If you can love another, you can love yourself

If you can love another, you can love yourself.

In fact I could take it one step further – the only one you can truly guarantee loves you is yourself!

But how many who seek love from another do not know how to show it to themselves?

What does self-love look like?

– Accepting your own vulnerabilities and flaws: Two very difficult things. To be vulnerable in a society that can be predatory, to be still in a sea of moving people who demonize ‘idleness’, to dare to look within and risk being called ‘childish’, these are not easy pressures to deal with. We are expected to be superhuman by others and by trying to live up to this, we fail to acknowledge our limited capacities. The unhealthy customs of an unhealthy society should not be the benchmark of sanity. Whatever the self-destructive masses say, however perfect their Instagram and Facebook selves appear, deep down we are all harbouring a vulnerable self and we are all flawed and imperfect.

– Treating yourself and acknowledging yourself: Enjoying life without guilt is key to self-love. You deserve the finer things in life – sometimes! Even with moral considerations, such as an imperative to be vegan, you can forgive yourself for not being 100% perfect. We do not live in the conditions where we can flower into fully compassionate, healthy, ethically perfect eco-friendly vegans – so why strive for the impossible? Why take all the problems of a society onto your two shoulders? Acknowledging that you deserve good things is a wholesome self love. Sometimes you can be a bit greedy, eat a whole packet of biscuits to yourself, have a lazy and listless day. This is your birthright as an imperfect, sentient being.

– Listening to your deepest wounds and allowing healing: There is a wounded part in all of us. I do not know at this stage in my life if these wounds ever heal. I can say with certainty that it is possible to get better at managing and understanding those wounds. There are better and worse responses to a flaring up of inner wounds. Being frustrated at the wounded inner-child for keeping you up all night when you have an important meeting tomorrow may seem a rational response. But in the long-term that wounded self is going to need love or it will damage your psyche, self-neglect does not produce healthy people. I have put myself to sleep with a self-directed ‘I love you, unconditionally’ after a full night of insomnia. Unconditional love is not a good thing for adults in my view, but for children it is quite essential. If you cannot love your own vulnerable inner-child, who can you love? That is where love is needed the most and you are in the ideal position to give it. Unconditionally.

– Non-comparison with imagined selves: A good friend of mine often talks about falling short of his ‘best self’. I don’t know what he is talking about, he already is his best possible self! Sometimes he stands, sometimes he falls. It is as good as we can get. I have always compared myself to ‘famous me’. Whilst this desire for recognition has some basis in reality and possibility, the idea that there will be a point where one breaks through into the world of fame and celebrity, a lofty vantage for philanthropy and fighting the system, is an imagined self of absurd proportions. If you are brave enough to be flawed yourself, that is a damn good effort.

– The nature of beings: The nature of your being is to continue existing. The will to live is something as natural as a plant reaching up to the sun. Ideas of a self-destructive nature are imposed from without, by forces which are interested in using you, exploiting you, or harming you. The very nature of yourself, what philosophers have called the ‘conatus’, is a stronger ‘idea’ than anything from without. Within that will to live is a will to love and that must necessarily be directed ‘inwards’.

And finally, very importantly, don’t worry if you can’t self-love at any given time. The world is too big for your shoulders and there are a lot of bad influences in town. Spending a night binging on Netflix or Rome: Total War is the birthright of those of us born in this era. Distraction, hobbies, being a bit too self-critical sometimes. This is all part of the sentient-human package.

If we idolize and essentialize self-love and make it something to aspire to, then paradoxically we destroy it, for we trample over the part of us that is imperfect.

Remember always to leave room enough for the fucked-up you.

 

Low Self-Esteem

How much depression and anxiety comes back to low self-esteem?

A vision of the self as being a totality of worthless components.

Reaching back into personal history it is not hard to pinpoint pivotal moments that fed in to this condition.

But awareness does not seem to alter anything. Do we need other people to confirm the truth of ourselves?

The causes –

Rejection has been a constant theme of this blog – from work, from love & relationships, from social groups, from friendships, from all smanner of spaces. These doors seem closed and barred, they seldom ever register as possibilities.

