Empty Days

Monday, July 26, 2004



Phobia.

This is something I can't really understand but it's been putting me in the pit forever.

Whenever I imagine some plan and try to put it in practice - I stall. There is no specific reason for this except that insecurity, fears and doubts sabotage the whole thing from inside - even though I am aware that all of those put together are completely imaginary and I am occasionally able to wipe them out of my mind but they crop up again very quickly.

***

I guess what stalls me most terminally is the idea of spending money. I have a phobic relation to money because it represents my inability to deal with the world - spending money implies getting money, which means getting stuck in the economic rules of the world and I don't handle those well. The main reason I am on welfare is because I don't have to think where the cash comes from and how to get it - I do get paranoid when I am faced with severe shortage of cash.

So in the current example: if I want to go out of town, I need shoes - and shoes are expensive no matter what and where. That's it, I am stuck over the idea. Fifty bucks is a fortune. Even if I tell myself that I already have enough of a debt on the credit card and adding or subtracting a $100 won't make a different in monthly payments, nevertheless the very idea of blowing that kind of cash is making me cringe. Guess why I hate shopping - can't afford anything with that mentality.

Another example: all my jeans are in rags and date from a decade ago (except for recent and cheaper ones that got ragged from being cheap in the first place), and I can't make myself go get a new pair - I prefer to stitch the old rags the best I can so I can still wear them. And I know it's mental more than real, because it is possible to find affordable jeans - but I have to look, and that means spending time shopping, and it gets on my nerves in a big way. Then why make myself sick if I can patch up what I have? That's my idea of "quality of life" - avoid getting myself sick over trifles.

But for the same reason I can't force myself to just go out there and get shoes (like sneakers or hiker shoes) - it gets me mad that I can't and it gets me mad that I must. Heh. Totally mental.

***

But underneath this apparent money-phobia there is something else and I think it's the main stoppage point - the money thing is only a kind of metaphor for it.

It's the sense of powerlessness and anger at myself and the world that comes from it: that I can't deal with life as it is, that I must hide from it and avoid so much of it. The real phobia is that I am seriously afraid to touch on that fact one way or another - better pretend that it's not there than have to resurrect this feeling.

It gets me depressed just to think of it. And the money-phobia arises as a formula for this depression. If I try to tell myself that I do have objective means of disregarding the supposed money-problem, the phobia interferes immediately and fucks the whole thing completely - if I allowed myself to think objectively, then the sense of powerlessness would be defeated, but I would need to reconsider my whole relationship to the world in the same sweep.

That's the stuff phobias are made from: they're both real and unreal. Practically speaking, all these worries are unreal. But speaking psychologically they're more real than reality - you could shove a million dollars down my throat and you'd still have to convince me that I am in any way entitled to that kind of power. It doesn't make sense - but at the same time it does.

***

And there is more to it. Money-phobia is at the intersection of my sense of powerlessness inside the world and my sense of independence from this world. Welfare gives me independence - and my independence is limited to this tiny margin of means. Everything beyond and above is not mine, is outside my control, and threatens my independence - I can't and won't ask for anything from anybody, I can't even tolerate gifts.

Gifts create a dependence - this "kindness of strangers" thing is a hostile concept in my mind. Not to mention the kindness of non-strangers. My parents tried to force Christmas gifts on me, tons of new clothes they bought, seeing that I am so ragged they can't stand it - I had to refuse. It caused them pain, and it caused me pain because I knew how much effort they put into getting all this stuff, but I just couldn't take these things - they were too expensive, unsuitable, something entirely alien to everything I am.

I may not like very much what I am, but I have to make do with it nonetheless.

But this independence is negative - and the freedom it affords is negative as well. It's the freedom you get from avoiding so many things lest you get trapped. It's like walking a tight-rope - the margin of this independence is really slim.

Poverty makes one free in that sense - it makes you into a rope-walker or a hunger artist (in Kafka's terms). But you only excel at hunger by default - because you can't really eat much. It's not a virtue but rather a vice, a lack of vitality, turned into a point of honor.

***

Finally, I must explore the other extensions of my current phobia - the project is to go biking out of town, which is why I need shoes etc. Alright - I can understand why I have such a hard time shopping for shoes. But there is also the question of fear of the unknown.

For pete's sake, I never went anywhere far and wild on my own. I have deem ideas about camping, I am largely unaware of the surrounding countryside - I've never had a real direct contact with local rural land, except in some early adolescence at an organized camp and all the memories are awful (mostly from people and ugliness of the site). So I have no real experience with the realities of being on the road - and I both like the total-discovery factor and it scares me too of course.

Sure I get somewhat paranoid about the bike not having very reliable tyres, and all that pain-in-the-butt aspect, but still I can't count these worries as major hindrances - I don't mind physical duress, it's actually one of the more appealing aspects of the project. But I do worry about people getting to me once I am out there - I want to have some peace on my own but it might just prove that there are too many rules there too, and too many people intent of pointing them out. It's people I want to avoid - I am not sure I will be able to.

***

In short, the world as I see it is a fundamentally hostile place - and it's not discovery but escape that I really want. That's illusory but I better try it out.

I will need to overcome the money-phobia shortly. I tried to yesterday, then today - couldn't do it. What the fuck. Maybe talking to the blog will help - every night I have bad dreams and it's clearly anxiety.

***

Erich Fromm says that anyone who fails to socialize properly ends up crazy. I don't like his style of thinking very much (all this triumphant humanism is a bit too much to take), but I have to say that this proposition does make sense in some way. In that case I've been somewhat insane for a very long time now - and getting more insane by the year.

As a matter of fact, it is Fromm who describes schizophrenia as a complete failure to socialize - not even citing brain-damage or such. I don't believe I have schizophrenia but I do have suchlike symptoms and difficulties - so in Fromm's terms I am indeed a regular schizo. And what now? Well - now I struggle with all these phobias and I need to win at least temporarily.

And fuck Fromm btw.





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