Analysing the f*** out of everything

This is part of a comment left by Zoe on my last post a couple of days ago:

Instead you seem to have gone on a one-man mission to analyse the fuck out of everytjing. I would say I was disappointed in you except you might be daft enough to take me seriously

First of all, don’t worry, she’s not being rude, it just looks like she might be because I’ve only quoted part of the comment.  If you read the rest of it, you’ll see that really she’s being the opposite.  But, it has to be said, she has a point.  Ever since my self-imposed mini-break in the run up to christmas, I’ve written very little about my mood, or my experiences, or my life, or really anything personal at all.  So far this month I’ve written about medicine, and economics, and politics, and calendars, and medical ethics – I’ve even quoted the Pet Shop Boys – but I haven’t really written about me.  Sometimes even I think that I’m rapidly turning into Mr Logic

On one level, I’m not too bothered by that.  The strapline of the blog makes it clear that it’s going to be ‘about depression and more’.  When I first started out, I was clear that I wanted to be able to write about whatever caught my eye, and I found interesting, without feeling that all I could ever talk about was Mental Health stuff…

And there I go again.  Even as I was typing that guff about writing about ‘whatever caught my eye’ I knew I wasn’t being honest.  The fact that I would type that – and even manage to half convince myself that it’s true – is a symptom of the same problem.  The truth of it is, I find it very difficult to talk, or write, (and even, sometimes, to think) clearly about myself.  This post is a first stab at trying to understand why that is.

It’s actually quite galling to realise that a stereotype so neatly describes me: I’m a bloke, and I find it hard to talk about all that touchy-feely emotional stuff.  And this is, of course, why I ‘analyse the fuck out of everything’ instead.  It’s my equivalent of obsessing about football trivia, or reeling off statistics about the performance of various cars.  I find it much easier to write about the exact significance of one throw-away word in the US president’s inaugural address than I do to sit staring at a blank white screen, and a blinking cursor, and tell you actually what I feel about something personally significant.

This is a bit of a problem in a MH blogger, of course.  Those of you who read my blog seem very loyal, and you follow me wherever I go, but I would imagine there’s a limit to your patience.  I always try to be interesting, whatever I’m writing about (for the record, even I realise I failed spectacularly in this post – but there was a lot going on behind the scenes at the time, which became catastrophically apparent a few days later), but I don’t imagine I’ll keep many readers if I shut out the MH side of things altogether.

Truthfully, though, that’s a secondary concern.  What I’m really worried about is the effect that this reticence to write openly has on me personally.  Partly, I know from long experience, it’s a symptom of depression.  Not the kind of hardcore depression I was suffering from before christmas – my mood is still better than that, although the virtuous circle has stopped working – but a kind of free-floating, fog-bound, moderate depression.  But, as well as a symptom of depression, an inability to talk is also something that makes my problems worse.

I can talk about things that don’t apply to me personally until the cows come home, but I find it almost impossible to openly acknowledge the more personal stuff until things have reached a pretty desperate state.  There have been times on this blog when I’ve been emotionally open (for me, anyway), but that information has more or less exploded out of me – the need to be open has become so great that it’s overcome my natural reticence.  (It may not have looked like much of an explosion, but that’s because I’ve gone to some lengths to disguise it – and no, I don’t know why I bother to do that, except to say that it’s probably something to do with a desire to look like I’m in control, even when I’m not.)

One of the reasons that I started this blog was in the hopes that I would be able to be open in it.  In some respects, that’s worked.  Certainly I’ve told you things before I’ve plucked up the courage to tell anyone in the real world.  But the experience of keeping an anonymous blog like this has taught me that it’s not the potential embarrassment of being open that’s held me back from being honest in real life, like I’d always assumed it was.  There are no real-world consequences to anything I say in this blog, so there’s no real opportunity for embarrassment, but I still find it incredibly difficult to be open.

I think there are a few reasons for this (he said, starting to analyse the fuck out of it…).  Basically it comes down to the fact that I deeply wish it was possible to bracket off the whole mess of my emotions and my mental illness, and just forget about it.  Eager psychologistas* would no doubt tell me that I’ve just put my finger on the root cause of all my problems, and they would probably be half right, in the sense that my inability to talk about things unquestionably stops them getting better.  But they would also be half wrong, in the sense that I feel depressed/ lonely/ paranoid/ scared first, and then find it impossible to talk about.  I think my inability to talk maintains my problems, rather than causes them in the first place, but in reality, this probably is something of a chicken/ egg scenario.

