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On Self-Hatred - Input Junkie
April 5th, 2012
01:04 am

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On Self-Hatred
In a recent post, matociquala talked about her self-hatred, the pervasiveness of self-hatred among women, and the importance of not spreading self-hatred.

I found I wanted to post about the subject here rather than in a comment.

I think I've done a good job through my whole life about not spreading self-hatred-- I don't think I've ever been in one of those competitive who-hates-themselves-the-most female bonding conversations in my life, though I take it on faith that they're common. I'm not sure how I've avoided those conversations, since apparently just being in fandom isn't enough.

However, I've got a bad problem with internal self-hatred. I'm not sure what's going on, but in the past decade or so, I've acquired an internal voice which is very apt to say "You stupid piece of shit". Sometimes it goes, "Why don't you just kill yourself?" This is not the same thing as being suicidal. Please don't panic. However, it's very wearing. Hearing those attacks is wearing, and so is trying to get them to go away. (Current realization: by the time I've heard the attack, it's already happened. I can't make it not have happened. If I want less attacks or none of them, I need to look to the future.)

On the other hand, this voice hasn't been there my whole life. Most people don't seem to have anything that bad, and the only time I've seen any thing like it in fiction was in Ruff's Put This House in Order. There should be some way to make it go away.

I've actually got it toned down quite a bit-- less emotionally intense, and I realized that sometimes I'd amplify and extend it in a way that I could consciously choose not to.

The voice is apt to be more active when I'm doing useful stuff, and less when I'm reading and posting. This makes it difficult to get things done.

Another correlation: It's only in play when I'm by myself, I think.

I think there's a partly kinesthetic basis-- sometimes reaching out (say, for food at a buffet) seems to set it off. That's not the whole story, though-- sometimes self-praise will set it off. My tentative theory is that some self-praise has an element of "see, I'm all right, aren't I?"

Sometimes it helps to transcribe what the voice is saying and let it roar. I think it takes five or ten minutes of that, and then I get calmer.

Having people say "don't say that to yourself" is not reliably valuable when it doesn't seem like entirely voluntary behavior, though it was helpful to have a friend say forcefully that what the voice was saying isn't true.

It also helped to realize that it wasn't reasonable for the cat to get "Oh, what a great cat! Look at those ears and whiskers! And you haven't caused an international monetary crisis! What a great cat!" while I'm getting "You stupid piece of shit!"

Also, it helped to realize that beating up on myself for symptoms of depression certainly isn't going to help. And that having a strong emotional revulsion at myself for having the voice doesn't help either. Realizing that the latter was part of the problem was a big deal.

Therapy has helped, but in a non-specific way, or at least I don't remember what happened with Jim Brann (215-830-8460) which shut the voice down for a while. He did a lot of work with affection.

In general, asking myself "What am I doing?" is useful. Not "What am I doing wrong?" or "What do I need to change right now?" but "What, in particular, at this moment, am I doing?"

The voice seems to be in the same voice as my internal monologue, and I didn't grow up with such crude attacks or with cursing. The genesis actually seems to be that I was having waves of self-hatred (as a pure emotion) when I'd make minor mistakes. One of the things I usually do is find the most accurate words I can for feelings, and this is generally a good thing. However, giving words to that mental state may not have improved matters.

It occurs to me that describing the emotional state (as distinct from speaking for it) is something worth pursuing-- not feasible at the moment, since (fortunately) self-hatred isn't near the surface.

Which gets to background states-- I'm realizing that there's a distinctive feeling (more full? more complete?) when self-hatred isn't in play, and there's another feeling of being ready to pounce that appears when I'm going to dump a lot of self-hatred on myself.

There are some things that I've partially outsourced to my self-hatred (certainty and energy) that I don't want to lose track of, and I'm concerned that just shutting down the self-hatred might have some costs.

Another reason I'm handling this with tongs (aside from that just trying to shut the voice down doesn't work very well) is that it's tempting to feel as though whatever I'm feeling is wrong, and then try to adjust it. This has its own problems.

I'm interested in advice, but please let me know whether this is a problem you've worked with, and whether the advice you're offering is you find plausible or something you've seen work.

matociquala frames self-hatred as a woman's problem, but actually men suffer from it, too, even if they don't use it for bonding. I don't have a specific post handy, but No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz? gets into the subject now and then.

I have no idea why self-hatred is so easy to fall into for so many people. Evolution doesn't have a complaint department.

ETA: Writing this and reading it over made me realize that I've made a heroic effort and gotten some success vs. self-hatred.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/537180.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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From:zanda_myrande
Date:April 5th, 2012 03:34 pm (UTC)
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This, very much. I think you have more idea of how to deal with it than I ever have.
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From:thnidu
Date:April 5th, 2012 04:51 pm (UTC)
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replying by email
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From:minnesattva
Date:April 5th, 2012 07:07 pm (UTC)
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This is really interesting to read. A lot of it is familiar to me as things I do, but some of it's different (mine's worse when I am reading or relaxing than when I am doing things) and it is proving very useful to me to try to think about how your patterns match mine, or don't, because I haven't heretofore been paying enough attention to the patterns. And as you say, describing it is worth pursuing. Asking "What am I doing?" sounds like a fantastic idea; resonant of things I've heard suggested but never tried properly myself. I think this formulation, the words of this question, could well be useful to me too.

