Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Shut up, M....

I have been pondering many things this week.  Mainly to do with me, but as I am the centre of my own universe this isn't really surprising.  I only have experience of my own thoughts and emotions, but oftentimes I wish I didn't.  Have my own thoughts and emotions, that is.

I'm not known to be a navel-gazer, I generally don't over-analyse stuff because, somehow, it always comes back to 'you', the one who's doing the thinking, when often what you're pondering - events, things said in passing by other people, email received - has nothing to do with you in the first place.  The human ego is weird like that - it makes us think we're far more important in the scheme of things than we actually are.  I suppose it's a form of self-preservation.

But sometimes, despite the words I've just written above, I find myself doing it.  A little self-analysis is fine, but too much can lead to narcissism and I really can't abide self-centred people.  I know that sounds intolerant which, in many ways, I'm very guilty of being.  Sorry about that, although I'm better than I used to be I can still be quite 'stuff and nonsense' about lots of legitimate difficulties other people may be suffering.  I put that down to not being over-indulged as a child - my mother came from a large war-time Northern working-class family which just put on a brave face and got on with it.  You had to make the best of what you'd got and not complain.  On the whole this has stood me in good stead but has, somehow, left me with a little voice of justification piping up in my head throughout my life.

This is the little voice that points out all my faults and sneers at me when I try to do things. It's condescending and spiteful and is always there.  I don't know really where it came from.  Many places and relationships, I suppose.  My father ran his own business and was away a lot of the time.  Even when he was home he was a detached parent, never played with me and/or my brother but preferred to sit behind his newspaper.  Don't get me wrong, he was kind and a good provider and we loved him, but he didn't interact with us much.  My parents divorced when I was 14.  A little later my mum, brother and I moved into a house with another family but that didn't work out.  My brother and I were not made to feel very welcome by the father of the other family and, by that time, our dad had married another woman who absolutely did not like my brother and I.  So, strictly speaking, my brother and I had nowhere to go where we would be welcome.  I was 15, my brother 12. We just kept our heads down and kept out of the way until we could make our escape.

I'm not telling you all this just to pluck at your heart-strings - I don't agree with miserylit, but this is my story and I'm just setting out the facts plainly. And if I can't write about it on my own blog, where can I dump this?

At that time I had my first proper boyfriend who was the same age as me.  He turned out to be an arrogant shit but, at the time, I thought he was wonderful.  I think I must have been an unconscionably clingy girlfriend but he was too immature to know what to do so he turned my constant clamour for approval from him into a cruel game for his entertainment. Sometimes I think it's his voice that I hear in my head, berating me for being "sooooo STUPID", as he used to put it. Nice. I eventually saw the light and dumped him - he claimed to be terribly hurt and wanted to know what he had done to deserve it!  Prick.

So my voice has accompanied me, from time to time, throughout my life.  An integral part of me, it's only been in recent years that I've actively recognised its existence as a 'separate' part of me.  Okay, I know that sounds like I'm schizophrenic suffering from multiple personalities - trust me, it's nowhere near that bad but I can see how it can get out of control.  It's the voice of self-hatred that a lot of women have, I've just acknowledged mine.

I rebel against it as often as I can.  Over the years I've done things because (a) I've wanted to, (b) prove to myself that I CAN do these things and, yes, I admit it, (c) often with the view to gaining approval.  I got up on stage and sang in bands in front of audiences for most of my twenties - an appreciative audience is the best!  I taught myself to play saxophone and have played on a single.  I've been on television a few times - it was fun, the opportunity arose and it became good anecdotal material.

I did two degrees in Archaeology (BA(Hons) and an MA) because I loved the subject and I knew I'd be good at it, despite the little voice telling me otherwise.  I took up horse-riding for a few years because I fancied learning it but in this case I did listen to the little voice when it started telling me that I'd kill myself if I fell off, so I've stopped now.  I started my own business making and selling jewellery which has, actually, proved to be very therapeutic to the ego - there's nothing like the boost you get when a complete stranger decides they like your stuff enough to spend their hard-earned money on it.  I dye my hair outrageous colours because I like the attention (and the colour, obviously!)

The trouble with rebelling against the little voice is that it often goes circular and the voice ends up being right, which makes me angry because I don't want to listen to what it says.  TLH has been on the receiving end of this probably more times than he realises.  For example, perhaps I'll be doing something, cooking, being creative, making a mess, whatever.  I'll leave something lying around, knowing that I'll need it in a bit or that I'll clear it up in a little while, and the voice will go, "tidy that up right now" and I'll reply, "fuck you, little voice, I'll do it when I want to, not when you tell me to" ('cos I'm quite anti-authoritarian like that), and then TLH will come along and (rightly) get grumpy because it's in his way, or the surface is too cluttered for his liking, or he's tripped over it or something, and will make it obvious he's pissed off, and then I'll get snappy with him because, goddamit, now I'll never hear the end of it from the little bastard voice because it was right and I so don't want it to be.  God, I sound mental.

A few years ago, a relative of mine went away to visit their sibling, M.  They'd always had a fraught relationship and the holiday, although enjoyable, could be a little abrasive at times.  When my relative came home, it was reported back to me the things that M had said about other family members, my relative and, indeed, about me.  And swipe me if it didn't sound EXACTLY like the things my little voice has said to me, "I don't know why she [i.e., me] spends so much time blogging - if she had a proper job then she wouldn't have the time", "why did she [i.e., me] waste all that time and money getting two degrees in archaeology if she's not going to use it?  how pointless..." and on and on.  M was voicing my self-hatred out loud.

My little voice now has a name - I've called it M, after my relative.

Has anyone else named their inner tormenting demons? And what do you do about them?


Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean. I don't have names for them, but occasionally when I get really, really irritated by mine I do shout 'SHUT THE FUCK UP' very loudly inside my head at them. If it doesn't work straight the way I repeat until the inner noise has died down a bit.xx

peevish said...

I've been thinking about this post for days without commenting because I couldn't decide what words were right. I know what you mean about the voice. I don't have any solid advice for you. I think at some point (middle age, maybe), you must just be who you know you are, and do what you like doing. Don't waste your precious time worrying about what others think. They all have their own demons anyway, maybe even worse ones than yours.

Anonymous said...

My inner voice usually says things like 'don't be stupid, you can't do that' or 'OMG you look a fright'. At my advanced age I can generally ignore it as one of the few advantages of getting older is not giving a shit anymore (Peevish put it more nicely). However, I do have bad days, or even weeks, from time to time and then it can really get me down. I find giving myself a good talking to and then doing something nice (tea and cake for example) gets me out of the rut.