13 July, 2008


I might be making a huge assumption, but I think most people have something that they are especially afraid of. Something that stirs up such feelings of dread that they go out of their way to avoid it. Not just simply because they don't like it, but because its very presence in their consciousness renders them weak, and vulnerable. Maybe I am making an assumption, but it's such a mainstay in my life that I feel like it has to be normal for other people, too.

There's a delicate line between quirkiness (for lack of a better word) and disorder. What differentiates an eccentric personality trait from a psychological infirmity? There's an idea that's been passed around that suggests that the psychological profession is merely a tool of society that is used to promote conformity - the hammer that pounds the bent nails into place, if you will. And it's true that when faced with a personality that we don't understand, we shouldn't be so quick to label it as "impaired". But to write off the entirety of psychological therapy as an underhanded tactic concerned only with the efficient running of "the machine", is a bit brash, if not downright conspiratorial.

Indeed, this is a struggle I suffer through constantly - is my personality something to be proud of, for giving me a different experience of the world than the average, or is it something that honestly needs to be fixed up, so that I can participate more in what other people understand as life? Well, I subscribe to the idea that a disorder becomes as such when it significantly interferes with the happy or successful life of the sufferer. I suppose it doesn't work so well for people who suffer from forms of dementia and the like, not to even get into the issue of denial, but the way I look at it, it's the sufferer who decides that his/her problem is serious enough that something needs to be done - usually to improve his/her quality of life.

I fear people. Not what they might do to me (no, that would be too reasonable), but what they might think about me. And my ego is so fragile that even the possibility, no matter how small, that somebody might have a less than positive thought concerning me is enough for me to go to great lengths to avoid the confrontation. It's not that I'm paranoid and I think everybody automatically assumes the worst about me - I'm pretty reasonable in my expectations of people's impressions, I think (for the most part). But for some reason, the idea of putting myself in a situation where I could be vulnerable to those negative thoughts - whether they actually exist or not - throws my body into "flight" mode. And thus I hide myself away from the world - safe, but unsatisfied.

Now we're getting back to the issue that started this discussion (gradually). Dealing with my problem on my own is one thing - it's what I'm used to, and who better to understand my feelings than myself, right? But when my inability to function normally becomes a burden on other people, I feel really bad. As much as I try to explain myself, the problem isn't a problem of logic, but a problem of feeling, and the only way for someone to sympathize with my pain is to actually know that feeling of fear, anxiety, and general ineptitude. And that very idea right there got me thinking.

Most people are afraid of something, right? If this is indeed true, my impression is that most people are luckily afraid of something that doesn't play a major role in their lives. For example, what if you're deathly afraid of spiders? Actually, I am, too. But does being afraid of spiders significantly hinder the quality of your life? Maybe if you're unlucky and live out in the woods or something, it might be a serious problem. But if you don't actually run into spiders that much in your daily life, and when you do, they're pretty easy to avoid, then it's not really that big a deal, right?

I mean, even something like the fear of flying - this can be a major inconvenience in today's modern world, but it's still something that you can do a pretty good job of working around, if you're willing to make a few sacrifices. But my fear of people - interpersonal interaction is such a pervasive part of simply living and existing in society, that it's just not something I can get away from. One possible alternative is living a reclusive lifestyle - but here's the problem. Leading a life without flying is fine because flying probably doesn't "do" anything for you. But it's not that I hate people and don't want to have anything to do with them. I'm just as lonely as anyone else - moreso, considering that I spend so much more of my time alone. It's not that I don't /want/ to be around people, it's just that I'm not comfortable around people. I don't avoid them because I don't want them, I avoid them because I can't handle them. I, like most other people, have a natural, base desire to interact with other members of the species. But I'm afraid to do just that.

