Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Beast

I have come to believe that one of the biggest problems many people face is facing down the Beast of Unworthiness. It has taken me a long time to recognize the Beast, because my Beast is kind of a lower-case, not-really-much-of-anything version. This thinking has been sparked in part by an article in the NYTimes magazine a few weeks ago that talked about genetic protective factors that come into play--or don't--with people who experienced abuse as children. That is, why is it that some people who experience abuse as children survive just fine, and others don't? The researchers have found genetic as well as environmental factors (what a surprise). In short, some people are more resilient than others--perhaps they had mentors, which would be an environmental factor, and/or perhaps they have some of these genetic protections. I've come to believe that I got extremely lucky in that lottery. That is, I have and had people who support(ed) me, especially when I was a kid; I wouldn't be surprised to discover that I have the genetic protective factors going for me; and, although I've had at least my share of troubles as an adult, I didn't have any of the troubles--sexual or physical abuse, for example, or an addicted parent, for another example--that seem to me to feed the Beast.

The Beast of Unworthiness is ravenous, and it will consume you. The Beast makes you think there's a substitute for the first thing you need and the thing you really need most, which is love and compassion for yourself. The Beast makes you think you can substitute your love for someone, or someone's love for you, for the love you need to experience for yourself. The Beast regards love for oneself as its enemy, and rightly so. Some people learn to love drugs and alcohol, thanks to the Beast. If/when they get sober, if they're not careful, they begin to search for love from someone else, in a succession of relationships that never quite answer the needs that the Beast creates. The Beast also makes you self-centered, because the Beast only cares about the Beast. The Beast is relentless, the Beast always wants more. The only way to kill the Beast is to learn to love yourself, to accept yourself--and thereby be able to love, and accept love from, others. And if you don't do that, the Beast will wreck every relationship you're in. Why? Because the Beast will convince you that no one can, or should, love you, and you will believe the Beast, because that's what you've always done.

I think we all have our moments of self-doubt and/or depression--I've had my share of both. But even my depression, long-lasting (maybe four years?) and tenacious as it was, seemed to me, even at the time, to be circumstantial. I was deeply in debt for a degree I wasn't going to get to use and that had taken me seven years to get; I was unemployed; I was being forced to change careers; my mentor had died; I was broke; I had no partner, and many of my close friends had moved away. Anyone who wasn't depressed in those circumstances wasn't paying attention, was my thought about it. Even then, I didn't attribute my circumstances to total unworthiness on my part: I figured a lot of it was plain old bad luck. A LOT of bad luck, all piled in one place, perhaps, but bad luck nevertheless. On the other hand, in part because of that experience, I have more experience in reinventing myself than just about anyone I know, and I also have a lot of experience in cobbling together an assortment of jobs and resources and friends and whatever, which also stands me in good stead. My point is that the Beast doesn't really live in me, and I can't tell you how lucky that makes me feel. I try to share what I have, as best I can--what else can I do? it's one of those resources that only increases if you give it away.

Speaking of cobbling together resources, my current plan, now that I've moved, is to start accumulating enough work on the side to build a cash reserve--and in the past 24 hours, three different people have offered me the possibility of freelance writing, editing, or proofreading work. I'll have to balance things carefully, of course, and I want SOME time to myself, but I work fast, so it could work out. Cross your fingers for me.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Dave, not craw said...

Yes, in case anyone was wondering, the beast does live within me. Possibly more to come.

7:57 AM  
Anonymous Larry Jones said...

Nicely told, Goldie. I see some of myself in there. And you are lucky, not to have to deal so much with this particular beast.

1:42 AM  
Blogger Emma Goldman said...

The older I get, the luckier I feel on this score.

5:11 AM  

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