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Twine (and exploring the labyrinth therewith)



So, I've had a few days to work with the image of a couple of childish conscious parts trying to cover up for certain perceived but nearly unconscious weaknesses, and I thought to give an update on that.

First, the idea has helped to organize some widely disparate observations that I've made about myself lately. Not just obvious things, like my avoidance and procrastination on the divorce issues (i.e. fear of giving my ex a new handle by which to manipulate me, and instead giving her a different one by that very fear.) It also explains how I can feel like my better self even during the commute to work, and start snapping at people there, the first thing they say to me. Work, of course, is one of the areas where I'm on shaky ground. That makes me uncharacteristically intolerant of their shortcomings, simply because I'm so aware of mine.

And hopefully, the flip side of that is that the new awareness is helping me to accept these divisions inside me. Not so that I can stay divided, but so that they begin to find the common ground between them (such as, that they are all part of Me!) :-)

And, to the extent that I can tell, in such a short time, it's working. I feel more at peace with myself and those around me; after all, I exposed my deficiencies and so far, lightning has refused to strike me down ...

{Now I just hope I don't lose this post in a freak electrical storm ...}


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Exposed your deficiencies?? Do you mean here?? Not at work or somewhere else but in what you’ve written here??

What I read in your blog was some things about your humanity, about you as a person. We already know some of what you do in helping to keep this website going and in responding to people in distress and pain. So it doesn’t hurt – and may even help, in that it rounds out our view and knowledge of you.

Does that make sense?

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Mark, I appreciate that you are sharing yourself here. I understand that it feels uncomfortable. I think when others share and show their vulnerabilities, it helps me to share and show mine too. We all have challenges, we're all human, and we're in this thing together. It's nice to get to know you better. We're your friends.

I'm glad you're feeling more at peace. :)

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D, that's part of why I posted it: it helps round out my image. People need to know I'm human.

And definitely, "people" includes me; _I_ need to know I'm human. :-)

In a sense, every person's problems are only "some things about their humanity"; the trick for each of us is to realize it, and internalize the realization, accept the reality of our humanity.

To me, in the past, these aspects of my humanity seemed "bad", so I tried to suppress them. Temporarily, that seemed to work, but as I get older and learn more about myself, I can see more clearly the places where it doesn't work. So I'm trying to change, which seems to require that I first bring them back to consciousness, then stop hiding them, then incorporate them into this thing I call Me.

And that's just the neat and tidy summation that my ability with words allows me to write. The reality is nowhere near that neat.

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In a sense, every person's problems are only "some things about their humanity"; the trick for each of us is to realize it, and internalize the realization, accept the reality of our humanity.

I like this and I think I understand, but it seems that I don't understand enough, because I'm unable to "apply" it - now I mean mainly to explain it to somebody else. (And "we understand something only in case we are able to explain it to somabody else". But who knows; maybe this is not valid for things of this kind - too personal, requiring a certain mental state / level / ... )

May I ask you how would you react if somebody told you: But how can you apply this to murders and criminals who committed really awful crimes?? Could they just say "it's human" and feel OK? - I encountered this question here on a forum yesterday, that's why I'm asking now... Because... it seems to me that when we allow/admit that there ARE some limits - and I think we have to admit there are - then... it's always a question of... how to persuade the person who's hating herself/himself that (s)he really haven't crossed those limits - because it's always the individual who sets his/her limits for hating or loving or accepting him-/her-self... I know; "I've been there" for so long and you were among those who were helping me with it. It seems that I'm "cured" in this regard now (to a reasonable extent ;) - I can like myself and enjoy this new ability), but... I still have no clue for ... how to help/"guide" others to get there. I think it's because I'm not a therapist, but... you aren't a therapist either and you have been so helpful to me (and not only to me). But it's impossible only to quote you for others ;). Maybe I should have much lower ambitions...

Anyway, my question about the limits (criminals, ...) remains... for a case if anybody would like to try to answer...

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malign: "In a sense, every person's problems are only 'some things about their humanity' ..."

LaLa3: "But how can you apply this to murders and criminals who committed really awful crimes?"

