August 17, 2018

"My childhood memory is like a murky, creepy liar. However, some things are crystal clear..."

"... like when my father would drive me to figure skating practice and I would look at my own hands in my lap and think: 'Who is that? How long will I be stuck in this charade? How long do I have to be trapped in me?' It seemed unendurable. I started emotionally doubling, being a me who lives in reality with other humans while simultaneously being a me that feels above all that, untethered and floating. I always believed that 'life' only applied to me in a superficial way, as something unimportant to be endured. Emotionally doubling let me — made me — hold hands with James and have sex with James and put up with James at all. I have always had romantic relationships because it seemed easier than not having them. It was so much more work to say, 'No thanks.'"

From "For 13 Days, I Believed Him/Can a relationship built on lies ultimately be good for you?" a NYT "Modern Love" essay that I liked a lot, by Zuzanna Szadkowski (an actress). Szadkowski was 36 when the transformation she describes in this essay happened. A similar thing (not identical!) thing happened to me at about that age — a realization that the "observer" me had to be the same me who acted in the world, not some more knowing and wise person. I had to concentrate on becoming thoroughly aware that there was not some acting-in-the-world me who didn't know everything that I knew. You may ask how could I have gotten into that state, but first make sure that you're not in it. How would you know? I mean, how would you know?

72 comments:

stutefish said...

I don't really understand the train of thought that leads from "my memory is unreliable" to "my life has evolved around a set of super-reliable memories".

Darrell said...

She seems fun--a real keeper!

Inga...Allie Oop said...

Sounds like some sort of dissociative disorder.

n.n said...

Temporary dissociation is likely a universal experience proportional to ideological conformity.

Sebastian said...

"You may ask how could I have gotten into that state, but first make sure that you're not in it. How would you know? I mean, how would you know?"

Depends on what you mean by "that state." Observing self and acting self always differ to some extent. The observing self always knows something the acting self does not actively display. Minimally self-aware people know they are in that state. They also know, as a matter of course, that they are not in a state of strong dissociation, of the sort that prompted you to take action. How one gets into that state, I wouldn't know.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

Long high-functioning substance abuse can create the same feeling. Obviously not what was happening to her childhood self, but there was something else she’s not talking about.

Freeman Hunt said...

Another lesson might be: avoid people who make you feel like a double self.

Ralph L said...

Sex sounds like an out-of-body body experience for her.

I ain't no psychiatrist, but I agree with Inga. No graduate degree, either.

BarrySanders20 said...

"First make sure that you're not in it. How would you know? I mean, how would you know?"

Because I can laugh at myself. I wink, therefore I am.

Sprezzatura said...

I wonder if Zuzanna shops at Lee Lee's Valise.

Ralph L said...

there was something else she’s not talking about

Molestation or some kind of abuse is my guess. I've heard those victims often have murky memories of childhood.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Freeman Hunt said...

Another lesson might be: avoid people who make you feel like a double self.

Not bad advice, but not much help for a child talking about one of their parents.

rhhardin said...

Maybe all women think this way. They're all actresses.

joshbraid said...

Dissociation is normal; however, the extent of dissociation is really the question. Yes, some event(s) of trauma would help "push" the dissociation further. Almost everyone (probably not the buddha) is dissociated. The question is whether to pursue integration and what does that pursuit entail? I doubt that the "American" culture values integration.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Illness sucks. Mental illness, much more so. With other illnesses, you can frame it in terms of that's happening to my body, but the essential part of me, my consciousness, remains intact. With mental illness you can make no such separation, assuming you are able to recognize the illness at all.

TestTube said...

Maintaining a double or even triple self is a skill that will be of great use when the People Who Have Partaken of the Red Juice From the Dark Sarcophagus finally band together and arise.

We will have to maintain at least three selves: Our true self (which keeps us sane), the self we show around the People Who Have Partaken of the Red Juice From the Dark Sarcophagus and their minions, and worst of all the self we show around people who we think are not minions of the People Who Have Partaken of the Red Juice from the Dark Sarcophagus.

But it is so difficult to keep three selves. So we must discard one -- the only self we can do without: Our true self (which keeps us sane).

Eleanor said...

You'd know if you were saying and doing things your inner self would never do. Most people have a filter that keeps them from saying or doing everything they think about saying or doing. The filter is what makes our inner self feel "wiser". There's nothing psychologically wrong with the person who holds back. Learning to bring one's inner self and one's outer self into a closer alignment is called "maturing".

Ignorance is Bliss said...

You may ask how could I have gotten into that state, but first make sure that you're not in it. How would you know? I mean, how would you know?

If you find yourself starting a fight club you might get suspicious.

Rob said...

Oh! Zuzanna, Oh don't you cry for ze,
Ze's come from Brooklyn Heights with a homeless Tinder date on her knee.

BTW, there was a recent HBO series called "Here and Now" in which the son fell for a guy who turned out to be homeless, and like Zuzanna, dumped him when he found out. Because there's no stigma in being homeless, once they're cleaned up they're as good as everybody else, except dump them immediately.

