06 March, 2008

A Little Self-Psychoanalysis

The bottom line is, I'm afraid to enter unfamiliar situations alone. That's why though I want to leave this house and find a place for myself outside in the world, I'm absolutely terrified to do so. What am I so afraid of? I don't have any confidence in my ability to depend on myself. I fear not being able to take care of myself, that I won't remember all the important things I need to do, or that I won't have the knowledge or the ability to do them. I'm afraid I'll end up lost and confused, with noone to turn to. Alone, and vulnerable.

And considering the way I am, these fears are not completely unfounded. Considering that I'm too nervous to call up a doctor and make an appointment, let alone go in for one; considering that I don't like going out and shopping for something because I'm afraid a salesperson will ask me what I'm looking for, and I'll feel uncomfortable interacting with a stranger... And I always feel bad walking out of a store empty-handed, partly because I feel bad not buying anything, and partly because I'm paranoid that they'll think I'm trying to shoplift.

And when it comes to bureaucracy, I'm clueless. I've gotten speeding tickets twice in my life. The first time wasn't too bad, beyond that depressing feeling of being 'punished' by our political 'parents', and that's because I was able to pay the ticket online. But the second time, the officer didn't write down a total charge, and so as far as I could tell, I had to go in and see somebody about it. It wasn't as bad as having to go to court, but even just having to find the building, get there during the day, and talk to the right people to get the matter settled, was a nightmare. It went perfectly smoothly, and I should be able to use that experience to bolster my morale, but instead, I severely dread ever having to do something like that again.

I don't want to have to depend on other people to guide me and show me the way and constantly tell me that I'm safe and everything will be alright, but that's exactly what I feel like I need. I hate this idea because it's so cliche, but I guess it makes some amount of sense - I'm like a child lost in an adult's world. I think back on the first day of the school year, throughout my childhood, especially when moving to a new school building, and that uncertainty about the environment, where things are located, who I'm gonna be surrounded by, what I'm expected to do... By the end of the year, and by the end of your tenure at a specific location, you get familiar with the area, and become comfortable. Think about your senior year of high school versus your freshman year, or your senior year of college versus your freshman year. You gradually come to master your environment, and the uncertainty gives way to comfort.

In that sense, the adult world is still very much unfamiliar to me, and uncomfortable. I can even imagine myself coming to master it, getting used to it, and seeing it as not such a threatening place - and sometimes I use that illusion when I'm forced out there, which may actually give other people the impression that I'm more in control than I really feel. But even so, everytime I'm faced with the reality or even just the thought of actually having to go out there, the uncertainty is right there. So I avoid it. Not going to school was never given to me as an option. I forced myself through it because I didn't even postulate the possibility of anything else. Being a child, and not being in control of my own decisions, there was no choice. But now, it's different. Despite all the pressure on me to get a job and to operate in society, I am in fact an adult now, and I am expected to be in control of my own decisions. Nobody is forcing me to work, and so the possibility of not working, and not being a significant part of society, even if unreasonable, exists, and it's the path of least resistance.

Psychiatrists, at least in the popular image, like to trace present problems back to past traumas. I remember when I was a young child, being separated from my mother for the first times - being dropped off at daycares, and preschool. I remember a feeling of absolute terror and despair. Being separated from everything that represented safety and comfort in my life, and being thrown into an unfamiliar situation with a bunch of strangers. Being lost and confused, feeling alone, and perhaps even abandoned. Although I may have gotten better at dealing with situations where I'm cut off from my lifelines - considering that it's rather hard to get through life without being exposed to those sorts of situations - that feeling of dread has never left me. I should be able to recognize that that daycare is not nearly as venomous as my fears make it out to be, and I can accept that on a logical basis, but deep down, my instinctive reaction is the same. I feel like if I go out into the world alone, something bad is going to happen; I won't be able to cope. My fear blows the entire situation out of proportion, and in the face of this drastic challenge, I turn and hide.

It's not rational.

"Adult child, don't hide, just run - go!"

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