I never had imaginary friends. I have imaginary enemies, instead. They are not quite as fun. It’s really no surprise since I tend to predict the worst possible outcome and love engaging with doubt. The imagined adversity I create creates a soundless cacophony only I can hear.
Pessimism and Doubt
Pessimism and doubt breed ambivalence. Ambivalence never sleeps, except from exhaustion. But, it’s really easy to wake up. Ambivalence is inconclusive. Security has no place in ambivalence. It’s like tightrope walking or juggling. Ambivalence tricks you into thinking that resolution will come after just one more fearful doubtful thought. Except, ambivalence is circular. You’re not walking through a forest, you’re just getting into it deeper and deeper. You’re actually getting lost. It’s dark and eerie in there and at the same time loud and polluted.
I am deeply ambivalent about other people. What are they thinking? What did they mean? What do they want? These questions breed ambivalence because they are un-answerable. Asking yourself questions that can’t be answered with any certainty and then seeking certain answers is abusive. Questions of this type should not be indulged at all.
Truth and Truth-Like Things
When I focus on what people have actually said – actually said, their actual words – my enemy list goes down to zero. ZERO.
The other day I was re-hashing an interaction I’d had with someone where I felt this person had been rude to me. I picked up pessimism and doubt, as is my wont, and started to spiral down to a crucifixion. It always ends in a crucifixion, the ambivalence. Indeed, it alternates between my crucifixion and the other person’s. I think I will find relief there, but neither of them feels just quite right. I’ve got to keep tinkering with it, until I’ve burnt it down to the ground.
Seemingly unbidden, a memory of an event from 5 or 6 years ago appeared. This same person had knocked on my hotel door, at a time when I was in intense emotional pain. Pain I thought I would not be able to make it through. This person had been very upset and had asked for my help with the very thing under which I was suffering. It was a shock, like a shot from the universe showing me I had no idea what was really true or not in my life. It felt like a cold bucket of water on my suffering. Aside from that, this person sat in my hotel room and we spoke the rest of the afternoon. I needed a companion that day and I had not realized it.
I had not thought about that afternoon probably since it had occurred. I thought, nothing happens in this world by mistake. This person is exactly as this person should be now, yesterday and tomorrow.
I went to 9 different schools between Kindergarten and 12th grade. I remember them all. As a young adult, I would recite them to myself to calm my nerves. I still do it sometimes. Somehow, the litany makes me feel better. Last year I googled many of them. I wanted to see if the pictures on the internet matched up with my memories. They did. I felt a loop close. Me and my mental image and the digital image. I felt like I was really here, on earth, and had been for some time. Like I’ve been home all along.
I’ve been able to connect on Facebook with friends whom I knew only during 2nd and 3rd grade. I was old enough to remember, but not old enough to keep in touch. It struck me that the quality, tone, texture, the feel, of their grown up personalities was exactly the same as their 7 and 8 year old personalities. I don’t have this same sense with friends I met after the age of 8. This has puzzled me.
Maybe after the age of 8, we just seek to be so much the same. I observe kids in malls, or college age and even older, dressing exactly the same, for example. Leggings, uggs and sweatshirts. Or, button down shirts with the collar up, jeans and high heels. Or, whatever. Or, maybe I just had friends with very unique and forceful personalities. In turn, it’s like parts of who I really am felt able to start filling in. They’d previously been fragmented in memory. It granted me this unanticipated sense of knowing. Undisputed recognition of these personalities, including mine, across time and space, made me feel anchored, tethered, to my own life.
Yesterday I read an article about schizophrenia. It talked about “auditory verbal hallucinations” and different cultural perceptions of “hearing voices.” The article discussed a range of such hallucinations, from “audible, crystalline voices that emanate from outside” to the phenomenon cognitive psychologists call “inner speech.” Even “inner speech” can be “acoustically more intense” for some than it is for others – from “loud thoughts” to “soundless voices.”
It’s only recently I’ve started to hear my inner speech. It’s very quiet. Of the soundless variety. Only since the loud cacophony of my ambivalence began to die down. The thoughts that seem to come from nowhere have always startled me and I shut the door on them. I strangled them in a mercy killing type of way. I’m comfortable only with inner speech that does not come unbidden. I use recitations and litanies like prayer beads. I think to remind myself that I’ve survived and it’s ok.
I thought about the re-awakening of my inner voice. It is so small. It comes when I formulate a request for guidance and am willing to receive it. My inner voice is usually no nonsense. It says things like “wait,” or “ask for help,” or “keep your mouth shut,” or “it’s not that bad,” or “this is not going to last forever.” It is so quiet, it could be very easy to ignore. But, when I listen to it, things always work out. Always.
My tiny inner voice talks quietly but carries a big stick.
Inspired by the WordPress Daily Post for October 22 entitled “Imaginary Friend.”