Rejection does not necessarily cause low self-esteem. But what rejection can do is feed into narratives of broken esteem, confirming core-beliefs of dejection and sadness.

Whether it is one rejection or a thousand, does it make a difference? Rejection (real or perceived) sets a spark which travels down into the depths of the soul and ignites trapped feelings, negative self-views, internalized abuse and so on.

Dealing with these fundamental core inadequacies seems like the primary way forward; it is not the specific instances of failure or rejection that caused fundamental self-esteem problems, but the self-esteem problems that magnify those feelings. Or worse, the low self-esteem that seeks to confirm itself, perceiving failure and being overly harsh on the self to create a downward spiral.

Perspective –

Is a counter-point it should be noted that exile, rejection and failure are always hard. The Pythagorean cults of ancient Greece were destroyed by vengeful people who were once cast out. Exile and isolation is painful for humanity. Under no circumstances is an overly competitive framework where we must fight with each other ever going to have a happy ending for the majority of people.

It should be noted that low self-esteem is not just a problem in an individual. It is endemic to a society which exalts some people and puts other down. Is this simply the dark side of our social species?

 

Give not thyself away

Every time you reach out to someone, you give a part of yourself away. You have to hold a space for a relationship to develop. You have to take a risk which means the possibility of rejection.

Often in human-to-human interaction there is a power dynamic of giver and receiver, of actor and reactor, powerful and powerless. The one who is offering something is in a position of weakness, the other person has a position powerful enough to warrant someone else approaching them.

It is impossible to survive in this world alone, such would be a truncated existence. So we must transcend our shells and learn to interact with others. You never know when you will make a lifelong friend or start a satisfying relationship.

However, knowing when to stop is essential. And what is most important is learning the importance of keeping yourself, or not giving yourself away.

If someone is rejecting, why give them another thought? The connection can be cut away and you can regain that lost part of yourself. By undoing the initial reaching out, you cease to be rejected.

If someone is ignoring, why keep on trying with them? There are plenty of other people out there. It may make someone more mysterious if they are distant, but it is a power dynamic which is destructive to you.

It is far healthier to be discerning, to hold your dignity close to your chest. There is a balance to be struck: to be willing to try with new people but aware that it may not work.

This is the reality of human interaction. We are not all equal, nor all in equal positions. You can never fully trust someone who does not acknowledge this stark reality.

In a society of ‘words not deeds’, we are increasingly expected to trust people at face value. By what they proclaim to believe, or what they proclaim to identity as. I have learnt the hard way to look for ‘deeds before words’, to be more discerning and less trusting of others based on their surface-level bullshite. This rational cynicism has strengthened myself, and made the idealism of younger years look like the naivety it was.

To find true human connection is hard, it takes times and it takes work. But this is precisely why it is magical and worthwhile.

Song for the precarious generation

A merchant fallen from fortune
Might find a mere basement before his eyes

And a man safe in his lover’s arms
Might find himself alone when she dies

A king commanding a kingdom
Might find himself thrown out on his arse

And a beautiful woman of elegance
Might find herself horribly scarred

A city overlooking a river
Might find itself flooded and drowned

And a castle safe on the cliffs
Might face tremors and come crumbling down

A keeper who tends to his bees
Might find them all wiped out by disease

And a bard who depends on his fame
Might be forgotten in song and in name

One thing is for certain in life
That nothing is ever so safe as it seems.

All hearts stop beating, all bodies grow old
All beauty is fleeting, all heat goes cold.

The only strength that always remains true
Is to adapt and survive with empty hands

For you never know, when it will be you
Dispossessed and disowned of your power and lands

Human dignity – ah what a noble attitude!
But Nature is a mocking skull, who laughs at our finitude.

Feelings of rejection (Part I)

Rejection is a harsh feeling that has followed me around for as long as I could think or feel. Trying to come to terms with it is an immense undertaking which raises immense questions – is it all in my head? Am I my own worst enemy? Is there some basis in truth? Is it always going to be like this?