Well, I think that there's a stack of different, but related, issues involved here.

At the deepest, psychological level, a person's problems are simply the result of their humanity, and therefore need to be accepted unconditionally as the reality of where that particular person is, at this moment in time. That includes people in psychosis; they're still people.

At the next higher level, that of a person's actions, it's an entirely different thing. I can be afraid, or angry, or mistaken, on the inside, but then I have a duty to the world around me as well as myself to act in ways that don't increase suffering, don't spread my problems to others, to the best of my ability.

And at the level of actions that affect others, clearly the others have a say in the outcome, as well. For instance, society may have passed a law against my action, and be justified in punishing me for it, because I knew the law beforehand and chose to remain in that society.

{As an aside, the choice of murder definitely goes straight to the extreme, which wasn't exactly what I was talking about.}

So, to give a possible example, imagine a person who is socially phobic, stays away from people, never gets a good education, has trouble holding a job, runs out of money, and decides to steal so that they can eat. The first level is the social phobia; I would hope we wouldn't reject a person for a problem at this level. At the second level are the actions, such as withdrawal from society and problems with their job, which really affect only the person themselves. We might still accept these actions as human responses, but we might also hope that the person would begin to see that they are not functioning well, and try to get help to function better. At the point where they decide to try to solve their problem, not by dealing with the root cause, but by harming others by stealing from them, though, it doesn't seem unreasonable for society to step in and say "no".

I think this points to the idea that limits are necessary, not on how "different", or ill, people are allowed to be, but on what they're allowed to do about it. Hurting others is not a solution, and the intent of laws (not always their result) is to keep people from hurting others.

LaLa3: "How to persuade the person who's hating themselves that they haven't crossed those limits ... [that they have set for themselves.]"

I think the key issue is that they're hating themselves, rather than any actions. I think it's a fundamental, and quite common, parental error (and/or child conclusion, also incorrect) that people can be bad. Actions can be judged; people are just people. So what we're really trying to persuade people who hate themselves is that the mistake is in putting any limits at all on loving themselves ...

And maybe the only way I know to help others get there is to believe it yourself, unconditionally, and to be seen to apply it. They won't understand right away, but after all, they were taught very young by people who mattered a great deal to them. On the bright side, though, there is something in each of us that resonates with the idea that humans -- we -- are fundamentally good.

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{{{ Mark }}} :-)

Now I sound stupid with my questions and confusions, but I don't mind ;-). (But I feel a bit awkward mainly seeing my grammatical mistakes... 8-P ) Because... without asking, I wouldn't get this very niecely explanatory answer (I mostly appreciate the last paragraph).

I don't know why I still have troubles to separate some things in my mind - like when I see somebody using the example of criminals in the context like "I am bad, I need to change - how can you say that I have to accept myself?" and I see that it's absolutely improbable that that person would really be "bad" in her actions, but I also understand that she sees herself that way... Now I can see where my main mistake was...

However, there still is a lot to understand. For me and possibly for... many of us...

Thanks for this nice contribution to the process! :-)

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It's vital to separate the person, the person's psychological problems, and the person's actions.

People have difficulty accepting that they have to change, or that they can change, quite often because they have confused their identity with whatever they need to change. But even if you change something about yourself (whether it's quitting smoking or becoming more accepting of yourself or others), you're still the same person. You just do something differently now.

It turns out that it's quite difficult to say "There is something about myself that I want to change; therefore I'm bad and can't be accepted until I change," and then, actually be able to change. Quite often, because we just told ourselves we're bad, we may not think we're worthy to change. The same set of facts is covered adequately by "There is something about myself that I want to change, but fundamentally there's nothing wrong with me. I just want to do this one thing differently." Feeling bad about yourself is not only not a pre-requisite for change; it's often a barrier to change.

And it's the same confusion that makes mental illness a stigma: people (patients and others) believe that the problem and the person are the same thing. But even if the problem ends up being lifelong, it's still not the same as who the person is, really.

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The stigma is a lot about fear and a lack of knowledge too, I think. People can be fearful of confronting their own struggles, imperfections, and vulnerabilities and so they choose to distance themselves from it. It would be wonderful if our children could be educated at a young age about mental health as well as physical health. Just something that popped into my head as I was reading your post....

