20 March 2017
Another birthday. Another year older.
I’m 23 years old today – I’ve officially aged another year. But through the events that unfolded throughout the day, it felt like I matured by 5 years.
That’s not to suggest that the events themselves were significant, more my reactions to them and my subsequent introspective inquisition – leading to a few revelations.
I was in quite a bad mood, which I suppose I always seem to be the norm if you follow a lot of my blogs (I can’t help it – writing soothes me & is an immensely helpful outlet so I naturally turn to blogging in these times), and on the bus I was contemplating why I was always at the mercy of taking on other people’s emotions, somewhat unwillingly.
It used to happen a lot around me – people would have verbal fights amongst themselves, yell, scream and berate each other, someone would suddenly storm off and slam a door, and the other would be left in the room…
…with me. Little old me, always smiling and never saying much. I’ve since realized that this implicitly suggests that I am open to be talked at, rather than with. I suppose being to all practical purposes close to a mute doesn’t exactly help the situation. I still maintain that it’s inherently the onus of the conversation transmitter to pick up on whether the receiver is open to talking about a certain topic, through social feedback loops, and navigate the unfolding conversation from this point. To be fair, though, I am quite poor at this. I’m a horrid conversationalist, so I’m not overly bothered.
So what ensues is a completely charged-up, one-sided vent from the other person, most of the time about something I really have no proper intellectual grasp over as it is usually some very unique circumstances, so am not in a position to offer feasible advice, and rather than being a therapeutic channel to healthily let go of the anger & frustration, it turns into a dumping of all their emotions onto and into me. I never picked up on this habit of the people around me in childhood, but hindsight is 20/20, and I now know that this accounts for why I was always in quite a depressed mood generally – it would be passed onto me from another. I was the host for their emotions when they decided they didn’t need them.
That’s a real negative about being an overly sensitive & empathetic individual – when someone vents at you, you’re wired to fully assume their frustration & anger at a physiological level, and are forced to make it a part of yourself and your mood in that instant. A lot of the time (and commonly in my history) – you don’t have a choice in the matter. So you are more or less at the mercy of other people, and depending on how trigger happy they are with their rash emotions, are somewhat subjected to extra charged-up emotions that you don’t otherwise need, for example, if you’ve had a whole day of people doing this to you at school/uni/work & return home to find a loved one waiting eagerly to make their deposit. My heart literally sinks at this point, because I want to help so much but am utterly drained of all energy so am rendered unable to pay any worthy attention and have to embarrassingly mention that I need to go to sleep.
Now I want to clarify that this is not a princessessy rant; this is not a matter of ‘you’re just playing the victim, it really isn’t that bad. Buck up and become an outlet for them to vent through because you’re being selfish otherwise.’
True in a way. But when for years any sort of social nourishment is precisely this type of self-centered venting from another individual, it morphs your personality and fundamentally dents your inherent understanding of how to be social with another human being – so boundaries must be put in place to retain sanity and to preserve any hope of being able to develop working social skills at a later point.
Being a truly sensitive & empathetic individual to the extreme that I have it is not a commonplace occurrence. If it were, I know, for one thing, that this world would be a lot closer to peace than it currently is.
Not many of you will watch a news report of the latest terrorist attack on innocent civilians somewhere in the Middle East, and be utterly raw & emotional for the next 3 days – on the verge of breaking down.
Not many of you will watch a video of a man in a zoo in China being eaten by resident tigers, and even though it was entirely his own fault and that this was natural selection playing out, will still feel utterly broken for the meaningless loss of life, and to feel sympathy emanating from the unstoppable empathy which forces me to play & replay an imagined role-play of what it would actually be like to be mauled and eaten by tigers over the course of 2 torturous hours. To feel the teeth digging into my neck in horrid agony, and to have to be resigned to a chew toy – for a group of fucking tigers – for two hours; blinking through the fresh blood oozing down my head and thinking about whether I’ll live to hug my daughters again.
He didn’t. And now his daughters go through life – the last they ever saw of their father, is that he was literally eaten by a fucking tiger.
For 4 days this haunted me. The daughters he left behind? They have to carry that and be haunted by it for the rest of their lives as the last living memory of their father.
