Self-Deconstruction

I suspect those around me think I am losing my mind. They may be right — I mean, if I am right — and in that case I am not qualified to judge the rightness of either of us. Alright, enough of that, I had something I wanted to say.

Self-deconstruction is the phrase I use to describe why I think I think they see what I think they see. I have have been using that phrase being relatively certain it describes what I am doing, but not really knowing what it means. I had a rather vivid experience of it today after a bath, and I would like to give it as an example.

The lights were off, and I had stuffed my pants in front of the crack at the bottom of the door to prevent any light from leaking in. I could only feel whether my eyes were open or closed, sight was not a thing. I usually take a black bath to deeply relax or meditate. This time, it was a little too hot, and I was rather full of caffeine so my body had a natural affinity for being tense.

Squirming around in the tub, I had a little conversation with myself about whether I wanted to get out of the bath. It went something like this:

Self: Self, I would like to get out of the bath now.
Self: But you don’t feel like going to bed yet.
Self: Oh, hmm, you are right. Ok, I’ll stay here.

Self: Hey wait a minute! This is uncomfortable and I’m not enjoying this.
Self: But you still don’t feel like going to bed.
Self: Right… I get that… hmm how to resolve this.

Self: Hey wait a minute! Who said I have to go to bed if I get out?
Self: Well what are you going to do then?
Self: Hmm, I could, ummm… mmm….
Self: See?
Self: Wait, I don’t have to answer that. I’m just going to get out now.

After this argument I had been jolted into a place of self-conversation, just kind of describing why I was doing each thing I did. I unplugged the drain plug “because that’s what I do when I’m getting out of the bath”, and I up I stood, to Self’s disappointment. As the drain blurped the bathwater down, I pawed for the towel I had so consciously placed on top of the toilet, and began to dry myself off, “because I don’t want to get water on the floor, to be courteous.”

I am typically not a terribly courteous person. I’m often lost in my own world, oblivious of the existence of others. But I am aware that not everyone is like that. I get the impression that my roommate is very often thinking of how he is impacting people around him. In a moment of egotistical superiority-confirmation I thought “and some people get consumed by that.”

While I can be awfully egotistical for long periods of time without noticing, criticizing others is one of the things that always jolts my thought process out of its self-serving little world. I almost unconsciously catch myself and try to apply the criticism to myself. Thus:

I am trying not to be consumed by anything.
Nonsense, we are all consumed by something.
You just can’t see what it is.
One could say that being consumed by something, simultaneously being aware and accepting of that, is the definition of “living in alignment with yourself.”
But who said living in alignment with yourself is a desirable goal?
Because it makes you happy.
But who said being happy is a desirable goal?

And usually once I get to happiness the deconstruction stops and the usual motivators, the way I had for relating to the world, for measuring “how I am doing”, all that stuff falls apart and I have this wonderful feeling of blankness. Yes “wonderful”, shut up, I know.

Sometimes it goes into evolutionary ideas: happiness is a desirable goal because it reflects control and comfort, which attracts women because it used to help for raising healthy children. But that starts its own all-too-familiar chain of deconstruction about goals, free will, and the meaning and dynamics of reproduction. It’s similar to the above, and similarly I am eventually left with blankness.

Blankness is an, ehem, goal of meditation, but I seem to stumbling on it by accident over and over. Just little ones though, meditation still has a stronger effect.

But this deconstructive trend is popping up in many aspects of my life. I suspect it makes it very frustrating to argue or discuss with me, because I compulsively deconstruct the terms of the argument until I am not certain the thing we are arguing about has any meaning — or anything has any meaning for that matter. I have no idea what the other person’s experience of this is (aware that others’ ability to have experiences is one of my beliefs).

For now, I’m just basking in the liberation that this mental state is giving me. I seem to believe that it will end sometime and go back to “normal”, but I don’t really have any justification for that. I’ve been intentionally pushing the boundaries of conventional sanity, trying to experience the world in a unique way… and the other night I had the frightening sensation that it might be possible to succeed, losing touch with what others call reality. Now that I am on this path, can I stop? If I hold on to my conventional “realistic” worldview, I simply notice myself holding onto something that is not what it claims to be and deconstruct again.

