Being battered about

I’ve been at an emotional, physical, mental, spiritual, moral, professional, and social low point for weeks. I’ve failed to really help myself during this period, partly because I didn’t feel a need to. This is unfamiliar territory, as I’ve never been challenged on so many fronts at the same time that I feel ungrounded in knowledge and identity and confidence—I’m completely “fightless”. I don’t intend to stay this way, but I think it’s important to document my state of mind for future reference. The concerns and questions and doubts I have right now may or may not be relevant after I’m through with this rough period.


  • I feel restricted and insecure about planning anything due to my unpredictable schedule. I feel like I might as well not do anything.
  • I barely enjoy talking with friends in this mood.
  • I’m unhappy, but I don’t want anyone’s attention or to receive pity. I’d rather just suffer and be irritable alone.
  • Receiving emotional support or validation seems pointless, because I cannot explain what is wrong. I barely even know what’s wrong because my concerns are so multi-faceted.
  • I’m perpetually trying to distract myself from thought or responsibility.
  • Injuries aside, I feel physically uncomfortable all the time.
  • My hobbies are as unreliable as ever, and I’m not motivated to pursue any projects even though I have the time.
  • I can barely act in my own interests. My daily routine has obviously fallen by the wayside.


I have just a few fragments about what might be going on.

  • It is said that you should rely on discipline and not motivation. Although I’ve been experimenting with that idea, I don’t think it’s applicable right now. Taking care of myself might not be enough to lift this mood.
  • In terms of practicing healthy selfishness, I realize that I have somewhat failed all along. It’s not enough to simply cater to your own preferences in a given situation. Selfishness needs to come from the heart. It should be “I’ll choose this and I deserve it”, not the feeble “I guess I’d rather…”
  • I came across a pretensive blog stating that positive thought always precedes positive action. I know that this isn’t true, because I realize I’ve been hurting myself even when taking supposedly positive action. I need to be doing things for the right reasons and with the right attitude.
  • I’ve been penpaling for three years, but I stopped this year in order to prioritize real-life interactions. I could be experiencing some sort of withdrawal symptoms, as it seems that writing to a compatible penpal makes me feel more confident and secure in myself.
  • Some things I seek from friends include basic attention, social advice, discussions of ideas, emotional validation, cultural exchange, an interested audience for expressive works, and a safe place to cry/vent. Some of these things that I want are not accessible from my current support network, and it’s beginning to bother me.
  • Emotional validation seems extremely difficult to come by, and I often settle for being laughed at in a benign way. If I’m unlucky, I receive pity and it greatly annoys me. Anyhow, it begs the question: if I can’t receive reliable external validation, should I be using self-validation somehow? If that’s possible, what incentive would remain for sharing vulnerability with friends?
  • In terms of having someone to vent to and someone to be a willing audience to my works and projects, I can only put on my rose-tinted glasses and say that these are a work in progress. Although it’s not too hard to come by online correspondences that are willing to listen, I strongly feel that it would be far better for such interactions to be in person.
  • “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” I came across this quote misattributed to Virginia Woolf. I’m completely guilty of avoiding life in the past few weeks. This thought led to me reading about avoidant personality disorder, and although I don’t think I have it, I do recognize these symptoms:
    • Views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others
    • Is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked
    • Is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations
    • Is unusually reluctant to take personal risk or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing
  • I’ve been sorting through a lot of my old stuff, especially from my high school days. I can see that I’ve always been trying to reinvent myself even since before my teenage years. Strangely enough, I’ve been having a lot of good dreams of acceptance and friendship in the context of my high school life.
  • I learned a new term: arrival fallacy. It’s defined as “The false belief that reaching a valued destination can sustain happiness”, such as the belief that you’ll be happy if you just achieve your desired goal like losing ten pounds or getting promoted. I’ve been heavily gamifying my hobbies and self-development interests, and after achieving two significant goals I felt really down and purposeless the following week. I have a long list of things I wish to do, but when I pressure myself to move onto the next goal right after achieving one there is a sense of discontentment and inadequacy. My projects are all tainted with the underlying idea/motivation that I need to become a more cultured, well-rounded person, and that my social desirability depends on it. It’s a terrible burden, really. I need to learn to enjoy the journey and be comfortable with who/what I am right now.
  • I need to stop comparing myself to others.
  • Breakthrough: when people say “be yourself”, what they really mean is don’t try to be someone else. (I don’t think there is such a thing as “being yourself” in the first place.)
  • I’ve been confused about the concept of pride for a while, including what a healthy sense of pride should be based on and why people can be proud of things they didn’t actually have to achieve. I’ve even been questioning why we should be proud of things we worked hard for. There are multiple reasons why I’ve been so conflicted about pride. I haven’t learned much about pride yet and its relation to self-esteem, and I felt especially insecure about my personal values when I was recently exposed to the idea that competence (and even factual accuracy) is neither good nor bad, morally speaking. While there is much left to clarify, I finally took the step to do some basic digging on the topic of pride. All this time I had been acting helpless while partial answers were a Google search away.

