Friday, July 18, 2014

Surviving Self-Destruction and Self-Knowledge

I have not been able to find a rigid sense of ``self'' within, after a few years of introspection and different practices. I have moments that answering a simple question regarding my preferences is difficult for me. I am very emotional and sensitive, and yet, there is a disconnect between my emotional world and my decision-making. This inner disconnect, I believe, has been the driving force behind my depression. (With a slightly different combination of genes and environmental factors, I could have  ended up more like a sociopath. That is why I identify so much with some parts of the book, ``Confessions of a Sociopath,'' as I mentioned in [Confessions of a Sociopath] post).

In the previous post, [Separating Fantasy and Reality], I mentioned Winnicott's provocative idea that the way we confirm the reality of outside world, its separateness from our inner world of thoughts and emotions, is by unleashing imaginary destruction on it and verifying its survival. The imaginary destruction, in practice, becomes talks and acts of destruction and violence. In the context of our relationships, if the other person does not retaliate against our unrestrained anger and destruction, we (gradually?) become convinced that s/he exists outside our internal world. (Because small children do not posses the power of destroying their parents, this is done relatively naturally and harmlessly. In fact, the process infuses love, destruction, and joy for a child whose parent survives the destruction!)

My main question in this post: Can we use the destruction process to gain self-knowledge?

Between ages of 16 and 24, I became severely depressed, I cut my hands and burned them with cigarettes, and twice I attempted suicide. The memory of those days is hazy now. But recently, when I have episodes of acute depression that are accompanied with suicidal thoughts, I come out of it with a deeper understanding of myself, some revelation, or at least a sense of renewal. Even though on the surface these episodes are full of self-hatred and imagined violence and destruction, I would like to think of them as a self-verification of the type Winnicott suggested between a child and his parent, or between a patient and her therapist.

I have always thought of the episodes of emotional turbulence (including severe depression or anxiety) as signs of being alive. People like me tend to saturate their lives with self-imposed, imaginary constraints and constructs that enslave the soul and drown it to death. Just like the involuntary panic and distress of a drowning person, a lot of apparently illogical activities of someone enslaved in an imaginary prison of own thoughts are the last resort, and in a way, positive and meaningful.

When we see acts of violence and destruction, if we genuinely wish to improve the situation and not simply respond to it with violence, it becomes vitally important to ask ourselves, Why? If we cannot think as the person who commits the violence, there is no hope of having a lasting effect for us. And the main prerequisite for that, is a process of inner integration. We need to confront and accept the destruction and violence inside our selves at the deepest emotional level!

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