nancylebov: (green leaves)
I've been online since the 90s, which is a great opportunity to observe human behavior a little from the outside.

One thing I noticed was the huge amount of energy a fairly large proportion of people put into being abusive. This is amazing, considering how little they get out of it according to more usual ideas of human motivations.

This led to thinking about in-person abusers, and what drives them. While I don't understand all the reasons for ongoing abuse, some of it is obviously status enforcement. I believe the reinforcement for in-person abuse is seeing the other person being stressed by it. The advice to not let them see they've hurt you is of moderate value-- it helps sometimes, but not everyone can conceal the signs of emotional hurt completely, and (as with trolls on the internet) I'm pretty sure that some abusers can keep themselves going by imagining they've hurt their target.

In any case, I'm pretty sure abuse isn't just intended to cause hurt, it's intended to prevent the target from feeling good. If the target feels good, they might leave or shove back effectively.

From which it follows that someone who's been a target of extended abuse has been trained into the pattern that feeling better leads to feeling worse.

Recovery involves developing a gut-level belief that it's safe to feel better.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
While I'm not exactly zipping along, I'm not as stuck as I was. Aside from general work on self-hatred, there are some specific things which help.

I paid attention to what it felt like when I wasn't having problems doing things, and I reminded myself that doing something useful didn't get me struck by lightning. This is also a way of changing my focus from "there's something wrong with me-- look! everything isn't perfect!" to "there's something right with my life experience as I experience it".

Sometimes, paying attention to counting fifty breaths in a row would get me out of bed. I'm not saying this is necessarily good for everyone (I'm probably better than average at keeping count), but it's worth playing around to see if there's something. I'll also note that counting fifty breaths is a challenge for me, and not always possible. It's possible that it's the right level of challenge for some moods.

Alison Brosh's brilliant Hyperbole and a Half:Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened has a couple of comics about using shame as a motivator. Depression Part Two is available online. "Motivation" is only in the book, and is probably clearer about how using shame as a motivator looks when one isn't in the depths.

I declare Brosh a Hero of Introspection. She should get a medal with ribbons and a pension.

In any case, I've got what I'd call sufficient evidence that shame (the idea that one is a bad person for not doing whatever) is a very dangerous tool to use as a motivator. I'm not going to say it never works, but it tends to create resistance and eventually destroy motivation. I think it's worse if it includes an attack for not wanting to do whatever. An attack for not having already done whatever is bad, but not quite that bad.

I find it can help to ask myself what my reason for doing whatever is. That sometimes gets me moving with amazingly little friction.

A recent realization that's still in progress is that I have to get a grip on my imagination. It's much easier to imagine what it would be nice to have done without thinking about what resources I've got for doing it, not to mention actually doing those things. If I let the "it would be nice" list take over, then I just feel bad because I haven't done all those things.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
I'm glad some people have found my earlier post promising.

If you want to let me know how it works out, I'm interested. This includes what helped, what didn't, what helped that I didn't mention, and if anything I said made things worse for you.

I've gotten a lot more cautious about advice ever since I was so badly burnt by my reaction to some human potential stuff. Have big goals! You really have big goals, it's just that you're too frightened to let yourself see them! Do what you're afraid of! If you don't like hearing this, it's because you're fucked up! If it makes your life worse, it was your responsibility!

This sort of thing works out well for some people, I think, but I don't like the sort of collateral damage I took getting written off as irrelevant.

I haven't had anyone tell me that they feel like they ought to be working on their self-hatred, but they just can't make themselves do it so they feel even worse, but this seems like the kind of thing that could happen. If so, I'm interested in ways which might avoid that outcome.

Meanwhile, I'm just going to say that all you can do is start with where you are, and that includes what you're motivated to do. If possible, avoid looking down on yourself from above.

Observing your own imperfections may not be useful at the moment. Considering that the Voice Which Tells You You're Getting Everything Wrong is just another part of the world and isn't likely to be perfect itself might help.

The other thing is that I'm pretty sure one of my fears is that if I didn't have so much internal friction and I could do more, I'd be obligated to endure more energy than I can handle* and take on obligations which are beyond me. All I can say is that it doesn't seem to work like that. The process seems to be a lot more gradual and benign.

*That sounds like fear of mania, except that I don't have a history in that direction and I don't know of any family members who have it. I wonder if there's some old history and fear that got passed down.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
I've made a huge amount of progress shutting down self-hatred. Unfortunately, I haven't kept a diary, so this is from memory, and I'm not completely sure which of the many things I've tried were crucial. I do therapy (only once a month-- the style is influenced by Somatic Experiencing). I think it helps, but it isn't the main thing.

