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Xiphias Gladius

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Do you have a shrink who gets annoyed at you? [Jun. 18th, 2014|10:17 am]
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I do. Dr Bayard believes that "support" sometimes means pointing out what you're doing wrong and being disappointed because you can do better.

I think it works pretty well for me. Largely because MOST of the time "support" means "support".

Anyway, at the end of the session, he brought up something that started me thinking enough that I had to sit down and ponder for a bit in reception before I left. He mentioned the Hillel three part quote: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?"

And, for me, right now, all three of those collapsed into one idea, which I need to sit down and process.

See, here's the thing: I feel "happiest" when I'm acting in accordance with my best self -- when I'm acting in a way which is congruent with who I ought to be. And my "best self" is about helping others -- I feel most like my RIGHT self when I'm doing something which benefits someone else. The sense of self-respect and self-regard comes when one lessens the gap between what one feels one IS and what one feels one OUGHT to be. The larger that gap, the greater the feeling of loss, and self-lessening. For me, unhappiness comes from that sense of abrogation: I am aware of when I am acting less than I can be, and less than I ought to be.

An important note: there are two ways that this gap between what one IS and one OUGHT to be can be so large as to cause unhappiness. One is if one is acting far below one's capacity. The other is when one sets one's standards so high as to be unreasonable. Expecting perfection from oneself will lead to unhappiness, because there will ALWAYS be too great a gap there to be overcome. But if one has set a reasonable bar for oneself, and doesn't achieve close to that level, one will be unhappy, too. Self-regard comes from acting up to one's true capacity.

So why do I slack off and play computer games rather than maintaining the house, which is something which I do partially to make Lis's life better, or, when I'm working on the common areas of the house, to make our tenants' lives better, or, when I'm working on the outside of the house like the garden, to make the neighborhood more attractive and therefore make the lives of my neighbors better? Because it doesn't have to be a BIG thing to hit this "best self". Writing this very post, if it is useful to others, or even INTERESTING to others, counts toward the "acting congruently with who I feel I should be" thing.

I don't have to do this ALWAYS -- playing computer games and so forth IS part of how I can have a balanced life, just like having cake sometimes is a perfectly reasonable part of a healthy diet for me. It's just that I have a tendency to eat WAY WAY TOO MUCH cake, which is one reason I'm not as healthy as I could be, and play WAY WAY TOO MANY computer games, which tilts my life away from the balance which would make me truly happy.

So why am I spending too much time doing that sort of thing rather than working toward the other sorts of things? Because I don't really perceive, in the moment, the way in which I COULD be taking actions which would make me me more genuinely happy.

So, the Hillel quote collapsed into a single thought for me, right now. Self-respect is self-driven, and doesn't come from external validation -- external validation is NICE and a good thing, but it's not within one's own control. Self-respect comes from acting up to one's true capacity, and, for me, that means helping others to my capacity. And my blockage in doing that is blinding myself to the truth that actions can only happen in the "now".

For me, it's all one. "If I am not for myself by being for others now, then who else can be for me when what I am is not what I should be because I'm lying to myself that it can all be done later?"
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: papersky
2014-06-18 02:51 pm (UTC)

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And on "If not now, when?" bear in mind the answer can be some specific later point when it would be better to do that. You can't give birthday presents until the birthday, you can't do first aid until it's needed, and so on. There are a pile of answers to that, but so often the answer is indeed now, get on with it.

Also, it's surprising how much one can get done in 20 minutes.

And go you.
[User Picture]From: xiphias
2014-06-18 03:55 pm (UTC)

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Yup. And "I am playing computer games right now because I've decided to play computer games right now" is a completely fine part of life, and so, if not now, when I'm done with the time I've set to play computer games. So long as "the time I've set to play computer games" isn't an open-ended arbitrarily long time.
[User Picture]From: snippy
2014-06-18 09:54 pm (UTC)

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I'm struggling with something similar right now. My identity is largely tied to helping others, and for most of the last 2 years I've been too injured or recovering from surgery to do it. I feel undeserving of care, care that I actually need in order to recover so that I can get back to helping others-it's a depressing spiral. The only thing that helps is telling myself it's situational and temporary.

I am not yet over my most recent therapist telling me that my pain was frightening to her (and to my spouse, it was a marriage counseling session). I was just sitting quietly with tears falling, not even saying anything yet. How can anyone ever want to help me or even feel sympathy for me if I'm frightening? So now I just hide my pain and grief; I only express it alone in my room, or semi-anonymously on the internets. I don't even want to look for a new therapist.
[User Picture]From: xiphias
2014-06-18 10:06 pm (UTC)

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Yeah, I probably should point out that we're only working on this stuff now that the rest of the stuff is largely under control. For me, "helping others more" is a totally legitimate approach to the "feeling like I ought to help others more" thing.

But then, when one is actually incapacitated, one has to deal with "understanding and genuinely accepting that one's reality has changed, and that one's level of 'helping others' has changed." And that's even harder. Because, well, lowering that "expectation bar" feels like failure -- and, in fact, it can be argued that it IS a form of failure.

We spend our whole lives working to achieve MORE, to do BETTER, to STRIVE. Success is achieving useful things -- not necessarily splashy things, not necessarily selfish things, but worthwhile things. Success is making one's community better, one's family happier, one's world better.

And success is doing those things more and more.

And then you get damaged, physically, mentally, psychologically, emotionally -- and the reality changes. Genuinely changes. And you HAVE to lower the bar, move the goalpoasts closer, be satisfied with less. You have to accept that you're NOT going to improve as many lives, you're NOT going to make as many people happy, you're NOT going to help your community and family as much as you expected.

The gap between what IS and what SHOULD BE expands. And that gap pretty much is unhappiness. And, while I need to shrink that gap by making "is" higher, the reality is that, when you're damaged, the "should be" bar has to be lower, and you need to shrink that gap by lowering the "should be" bar.

And lowering your goals? Lowering your expectations? Lowering your aspirations? That feels SO much like failure. Because, well, it IS.

You're stuck having to redefine absolutely everything about happiness, and success, and self-identity, and achievement.

What a horrible situation to be in.
[User Picture]From: metaphortunate
2014-06-23 05:36 am (UTC)

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Have you read this essay about the Dark Playground and why procrastinators procrastinate?

It's okay - I don't agree with all of it, but the Dark Playground is trufax.