Should Emotionally Challenged Folks Compensate It Publicly, or Seek Help in Private?
Apparently, just like misery likes company, so does exhibitionism"
-- B.J. Wane
Excitement From Exposing Emotional Nudity
Many years ago I had a cousin who would jokingly call himself a schizophrenic -- but his behavior was enough for those around him to take that joke seriously. After reading a lot of "dark stuff" classics, like Franz Kafka, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jean Paul Sartre, and fascinated by the Elia Kazan's classic movie "Rebel Without a Cause", he gave his outta wack inner world some dignifying names.
His odd emotional exhibitionism was giving him some almost erotic pleasure of exposing his emotional nudity. I met some others in my relatively long life, who went to certain extremes with that, while using a lot of sexual vulgarities, all with a "solemn purpose" of breaking some unnecessary social taboos. In a retrospect, I am jokingly calling them adepts of verbal pornography.
I am talking here about those unfortunate folks who somehow think that it's the world's duty to treat them with a gentle care by walking on their tiptoes around them, not to disturb their inner dragons.
So they are advertising their excessive emotionality as their strong sides, with an extremely low tolerance threshold for anybody who might point to them that they are publicly compensating just to make themselves feel better.
Like, my cousin, in one of his tantrums called me a "chameleon", an "undefinable type", a "soft mass", obviously projecting on me how one side of his split personality felt about his other side. Well, I have been called a few of those names which merely were projections -- including the one of a "con artist priest". Why did my parents bother giving me a name -- those colorful characters always had a bunch of them for me.
He also called me "insensitive", "cruel", and then he would mock my passion for psychology with accusation that "none of those books taught me anything -- since I could not comprehend his "depth of soul".
Well, I am like that with "my" psychology -- when I see a man with a bleeding paper cut, and just cursing those who made paper so sharp at edges, I do more than offer a band-aid, I try to remind the person that it was his free choice how to handle that paper.
We can easily forgive a child for being afraid of the dark; the real tragedy is when men are afraid of the light.
How Could That Dark Literary Material Become Classic?
My cousin was an orphan, his father got executed for treason, and his mother died from tuberculosis -- so my mother, his aunt on his mother's side, kept insisting that I spend more time with him.
I can still remember how I used to sneak out after I saw him coming from the kitchen window. He always gave me some very mixed feelings -- on one hand I felt deeply compassionate, and on the other I was just damn confused, not knowing how to deal with crazy complexities of his nature. That's why I never became a shrink with all that passion -- just a life long explorer of mind's unused potential.
Those suffering folks are of different varieties. Some will privately deal with whatever their issues may be, confiding to a close friend or two, but never with an ambition to publicly advertise it.
Not because there is some stigma attached to having chronic emotional problems, but because they rationally reason that it's something of a private nature.
Let's see a couple of examples where sufferers go to another extreme. In my army days, I remember sitting for some hours in the club and reading Herman Hesse's "Steppenwolf", which was a highly praised novel about a disturbed thinking man's crazy intellectualizing about life, about his essence, about his purpose.
For the life in me I could not understand how that became a classic. I feel the same hearing some depressing songs, wondering how is the author "giving" something to others -- other than discharging his own emotional pains through it, and basically just helping himself.
So, how to see the ethical side of it -- is it ethical for him to make people depressed, while expecting from them to be ethical and understanding? Is it the world's duty to view such emotional exhibitions as something culturally dignifying?
My cousin's emotional exhibitionism didn't sit well with my cultivated taste for normalcy. I was an easy going teenager, reading a lot of classical philosophy, psychology, I did yoga, which didn't only make me physically flexible, but also emotionally. I was a life loving dude, sitting at the curb of my street, playing my guitar and singing, surrounded by sighing girls. I loved drifting in mountains alone, swimming across a sizable cold lake at the edge of the city, camping with scouts.
With all that nice stuff to remember, I also had my own childhood family drama, which I overcame in style of pulling myself up by bootstraps. Never had a taste for beating around the bush with something like "unconditional self-acceptance".
I believe in mental discipline which doesn't tolerate crap. And that's how I can produce some instant, almost mentally-orgasmic emotions of bliss by a trained shift in my mind.
So, here you got it, that's what I am shamelessly advertising about myself -- not "how I felt when I was so starving that I would dip molded dry bread in vinegar to be able to swallow it. Or, when I was at age of nine grabbing my dad by leg and begging him not to leave us." He did, for another woman.