Looking at the first three questions, it is clear they are all linked. In fact, number one and number three are more or less the same. This suggests that subconsciously, I am placing emphasis on blaming myself, a very anxious manoeuvre, but perhaps a natural one given the feelings of rejection.

Internalizing and self-blame are the product of guilt – that most terrible and useless of emotions. I find guilt to be very prevalent in myself, a guilt for even existing or occupying space. It is common in others who have experienced abuse. Guilt is a weapon in the abuser’s armoury, it sows confusion, prevents escape, plays your good nature against you. My own feelings of rejection must be linked to this self-blame and guilt, itself instilled to satisfy an abuser’s power all those years ago.

However, as we move to identify the source of my feelings of rejection, we see that is not all ‘in my head’. Its not my fault for being the target of abuse. There is a basis in reality and an obvious historical precedent to the guilt and therefore for the self-directed anxiety.

I have felt rejected in the fundamental first relationships I formed. I was unable to ‘love thy abuser’ and this has instilled feelings of failure. It is of course all my fault, how could it be the abuser’s! All of the responsibility is on my shoulders, I have the duty to forgive the abuser’s faults and break through their shell to bestow upon them the love they deserve! Never mind that with every giving my love was rejected, my being was never respected, and mistreatment followed no matter what I did. No way out of rejection, a sense of hopelessness, all my fault, all because of my own shortcomings, guilt, guilt, guilt.

This is my fundamental experience, an alienation and lack of belonging in the fundamental relationship. All other relationships are subconsciously tainted – what if the same dynamic plays out? Indeed, it has played out a few times in my life.

This is clearly not ‘all in my head’. I am not ‘my own worst enemy’, nor am I ‘my own best friend’. Both of  those things require an immense amount of energy, they are draining eternal pits.

Is it always going to be like this?

If depression could take the form of a sentient being, this is one of the first questions it would ask. It would respond that yes, this is all that it can be and that these feelings should be accepted as a fundamental aspect of reality. They are nature itself – it would then seek out evidence to fit into its world view. The ongoing depression is a massive sustainer of my feelings of rejection and alienation. How it is all interlinked is dazzlingly disturbing – before a single step has been taken toward progress, I feel I am ten years of processing behind.

Feedback loops abound here as depression seeks to justify itself, proving with empirical evidence that rejection is the way to feel!

But this article isn’t some New Age bullshit or a one-two-three self-help guide to realizing your true inner potential. The universe does not give you back what you give and it isn’t all in the individual. Whilst I recognise my responsibility to challenge my thinking and resolve life-long repressed feelings through therapy, there is another entire aspect to these feelings of rejection which are not my responsibility. And this white middle class normality.

It is not my responsibility that I am perceived as a person of colour and more subtly from a working-class (read: lower-class) background. It is up to the racializing and classist minds of the others to do their subconsciousness homework so that their prejudice doesn’t make others feel like shit. If groups or individuals do not at least recognise the normality of white middle-classness, loud alarm bells sound inside me and naturally lead me to reject them before they reject me. This is where it is justified. Prejudice is another of those relationships where you cannot move forward – what can I do to be white enough or middle class enough?

Inspite of my admiration for the great middle class champions of English culture, my wish to give and belong, I will never be seen as normal. Just as the abused can never be good enough for the abuser until there is a fundamental change in his warped soul, so the othered cannot be accepted by the normalized until the uncomfortable edifice of social and racial hierarchy is recognised and brought down.

The empirical evidence seeking for this second category of rejection can fall into bias. You could actively seek out instances of prejudice and ignore exceptions. But in my life at least, I have not had to look far! All white households, all white groups, all white partners. It is perfectly normal to subconsciously seek another like you when you are in the minority, but is it also the same for the majority?  I cannot answer that, because I have never been in a position where I am in that majority.

Another massive form of rejection I have felt in my life has been romantic rejection. But this is another beast entirely and perhaps the worst of them all. It needs its own article to prevent it being cliched rubbish and I must tread carefully through that minefield of a topic.

