Monday, May 18, 2009

Magical Thinking

I saw a mother goose and her three goslings trying to cross the Turnpike this morning on my way to work. Now I will worry about them all day. I've adopted all their woes in my mind. It will be my fault if one of them or all of them is squished by a passing truck because I failed to shepherd them to safety. I know that seems a small thing in the scheme of things, such a tiny dot on the landscape of life's horizon. But still I heap it on me, all of it, one event after another until I am suffocating beneath a mountain of guilt.

I read recently over on Jung at Heart, that perhaps some of us would rather be bad than weak. That some us would rather create a fiction in our own minds that we have some kind of omnipotence over all things, over the actions of other people. In this way, we can carry the delusion of power around with us and we don't have to admit that, in actuality, we are helpless. It is so much easier to point a finger at myself or others than to admit that there was nothing that could have been done. I see it everyday, not just in myself but in the world at large. This principle reenacted over and over and over again. When some catastrophe occurs the first thing I see is people trying to figure out why. Piecing all the facts of the case together, hoping the puzzle presents a clear picture of the reasons, what went wrong, who messed up, how can we stop it from happening again.

Somebody always has to pay. And maybe that's justice, I don't know. Of course, people mess up and need to own up to what they've done. But there are times when that shit just happened and it's nobody's fault. The world is fraught with dangers. We are never safe. As I write that, I feel the panic swell up inside me, in my chest. I need to breathe slow and deep. It's hard to admit that all our solid institutions are founded on chaos. It's hard to acknowledge that random events in a tempestuous universe brought us all here, to this place together. When I think too much about that, I start to feel an unreality, a disconnect with solid ground. Sanity, insanity. Order, chaos. Mind, body. Everything starts to blur together in a massive whirl. Who are we to say what's real for somebody else? Who are we to define someone else's reality for them?

Holding on to the guilt, the illusion of control over that which is inherently uncontrollable is easier than accepting that I am a seedling on the wind, that I am a seashell tossed about in an unfathomable ocean of things I can never understand. It's easier to be bad. It's easier to think I killed those geese, strangled their scrawny necks with my bare hands than to think I couldn't stop them from dying no matter what I did. I mean, even if if I pulled over my car, got out, pulled them to safety on the other side, something else will eventually kill them. Later today, tomorrow, next week. I can't stop it from happening no matter how hard I try. I'm tired, so very tired from carrying these countless burdens of guilt on my back like a pack animal, like a fucking beast of burden. But I need to learn another way of living, of negotiating the world, before I can release them. What terrible things will happen once I give up my super power? Will the world as I know it come crumbling down if I relinquished my unique ability to bear responsibility for every bad event that has happened or will happen?

I just realized that by posting these thoughts I have released them. I'm still alive. The world is still spinning quietly on its axis. Disaster has not ensued. The institutions around me are still standing as they always were. I am still able to assess reality with a sane mind. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Right before your very eyes. Does it ruin the magic a little to see how the trick works?


  1. i love these words, these thoughts.
    i've had them countless times and countless times i, like you, have had to give up the control - the reasoning, the MEANING in things and just accept that nothing makes sense except the fact that i know i am HERE. i am alive. i breathe. i think. i see. i feel.
    so it must mean SOMETHING, even if i am not quite sure what that is all the time.

    maybe those geese and the guilt you felt inspired you to write this blog which, in turn, i read and it inspired ME to think on the fact that there are other humans that connect on a similar level that i do.

    everything and nothing, babe.
    that's what it is.

    to release is good.

    in the words of john lennon, "let it be."

  2. Do you think it's easier to be bad? I don't know. I found that when I'm 'bad', I have to deal with all the shit that goes with it - guilt, shame, fear. When I'm 'good' - and yes, I guess sometimes it requires a bit more effort at the time - I sleep like a baby.

  3. Shannon - you make an excellent point. It definitely helps to work these thoughts out. I think a lot of us with eating disorders or a history of them attach great meaning to small things (like OCD). It can fuck us up in a big way. I don't know if it's a causal factor (some sort of brain pattern) but it seems prevalent. Thanks so much.

    A Free Man - I don't think it's easy to be bad. It's just easier than feeling helpless. Feeling like a bad person, carrying around guilt, is a terrible existence that I contend with daily. But to acknowledge I have no power over terrible events, that I can't stop anything bad from happening, not really, well that's worse somehow. It feels worse. But I think I may have a dysfunctional brain process so there you go. Thanks for commenting. It's always interesting to get a healthy, normal perspective.

  4. gosh you remind me of me, and i like it because that means i'm not so all alone after all.

    figuring out cbt is sort of the pits, but i'm glad i did, i'm glad you did. that means we're smart.

    ( you don't have to read the whole thing, you'll know when to stop!

  5. Letting go sounds so easy, and yet is so hard.

  6. curious post
    I'm not sure what to say.

    except, I have been forced to go private on my blagoblag, so I don't know if you want to keep reading, but drop me a line so I can add you to readers if you want.