think it is more a recurrence of old anxiety – I could barely sleep last night and am in no fit state even to volunteer at a community garden. Its back to being quite debilitated by anxiety – a tremulous state that is also strangely gratifying and earthly. My body is taking over again, and it is pulling me away from the mind.

I used to fear a  recurrence of agoraphobia and severe panic, something I found very crippling and humiliating last year. But its impossible to reach those depths again. This time I know I will get out of it, and that by exposing myself I can heal the worst of it quicker. Still, these days are deeply uncomfortable and harmful to my wellbeing. Like anyone I think I would rather be able to turn feelings off for a bit, or take a break from it all.

There are a few silver linings. My resilience is much higher. I can’t turn off the feelings of absolute shittiness, but I am better equipped to endure them. I also know I have no medical emergency, this is a disorder of the mind. I know what anxiety is, and some strategies to tone it down. Mantras and little phrases have been helpful (anxiety is adaptive, exposure is excellent, and so on). In short, I at least know the limits of how bad it can get now that I am more confident and trained. I have also discovered my limits quite well – such as how much I can do after a night of insomnia, and fear the outcomes of such things less (I can at least write a decent blog post!)

Recurrence means I was right to hold on to my medication! I thought getting off the meds was the sign of some linear progression, but obviously not. Two tabs of Valium go back into my pocket and here we go again.

Perhaps this is a sign of the life which awaits me. Periodic debilitating anxiety, triggers and high stress levels. Perhaps this marks a new phase which will force me to adapt or suffer.

But in spite of all the shit, I am making headway with psychotherapy. So much is unconscious, hence why it seems so hard to explain why we feel a certain way at a certain time, why things trigger us, and so forth. I find it hard to constantly stay at this level of depth – no wonder people like their distractions and routines! But going deep is something I must do, for I am a delver and this is how I work my way out of tunnels.

Ultimately it is better to be thoughtful and sensitive, suffering your extra share of the world’s woes then to be an absolute, out and out drone. Better to be yourself than to conform to the destructive paradigm of the age, and better to be moral and live for your community than be a self-centred prick.

I don’t have many regrets – in a way I have brought myself here. What I must not do is get complacent again. Things had to change, which is why my inner-child is screaming and not letting me sleep it all off. Until I find the keys to the subconscious mind, it is limbo and occasional hell.

A delver, I have no choice but to dive in…

 

CBT Part III: Sleep Deprivation

This article has been the hardest of all to write. Not because the subject matter is particularly daunting, deep or traumatic. But because it is the first time I have had to overcome fatigue and bodily wariness in a long, long time. Normally I am straight on a computer after a CBT session, full of energy and a desire to share with the world the wonders of cognitive behavioural stuff! Today, I had to overcome a big barrier of fatigue just to be here writing this, and I can’t promise anything special.

My recent episode of sleep deprivations seems to come from two places. Firstly, A gradual build up of anxieties, natural to living in a busy, expensive, polluted city. Secondly a loud idiot next door who shouts and wails at random intervals into the early hours. And I guess there is ultimately my own anxious personality and thinking patterns which can turn problems into serious problems. This I discovered from today’s CBT.

Lets start with the shouting. At random intervals in the night, a man will shout. It won’t be massively loud, but loud enough to jar you, or awaken you. For me it feels like his voice has entered by body, my being is filled with his sound. It is the exact same wail every time, a supposedly songful sound, but in truth, a horrible, mechanical, repetitive, intrusive load of shite. I came to associate any noise he made with the possibility of a wail or shout, and this puts me into a downward spiral of hyper-vigilance, which prevents me from having decent rest and recovering.

I didn’t realize how much this was effecting me. On the first day it was a nuisance. On the second day it hampered my ability to fall asleep. On the third I bashed on the wall at midnight and came close to telling him to shut the fuck up. On the fourth there was no shouting, but my system was in constant vigiliance, and wouldn’t let me fall asleep easily. This causes feelings of frustration, which develop into rage, something highly unconducive to falling asleep. I was, and still am, catastrophizing about the effects of sleeplessness.

Today in therapy we discussed this and revealed I do have unrealistic expectations and standards. I always feel the need to be active, alert and at around 80-90% capacity. I know we can never be at 100%, but I am very wary of being weak and vulnerable, especially having lived in countless environments where appearing unaware can be dangerous. It might seem obvious that this is a vicious cycle – the more you want to make yourself capable, the more you fear incapability, the more prone you are to anxiety and thus incapability. My therapist was very good in challenging this through questioning, making me run through the evidence and realize the vicious cycle. (But I don’t think it is entirely bad to have such high standards. Human beings are hunters by evolution, it makes sense that we will want to be capable of reacting to threat or opportunity at every possible occasion.)

But with me there is an additional problem, and the heart of the problem. The formation of patterns. I have used patterns to some good effect, building up positive days and exploits to get me out of panic disorder. The downside is, one or two shit days and I fear a bad pattern forming. This rigid thinking really is a double-edged sword, and never far from a downward spiral. The challenge is to be more flexible, to accept more sad days as inevitable. This is not easy to do.

My mind is prone to catastrophizing and thinking the worst. This is why the nuisance of an inconsiderate idiot’s shouting can become something frightening and world-shaking. If I stop fearing the predicted outcome of losing sleep, my body should become less hyper-vigilant toward such disturbances. I don’t feel our session quite went into enough detail. How could it? One hour cannot cover a lifetime of being this way. But it has been very helpful, in hindsight. I am less afraid of sleep deprivation, and less prone to it.

There was also the factor of a build up of anxieties. We tend not to realize sometimes how anxiety gets us. It is like a shadowy assassin, slowly poisoning you drop by drop. For the considerate, this causes internal strife and restlessness. For the inconsiderate, this inspires the harming of others to regain a sense of control. I am sadly in the former category of person, and so the day-to-day banalities of life occasionally build up and make it difficult to function, even at 50% or so.

But its not only the cost of living and banal problems like that. The backdrop of an idiot sitting on America’s nuclear arsenal, catastrophic climate change threatening to wipe out everything that breathes, the dissolution of communities and the watered-down experience of Facebook and the like to replace it, new technologies falling into the hands of powerful capitalists; among a host of world events and tragedies, make anxiety quite a normal and relatively sensible state to be in. How we react to that anxiety is another matter entirely – with fear and paranoia, or the will to change things and become more harmonious. Or like myself, a mixture of the two. Nevertheless, I entirely understand why it is there.

These worries are definitely harming natural, harmonious functioning. Not only in me, but in so many citizens of the ‘so-called’ first world. This includes that most natural and essential, but mysterious, phenomena that is sleep. Sadly, I can’t think of a way around this off the top of my head. Maybe to paraphrase Alain De Botton and to see the odd night of insomnia as a creative gift to be cherished. And to realize that normality isn’t quite so normal, and lots of people have trouble sleeping. This doesn’t give me much solace. If I could sleep eight hours a night without disturbance for the rest of my life, I would.

Learning what I have about my own need for patterns and rigid routines, challenging negative thoughts by seeking evidence, practicing breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation, I should have a decent night’s kip tonight, and be back up to a decent level of running, without fatigue tomorrow. I at least can write a half-way decent article three days into moderate sleep deprivation! I venture to say then that it isn’t quite as bad as anxiety has made it out to be, (even though it is far from ideal). As with all things in life, the breaking of the pattern has made me realize the pattern. Perhaps this is the key to changing it, and perhaps something better will actually emerge from it. I don’t know, lets see.