This seems to be something that is very deep-seated within me.  Those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while will know that I’m very reluctant to seek professional help in the first place, and then, when I do, I’m very reluctant to actually open up and talk about my real problems.  I rationalise that to myself by saying it’s a trust issue (for the record, this is also what Yvonne, my psychotherapist, thought), that I have to feel able to trust someone before I’m able to open up to them.  But then, I feel a similar resistance to opening up to my family and friends, and I rationalise that by saying that I don’t want my relationship with them to become all about my illness and nothing else.  And then I rationalise my resistance to opening up here by thinking that I don’t want the blog to be full of ‘whining’ and nothing else.  But, whenever I read other people’s blogs, I don’t think of them talking openly about their problems as ‘whining’.  In fact, I think of it as evidence of a courage that I lack.  It’s only myself that I think of as whining, and only myself that I hold to an absolutely-no-whining standard.

Well, I’ve written my way all around this subject now, without really saying anything concrete.  (Does this mean I’ve avoided analysing the fuck out of it?  No, I didn’t think so…)  It seems to be pretty obvious that the reasons I give myself for not wanting to be open aren’t the real reasons but, so far, I don’t really know what the real reasons might be.  I guess a couple of useful/ interesting things have come up that I might not have been able to put into words until I started writing this – namely that my unwillingness to open up seems to be related to my fear of losing control (or appearing to lose control), and also to an unreasonable demand for perfectionism that I impose on myself.  (And, btw, don’t sentences like these make it painfully obvious that I’ve been through psychoanalysis?  I hate sounding like some Woody Allen style therapy junkie, but I guess it’s maybe a price worth paying if it gets me somewhere.)

There isn’t really a conclusion to this post either, except to say I know I’m being very unforthcoming at the moment, I know it’s a problem, and I’m going to try and do something about it, both for my sake and yours.

 

* – Psychologista, noun (pronunciation: sigh-coll-o-jeest-er – the j pronounced as in Jersey): a word, just invented by Aethelread,** to describe those who advance simplistic psychological explanations for mental illness, and other related phenomena.  This group includes professional psychologists, psychotherapists, counsellors, etc, but also incorporates their amateur fellow-travellers.  Plural: psychologistas.  [Etymological note: the word appears to be a hybrid formed from the existing words psychologist and barista.  It can be surmised that the literal definition of the word is ‘one who serves up psychological explanations’.]

** – ok, so there is an apparent earlier usage of the word here (‘child psychologistas’ in the last sentence), but I’m reasonably certain it’s just a straightforward typo for ‘child psychologists’.

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This entry was posted in About me, Depression, General mental weirdness, Pointless navel-gazing, Psychology, Self-loathing. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Analysing the f*** out of everything

  1. The Chuckle says:

    I have to admit to feeling very similar to what you describe above – and for the record I haven’t read anything here that would come under “whining” – a lot of the time so perhaps the whole lot is deeply tied together as you suggest. I’ve hit the ‘let’s link everything to your childhood experiences’ part of therapy at the moment which is highlighting these kinds f issues, so maybe cu yourself some slack and just admit that expressions of things like this are bloody difficult and are going to take time to get to grips with (the way I see it, 30+ years avoiding doing something is going to take a while to turn around) – take care of yourself

  2. Alex says:

    Deep breath, multi-paragraph comment incoming…
    Right. First things first, give yourself a break. When it comes to analysing-the-fuck-out-of-everything, it doesn’t get more extreme than my dad, so I’m basing my opinions on experiences with him. Most importantly, I’d venture to say that if you’re worrying about being the Mr. Logic type, you almost certainly aren’t. People who act like that rarely, if ever, think to question the way they act like that. And, frankly, you don’t seem like the type to me. I realise that’s not what you’d call a well-supported-by-evidence opinion, given that we’ve never actually met, but it’s my gut feeling, for what that’s worth.
    Second thing. You oughtn’t feel any pressure to be any more forthcoming than you feel comfortable with. If you think it’s a problem (and I’d point out that talking frankly about myself, either in a blog or to MH types, both still scare the crap out of me), then just acknowledging it is progress, so it’s not like you need to push yourself into instantly becoming the ebullient type.
    Third thing. I can’t speak for other people, but I don’t think your readership would desert you if you were to open up/’whine’/whatever. Speaking personally, expecting me to stop reading this blog like that is simultaneously underestimating the quality of your writing, my respect for you, and the amount of free time I have on my hands.
    Last thing. If being open about one’s own problems on one’s blog is courageous, then it’s not as if you’re lacking courage yourself; even in this day and age, talking about mental health at all in these personal terms is something of a rarity, and that in itself shows a strength of character to be proud of. For what it’s worth, I think you’re a tremendously frank person, who can write about deeply personal things in a compelling and eloquent manner, and on other days about the Pet Shop Boys (but also in a compelling and eloquent manner). So, without the intent of sounding patronising, go easy on yourself.

