Two Years

Yesterday was 2 years sober for me. I didn’t notice because of the bizarre passage of time we’re all experiencing in lockdown mode. Better late than never though. I don’t have anything profound to say about it other than my life is better now than I could have ever hoped for and it continues to get better. I’ve already written tons of posts on sobriety and addiction in the past so there’s no need for me to rehash any of that.

I guess the one insight I could give is that sobriety doesn’t mean anything is fixed on its own. I’m still antisocial, afraid of the world, and a hardcore procrastinator. But sober I have a chance to beat those things and some days I do. It’s not a battle where one day you win and you’re done… it’s a daily series of choices. Some days I have the energy to make the right choice and some days I don’t.

It was worth it.

My First Week as a Vulcan:

A friend of mine, one of the few whom I’ve discussed my possibly ridiculous experiment with, is a Trekkie and replied “so you’re trying to be a Vulcan?” I’d be lying if I said that hadn’t occurred to me during the initial phase of my project but it’s not my intent, mainly because Vulcans are poorly-designed fictional aliens from a franchise that puts the “fiction” in science fiction.

More Logic Isn’t the Goal or a Result So Far

Logic isn’t the opposite of emotion; controlling emotion doesn’t inversely cause one to be more logical and rational. Logic is a skill whereas emotion is a chemical response. I suppose one way in which they may be opposites is that logic requires practice and critical thinking whereas emotion, in its reactionary form, is the lack of critical thinking and focused practice.

Therefor I haven’t found that I’ve been more logical than I ordinarily am. I believe I’m already a logical person compared to most of the people I’ve met, so I haven’t noticed an increase in that faculty. What I’ve noticed is an ability to convey that logic more effectively because I’m not responding to people out of a desire to prove myself, debase them, or gain something. This has made conversation challenging as prior to this experiment I already knew that these are the primary reasons all people communicate; overwhelmingly the first one: proving themselves.

We Can’t Exist Without Emotion

Learning how to respond to people who are addicted to affirmation is an ongoing obstruction. Although I am attempting to eliminate my emotional responses, I can’t eliminate emotion entirely. I’m sure you can imagine how awkward it feels to have people tell you banal, codependent jokes all day and uncomfortably stare at you when you neither fake a chuckle or smile. This week I realized how often I fake laughter to make people feel comfortable with their own insufficient personalities.

Gratitude can be felt for the opportunity to practice, though. Several dozen times a day, I am given the opportunity to challenge myself to not pretend to find someone funny. It should be a given that this is only a problem because of my own character flaw which made me feel it was necessary to respond in an expected way to emotional manipulation. If I’d never given people what they wanted in the first place, this wouldn’t be an issue, and upon reflection I’d probably have had fewer toxic friends over the years.

Not giving in to expectation is the true test of emotional restraint. Analyze everything you do for a week and I promise you’ll come to a similar conclusion: many things we do are to appease other people. Society wouldn’t have formed the way it did without that provision but that doesn’t mean all of us have to give in to this animalistic need.

More on Emotion Being the Lack of Mental Activity

I’ve failed many times this week, yesterday in particular. Failure has given me insight into what causes emotional outbursts and I’d like to study this more. It wasn’t by accident that I chose to combine emotional control with asceticism and the times at which I gave in to impulsive hedonism were not coincidentally the times that I was almost completely out of control emotionally.

We are drawn to things that make us feel and not specifically to things that make us feel well. When I gave into desires such as eating fast food, playing games, watching valueless YouTube videos, and so on, these were the times I was at my most unstable. I’d vacillate wildly between joy, depression, and outright rage in mere minutes. These feelings then caused me to react to people as if they were the cause.

It’s worth mentioning that I have an unhealthy relationship with my mother and the mere sound of her voice throws me into a murderous rage at times so I can’t put all the blame on fast food and video games.

Humor Persists

You might not expect a sense of humor to prevail through an emotionless state but as I said previously, we can’t truly eliminate our emotions. Emotions aren’t an intangible concept that can be switched on or off at will, they are very real chemicals. Even medications that seek to mediate these chemicals don’t deaden our emotions, they merely mute some which makes the others seem amplified.

I’ve still been able to share my sense of humor with people. I also feel it’s been augmented during the times I’ve been more in control. Rather than fill the void with every stupid thought that enters my head, I carefully select appropriate and clever times to interject. Timing is everything, as the saying goes.

