Friday, December 31, 2010

Living in Isolation

I think I have a problem. I've been isolating myself a lot from people or "the outside world." I'm an extrovert, but have always practiced this hibernation to a certain extent (not on purpose). I do it way more now. It zaps hours and hours from my day. Hours that I can spend bringing in more of an income, connecting with people, bettering myself, etc. I feel it's damaging me, but people in general really get on my nerves. Like I'll be in public and just get really annoyed with noises and people and everyone that looks like they are at ease with everything. It's times like those where I just want to go home and hide under my shell. I guess you can call it bouts of misanthropy and just trying to protect myself. I also just really hate where I am in life right now. Any advice for me?
WHEN ABRAHAM MASLOW STUDIED self-actualized people, he found that they all spent considerable time in solitude. It's a way to connect to yourself. It's healthy. In your situation, though, it sounds like you're using it as a tool for avoidance. I don't blame you for wanting to get away from something that's annoying you like noises and...uh, happiness (lol) but avoidance isn't the only tool for overcoming that. In fact, your mind will keep judging things and making you miserable until you stand up to it.

I'd suggest you do something radical. Go and force yourself to spend time in the company of others. Here's the twist: instead of trying to analyze what's making you so frustrated, and thinking about all the little things that are pissing you off, I want you to turn off that inner dialogue (or just ignore it). Just sit there on your bench and experience the physical sensations of discomfort and irritability without commenting or analyzing. Be patient. There's no right or wrong way to feel it.

When you experience that stuff without the use of your mind, you get used to it and you dissolve it along with all the judgment and agitation it was causing. You may not suddenly feel OUTSTANDING, but you won't feel as bothered. Then you might start to feel okay, and even a little happy. Once you get more familiar with that okay-ness (after 3 or 4 times), you can reflect on your life and figure out where you want to be and how you're going to pull it back together, radically or incrementally.

Keep going out in public for 30 minutes at a time. Sometimes you might notice you're not actually irritated, but maybe bored or apprehensive or sad or excited or happy or nothing special. Whatever it is, just focus on the physical sensations quietly. Eventually, the irritation will dissipate and you won't feel like you need to retreat. You can keep doing the feeling-without-thinking exercises at the park or adapt them for the rest of your life.

2 comments:

Sam said...

Thanks for the reply. I noticed that you tagged the post with "depression." Does it sound like I'm depressed? I may be, just maybe didn't realize it.

Edahn said...

It doesn't sound like full blown depression to me. However, irritability is common to depression.

When I'm depressed, I push everything away. I feel unhappy, and that unhappiness gets projected onto everything my mind observes. Crying baby? Irritates the shit out of me. Waiting in line? Fuck this shit. Go out to a bar? People are vapid and fake. My mind judges everything as negative and irritating and not knowing better, I end up withdrawing.

You've got a little of that pattern going on, it seems. I don't want you to think you're depressed. Personally, I'm not a big fan of labels as I think they're dangerous and distracting. It's much more effective to focus on the symptoms and causes of those symptoms and not get hung up on whether you meet an arbitrary definition of "depression" or not.

As I see it, the symptoms are irritability and the source of it is being unhappy with your own life. You can certainly make changes to improve your life in the long run, but just sitting with that irritability until it passes can make you happy with your life right now, this instant. Try the advice I gave you and see how it goes. If in a month you don't see some alleviation of your suffering, you can consult a therapist.

I wish you the best!