There is one particularly salient question we should ask
in order to measure our levels of emotional well-being:
do you broadly feel that you have the right to exist
and are, on balance, a good enough human being?
Or, whatever your outward circumstances and achievements,
还是说 无论你处在什么环境 有怎样的成就
do you generally feel you are a piece of excrement,
who has only got through life by deluding others
(who would quickly abandon you if they knew
even a fraction of the truth about you)
and, because you are a liar,
are you only ever one or two steps away
from a feeling of deserved
humiliation and catastrophe?
It is in a sense extraordinary
how many of us instinctively answer
yes to the second question;
in other words, how many of us are alive
without a sense that we have any
genuine merit in walking the earth.
Suicide statistics say something horrifying about our societies,
but the numbers on violent self-hatred,
from which one in four of us are estimated to suffer,
say something arguably even worse.
If we saw a stranger being treated
the way many of us treat ourselves,
we wouldn’t hesitate to call it wanton cruelty.
An odd detail
about disliking oneself
is that one generally doesn’t
even notice oneself doing it.
Realizing it would require
a degree of objectivity
about one’s potential worth
that one precisely lacks.
Self-hatred can be
too obvious to be visible;
it’s the default position and has been since childhood.
One doesn’t identify as a self-disliker;
one just thinks one’s a piece of shit.
The feeling radiates its effects in a number of areas:
if someone pays you a compliment,
you immediately doubt their intelligence.
When someone offers to love you,
you wonder why they are so weak.
When you are stuck in a frustrating relationship,
at work or in private life,
you stay (if necessary for decades),
because this is – after all – simply what you deserve.
If you’re promoted or are admired,
you at once feel incapable and a liar.
There’s a voice in your head that
accompanies you in all challenges
and tells you you are not gonna be able to do this,
you’re a moron and everyone hates you.
If something appears to go well,
you’ll sabotage things brilliantly.
You know just how to screw up job opportunities
and drive away people who want to be kind.
You easily feel that
people are mocking and mistreating you:
you sense hostility in interactions
in shops or restaurants,
with colleagues or lovers,
a lot of the time, you’re in a paranoid frame of mind –
out of a fear that the world
might at any point discover
or has already discovered
what you well know about yourself:
that you’re a disgusting imbecile.
Salvation starts with an obvious sounding insight
that should nevertheless be
written in large letters across the sky:
no one is born liking themselves.
That is, there’s a history to this
which you’ve been left unable to think about.
It is only the soothing, enthusiastic responses
of our earliest caregivers
that can lend any of us encouragement to carry on.
Our sense of self
is assembled out of the reactions
of those who were first around us.
We may not know anything about
these people in conscious memory
but we don’t need to.
We can deduce everything vital
by asking ourselves
the very simple question:
Do I like who I am?
You may not have the original mould at hand,
but you can sense the imprint in the dough of your character.
No one can survive the sense
that they were a bore, a threat,
an inconvenience or a disappointment
to those who made them.
This isn’t some negotiable point.
If you were in this wretched camp,
you get a prize for not having done away with yourself already.
We can’t escape a basic law:
we are the only animal whose sense of being able to keep on
keeping on depends on the welcome accorded to them
by those who made them.
It’s so horrific to have to acknowledge
that we were badly or unfairly treated,
in an especially bizarre phenomenon
we’re liable to turn the anger
we might in theory feel
towards our erstwhile flawed caregivers
back onto ourselves.
We end up preferring to dislike who we are
rather than accepting a yet more horrible idea:
that someone we needed to adore
wasn’t very nice to us.
We can end up lacking any capacity for anger,
because that would require a basic sense of self-worth
and therefore an idea that we had been violated.
Most of us are just numb.
Or, in an effort to feel numb,
we gorge on drugs, on porn, love affairs,
使劲吸毒 看片 恋爱
fame or processed sugar…
The path of self-hatred points everywhere
other than its real source:
those early years.
So how does one ever
dig oneself out of the mine-shaft of self-hatred?
Well, for a start, by becoming a better historian of ourselves –
and therefore being able to hold on to the idea
that we hate ourselves only or primarily
because we were once not loved.
This has a structure so basic it feels like an insult,
but to make the concept
resonate with one’s actual experience
can be the task of a lifetime.
We need to start to notice
what unfair story tellers we are:
how many decades of practice we have had
at always turning ourselves into the villain,
of justifying the behavior of others
way beyond what they deserved
and at putting ourselves invariably
at shameful fault.
We may be very clever, but in this area,
we probably can’t think too clearly –
so we may need to bring in another brain
to help our faltering one out.
We may need to check our reality against another’s
and thereby recalibrate our assessment of everything we’ve touched.
We need to repatriate the pain:
away from hating ourselves and fearing the world
towards mourning an original catastrophe.
We may eventually reach
a very weird-sounding insight:
that we aren’t exceptionally awful,
we just had an exceptionally unfortunate
introduction to life.
We need to learn a vital art,
from which so much else good can then flow:
that of being a little bit more on our own side.
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