That Self Assassin!
Here we are again at the start of a new week.
I run a business and things have become a bit hectic and busy so I have had less time to write.
It is stressing and I have to say, at times, distressing as much of the work I have been doing is promoting artists and via that promoting myself as an agent and creative director.
I have real issues with “presenting” myself. Not promoting my work rather “exposing” myself to the wider world.
I don’t mind showing other people my writing, academic or personal, but I do not like actually putting me on public display. I can only suppose it too goes back to my childhood, some humiliating episodes in childhood or simply having a rampant low self esteem as a result of my upbringing?
The irony is that I can also be a terrible “show off” in public too?
I swing, as always between two extremes. Sound familiar?
Both, however, are maladaptive behaviours and both are both “needy”.
One is shame based and the other a release from feelings of shame, both are strangely inappropriate although I have to admit to really enjoying the showing off stuff.
Some days, my self loathing can be quite intense.
I have been building an art gallery in my home which is hard work physically, mentally and emotionally and I noticed that I have actually started shouting abusive things at myself!
It at times, it is like having a “self directed Tourette’s Syndrome”!
All I get some times “is “You’re useless” “always screwing up!” “You stupid arsehole” etc.
Reading this now it is almost comical in the way that hearing people with Tourette’s is almost comical.
You know you should not laugh as it is an incredibly debilitating condition but it is still funny however hard you try to stop laughing. It is a bit like laughing in Chapel as a child when you know you shouldn’t but that makes it worse and eventually you have to escorted from the building.
The main difference is that self-directed Tourette-type abuse is not funny in the remotest and like Tourette’s it can be very distressing and depressing.
I know one guy in recovery who was so chronically ill with alcoholism, addiction, PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder that he used to openly shout at himself in public like when on public buses and trains.
I have not got that bad but my neighbours can hear me for sure. I shout these things to myself so loudly that they surely hear them through the walls.
I have no doubt I alarm the neighbours on both sides of my house? Especially the student neighbours who do not know me, whereas my other neighbours have known me for nearly 15 years. They know my mad ways by now.
Although none of this is in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it is something I suffer from. It is based on being distressed. I do not mean anguished but it often leads to this. Distress is that feeling of being not able to control things, being out of one’s comfort zone although I find this has been the case throughout my recovery. It also involves element of catastrophic thinking, frustration intolerance etc. I also was quite exhausted doing all this manual work so my ability to inhibit negative responses, self talk and behaviours is lessened.
I am often out, or put myself outside, of my comfort zone.
I am such a fear based person that there is a lot outside my comfort zone. Getting a job etc have all been extremely emotionally taxing. Getting as far as PhD was immensely taxing. Running my own business, building galleries while project managing a building crew was taxing, organising and hosting art exhibitions are all out there in the world of “not quite being in control”.
But I do them with God’s help and the support of others.
This is recovery to me – facing fear and recovering – FEAR. Fear is where our illness lives and having faith that things will work out is where recovery is.
The more we face our fears the more we grow, in recovery. And grow up too, become more mature and less needy, dependent on others.
Being dependent is different from needing assistance from. I allow people to help me help myself, this is different to relying on others to do stuff for me.
So what’s with the Tourette’s then?
I on occasion can not help myself. I utter the insults to me and myself automatically without any conscious deliberation. They just come flying out!! They are responses to myself that are somehow ingrained in a self schema which, when distressed, is activated and the insults and self loathing come flying out.
So what’s the problem – what is making me distressed? this is the first port of call in recovery. Taking my own inventory.
There are a number of things going on here.
First I live beside University students how had a party the other night which was so loud that, after repeated attempts to ask them to stop, in the early hours of the morning we were forced to call the police. This sets up catastrophic thinking that they will continue and continue partying forever…!! I will NEVER sleep again!!
I will die from lack of sleep, go even more crazy, turn into a serial killer, go on a wild killing spree etc.
This has led to us, and me in particular, feeling that our security has been threatened. The problem with living near students is that they can wake you from your sleep at any time which is greatly annoying and distressing, a couple of nights sleep deprived and I am wired! It is not for nothing that torturers use sleep deprivation techniques!
This has also fed into a deep sense of shame. Why do I live besides students, a genius like me!?
Why haven’t I done better with my life (ignoring the multitude of near fatal conditions I suffer from of course) -shame leads to bruised pride and self pity, poor poor me.
I should have done better than this!!? God haven’t I been through enough already, Jeez I am running out of disorders to suffer from here!?
All this morass of self pitying was not helped by one of the students shouting at me, in this distress, very loudly in the middle of the street “Well if you CHOOSE to live in a STUDENT area what do you expect!!?”
