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.

 

 

 

 

CBT Part II – Testing a theory

I have just come back from another great session, which ended in a real climax of excitement! Its all happening in the NHS mental health support team!

We covered some exposure exercises, to simulate the feelings associated with a panic attack. It is important to familiarize yourself with these sensations, so as not to fear them. Once in an anxious situation, anxiety tends to peak and then starts to drop. So-called coping strategies prevent the natural decline of anxiety, and prevent the subconscious from ever properly learning that a dreaded situation (such as getting on a bus!), is actually not all that dangerous after all, and there is nothing to be anxious about.

By trying to avoid bodily sensations associated with anxiety, we lend them a power they do not deserve. I call this ‘mythologizing anxious sensations’, something which feeds into the cycle of avoidance and furthers fear. Eventually anxiety becomes a general dread which you will dedicate the whole of your life to avoiding! The short-term cure, avoidance, is worse than the disease. And those who say that time heals all ills have obviously never recovered from a panic disorder before! Time will not heal this.
I must now expose myself to these situations and bodily sensations. This will let the natural course of things play itself out, and the subconscious can learn once and for all that there is nothing to fear. Likewise, I will stop fearing the sensations in my own body, which I have already done much to achieve.

This is all made much easier by going into what I am really anxious about, which my therapist helped me with by proposing a theory. Before we get to the theory, we need to examine my true fears.

Today I boiled down my fears of a panic attack to two things: i) fear of embarassment, not being helped and public humiliation. ii) Fear of bodily weakness after a panic attack, losing my independence, being dependent without a trustful support network.
So we proposed two theories. Lets start with Theory A. This states that if I have a panic attack people will laugh, think I’m weak, and might film it on their phones. The evidence from this comes from seeing lots of humiliating incidents at school and the general shittiness of certain human beings. If theory A is true, then a panic attack would be rather devastating, and the best thing to do is to avoid panic attacks at all costs and restrict my freedom. On recollection, I believe this theory to be about 20% true. In other words, its a load of anxiety-induced shite.

So lets move onto the (infinitely more plausible) Theory B! This states the problem is worry that other people will judge me, be humiliating and unhelpful. But the evidence is against it: I would definitely help others if they needed it. Some people will always want to be helpful, even heroic in such situations. And some people have similar problems with anxiety and depression, so can actually be understanding. If Theory B is true, I need to try to think more realistically and positively about things, and dispel the power of the panic attack. This is as far as I got in working things out. My therapist took the next step.
She gave me an analogy which really helped explain what we had to do to truly see the theory through. Imagine an apprentice on his first day at a building site. The workers on the site put up a wall and tell him to hold it up, or else it will fall down! He spends the whole day standing there, holding up this wall, getting tired and uncomfortable. As night falls, his bosses tell him he has to stay there all night. Well, this just won’t do. So what does the apprentice do, now that he is in doubt about the worth of holding up the wall? He can gradually release his hold on the wall, he can release his support and slowly step away. But will this do? What if there is a gust of wind or something? To truly see if the wall is sturdy, he will have to give it a darn good push!

Ultimately, a theory needs to be tested. ‘If panic attack then people will be helpful, and there will be no harm’ is the crux of the more plausible theory. So lets just say that we might end up doing some field research soon!
I am most excited about the opportunity.
p.s. Get CBT if you can, its great. Just be prepared to look deep inside yourself and realize what needs to change inside you.

 

Into the mind of an abuser

Much anxiety in the world of human beings is caused by abusive people. Rather than reacting to their ways, and affirming their power, I want to try and understand their motives. Whilst we have an abuser in our heads, and alter our ways around them, they have some power. Through understanding, we can develop the means to exorcize their influence, and restore our sovereignty over ourselves.

Abuse is automatic

Abuse is on auto. An abuser does not consciously pull up the desire to undermine or criticise someone. Their disrespect for others and entitlement to power runs much deeper than that. You can see this in the automatic reactions an abuser will have when challenged. They probably don’t know why they are doing it either. There is no solace in that.

