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Why Do We Suffer At Our Own Hands?

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I can’t seem to pinpoint where the voices come from. Clearly, there is much to finding them, I am not alone in this struggle. To feel self-doubt is to be human, to worry you’re alone or stupid, lost or even unlovable. Yet, just because these are human does not make them right or true. After all, we are all the same, yet we are all different. I might fear isolation, yet I still push myself towards it. What for, you might ask. For the same reasons we all fear parts of ourselves. Because we think “only I am experiencing this” and miss the essential fact that we are not alone. “I am scared of being isolated,” we think, but leave out the last part of “so are so many others.” We cannot be alone then, it would seem. Our fear is shared, and in that sharing is some community, some support.

You cannot be alone truly if you have support. Life might appear to push us away, to insist upon our suffering, but we do not have to oblige it, we can fight it. The task is clearly not an easy one, it is like throwing a foreigner into Paris and expecting her to find her way around, and demanding she act like a local. She knows no French, we can assume from her being a foreigner, and as such she likely doesn’t know enough about Paris to act as though she is simply a local. To expect this of her is absurd. And so too is the expectation that we ourselves can go through life alone, or that we ought to suffer internally on top of that which the universe dispenses out. Why go it alone where there is no demand to? Why suffer at the hands of the world and at the hands of ourselves when we could just simply stop hurting ourselves, remove half of the pain. We wander into the trap of expecting grandeur of ourselves, we compare ourselves to others – alive or dead – and ask “why can I not do what they can do?” But in this question too we forget something, two things in fact I feel.

For one, we forget that we are not in fact the person we are comparing ourselves to and so there really is no reason, no grounds, to even consider the comparison. How can I say that my writing is no good because I am not writing like Neil Gaiman? How can I compare myself and all my uniqueness and subjectivity to another equally unique and subjective person? Simply put, it would seem I cannot. This is a first step to self-knowledge, acknowledging that I am me, you are you, and we are separate. We wouldn’t compare ourselves to a tree and ask “why can I not be that tall,” or to a dolphin and ask “why can I not swim that fast.” While I am human, and so is Neil, that does not allow for us to suddenly begin comparing my being to his. In other words, I exist in my own independent ways, and I ought to compare my own achievements to the way I existed independent of others. (Keep in mind this is in reference to the self. Our actions do not independently exist outside the bounds of others, and their effects are certainly felt by others, this is half the reason we act. But I don’t want to discuss this right now, I have another little essay on thoughts that addresses this more that I have no problem putting up if anyone is interested).

The second question we all fail to ask ourselves (or maybe we do but do not think too deeply into the answer) is “what can I do that they cannot?” The answer to this doesn’t need to be a big or ‘meaningful’ one, something that seems to shine a golden spotlight of success upon ourselves. The truth of these ‘golden attributes’ is that ultimately, nearly nobody thinks of themselves in such lights. For example, we might easily say that Shakespeare was one of the best playwrights to ever live, or something as such. Our worry might be “why can I not write sonnets like Shakespeare, he is such a master!” I think it important to realize that at the time, it is unlikely Shakespeare thought of himself as the master of the sonnet, this attribute is something that we gave to him. In another way, it is unlikely that an award winning actor wakes up every day and tells themselves, without reserve, that they are the best to ever live. Those of us who love that actor might claim it, but only we make it true by saying this of them. Think of it, if I were to claim to you that I am the greatest writer to publish on this site, you would scoff and question my motives, or on what basis I claim this. It cannot be true because I attribute it to myself. Our ‘golden attributes’ are those which we are given based upon our actions, we cannot claim them before acting.

So when we ask ourselves “what can I do that so-and-so cannot,” think to your uniqueness. For instance, I love my mother with all of my heart, and while I am sure most of you love your mothers as well, there is a uniqueness to each of our loves. For one, we each love a different person we call ‘mother’ (unless we’re somehow related! In which case, my dear long-lost sibling, email me right away we need to catch up). And even if you claim love to a mother you share with a sibling, your love is radically different from theirs. I show my own love by writing stories where a character represents my own mother, or by finding flowers I know she’ll love, or by giving movies that I know will make her smile. You no doubt have your own quirks of showering your mother with love. This is unique to you. No one else can do it like you because no one else is you. Not even Shakespeare. Or perhaps we could say that I can edit papers superbly while on the toilet. I’m sure there’s others out there who are able to do their best editing while on their porcelain throne, but there is still uniqueness (I leave it to you to think on what these might be). And Finally, in a philosophical twist, you might realize that you get to live your life however you choose, you are free to be you. No one else can do that. They all get to be themselves, only you get to be you. How amazing that is to realize, that while you will never be Ryan Gosling, or Ellen Degeneres, or Jean-Paul Sartre, or Angela Merkel, they too can never be you.