I chose to live in a residential area surely? Now increasingly invaded by students who live here tax free in HMO properties owned by fat cat landlords who also do not pay any council tax. Essentially I am paying for their services and their right to abuse me in the street.
Every year this threatens to occur this scenario of students behaving immaturely and selfishly. It can wear you down after a while.
Hence Ia recurrence of my self pity syndrome.
So there you have it, people say negative shaming things and part of me goes, “hey I think you’re right”?
My conscious mind doesn’t come to my aid and rebuke this nonsense – at best it sulks and at worse it joins in with the insults. Nice one mind, you’re a Pal!
There is no reasonable retort stating that the reasons I live here are varied, it is a superb location beside two parks, five minutes from a beach etc, it is a four story house with an amazing view etc
No acknowledgement of the fact my various conditions and disorders have kinda gotten in the way of a good living and hence I do not live in a superb detached house overlooking a beach.
I respond habitually, in fight or flight way as usual. Sometimes I fight with them sometimes I join in with them and fight myself.
On top of this stress, my wife, a professional best selling artist, was featured in various National newspapers which was a great bit of promotional publicity. She also discussed the PTSD which she suffers too and how art is a therapy for that condition also. This unconsciously made me feel exposed as I was mentioned in the article too.
Later this week we are also being interviewed for one of main national and international television companies about my wife’s work. This is mildly terrifying and seems to have added to this unconscious feeling of being exposed.
In addition I am organising two art exhibitions which will be occurring in two and three weeks time respectively!
So I am very busy but that is not the main issue. The main issue is that I am both feeling exposed and feeling that the world will see that I am a fraud, not good enough, a failure, they will see through me, through my mask and see that I am no good.
I will be exposed and found out!
And the proof of this?
Of me being a failure?
I have done major renovations to my home in the last year or so, built two art galleries, ran my own business, helped turn my wife into a best selling artist, internationally as well a nationally. I write and am currently in the process of trying to get two theoretical academic articles published with my co-authors who happen to be the two internationally esteemed and renowned academics and Professors I work with here in The UK. But still I feel rubbish.
Whatever I do is not quite good enough.
Or rather that voice inside, the one I often mistake for my own n says I am not good enough, defective, rubbish etc
This critical self, the self saboteur in extremis is a hell of foe.
Whatever good I do his voice says the opposite. The chronic malcontent. Especially when He thinks we are going to be “exposed” in some way?
Where the hell did this voice of my self assassin come from?
All this is made worse by the fact i have been in recovery a decade and still I get the awful news about myself in my head, especially when distressed.
I want to add that I can deal with lots of stress, but distressed in slightly different in that it the result of negative emotions about me and typically in relation to some form of social interaction. It is a toxic shame in action, shouting it’s mouth off.
I cannot help myself sometimes!
In other words I sometimes have an impaired ability to self regulate, an impaired ability to relate to myself, to look after myself. I wasn’t taught this as a a child so my ability to relate to myself in a helpful, adaptive, healthy way is impaired.
This is what I think co-dependency is – we grew up trying to “perfectly” control “out there” because it was so threatening and did not how to learn to relate to ourself in a healthy way.
Instead of helping myself out, I make the situation worse when distressed. I become part of the problem instead of helping to find the solution.
Instead of myself helping myself to achieve a goal, my critical self makes the situation a whole lot worse. It adds negative critique, instead of positive suggestion, it says I will fail because I am a failure at this, whatever that is.
So where the hell does this stuff come from?
Why does my internal critical self come from and why does it appears to loathe my so!?
I don’t loathe me, I can see my successes and qualities although have difficulty integrating this information in a self biography or curriculum vitae, or self schema – I struggle to internalise the good stuff at depth I guess. There are forces are work obstructing this process some opposing, concurrent schema of sorts.
I have more difficulty believing my good press and readily accept my own bad press. With my my bad press I can kinda go , “Yeah, your’re right I’ve always been like that!”
When I first came into recovery for my chronic alcoholism I thought these voices, previously silenced by the chronic consumption of drugs and alcohol were the voice of my “alcoholism ” but I did not realise until recent times that these voices employed my alcoholism and addiction as sub- contractors to kill me.
They were separate from these conditions. These voices are of my initial condition which developed into later alcoholism and addiction.
They are the fertile ground where my addictive behaviours grew.
In the book Healing the Child Within, Charles Whitfield calls them repetitive compulsive behaviours.
It is not difficult at times to see my voices as being similar to those in other obsessive compulsive disorders.