I know what you’re thinking – I can hear your egos scoff and snort selfishly all the way from here: “Just change the channel”. “Don’t watch it then”. “Grow thicker skin”. “I know it’s bad but just cover your eyes and think about something else”.
No. YOU get the luxury of blocking it out mentally by blocking it out from your immediate perception. You see it for a second and if you’re quick enough, there’s a window of a few seconds within which you can change the channel and then you’re distracted by something else dangling in front of you, and the bad thought is far from your immediate attention – never to plague you again. Like a fucking child in a cot with a dangling mobile in front of it.
1 second is all it takes for it to take root within me: the combination of my deep-rooted empathy, and my astonishingly attentive memory, mean that once I’ve witnessed it I’m held a prisoner behind the ensuing flow of emotions.
You get to block it out at will. I have to cycle through the grieving process now. There’s a difference. Exercise your apparently underdeveloped empathy and recognize that I’m trapped perceiving the world like this, and it is different from yours.
This is not a ‘I’m a good/bad person for this’ – this is an account of how my mess of a brain functions and decides to torture me.
Anyway – why do I mention this?
I’ve been brought up, like many others, with fairy tales and Disney movies. Overly positive and happy messages abound, and people constantly like to rehash similar sentiments of being overly positive in dark times – even when you don’t feel like it.
That was the first flag I didn’t notice.
So I was taken in by this, and for many years – even though there were periods to the contrary – I tried my best to put on a false facade of being happy and overly positive. Now, that doesn’t mean that I am not happy ever, far from it. There are plenty of times in my life where I feel absolutely euphoric, happy, and blissful – at these times I am the most carefree, pleasant, and jovial person to be around. At times like these I smile a lot, I laugh a lot, and I’m very prone to hugging people for far too long, much to their discomfort.
All of this strongly suggests that it is ideal to be a positive, happy and delightful individual all the time. From what I can see – what society defines as an ideal individual is someone who displays those qualities: a perfect figure of light; using the positive vibes that emanate from their overly happy core to shine light on the dark of the world. And thereby doing good in the world.
The resounding narrative and theme is that imagery of light is equivalent to being a good person.
The problem is – at my core, I’m not a figure of light. I’m actually quite a dark person when it comes down to my personal preferences.
And today: I decided to not be in denial about this fact any more.
What restricted me in the past from making this decision was the belief that only figures of light do good in the world. They wear bright clothes, smile like the sun’s shining all day long; they are so great that you could swear that if you squinted properly, you might just spot their halo above their head. I am a good person – I know I am a good person – so I didn’t want to display anything to the world that pointed to the contrary. I didn’t. Past tense.
Then it hit me: being a good person and being a dark individual are not mutually exclusive. They can indeed co-exist quite comfortably, especially when it comes to applications within the arts. The contrast of their inherent natures – one just for its color, the other for its societal associations – make for quite an interesting effect. And it’s one I’m quite excited to explore a bit more both personally and professionally.
This is not an excursion into the world of goths and emo’s – I’m still far from applying eye-liner for regular every day use, and getting piercings that create a gaping hole in my ear.
This is more of an exercise to become more comfortable within my own skin. And if I’m a figure of light on the outside, but actually a dark individual beneath, I’m never going to achieve that desired sense of peace within myself.
There are a number of traits that I observe in my own nature in hindsight that strongly point to this being a step in the right direction.
Ever since late high school I’ve always had a natural leaning towards staying up late. For some reason the night & darkness always energized me in a way that the day just could not. Now this could be an unconscious rebellious legacy from my mother constantly berating me if I was still awake after 11, but I don’t think that is entirely the cause. There is definitely an electricity to the night which charges me up and still does to this day. On most days, no matter how early/late I get up, or how early/late that I go to sleep, somewhere between 3-5pm – it feels like I wake up all over again.
(ooh – maybe he’s a vampire! Don’t be ridiculous. Unrelated side note: what blood type are you?)
Listening to music, watching movies, and, most importantly, my creativity – the quality of them all amplify by generous multiples during the dark hours of the night.