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Updated February 17th, 2017 at 09:07 PM by Greyson

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  1. Smith's Avatar
    Proud to say I'm not Angela Merkel. Dodged the Bullet Of Shame there. *whew*

    Self-doubt is healthy to a certain extent. When the self-doubt literally prevents you from trying, that's when I'd say it's gone too far. I'd also agree that if the source of your self-doubt is solely - or primarily - spawned from comparing yourself to somebody else, that this is an issue as well.

    (I'm associating self-doubt with being critical of oneself.)
  2. Greyson's Avatar
    I wanted to focus in on that self-inflicted doubt that is debilitating, writing my thesis on these ideas right now, so this was an exercise of both cathartic release of emotions and an exploration into my own questions. Did it make sense in that regard you think or am I missing something? Thanks for reading it also, I know it's long as hell.
  3. Smith's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Greyson
    I wanted to focus in on that self-inflicted doubt that is debilitating, writing my thesis on these ideas right now, so this was an exercise of both cathartic release of emotions and an exploration into my own questions. Did it make sense in that regard you think or am I missing something? Thanks for reading it also, I know it's long as hell.
    I believe outright stating that what you're talking about here specifically pertains to *debilitating*, self-inflicted doubt would do wonders for clarification.

    Then you can explore that idea and expand on it at will, once you've established it in that manner from the outset.

    And I guess it depends on what you mean by debilitating as well. I'd consider debilitating self-doubt in the way that I already described: self-doubt that literally prevents you from simply attempting something. Or, maybe your self-doubt becomes debilitating when it begins to hinder / weaken your ability to do something, or chance to achieve something.

    I'm also of the opinion that comparing oneself to others is natural and healthy to a certain extent, and detailing where to draw the line is important.
    Updated February 17th, 2017 at 11:34 AM by Smith
  4. dither's Avatar
    I think a lot of it has to do with, or at the very least is greatly influenced by, our childhood. I was what would be known in polite circles as a sensitive child. I was, still am i suppose, a pussy, a mummy's boy. Educated, thrown to the wolves, in the " Secondary-Modern Comprehensive School system ". Bullied and beaten mercilessly, both mentally and physically, and by the time I started work I was one broken human being, damaged beyond repair and have lived my life avoiding confrontation, keeping my head down, out of trouble, staying safe and just, basically, seeing it out.

    Well? That's mine.

    Life eh?
  5. Greyson's Avatar
    dither: I had a similar experience so believe me when I say I'm sorry. It's never easy. I roll over and take what I get a lot, it's a bad habit that was beat into me by my peers. But I still think that there's no use in living like this when you want something else. Damaged is one thing, broken beyond repair is another. I don't think anyone is beyond the point of no return, and admitting that you are hurt is a step in the right direction. Understanding what you want is the next. Do you want to be taken seriously? Do you want to feel in control? In knowing where we want to go, it is easier to see how to do it. I am going to die one day, I know this. I used to let it terrify me, because I realized that no one wanted to listen to me, that I was unheard and unloved. Fuck, I still feel that way. But what I strive to do is notice that fact, let it live because it's a part of me, but not let it dominate my other half, the half that wants to be heard because goddammit I might just make you smile, laugh, cry, learn...if you would just listen to me.

    Beyond that, understanding that you aren't alone is helpful too. Just like I said in this, everyone loves their mother in someway, everyone also is hurt in some way. Our hurts might be unique to each of us, but they're something we can connect over. I was bullied and tortured in different ways than you, I'm sure, but that doesn't make me any less receptive to you as a person, it doesn't make me feel like an island, and I hope it doesn't do that for you either. Life ultimately doesn't give two fucks or a damn about a single one of us, but that doesn't mean we don't have to as well. You know what I mean?
  6. dither's Avatar
    Spending my whole life in the closet.
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