Am I Crazy?
I reassure myself constantly that you’re only crazy when you STOP asking that question, but I can’t help but wonder whether my self – delusion is so far gone, that my insanity is so deeply ingrained, that it operates as an independent entity in my consciousness (or subconscious) and asks these questions to lull me into a false sense of security about my sanity. It’s unlikely, yes, but not impossible.
If I’m honest, these thoughts, that are quite prevalent in my conscious mind as I go about my day to day activities, are not ones that I tend to share. Even with my closest friends. I’m too paranoid and concerned about what people would think if I was to admit that I often wonder whether I am really able to process the world in a completely rational way, and that I am completely unsure of who I actually am because what is going on in my head is often completely at odds with the picture that my behaviour is painting. I am so governed by the need to make sure that I am seen in a certain way, that only the elements of my character that I feel safe showing to the world are revealed, that I don’t give away the scary truth of what is actually going on in my mind and body, that I seem to be operating on a dual plane at every waking moment. Even more terrifying is that I only allow myself to acknowledge the extent of this duality occasionally because when I do, I completely question my identity. I don’t know who I am. Or even, who I want to be.
So, I want to make sure that you have a specific impression of me. I want to make sure that you don’t see anything about me that I don’t want you to see. And I make sure that you don’t know what’s REALLY going on because that would make you think badly of me. I essentially build a wall between myself and the world because I’m scared. I truly believe that there’s nothing wrong with being scared, definitely not, but if you don’t combat your fears and deal with them, you are being governed by them. Which I don’t think is cool, because that’s no way to live. Meaning that I don’t think it’s cool that I build a wall between myself and the living world by default because I am dominated by my fear that somehow, if I don’t have that wall protecting me, you will see who I REALLY am. Not a great starting point for building meaningful connection with the world.
In my rational moments, I try to consider why I am so terrified of being truthful. Somehow I have allowed myself to think of my true self, the one that lives and breathes and speaks before going through the filtration process, as an entity of whom I should not be proud, who I need to hide, and who I am not willing to reveal. I have come to the conclusion that this is because I am afraid of its honesty in the face of all of the conditioning and teaching that I have received in my life up until this point. When I let myself think about it, which I am not silly enough to do very often, I seriously contemplate the awful possibility that my primary mode of connecting is dishonest.
That bothers me. Massively. And it makes me consider the alternative.
The moment to moment approach to communication, where you feel what you feel, and no matter how insane and out of control you might seem to everyone else, you do not filter your responses and you lay it all on the line. At drama school, we were encouraged to embrace this approach to living for the purpose of creating truthful performances. This approach to life was a massive shock to my system at the beginning, and I was disturbed by how difficult it was for me to show what was really going on under the shell I had created. Not to other people. To MYSELF. How sad is that? That I couldn’t even be honest about what I was feeling with MYSELF. I was so scared of what I’d find in the murky waters of my true being that I had to fight for the courage to let myself see it. It was physically painful to let certain emotions come out of me. But after the fight, and the shock, and bizarrely, pain, came liberation. The four walls of the studio became an alternative universe where I and my fellow students were at liberty to be completely free without judgment and I will never forget the power of the wondrous freedom that I felt every time I walked in and was given free rein to simply communicate what I was feeling.
In many ways, this was dangerous. Once you’ve tasted freedom, your willingness to settle for anything less starts to wane. You have re-set the bar and the way that you have been taught to live no longer feels right. For me personally, it was a feeling I had NEVER experienced before. I could shout, stamp my feet, scream, cry, dance euphorically, howl in pain, roll around on the floor like a baby, do ANYTHING, just because I FELT like it at that moment. After a few months, I stopped feeling judged. I developed a sense of self validation that I had never experienced before – whatever I did was absolutely fine because it was the truth. Even if odd by conventional standards, by the standards of the world “out there”, it was my truth and no one could tell me that it was wrong. What a feeling! I felt that I could reveal the REAL Me, someone that I wanted to show and release. I was revealing Me, and I was proud of Me, for the first time in my life. Within those four walls, I was able to live truthfully, and didn’t have the questions that I have in my day to day life about how to live, or whether I’m crazy, and I didn’t feel that I was living a dual existence. I was too busy living in the moment to consider any of those things.
Of course, all this freedom was only permitted within those four walls, so that I could share it in performance, which of course made it safe and rational, and somehow detached it from the day to day mode of controlled emotional operation that most of us (I think) fall into from the day we start being told what to do. From Day One, when we are trained to stop screaming. Which I am not suggesting is a bad thing, by the way, being able to control what you share and what you say is a necessary part of behaving like an adult and navigating the unpredictable waters of life. We can’t all go around behaving like children, stamping our feet because we want something, wailing because we’ve been told no, enthusiastically asking a series of questions about something loudly on the train because we’re interested. Basically embarrassing ourselves by being too interested or engaged with the madness of being alive. A world of adults behaving with complete emotional freedom, I suppose, would be like a world of adults behaving like children, and I’m not sure whether that’s the answer either.
I just wonder, how much emotional “control” is too much? At what point have you lost the thing about you that makes you unique? Is it really so awful to be free enough to say exactly what you’re thinking, or feeling, to express yourself honestly even if you run the risk of being a bit odd by conventional standards? If it’s you, your truth, and you’re not hurting anyone, why not be free and let what you’re really feeling come out? Why not be proud of it? Surely that is the best place to start building truthful connection with other people? I’m not suggesting that my ideal mode of living is one where I am walking down the street and I start singing “Break on Through” by The Doors at the top of my voice just because I feel like it and then, a couple of moments later, curl up into a ball and start wailing because I’ve seen or remembered something distressing, although that would be interesting (!), but I do wonder whether it’s necessary to be quite so “in control” all the time. Being so “in control” makes me feel stunted; like I am not able to express myself properly and desperately want to, but don’t possess the necessary courage and self – belief required to break the mould and behave in a way that is honest to me. I simply do not have the courage to run the risk of seeming strange, or unlikeable to everyone else around me. I wish I did. I wish I had the courage to express the real Me that I found in the four walls of the studio, to let her live in the “real” world without fear of being “found out”, without fear of being exposed. Without fear.
At my core, I want to live a truthful life. I want to be able to say what I feel, honestly, and to have the freedom and the courage to make the choices that my heart tells me to make and stand by them. Equally, I am governed by my desire to be well regarded, to be liked, to be loved. These conflicting needs, which for me, feel very at odds with each other, make me wonder whether I can put my hand on my heart and say that I know how to live, and how to express myself. That I’m not crazy. At this stage, I’m not sure that I can. Then again, I’m not sure that I want to know all the answers. Not yet, anyway. It’s fun thinking about it and trying to work it all out. Quite wonderfully, I think I’ve learned something about myself by writing this, and that has just about made my day.
Thanks for reading.
An Ordinary Idealist
N.B I was inspired to write this blog after seeing Silver Linings Playbook. It made me think about lots of things. I don’t believe in my ability to provide a wonderful, incisive critique of a movie so I decided against writing one here- there are loads on the internet already which are wonderfully written and frankly it would be insulting for me to try and compete. Anyway the film was full to the brim with stuff that I’m interested in – actors giving brilliant performances, the therapeutic power of dance, excellent music (loved the use of Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be”) and the quest to “fit in.” I genuinely enjoyed it, and as a film, it spoke to me. Somehow, it made me feel reassured about the power of human connection, and it made me feel a bit better about having my own questions about, well, the quietly confused players in my psyche and the nature of “normality” and it got me thinking. Just wanted to share the catalyst for writing this particular blog 🙂