So, trying to think of a way to get people to understand my condition, I came up with this scenario. Whatever it is that you're most afraid of, just imagine for a second that it is not only a necessary, but a pervasive part of normal daily existence. For example, let's take spiders. Imagine for a moment that our planet was literally crawling with spiders - they're everywhere, and most people aren't bothered because they just consider it normal. Imagine that you've quit school, refuse to get a job, and hole yourself away in your room, not wanting to go out into the world except when absolutely necessary, just to avoid the spiders (assuming you have some kind of protection on your home to keep spiders out, mostly).

Certainly, you might think that under these circumstances, you'd be forced to overcome your fear, and eventually it would no longer be a problem. But it's not that you can't get away from the spiders. You've found ways of avoiding them - places you can go where they're usually not around. It's just that to avoid them you have to make certain sacrifices, such as staying away from school/job, not going out with friends very frequently, and things of that nature. You've tried many times to deal with your fear and overcome it, and you've had some successes and some setbacks, but overall, you still just can't take being surrounded by spiders, and don't particularly /want/ it to become natural - you only wish that you didn't have to make those sacrifices just to avoid them.

Whatever you are most afraid of, imagine it now. Imagine that there's a concentration of it contained in a space directly in front of you (I'm trying to be ambiguous because fear comes in so many shapes and sizes). Now imagine that the only way for you to continue living a normal life - i.e., going to work, having a family, hanging out with friends, making money, going on vacation, trying new things, exploring new areas - is to walk through that space of concentrated fear. Be it swimming through a pool of millipedes, climbing over a copse of corpses, walking a mile-high tightrope, enduring painful surgery without anesthetic - my imagination is apparently limited to largely "physical" fears, but whatever shape your fear comes in, use that. And it's not just once that you have to endure this fear. Walking through that space is something you'll have to do constantly, day after day. Hopefully, it will get easier over time, but there's no denying that it's not going to be easy at first.

So maybe that gives you a better idea of my condition, and why it isn't so easy for me to just get up, forget my problems, be a man, and live my damn life already. Maybe you're afraid of water. I can say to you, "come on, just swim across the pool and live your life, it's not that bad". But that's completely ignoring the issue of fear. What does not faze one person, may paralyze another. And that's why the phrase "get over it" is pointless and insulting. It impersonally makes light of a very heavy weight on a person's soul. But I'm not trying to critcize anyone here, I'm just trying to help you understand.

1 comment:

  1. What a prefect illustration, zharth. You've made your point.

    As for people's fear, I agree with you that everyone has them. But I believe this is what most people call "their demons." And I doubt anyone is lucky enough to have such a shallow demon as a fear of spiders or a fear of flying or surgery. Those people, if they exist, must be pretty well-adjusted. I think it's more commonly things like a fear of rejection, a fear of being misrepresented, a fear of retribution, or in my case, a fear of...dependence? Sometimes this lifelong fear is caused by a particular event, like their father walking out on them, their girlfriend cheating on them, their uncle raping them, and they consider that event to be their demon. But it's not an event, it's the fear itself. If it wasn't, they'd have nothing to fear, because the event is long gone. It's the issues, the rejection issues, the safety issues... It's the fear.

    Honestly, from what I've experienced of people, I believe that most of us just push it out of our minds, and that's the only way that we can bare to function. That's why breakdowns are so common -- honestly, working at Eat N park I know that everyone is prone to breakdowns. Everybody has thoughts that could crush them if they think about them, but they ignore them, forget about them for the sake of being able to do anything other than cower in a corner their whole life. I know you want to retain your uniqueness, but honestly zharth, the benefits of drug use for you just keep adding up. Alcohol has a very good chance of pushing your fears out of your mind for the time being so that you can interact and form some more lasting relationships. That's exactly what it does. Drugs aren't a party scene or a burnout cliche'. Drugs are a tool to help us succeed at life.

    I reccomend that next bar show you go to you start drinkin' and I bet you'll get more talkative and comfortable. That's why there's such a thing as "the drunk dial." Alcohol makes one comfortable and talkative. It's legitimate, it's not fake.