Indeed, we can have a poignant chapter in our life story -- but it's not to become a literary "gift" to anybody. People have enough of their own hardships to be burdened by our bad memories.
Besides, I am too much of a happy dude to let my mind spoil it with those memories. Well, like they said and I kept repeating it in my articles: "Mind is an obedient servant, but a cruel master."
In Hollywood if you don't have a shrink, people think you are crazy.
-- Johnny Carson
Not a Gift to the Culture
During my first 23 years of life in Europe, I sponged-in much of old European culture, so I will always be a European, even after having lived here in Canada for the last 52 years.
But I could never go along with that part of the culture that's soaked with tears, blood, and sweat. More than anything, I could never understand how some celebrities in psychology got their fame, while themselves needing what they were professing.
Like Sigmund Freud, who was allegedly mistreating his wife -- while professionally fixing some other marriages. Moreover, the famous "father" of psychoanalysis, Ziggy couldn't stop smoking even after few oral surgeries for cancerous growths in his mouth. And then he ended it all by an arranged suicide.
Really, how such people and their teachings are still taught at universities worldwide? Would you entrust your broken down car to a mechanic who couldn't fix his own car? Or, buy an "elixir for hair regrowth" from a bald dude?
You see what I mean? Why should anybody take seriously someone who is suffering emotionally, when they start sounding like they have something to preach to the public about life?
It goes without saying, again, there is no stigma attached to having emotional problems, not something to be ashamed of-- but why publicly compensate, and even become famous with those compensations?
Another biggie in the same field, Carl Jung, was a true celebrity on his own merits. But why would I want to learn anything from him either, after learning how he admitted that on many instances in his life he was contemplating a suicide.
Can you believe that there are still study groups trying to figure the "depth" of another psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan, who was a Parisian showman, sleeping with his patients, slapping some, and charging them for the full hour after spending ten minutes with each.
I am talking about people with personality problems who are literally advertising their problems. Many of them getting deeply hurt if you question their competence to talk about joys of life.
Happiness is a choice; unhappiness is an option.
-- Barry Kaufman
Happiness Is Not Merely an Absence of Unhappiness
Maybe such an incompetence is stemming from that general misconception about happiness. Namely, more often than not, satisfaction gets confused for genuine happiness.
Talking about satisfaction, even a severely depressed person can find it in sex, in buying new things, in cheap victories over others, in anything that will momentarily stimulate those feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, or norepinephrine. Even a bottle of beer, or stuffing ourselves silly with favorite foods may give us that effect -- which is far from meaning happiness.
Happiness is that warm feeling of loving our life, loving ourselves, with an enormous flexibility about the world we are living in. It's a sense of feeling at home in our own skin, not feeling that skin as a dirty shirt.
I am a happy camper. As such, I may be dissatisfied -- like, a flat tire while I am driving, won't make me ecstatic, but it won't make me unhappy either. It won't make me suddenly curse my life, my bad luck, the unlucky star under which I was born, and alike. I may utter a few of those words that I can't mention here, and then just fix the damn thing, slipping back to my chronic rosy disposition.
Happiness is also more than an absence of unhappiness. And it's always a choice. It's something that people with emotional issues can't understand. They beat around the bush, finding excuses with a bad childhood, bad brain chemistry, bad nutrition, even bad politics -- rather than grabbing their inner life by horns and saying "that's enough".
And even if they do that much, many will just be satisfied with that emotional vacuum, that absence of feeling pissed at life. That's not happiness.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "Nothing succeeds like success." Applying it to happiness -- no techniques, no words, no preparations...nothing means happiness except happiness. We are either happy or we are not, and no amount of going smart about it will do.
In this article I tried to point at an unfortunate phenomenon of people refusing to treat their issues, but finding some cheap compensation through sharing them with others, to the point of advertising them as their strong side.
I mentioned celebrities in field of mental health who paraded with their false competence -- while unable to help themselves first. And I briefly reminded the reader that happiness is not satisfaction, so those writing about things that make them excited don't really qualify to advise anybody about joys of life.
In order to experience joys of life, we have to have a cultivated capacity for joys of life, not settling for surrogate emotions.
© 2020 Vladimir Karas