nancylebov (nancylebov) wrote,

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.

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Tags: self-hatred

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