When the mind is disrupted by fear, numbing most thoughts, language and emotions, the self is suppressed or disassociated. I feel an empty shell. When colleagues talk, especially, those with seniority or some other dominance over me, I lock into their eyes, nodding and murmuring. I am trapped in front their words and eyes, barely able to move or stand straight. Even at the end of the day, when I’m due to go home, I am enmeshed in the words of others and am only released when they stop talking.
I can’t find a self to express a view; I should be off now, or some other personal view, except, to agree and reinforce, with a timid smile. Most thoughts and words that come to mind seem forced and hollow – they will be spoken so emptily, that they are not worthy saying. In my vulnerability and emptiness, I seek to gain their admiration and to hold back any angry attitudes. And, yet, in my stiff, smiling and agreeing avatar, I feel a contemptible fool and fraud, deserving of anger or contempt. I wait for it, growing ever more stiff and anxious, and nodding and grinning more.
What courage it would take to try and find myself amidst the mind numbed by vulnerability, anxiety and trauma. It would mean revealing the confusion and irrationality of my mind. I would stop pretending and admit to colleagues that I can barely find my way around the building, unable to navigate due to some dysfunction of my brain. It would mean admitting to my vanity in wanting admiration and respect and letting out my monotonous, ponderous words and thoughts into the air, open for ridicule or contempt. It would mean telling my manager that this job, despite everyone’s support and kindness and, despite their great need for staffing support and clear hopes that I will stay longer-term, is not for me and that I will likely be leaving soon to try another role.
Princess Beef writes about her recent experiences of feelings of detachment and both the escape and possibility it brings. The piece was first published on her site.
I couldn’t think of a better word or descriptor of how I’ve been feeling lately.
When time stops and for a couple of seconds there is no shame, anxiety, or uncomfortability; I don’t even have to think about breathing or blinking. It’s like my soul detaches from my mortal circumstance and there’s only peace, knowing, and existing just to exist. When I’m in that haze I feel like a sedated rabbit. My fight or flight is muffled by an SSRI and instead of feeling blind to survival, my sense of reason seems sharpened. Being able to access logic in an artistic mind is a godly duo unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Intellect and creation allow me to have theories and observe them without emotion getting in the way.
I don’t know why it happens sometimes. Nothing in particular triggers that switch. I recognize my insatiable longing for that moment when stuck in-between—a type of derealization that’s both comforting and numbing where I have the illusion of having control, or lack thereof. Sometimes I feel like my body is an avatar capable of bending this reality to my will; and other times I feel like living is chaos and it doesn’t matter what happens because human existence is just a speck in both our timeline, and the universe. I’m fine with either because both things are empowering to me. I always thought being my own God was only achievable in fantasy fiction, but when you allow that shift in perspective, no task seems insurmountable.
Maybe this detached feeling is a side effect of the world we live in. We seek connection but are the most disconnected we’ve ever been. We wake up always on the brink of destruction and it’s disheartening to plug into a news source, because things no longer have to have credibility. And when there is truth, it’s like lounging in a field of death, accepting the worst of our kind.
Mayhap’s I’m a foot away from enlightenment—or madness.
Regardless, it’s isolating because I feel like I have answers but no one was asking. The past four or five years I’ve been doing a deep dive into psychology, spirituality, religious practices, and whether humans are inherently good or evil. The worst part is living on a dying planet and knowing what needs to be done, but being powerless on the larger scale.
I just want to know if this is my Virgo rising manifesting—is this how air signs feel all the time?! So unbothered but so apathetic *cry emoji*.
I also wonder at times if this is my mind protecting itself from the harsh realities of life. Will this become a trauma gap in the future, even though this is perceivably the happiest I’ve ever been? Surely dealing with a pandemic, being surrounded by death, relationship troubles big and small, and centering my wants and needs around MYSELF are all likely to cause a paradigm shift. Am I building a city inside my boundaries? Am I capable of flourishing, growing flowers in a swamp?
Through it all, life is relentlessly worth it. I make a plan and then it happens—making me think life is much simpler than we make it. We literally only stop ourselves from doing what we want to do. Our perception of free will isn’t fucked by God, it’s fucked by society. We’ve built boxes to put ourselves into—laws, politics, religion, appearance, wealth, trends…we let our environment persuade us to alter ourselves to fit a script. All this sounds a little hokey but why do we fight wars? Why do we hate our bodies—the vessels of our consciousness that literally tether us to the living world?! Why do we destroy our home that’s irreplaceable? Why do we let people erase our boundaries and abuse us?
We can’t manipulate the bigger picture but we can live life less seriously and decide our own morality.
Some Twitter thoughts:
I think it’s super weird how you aren’t considered progressive if you don’t support every single movement that exists—like you aren’t allowed to disagree with things that are actually terrible ideas?! I don’t have specific examples for this because every person has different things they jive with. I do believe in human and animal rights, but all that is curtailed by religion and government—HOT TAKE—both of which I think will be regarded as indicators of mental illness in the future.