I also have a particular leaning towards humor of the dark kind. Laughing about things which the rest of society have decided: “yeah you probably shouldn’t be laughing at this” – brings me great joy. Am I a bad person for enjoying dark humor? You’d have to be completely backward to honestly answer ‘yes’ to that question.
Most of the time the distinction is quite clear for me with these jokes. The implication is that if you laugh at a joke that makes fun of a taboo topic – let’s say being overweight – then most people assume that on some level I am ok with poking fun at someone who is overweight, and that it is a subtle attempt on my part to normalize a somewhat controversial social issue.
Not true. I can’t speak for anyone other than myself & don’t know how other people enjoy dark humor, but from my point of view there are two distinct issues at play within a joke at its basic level:
-The subject matter (e.g. being overweight)
-The vehicle & delivery of the joke (the comedic structure)
When I laugh at someone making a joke about overweight people or any other topic of dark humor, most of the time it’s usually the comedic structure that happens to use the subject matter of being overweight that makes me laugh, not the subject matter itself. So, to flip this example on its head, if the comedic structure & timing is not optimal, I simply won’t laugh. Just like with any other poorly executed joke, it’s not the subject matter that makes one laugh, it is the delivery. Good comedians can take any ordinary subject matter and make it hilarious because they understand that the delivery is fundamental to the reaction. It’s a subtle point, but I think an important one.
The environment in which the joke is being told is different from, say, if I saw someone on the street berating an overweight individual. In that case it is definitely not ok and very clearly never was ‘just a joke’ in that setting, and I am deeply infuriated whenever I witness a scene like this (and I have witnessed it).
Suffice to say if I ever witness anyone in my immediate company make horrendous aggressive remarks at someone about their weight (to continue with this example), I will take steps to distance myself from them.
To me the line is very clear. And I take great measures to stay on the right side of the line. I’m not a bad person for laughing at dark jokes.
All of these points made me conclude that to some degree I am inherently a dark individual. And I’m comfortable with that, I can’t be happier. It feels more like me.
So – today I decided to give into it, and to give into all that it entails.
It brings to mind a particular section of the track-by-track commentary edition of Bring Me The Horizon’s album That’s The Spirit, the commentary for the song Doomed, and noting Oliver Sykes’ (front man) particular stance when it comes to his battles with depression:
“[the song is] about how most of my life feels like an unmanageable monster that I can’t keep at bay. The first half of the track is my self-destructive, annihilistic side that doesn’t want to wake up, a side that consumed me until I went and got help…And rather than trying to fight these demons, I should embrace them. I guess it’s me realizing that I secretly enjoy the discordance. I think secretly I find depression romantic, and sometimes I just like to let it take hold of me. It’s almost like a euphoric sadness – it cleanses your mind if you just let it happen. And that’s what it’s all about, this album. It’s about celebrating the darkness.”
It’s about celebrating the darkness.
This line connected with me so much.
I cycle through obsessions and have always done so throughout my life. For a period, Doomed became my favorite track to listen to, precisely for the sentiment that was communicated in the above commentary.
And I think in a funny way that’s all that this is about – and all that most of enjoying life is really about – is about connecting with something. We go through life and all we want to do is survive, but to also connect. So when a connection comes around – it should be embraced, and not ignored.
…unless you connect with heroin. Definitely ignore that.
Doomed perfectly encapsulates everything that comprises the subject matter of this blog post from my point of view, and the moment I decided to give into the darkness I was listening to the second pre-chorus of the song: the tearing down & the rebuild of my character became imbued and anchored to those precious few seconds of the song. Like the strain of Oli’s screams were the struggle, the lyrics: “I think I like it” being the acclimatization to this new character coming through, the gradual rise of his final scream the rebirth, and the return of the chorus as the completed transformation.
Now every time I listen to the second pre-chorus, it consistently gives me goosebumps.
Right now – its the closest thing I have to euphoria at the push of a button.
Like Oli said – it’s about celebrating the darkness. For me it’s about giving in to what you are, and letting go of what you held as an ideal for yourself. Sometimes those two things will not be the same and you have to be ok with that.
Great birthday, today was.