I feel a lot better having just expressed my thoughts, even though many questions remain. I’m finally done punishing myself and am ready to get back up.


The truth about the holiday season

Three steps back, one step forward

Every year around Christmas and New Year I feel sad, lonely, and forgotten. A part of my subconscious imagines all the joy everyone must be experiencing, and I instinctively engage in emotionally self-harmful behaviors in order to distract from difficult emotions. It’s ironic how the chosen distractions turn pain into numbness, but upon feeling numb one wishes to feel something through further indulgence.

I learned something new from this year’s experience, though at no trivial cost. I could feel lonely during any time of the year I “wanted” to, so why Christmas specifically? The root of suffering during this season is that I feel unloved. People go home to visit their families, so no one is really around for several weeks. Our own family had lunch on Christmas Day and it was fine, but I still became somewhat unhinged after that. I feel unloved for many reasons, but it can simply be stated that I was never given ample opportunity to internalize my family’s love for me as a child, and that I am still underdeveloped in this aspect. Also, in comparison to everything else going on around, my Christmas holidays are a time characterized by mutual neglect of both family and friends.

Even if Christmas is more isolating than usual, there are two assumptions I can attack in order to break the chain of things from devolving into emotional torture:

  1. Everyone is busy and I have no cause to bring down anyone else’s spirits with mine, so I’d rather suffer in silence as if this is all some secret punishment I deserve.
  2. I shouldn’t be thinking so much about myself during Christmas.

The second point is the fallacy that I wish to address presently. When I feel unloved, it’s because I’m not loving myself. Somehow I forget to do so during Christmas, when perhaps it’s the time I need it the most. My longing to love others pains me also, but I should not neglect my basic necessities.

Deciphering my mental state

TLDR; I’m tired.

I’m quite confused about my mood and emotional/energy levels lately. There have been mixed signals.

  1. I’ve been tired from writing, even if it’s for fun or social purpose. And yet I have a strong desire and impulse to write.
  2. I’ve been having logical nightmares that I can’t remember because they’re unfamiliar and don’t make enough sense. I also haven’t been sleeping well.
  3. I’ve been exposed to over five times as much social interaction in the last week than a normal week, so in theory I should be socially exhausted.
  4. I’ve been quite emotional overall, meaning that it’s been hard for me to think things through logically or follow my past judgments without doubt. I’ve been confused and grateful and inspired and many other things.
  5. It seems I mostly recovered from a fever, but it left me physically and mentally exhausted. The unbearably hot weather hasn’t helped either.
  6. It seems like I’m forming a squish, which is probably a bad thing in this situation. For the first time ever, I used flattery in a situation where it felt normal. It was surprising and it feels dangerous.
  7. I’ve been a bit restless and unfocused due to only meditating once this week.
  8. I haven’t been able to run for weeks due to injury and at least once or twice I’ve noticed a restless desire to move around and expend energy.
  9. I usually crave music on a daily or hourly basis, but lately everything I’ve been listening to has been underwhelming, including my favorites. There are no songs playing in my head or any new obsessions.

I think it’s safe to say that I am socially overwhelmed with all the activity that’s been going on. Almost all of it has been high quality interactions, which explains why I’ve been quite emotionally affected by it. However, the fact that I haven’t succumb to the Ti-Si loop probably means I haven’t had the emotional energy to worry about anything too much.

