or Things You Can Do With Fear.
Sometimes I find people hard to be around and it isn’t easy to work out why. Often I find a feeling that leads me to think of what’s occurring between myself and them as not quite real – that there’s something cartoonish happening, almost. The feeling is of fear, a particular feeling of fear, in the way that the bark on various kinds of tree can be so very different.
Why am I’m thinking of fear and bark together like this?
I thrive on this kind of question. It tends to take me to places that my thoughts don’t naturally go. So I think about how, when I was very young, my father used to have a dog that terrified me, that barked a lot, and that back then I often thought about my father as if he were a cartoon. As I got older I started seeing him as he was, but he still seemed to think about me in ways that never seemed to extend beyond something very basic, like a sketch of me he’d drawn once, at a distance. There was something very true about it and something extremely limited. I might as well have been frozen in space: easy to remember and indestructible.
The fear that I feel around people when I start sensing something cartoonish is going on (and cartoons allow for some very disturbing thoughts to be had amusingly, harmlessly and without getting into what isn’t a cartoon: flesh and blood for example, someone or something so fragile they are real) reminds me that I, the real me, might be the last person actually on someone else’s mind. I suspect that in some way they are very scared and might prefer not to imagine me as more than a glyph.
Who I am to them remains to be seen … but I feel a degree of confidence that I’m trying to remain open to who they could be.
Note: The dog was given away. The first time, I was told by my mother, the owners returned him because he seemed to be barking at ghosts.
Resentment is poisonous stuff. There’s a point to it: if we didn’t have a way of painfully remembering that we’ve been injured or affronted then we might allow the same kind of thing to happen again and again. Unpleasant memories of injuries and injustices would swill around inside us like a particularly unhealthy brew, leaving us feeling liable to explode at the next bad thing coming our way, our rage erupting uncontrollably … and … ah … doesn’t this sound familiar?
There are, believe it or not, people who don’t feel chewed up with resentment (and at least if you feel chewed up by it you aren’t getting drunk or high to forget you are). These people manage to assert themselves in tricky situations in ways that may not even affect the outcome, but which don’t leave them thinking ‘I should have’, or ‘if only’. They tend to lead far less anxious lives (I wrote about anxiety somewhere else on this site).
So how can you defuse yourself, this grenade-in-the-making?
- What part did you play? Try and find a part you played in whatever’s gone wrong and broadcast it as widely as you can to people you trust.
- Find someone to talk to you can trust. For me, to begin with, this meant paying someone (a psychotherapist), but that changed.
- Say something (see above: this doesn’t have to be to the person who’s been causing you grief. Really: there are a lot of people I wouldn’t say something to – some dangerous and some I’m connected to, but who wouldn’t react well to honesty).
- There’s always somebody I can blame and I can’t remember it ever doing me or anyone else much good. What do you do instead of blame? God knows, I sometimes think. It’s always different, but there’s usually a way, somehow (see point two, again)
- Don’t expect too much or too little. You’ll be disappointed or you’ll never ask for enough. The effect’s the same: horrible resentment. Get some thoughts from people you don’t know too well about what you can expect from life. Books helped me, I think. As a child I got as much help as I could from the library. It wasn’t a particularly big one but it liked children, and not in the way modern ones seem to (I sense a resentment).
My anxiety is an experience of my absence. The less I am able to assert myself in life the more often I will find myself wishing I had. Anxiety is the experience of forthcoming resentment, of feeling trapped, becoming bored. Anxiety comes from the same place as anger, but as its ghost. Kill off, lose touch with or disavow your anger and you will feel anxious … and anger is there when I disagree. So anxiety arises when I can’t find it in myself, or the opportunity in the world, to disagree. Anxiety is a narrowing of me – a whittling down of me; a meanness. A difficulty. It’s Latin root: angustia. Continue reading “Anxiety”
There’s a part to emerging from a difficult situation that is sometimes overlooked: the inertia that can creep into a life out of a fear of taking risks again. I mean ordinary, everyday gambles over remembering and feeling things. The past can feel too much. Getting closer to someone or something can feel too frightening – and perhaps what makes this most difficult is that the fear I’m referring to is almost impossible to catch hold of. It might simply come upon you like an itch, a sense of wanting to squirm; an instinctive no, or a sense of relief if you move towards it (away from where you might actually need to be: getting to know another person, trying out another way of doing something, or looking back at something you did and realising it wasn’t quite like you’d imagined). Continue reading “Emergency Inertia”
It feels as if there is nothing there. There are so many things I could write about but the ‘something’ I am looking for hasn’t occurred to me yet. It’s not a bad place to start writing, but one where people usually stop. After all, what can you do if there’s nothing to do? Before I began this I could have written about David Cameron’s ‘arm candy’, whether there’s something anti-Semitic or anti-Islamic in all of the pig-presence in the news lately … but these were just thoughts in my head brought to me by some things I’d been reading, some conversations. Continue reading “Nothing There: A Cure for Writer’s Block and Other Things”
Every few weeks empty your bag out. Mine’s one of those leather courier bags and it can hold a surprising amount. Organise whatever’s inside into three piles: essential, questionable and unnecessary. Do this quickly, instinctively, then leave the piles for a while and find something absorbing and unconnected to do (set an alarm on your watch or phone to remind you to think about your bag, so you don’t have to keep thinking about it). When you go back to your bag, and I’d leave it alone for at least a couple of hours, glance at each pile and see if anything seems out of place. It might not even seem in the wrong pile – there may just be a feeling about it that makes it stand out a little, or draw your eye without you knowing why. Continue reading “Travel Light”
Next time you’re feeling anxious, irritated or sad (although it might also do to try and remember this when you’re feeling happy …) notice the way you are sitting, standing or lying. What are you doing in relation to the thing that’s on your mind? If you shift yourself at all, maybe uncrossing your legs or moving your arms, what happens? It may feel unpleasant, in which case go back to how you were! Continue reading “Shifting”