Monday, March 14, 2016

Existential Depression A-go-go II: Narcissism Really isn't a Flaw, Per Se

From the last time I posted, it probably sounded like I was coming apart at the seams, but nothing could be farther from the truth, I've been getting it together more and more. That is not trivial. Depression isn't something you can walk off, like a sprained wrist, or a disastrous first date. Depression is a monster; it claws and devours without end, like a mythological beast. Even if someone were to pull you free from it's ravenous jaws, it would return to find you alone at night. Following like a shadow, it cannot be escaped or outrun. Fortunately, monsters can be slain.

I fall into a dark place from time to time; I mean, yeah we all do, we just don't all talk about it. My most recent existential crisis just one one of those times. I haven't bottomed out, because I've done that before, too. It's even all the more absurd because I had a way out the whole time -- and a better way out than the one I found -- but I didn't realize it for years because I didn't think to look for it.  I guess I could mope over that too, but I learned from it instead. I learned the importance of rallying, and that True Strength is giving others what they need to become strong. This could be one solution to the Riddle of the More, which I spoke of previously.

So I rallied, and they came to aid and abet me -- each, in their own way, princesses in a world of dragons. It wasn't easy for them; quote the opposite. While I have the need to discuss my personal issues, I'm also held back by a distinct but undefinable aspect to my character, which persists despite these discussions. I locked into these loops  of persistent thought. Back in undergrad while trying to solve my physics problems I would get stuck for hours, working in circles. Fortunately, college is a magical land of endless distraction, so I'd become derailed and forced to jump onto new trains of thought before it ever became my undoing. There was always something to knock me out of that loop, so I'd function again, like smacking a machine to make it work.

That's a thing, by the way. No, seriously, it's not a trope. In engineering, we call it "percussive maintenance," and like all jokes, it hides a kernel of truth, since it is a legitimate form of dithering.

Outside of school, it's a little harder to escape the trap of persistent thought loops; it's so easy to fall into a comfort zone.

Sometimes I forget that I'm more than my job.

Worse yet, sometimes I forget that beauty exists. While this is far more grinding and brutalizing, it is fortunately immediately curable, by beauty -- in any of it's forms.

The risks for existential depression are enhanced  for those by the idealistic those with inherent senses of justice, or who comprehend the impossibility of their own self-realization. I do all those things, with a major emphasis on the last one. I'm depressed because I'm rudderless, and I can't envision the Ryan Coons I'm supposed to be. I realize that life is a joy-is-in-the-journey type-deal, one needs a destination to set out on one; that's how journeys work. A friend of mine in the mental health business prescribed me a 3-step process for finding myself:
  1. How do I define my ideal self?
  2. Where did I learn those values?
  3. What are the consequences of failure?
...and this is where all progress came to a screeching halt; but at least answers were turned up in the process.

I am unable to construct an ideal self which is congruent with reality. 

For example, one of the great goals in my life has always been, while in the middle of a swordfight, to backflip onto a table and go "Ha-ha!" Though, no matter how much I can distract myself with fencing and gymnastics programs, cannot enter any foreseeable series of events where that would occur naturally.

Deep down, I'm depressed because I am me, and I don't want to be me. I really want to be, someone else -- like  Anthony Zerbe -- playing the role of the abstract conception of Ryan Coons that lives within our collective subconsciousness, as only he could. The clip below demonstrates this:
By the way, that desk rotates on a giant servo-controlled lazy Susan, and it's better than you can imagine; it's better than you could imagine. No, seriously. It's the greatest thing ever; I can never compete.

Right when I posted this, YouTube pulled the video on copyright grounds, which is why I used the Spanish dubbed version. It's disappointing, Zerbe has a uniquely clean diction and delivery with a power that does not translate. I was initially bummed out about having the video pulled, but while searching for alternatives, it gave me time to think; I now realize that a young Christopher Lee would've also made a pretty great Ryan Coons, too.

I spent my entire adult life in a series of desperate attempts to flee the ennui of suburbia, only to ultimately return. I'm sure a permanent solution exists, but I can't square that circle. My parents languished trying to win the approval of other, spending ours to setup chains of causal events that would lead to a few obligatory complements. I was barely 15 when I called bullshit on that whole way of life. I realized that the giving or withholding of idle praise reduces otherwise good people into dancing bears.

I don't want the approval from others; quite the opposite -- because I'm the happiest when someone hates me, and they are actively working to undermine my continued existence and well-being. That's a big reason why I don't go to martial arts tournaments anymore -- because the stakes are too low. My problem isn't about seeming interesting to others -- I need to seem interesting to myself, and I have really, really high standards for that. I'm not sure how to go about that.

I also learned from another mental health professional  in my network that I'm the poster child for narcissistic personality disorder. I looked into it.
"Symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder are believed to grow worse as the narcissist ages. The younger narcissist typically respects only those he sees as authority figures, such as parents or mentors, and only these are believed capable of keeping his often contrary personality in check. Psychologists believe that, as the typical narcissist reaches middle age and older, these authority figures usually die off, leaving the narcissist able to think as highly of himself as he likes and treat others as badly as he likes. As the aging narcissist grows harder and harder to deal with, he may find himself more and more socially isolated, such that narcissism and depression may be more likely to occur together as the individual reaches old age."
Treatment is available, but it admittedly doesn't work. At all. This is compounded by the fact that everything I like about myself is an incurable pathology -- and even if I tried to rid myself of it, I'd just be reduced to some forgettable, Flanders-like being.

I was told to pursue a political career, to satiate my megalomaniacal desires -- not to lead, but to at least have a say in how I am led. I'm uncertain though, as that would require me to Win Friends and Influence People, which was never my shtick. I've always been uncharismatic to the point where it causes an integer overflow and becomes charming. In that same vein, I'm also ineloquent in speaking, but I've been thinking about joining Toastmasters to work on that. I like technical work though.

I guess I just need to keep pursuing True Strength with and for the people I know, and to keep writing and polishing my skillset until I can create something of merit; to let techne leads me to arate.

Since I can't find a meaning I'll be forced to define myself through great works. Art is the only salvation from the horror of existence.

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