  3. cellar_door says:

    I think you could write about anything, and people would still read your stuff :o) You are a very intelligent, witty, engaging author. So, if analysing the fuck out of everything is what you need/want to do, go for it :o)

  4. Mandy says:

    Hi there A

    Logic has it’s place along with a multitude of other things going on in the brain. And in spite of what the anti sceptics say there is a wrath of emotion going on inside the human psyche too…all goes back to the need to react to things in order to survive (and for babies to get the correct response from the nurturers) but sure the paid theorists can explain that and the development of complex emotional states too. Personally, I find it all too complicated. Ha!

    I think however, from reading what you share on your blog you put your logic to as best use as you can. You seem to try and work things through, and share them on your blog. Nothing wrong with that.

    As for over-analysing. Doesn’t that go with the territory? It does for me and I think for many people who suffer severe depressive states. I know when I am depressed, from the outside I appear to be in a vegetative state but on the inside is like spaghetti junction. For sure there is a time and a place for action, but again when someone is in a severe depression that often needs stimulus in the environment someone lives in. Stimulus that works with the person and appreciates their state. Often it isn’t there and although blogland..and interaction on blogland…. can be stimulating, it isn’t the same as things (positive things rather than demands) going on around a person and including them.

    That isn’t me dissing blogland. Often it has been a saving grace for me…at other times it has completely twatted me off.

    The good thing about blogland is you, me, et al can switch off (as in not blog) at anytime and come back to it when it feels right or necessary or whatever.

    Gone off at a tangent but I like to read your postings..anaylitical or however they come :>)

  5. Don’t worry, you’re not alone on the perception that one’s own words are whining, nor on the needing to trust (and like) the therapist/psych/whoever before beginning to approach the borders of that country some call Truth. It seems to be a common theme.

    Good post btw. Revealing… :-D

    Take care and all the best, David

  6. lsnduck says:

    I have been trying to think how to phrase what I am thinking without either starting to ramble incoherently or resorting to appalling metaphors. I have failed to think of such a way, so am resorting to bullet points.

    Concrete ideas: you have them here.
    Whining: you don’t even when opening up.

    As a side note, I am finding it interesting how the moderation delay makes me think so much about what points other people may pick up on in comments. I am probably over analysing though.

  7. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Thanks for all the comments. I feel like i’m basking in a glow of ego-massage-oil… ;o)

    The Chuckle – Ah, the ‘everything’s connected to childhood’ stage of therapy, or, as i like to think of it, the ‘time to beat the crap out of the therapist’ stage… ;o) I mean, seriously, surely even they must find it hard not to laugh when they find themselves saying ‘So, tell me about your father’.

    Thanks for the advice. Slack-cutting and acknowledging that things will take time are both very necessary activities, i think. Unfortunately, patience with myself is not one of my already-existing character attributes. Something else to add to the ‘to do’ list. :o)

    Alex – i promise i’ll try to give myself a break. I mean, it’ll give me an excuse to have a KitKat, and god knows i’m not the man to turn down a vaguely phallic chocolate biscuit… ;o)

    I know i’m not really a Mr Logic type. He was based on someone with Asperger’s, and having briefly known someone with Asperger’s, i know i don’t have it. But the increasingly po-faced over-analysis on the blog was beginning to look like a definite trend. :o)

    I think i could push myself relentlessly for the next 40 years and i’d never reach ebullience… I know what you mean, though, and you’re absolutely right – progress is progress no matter how slight.

    Re: point three – awww, shucks. You’re making me all embarassed, now… ;o) And, btw, you really, really shouldn’t respect me – i’m a long way short of respectable…

    You’re right, people talking openly about MH issues is still fairly unusual, and it’s nice of you to say that you think it’s courageous of me to do it at all. But there’s no doubt in my mind that set against you, or Seaneen, or Mandy, i really don’t look brave at all.

