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Identity crisis? Sort of...


TimWake993
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Hello, been a while since i posted here. Hope everyone is doing well. :)

Thankfully i managed to get my personality/disassociation problems under control, and things have been going better lately.

However over the past month i've been struggling with something...i'm not really sure what to call it, identity crisis is what comes the closest i suppose.

Basically, i began to question myself. I started asking myself, why do i do the things that i do, why do i feel the way that i feel, what is it that fuels my desires?

The most confusing part of this crisis is what happens inside of me when i want to do something more then anything else? What is it that makes me have such a feeling?

I'll make an example. My favourite outdoor activity is skiing. So i can say that i like skiing the most, since that is true. But what happens if i decide that today, i rather go ice skating? I know that i love skiing the most overall, but if right now i want to go skating more, should i then say that right here, right now, i like skating the most? Even more then skiing? Or do i simply want to go skating the most, yet even right now i love skiing the most? Is "want" and "love" related or unrelated?

That's the biggest question that i'm asking myself, i suppose. What is it that makes me want to do something more then anything else? Is it because right now, i love doing this something the most? Even though it might not be what i love doing the most overall?

Sorry if this seems massively confusing, its the best i can put it right now.

Thanks. :)

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Hello again, Tim.

Do you think that possibly the struggle you feel has more to do with your thought patterns than what you're actually thinking about? Obsessive and intrusive thoughts can become distressful. Have you talked with a therapist about the anxiety you've been feeling around this? What happens if you try to be in the moment and enjoy either skating or skiing, regardless of which?

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Thanks for the reply. :)

The funny thing is that i'm not feeling any anxiety over this anymore. I did when it started about a month ago, but now i feel...normal, pretty much. At this point it seems like more of a philosophical question to me, sort of like wondering whether the earth is flat or round, if you get my meaning.

The reason why i'm posting this here is because its just not something that i seem to be able to figure out by myself. So i'm hoping that you guys may help me out somehow. :lol:

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Maybe I can make it more complicated (or *gasp* maybe even simpler): I choose to go to work every day (okay, weekdays). I don't do it because at that moment I suddenly love work more than anything else; I do it because (every day) I have to eat, and the only way I can eat is if I work.

Enjoying an activity isn't the only reason to do it, and choosing a given activity doesn't mean you like it the most, even at that moment. Choosing an activity at some point in time occurs because the sum of all the motivations for doing that activity is higher than the motivations for all the other possible activities, at that moment (of course, minus the sum of all the reasons not to do the various options).

Could part of the confusion be that you're using the word "love"? Our society conditions us to believe that, in the case of romantic love at least, love "should" be exclusive (you love one person at a time) and constant (if you love them now, you'll love them later.) Of course, there are lots of exceptions to both of those concepts. Similarly, familial love (parents to children) is conceived of as being fixed and unchangeable and lifelong, despite the all-too-common exceptions. So, when you start to use a phrase like "I love skiing", you can tell we're talking about a different feeling, really.

Even if you confine yourself to the concept of loving people, there are all kinds of love: charity (caring for everyone), acquaintance (caring for people you've met), friendship (caring for people with whom you've exchanged deeper experiences), familial (caring for parents, siblings, relatives -- all different), and romantic (caring for people you choose to spend life with). I doubt whether I've exhausted all the possibilities. Then, if you extend the word to things (I love my new car) or activities (I love to ski), it is bound to take on a different shade of meaning.

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Thanks, i understand (or at least i think i do). :)

Oftentimes we do things because we need to do them, other times its because we love to do them, but we don't always do what we love doing the most?

So basically, the reason why we want to do something the most...is because we just want to do it the most? There is no dominating factor such as love or enjoyment? I want to do this the most right now, not because i love to do this the most right now, or because i enjoy doing it the most right now, but because i just feel like doing it?

In my example, i would then be correct in saying "I love skiing the most", but saying "I love skating the most" would be untrue for as long as i feel i love skiing the most overall?

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Sorry for the double post.

I just feel like i'm in a complete dead end. Basically i feel like there are two possible answers to this problem i'm facing, but i can't for the life of me figure out which one is the right one.

Solution 1: We always do what we love the most at that particular moment, except when we can't do that for some reason.

Obviously there are times where we have to do something that we don't want to do at all (ex: its raining outside, but i have to go walk the dog), but when we willingly choose to do something, its because its what we love to do the most right here, right now. For example, if i choose to go and watch some TV instead of playing video games or going out for a walk, its because I love to do that more then anything else right now.

Solution 2: We DON'T always do what we love to do the most.

