The infinite well of Self-Esteem

Me and my therapist spoke in no small terms about ‘innate value’ and ‘inner dignity’. We talked about the value of self-love, how to cultivate it, how it was prerequisite for the love of another. We assumed that it was something already there, an axiom of the soul.

But I was never fully convinced that there was a source of worth inherently in us. If there was, how could my adult life be plagued with collapses of self-value? I do not believe that with enough ‘practice’ we could ‘self-love’ ourselves back into a place of worth. Nor do I believe it to be true that we need to love ourselves before we can be loved by another.

What others might call ‘inherent value’ I see in a much more nihilistic light, namely normative (or society-given) value. Nature has no inherent value but for the survival of species; cooperating or competing for life. We are no different to any other species, we are the children of nature.

If I had a font of hidden energy and self-value, why is it absent after a lifetime of searching? Perhaps my therapist was just trying to be nice!

A cursory observation of society will demonstrate that people seek to be valued by others. This may be through their position in society – how many people do you see taking pride in their work or striving to get ‘to the top’?

It may be through belonging to a community or ritual place of worship – how many towns do you know of without a church?

It may be in the form of finding a loving partner – how many people do you know who take pride in their relationships? I saw at least five couples publicly demonstrate their affections for each other on my walk through town yesterday.

It shows that we are indeed empty on the inside and in constant need of others; that it is not enough to be with ourselves. Indeed, it is precisely this need for others that drives us forward and allows society to happen. Our emptiness is our driving force and a vital part of who we are.

Despite this gaping void of emptiness and valuelessness within, there is a silver lining.

Every cloud… –

I believe it to be true that low self-esteem can create a downward spiral. The less you value yourself, the less others will value you. This prevents you from turning the tide and rising into a better place. Charity and pity does not feed esteem, nor will people lying to make you feel better. As we are dependent on those around us for esteem, we always have to factor others into our ‘equation of esteem’. This means there can be obstacles to gaining esteem –  coercive group-think and conformity, the presence of ‘alpha males’ who feed off others, prejudice against race / class / gender / and so on, the fear of crowds and groups, to name but a few. When you are low on esteem, these challenges feel insurmountable.

Yet there is nothing that can stop you developing a creative talent. On the way to work, during a lunch break, when you wake up in the middle of  the night – there is always time to develop a skill. No one can give you this talent and no one can anyone take it away. Some people might be privileged by having an earlier start but nothing can stop you from beginning your journey whenever you want.

For myself this saving grace was performance. I don’t need people to believe in me anymore to be a good performer. I don’t need people to tell me I am a skilled musician or actor. It does help to be supported, but I can get by in the hardest environment and know that I can stick it out. The development of performing talents has reached critical mass – there is no turning it back now.

This is what the article title means by an infinite well of self-esteem. It might not always feel right to perform, but when the opportunity and the will align, it is up to one person and one person alone to succeed. Myself.

This does not mean that becoming a craft should be idealized. I do believe that we need to be loved, cared for, checked-in with others, to belong, in order to be fully healthy. A course of CBT or psychotherapy solely working on self-esteem will probably be necessary to make any major gains.

However the infinite well is a factor that can always get you out of the downward spiral.

I have low self-esteem. I do not want to be around other people, so my self-esteem gets even lower. The lower it gets, the less chance anyone is going to want to be around me, so I become more isolated. The more isolated I become, the more I am depressed and therefore anxious. The anxiety prevents me from trying out new situations or talking to new people. It prevents me from taking even the smallest step forward. The lack of inner-value means that no one wants take me on, women are repulsed by the sight of weakness and neediness. Relationships are destroyed by my imbalance and vulnerability. Therefore there is never anyone there to offer a hand up and help me onto my feet.

The key to turning things around is precisely the isolation. Whilst it is not a good thing, it does allow space to develop oneself. It might be boring, emotionally harmful in the long run, repetitive, tedious – but it won’t be forever. If you can train yourself whilst in that place, even just a little bit every day, you can reach a stage where you have a powerful foundation of self-confidence and self-belief. And whats more it will be grounded in empiricism, not the platitudes of a therapist!