Kind of cool, kind of scary, kind of … blank.

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7 thoughts on “Self-Deconstruction

  1. As someone who goes through similar processess, I don’t think this is that uncommon among smart and creative people. Not to imply that I am smart or creative, just that in my experience many people good in both math and music tend to exhibit this exaggerated sense of self-observation.

    I don’t think it’s possible to lose ones humanity. Sure, rationally one can bypass the biological programming that is in us everyone. But trying to actually act according to this newfound guiding principle is often too challenging emotionally to bear. At least it is for me. At some point the rationality will break down as emotional control will kick back in.

  2. Living in alignment with oneself not only leads to happiness. I think it is good for practical reasons as well. My experience (or rather my lack of experience in being in alignment) suggests that an unaligned person spends a lot of time and energy trying to be someone else that who she really is. I consider this wasted time and energy. So being in alignment help focusing on relevant things.

    I don’t mean to imply that we shouldn’t try to change ourselves. But in order to change ourselves we must first find out who we are and accept that. Only then do we have a chance to figure out what changes are needed to become who we want to be.

  3. @Josef, “alignment with oneself” was a passing concept in a chain of value judgements, each which was built on another. “I think it is good for practical reasons as well.” — from which value system are you defining “good”? Also, someone who spends a lot of time and energy trying to be someone else is, in so doing, merely being who they are.

    All your value words: “good”, “wasted”, “relevant”, “should”, “needed” — these are all built on a constructed foundation. I feel this foundation crumbling, so those words do not mean very much to me at this time.

  4. I agree that this kind of thing is not so uncommon. But, of course, this has different levels of depth, and it’s hard to compare.

    As a younger child, I was concerned that if I managed to make a decision of true free will, then I would lose the illusion of controlling my body (which I imagined would keep behaving deterministically, apart from my useless decisions).

    It’s a silly idea, but at the same time, a common experience (for example when trying to decide to get out of bed in the morning). At those times the illusion of self is not very strong, at best being replaced by an illusion of double-self like the one in your post.

    At some point, you have to realize that you really do have the power to choose who you are. Not in the childish sense of an act of total free will, but in a powerful sense. Deconstructing the fractured self is often considered part of a process of constructing a unified self. It’s not something that can be finished, exactly, but getting out of the bath when it’s no good is a step in the right direction.

    What constitutes “good” is up to you to decide. (Of course I will tell you certain decisions are better or worse, according to my conception. (In fact, that’s what I’m doing. (Decision-ness does not imply meaning-less. (Or to put it a different way, meaning-ness doesn’t matter. (It is impotent. (Caring does not require epistemic justification. (Please don’t call my nested parens an Inception reference, why does everyone seem to think Inception invented nesting?)))))))

  5. @Abram, thanks for putting so nicely almost what I was going to say.

    From where I am emotionally right now my thoughts do not seem so weird. From where I was when I wrote this post the feeling was much stronger. “The other night” I mentioned it was almost unbearably vivid. They are all variations on a theme, and the difference is the power or importance I am giving them at the time, and how I am relating emotionally.

    It’s possible that I am just living and I have a mental program which is hoping very hard that I am doing more than that.

  6. In an earlier age I sought and experienced the void on several occasions. I enjoyed it because it was the acme of the belief system I had, yet at the same time it completely hamstrung the belief system causing the joy of its discovery. I found that once discovered, it never really leaves and that the mental sense of contradiction is always readily present to ignore. In my case it turned out to be always a junction rather than a destination. That is, transcending to a higher order place (think Rank-n vs. rank-2), and then arriving to a different lower order place.

  7. >>>Because it makes you happy.
    >>>But who said being happy is a desirable goal?

    next time answer: “Ok, you so smart, what goal is desirable?”
    So you expect “No goal is desirable” or “I found no one”, self2 can answer more concrete. That’s fascinating, because after that you begin to argue with self2 with changed roles.

    Self2 is often called “an animal”, most of meditation techniques are built to help dealing with willings of one’s animal inside.

    PS. One more. After I learned lambda calculus, i can think of “blankness” as of “(\x(xx))(\x(xx))”. Yep, we cannot define reasoning in terms of reasoning, that’s where animal brought you in. ;-)

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