    Oh, and don’t worry – i don’t think you could be patronising, even if you were trying to be. You certainly weren’t in that comment. :o) (Hmmm, just re-read this paragraph, and now i’m worried it sounds like i’m patronising you – it wasn’t the intention, honest, gov!)

    cellar_door – why, thank you, that’s a lovely thing to say! Analysing the fuck out of everything is a definite character trait of mine, so it’s unlikely it will ever completely disappear from the blog. :o)

    Mandy – i agree, logic is an important part of everyone’s make-up, but i do think i’m sometimes in danger of getting the balance wrong, or at least ignoring the other emotional side. I guess i’m really just talking about trying to get a better balance between the two things. I’m glad if you think i put my logic to good use, though – logic is one of the things i have, so i have to try and use it, and it’s nice to know that i’m using it in a reasonable way.

    Oh, and i always enjoy reading your comments, even when they go off on a tangent. :o)

    abysmal musings – yes, i think a lot of the problems i face are faced by other people too. I guess that’s one of the good things to be said for being open – it helps us all to know we’re not alone in what we have to deal with.

    lsnduck – well, speaking personally, i’d always be interested to read your rambling metaphors. :o)

    To respond to your bullet points. Re: concrete points – hmm, not sure, maybe concrete that hasn’t hardened into it’s final state yet (see – i can do applaing metaphors too!). Re: whining – thank you. I’m trying to convince myself of this.

    I agree, the moderation delay is far from ideal, isn’t it?

    Thanks again for all the comments.

  8. beetrootsoup says:

    First of all thanks for buttering me up by highlighting my name at the top of your blog A, and even using my quote for your title! I am reciprocated and consider my ego well and truly massaged in return.

    Second, CUT YOURSELF A VERY LARGE PIECE OF SLACK YOU RETARD!!! Cut yourself a very large piece of whatever celestial flavour you currently crave (hope they stock it at your local grocer’s), pour yourself a large muc of tea, put your size tens up and BREATHE! You, like me, have been overdoing it just a tad. There’s no such thing as a mental health messiah (with respect to Mandy) so stop trying to nail yourself to the computer keyboard!

    Whether you let it out or don’t let it out, it’s your choice and amounts to very much the same thing. You’re a bloke! Congratulate yourself on having no gender confusion issues.

    We love you here, unconditionally. You make a fuck of a lot of a lot of sense even when you’re analysing the fuck out of everything. By the way there’s a new, badly spelled and typed rant on my blog so link to that if you want the latest.

    Keep connected. That’s the bottom line. And you do that wonderfully well and are something of a hero to me. Tons of love, your harmless, charming, well-mannered little bloggie friend Zoe. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  9. Mandy says:

    There’s no such thing as a Mental Health Messiah!!!!! Shock horror

    Next I’ll be told there’s no Santa, or Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny.

    :>)

  10. NiroZ says:

    You say therapist junkie, I say educated. I resent the fact that you seem to deem psychology as pseudo scientific and uncool. (or that’s how it came across to me)

  11. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Thanks for the extra comments.

    beetroot soup – CUT YOURSELF A VERY LARGE PIECE OF SLACK YOU RETARD!!!

    Ah, refreshingly direct and to the point, as always… ;o) I shall do my best.

    You’re a bloke! Congratulate yourself on having no gender confusion issues.

    Hmmm, not really something to be congratulated on, i think, just a thing that is.

    you do that wonderfully well and are something of a hero to me.

    Oh, see, now i’m blushing again… ;o) But thank you, it’s very nice of you to say so.

    NiroZ – I’m sorry if i offended you, but i’m afraid you have picked up accurately on my attitude to psychology. I do regard it as a pseudo-science, because it tends not to be able to offer rigorous proof for the claims that it makes. That’s not the same thing as saying it’s a complete waste of time, though.

    I do think the experience of therapy can be beneficial. It’s only been of fairly limited benefit to me – but that’s just me. I think any and all of us with MH problems need to grab hold with both hands of whatever can help us, individually. I’d always encourage anyone to give therapy a go, but i’d also recommend a sceptical attitude to some of the more sweeping claims that some therapists are inclined to make.

  12. NiroZ says:

    Interesting. So do you have evidence to back up your claim of psychology being pseudo scientific?

