on control and being the bestest

July 26, 2013
I don't mean to take a serious mental health issue some people wrestle with lightly, but lately I've been thinking about certain eating disorders, and how the choice to starve oneself can actually be a manifestation of the need to control SOMETHING in one's life-- "things may seem out of control, but at least THIS is something I can exert total influence over."

While it can be taken to unhealthy extremes, I think I'd be well served using a diluted form of that attitude in different parts of my life, from eating to work ethic.

For the eating, not the point of a disorder, obviously, but reminding myself that while the fight against a body's ability to subvert any set of good eating intentions (thanks to its innate need to prepare for some future famine or other unknown) is well-nigh unwinnable in the long run, at any given moment of mindfulness, I have the ability not to grab that damn snack.

For the work ethic, it's the desire to throw up my arms and run away when I fear a challenge is beyond my ken. On an intellectual level, I know I'm smart, but no genius, and my ability to quickly get the gist of something is sometimes countered by a symmetrical inability to really latch on to or remember details. (Or remember much of anything, sometimes!) My inner child, though, is convinced that my value as a person is tied to me being the cleverst and smartest, and that any endeavor that points to that not being the case needs to be avoided at all cost, no matter how destructive and hilarious self-contradictory a strategy that is.

Wow. That point of "value as a person" just came to me as I typed it, but I think it's a critical way of framing things I hadn't thought of before. I think it echoes some of what I posted the other day with http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/brand-men-must-be-needed-because-we-cant-be-wanted/ where some men have a big problem believing they could possibly be wanted so they work to make themselves needed.

Somehow along the line, as a young'un, I think I developed that fragile way of establishing my self-esteem, and that Smart and Worthy is something people ARE, intrinsically, and not something they do. That's a terrible thing to think! And as far as I can tell, it's a view I kind of came up with on my own. At least, I don't think I should blame my folks for that one, but I don't know who, other than me. Maybe the nuns at Catholic School; the first grade teacher who let me go at my head-of-the-class pace, the disciplinarian nun the next year who shoved me back (sometimes literally), the testing they ran that said yeah, he's a clever kid alright, my parents (probably correct, and completely understandable) decision to keep me in a normal school, and just skip a grade for a while rather than take up the offer to put me to an advanced boarding school (where presumably I might have been exposed to kids who were even smarter than Kirk, Boy-Genius)

Maybe all that froze that inner child, vigilantly defended by other brain susbsytems (this concept borrows from the Internal Family Systems model, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_Family_Systems_Model ). Sigh. To quote David Brooks:
"'Know thyself,' the Greek sage advised. But of course this is nonsense. Truly happy people live by the maxim 'Overrate thyself.' [...] Each of these people is a god of self-esteem, dwelling on a private Olympus."
But man, it's hard to get shtuff done from way on high like that.

Oh yeah? Well why don't you make like a tree and live in peace for a 100 years, needing nothing, feeling nothing, drinking the beautiful sky