There is so much that can be done alone. Playing and composing music, learning how to code websites, creative writing, gardening, growing, cooking, video-blogging.

Skills that can be brought into a social context, such as playing an instrument or community cooking, are especially of value here. They enable someone with low self-esteem to have an ace up their sleeve in competitive social situations or in the predatory capitalist workplace.

Final Mentorly Wisdom –

No one can take away your creative talent, but then no one can give it to you. It is something that must be earned. It requires immense focus and patience. This is precisely what makes it worthwhile, it is truly yours. In the absence of a saviour-figure who will likely never come to rescue you, in the absence of the one-true-love who only exists in faerie tales, creative mastery is the most guaranteed way to turn the tables on low self-worth.

It is not the whole picture, because a person needs to be loved and to belong. But it is a start.

Retarded Growth

It is early Spring and the elder trees are daring to emerge with new leaves. Shrubs and hedges are putting out their babies to reach for the newly emerging sun. Songbirds are swooping into the garden, blessing the world with their existence. Life promises to grow, the Winter is ending.

I should be free from frustration, but quite the opposite! The growth of everything else is reminding of my retarded growth and that of those around me.

We should be free to express, to spread our arms far and wide, to let go of troubles and cease counting how much grain is left over Winter. Instead, we have school kids forced to take responsibility for a climate catastrophe they played no part in. The young generation is rising up to make up for the mistakes of the older. It is a burden they have the vigour to bear, yet I cannot help but be saddened by the recent youth climate march and school strike. It is great that they are mobilizing at such a young age, but why should they have to? They are young, life should be theirs to enjoy, property and prosperity should be their promise – not a life time of struggling against corpses which cling on to power.

I have seen the effects of fighting the system and constant swimming against the tide on myself. Of course, in my day, we were outcasts and vagabonds, ridiculed or ignored for our refusal to enter the machine. For the pioneers such action is always going to be harder – the youth should win more acclaim for their actions. Now it is common knowledge how fucked-up it is; we just need the political will to change things. But the toll has been paid by my body and soul. My growth has been retarded for most, if not all of my life.

I wish all the power of Spring to the rising generation. I have no resentment toward them – that would a conservative position of futility. But anger toward the great retarder; the one who blots out the sun and casts shade, the one who withholds compost and plant feed, the one who squeezes us into small pots which he always threatens to take away, the one who rarely bothers to pick up a watering can, the one who poisons the soil and drains our bodies of vigour, the one who picks our fruit when it is time to harvest but couldn’t care less when we are unproductive – my anger for this broken system and its retarding agents is strong. Perhaps it is my only real vigour outside of the arts!

Or perhaps a late bloomer can still grow into something beautiful. My new maxim is ‘depleted but never defeated’. Cut down but never pulled out at the roots. Spring is here and here we go again. We are on the cusp of Brexit madness, a buckling system, upheaval and unrest as the people-who-apparently-actually-matter (white middle class) prepare to suffer what we in the ‘lower orders’ have suffered for a long time. The indignities of privation and constant threat to person and property. Here we go again, I hope I can finally fulfil more of my loving nature this year.

Grow tall and strong, but grow thick thorns to protect yourself always! It is worth the energy to invest in defence, in this world which is full of evil. But even that evil cannot withstand us when we finally link our roots together and our good nature overturns the insanity of this wrong turn in humanity’s shared course.

Then we can grow, even if it is in our Autumn years.

 

Know thyself

They want you to deny what is true.

They want you to turn away from what is happening inside your very self.

They want you to heal their wounds and fill the black hole of their souls…

It is no mystery to me where self-destructive energies originate from. The pornography and the drugs and the listless consumption, the social competition and the striving for impossible goals. It is only a mystery to one who dares not to know themselves.

Life is filled with wounds and they can only be healed with acknowledgement. They must be brought out from the depths and overcome with the aid of enlightened witnesses. The work must be done to rid us of their chains before we can move forward.