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hate the sin, love the sinner?

Thanks for the new ways of thinking about things. (I was the one who proprosed the criminal analogy on the discussion boards that LaLa3 was referring to).

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"Hate the sin, love the sinner" is a bit of a simplification, not to mention a bit loaded with religious overtones of a particular sort. "Sin", as a word, implies that it's obvious what actions are bad and which aren't, when in fact that's not always (or even often?) true.

But basically, yes: love is the basic solution. And ... self-love, first of all.

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Oh, I wasn't actually thinking in terms of religious context when I posted that. I just thought it paralleled the notion that there is some sort of separation between the person and their actions--like you had said above. What is and isn't a "sin" might be subjective on a lot of things, but when we were using the criminal analogy, I figured crimes might be considered sins. But it's possible I'm completely lost in this conversation.

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Meh, I just reacted to the extra emotional load that the word "sin" carries for many people ...

The religious formulation does convey essentially my meaning, with the minor reservations that I noted. So, I do "see" your analogy ... I just "raised" you an argument {as in poker.} :-)

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But basically, yes: love is the basic solution. And ... self-love, first of all.

"Love is the solution" seems like a sweeping statement. This reminds me of something my therapist has said a few times. He has said there was a study that showed that people who are happier in general don't necessarily have more happy thoughts, they have more neutral thoughts. I like this idea because it makes sense--the key to getting out of a depression isn't to force happy thoughts on yourself, it's to look realistically at the world. If someone cuts you off in traffic, you don't have to get angry, but you also don't have to grin and say "that's ok, I'm sure they are a good person." All that you have to say is "they cut me off in traffic." Likewise, love is the opposite of hate. One is a positive and one is a negative. I don't know if it's right to say that "love is the answer," but maybe observing the reality of the situation without emotionally charging everything is.

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I respectfully disagree, I believe all people at heart are evil.

Maybe there isn't a black and white answer, Seddy. Do you think there might be some purpose to you believing this?

Also I was educated about mental health at a very very young age and I turned out not much better then most.

I wasn't really thinking that education about mental health would make anyone "better." I feel it could help us as human beings to better understand and accept the challenges that many of us face. Maybe it could help eliminate the stigma of mental health issues and encourage us to better accept our own frailties? Also, bringing what we fear out into the light usually lessens that fear. I also feel that there is not enough emphasis placed on our emotional health and this is extremely important (in my opinion) to a person's overall well-being. I guess I have some strong opinions about all of that, but it is only my personal belief. I do hope that you appreciate aspects of yourself, Sed, and will treat yourself gently. I also hope that your faith in humanity can at some point be restored.

It's vital to separate the person, the person's psychological problems, and the person's actions.

I agree, Mark. This helped me tremendously during a time in my life when a family member struggled with addiction.

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So many interesting points of view! :-)

I love where blog conversations can go ...

"... love is the opposite of hate. One is a positive and one is a negative."

I don't know; sometimes I feel both the inherent limitations of this medium that consists of only words, and also its seductive attraction for someone like me, who tends to think in words and is only recently exploring other types of thinking. Maybe I should try to do less talking for the sheer pleasure of it (and I do enjoy it), and instead try to reach behind the words more ...

Yet, I'm not sure that logical concepts (a thing is either "A or not A", for instance) really apply here. I often think of love and hate going together, somehow. Not to mention shades of gray ...

"... I believe all people at heart are evil."

Except me, of course. :-P

I guess it's possible to kill another person without being psychologically ill to start with. Self-defense, for instance, which also covers most military situations ... But what's commonly called "murder" I think results from some kind of misconception of a situation and what to do about it. Whether or not that rises to the level of illness is a question I'll leave to people who judge for a living ...

I would submit, however, that for most people who don't start out ill, killing someone else may well trigger some form of illness. Humans are inherently social; we're designed to get along. Again, just my opinion.

