Emoblog/2017/12/25/wanting intensity

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This is pretty much a follow-up to what I had worked out by the end of the last Emoblog post.

One major aspect of the big conflict with SWPSNBSI (closely related to the conflict with J, but having a different emphasis) is that I was always "right there" kind of in her face first thing in the morning, wanting contact... and this really didn't work for her.

The sequence of events generally went like this:

  1. I'm there fussing as soon as she shows up at school
  2. she seems unenthusiastic
  3. I worry that something's wrong (that she's feeling down (sad or angry) and withdrawn and needs to be reached so I can help), and push harder
  4. she reacts negatively to this
  5. my squirrels go into full-blown panic-mode and think that I've done something terribly wrong....

All this time since then (1981), I'd been feeling like this was all the result of something intrinsically bad about me – that the set of feelings I was experiencing which led me to behave in that way was essentially harmful and negative, and that this made me essentially a bad person, a bad friend. That I needed to change how I felt if I ever wanted to be worthy... and that the only thing stopping me from changing how I felt was (simply) to actually want to change it,.

In other words, I thought I was somehow wilfully resisting a change I was perfectly capable of making, and the fact that I was (therefore) refusing to do it just proved how fundamentally terrible I was.

Taking This Apart

It has pretty much taken until now to substantially unwind that tangle.

One part of unwinding it is the realization that feelings are what they are; you can only guide them, affect the circumstances that cause them, and decide how to act externally in response to them – how much to suppress them, where to focus the energy they create. You can't change them directly, you can't will them to be different.

So, no, I wasn't wilfully refusing to change; I had feelings that were difficult to deal with, and no idea how to change them, and they resulted in me wanting things that were too much even for my closest friends.

Another, more major and me-specific part is this: Since I basically despised my (male) self-image, I basically took anything said about me by other trusted individuals (which at this time was J, C, and Tigger) with the same level of belief as a self-evaluation. If one of them said it, that was equivalent to me observing it about myself. It could be wrong, but it was the best intel I had.

In other words, I couldn't evaluate myself, at least not on an emotional level, because emotionally everything felt wrong. I couldn't trust my feelings, and learned to suppress them as much as possible.

I could do it on a rational level, though, and had previously depended on that almost exclusively – leading to the inevitable accusations of being a Vulcan – until Jenny began to show me the ways in which I was a good person emotionally, and I began to realize that succeeding in that space was far more important to me than succeeding in the career-oriented space in whose logic I'd been marinated for most of my life.

So I had switched from being dependent on mostly-career-goaled logic as a self-evaluation heuristic, and switched to "what do they think about me". I outsourced my moral compass to them.

As long as things were generally going well, I didn't need to interrogate that evaluation too often... but when I was feeling insecure or unhappy for any reason, then of course my need for those evaluations would increase... which put strain on the relationship... which made me feel more insecure...

I think you get the idea.

Another key thread in the tangle:

My life up to that point had been one of being the outcast, the weirdo, the one who would lower the social standing of anyone who was seen with them – and not by choice, despite the manipulative accusations of my parents. Betrayals and attacks were routine. I had learned to expect people to turn on me, or at best abandon me, with no warning.

So when I suddenly found myself with two friends I felt I could trust utterly, I think it was entirely natural to feel a little insecure that they suddenly wouldn't.

...but more to the point, really: I thought they would feel the same way. Here we are, each finally having found someone who won't abandon or betray us, who we can trust with our feelings, who won't be repelled by how strange we are... and here we also are, living in this hostile world where everyone else does think we're hopelessly weird and incomprehensible, and which works against us with varying degrees of subtlety and honesty. (This sounds paranoid, but I can give examples.)

What I wanted, and assumed that they would want too, whenever we were able to communicate openly, is twofold:

  1. the opportunity to give the other person assurance: "You still mean the world to me, and I want you to know that I am here for you and I've got your back", and
  2. something like an emotional readout, a check-in: "How are you feeling? Is there anything you'd like to talk about, now or later?"

Something in me goes "oh gods **YES**" and collapses into a puddle, when I imagine someone offering me those two things (and the freedom to say those things to them, without worrying that I am being overwhelming).

And 3. Supportive body contact (including hugs with no socially-mediated ending time) seems of equal importance. (Explaining about this, and how it relates to the other two items, turns out to be complicated. I'll have to write about that separately.)

Apparently this is not what anyone else wants, not even the people I mostly closely identify with, the people who seem the most "like me".

Or maybe I just want a lot more of it than they do.


The actual epiphany is this: I wasn't a terrible person for wanting that level of contact. ...even though they didn't also want it, and even though it resulted in all these negative dynamics.

Even now, when I can manage not to hate my physical existence a lot of the time, I still need this. The need has become sufficiently not-huge that I can carry it instead of being crushed by it, but it's still there – as confirmed by a number of recent interactions.

And it hurts a lot, and I don't know what to do about it.

I'm trying all kinds of different ways of reaching out (including writing about it), in the hope that maybe someone out there who is me-compatible (these seem to be quite rare birds; I wrote about this somewhere...) will want it as well. ...or that maybe I can find some other way of satisfying it, of distributing the load across multiple people (though so far this has only helped take some of the edge off it, and has resulted in a lot more online busyness). It keeps coming back to feeling like I'm burdening other people, though, and that's not how it's supposed to be; it's supposed to be a mutual benefit, a mutual rescue, and the fact that nobody else seems to see it that way basically just illustrates how out of tune I am with the rest of humanity.

So maybe this all helps to explain me a bit better? Maybe I'll have a complete Woozle Operations Technical Manual done by the time I turn 100.

(started with an email to the Hilarybird on 12/18; adapted, heavily revised, and finished on 12/25)