At this point, I think a lot of what got me into serious self-hatred was [edited to add: reading human potential material and jumping to the conclusion that] I didn't have enough energy/initiative/wasn't a cool enough person with big goals and a high level of success. I started hammering on myself for being such a failure, and this led to serious levels of paralysis.

I still have the problems of inertia and procrastination, but at least I'm not spending a lot of time telling myself how awful I am and I'm finding it easier to get some things done.

I'm hoping that this will be useful for other people who are plagued with self-hatred, but here's the most important piece of advice: if you're feeling swamped, pull back. Stop reading. You don't have to force yourself.

Here's what I've written in the past.

I strongly recommend Transforming Negative Self-Talk by Steven Andreas-- it's an NLP-based approach of modifying the speed, volume, pitch, direction, etc. of the attacking voice. I found it did a lot to quiet mine, and one of my friends found it helpful. The book says that these methods don't work for everyone, so if you try it, please view it as an experiment. It is absolutely the most obviously effective self-help book I've used.

I've seen some talk about the need for compassion and courage to get out of self-hatred, but I find these abstractions are too grand and frightening. Fortunately, getting in on small facts and grinding can be very useful.

Two mottoes: "I will not do my enemies' work for them." "I will not beat myself up for symptoms of depression."

I've found that fits of self-hatred are not under direct conscious control, but they can be examined and this helps. Partly, it's that the process of examination is very different from being caught up in self-hatred.

Even if you can't prevent self-hatred, experiment with self-care afterwards. You've just had a rough time, and you won't be struck by lightning if you take a moment to come back to the ordinary world and let yourself feel steadier.

It's done me some good to look at hatred as a passion. I still don't know what's going on, but just acknowledging that high-energy inventive hatred is a strong drive helped somehow.

It also helped to realize that part of my mind must be terrified of something to be working so hard to constrain me, even though I haven't figured out what it's afraid of.

It helps (in a slow grind sort of way) to keep coming back to whether what the voice is saying is true-- the universe is remarkably tolerant of people who don't meet random ideal standards.

Compassion and Self-Hate-- a good book on the subject, with focus on men's issues. I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't)-- another good book with focus on women's issues.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
[ profile] osewalrus has suggested that it is, but I'm not sure he's correct. All I've got is snippets and hypothesis, and I'd be grateful for information about research on the subject.

Snippet 1: A story about a Lama or Rinpoche who was asked about the common American problem of self-hatred. [Pause for discussion between the translator and the Tibetan.] Finally, the translator says, "How do you do that?"

Snippet 2: Hearing that there was shift in Europe sometime in the middle ages between people confessing to sinful actions and sinful thoughts-- I think there were records of penances. Getting actions right is at least somewhat more possible than having a perfect state of mind.

It seems plausible to me that there are cultural influences which can at least amplify the risk of self-hatred, and that those influences are not of equal force in all times and places. Religions which put a lot of emphasis on the state of one's soul, narrow definitions of psychological health, and high demands for success and/or ideal appearance are all plausible candidates. So is viewing aging as a defect rather than a reason for being respected. See also demands for perfect motives. And don't forget the possibility of simply viewing oneself as not good enough because of being part of an outgroup.

This is a list off the top of my head of deleterious mainstream American influences. It wouldn't surprise me if there are bad influences in other cultures that I don't know about.
nancylebov: (green leaves)
In a recent post, [ profile] matociquala talked about her self-hatred, the pervasiveness of self-hatred among women, and the importance of not spreading self-hatred.

I found I wanted to post about the subject here rather than in a comment.

I think I've done a good job through my whole life about not spreading self-hatred-- I don't think I've ever been in one of those competitive who-hates-themselves-the-most female bonding conversations in my life, though I take it on faith that they're common. I'm not sure how I've avoided those conversations, since apparently just being in fandom isn't enough.

However, I've got a bad problem with internal self-hatred. I'm not sure what's going on, but in the past decade or so, I've acquired an internal voice which is very apt to say "You stupid piece of shit". Sometimes it goes, "Why don't you just kill yourself?" This is not the same thing as being suicidal. Please don't panic. However, it's very wearing. Hearing those attacks is wearing, and so is trying to get them to go away. (Current realization: by the time I've heard the attack, it's already happened. I can't make it not have happened. If I want less attacks or none of them, I need to look to the future.)

On the other hand, this voice hasn't been there my whole life. Most people don't seem to have anything that bad, and the only time I've seen any thing like it in fiction was in Ruff's Put This House in Order. There should be some way to make it go away.

I've actually got it toned down quite a bit-- less emotionally intense, and I realized that sometimes I'd amplify and extend it in a way that I could consciously choose not to.

The voice is apt to be more active when I'm doing useful stuff, and less when I'm reading and posting. This makes it difficult to get things done.