 

Depression – breaking it all down (Part I)

I am not one of those people who believes that depression is all about thought processes, behaviour and ‘life style’. It is something far more deep reaching and fundamental than that. You cannot think your way out of depression, just as you cannot think your way into it.

However, I still see the important role of thinking in keeping you there once you are there and the dreaded making a bad situation seem worse!

Depression for me makes all the bad things seem inevitable and the source of the bad things far more powerful than it truly is. It is like a wall of despair, a vast amorphous barrier, so tall you cannot possibly see over, or around it. But when we focus in on this behemoth, we see that it is made up of individual components, and our perspective is that of someone hunched, low and defeated.

Stand up to your full height and the wall, whilst still imposing, is not so large. Focus in, and though you will see the strength of your enemy, the weak points also reveal themselves.

Breaking it all down –

My new direction is to break it all down in my mind; to dispel this mythic image of an undefeatable, invincible, inevitable foe. I know that the hostility of capitalist society is a very real thing, not just an imagined enemy. But lets use our imagination too break it down into realistic components.

Nature is being destroyed by the machine, but cracks in the pavement are full of life, chopped down trees unexpectedly sprout a thousand branches, certain species thrive even in this era of mass extinction. In ten years time an abandoned neighbourhood will become a wild garden, in a hundred it will become a grove, in a thousand there will be nothing left of it, strangled and hidden by thriving life. Nature is going no-where, and it is never far from regeneration. This ancient thing is more resilient than us, and we will always live in its beautiful shadow.

The officials who keep the machine running, do they truly believe in what they are doing? Would they not rather be pursuing some goal more true to themselves, spending time with their children, resolving emotions they have repressed, exploring and finding themselves? The amount of coercion and brainwashing needed to keep people in their place to blunt their true dreams and ambitions is proof positive that most people, even those in positions of power, are themselves led along and trapped by the madness of civilization. The lack of self-knowledge and true ambition, this is a reason to pity the machine-servants, hypnotized by digital screens, life void of meaning but for the targets from above and the will of invisible figures more powerful than themselves.

Advertising is everywhere, shallow, crass, idiotic pleas for conformity. But there is nothing democratic about advertising; it is there, but who wants it there but the sad corporations trying to control our choices? No one is really taken in on a conscious-level; eyes are rolled on the tube, people take the piss out of the sell-out celebrities, a bad pun elicits a long groan. Deep down, a subconscious lever may have been triggered, a greater sense of dissatisfaction and desire to go on holiday to ‘discover life in Greece’ (or whatever). But this is again an affliction – how many of us would vote to give powerful corporations thousands upon thousands of square metres of space to try and influence our decisions? The ubiquity of advertising only demonstrates how fucked up property and power is in our society, not the democratic will of the people. Some of the more idiotic populace might find advertising interesting or be consciously duped by its bullshittery, what can be done for such a hopeless minority?

It can be a loveless existence suffering from mental illness. You are vulnerable and need to be loved more than most people, but that same vulnerability makes trusting others difficult, and that same hurt makes you less desirable. The lack of strength and stability is a massive turn off. Month after month of failure and rejection makes the chances of finding a woman who is interested seem less and less likely, a feedback loop of frustration and disappointment. But all this doesn’t make things impossible, only more difficult. The spiral down into despair is one that is hard to avoid here; it is informed by the deep subconscious wounds and triggers of childhood, but it is not inevitable. Am I totally helpless and disadvantaged by this depression and anxiety? Everything to do with this mental illness and the abuse of the past makes the whole sphere of love much harder for me. Still, the act of breaking down how mental illness is contributing to isolation and lack of love dispels the mist, promotes understanding. It is the gargantuan wall which leads to despair, not the individual bricks. Maybe through understanding things will change and improve, though I cannot promise this to myself or anyone else. At least they cannot get any worse. Going from things are hopeless to who knows what can happen, I will have no judgements is a massive luxury for me at the moment. Neutrality – feeling neither loved or unloved, does not feel so bad.