Yet the great illusions of society; halo-wearing authority and idealized family, protects abusers and wrongdoers and humiliators, forces us to be silent.

Wounds are caused, atrocities committed, but they cannot be spoken of. They must be swallowed down by the sufferer, carried like a great burdening stone so that an abusive tyrant can have his warped rule and his illusion of conscience.

It is a pointless arrangement, no one wins. The tyrant, filled with unacknowledged wounds, is a black hole which swallows all love and encouragement. Until one decides to look within, they are hopeless.

There are those in this world who have elected to be only the mask that they wear. Such people, the ultimate cowards of the human soul, have turned away from their true inner selves. Not only this, these blind would lead those with sight; their way will poison the well for everyone else, and drag all that is good down to their gutter-level. They can do nothing else.

From such wretchedness spring the cruelties of the world we see, the destruction of nature, the wars between nations, consumerist nihilism, the lust to dominate and enslave and abuse and abuse and abuse and abuse and abuse.

These things might be called ‘human nature’ by those who dare not seek the better explanation. They may seem inexplicable to fools who do not even know what lies inside the cavity of their own bodies, such is their ignorance.

Someone who doesn’t even strive to know the very mind they experience the world through, what can they know? Someone blind to their own dreams and their own creative will. What can they say that is of any worth to anyone?

It is no easier to face the world from a place of ignorance. The wraiths of the soul haunt everyone who is scarred, in dreams and extreme emotions. Ignorance is no bliss, but to be reduced to a bovine state, to cage oneself and lash out for the lack of self-knowledge or understanding whenever dark emotions bubble.

The philosophy of mindfulness can feed into this ignorance. To believe you can be a creature of the present is nothing if not naivety. Whilst mindfulness provides useful tools for coping in a hostile capitalist world, it does not answer the question of how to heal our wounded souls, and provides the unreachable vista of ‘living in the present’ to further make us feel like we are falling short of Buddha-like enlightenment. Self-knowledge can only be achieved through the understanding of human beings as total beings – of past, present and future in conflux around our minds. There is no escaping the inner depths, no enlightenment from it, no ultimate control of what occurs down there.

The subconscious root-mind has to claw at us for us to hear, and drag us into its dark domain where we cleave to light and life. Perhaps not everyone gets that call with the same potency. But what happens to human responsibility if knowing the very essence of ourselves is something outside of our control?

You may not be able to dive to the depths whenever you please, but you can have the gate ready to open when the blackness inside calls, to accept the dark passages of our wounded souls and venture into it shield raised and heart steeled when the time is right. There might even be allies near us who can help us in this difficult quest.

All the people who live for illusion, those live-for-nothings, have a chance to accept the truth that they are wounded, that there are no gods on this earth, and that we must take final responsibility for our souls before the end of our days. However destroyed our mental state, however unfair our circumstances and however unsupported we may be, we can strive to be true to ourselves. There are no excuses.

I have often written about the burden of the Sinbearer – one who is hurt by an authority and forced to be silent, to carry that weight. It is a burden which always crushes and destroys, and which serves no purpose.

Here is the truth of the matter – it is you, or him.

Will you speak the truth of his wretchedness, unbind yourself with your own will to freedom and daring, or will you self-destroy in primal acts of repressed rage and frustration, addiction and self-harm?

I know much of this has been rather black and white, good and evil – this is acknowledged. But I believe it is ultimately true, that evil is as real as anything else in the world around you. There is never a time where to be blind to oneself can lead to anything but destruction, and our dying world is proof of this. This is evil itself, the supreme ignorance and supreme indignity upon oneself.

Nature contains suffering and predatory behaviour – it is inevitable that we will suffer somewhat. It is also filled with beauty and a will to live and exert tremendous power on the gaian world which birthed us. In human beings we can largely control the darkness and be Whole together, our will to power can create incredible art and music, our souls can rise to become gentle stewards of our part of the world, creating edens of nature and technology.

This is if we want such a world – we certainly have the potential. And to want such a world, which we could begin to make tomorrow, we must first acknowledge the pain that is inside us all – to liberate ourselves from the rule of the tortured and the insane.