Thanks. For all of this.

I'm not sure I can offer any advice, but I will continue to think about that.
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From:st_rev
Date:April 5th, 2012 07:21 pm (UTC)
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From:osewalrus
Date:April 5th, 2012 07:47 pm (UTC)
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i am not sure suicide is a sign of self-hatred. Despair is not self-hatred (my life has become endless suffering, this is how to end it) is not self-hatred as I understand the term, for example.

However, I agree men suffer from self-hatred as well as women. It is one of those things common to both sexes and all ethnic groups.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 6th, 2012 12:11 am (UTC)
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On the other hand, while some suicide is a result of physical pain, the feeling that one's life is endless suffering can be a result of the misery caused by self-hatred.

Here's a very pure example.

Summary: Julian Simon was miserable all the time. He was planning on committing suicide as soon as his sons passed a certain age.

Fortunately, he was good enough at his work and making money that he eventually had a short stretch of time when he had nothing he needed to do, and he started thinking about what was going on in his mind.

He concluded that misery is caused by comparing what is true to some ideal and feeling helpless to improve matters, and devised a number of ways of breaking up that way of thinking-- lower one's standards, improve the situation, realize that one cares about something more important than tormenting oneself, etc.

He mentioned that the pattern of self-harassment was the result of believing that he'd failed morally.
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From:st_rev
Date:April 6th, 2012 01:39 am (UTC)
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Suicide isn't necessarily a sign of self-hatred, but it seems to me like a reasonable proxy for the sharp end of the wedge, as it were, in the absence of better data.
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From:st_rev
Date:April 5th, 2012 07:27 pm (UTC)
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Less flippantly, this is an issue I spend a lot of time thinking about, in the context of just wondering why it's something humans are so prone to.

It's possible that human brains just aren't very good at the whole conscience thing yet, sociopathy being as common as it is, so it stands to reason that conscience could be prone to failure in more or less the opposite way.
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From:osewalrus
Date:April 5th, 2012 07:53 pm (UTC)

The Lava Pits

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i learned to visualize the nasty voices that try to tell me I'm no good and stupid and powerless as snide little gnomes (as in 1" tall). When the voices would naggle at me, I would respond "into the Lava Pit" and visualize myself tossing this obnoxious little gnome into a pit of boiling lava. At which point all the other little nasty gnomes would cower and beg for mercy. "Anyone else want to tell me how stupid or powerless I am?" Terrified silence and trembling. "Good."

it takes a bit to make yourself believe it. But when you do, it an really improve your sense of power in the world.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 6th, 2012 12:12 am (UTC)

Re: The Lava Pits

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What led you to decide to protect yourself?
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From:osewalrus
Date:April 6th, 2012 01:00 am (UTC)

Re: The Lava Pits

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Pride.

My K-12 experience can charitably be described as an effort to persuade me to doubt myself, with one or two notable exceptions. BTW, I'm told this is not uncommon for "gifted and talented." It was not until some years later that I discovered when I was younger and had attended a particularly enjoyable and challenging summer program that the reason I was admitted was because my IQ tested at 137+.

Being a social misfit also had its pluses.

I was stubborn. I was proud. I observed one or two other social misfits who would try desperately to fit in and abase themselves for acceptance. They revolted me. Better to reign in Hell, etc. Nor would I make the mistake of defining myself in opposition to others. I saw my older brother make that mistake. Doing something despite someone else gives them as much control as doing something because of someone else. To be myself, my actual self, would require constructing my own identity.

I was helped in this by religious conviction. I have a personal sense of God and God's presence and role in the world. God requires certain things, and prohibits others. Suicide or other forms of self-abuse are absolute prohibited. And God wants us to care and engage and live in the world, so that kind of retreat to isolation, while technically permissible, would disappoint God. So that was out.

But God gives us free will and the ability to chose. So I set about constructing a social identity and self-image for myself. This required a great deal of internal soul searching, and empathy to others. Because while every one of us is special, no one of us has any special right or superiority to others.

This is tough to explain in words and it invariably gets misunderstood. D'lenn said it best in Comes the Inquisitor.
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From:subnumine
Date:April 6th, 2012 07:36 pm (UTC)
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There is a Real/Not Real game at the end of the Hunger Games trilogy [very mild spoiler warning] which may help if you are among people you trust and can speak privately to (not the easiest while, say, running a business at a convention, I realize):

A (who is perceiving a doubtful claim internally): "Am I running a successful business?"
B: Real
A "Am I a stupid piece of shit?"
B: Not Real.

In the original, A had been brainwashed about the specific external events of his past, and was among the people he had grown up with, so it was almost always possible to find a B with personal knowledge of them; your internal states are harder to verify. But there are enough people who know you that it should be possible to adapt it.
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From:celandine13
Date:May 7th, 2012 11:44 am (UTC)
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I liked what you said about outsourcing.

I've outsourced a lot of my risk-aversion and work ethic to the self-hating, guilty part of myself. Chronic guilt is annoying, but suddenly waking up with no risk aversion or work ethic would throw my life upside down (and I do know people who tried to hack themselves to remove self-hatred and wound up deleting all their motivation to do actual work.)
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