End of Part I

The need for Exorcism

I often hear ‘we are all one, we are all connected‘ as some kind of optimistic mantra. I believe it to be true, it is the fundamental truth of the cosmos. But it is not exactly optimistic.

If we are all connected, then what I am is partly what my culture is. I have no choice in the matter; what is out there is in here. It is quite evident to me, one who has always been an outcast, a ‘failure’ and even an exile from society that things out there are unhealthy, dangerous and stained with generations of evil. But we are all connected – those things that I oppose are absorbed into me.

The values of an abusive family, of hierarchy and entitlement, violent masculinity and battered femininity – I don’t want it engrained in me, but here it is thirty years on. The values of a shallow, materialistic, sex-obsessed culture which prizes competition and possession over the continued existence of life on earth – it is shallow and vapid but I judge and loathe myself according to its shitty values. Even on a smaller scale the pathetic contest of friends or acquaintances for social power and acceptance – I feel like I need to somehow be involved, and that such things are right. But I know these things are wrong and horrid, but they are not mine to choose. They are there inside, lurking like demons. Even a stone can absorb what it is surrounded by, so imagine how vulnerable we creatures of flesh are.

This is why self-knowledge is so essential; if we can find where something comes from, we can achieve some awareness of it and reduce its power. But I do not believe we can achieve much alone, nor even with the help of an enlightened witness or therapist. It is a cultural exorcism that is needed – the worst values of humanity need to be extracted from us and scorched in cleansing flame. We do not need the mass-violence and mass-death that is awaiting us, we just need to be cleansed on the inside, such that the worst demons no longer even register as a possibility, or at least are so reduced as to be impotent.

This is not about inciting guilt in certain categories of people. It is about the ends – getting rid of all this fucking shit, and exorcizing it into the flames of history.

At this stage of my life, I do not believe we can ever be truly free from evil, we will always be scarred by the past; haunted by dreams, bad memories and associations. I may live out my years broken with no real chance of salvation, no matter what I try to do – I just do not know. Yet what we can do for certain is cleanse society of evil for the next generation – they are the ones who have a chance of true freedom. This is not to say we should live only for them and neglect ourselves. It is to say that we have the power to give them much better lives than we had, and this should be one of our first priorities.

Our all being connected is not, of course, a negative thing. It is our reason for being and its realization the only way to divert the capitalist leviathan from its destructive onslaught of nature. Being connected also means feeling the love and joy of others, the satisfaction and comfort, and our being open and sensitive to others is ultimately worth it. I merely wish to expound upon how vulnerable we are to what we do not believe in.

The self is much deeper than what you say you are.

Pressing the reset button on depression

After many weeks of being in a downward, depressive slump, the reset button was very recently pushed!

It is an invaluable, nifty little button that, and it gets better. It was my own action, my own agency and choice which pressed it.

I was feeling trapped, repeating the same week over and over again. Seeking fulfilment in the familiar, in places that when I stand back and look at them, are not really so good for me.

But taking on the aspect of a harlequin and a jester, I organized a show which helped turn all that, brought many talented folk to the stage, and left me with a sense of euphoria and achievement, surrounded by the closest possible friends.

Depression reset!

I have often read about how magic mushrooms and MDMA and the like can have this effect. Well who needs them! No high is going to come close to a successful performance, for this combines mastery built up over years with the fulfilment of my own narrative.

This is very good news indeed. All of my other ‘resets’ hitherto had been seasonal, something almost arcane. This was more direct.

I may not have the power to determine all my circumstances. And I may not have the power to completely react to those circumstances. But within this complex formula of self and destiny, I can at least make choices and carve out a place in the world such that the worst of depression and indignity can be blasted away for a time.

And sometimes a breathing space is all you need.

Imbalance

How is it fair that I, and others in a similar situation, have to deal with depression, anxiety, rage, post-traumatic symptoms, low energy, and others do not?

Why was it the case that I had to suffer abuse from childhood, and now have to cope in a society hostile to the ‘unproductive’ and the vulnerable, where others grew up in a supportive and encouraging environment?

Clearly there is no equality and no balance in this world.  Not all are born equal – none are born equal.