Our thoughts are not our friends?
I have a mental disorder called PTSD, called addiction, called alcoholism, called co-dependency disorder, called child mistreatment disorder?
They are all separate but they are all the same as they have canalized into the same internal assassin.
In the early months of recovery from alcoholism and addiction this internal critique just wanted me to drink and die, now it just wants me to suffer by using the same pain inducing coping mechanism as before.
I may sound dramatic but when one realises that one’s self, not just the addiction, wants them to stop doing what is good for them then one is doing pretty well in their recovery.
This is why the recovery self is outside the selfish self.
We need help outside of ourselves, we need to help others outside of the self because the self has become disordered, as Bill Wilson would say “bankrupt”.
The self regulation networks in the brain are so impaired they are not in the service of our survival any more.
Certain views about myself, given to me not by my choice, not as the result of a feedback about my performance, my abilities, my characteristics, my personality, my strengths, not by how much I love others and help others…none of these seem to be in a positive feedback loop to me, updating me on how I’m getting on.
Instead they are certain views about myself ingrained in my brain and hence in my habitual responding to me which were implanted in my head, heart and mind by others, these are what gets amplified in these internal critical voices.
I have had them injected into my soul by the behaviours, reactions, words, actions and manipulations of others. As I loved these people deeply and could never countenance they were not looking after me, loving me, I simply choose to believe what was input into my mind completely. I chose to believe it was not their fault, it WAS MINE!
This all happened because of me, because I am no good.
My co-dependent disorder is a multitude of of attitudes about me in relation to others and to the outside world which are so unhealthy and maladaptive that they endanger my very own well being. All inherited from those I loved most.
My co-dependency is an impaired relationship with me, myself and I.
Survival mechanisms learnt in childhood now threaten me and my well being.
I just read a pamphlet called the 12 signs of spiritual awakening, most of which I have experienced. But I am not always experiencing them.
The absolutist tone of these things make me angry in some way. The seem really idealistic which is another result of co-dependency. They also seem full of denial.
I find it destructive to float around denying what is going on really, with me. I don’t find much of this “spiritual stuff” real.
Isn’t simply handing over everything to God sometimes a denial of how we are really feeling?
Isn’t it better, in order to help others, to simply share and discuss with a trusted other how one is really feeling, to learn to cope with it, internalise and process it so that one ultimately, through time, learns how to deal with and regulate negative emotions rather than passing them all upstairs to God to sort out?
Doesn’t God ultimately want you to be the fullest of yourself, to become the real you, the real me?
This is what it ultimately comes down to, becoming REAL.
Not the false, critical, self defeating, lying or inauthentic self. Not saying I am “spiritual just because we pass everything upstairs and not doing the work ourselves, not actually dealing with any real issues that we are having.
I know spiritual people who are completely unaware they suffer from PTSD, completely unaware they are close to psychopathic rages and are a danger to themselves and others, that they are run away trains in other’s lives. They smile when I suggest so, because they have had a spiritual awakening and they are “spiritual” man. They have had the type of spiritual awakening that somehow has not led to an emotional catharsis?
Spiritual is being real, authentic. Being the thing which is most difficult for us, Being Real.
Here I am warts and all.
To be the real self in God is my ambition but it can be very emotionally painful.
God goes deep as it says in the Big Book but if is deep through many layers of the onion, and the peeling of each layer can bring many tears but the tears are healing, they are reservoirs of hurt, caused by a multitude of woundings in our childhoods.
That’s the case with me anyways.
My internal critique never stops me writing this stuff. Funny that. I am dealing with my distress and I am also telling His story too. It does not have a problem with the truth but worried about the consequences of being truthful.
Anyway, I hadn’t intended writing any of that either.
I was leading up to a bit in the book where it discusses being brought up in a family which can be called a “what will other people think” family – where the family pulls off the “perfect family” routine in public but are very different in private.
Mine was like this.
One woman, Cathy describes her experience and it was one I really related to, perhaps you will too?
She talked of always having a “feeling of preparing for”, learning early to try to bottle tensions by anticipating what needed to be done next to make it easier for her mom.
“I consciously worked at not needing anything from anyone again to hopefully cut down on some of my stress.”
She talks of her mother and “taking care” of her by not being a bother… by anticipating how she would want me to be.
“For most of my adult life, I have wavered between pleasing her and being very rebellious around her wishes for me.”
“…my adult life became mere survival. I didn’t have capacity to…maintain relationships. I moved out on room mates. I left jobs after I had personality problems with bosses…”
” I wanted people to think I had it all together and didn’t need anything from anyone but inside I was so needy that whenever I did have a friend I expected to be fulfilled from that one person.”
