Dipping your toes in darkness: The role of negative fantasy

Have you ever imagined yourself doing something crazy? Maybe you briefly fantasized about executing a PIT maneuver against a car driving impossibly slow in front of you. Maybe during difficult financial times, you imagined robbing a bank. Maybe you’ve imagined yelling some obscenity in a crowded room just to see the shocked reactions on the faces of others. Or maybe these have been my negative fantasies and not yours. I would imagine though, at some point, you have found yourself fantasizing about doing something that in reality, you would never do. I have heard people describe all sorts of negative fantasies in therapy, and they are most often preceded by the statement, “I would NEVER do this, but…” So, why do our brains seem to need to occasionally engage in stomach turning, gut wrenching, self-shocking fantasies?

I believe the answer has to do with conformity. From the time we are itty-bitties, but are told we must conform to the values of our society. Don’t hit! No talking! Wait your turn! And most of these conformities go against our nature. We all go through a training process to get us to the point that we can get along well with others. So, as we get older, most of us learn to ignore or resist our negative impulses. We learn what is acceptable and we force ourselves to act in those ways. But sometimes, like a drop of water squeezing its way through a tiny crack in a dam, a little piece of those negative impulses slips out, and into our consciousness. Once seen in our mind’s eye, they often disappear again into the dark recesses of our subconscious, but those brief glimpses can be quite unsettling. However, I believe they are also a necessary part of living in a civilized world. I believe they release the pressure of living within the boundaries of rules and laws, both moral and legal. Let us not forget that we are still animals.

Victimhood: Accept it or Reject it?

What does it mean to be a victim? We have all felt imposed upon by the world, either by people, situations, or systems but is there value in victimhood? Does it empower or does it weaken? It seems that identification as a victim can do either, depending on the context. For those who have endured abuse, self identification as a victim is empowering and an important step toward recovery. It helps to remove the self blame or any feelings of having been complicit to the abuse. It is part of the process of becoming a survivor, but what about less overtly awful examples of imposition? Am I the victim because traffic is moving too slowly, lines are too long, or because life is just too hard? Victimhood then becomes detrimental because when we allow life to dictate how we feel, we give away our personal power. A person can also become addicted to playing the role of the victim and learn to view the world as imposing or rigged against them. We all know someone who finds a way to make themselves the victim in non-victimizing situations and use that world view to their advantage. Identification as a victim can often elicit sympathy and compassion from others, and can diminish the role of personal responsibility. So, I guess the role it plays depends on the plot of the story.

Faceless Giants

I recently read an article that explained that people with depression or anxiety will typically pay $1000-$2000 more each year for phone, cable, internet services because they just can’t bring themselves to navigate the web of deceit and ineptitude necessary in order to get better deals on those services. After recently trying to navigate that web myself, I must say I understand those findings. Over the past week, in an attempt to save about $480 over the next year on internet and cable, I have spent 246 minutes on the phone. I have been transferred and disconnected. I have repeated the same information dozens of times. I have needed to be present at my home for two unnecessary service visits. And, I have had to travel to a UPS store, a FedEx store and a Spectrum store to return equipment.

Did I have a choice? Sure! I could have chosen to keep paying $40 extra each month to avoid the hassle of switching from one company to the other. I could have chosen to accept inferior service in order to avoid the hassle of switching back to the original company, who now by the way, has found a way to offer a much better deal that was only possible because I left and came back. I could have canceled the services all together and found a way to live without the luxuries of cable and internet. But in this age of online banking, online shopping, online billing, email, social networking and Netflix (yes, in addition to cable…#notproud), that just wasn’t an option that would work for my family.

So, in the end, we will have the television and internet services necessary to continue to live the lifestyle we have grown accustomed to, and even somehow to believe that we need. We will end up saving $240 on these services over the next year. We have been given $300 in Visa gift cards and free NFL package for our troubles, but at what cost? About six hours (phone time, travel time, service visit time) of my life I’ll never get back? Stress, stress and more stress while navigating the convoluted web of customer service, sales, and technical support? As I consider whether or not it was all worth it, I’m left with the realization that each experience I have with any of the faceless giants (cable, phone, internet, insurance, government, etc) who rule this world, takes something more important than money from me. It takes my sanity, my soul and my peace. Thankfully I have enough of these things left to keep my mind right, but so many among us don’t. And those people will continue to be taken advantage of, overcharged and overlooked, by the faceless giants on whom we all depend.

It’s not me, it’s you: One origin of hate

It’s not me, it’s you: One origin of hate

When awful things happen, we are left wondering how and why such a thing could happen. How could one human maintain such ignorant and hateful beliefs about another group of humans? How could one human hate so intensely that he would sacrifice his freedom, his life, in order to destroy the lives of others?

When a person feels disadvantaged in some way, there is a tendency to resist accepting personal responsibility for that disadvantage. If I can blame others for my situation then there is nothing wrong with me, and therefore, there is no need for me to change. But there is reason for me to be angry. If I have been told, as my father was told, and his father was told, that my problems are because of a particular group of people, then those people become my enemies. If I believe that there aren’t enough resources for us all, then I must hate and destroy you in order to ensure my survival. And, in order to protect this set of beliefs, which has been passed down for generations, I must ignore any information that goes against my beliefs. Those ideas that conflict with my own are lies, made up by my enemy, designed to make me look foolish.

Generational ignorance and blaming of others, the belief in the scarcity of resources, psychological dysfunction, and fear all play a part in creating and maintaining hate. And it is very hard to change the mind of the irrationally committed, which makes this type of hate especially scary.