Should I believe in equality when it is a viewpoint which ignores the humiliation and pain I had to suffer, and continue to suffer into a humiliated adulthood? Should I suffer  the insult of having to treat abusers as equally valuable and valid human beings?

I cannot have the life promised others, one of being loved, needed and belonging to a worthy social category. It seems that the one consolation I can have, to reach some kind of savanthood through the creative will, a rising above the mediocrity celebrated by the ‘normal’, is demonized in the name of a dogma with no relevance or place in the natural world.

Equality is a rare thing, an earned thing between true friends and great minds. It is a place we attain only after a great journey; it is a beautiful realization made only when we rise above the ego in those moments of transcendence and see the sheer enormity and linked nature of the cosmos. To apply it en masse as some moral dogma is insulting to the human spirit – especially to those who are promised but cannot attain.

Perhaps we will someday reach balance, and societies will account for the destruction caused to some and not to others, showing them the understanding (and love if it is something they care for) they need to truly be on an equal others.

But as it stands now it is an insulting dogma, something that is not true and yet stands like a temple of truth before us.

What little uniqueness and skill I have managed to carve out in a life of horrific circumstances is all I have to maintain the broken esteem of a broken man. It seems cruel to me for someone to try and take that away, to take me back down to the level of those who tore the cavities of my soul out.

I do not understand how we can claim any kind of equality can exist in this world. When I see those who don’t have to constantly re-live childhood trauma I consider their lives extremely easy indeed.

What can they possibly have to complain about?

 

Gates of the Psyche

Most people spend most of their lives believing in most of the lies

Fed to them before they had the ability to challenge them.

 

When Pandora’s box first sprung open, around December last year, the feelings were horrifying. It felt like death (or worse, debilitation) was just around the corner. I had no way of understanding what the emotions flowing to the surface meant. I had no means to deal with sleepless nights of feelings of panic.

Slowly I learnt these things, until I was able to restore some kind of dignity and ‘normality’: a rhythm that made existing bearable, troubled though it was.

Now when the Gates of the Psyche open, I listen. I know what it is, and I know what to do. The screaming inside, the anguish, the flailing desperation, it is familiar to me. I can more or less estimate the effect of insomnia on the next day. I do not want to close the Gates as fast I can anymore.

There is such a thing as dealing with the symptom and not the disease. This is valid, to a degree. To constantly experience symptoms is horrible. Insomnia is the best example of this for me. I do everything I can to prevent a sleepless night (a symptom of anxiety and unresolved emotion).

But it is so easy to forget the disease, and obsess around the rituals to cure the symptom!

On balance, the extreme emotions and suffering have done more good for me than harm. Though it is extremely discomforting and disturbing, with a great risk of harming my relationships with others, without the great motivator of extreme emotion I would still be lying to myself, in exile and on the run.

It took until the age of 28 to find somewhere I was happy, useful, and accepted for myself. Yet even there, everything that was inside remained inside. The Gates of the Psyche opened, and I had to face what was within. Even to the death of my time in an anarchist utopia, the emotions inside forced themselves into priority.

But I was lying to myself, even in a place so true, I was in exile from my own emotions. I know what to do now, to shift into adult consciousness and break the chains of dependency holding me back. It is no longer the case that I believe depression to be arcane and beyond explanation, I know the causes and I know it to be psycho-logical. It is just a question of finding the right time and the safest way to step free.

A shadow will loom over most people for most of their lives. Without knowing it, this shadow will bring them ruin. They might never realize how life has short-changed them, or how they have worked against their own interests, because of this shadow. The shadow will be hidden behind morality and social pressure, two extreme sentinels hard for the best of us to overcome.

Some un/fortunates will be so overwhelmed by it that they will either turn to drink and drugs to keep it down until their self-annihilation, or somehow vindicate themselves against the seemingly impossible.

By not dealing with it, you are not freeing yourself from it. Only by facing it do you overcome it. But who wants to face it, when it is so hard and such a lonely path to walk?

To Anarchist Utopia, shadows followed