Sep. 3rd, 2017

improperlyhuman: (dark Mulder)
It's almost 2 AM and it's STILL too hot to sleep. Lovely town. Only place on Earth that's hot in the middle of the night and sitting next to a body of water.

So I was working instead of sleeping when intrusive thoughts started interrupting my flow. Then something hit me, something about intellectualization. I'd previously considered that I must have some over-intellectualization tendencies because that is a trait of average/unhealthy Enneagram type 5s.

Now that I'm reading Horney, however, I begin to see how extensive over-intellectualization can be. I must have been unconsciously processing what she wrote about mistreated kids beginning to shut off the whole feeling apparatus, the precursor to neurosis. What if I did that?

I have memories going back to the age of about 4. I recall shutting off concern for my mother at a young age because I couldn't help her and she wouldn't help herself. I don't ever remember going to anyone for comfort, like the idea never even occurred to me. I remember that my 3-year-old half-sister came to sit on my lap one day when I was 15 or 16, and I pushed her off in disgust because it seemed so inappropriate to indulge in tenderness when our household was "at war." That's how I thought of us and our dysfunctional family life.

If feeling towards/with others is shut off in this way, what remains of subjectivity but the intellect and the instincts? I have also in large measure inhibited my instinctual behavior, in which case the intellect must dominate, perhaps largely unconsciously. My almost complete disinterest in direct emotional support (both giving and getting). Many times I have wondered how people can stand other people, wondered what binds them so despite their (in my eyes) shortcomings. Surely it is primarily emotions that bind them! 

And it is not just love, appreciation for others' qualities; that at least I can understand (if perhaps not feel). The things I did not/do not understand could be called receptive emotion: I never understood how anyone but children got comfort from another person when upset. All I can remember is wanting to be left alone when upset. I felt annoyed and disgusted when people tried to comfort me; at best, I felt confused about how comforting was supposed to work and why people assumed it would work on me, for surely, I thought, not everyone derives immediate comfort from others. I can derive a diffuse sense of indirect comfort from a person over a period of time by getting used to having that person around, but my in-the-moment negative emotions seem largely immune to comforting. The few times I deliberately tried to be receptive to others' comforting, I didn't feel comforted much, and I felt foolish for trying.

And these "shortcomings" I mentioned are all things that fail to appeal to the intellect: it bothers me intensely when people have the "wrong" beliefs or ideas, even if the beliefs and ideas do not lead to any concrete harm. Part of the intensity (maybe all of it) derives from the sense, the fear that there can be no social unity (in my personal life, the neighborhood, the country) if people do not agree sufficiently on ideas. I pay hardly any attention to the feeling atmosphere.

I know, for example, that kindness is important, but I've tended to think of it as a means to an end. I have little understanding and even less compassion about the little social acts that make people feel comfortable, and I have been baffled by people who will write others off for omitting such acts, especially on a single occasion. I've wanted people to operate entirely on intellect, as I do, to be open-minded about every little idiosyncrasy, to imagine that there are legitimate reasons why others don't act as expected, to prefer individuality to custom. I hate culture and am repulsed by others' attachment to it. I don't understand how people get so attached to things that are arbitrary. I don't understand why they put themselves through so much for even shitty social connections. I suppose my attachment apparatus is broken.

It's difficult even to state unequivocally that it is broken, and that being broken is a negative thing. Intellectually I can see good reason to believe it is broken: I've knowledge of normal human behavior, and I know that humans normally need and seek out strong social attachments and are attached to their culture. But such attachment seems such a small part of my personality that it hardly seems appropriate to say that it is broken. It seems akin to calling someone broken over a neutral personality trait such as a favorite color or food preference. There is a long-standing "that's just who I am" narrative that will not easily be supplanted by an "disordered attachment" narrative.

Clearly I still have social urges. But the feeling apparatus is dulled, and the urges feel completely instinctual, meaning that there is little conscious awareness of what I would get from interaction other than physical intimacy. I would feel relieved that I'm not entirely socially inept and glad to have a sounding board to make sure I'm not insane, but those seem like intellectual desires. Indeed, fear of "insanity" is one of my strongest motivators to develop myself socially. So alienated from my "real self" that emotionally-based social urges are unconscious? Or even absent? Is that possible.

Now perhaps I begin to understand how people get things like self-esteem from other people, why people say they would not have "made it" through tribulations without their loved ones, why they fall to pieces when someone dies or leaves them. And I am all but horrified. It is alright in theory, in a psychology book, to admit the normality and importance of a certain dependence on others, but in the real world people are unreliable, temporary biological entities, and even destructive to others. I have to figure out how to bridge "theory" and practice. That's not the right metaphor. I have to figure out how to bridge the ideal and the practical: decide whom to trust and try not to be too much of a robot.

I don't have the whole picture yet; I can't fully devote myself. The part of me that is afraid of the consequences of attachment is loudly warning me to tread carefully, particularly given that I have done things to myself that make me more or less "unlovable" (all these quoted words are Horney's terms). I have quashed my spontaneous behavior, withheld smiles and kind words, deliberately used the less sensitive choice of words, overriden my own sense of social decorum and subsequent anxiety to argue a point, harbored unrealistic expectations of "reasonableness" and equanimity (of both myself and others), and even scolded myself for normal emotional reactions. I've been insensitive to myself and externalized that insensitivity, erupting in impotent and futile frustration when others fail to fit into the suffocating mold I've broken bones to force myself into. And now the monster wants to be normal.
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