We have our favourite things to do, its just that sometimes we may want to do something different. Its not because we love to do that something the most right now, we just want to do it the most. Basically, "want" and "love" aren't necessarily connected. For example, i love to go skiing the most, but today i want to go skating. Its not because i feel like i love skating more today, its just what i want to do the most.

Sorry if this seems a bit weird, i've just tried putting what is going on inside of my head into words.

I just don't know which one of these "solutions" is the right one to explain why I do what I do. Which one seems more normal to you guys? I just can't figure it out myself.

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I don't know, it just seems important to me to be able to explain my actions better then just "I do this because i want to".

Initially when i started asking myself these questions, i also felt very anxious and agitated, its like i was putting my whole way of living in question. And then when i couldn't find an answer right away, i became depressed, and that depression only lifted about 2 weeks ago. I have been feeling pretty good since then but since i went through all of this, shouldn't I keep going until i can find the "right" answer?

That's the best i can explain it anyways. It just seems very important and that if i can't figure it out, i can't really move on and go back to my normal self. :mellow:

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I think sometimes in life things aren't so black and white, and may not have a clear correct answer, and that's okay. So much is subjective and about our personal interpretation and constructs. Maybe it's more about what answers fit best for us.

It just seems very important and that if i can't figure it out, i can't really move on and go back to my normal self.

How would you not having an answer prevent you from being your normal self? Would having an answer ease some pressure you've been feeling? Are there other ways to ease your discomfort?

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Maybe so, but that's part of the problem, i don't know what the right answer is for myself, so maybe if i knew what other people think about this, it would help me.

As to how this is bothering me...its just making me feel uneasy inside. Even when i'm busy doing something and not thinking about the problem, i feel sort of like i left something important unresolved.

I just think i need to solve this, i feel like its very important and if i can do it, everything in my life will be much better. Not sure if that makes sense but that's just the way that i feel.

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Tim, first off, I would suggest that this is an example of almost-obsessive thinking, and as evidence I would point to the idea that it feels inordinately important and as if it would produce a magical change in your life, if only you {could do something you can't really define.} That thinking is somewhat similar to the thoughts behind compulsive rituals that attempt to, say, ward off bad things by complex ritual behavior. In reality, not many things produce sudden or miraculous change. I'm not doubting how you feel; I'm just suggesting that you might want to consider that it might not be entirely true. Did you ever receive treatment, or are you in therapy at the moment?

That said, I'll still attempt to give you an answer that works for me.

I think we make decisions by selecting from a large set of options on the basis of a complex variety of motivations. Some of those motivations might be called needs, wants, loves, whims, and so on. In other words, the precise word conveys relatively little information that everyone agrees on, which makes them fairly useless for discussing this subject with others.

800px-Maslow%27s_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg.png

{Image comes from Wikipedia's article on the subject.}

Instead, Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, suggested that there is a hierarchy of human motives and tried to describe them by their category. At the most basic level, he put biological needs, those that are necessary for survival, including such things as hunger, thirst, and the need for sleep. If we're not getting those needs satisfied, they tend to take precedence over other things. You won't bother going skiing if you're starving to death, for instance. Then we consider our safety, love (of other people), esteem (how we feel about ourselves), up to self-actualization (the things that make us whole people, to put it into my own words.) Your "love of skiing", as well as the other pleasurable activities that you've discussed so far, I think, fall into one of the top two categories, depending on exactly what each activity means for you. But I don't think you bother thinking about the difference between skiing and skating if you had unmet needs in the lower three levels of the pyramid.

So, to give some depth to your own example, even while you were skiing, you might take a break for lunch because you were hungry. Your feelings about skiing haven't changed; you just decided to "do something more important" for a half hour. Or, I go to work not because it gives me more pleasure than my leisure activities but because it satisfies my need for safety by providing me with the means to get food and shelter. It's possible that, if I loved my job, it also might satisfy some of the higher needs as well, but I work for someone else because they pay me. In fact, I started out in my current field (computers) as a hobbyist, but I still needed a job to pay the bills.

So, after all that ...

I would say that we decide to do a certain thing at a certain time because of the balancing of a large number of motives, only some of which could be described as "wants" or "loves". Definitely, some of them are needs, such as eating; we die or get very sick if we "decide" not to do them. On the other hand, you definitely won't perish even if you never ski again. But when it comes to making a decision between two leisure activities such as skiing versus skating, then I think we're simply talking about momentary preferences. In that situation, I would say you "love skiing the most" because you go skiing the most, not because you go skiing exclusively.

Then, I wonder, is your question really just a veiled perfectionism, that if you "love doing <something> the most", you have to do that <something> all the time, and we're back to whether you're obsessing ...