This cannot be done through the power of love and forgiveness alone, though it is a potent force. Thus we must struggle to the last of our strength to acknowledge our will to power, rise up and be seen, heard and understood. To not do so is to live in wretchedness, so what do you have to lose?

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.

The weight of soul and system

In a recent therapy session, my subconscious brought to light the crushing weight of soul and system.

The weight upon the soul: being a guardian for others, battling and grappling my demons and theirs (they are one and the same). There will never be any thanks, this is an invisible battle. One I am not willing to continue fighting. They know they can continue as is, whilst I am in the dark place. Perhaps if I pull away into the light they will have to take on the burden themselves. Or continue repressing their shit – fucked if I care.

After all of these years, fighting this soul-battle has left me a husk. If I continue like this, I fear it will destroy me. Already I have avoided addiction to drink and prescribed drugs through the bearing of immense psychological suffering and an anxious discipline. The price has been immense, and it doesn’t get much easier to bear with experience.

How much longer I can go on for, I do not know. Either things will eventually resolve themselves and I will escape annihilation, or I will surrender any hope of trying to understand whys or righting wrongs and somehow go on in a new direction.

This latter option sounds like repression and ignorance would be involved, but the weight of the soul is heavy and crushing. I have been sensitive and open for all of my adult life. It is painful and unstable, the last few days have been extremely hard and signify what is promised. This is no way to continue living, it is fruitless and enervating. Listening to the pain of the subconscious is important, but if that pain is caused by a hopeless quest then the pain itself has nothing to teach but let the fuck go.

It is hard to put this into words, it is as fragmented and centreless as I am.

There is a saying ‘you can take the mule to the river but you can’t force it to drink’ and it is very apt. This simple wisdom is the reason why some people are hopeless. Trying to change them is not my prerogative.

Trying to change myself is.

Seeking justice or retribution is the path littered with rages and extreme emotions. If this is valid to some I understand the sentiment, but I want to move on and not have this narrative continue to dominate my life. Fruitless as it is.

Hopeless people. Why should I care for their souls? I care for myself, in the deepest and truest sense. I need find a more hopeful narrative and pursue this, one creative and beautiful, not mired in an ugly past filled with emotionally, intellectually and spiritually retarded individuals.

The Weight of System

Any activist will be able to tell you what it feels like to have the weight of system upon their back. Even fighting for the good of all is an uphill struggle, and an exercise is misunderstanding and alienation. After the fact, when the matter is won, everyone goes ‘oh yeah, its so obvious now.’ or ‘I was on side all along’. But in truth it starts with a small and intelligent minority before reaching the mass-herd.

The two systems that put their weight upon me, one was vast, the other small and familial. That latter one is a system I could change, as my changing could necessitate it changing. Or not, I do not think they would notice or give a shit. I have again lost hope in the hopeless, which is strangely liberating.

Their strife is not mine, and their system is not mine. By giving up on them, I am opening myself to something new that I actually want. Releasing the burden from my back, that familiar weight, is liberation!

The void is frightening, but so is a slow, grinding death.

The capitalist system cannot be so easily ‘given up’, because it dominates so much of life and controls the means of survival. But the smaller system is actually not so dominating – it is a matter of emotion and familiarity alone, not material supremacy. It can be done.

If I have courage and trust I will found a new system or help an existing one evolve. I have done it before, I can do it again. I must do this or eventually collapse and break down, perhaps into alcoholism or Valium addiction, watched over by mocking shadows. This is really being made clear to me now, the imperative is frightening but at least strong. I should not pressure myself to change instantly, but certainly to take the steps now and plant the seeds to flower in Spring. Else, annihilation looms.

Greatness is thrust upon, and terrible is the drum-beat of nature! But this is the only way, as proved time and time again by my own complacency and that of Empires risen and fallen.

I am not afraid anymore, and I take this task with grim resolve. All my sensitivity will be to love myself and those others who deserve it. Whilst I wish to become more stoic and mindful, to lose the whisker-like sensitivity which gave me so much good and created so much beautiful song would be too high a price.