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.

FEEEEELINGS

That’s right, I’m writing two posts today but I’m scheduling this one to post later because I hate it when WP clumps two posts together as if they are one thing. I am sure they do that to prevent people from spamming their readers’ feeds (had to unfollow a few people who did that) but it looks ugly.

I struggle with feeling normal. “Normal“, as if that’s a legitimate thing. I lie awake at night thinking about it, though. I don’t know any other men who do what I do every day… nor do I know any women. I practice piano, finger drumming on a sampler, read ancient books from Greek philosophers and historians, obsess over minutiae in people’s statements to the point that I spend an hour Googling facts before responding to them… etc.

Most guys my age just go to work, play golf on the weekends, and have dinner with their wife and kids. I feel very out of touch with the rest of my generation. I don’t regret the things that I do, I’m rather proud of them actually. I’ve managed to continue pursuing my passions long after most men have thrown in the towel and accepted a life of mediocrity. But it makes it very difficult to connect with people.

When I tell friends and coworkers what I do in my free time I can feel visceral judgment coming from them. I don’t know if it’s jealousy that I have the time to do these things or if they think I’m childish for continuing to play electronic music into my 40’s despite never having achieved any measure of success at it. I’m not trying to, though, I just like doing it (don’t get me wrong it’d be great to play live at festivals worldwide but I am a realist, lol). I would like to write one great song some day… just one is all I ask for. That’s why I picked up piano and will likely learn more instruments after this. You can’t be a great musician without understanding theory, I stand by that belief in the face of all the bedroom hip hop producers out there who scream otherwise (their music is instantly forgettable).

So given this… do I really desire to fit in? Part of me does. I’ve kind of given up on dating… not in a bad way but more in the way that I haven’t met a woman I am genuinely attracted to in so long that it feels a bit like a waste of time, but when I do try to date my hobbies are definitely something that makes a woman raise her eyebrow.

“Sooo… you live with your mother and you play music all day… okay man-baby” someone once said to me on an online forum. In fairness I don’t know what sex that person was but they claimed to be a woman, lol. What else do people do though?

If you’ve read this far… please… tell me… what do you do when you’re not at work? I’m not asking for you to make me feel better, I just would like to know what other people do in their free time, maybe for some perspective.

The Opposite of Burnout

…is what I’m feeling currently.

Energy Overload

We all wish we could have more energy, right? Not me, not today! I haven’t even taken my Adderall yet or drank my coffee and I’m jittery, focused like a knife-edge, and actually social for a change.

I attribute this to the new meal plan I’m on, 100%. My body has probably never been this nourished before. Even when I tried meal planning in the past, it wasn’t done with much thought or attention to detail and was more about counting calories and carbs than packing as many nutrients as possible into a day.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate this feeling. I’m just not used to being this awake at 7:00 in the morning. Yesterday was definitely one of the best days of my life as far as energy, mood, and productivity go and today is shaping up to be even stronger.

But this Scares Me

Is this just a temporary “high” before I crash into depression and apathy again? Will I suddenly lose all interest in preparing meals, working out, and getting enough sleep? Most likely. It’s what’s happened every time before this, even if this time feels different.

All I can do is try to make sure that my next meal, workout, plan, etc. is met with success. That’s how motivation builds up over time, I’ve found. We have to focus on the next task and make sure it gets done, otherwise we start backsliding into those feelings of futility again.

Positivity

Positivity (how is this word not in my browser’s dictionary? How telling) has helped me stay focused too, but it’s a bit of a catch 22 because without all of this energy I wouldn’t be able to keep it up. I’ve made a conscious effort over the last couple of days to not think about the future as much because when I do, I inevitably only think of what will go wrong.

Ever have conversations with people in your head that are both extremely unlikely and negative? I do, all the time. Eating a single piece of bread launches my imagination into a full-blown argument with someone I barely know telling me how fat and worthless I am. Nobody is going to do that. Well, nobody who matters. It’s like my mind is so used to playing Devil’s Advocate that it’s simply decided to promote itself straight to Devil.

So, no thinking about the future. Also: I’ve stopped worrying about what other people do, especially at work. Whenever something completely stupid and avoidable happens, I tell myself “they’re doing the best they can, you can’t expect any better of them” and leave it at that. I also tell myself that my job is valuable and that I’m providing a necessary service to mankind (which is true but… well I’ll leave it at that).

Fear of Failure

My perfectionism and fear of failure has gotten better thanks to this mindset (so far, I mean let’s be fully realistic it’s only been a day). I try to not even think about a year down the line when it comes to things I’m working on. If I work on today, every day, it’s inevitable that I’ll be better off in a year, so why worry? Thinking about my skills in a years time only ever brings up the thought “ugh you’re too stupid to do this, look at how bad you suck… you’ll never be as good as ________.”

So that’s today. I’m worried about losing this streak, of course, even when I’m trying frantically to not worry about the future. It’s inevitable. But I feel like I have the worry under control.

The Downside to “Putting Yourself Out There”

Drama
Haters
Narcissists
Out of control codependent savages

Dogmatic Panic (formerly Prime Recovery) has been going for about two years and in that time I’ve, quite unexpectedly, met some people whom I have come to consider friends. We don’t always agree (I am a slightly right-of-center atheist on a predominantly Christian, Liberal platform after all) but I genuinely care about a number of you which, to be completely honest, I never expected. This was initially just supposed to for me to write brilliant posts about recovery and become a famous sober author (as one does after rehab).

More than once I’ve seen friends of mine, perhaps attacked is too strong a word, criticized for really innocuous things they’ve written here. Just this morning I read a post from a woman who was lambasted for what she chooses to post. It was done in such a passive aggressive and obviously jealous manner that it would have been funny if it didn’t cause actual damage to her self-esteem. I’m not going to point her out here because I know it’s genuinely hurt her.

I’m no champion of the downtrodden or white knight; some of my posts are genuinely offensive (and are meant to be) but they’re not directed at individual people. My writing wasn’t always that way but I actually owe it to haters for helping me find my voice! I have also had many people make narcissistic jabs at my writing over the years which in the moment caused a great deal of anxiety and usually resulted in me deleting the post or at the very least editing large swaths of it.

However, because of people like the woman mentioned above who convinced me to embrace my own unique voice and not shy away from expressing myself, I’ve actually doubled down on the kind of posts that drew the most ire. Even though I’ve forgotten the name and the face, I vividly remember the comments of the first person who tore one of my posts apart and in some way, every flaming trebuchet I fire is dedicated to her.

The price of putting your deepest held beliefs out there is that not everybody agrees with you and, unfortunately, the majority of the human race isn’t intellectually or emotionally developed enough to be able to react in an adult manner. Take the hate in stride, it means you’re speaking from the heart. If nobody ever said anything bad about you, you were probably holding back quite a lot.

Discussion can’t happen when the original statement is so banal that nobody has any objections to it.