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Thanks for the reply. :)

Tim, first off, I would suggest that this is an example of almost-obsessive thinking, and as evidence I would point to the idea that it feels inordinately important and as if it would produce a magical change in your life, if only you {could do something you can't really define.} That thinking is somewhat similar to the thoughts behind compulsive rituals that attempt to, say, ward off bad things by complex ritual behavior. In reality, not many things produce sudden or miraculous change. I'm not doubting how you feel; I'm just suggesting that you might want to consider that it might not be entirely true. Did you ever receive treatment, or are you in therapy at the moment?

No i'm not in therapy at the moment. I think i might have worded what i said earlier about it being so important, a bit wrong. It feels important to me, because understanding why I do what I do is important to me. I don't believe that once i get this off my chest, i will suddenly feel like a brand new man and everything in my life will be amazing. I'll just no longer have to think about it, and i'll understand myself a bit better. Shouldn't that be a good thing and something i should strive to achieve if i've already started?

Instead, Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, suggested that there is a hierarchy of human motives and tried to describe them by their category. At the most basic level, he put biological needs, those that are necessary for survival, including such things as hunger, thirst, and the need for sleep. If we're not getting those needs satisfied, they tend to take precedence over other things. You won't bother going skiing if you're starving to death, for instance. Then we consider our safety, love (of other people), esteem (how we feel about ourselves), up to self-actualization (the things that make us whole people, to put it into my own words.) Your "love of skiing", as well as the other pleasurable activities that you've discussed so far, I think, fall into one of the top two categories, depending on exactly what each activity means for you. But I don't think you bother thinking about the difference between skiing and skating if you had unmet needs in the lower three levels of the pyramid.

So, to give some depth to your own example, even while you were skiing, you might take a break for lunch because you were hungry. Your feelings about skiing haven't changed; you just decided to "do something more important" for a half hour. Or, I go to work not because it gives me more pleasure than my leisure activities but because it satisfies my need for safety by providing me with the means to get food and shelter. It's possible that, if I loved my job, it also might satisfy some of the higher needs as well, but I work for someone else because they pay me. In fact, I started out in my current field (computers) as a hobbyist, but I still needed a job to pay the bills.

So, after all that ...

I would say that we decide to do a certain thing at a certain time because of the balancing of a large number of motives, only some of which could be described as "wants" or "loves". Definitely, some of them are needs, such as eating; we die or get very sick if we "decide" not to do them. On the other hand, you definitely won't perish even if you never ski again. But when it comes to making a decision between two leisure activities such as skiing versus skating, then I think we're simply talking about momentary preferences. In that situation, I would say you "love skiing the most" because you go skiing the most, not because you go skiing exclusively.

I understand that a lot of our actions are fuelled by needs. But what about those that aren't? That's really what i'm trying to figure out for myself.

For example, if i choose to go and watch some TV instead of going out for a walk, what is it that happens in my mind? Is it because right here, right now, i LOVE to watch TV more then going out for a walk, or do i just WANT to watch TV more, and it hasn't got anything to do with any feelings of love?

Also i understand there could be lots of other factors, for example i might go watch TV because my favourite show is on, but is that a factor that contributes to the reason why i feel like i love to watch TV the most right now, or is it the reason itself?

If when all things are even i choose to go skating instead of going skiing, is it because its what i like the most right now, or is it once again not a question of love?

Then, I wonder, is your question really just a veiled perfectionism, that if you "love doing <something> the most", you have to do that <something> all the time, and we're back to whether you're obsessing ...

Not at all, i understand that even though i have my favourite things to do, i won't and shouldn't always do them exclusively. I'm just trying to understand what exactly happens inside of me when i choose to do something other then one of those "favourite things".

Lastly, let me ask you a question, you don't have to answer of course if you don't want to :) . What is your favourite drink? The one you love drinking the most? And when you feel like drinking something other then that, do you think to yourself that you like something else the most right now, in the situation you're in, or do you still feel you love your original favourite drink the most, and just WANT to drink something else?

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  • 3 weeks later...

A new question arose that i just can't seem to find an answer for: Why do we feel the way that we do about things?

You know that something can sometimes make you feel in many different ways, despite the circumstances being the exact same. For example, today i was watching a TV show that normally doesn't interest me much, but today, i found it very entertaining (despite having seen that episode already). Why did i feel this way about it today? I know that under the exact same circumstances, i could feel like i hate watching this show (which is what normally happens), but today i just felt differently. Why? Is it some kind of decision that is being made sub-consciously?