My writing may seem more dry than usual and that’s not a result of emotional control, it’s part of my “brutalist” asceticism idea: I’m trying to be more concise and to the point. I’m playing with that idea not just in writing but also in music and conversation as well. It’ll evolve over time and I’ll get better at making my writing interesting while refraining from rants and colorful language.

What Sort of Posts Do You Enjoy Reading?

I’ve never thought about what draws me into reading a post until recently. I read between ten and forty WordPress posts a day between all of the different authors I follow but I will admit that some are more cursory readings than others. Over the past week I’ve made a list of the posts that arrested my full attention and made me want to contribute to the discussion. I’ve collected some of the types of posts I’ve read recently and casually run through them below. If you find that you’re an author who frequently writes the kind of posts that I don’t particularly like, no offense! I’m just one reader and generally those sort of posts don’t even apply to me.

Factual Stories

It’s not a secret that narrative is enticing. We’ve all surely read that opening your post with an anecdote or peppering personal happenstance throughout your page is the easiest way to make something more interesting. Posts which began to tell a story that alluded to a question that I wanted to know the answer to overwhelmingly drew me in. I’m not talking about obvious questions like “how to change a tire” but vague, unwritten questions like “I wonder how this author’s husband is doing now after this situation?”

Lists

Lists are tricky. In order for me to care about a list, I found that I had to already trust the author. People I’ve followed recently who I don’t have much of a history with, I might casually glance at their lists but don’t really care about their opinion yet. Lists are often very personal as they represent the author’s opinion. If I’m not familiar with the author’s personality and background, I’m not going to trust their opinion.

That said, I like lists from familiar authors. They’re concise, easy to peruse because if you don’t care about one of the items in the list you can just move to the next one, and they usually fall into a central theme so I know going into it how much I want to invest into reading it. My advice based on my notes would be that if you like writing lists, don’t only write lists. Give your audience some meat occasionally so that they can get to know you.

Blogs on Blogging

To be blunt, I don’t care about these posts in the slightest. Some of my followers (and some of the people I follow) primarily write in this area so once again please don’t take offense, I’m not trying to say your blog is worthless! In my experience, these posts are a penny a dozen and the vast majority of them are completely unoriginal and recycle content that has already been written a thousand times by other authors. It makes sense, too… how much advice can one truly give on writing a blog? There are some tried and true methods to success and while there’s some leeway in their implementation, for the most part the formula never changes.

However, if you have a unique voice and work in some of the first method (telling a story) you can still have an interesting blog. Look I get that some of us are here to make money or demonstrate our skills so that we can land a job in writing some day but the obviously SEO oriented post titles and formatting kill me. You might steer some Google traffic your way but human beings don’t enjoy reading something that was written for an algorithm. Be original, please.

Inspirational Posts

When written well, I love inspirational stories. Some of them have genuinely changed the course of my day and week in the past. There’s a lot of negativity and toxicity on our dear Information Superhighway (this blog is the source of some of it, I will admit) and it’s always great to see someone doing the opposite. I have noticed that some of these blogs don’t get the attention of other blogs because people like reading about drama and crisis more than something nice, but I see you.

Even if I am a notorious shitposting troll.

HEAVY Religion

For the most part, religious posts could fall under a couple of the above categories but there is one type that stands out above the others for me. When someone launches into an almost word-for-word copy of Bible passages and, let’s not mince words, schizophrenic interpretations of their meaning, I navigate away immediately. Religion doesn’t offend me and I’m not a torch bearing atheist who thinks that we should take Nietzsche’s advice regarding God. We have to all admit, though, that the supernatural nature of religion does draw an inordinate amount of paranoid schizophrenics. Combined with the reinforcing nature of the WordPress platform… there’s a pretty crazy corner of the web on here. You’re not doing them any favors by giving them praise in their comment sections or even by questioning them.

Pictures

If your entire blog consists of posts that are simply one photograph without a caption or background story… you might do better on Instagram.

Finding Balance in Asceticism and Extreme Emotional Control.

I’ve been trying to write this post for a couple of days. It’s difficult to talk about ideas such as this without sounding pretentious.