Writing is primarily a logically taxing task for me. Writing too much goes hand in hand with logical nightmares and late nights. It also explains my lack of focus recently. When I have a productive day in terms of my studies, it usually means I don’t have much energy left for writing so in the past I’ve restricted writing to once or twice a week. So it’s a limited resource that has to be managed.

The musical apathy thing is very rare, and I think it must indicate lack of both emotional and logical resources. The emotional tiredness renders me unaware of what mood I should be catering to and what mood I might want to shift into. The logical aspect is that the music just passes me by with me hardly noticing.

I think when the emotional tank is empty, it replenishes steadily given time and space. However, when accompanied by intellectual exhaustion, I’m completely unable to sense my own emotional state. I tried to do this when writing just now and there is simply no access. This must mean that my logical circuit requires a moderate degree of activation in order for me to parse and interpret my emotional circuit.

Now, my being emotionally drained is also a consequence of decisions I made one or two weeks ago, when I had an adequate supply of emotional energy and greedily committed it. In this process, and comparing real-life interactions to online interactions, I’ve discovered something. First of all, engaging with less familiar people in a big room environment takes the most emotional energy. No surprise there. But in terms of online correspondences vs friendships and smaller group interactions with partial familiarity, the former category seems to have higher maintenance and latent costs in many cases. I never realized how serious it was until I decided to bite off more than I could chew. I need to balance my allocation of online and offline commitments more carefully.

I’ve been unsure whether I should consider that there’s a separate theoretical tank for social energy, but so far I haven’t needed it. However, the need to expend excess physical energy or reduce stress with physical exercise is probably something tangible. Physical wellness and exercise help to replenish the intellectual and logical resources.

I think it’s suddenly clear what to make of all this.

  1. I need proper rest. I’m physically, emotionally, and intellectually tired.
  2. I need to reorganize or restructure my social commitments to achieve better balance and recovery rates.
  3. Even when I’m tired, I need to keep up with physical activity.

Putting all these things together should help my logical tank to fill up, which should enable the emotional tank to replenish too.



Why I’m maintaining a safe distance from Christianity

Ultimately, all of these articles propose that, when facing issues relating to self-love, focusing on loving others or God is the way forward.

Years ago, I probably would have identified myself as a “seeker of truth”. I no longer think of myself that way, at least not for the mean time. Even so, I am putting in a mild but sustained effort to learn more about Christianity and the Bible. The Bible is relevant historically, socially, and philosophically, and it claims to answer important truths that are too disturbing to be ignored without genuine investigation. For me, Christianity is merely the most accessible lens through which to approach the most popular bible.

Having participated in a bible study group for the last few months, there are already things I’ve cherished from that experience. However, I identify as agnostic and do not participate in the group prayers. There are several reasons why I’m not “ready” to delve further into Christian experiences. Even if I become a pseudo-Christian or adopt biblical beliefs one day, during this phase of my life I see it as my spiritual duty to not accept Christianity into my life as anything more than a topic of interest. Most of the reasons can be accounted for by the following idea of mine:

It is most dangerous to seek truth when one has nothing to hold on to.

When one’s foundation in themself is lacking, it’s much easier to latch on to the nearest distraction or addiction or any other substance, even truth, while one’s judgment is clouded by distorted perception. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you’re approaching or studying the truth, because your poor judgment will inevitably lead you astray.

To jump into the crux of the matter, I’m not ready to test Christianity because I know it would directly conflict with my emotional self-development. In particular, I find Christian ideas on self-love to be dismissive or neglectful. One cannot love or serve God in the way that they’re supposedly meant to if one has no concept of self or identity. One cannot live righteously while failing to demonstrate basic love for themself. One cannot earnestly choose God if one lacks consciousness or free will or control of their own life.

It can be rather difficult, if not impossible, to convey these thoughts to older Christians. Doing a quick search of Christian perspectives on self-love, I’ve summarized the stances on the nature/role/importance of self-love expressed by several independent articles:

Out of 10 articles, six of them neglect or dismiss the idea of self-love as being a valid concern, while the other four acknowledge the need to address issues with self-love or low self-esteem.  Ultimately, all of these articles propose that, when facing issues relating to self-love, focusing on loving others or God is the way forward.