Abusive attitudes can be further entrenched by society’s values. An abusive father, for instance, has the extra protection of familial ideology (the third greatest lie ever told), the sacred bond of a father and his children (the second greatest lie ever told) and the dominance of men over all others (the first greatest lie ever told).

The abusers goal is always to subdue another, to take control of their will. Given the chance,  they would completely hollow out those they abuse, utterly dominate their will in the manner of a dictator. This won’t be with open violence and brutality, endless put downs and hatred. Such extreme tactics do not work, they either inspire rebellion or push those they abuse away. An abuser will use a mixture of criticism, put down, insult and disrespect with moments of love and tenderness, kindness and a respect for the others. They are still human after all (even if the most reprehensible and pitiful of our species).

Abusers cannot truly love anyone. Firstly, their ego places them above others, so no reciprocal relationship or mutual bond can exist. Secondly, their love is always conditional. Worse, it can be an excuse to justify abuse. Love for an abuser can be a bargaining chip, traded in for the opportunity to cause harm. Love can also be an absolver of their guilt: there was a kid at school whose dad used to beat him up and then buy him a bag of sweets the next day. True love knows no conditions. Nor is true love a means to an end.

In his walnut-sized brain, the abuser knows that he knows best. Often they will transgress their own moral compasses, but it is for some imagined greater good. ‘Sometimes people just don’t know what is good for themselves.’ What they need in life, is an abusive, disrespectful person to help mentor them through the winding pathways of life! You could call this a hero-complex, the wish to do ‘good’ for others around them all life. Invariably, the ‘good’ an abusive person can do is never a good at all. Anything that reduces the liberty and sovereignty of a sane, moral human being is an evil.

You will often hear people leap to the defence of an abusive person. He is, after all, a brother, a friend, a comrade, a colleague. This leaping to the defence skews the attention away from the person being abused. They could even be made to feel guilty for bringing such things up, or blamed for being ‘too weak’ to resist the complex web of abuse and helplessness that has ensnared them. Such is the broad arsenal of an abuser – they know how to get the feedback they need to maintain their position. They are, outwardly, the nicest people you will ever meet. Such recognition feeds the angel / devil dialogue in the abuser’s mind, that he is a good person really, this is just a bump in the road.

Rather than, as is actually the case, an absolute prick who needs to change or fuck off.

 

Into the mind of an abuser

To escape the mind of an abuser

Through the hole

In the back of his thick skull

 

 

 

The price of being sensate

So the price of being sensate to the world, and expecting to be treated with love and respect, is often to absorb a lot of pain and be easily hurt by others. The higher your entitlement to basic dignity and respect, the more easily it can be tarnished. 
 
Not that anything can change in me at least, but it is a heavy price, which needs a lot of consolation and connection to maintain. It is a heavy price I must constantly re-evaluate every time pain is absorbed into my very being.
 
Where are these safe havens we can go to, where we can be ourselves in all of our vulnerability and as our true selves? Where are these doorways out of the capitalist world, where you need only wear a mask if you choose to?
 
Isn’t it time to melt the charade of individualist non-life and form one, great community?
 

They hurt people

It is impossible to escape the news, as much as I find it necessary in my current condition. It feeds anxiety, sensationalistic violence and ‘unprecedented’ tragedy, every day.

The news is a narrative, and a sorrowful one. The mind, wishing to predict the future, looks to the past, and projects it outwards. We watch the news, then, to be safe, to gather memories from society’s great ocean.

As with most anxious thoughts and dispositions, there is exaggeration and skewed perception. The news, like an anxious mind, focusses on danger, terror and harm.

But the news only tells of ‘cinematic’ harm, massive harm, sellable harm. The news about the millions of people, elderly, with disabilities, poverty-stricken, living in absolute psychic squalor is few and far between. These drawn out sufferings, if added together in some utilitarian calculus, would far outweigh the pain of war and terror.

This is in the billions: the exploited and the starved. The objectified and the enslaved. Billions, everywhere. Not only overseas, in distant lands and different narratives, but here. Your own elected officials will harm people in your own life time in your own country. This is real and it is happening.

Slaves all to ‘progress’, more aptly described as fear of stillness and re-evaluation. The juggernaught carries on, humanity is swept away. Chugging oil in its engine, it breathes out thick clouds of noxious smoke.