Or do we just feel the way that we do at the moment....because that's just the way that it is? Because that's just the way that we feel at the moment? Is there always a tangible reason to explain our feelings? What makes us feel a certain way rather then another? I'm just confused right now, sorry guys. :(

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Tim, try taking a course in Philosophy. :-) You'll either ace it or drive the instructor insane.

Let's go even lower, to sensory "feelings", like hot or cold. Have you ever had a bad burn, and it began to flash hot and cold?

At that level, we're wired to detect certain things that we need to respond to. But it's the response that's important, not what we call the sensation. Whether you're feeling intense hot or cold, if it makes you whip your hand away from the fire, the nerves have done their job. After that it's up to the body to heal.

Yes, I deliberately chose an example that parallels what happens on a higher level when we're in the presence of a person who's harmful to us, someone who is or who might turn into an abuser. We have senses at that level too, and they're called feelings. The trick is to know which feelings mean "run" ...

I know I didn't answer your question. The problem is that above feeling, we've developed thought. Thought can override feelings, allowing people to, say, do things like backflips on snow-mobiles, despite the fear. The thing is, the thought isn't always right (like the guy who just died at the X Games.) What becomes difficult is when we begin to over-think everything, and we no longer know where the boundary between thought and feeling is. That happens when people obsess.

My advice is not to question your feelings; accept them. Think about your thoughts; your feelings can take care of themselves.

And I still suggest that, not this line of thought but the intensity of it may mean that you're still obsessing, a bit.

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Mark, i wish i could just stop questioning my feelings, but that's not the way that my mind works. If i've got a problem that bothers me as much as this....i just have to solve it, i can't just pretend like it doesn't exist or that it doesn't matter.

I've tried it on New Year's Eve, i've told myself that i didn't wand to drag all of this stuff into the New Year, and that i should just forget about it and move on. But i just couldn't, not thinking about this, not trying to find a solution, makes me feel even worse then obsessing over it.

I've done some thinking about my feelings these past few days, and i understand that sometimes you can't explain why you feel the way that you do in a logical way. That sometimes you feel the way that you do...because you just do. But is that an explanation? Can I truly say that i feel the way that i do, because i just do? It seems ridiculous, sort of like saying that a rock is a rock, because it is a rock. But a part of me really wants to believe in that for some reason.

Its like there's a tug of war inside of me, a part of me wants me to just give up and say that I don't know why i feel the way that I do, that it just happens. The other part wants me to say that I feel the way that I do because i just do. As if that's some kind of reasonable explanation when it really isn't. Or is it?

I just don't know. I feel massively confused and just stuck in a dead end.

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...not thinking about this, not trying to find a solution, makes me feel even worse then obsessing over it.

What purpose might obsessing serve? How do you feel worse? Is it painful to not obsess? Sometimes what is familiar to us (even if it's distressful) feels comforting in its familiarity.

I feel massively confused and just stuck in a dead end.

Overthinking something can bring up confused feelings for me too. When the mind is running with scattered thoughts, it's very difficult to be present in the now.

What do you do to relax, Tim? Ever just sit down and feel the life flowing within your body? Listen to the sound of your breathing, let the tension out of your body, slow things down...

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When I force myself not to think about it, the anxiety and feelings of distress just build up inside of me. Whereas when i think about it, i don't feel that much better, but at least i feel like i'm moving towards obtaining an answer so that does make me feel better, if this makes any sense?

I don't really relax either, i just try to distract myself from these thoughts by doing something like watching TV, playing video games, going for a drive, stuff like that.

An another thing that's bothering me...is that we're not in control of our feelings, as in, we don't get to decide how we feel and when we feel it. I realise that it all just somehow "works" inside of our mind, but not having a logical and tangible way to explain it is just making me feel very insecure right now. :(

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You're pretty much describing a compulsion, Tim, a compulsion to think. You feel distress when you're not doing it, but doing it doesn't really fix anything and you're aware that you're doing it to the exclusion of other valuable things. It's the 'C' in OCD.

We're not in control of the weather, either. You're not in control of your thoughts, even, at this point, right?

I don't know more than the basics of how my car works, but that doesn't stop it from working just fine ... I know all I need to, to get me from here to there.

Most people have no idea of the chemical reactions involved in the breakdown of their food and its conversion to energy and the construction of their bodies; it all works just fine nevertheless, or as well as it's going to ... And it controls itself; you'd have a hard time "controlling" your insulin levels, say, just by knowing what they are.

I'm never going to know enough, or have enough power, to finally say "I am in control."

It's tough to accept, but the most anyone can say is "I'm in control, enough."