Hmm, education. I'm not sure it's enough to know a bunch of facts about mental health. And if the education is growing up around crazy people, I suspect that would tend to make a person less healthy, don'tcha think? :-)

What part do you like about poker, seddy, the fact that you win money from the people you usually play? :-)

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I can sort of relate to sedsed's "everyone is evil" comment. I often feel this way about myself, but usually in the context of when I interact with other people. Any time I am able to be confident, I can't help but feel I am fundamentally wicked. Though I'm pretty sure this is a distortion in thinking caused by my upbringing (where any time I was proud or happy, I was typically "put back in my place".) But a lot of times it seems that the only way I can be comfortable around other people, is if I embrace the "badness" I feel inside, instead of trying to believe I am not bad.

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Just my 2 cents (probably isn't worth that).

Just because you HATE the opposite of what you LOVE does not mean that love is not the opposite of hate. Both are products of passion. If you did not care a bit for a thing then you would never hate it or it's opposite.

Secondly, I'm not being a downer-I love love-but, love would seem as much the problem as the solution. If you did not think that you were supposed to love yourself then you would not loathe yourself for not doing so. If love were not a factor then no one would see themselves or another as unloveable. You have to admit that love plays a leading role in the health of the self worth of the whole human race.

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Oh, I could definitely see a rebellion if I thought I was "supposed to" love myself ...

Maybe in fact, that was what happened, for a lot of my life.

I guess all I can say positively is that I do love myself, and I didn't before. I didn't change because someone told me to, though.

I used to fear that if I loved myself, I would lose my judgment; I would become overbearingly proud and blind to all my faults. I had this image in mind of such a person (not anyone I've ever really known), and I wanted to avoid that at all costs. Yet I don't think I became that, or that there ever really was a risk that I would.

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malign wrote: I would become overbearingly proud and blind to all my faults.

Do you not think that your faults, being such a large part of the human experience, are something to be loved as well as the whole? Without your faults you would no more be you than you would with out your better attributes and loving that person wouldn't matter so much. I can understand the desire to avoid becoming overbearingly anything however, to be happy or even just content that you are and have and can is not to say that you are proud, only that you possess things or capabilities that you set out to possess or happened upon by accident that happen to please you in some way.

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Well, I do now ... In fact, the transition probably came when I realized that my faults and I weren't separable ...

One thing that bothers me about the scientific approach (and I have a science degree and was philosophically orthodox about it most of my life) is that it assumes independence between variables. The basic idea is summed up in the phrase "all else being equal." This is the fundamental idea behind analytical studies, the belief that a process can be broken down into smaller independent processes whose sum produces the whole. If that's true, one can vary individual variables one by one and observe the changes, and use the results to predict the outcome of varying several variables simultaneously.

How is this relevant? Well, I think I used to believe that if I loved myself, faults and all, I'd have to love myself even more if I were the same person, only with one less fault, "all else being equal." But unfortunately, all else never really is equal: without that fault, I'd be a different person. Or, alternatively, you could look at it as loving the person, with whatever faults and ... better qualities (why isn't there a single word for the good stuff?) you have layered on top.

And yes, I think I am agreeing with you. ;-)

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I don't think I would have understood all that if you COULD have found one word to sum it up. Incidentally, I think that one word is HUMAN ;)

"All else being equal" would be 1 million people picking a number between 1 and 1 million and hitting every number between 1 and 1 million. IT NEVER HAPPENS. It amazes me that science can find a single cause to any ailment for just that reason. Science is awesome!!!

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Mmm, well, in defense of science, there are lots of situations where "all else being equal", or at least "all else being negligible" works, otherwise we wouldn't have a rover waiting to land on Mars. It's a useful approximation in many domains of knowledge.

Just maybe not so much when you reach the complexity of the brain.

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I used to fear that if I loved myself, I would lose my judgment; I would become overbearingly proud and blind to all my faults. I had this image in mind of such a person (not anyone I've ever really known), and I wanted to avoid that at all costs. Yet I don't think I became that, or that there ever really was a risk that I would.

Yes, I can relate to this... One needs also a courage to take the risk of loving oneself, because the fear of becoming what you describe can be huge...

I hope I'll write more when I'll have more time!!

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