It’s fucked up that we have identity fraud and what our concept of modern identity is. We exist even if we don’t have documents, don’t we? Yet everything is determined by numbers, which solidifies the theory of us being in a simulation, like we’re run off of binary code. That’s why there’s no reasoning, it’s all in the programming.
I like how a lot of us are fucked up by our parents and that literally stunts us mentally. We are just damaged animals that never reach their full potential. Our development is so dependent on our elders. What a scam. I honestly sort of like the crunchy lifestyle parenting because I feel that it focuses on the nuclear level of our humanity versus what society expects.
TW: Suicide I think something that’s pretty remarkable is how like. People can kill themselves whenever the fuck they want. Literally you can just eat your fucking breakfast and assume everyone you know is alive, until they aren’t. (Same for accidental deaths)
The various forms of self-quarantining being imposed or encouraged by authorities across the world in response to the coronavirus pandemic mean that individuals with social anxiety symptoms will, along with others, experience prolonged isolation over the coming weeks. Whilst presenting a potentially challenging disruption to treatment, support and exposure, this period may present an opportunity for connecting with oneself.
Disassociation is a medically recognised response to overwhelming stress. It leads to disconnection from oneself and/or one’s environment and can last for a short or long period. In a recent blog-post, writer, Rachel Ganz, recalls her anxiety and fear-provoked disassociation during her childhood: “I learned very young to displace myself with imaginative distancing. I cannot panic about reality because I don’t keep up with it, I can’t. Most of us live a version of that. Most of us participate only as we want, only as we can.”
Blogger, Zachary Terry, wrote recently of mental distancing in the form of regret and hope. His mother passed away unexpectedly and he writes of the loss triggering deep regret. “I lamented my choices throughout the previous years, wishing I was better, kinder, more loving, more affectionate… I wished I’d been a son who took better care of his mother.”
He came to see spending time purely on regretting as a denial of the present – and reality: “I saw how useless my regrets were unless they caused me to make different choices in the real world – in the present. I began making commitments to myself, my mom, and to God. I started showing more love to the important relationships in my life.”
Likewise, he sees spending time in the future with hopes, whether taking vague or detailed form, as being wasteful unless connected to the present: “…I’ve begun letting go of any dream of mine if I’m not prepared to begin working towards it today. I ensure to draw a clear line from the present towards the future I desire.” He adds, “…prove your dreams aren’t simply fantasies about an alternate future universe that will never exist.”
Individuals suffering social anxiety disorder symptoms, often accompanied by depression, can find themselves displaced or disconnected from the reality of the present or, simply, numbed through disassociation, distraction or, even, medication. As well as leading to difficulties functioning, with the most extreme cases being difficulties with self-care, such as washing or clothing oneself, it can lead to loss of a sense of an identity or sense of being.
Rachel Ganz recommends recording and replaying ones daily life – whether in written, audio or video form – as a means of self-connecting: “Sit and listen. What did you do today? How did you react to the things around you? Was everything ok? Were some things not ok? Who was there? How did those people make you feel?” For sixty minutes, she suggests, “Untangle your experiences. Allow the memory of those experiences to effect you. Trust your soul and let it breathe.”
The listening to oneself forms part of both the recording and the replaying process: “We have been through a lot and we will continue to get through a lot, believe me. OR, don’t believe, and look through OLD texts for inspiration, find the artifacts. Whatever moves you, art, cooking, history, physics…” Even the process of tidying and sorting personal belongings presents an opportunity to connect one’s past and present selves.
Zachary Terry’s form of connecting is to remind himself of the present: “When I fall into discontented moods I try and close my eyes and remind myself that nothing else exists. Here I am, just riding the rise and fall of life’s cruel turns and wondrous pleasures. Here I am on the only mortal adventure I’ll ever know. There is nothing else at all friends.”
Global self-quarantining measures may offer a time for self-connection efforts. However, it may also pose new challenges by isolating individuals from opportunity and support and/or placing them into unsupportive environments. Nonetheless, during this uncertain period, when many are undergoing hardship, self-awareness and self-connection may prove beneficial commitments.
I’m taking a break from writing solely about my trials this week. Let’s do something fun and philosophical. Some weeks ago I mentioned I’ve experienced a great psychological awakening. It was a series of sequential attitude shifts that paved the way for transformative change. I want to share one of the concepts that helped me. I learned to live here in the present, in thereal world. I learned to loosen my focus away from the three false realities I used to fantasize about.
The Real World
We human beings live here and now. Our brains constantly experience a slightly delayed continuous present moment. This is all that there is. What happened five seconds ago isn’t real. What’s going to happen in five seconds from nowdefinitelyisn’t real. Right here, in thispersistentpresent,is the only universe where cause and effect flow…