Ralph L said...

She needs Laslo to give her some Red Liquid.

Jupiter said...

"I had to concentrate on becoming thoroughly aware that there was not some acting-in-the-world me who didn't know everything that I knew. You may ask how could I have gotten into that state, but first make sure that you're not in it. How would you know? I mean, how would you know?"

It seems pretty straightforward. I would know because I would think there was a second me who was less knowledgeable. And I can sort of see that. There are times when I feel like I am watching myself do things that I have not chosen to do. But I think that is just because the part of us that is aware is not the only part of us that can have thoughts. Sometimes you become aware of having thoughts you didn't think.

OK, you're right, I'm crazy.

Henry said...

You may ask how could I have gotten into that state, but first make sure that you're not in it. How would you know? I mean, how would you know?

Buddhists would say "the acting-in-the-world me who didn't know everything" is how most people exist. The observer me alerts you to the fact that so much of "the acting-in-the-world me" is following automatic patterns. Certain forms of meditation and awareness training are focused on becoming aware of automatic patterns. Cognitive therapy also works with this awareness.

But the next step is getting rid of the observer. The observer and the observed is still a dualistic state. The awareness of the observer must be transferred to the "acting in the world me" until the observe disappears.

TestTube said...

She needs Laslo to give her some Red Liquid

I'm not Laslo, and the small vial of Red Liquid contains only enough for one. Even now, it sits upon my desk and calls to me, mocks me, invites me...

Anthony said...

gnorance is Bliss said...
Illness sucks. Mental illness, much more so. With other illnesses, you can frame it in terms of that's happening to my body, but the essential part of me, my consciousness, remains intact. With mental illness you can make no such separation, assuming you are able to recognize the illness at all.


Very true. Also something other people have trouble dealing with. Because we all think we should be able to control our own minds.

Yancey Ward said...

She got played by a hustler. At least she didn't marry him.

I remember her, though, from The Knick.

Jupiter said...

I read an SF story in which they had a machine that could scan a person, and then make a precise duplicate of that person, light-years away. So, they had a scientific observation spaceship circling a black hole that was giving off so much radiation it would kill you in a few months. And they would scan scientists and send copies of them to man the observation ship.

So, you step into the box, it whirs, you step out of the box and go have lunch. And, you step into the box, it whirs, and you step out into the station where you will die of radiation poisoning in a few months. Would you step into the box? Why not? What's for lunch?

Yancey Ward said...

I would have no fear of stepping into the box, but I would have moral objections to doing so.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Jupiter said...

It seems pretty straightforward. I would know because I would think there was a second me who was less knowledgeable.

How do you know that you're not the less knowledgeable you, and somewhere inside your head is a more knowledgeable you, laughing it's ass off at your ignorance?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The paper holds their folded faces to the floor,
And every day the paper boy brings more.

Fernandinande said...

'Who is that? How long will I be stuck in this charade? How long do I have to be trapped in me?'

"Alright brain. You don't like me and I don't like you. But let's just do this and I can get back to killing you with beer."

Homer Simpson's Brain: "It's a deal."

Jupiter said...

Yancey Ward said...
"I would have no fear of stepping into the box, but I would have moral objections to doing so."

What do you mean, "I"?

robother said...

"Because I can laugh at myself. I wink, therefore I am."

Tuffnel nails it.

Ann Althouse said...

“If you find yourself starting a fight club you might get suspicious.”

But what would the Althouse fight club be like?

CStanley said...

Blogger John Tuffnell said...
"First make sure that you're not in it. How would you know? I mean, how would you know?"

Because I can laugh at myself. I wink, therefore I am.


Ha, perfect!

Ignorance is Bliss said...

But what would the Althouse fight club be like?

8th RULE: If this is your first night at Althouse, you HAVE to comment.

Mike Sylwester said...

I did not like the essay.

Oso Negro said...

The Althouse fight club would be the animal girl in the world is suddenly put in the ring with the super-reflective girl. Spoiler: super-reflective girl gets her ass kicked. So the question only you and Meade know the answer to is whether the animal girl prowls the night while the super-reflective girl blogs away the day.

Rabel said...

Please don't make any crude jokes about the other Zuzanaa that is trapped inside Zuzanna's body. This is a high class operation that doesn't put up with that sort of thing.

"I wonder if Zuzanna shops at Lee Lee's Valise."

No. Lane Bryant

daskol said...

Dabrowski might say she went through a positive disintegration courtesy of James. I would agree.

gg6 said...

ALTHOUSE says: "How would you know? I mean, how would you know?"
Well, one might well begin with some basic reading and understanding of Plato/Socrates??

daskol said...

instead of calling her condition mental illness, consider the dissociation a result of incomplete or asynchronous personality development. the unpleasantness of the revealed lie seems to have triggered a breakdown which has given the author a truer perspective on her own life. kanye talks about his breakdown/breakthrough in this interview, which is a better watch than it is read.

Ralph L said...

But what would the Althouse fight club be like?