Another correlation: It's only in play when I'm by myself, I think.

I think there's a partly kinesthetic basis-- sometimes reaching out (say, for food at a buffet) seems to set it off. That's not the whole story, though-- sometimes self-praise will set it off. My tentative theory is that some self-praise has an element of "see, I'm all right, aren't I?"

Sometimes it helps to transcribe what the voice is saying and let it roar. I think it takes five or ten minutes of that, and then I get calmer.

Having people say "don't say that to yourself" is not reliably valuable when it doesn't seem like entirely voluntary behavior, though it was helpful to have a friend say forcefully that what the voice was saying isn't true.

It also helped to realize that it wasn't reasonable for the cat to get "Oh, what a great cat! Look at those ears and whiskers! And you haven't caused an international monetary crisis! What a great cat!" while I'm getting "You stupid piece of shit!"

Also, it helped to realize that beating up on myself for symptoms of depression certainly isn't going to help. And that having a strong emotional revulsion at myself for having the voice doesn't help either. Realizing that the latter was part of the problem was a big deal.

Therapy has helped, but in a non-specific way, or at least I don't remember what happened with Jim Brann (215-830-8460) which shut the voice down for a while. He did a lot of work with affection.

In general, asking myself "What am I doing?" is useful. Not "What am I doing wrong?" or "What do I need to change right now?" but "What, in particular, at this moment, am I doing?"

The voice seems to be in the same voice as my internal monologue, and I didn't grow up with such crude attacks or with cursing. The genesis actually seems to be that I was having waves of self-hatred (as a pure emotion) when I'd make minor mistakes. One of the things I usually do is find the most accurate words I can for feelings, and this is generally a good thing. However, giving words to that mental state may not have improved matters.

It occurs to me that describing the emotional state (as distinct from speaking for it) is something worth pursuing-- not feasible at the moment, since (fortunately) self-hatred isn't near the surface.

Which gets to background states-- I'm realizing that there's a distinctive feeling (more full? more complete?) when self-hatred isn't in play, and there's another feeling of being ready to pounce that appears when I'm going to dump a lot of self-hatred on myself.

There are some things that I've partially outsourced to my self-hatred (certainty and energy) that I don't want to lose track of, and I'm concerned that just shutting down the self-hatred might have some costs.

Another reason I'm handling this with tongs (aside from that just trying to shut the voice down doesn't work very well) is that it's tempting to feel as though whatever I'm feeling is wrong, and then try to adjust it. This has its own problems.

I'm interested in advice, but please let me know whether this is a problem you've worked with, and whether the advice you're offering is you find plausible or something you've seen work.

[ profile] matociquala frames self-hatred as a woman's problem, but actually men suffer from it, too, even if they don't use it for bonding. I don't have a specific post handy, but No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz? gets into the subject now and then.

I have no idea why self-hatred is so easy to fall into for so many people. Evolution doesn't have a complaint department.

ETA: Writing this and reading it over made me realize that I've made a heroic effort and gotten some success vs. self-hatred.
nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
What's so weird to me about depressive self-hatred is that here you have a person who doesn't have energy to do useful and/or pleasant things [1], but there's both a lot of energy going into thinking about how awful they are and a lack of the "ouch that hurts don't do it!" reflex.

About the ouch! reflex: It took a lot of therapy to get to the point where I can fairly reliably realize that there's a me getting hurt instead of just identifying with the attacking voice.

As for guilt and depression, does anyone have information about how depression plays out in non-Christian cultures?

One other angle on culture: I think there's pressure in America to be busy, happy, and social all the time. This could add to depression, both by defining people who are don't fit the ideal as depressed, and by setting up people who are a little depressed to think they're deeply defective, which knocks them down farther.

I have a notion that people have a "that action sounds good or bad to me" slider in their minds. It's probably physiological. If the slider is stuck on the sounds bad side, you get the inert sort of depression. If it's stuck on the sounds good side, you get hypomania or mania.

Heading off into tentative hypothesis land, there might be two sliders, one for action, and the other for thought. If just the thought part is activated on the sounds bad side, then a lot in your head automatically seems bad to you, though you might be able to take reliable action. If the sounds good is too active, then you might get racing thoughts, hyperfocus, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Anyway, it's conceivable to me that depression is an overamplification of the necessary ability to choose not to do things.

[1] There are other sorts of depression. Some people have a strong sense of duty and do the useful stuff, but are miserable and possibly suicidal (see Good Mood by Julian Simon), some people can do the low effort pleasant things but not the useful things, and I think obsessing about how awful other people are rather than how awful you are is something like the depressive pattern, but probably less self-destructive, especially in the short run.

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