I was talking with a friend recently and I identified in my friend some stuff that I have seen in myself. While I felt empathy for my friend, it’s stuff I haven’t liked when I’ve seen it in myself. I saw similar patterns of behaviour; a familiar sense of repetition, that downward spiral of: ‘why am I depressed?’; ‘why does this stuff keep happening to me?’ and ‘how do I get out of this place?’ I think the difference for me was seeing where I used to be, and where I perceive I am now. So it’s all about my perspective, and how I face the questions from a different angle these days.
I also identified the use of ‘things’ to try and dampen the issues, to make them issues go away or at least recede into the back blocks of my mind. And whether it’s alcohol, food, other substances, sex, gambling or whatever – the pull is the same, the compulsion, the hook to get us to continue whatever the activity is that takes us away from ourselves, that we use to help us cope when life is difficult.
Couldn’t that be anything we are somehow attached to? Like TV programmes or movies; gaming; exercise or any other (obsessive) interest or hobby. Who decides when an interest becomes an obsession? I know in the world of psychology there are specific diagnostic criteria for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and related conditions and that’s not where I’m going with this. I’m more interested in the things we do, or think, the habits or behaviours we repeat, to make ourselves feel good. But at what point does this become unhealthy?
I’m guessing we use those ‘things’ because we have issues that we don’t like or don’t really want to face. I might say that I can define my issues, that I understand them but if I need ‘things’ (alcohol or food in my case) to make life more palatable or to ease the pain, or give me a break from having to actually think about things, isn’t that because I haven’t addressed or resolved the issues (and/or pain?) at some deeper, maybe less conscious level?
But then I think about how people can be driven to exercise, or involved in a certain sport or hobby, or choose to focus on religion, politics or a specific cause. At what point do our passions and interests become unhealthy? Millions of people watch television everyday, or spend time on Facebook or other social media, or blogging (!) for that matter. Is that unhealthy?
Is it dependent on the underlying reason for the interest? Or the intensity – the degree to which it impacts on lifestyle or self or others? But might a compulsion for one person be a described as a passion for another? I wonder if I’m working towards the idea of every interest/passion/distraction in life as an individual continuum, and our involvement (interest/ enthusiasm/ determination/ commitment) determines where we are on that continuum at any given point. Participation/interest/enthusiasm is fluid, so where I stand today shouldn’t be definitive because what you see is simply a snapshot. A view at a specific point in time. Where I stand tomorrow might be quite different.
The older I get, the more often I see things in life as a variety of continuums. Rather than the definitive black and white my parents were sure of, I have a sense of a multitude of shades of grey. The idea of continuums seems to apply to so many more areas of life than I had expected. And maybe that’s about acceptance – of myself and others; and a desire to observe rather than judge; and an awareness of self and others – that I can’t begin to understand another’s perspective unless I’ve been where they are.
[Blog analysis: I feel like my thoughts (above) are a bit like a plate of spaghetti with a central theme but lots of different strands – some of which I’ve touched on in the past, and most of which I feel I haven’t fully explored. I’m not even sure I’ve taken this in the direction I wanted to go – maybe I allowed myself to get distracted by the words. And it’s a bit messy- like a lump of cooked spaghetti where the individual strands have stuck together. But then isn’t that what this blog is for – to identify the issues and to write something down that I can come back to at a later date and explore further? It is. It’s just my compulsion to make things nice and tidy; a desire for order, and aesthetics. Consequently, this post doesn’t feel orderly, or tidy or like it flows -but given what I’m trying to achieve, I have to accept that that’s ok.]