A few people beat up Chuck while everyone else goes for covfefe.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

This is not the Althouse fight club?

tim in vermont said...

Bicameral mind

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Ann Althouse said...

But what would the Althouse fight club be like?

Rule 1: Men DO NOT wear shorts to Althouse fight club!

Rule 2: Men DO NOT wear shorts to Althouse fight club!

Ralph L said...

There's an exemption for athletics.

mockturtle said...

I had to beg and plead to take figure skating lessons! My parents wanted me to take piano.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Overhead at Althouse fight club:

In songwriting, a member of project Althouse has a name, his name is Robert Zimmerman. His name is Robert Zimmerman. His name is Robert Zimmerman. His name is Robert Zimmerman...

traditionalguy said...

Who do you trust in this life? Parents are good to you for a time, brothers less so, school mates are good until graduation. College Fraternities open you up to strange people from other cultures. But who do you trust? Having your children changes everything suddenly, but after raising them, then who do you trust? There are seasons for everything.

But the Eternal God who gives up His Son for us is always there the same yesterday, today and forever. He is always faithful.

Ann Althouse said...

“But the next step is getting rid of the observer. The observer and the observed is still a dualistic state. The awareness of the observer must be transferred to the "acting in the world me" until the observe disappears.”

Yes. This is also what I say in the post. The strong sense of awareness is that the seeming two are one and the same.

But I do still feel a pull to inhabit little me so as not to trouble other people, and I go with this instinct way more than I think I should.

TestTube said...

Y'know, when Zuzanna gives in and drinks the Red Juice From the Dark Sarcophagus, I really don't want to be in that dude's shoes.

Actually, when Those Who Have Partaken of the Red Juice From the Dark Sarcophagus arise and cast aside their masks, I don't want to be in anyone's shoes.

Actually, when hose Who Have Partaken of the Red Juice From the Dark Sarcophagus arise and cast aside their masks, we won't be even be wearing any shoes. We'll be lucky to have a small scrap of dirty rag to cover ourselves.

NotWhoIUsedtoBe said...

All you are is what you do. There is no self.

gbarto said...

I learned it the other way. When I was suicidal, I split into observer and observed. The observer knew 1) I was insane and 2) I lacked the ability to judge emotions in degrees. Mostly, it counseled that I wait things out and see if the wave passed. It did and here I am still.

We often worry about splitting and dissociation. But as I look around me today, I think there are a lot of people who could stand to step back from themselves and understand that just because they feel something doesn't make it real.

jaydub said...

There are a lot of effed up women in the world. You want to avoid them.

daskol said...

gbarto, you may find this interesting.

Psota said...

“But you have so many shoes,”

Such a forlorn little line...

daskol said...

lotta double loopers in here

daskol said...

some Damasio, add in Dabrowski (who emphasizes the developmental potential of an overly sensitive nervous system, and emotions over logic for major life decisions), and you have a rich mental model

Jupiter said...

Ann Althouse said...

"But what would the Althouse fight club be like?"

We don't talk about that.

Howard said...

This is an example of someone who is reasonably shallow being overwhelmed by a common feeling/perception when the mind drifts a bit. Because this person is a unique snowflake, she thinks this is deep and meaningful. It not dissociation, it narcissism coupled with ignorance and stupidity.

Otto said...

" the devil made me do it" What BS. You both had a shit upbringing.

mockturtle said...

Gbarto proposes: I think there are a lot of people who could stand to step back from themselves and understand that just because they feel something doesn't make it real. [emphasis mine]

Absolutely! And not just those who are suicidal.

Smilin' Jack said...

But I do still feel a pull to inhabit little me so as not to trouble other people, and I go with this instinct way more than I think I should.

But you only trouble the little other people, so don't worry about it.

Yancey Ward said...

Jupiter,

I am the one stepping into the box and out of it again. The copy of me is someone else at that point. My moral objection would be that I have made a life and death decision for my duplicate for which I don't have to suffer the consequences.

tim in vermont said...

Because of him, I had crashed into my own self and come to see that I did want and need real love, that I did want and need good things, and that I am more than just a lifeboat for desperate men who prey on women who don’t care enough about themselves.

Leaning against that windowpane and remembering my time with James, I felt a tiny piƱata burst open in my heart.


Same plot as in Vicky Christina Barcelona, same ending.

tim in vermont said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wwww said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Sylwester said...

Maybe Zuzanna should write a blog.

Sprezzatura said...

Grammer policing and law and con-jabber are the strengths.

Which is way more than most.

Henry said...

I knew this was blog was not the place for math stuff. Now, philosophy/psych is out, too.

Philosophy/psych? We're going after ham/cheese next. Enjoy your mustard bread.

tim in vermont said...

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
from Invictus -- William Ernest Henley

Scott Patton said...

"I would look at my own hands in my lap and think: 'Who is that?' "
And if one hand is rubber, could it still be me?
BHTV(MOLTV) Robert Wright & Thomas Metzinger - Rubber Hand Illusion