Fortunately, it will slow and eventually grind to a halt. There is much cause for optimism as humanity evolves, and I have no doubt we can grow from our pain, if we finally learn from it.

The antidote to anxiety does not lie in the cause of anxiety. One that takes cannot give, one that silences cannot implore, one that demeans cannot exalt. We must look beyond the societies around us for answers. We must plumb the depths of our histories, reaching back to stone circles and we must dream to the future where things improve and technology is used for the common good. We must dare to imagine something beyond capitalism, or amoral systems which can never provide for the most important thing of all. Human, plant and animal wellbeing, safety, encouragement and happiness.

They harm people every day, but you never hear about it in the news. Well, you can hear about it here. Now that we have these shared nodes of consciousness, let us expand until we reach critical mass. Let us undo these shackles of thought and throw off the heavy weights of despondency. Evolution is unstoppable, be part of it, and make sure you are evolving mankind in the right way.

It is possible. It is only the part of the mind that builds predictions based on anxiety that says it is not. That is a worm of the mind, planted by those who harm people.

Pain and self-growth

At first I was afraid of the pain. It makes sense. Caution is wise when something new is upon you. And patience too. To be unsure, to wait it out, to dip a toe in the black pool and have a safe space to recoil. All of these are wise decisions.

Yet the day will come when the passage of time has done all of the healing it can. Time alone does not heal all wounds, and anyone who tells you it does is a fool. Once you have something of a stable foundation again, the days and days waiting for inner-pain to go away become wasted opportunities to get back onto your feet. You cannot know when you are ready to go back out (though your body will give you indicators, or guesses). So you will just have to try it for yourself, to trust your defences and trust that you can take what comes and have the self-love and inner-strength to make it. Do not go it if you are not ready, but do not stagnate it you are.

Wait and you will wait forever.

The world is full of suffering. There is no denying it, and anyone sensitive to it will feel it. Pain is unavoidable and inevitable. Thus, one way or another, the time will come when you will fall into a spiral of pain which dominates your consciousness. It is not a ‘mental’ thing – it will permeate all aspects of your body and mind. It will come when it comes, and you will not be able to just will it away.

I would rather face those days of reckoning as one who is trained to face my fears, then one who hides behind shields of repression, or naive hope in the passing of days. And so I did.

When the pain came and took over my body I could not turn it away, and why should it leave on my account? Does it not have an equal right to express itself through the human corpus? Is it not also a part of me? When the pain came and took over my body I stopped resisting it and accepted its presence. I went deeper into it, explored it, and this hurried its course toward resolution.

The black pool is there, waiting for you. Ignore it and you will see it in dark dreams. Dive into it and you will come to know it wholly.

It will return again, the pain is recurring. There is no end point of healing and no end point of anything. But when the inevitable returns again, you can become more and more adept at dealing with it. I have no ultimate choice in what I feel and when I feel – I do not think anyone has that much freedom. But when the storm comes I will ride through to its eye, through to the other side.

Face things, do not let them linger. Confront and challenge things; at your own pace, but swiftly enough to not lose your social life, hope and ambition to them. Human beings evolved on the plains to hunt in packs. They did not evolve in arm chairs and in front of laptop screens to wait and rot.

You were born to hunt, to be an element in nature, so go and hunt. Only, this hunt is not for some animal, it is a quest into yourself for truth, for what truly happened, and the path to changing yourself. I have changed so much since the pain came and I learnt to hunt so much for the better.

When something inside screams, listen. The longer you leave it, the worse your demons will grow…

Fractals

i) The closer you get to the dragon’s lair, the easier your quest becomes? Oh no, no, no, no. The nearer you get, the harder each step.

And the more you understand of the world, the more sensitiely you grasp the magic linking all things together, the stronger you get? Oh no, no, no, no. The more sensitive you are, the more risk you stand of being hurt.

ii) There is a consolation. Things act in fractal systems; psyches, families, societies. Change one element and the others have to change, forced to evolve. You do not need to critique everything, overcome everything, fight everything, re-build everything.

