Deciphering my mental state

TLDR; I’m tired.

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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

Self-care

  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.”

Decision

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.

 

A moment of unambiguous unhappiness

It’s the first time I’ve felt unambiguously unhappy for a while. In a way, it seems like lots of things have aligned in order to let this feeling fall through without being hidden amongst other emotions. I took this opportunity to list possible contributing factors:

  • Hunger, probable nutritional deficiencies, possible allergies and other health concerns
  • No good contact to text chat with at this time of day
  • Cannot run or play sports due to slow-healing injury
  • Parted ways with someone I cared about last week
  • Expecting a response to my message sometime
  • Overuse of social platforms
  • Recent urge to be creative cannot be properly addressed
  • Constant struggle between seeking distraction and avoiding distraction
  • Have been unproductive and feel stressed about it
  • No passion or interest left for my meaningless studies, yet I have to sacrifice anything/everything to move on in my life
  • Limited pursuit of learning
  • Feel like I have no control over the future; all my dreams seem arbitrarily unlikely and distant
  • Not living according to one’s values
  • Sense of longing but unsure what it is
  • Not enough close friends in this city, yet self-driven deprivation of social opportunities
  • Sub-par relationship with self