I find it somewhat surprising that all of these articles come to the same conclusion, given that the bible says hardly anything about self-love. In fact, Matthew 22:39 seems to be the only strictly relevant verse, but self-love is merely referenced and is not the subject of focus. I guess it’s not so surprising after all, that Christians pounce on the only quote that there is. I really only see two possibilities. Either:

  • the Bible has nothing instructive to say about self-love, and it is outside the scope of its messages, or;
  • that single quote and what little else can be inferred about self-love in the Bible is meant to be sufficient.

The common Christian would indeed assume that the second case is true. I have reason to disagree, and even though I admit the second could be true, it makes far more sense to act on the first premise, and consider the alternative only if progress seems impossible, which in itself would be a worthwhile outcome.

Third read of “Running on Empty”

For the third year running I felt the need to reread “Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect” by Jonice Webb, a book I very highly recommend. It took three days. It turns out that more things have slipped through the cracks than I had suspected. Here’s my summary of things pertinent to me this time.

Parenting types

My parents fit under five different categories:

  • Authoritarian
  • Overly Permissive
  • Addicted
  • Achievement/Perfection Focused
  • Well-Meaning-but-Neglected-Themselves.

My “afflictions”

  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Unrealistic self-appraisal
    • Side example: not knowing what I’m capable of or what to tell myself
  • No compassion for self
  • Guilt and shame
  • Poor self-discipline

What to do with feelings

  • Self-monitor and name feelings
  • Identify, Accept, Attribute, and Act (IAAA)
  • Express feelings assertively and with compassion


  1. Nurture yourself
    • Put yourself first
      • Ask for help more
    • Exercise
  2. Self-discipline: Practice Three Things
  3. Self-soothing: Create and maintain a list of strategies
  4. Self-compassion
    • The Golden Rule in reverse
    • Speaking wisdom and compassion to yourself
    • Develop a loving but firm inner voice
      1. Hold yourself accountable for mistakes without blaming or judging
      2. Distinguish which part is your fault and which part is due to the circumstances
      3. Determine how the same error can be prevented in future
      4. Learn and move on

Notable quotes

“Emotions do more, though, than drive us to do things. They also feed the human connections that give life the depth and richness that make it worthwhile. It is this depth and richness which I believe provides the best answer to the question, “What is the meaning of life?” Emotional connections to others help us stave off feelings of emptiness as well as existential angst.”

“It means noticing your child’s natural likes and dislikes and strengths and weaknesses, remembering them, and feeding them back helpfully to the child. This is how a child internalizes a realistic sense of who she is.”

“Stern posited that the mother’s emotional attunement, beginning from the point of birth, communicates to the child that he is understood and that his needs will be met. This provides a solid foundation from which the child can spring forward to take risks and explore the world.”


Although there are multiple things I need working on, by far the most relevant, important, and realistic challenge for me right now is the exercise of monitoring/recording feelings on a daily basis and applying the IAAA steps.

I need to exist more

Influence does matter after all…

I just made a mind-blowing realization about how my chronic state of being socially understimulated has affected my psyche over time. I often find myself inexplicably craving instant gratification and validation, which I receive almost none of. This is a common defect, but why is my want so strongly directed towards the instant? It’s because I don’t get enough instant responses from people.

By avoiding my flatmates, by choosing the self-checkout option every time at the supermarket, by ignoring passers-by, by not having enough friends and not meeting them in person, by always being too respectful and never demanding attention, by not having reliable texting buddies, and by fading into the background in group conversations… I’ve almost completely starved myself of having people respond to me in the moment. I have almost no influence over people, and I don’t exercise what little influence I have, even if it’s just saying hello and expecting a greeting in response. It seems to follow that, given my usual behavior, it wouldn’t make any difference to other people whether I’m present or not. I may as well not exist.

This also explains why receiving something so basic as attention can have such a potent effect on me, especially when it’s sustained in a newly developing friendship.

I feel that it’s true to some extent, that I lack psychological and emotional evidence of my own existence, presence, and participation in the world. Anyone could struggle to acknowledge their own existence if others do not acknowledge it either. The logical conclusion, which hopefully is not Machiavellian in nature, seems to be that I need to hold people accountable while attempting to exercise the influence of my existence. I need to “bother” people by saying hello and approaching them more and asking things. I need to dare to smile at random strangers and see if they smile back. If you never expect anything from anyone, it’s true that you’ll seldom be disappointed, but you probably won’t receive much of anything at all.