    It seems your scepticism of psychology bleeds into your view of therapy, but that’s not really surprising. But how can you do therapy when you don’t fully trust it? I agree that it shouldn’t be a matter of blind faith, but unless you lower the barriers of resistance when in therapy, how are you to change?

  13. aethelreadtheunread says:

    So do you have evidence to back up your claim of psychology being pseudo scientific?

    Sorry, NiroZ, but that’s not the way it works. The fact that you can even ask the question is evidence of how little you understand about the way science works. It is up for those who advance a theory to provide evidence for it. Take a look at any scientific journal and you’ll find this is the format that nearly all the papers (with the exception of meta-analyses) take. This is what, as i said in my original reply to you, psychology tends to be unable to do. Some psychological therapies do have a statistical correlation showing that they are helpful for some people, and these can therefore be classed as potentially valid hypotheses. This is why i made the point that psychological therapies can be beneficial.

    It seems your scepticism of psychology bleeds into your view of therapy, but that’s not really surprising.

    Of course it isn’t. All therapy is psychology. (But not all psychology is therapy.)

    unless you lower the barriers of resistance when in therapy, how are you to change?

    That phrase ‘barriers of resistance’ annoys the crap out of me. What a therapist means when they say that a patient is ‘resistant’ is that the patient is able to point out where and why the therpaist is talking bullshit.

    When i was in therapy, for example, i was told that in a tense situation one person can end up carrying the tension for a whole group of people. Be clear about this – my therapist was not saying that some individuals are more suscpetible to a tense atmosphere, or that they are more likely to express tension. She meant that several people’s tension is literally – physically – transferred to another individual. This is patently nonsense – there would need to be some kind of (literal, physically measurable) energy wave or particle to transfer it. I pointed this out, and my therapist (who i actually got on with reasonably well) had the good sense to back down and acknowledge that in fact she had been speaking ‘figuratively’ without realising it.

    What really annoys me about this is that, if i’d been a docile, unquestioning, patient, i’d have gone away thinking that my social anxiety was actually caused by people sending negative thought-waves in my direction. And what the fuck kind of a thing is that to do to someone who struggles with paranoia at the best of times?

    Apologies for the strong language, NiroZ, but intellectual dishonesty (i’m accusing psychology of this, btw, not you personally) is one of the things that i really cannot abide.

  14. NiroZ says:

    Ok, let me rephrase that. What do you find in the claim of psychology to be incorrect? Where is their evidence flawed?

    I’m not advocating that someone becomes unquestioning. That’s just stupid. What I’m suggesting is giving the therapist the benefit of the doubt, as it’s all to easy to weave excuses out of the air, negating the point of therapy.

    It’s interesting that even though you suffer from depression, you seem to have a strong belief in yourself.

  15. aethelreadtheunread says:

    What do you find in the claim of psychology to be incorrect?

    That it has been entirely unable to offer credible evidence for even its most basic and fundamental claims. If you feel i am wrong here then please do bring forward citations for papers in which psychological claims have stood up to the same kind of rigorous testing that would be required in the physical sciences. Otherwise give it up and move on.

    What I’m suggesting is giving the therapist the benefit of the doubt, as it’s all to easy to weave excuses out of the air, negating the point of therapy.

    Would you give a dentist the benefit of the doubt? No. You wouldn’t need to. A dentist doesn’t need the benefit of the doubt, because what they do actually works, in a way that can be proved and measured. Unless something is of proven benefit, i’m not interested. You are never going to persuade me otherwise. I suggest you give up the attempt and move on.

    It’s interesting that even though you suffer from depression, you seem to have a strong belief in yourself.

    How have you arrived at this conclusion? Please point to the sentence or paragraph where i demonstrate a strong belief in myself, or indeed anything. Please do bear in mind that scientific certainty is not a belief.

  16. NiroZ says:

    uh, ok.

    I made the casual observation that you have a strong belief in yourself due to your ability to analyze the fuck out of everything. And argue. Do I need to provide references and citations, or can you take my word for it?

    Treating therapists like you treat the physical medical profession is inane and stupid. You need to establish rapport with your therapist, you don’t need to establish rapport with a dentist. Think about it. If you didn’t like your therapist, would you be able to work with her to help yourself? Not likely, as the chances are that you would disagree with him/her on most things, making therapy pointless.

    Which basic and fundamental claims?

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