I am diminished

I was recently confronted with another case of self-hatred and its unpleasant effects. It is not something I am unfamiliar with so it gave me pause. I have to admit that I am mostly cured of this unpleasantness but there are the occasional echoes, as the facts are, well, the facts.

It is the facts that matter not the emotion about them. I know I have written about this before, but as rabbit holes go this is one worth revisiting and looking for side tunnels. The intensity of the emotional judgment of ourselves can be overwhelming, even to the point of considering suicide. And that is just not acceptable! I mean really, wanting so badly to die because of some real or (mostly) perceived inadequacy or “failure”? We only fail when we stay stuck in the emotion and therefore don’t learn anything!

The sad thing is that these emotional echoes are so deeply painful in the present moment, so nauseatingly noisy, and it is very difficult to see them for what they are: noise. Just. Noise. The factual memory versus the emotional one, and the reality (that word should be in all caps) that even our factual memory is distorted by our emotional memory. It is the Observation/Perception loop at work. What we observe through our senses is factual. Is is information. But our pattern of interpreting and giving meaning to the information (perception) takes on a life of its own and informs (more like distorts) our observations. We see what we believe, we see things as We Are not as they are. And the pattern deepens and becomes more distorted over time.

When we experience self-loathing or hatred we are judging ourselves through these distorted lenses of perception, projecting the imagined judgment of others onto ourselves. Those perceived judgments have a root in fact: as a child we seek the approval of our caregivers. This is an evolutionary function as it provides a sense of safety. But if we receive disapproval, even rejection of our efforts, one of two things happen: we try harder or we retreat. This is a function of temperament but the pattern is established. And if we don’t figure it out the distortions take root and create wobbles, eventually spinning out of control like an Iranian centrifuge.

Hatred diminishes me. That word – diminishes – is exactly right. It is a lessening of self, a burden that bends the spine of confidence. The other word – hatred – is so toxic, so infectious. It is a cheap, throw-away word but it should not be used, or at least with some consideration. These days hate is conjoined with “phobia”, as in homophobia or transphobia. It is so au courant to throw those labels around but they are too often wildly inaccurate.

phobia(fō′bē-ə)N.

  1. A persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous.
  2. A strong fear, dislike, or aversion.

It is said that people fear what they don’t understand. The problem it seems is that folks don’t want to understand. We’ve already made up our minds through the lenses of our best thinking and say we understand, but of course we don’t. Don’t get me wrong, understanding does not equate to approval, but at least there may be some clarity and by extension acceptance (which also does not equate to approval.) Someone recently said that (based on something I said) I am homophobic. It’s laughable that this would be their judgment and it stung a little, but listening through their ears I can see why they would think that.

Set aside your judgment (of others or yourself) and look for understanding. Look for the smudges on your lenses that inform the discomfort and even agony of hate. Stop using the word! Stop feeding the pattern and give yourself an opportunity to learn, to understand, and to be, to some degree, free.

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