Saturday, March 10, 2012

Dealing With Shit: Part 1

First impressions last because few people bother to change.

Compounding this we live in a demerit society, one that is increasingly geared towards teaching us to avoid responsibility. It would be another post altogether to substantiate this outrage claim. Substantiate it yourself by listening to a politician answer a question. Any fucking question.

Twelve step programs I do believe are bullshit, though I haven't needed to try one as yet, but allegedly they are about as successful as one step programs aka cold turkey.

But lest I mislead you into thinking that by 'dealing with shit' I mean 'addiction' exclusively or primarily, I am going to cut to the chase.

It is not the first step to admit you have a problem, just there's no way to deal with shit if you are still in denial.

There are a few ways to recognise how people avoid taking responsibility and they are incredibly useful to know, mostly so you can recognise the behaviour in yourself.

Thus dealing with shit can't be done (or at least can be done much MUCH easier) until you achieve two things:

1. You recognise what you control.
2. You take responsibility for what you control.

Hmmm.... and perhaps I should put in a caveat, I am not going to restrict the productive services of a psychologist to simply dealing with shit/emotional baggage etc. There are for example diagnosable conditions that require expertise to detect, it could be useful to be diagnosed by a psychologist even if you go straight into denial.

But let's start with the first THING from above, recognising what you control.

This was the major useful thing as in PRACTICALLY useful thing that came out of my first session with a qualified psychologist. I was grieving so it was a temporary state. This is getting on towards like 6 years ago or something now.

Basically I had been dumped which induced grief. I didn't realise I was grieving, so I simply felt out of control. I was trying to regain control by attempting to control other people.

Here you need honesty in bringing yourself to the realisation that you control very little.

Specifically, few of us control anything other than how we behave. We don't control other people, the weather, the economy at large, legislature, jury verdicts, or where our tv remote is kept.

But controlling your own behaviour is enough. Other than that you just exert influence, and if you really gain control over your own behaviour and concentrate all your energy, intellect and will towards influencing something it can with time feel like you are operating an Etch-A-Sketch from a distance with pool cues while wearing oven mits.

That's the best of us, influence wise. It's an artform.

But in the meantime it is best to just focus on yourself, that is your end of whatever shitty deal life has given you.

In this coming to terms, there are a bunch of bi-product revelation that can serve to focus you on actually dealing with your shit, like she may never come back, he may never apologise, they may never forgive you, you may never know.

Thems the breaks.

Let's move onto the second thing, and let me make it clear that these two things are not a process or sequence, just distinct and codependant you need both.

Here are the 4 most common ways people avoid taking responsibility.

Denial: the simplest, it can be subconscious in which case you need to bring it into your consciousness, this means entertaining the hypothetical that you may actually be responsible for your own wellbeing and giving it serious play in your thoughts. People best deny responsibility for a problem by denying that there is one in the first place.

'Boss, I need you to stop pressuring me.'

'I'm not pressuring you.'

Plain and simple. The owner of the complaint gets the satisfaction of being informed that their complaint is invalid. People may tell you, you have a problem, if they do you should entertain the thought and investigate, seek expert opinion, diagnosis, if you are a particularly wonderful human being ask those people 'what can I do?' straight up.

Blaming: Which is another form of denial, but a common way to avoid responsibility. It is simply to lay the responsibility at somebody else's feet. Others may legitamately be responsible for the problems that effect you, but keeping in mind that you don't control them, apportioning blame accurately does not actually solve the problem, not reliably.

There is but a loose tacit expectation that the 'truly' responsible party may be compelled to take that responsibility and solve the problem.

Apologizing: Aka Rationalizing aka explaining. It's treating any problem as a fate accompli. It simply has to be that way. Infact it's probably the entire repertoir of logical fallacies. From 'that's the way it's always been done' to 'and wasn't it Mussellini that wanted the trains running on time.'

See apology, and 'apologizing' sound like you are taking responsibility for the problem, and you may well be, but you are still avoiding taking responsibility for fixing the problem.