Write it down, they said

I was hit by an intense moment of depression today. The kind that makes you instantly feel faint. It’s as if you’re dying of blood loss, except it’s not blood that’s leaking—it’s you; your sense of identity and ego and will and meaning and truth. This lasted for an hour or so.

What’s surprising is that it was so sudden and seemingly irreversible, triggered by a mere realization. What ideas and emotions were running in my subconscious that had such a potent and unexpected effect?

I’ve been deciphering a particularly difficult book for months now, and I was reading the chapter on ‘meaningful work’ earlier. I don’t view my current work (study) as meaningful, and I’ve known this for some time. The only sense in which I can consider it meaningful is that I just want to finish it so I can bury away this part of my life, hopefully earning my freedom in the real world. But today, I felt as though nothing I’m doing really matters. I’ve been trying… to look after myself. This past week, I’ve been practicing mindfulness and been relatively productive as a result (compared to my usual baseline). Despite still recovering from injury, I’ve made sure to get at least some exercise. Diet-wise, I think I’m going okay. I have to admit, I’ve been utterly confused about my social needs though., but perhaps there is no point talking about it in detail right now.

I try to boost my mood through various means; walking, eating, listening to music, or pursuing my known hobbies such as playing the piano. And yet none of these have been effective lately and only this depressive bout has allowed me to understand why.

I’ve been selfish in the sense of trying to make sure my personal needs are mostly being met. This is a good thing. But I don’t feel good, because it seems futile. Why am I looking after myself? Why does it matter if I establish balance or not? Why does it matter if I make a lot of progress in the context of my hobbies? Honestly, I hardly feel like I’m even doing this for myself. I’m not looking after myself for my own sake, because I don’t really care anymore. I don’t love myself, but I don’t hate myself either.

I feel like a slave to the external world. I’m undertaking one of the most difficult tasks in my life, and even if I succeed, there’s nothing waiting for me on the other side. Even if I graduate, I’m not suddenly free. All my daydreams about what I want to do next are futile, because any plans I make could be crushed in an instant by the whimsical disapproval of my family.

There’s another thing. I’m lonely. I haven’t felt lonely in months, especially with all these other things in the way, and even though I remain excellent at repressing my feelings I know I am lonely. I’m lonely but can’t even feel it. That’s worse than just being lonely, because it means I don’t know what needs to be done. My mind and body are giving me the wrong signals. Even now, I’m willing to downplay my social needs as being the lowest priority among other problems.

Now, a common tip for guys like me is that self-betterment is the long-term path to improving social life. They say that as you work on yourself and focus on your hobbies and doing your own thing, you become more and more awesome and eventually other people start to notice and want to get to know you. And things just get better and better from there. The idea has always made sense to me, but today: fuck that. That’s exactly the problem; I’ve invested so much concern in how to become a more “desirable” person that it feels it was never really about me, but about how to be accepted by other people. I was brought into the world, not only with below-average base attributes, not only with terrible scaling per level, not only with the worst possible special ability, but to top it off my character class is generally disliked for arbitrary reasons and that’s something that no amount of grinding will ever absolve me from. The game is rigged against my RNG-sorry-ass existence, so why would I follow other people’s guides and expect to succeed the normal way, tried and tested as it may be for the average hero? A poor person following rich people’s advice makes a poor person…

I don’t want to be a slave anymore. I don’t see the point in any of this self-improvement stuff. It’s not necessary for survival. That’s the thing: survival. I can’t remember anymore but I had a rant in my head about survival.

Anyhow, I can see it now, and that’s why it’s so depressing. If I apply wishful thinking and imagine that I’ll achieve everything I want to achieve in 2018 (within realistic limits), I still won’t be happy. I could be infinitely cooler and more awesome than I am now; I’ll have mastered a song or two, started learning a new instrument, be in the best shape of my life, got in touch with my creative side with a relaxing but crafty hobby, started working and developed a possible roadmap, and finally found a couple of friends by putting myself out there more. But I wouldn’t be happy. Because deep down, I feel I’ll always be chained by the same prejudices that I was born into.

What are my struggles for? Who is it for? Why does it feel like I’m not even a beneficiary?

Rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness—give me truth.

I couldn’t disagree more with this quote (which is from Into the Wild) right now. The truth just sucks too much.