Self-control has been a practice that has sporadically captivated me over the years. In my youth it must have been appealing because it held the promise of freedom from my emotional pain and inaction. As I aged I fell into the cycle of mindless hedonism that most people occupy throughout their lifetimes.

Monday night was an example of a typical night for me lately: insomnia, anxiety, anger, hatred, fear, sadness, the whole spectrum of human emotion condensed into a four hour fit of tossing and turning while unable to sleep. While I’m reluctant to call this a subconscious manifestation of COVID fear, I’m not so self-aware that I can discount the idea. More likely is that it’s a result of a spontaneous schedule and my stimulant prescription. While lying in bed I thought about the widespread ignorance, selfishness, and cynicism that pervades American society and decided to undertake an experiment in which I would suppress all emotion and live a more ascetic lifestyle for as long as possible.

Day one went well; it wasn’t perfect and I tired by mid-afternoon. It feels awkward to not smile at people and to restrain yourself from useless conversation. Surprisingly, communication via text and the Internet were even more challenging as I decided to stop using laughter (whether spelled out or in one of its modern forms like “lol”), emojis, and the like. A few people asked me what was wrong so I gave them a brief overview of what I was doing. Some people think it’s crazy, it might be, others kind of “get it”.

Toward the end of the first day I had started to give in to my emotional impulses as I had been assaulted for 6 hours by a woman who has a codependent need to fill every void with banal humor designed to illicit fake smiles and laughter in order to selfishly make herself feel better. It’s on the softer, less malicious side of the emotional blackmail spectrum. This type of person is largely the reason I’m doing this so it was a bit deflating that she beat me.

The second day has been better. I’m working with a quieter woman who is slightly less passive-aggressive than yesterday’s companion. I’ve been approached for assistance by several coworkers today and I’ve managed to navigate every conversation objectively and dispassionately. There were a few moments in which I wavered when the woman I’ve previously had quite an uncontrollable crush on came to talk to me. If codependent cowards are 20% of my motivation for self-discipline, women like her are another 20%. I asked her out on a date a couple of years ago so I’m well aware that it’s never going to happen, but I still find myself sheepishly at her beck and call. I did well today, though.

I realize that this probably sounds slightly, if not extremely, crazy! Some of the more mental-health oriented people who read this blog might also conclude that I’m doing this as a way to avoid painful trauma or emotions that I don’t want to deal with. I assure you that this isn’t the case. I’m doing this from a place of positivity and genuine interest in my capabilities. I’m also aware that completely eliminating emotion is physiologically impossible so what I’m actually trying to do is eliminate my emotional reactions to situations and other people while being aware of how things are making me feel internally and muting those feelings with reason when possible. It’s a bit like 24-hour meditation.

I mentioned that I’m also exploring asceticism earlier and I’ll detail that method in my next post.

Woah, Step Back!

I had to slow my roll this weekend… I started finding WordPress to be a place of stress rather than the community I had enjoyed for the last few years. No fault of anyone else’s, it’s something I put on myself in truth. I started feeling an obligation to keep up with everyone’s blogs and to be completely honest that just isn’t possible!

Life has really taken the wheel recently and I don’t have that routine I had when I was working full time in which I check WordPress every morning at 7:30. Now, days go by between my visits and some of you have posted four or five times by then (props to you, I can’t do it). This made me feel guilty for some reason; as if I had a responsibility to read everything that was posted. I get that way… WordPress is far from the first network in which I’ve had that impulse.

So I had to just take a minute and acknowledge what I was feeling and tell myself it’s not a big deal. Ever do that? It actually does work, sometimes.

I’m still very tired all of the time. I do start writing a blog post almost every day but can very rarely bring myself to finish it. The more serious and passionate I am about the topic, the less likely I am to finish it, coincidentally. I get halfway through and this feeling of all the life being sucked out of me creeps over my body, I tell myself nothing I’ve written appropriately captures what I want to say, and I erase it. That’s a good way to visualize a feeling I get quite frequently, actually. Like my body is a thermometer and my willpower is the mercury inside that almost instantly drains from my head right out of my feet… whenever I’m in the middle of something I truly care about. It’s been a real hurdle throughout my life.

Sometimes I win that fight though. Like tonight. I really wanted to stop writing half way through the last paragraph, lol. I’ll finish though… and publish this.

Tiny victories.