Diversion/Telling A story: Lastly, just taking a problem and changing the subject. It can be done seemingly tactfully by entering a scoreboard situation. Somebody comes to you with a grievance, you greet it with a grievance of your own. The presumption is that your grievance is the one that needs to be dealt with most urgently, but people can be more blaze about it and just talk any old shit, so long as it isn't talk about the shit that actually needs dealing with.

You can't take responsibility for what you control if you are in denial. At which case if you see a professional like a psychologist instead of dealing with your shit, you are going to spend your sessions coming to terms with it.

If you can't do it on your own, then yes see a psychologist, but along with the general stigma against treating mental health, I think psychologists get a bad wrap as being seen as a 'waste of time' because many who do engage them and talk about it, never actually get past their subconscious denial. They are the ones who talk to a psychologist for 6 years and make no progress.

That may be blaming in itself, eg blaming the victims.

But the thing is, I always hated the saying 'your friends probably know you better than you know yourself.' and I don't think this is true at all, But what the bystanders of our subjective experience have over us is emotional objectivity.

That is, what we find so hard to accept ourselves, everybody else probably just assumed about us anyway, because they don't get the emotional feedback we do.

So people who aren't addicted, can easily observe that we are, because it's easy for them to admit. It's much harder for us to weigh up the comfort we get from our vice versus the pain of abandoning it and conclude that it is a problem because we actually experience the pain and the comfort.

But friends present these opportunities to influence us for the better. A girlfriend of mine once gave me Camus' 'The Stranger' because she felt I was emotionally withdrawn or isolated. And I am, I've always felt isolated and even when in a stable and good relationship, I feel alone and detached frequently. (but this is shit I have been dealing with for many years now, long after the book was given).

She may not have known what I actually subjectively felt, but she knew how my behaviour came across and I know my behaviour is something I can control. I'm not a textbook existentialist/nihilist by any means. But her gift was a gift.

Friends can also be enablers as well. Let's say hypothetically (and probably) many of my friends have armchair psychologist diagnosed me with a superioriy complex, some of my 'friends' may feed this back to me not through genuine support but sicophancy. I will probably spill whether I do or dont have a superiority complex in part two of this piece, but I mean if for example all your friends do is drink, and the only place you meet up with your friends is in a bar, or at your house/or theirs via a bottle shop, your friends are perhaps enabling a drinking problem.

Thus my point really is that other people may know the score and tell you 'you have a drinking problem' or other people may infact be the scoreboard 'my god, we all have drinking problems.'

This is the tricky social landscape that needs navigating before you can actually deal with shit. Frankly, alcohol abuse is too easy an example. You need to overcome denial by scrutinising your norms, or perhaps it is to say what your sense of normal is.

I often mix up business theories with psychology, and perhaps even treat them as interchangable, but in quality management, which I'm just going to translate to quality of life, around 5% of problems arise from 'special causes' that is stuff a system has warning lights for them. Fires, power losses, power surges etc. In quality of life terms, maybe 5% of the stuff that drags us down are the easily identifiable events - getting fired, death, house burning down.

They are obviously bad for us. In quality management the other 95% of problems come from 'ordinary causes' which is to say the 'day to day operation of the system.' aka 'design flaws'. Similary I have a strong inclination to believe that 95% of our problems in life, come from our status quo, our day to day existence.

That is why it is so important to overcome our denial and take responsibility for what we control.

Last year, I had my mother and my sister in the house and they were talking in another room. Through the brick walls I couldn't pick up any specific words, but I could pick up the conversation tonally, and you know what? It was the exact same conversation they have been having for as long as I remember. Tonally at least, the words may change but how my sister and my mother relate to eachother has not.

Fortunately my family is fairly functional, and proactive about being functional. I lucked out on these relationships of non-choice.

But we have disfunctional relationships, all of us, that we just assume are the way things are. They cause us grief and misery and we assume there's no way of dealing with them. Not just relations to people, but substances, tasks even. Any interaction with the external world has one input that we control.

That input is how we behave. Gaining control of this is enough. You may still wish that heroin didn't come with withdrawel symptoms and that everyone you ever loved also loved you back, but it is enough to just control how you behave in response to these realities.

If you can accept that, and you have a will to actually deal with it. Then, then it will be highly productive for you to see a psychologist and deal with this shit.

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