Start within, work your way without. Watch the house of cards fall, and get ready for ruin and rebirth.

iii) The hour draws near. You do not know what you will do when you get there, only that you will do something. And you have the strength to triumph (you know this somewhere deep inside, beyond self-knowledge). You are not some lacklustre rebel. You are a truthseeker, with the mandate of a fairer world and superior future (the imperfect heavens).

Game-ender, change-bringer, king-slayer.

Your castles are made of air, your sword and shield are thoughts, your people are phantoms, all you have is your

WILL

and your mind. These things , they can overturn the order of a psyche, of a family, of a society, of a world, with a whisper.

With no-where to retreat, you must push on.

iv) Contained within one flake of snow are tiny versions of the same flake, repeated over and over and over as the perceiver is drawn deeper and deeper into its infinity.

 

Human Moral Depravity

What leads people to moral depravity? For everywhere, in every age of mankind’s history, depraved people have hurt those in their care.

Seed ————————————-> Entitlement —————————————> Action

A seed is planted       A dictator rises to power, establishing the right to depravity

To perceive depravity is possible from without. But is it easy for the depraved to see the export of their actions?

Group ———> Not-group

Perceiving one as unlike oneself is a core root of depravity. Anything goes with the ‘non-people’.The best of mankind is in the tribe, but so is the worst. Collective depravity is ghastly. Is it the result of a depraved few leading others to war for their own warped sense of power?

It is tempting to turn this on its head, and de-humanize the de-humanizer. Who cares if Trump loses everything and becomes homeless? Who weeps at a Hitler’s grave?

Seed —-> Plant —-> Form —-> Addiction

Moral depravity as gradual process. First the dictator locks up a dissident. Then he locks up ten. No backlash and little protest. So then he kills a dissident. Then ten more. By now he has no qualms. He will destroy more and more lives to maintain power, so long as he is not resisted.

‘The shattering of the greatest temple starts with the breaking of the tiniest taboo.’

Moral depravity as addiction. The above dictator might not even realize how he is sliding into moral depravity. The norms of acceptibility and morality as gradually shifting, until they reach obscene levels.

Depraved acts —-> Gradually more depraved acts —-> Normality

Normality is the heart of depravity. The normal people are the enablers of life’s worst ills. Their collective moral cowardice is tangible in the prisons and the estates. Their collective moral cowardice is war, death, famine and depraved atrocities against women and children.

The status quo, therefore, is innately depraved and requires annihilation. The most shit-spreading people on this world have the cleanest teeth and the nicest appearance. Be not fooled by such vanity. Evil and depravity wears a suit and tie.

Depraved order —-> Annihilation —-> Rebirth

I will end on a happy note. Hidden depravity always surfaces, for truth will always tunnel for the surface. The lie is always exposed, the old order always collapses. The only question is – how much damage can it do before its inevitable demise? Hasten the victory of humanity by daring to see, daring to say, and daring to challenge.

Depravity cannot triumph, it is being pushed back and back by the legions of humanity. We will not stand for it anymore. We will not stand for cover ups and authoritarianism and the status quo and the crimes behind closed doors. We know the truth now, we are forming together, we are gaining in strength. The eyes of the just shine upon ever darker quarters. We keep on seeking out injustice, for our gaze alone can turn it. Mankind is learning not to tolerate depravity, the hiding places of the dictators grow ever fewer.

Soon they will shrink to nothing…

A madman or a visionary…

Now I am a note of chaos

In the symphony of order

A madman and an idealist.

In less than a decade

I will be a visionary

And a hero of mankind.

They know this

The corpses who hold on to power

Yet til the bitter end

They will waste the lives of their vassals

And tear the land apart.

Power knows not past, present, future

It is timeless, like the depths of the mind

Irrational, lost, desperate, screaming at the void

Like a child, for more, more, greater hoard

For fame, and followers, golden things, nations at its clawed feet.

Power knows no reverence for life

And has no love for the beauty of the galaxy.

But the tyrant always falls

For ‘mad-folk’ like me are always born,

And the people always triumph,

The only question is when.

 

They hate me, for I am change-bringer

I am truth-wielder, I am death-howl,

I am game-ender, I am a note of chaos

In the symphony of order.