“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing……Only I will remain.”
-Litany against fear- Dune
I remember two persistent thoughts when I was a child. The first, “How come adults are so big? It must have hurt when they were born”, was easy to cast away once I had learned about biology. But in my young mind children were always small and adults were always big. Women bore children, and giants bore full grown adults. The second thought was not as easy to reason through as I grew up, and in fact may have developed to create a large part of my world view.
“Why can I only see what I see, and experience what I experience? How is it not possible for me to see through other people’s eyes, know their thoughts, and experience their feelings?”
When you are six these can seem like very fundamental questions about the world around us. We all have our own versions of these types of questions, some of them can eventually be dismissed or confirmed. Others may stay with us and become a piece of how we see and understand things. I believe my question about the singularity of my experience stayed with me and took over my ability to see and understand the world. This question developed into my denial of the need for consideration of how others see things or how they are effected by the world around them.
Because I never found an explanation I believe that the question never faded from my mind, rather it became part of the structure of my thoughts. I would learn to focus only on what I experienced and felt, leading both to insensitivity, but also to paranoia. It would be nice to say that this would lead to me to only be insensitive to other people’s opinions and concerns, even though that is not a nice thought in and of itself. Being an insensitive prick alone would be a comparably great place to be if it wasn’t accompanied by the constant paranoia which also evolves from failure to fully comprehend or acknowledge that we all see and feel things differently.
The difficulty stems from knowing that what you are impacts those around you negatively, but you also fully expect them to handle your actions towards them in the same way you would. This leads to constantly being in a conflicted state of emotion of doing what you do, and always fearing what others are going to say or do in response to this state of affairs. To make things worse, this has taken over me so much that it became hard for me to even accept that I could do anything about it. I had resigned myself to the fact that I would never understand the effects of my actions on other people, whether good or bad, and without feedback I would paralyze myself.
This paralysis would express itself in two forms. The one that is most obvious to those I interact with is I would tend to just not interact with others unless it was a necessity. The apparent flaw in this is a lack of openness, communication, and interpersonal experience. The other form of paralysis would come about after I had an interaction with someone, but I was able to maintain outward appearances through extreme force of will. This would initially lead to my first reaction, withdrawal, but instead of just not wanting to interact I would also be mentally tormenting myself wondering what effect I had on others. More often than not nothing would change and all the self-imposed torment and I would have a great feeling of relief. But whenever I would not receive immediate feedback on my actions I would continue to revert to this state of perpetual fear of judgment and hate.
In a way this has had some positive effects on the way I view other people’s actions. Because of my fear of being judged and hated I learned to stay away from and be vocal against those who actively judged or hated others on a regular basis. It has not saved me from being a victim of hypocrisy and human nature totally, as it is hard for any of us to never judge or hate anyone even if just as an involuntary reaction. The ideal way to handle this when it comes up is to quickly catch myself and either shift focus, find a solution and address the issue, or realize that is just a difference of viewpoint.
I still have a lot to learn about realizing that we all see things differently and we all operate on many different levels of competence and knowledge. When I am performing a task I do not need feedback to know whether the outcome is good or bad, because in my mind it is what it is and the results are right there in front of me. But when it comes to intangible things, I still find it hard to move on without feedback. A huge part of living life involves interacting on a personal level with other people. Until I can learn to accept whatever may come, good or bad, the unknown of another person’s mind will always paralyze me with fear. I’d rather live on the extreme of being a total prick to everyone and know what they think than to be a saint all of the time and be left wondering. As it stands I fall in the middle of the prick saint scale most of the time (though others may disagree), and the unknown is my greatest fear.
Realm of 13