In recovery from eating disorder…” for the first 6 months I didn’t feel any emotions or at least I couldn’t identify any.!
In time…”I was slowly getting a growing sense of self esteem from real, honest interactions… acknowledging that I have feelings, to identifying them and finally expressing them to be able to feel my healing.”
…”telling the truth has been .. incredibly freeing for me…being honest with myself has been the core of recovering ..
“…I came into recovery with no sense of self…it takes time to even get an inkling that I have a right to be myself.
I relate to Cathy so much in some many ways we might have come from the same family.
Most of the the self abuse I am on the receiving end from myself of comes from actual abuse experienced in childhood.
“child abuse is common in all sorts of troubled families. (some) forms of abuse are more difficult to recognise as abusive…mild to moderate physical abuse, covert or less obvious sexual abuse, mental and emotional abuse, child neglect, and ignoring or thwarting the child’s spiritual growth.”
My mother would often use God in her abuse. When I was “naughty” she would tell me how God was also very displeased, and upset with me too! If I upset my mother I was upsetting the whole Catholic Church!
All the angels and saints and you my brothers and sisters, pray for me… they were all looking on at me in my shame and guilt. When I was bad the universe open it’s clouds so that the celestial forces could shake their heads in disappointment as they peered down at me in my shame and guilt.
Upsetting my mother was like upsetting the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus
It was difficult in recovery when I heard that I had to choose a God of my understanding because the God of my understanding couldn’t stand me!
Fortunately I was so ill by that stage it wasn’t really a choice at all.
In fact God came and got me (but that’s another story for another day) and took the choice factor out of the question. I would not have chosen God who bullied me as a kid.
I understood Him as a revengeful and disapproving God, in cahoots with my mommie dearest. I still think today that God is adding up all my sins for the final chit chat at the pearly gates.
Not the God I know today. The opposite in fact.
According to this book there are also 7 commonalities or parental conditions which exist in stifling the child within or to use stronger language to the “murder of the child’s soul”
These include inconsistency, unpredictability (both add up to crazy making”), arbitariness and chaos.
These in turn add up to promote a lack of trust or fear of abandonment
Many troubled families are inconsistent through consistently denying feelings of many family members, …these function to control and shut down family and individual growth.
Family members learn that they can expect the unexpected at any time.
They usually live in chronic fear, as though “walking on eggshells” of when they will suffer their next trauma.
The arbitrariness means that no matter who the family member is or how hard they may try, the trouble person would still mistreat them in the same way. In a family where rules have not rhyme or reason the child loses trust in the rule setters and in himself…unable to understand the environment.
Chaos manifested in any of the following
- physical or emotional abuse which teaches the child shame, guilt, and “don’t feel”
- sexual abuse which teaches the same plus fear of losing control.
- regular and repeated crisis which teaches a crisis orientation in life.
- predictable closed communications which teaches “don’t talk” “don’t be real” and denial
- loss of control. which teaches obsession with being in control, which teaches obsession with being in control, and fusion and loss of boundaries or individuation.
The next time you hear that negative self loathing critcal internal voice try to catch yourself and say to yourself it is the echoing voice of a very troubled and distressed child. Imagine a seven year old tugging on your are for help, solace, reassurance.
in various forms can be subtle although damaging to the growth development and aliveness of the true self and includes…shaming, humiliating,degrading, inflicting guilt, criticising, disgracing, joking about, manipulating, deceiving, tricking, betraying, hurting, being cruel, threatening, inflicting fear, bullying, controlling, limiting, withdrawing or with holding love, not taking you seriously, discrediting, invalidating, misleading, disapproving, making light of or minimizing you feelings, breaking promises, raising hopes falsely, responding inconsistently or arbitrarily,
I get a lot of these in my critical self voices, they are the quiet indirect voice of my mother but sounding like me. The sound of my distressed self screaming rebounding his distress and blame onto me for things other people did.
Denial of feelings
troubled families tend to deny feelings
where anger is chronic it often takes other forms eg abuse of self, or others.
reality is denied and a false belief system of reality is assumed as true…
this fantasy often binds the family together in a further dysfunctional way. This denial stifles and retards the child’s development and growth in the crucial mental, emotional and spiritual areas of life.
This is one of the main reasons why I am not close to my siblings today – I can no longer support a shared, but false belief system about our “shared” upbringing. The denial they have about the past is the same denial that almost killed me.
I was not in denial about my drinking, but I have been in ferocious denial about the thing that caused my difficulties and which still needs treatment.