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That's what i've been saying to myself these past few days. It just doesn't really "sink in" yet, if you get my meaning. I suppose i should give it some time, its just hard to be patient when you're feeling like crap every single minute of your day.

But would you guys view something like "The reason why I feel the way that i do, is because i just do." as a proper explanation? Or is it just me trying to make myself feel better by pretending that i've got an explanation, when in reality i don't?

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Define "explanation".

I could say that the properties of all known atoms are "explained" by them being made up of smaller particles like electrons, protons, and neutrons. I could say that the properties of electrons, protons, and neutrons can in turn be "explained" by being made up of smaller particles called quarks. But not even mathematicians can yet explain why quarks have their properties. I could say that the expansion of the Universe is "explained" by the Big Bang, but I can't say how you explain space just deciding to go bang.

I could explain mental illness as development gone awry, as less effective coping skills being overwhelmed by traumatic events, or any of a number of other theories, but I can't explain why someone suffering from an illness ought to care about my explanation when I don't even care that much myself.

I'm fond of a philosophical school called Pragmatism whose basic tenet is that any explanation that doesn't make a measurable difference in the world is a complete waste of time.

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  • 3 weeks later...

It really feels like i'm going through the 5 circles of mental hell right now.

When i last posted here a few weeks ago i was asking myself whether i am in control of my feelings...well i've been able to somewhat overcome that.

But now, i'm asking myself whether i am in control of my thoughts.

And its just such a scary thing to think about...I mean, to me, thoughts are everything. If we're not in control of them, we're nothing more then zombies, robots programmed to do whatever an entity that we've got no control over tells us to do (or in this case to think).

But as i think about this, i realise that there are multiple cases where its fairly obvious that i'm NOT in control of my thoughts...and its just making me feel so anxious and insecure inside. I can't even find a starting spot to begin overcoming this problem right now. And i've got to get up at 5am for work. Life sucks.

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Intrusive thoughts can bring up anxious feelings. Giving more energy to the thoughts, regardless of the subject matter of them, will likely only add to your feelings of discomfort.

Some spiritualists believe there are universal connections that go way beyond our connection with our minds. Have you ever tried meditation or other relaxing activities? Even just sitting quietly and feeling the life flowing through your body can help to bring more presence in the now.

I hope you are able to relax today, Tim.

Take care.

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Tim, let's say that "you" (however you choose to define that concept) isn't in charge of your thoughts. Then who is? Unless you're laying the groundwork for a claim of telepathy or spirit possession, the only answer that could be is: another part of you. So, maybe "you" has no control over that other part of you, but maybe all that means is that you need to expand your definition of "you".

Do you shiver when you're cold? That's a reaction that's mediated by your nervous system, in exactly the same way as your thoughts are (nerve impulses, etc.) Can you control it? Is it still a part of "you"?

Now, does that mean that I suggest you do nothing? No, if you shivered, you'd probably go put on something warmer. That's obvious to us, because it has happened to us before, so we know what to do about it. I know that it's more difficult with your intrusive thoughts, because that's not a common experience. Yet, "you" do know that there are treatments out there, so, if the intrusive thoughts cause you discomfort, maybe your "you" needs to take what control it has, and find some treatment that works.

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I'm just scared about the idea that i don't have any control over that "other part" of me. I'm scared about the idea that things "just happen". That thoughts just "pop up" in our minds without our conscious selves having much say whether we wanted those particular thoughts to enter our mind or not. The idea that i haven't decided to have the thoughts that i'm writing down right now just makes me extremely scared.

Being able to explain how or why it happens, might allow me to better deal with it, as its the unknown that scares me so much, i think. But i'm just not finding any answers. It almost looks as if i'm the only person in human existence to ask himself these questions and to feel so uncertain and insecure about them.

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There's actually a fairly extensive literature on the origin of thoughts that are at odds to the ego's viewpoint, starting from Freud and Jung, if not earlier.

Simplifying, their answer is that a fair amount of our thought processes are unconscious. The ego, refusing to consider certain ideas, pushes them into the unconscious. Then, when some other factor (call it "OCD" for the moment) causes that thought to erupt back into consciousness, we're shocked. {Note that none of that means that the unpleasant thought is what we "secretly" prefer; the ego's reaction of aversion is probably appropriate in many cases. There, it's the factor that causes the eruption that needs to be dealt with.}

Unfortunately, you can "know" all you want (and our knowledge grows all the time), but it probably won't help in the case <add>of</add> obsession, because it doesn't penetrate deep enough to reach the fear, which is probably on an instinctual level.

I've noticed that there is some resistance to the idea of you getting anyone else's help on this ..

Edited by malign
Meh, I type too fast, or not fast enough
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