Dec 22, 2009

Hold Still and Do Nothing

Fuck it fuck it fuck it fuck it fuck it...

Ever have one of those days where you just can't sit still? You fidget and fuss. You sit down to work at the computer, but on the way to your desk, you end up going downstairs to fold laundry. Should I take a Clonazepam to calm the fuck down, or should I just take vitamins and tough it out? Did I remember my Zoloft and Wellbutrin? I need to take a shower. It's too fucking hot in here. Oh look, I just got an email...oh shit! I don't want to talk to her. Fuck! I need to get this stupid Flash project done. God, I HATE Flash! How much longer can I put this one off?

On and on it goes. Why? One word:


Fear is a learned response, much like optimism or procrastination or kindness or any other character trait. We learn how to respond to the world by modeling, or taking on, the behaviors and moods of our parents. We steep in them, percolating in them for years. They become our stance towards life, our vision of the world. They color our reality. They become our reality.

As a nihilist, I believe reality is mostly whatever I say it is. It's basic nature is formless, colorless, shapeless, empty, nothing. I give it shape. I give it meaning, and substance, and "truth", if there is such a thing. How do I do this? The sum experience of my life to this point, everything I have learned in both childhood and adulthood, is the substance, the essence, that I project onto the void around me. This becomes, for all intents and purposes, "reality."

The Glass is Half Full
It's interesting to note how the experiences of childhood become a sort of template to interpret all later experiences, even if the later experiences are completely opposed to the permeating childhood lens. Everyone knows someone for whom the glass is half full, right? My experience with these people is that the glass is half full even in the face of the most horrible tragedies, mishaps, and general shitball fuckery that seems to constitute most of life. When their child dies, or their husband leaves them for an Asian hooker, or they get terminal cancer, they STILL see the glass as half full. Why? Usually it's because one or both of their parents had this basic stance toward the world: "No matter what happens, no matter how bad things get, nothing can take away my sense of value, the sense that I am precious and lovable on some basic level. There is still beauty in the world. There is hope for the future. Tomorrow is a new day."

The child, being biologically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually immersed in this "reality", naturally tends toward a similar template filter. Huey Lewis wrote a song in the 80s called "That's the Power of Love." I don't know what the fuck he's talking about, but if I could re-write this song, I'd make it about transmitting "The Glass is Half Full" reality to your children. Now THAT's the power of love!

The Glass is NOT Half Full
Conversely, "pessimists", as they're called, see the glass as half empty, or in some cases, totally empty. I am one of those people. That being said, I have a good life, at least on the outside. I have a good job, a nice place to live, and a dog that I adore. I live in a friendly collage town in the Northwest that has little crime, no traffic, and no ghettos, just the occasional meth lab. That beats Pittsburgh or California any day of the week. I have wonderful friends in the program, a fantastic therapist, and a pretty good relationship with my father, who also lives here in Missoula. I'm intelligent, well educated, and in reasonably good health, particularly taking into account all the substances I've abused. I'm tall, thin, and reasonably good-looking. I don't currently have a girlfriend or partner, but it's mostly by choice. I'm not lacking in opportunities. I sound happy, right? You'd think I was happy.

Wrong. Here's a partial list of the messages MY parents communicated about their "reality":

  • You're here to make ME happy. You exist to service my needs.
  • You don't have any real value. You're not worth much.
  • The world is a dangerous place. You're not smart/strong/tough enough to survive it.
  • You will never make it without me.
  • I had you to become the man who would never leave me. Not like all the other cocksuckers out there. You're special. You're different.
  • I'm attracted to you. I want you to be my surrogate husband. You turn me on.
  • I can hit you, scream at you, and call you horrible names anytime I feel like it.
  • I may even kill you someday if I get really upset or really out of control.
  • You're nothing without me.
  • You're OK, but I don't really like kids. Nothing personal, you understand.
  • I didn't really want to be a Dad. I mostly had you to keep your bitch of a mother happy. I hate that bitch.
  • I really can't deal with the emotional needs of a child. I don't like deep feelings. Keep your feelings to yourself.
  • I know your mother's a crazy, psycho bitch, but I won't protect you from her. I just want to get the hell out of here. What do you want from me, anyway?
End result?


Fear of being hit. Fear of being touched. Fear of being killed. Fear of dying. Fear of abandonment. Fear of people. Fear of intimacy. Fear of my own body. You get the picture.

Living in chronic fear is very hard on one's health. Adult Children of Alcoholics offers some insights into this issue:
"Because we were raised in chaotic or controlling homes, our internal compass is oriented toward excitement, pain, and shame. This inner world can be described as an 'inside drug store.' The shelves are stocked with bottles of excitement, toxic shame, self-hate, self-doubt, and stress. Other shelves include cannisters of lust, fear, and worry. As odd as it sounds, we can seek out situations so we can experience a 'hit' of one of these inner drugs."
"Our actions as adults represent our addiction to excitement and a variety of inner drugs created to survive childhood. Many of our repressed feelings have actually been changed into inner drugs that drive us to harm ourselves or others."
Addiction to fear. Yup, that sums it up pretty well. I'm a fear junkie. I don't know how to live without it. Being afraid is keeping me safe, alert, watchful, and on guard against threats that are no longer happening outside, but have never stopped happening on the inside.

No wonder I can't sit still...

1 comment:

  1. Many thoughtful and well-said words about fear and the experience of living childhood coping mechanisms as an adult.

    So great to have you in the blogosphere Gweb. You have much to say and many people will be glad to hear it.