It probably hasn’t escaped your notice that this blog has been driving me nuts over the last couple of months. Not proper-need-medical-help nuts but ever so slightly losing the plot nuts.
Shock horror, it turns out that analysing your feelings and facing your every weakness is a recipe for crazy. There is now hardly a minute in the day when I don’t think – Why did I say that? Why did I do that? Am I self-sabotaging? Am I scared of being vulnerable?
I am over-thinking everything.
It’s making me unhinged. I now cry at almost anything – X Factor, Nationwide ads, a sideways look – and am fast becoming that person you’d back away from at parties. The one who gives a two hour answer to the ‘How are you question?’; an answer that involves therapy speak about my childhood and inappropriate details about my issues with men.
A couple of weeks ago, I met a woman at a work drinks and started a ten minute ramble about the blog and how weird this year has been. She didn’t beat about the bush.
‘Self-help books only serve to make neurotic people more neurotic,’ she said.
‘Why on earth do you need someone to tell you how to live your life? Can’t you figure out how to do it yourself?
At that moment, I really couldn’t come up with an answer for her.
My sister’s patience is wearing thin. The other night she mentioned that she’s been putting off making an appointment to go to the dentist. ‘But WHY are you avoiding it?’ I asked.
‘Can we not turn this into a counselling session?’ was the reply.
Mum has suggested, nicely, that perhaps I’m thinking about things too much. She’s right, I’m drowning in my thoughts. And it’s not fun.
And far from helping it seems that the more I look at my flaws, the more I have.
I could spend a whole year addressing my money issues alone – and I didn’t even realise that was one of my problems. I haven’t even got into men yet! Let alone my fear of confrontation, the crazy voice in my head that tells me everything I do is a total failure, my fear of planning/commitment…
I now long for the days when I thought happiness lay in a pair of new jeans or being a size ten. There’s a reason the whole work/shop/eat/drink/forget approach to life is so popular – it’s easier than this. And actually, maybe it’s no worse for you.
One of the argument against self-help is that it gives us unrealistic expectations about how good our life should be – and I now think there’s truth in that. Although there have been moments in this year when I’ve felt so proud of myself – chatting up the Greek, doing the stand-up comedy – I’m frustrated with how slow my progress is. I’m beating myself up about self-improvement in the same way I used to beat myself up over not being good enough at work.
The other argument is that if any self-help book worked we’d buy one and that would be it, we’d be cured! As it is people who buy self-help are likely to buy a new book every 18 months. Every eighteen months? I’ve downloaded five last week. The more self-help I read the more I want to read. It’s like wine – one glass (book) is too many, twelve is never enough.
My brain right now is a sea of affirmations and slogans. It’s overwhelming.
And it’s not just books. My friends don’t get a moment on my Facebook feed – it’s too full of quotes from the Dalai Lama and someone called Chocolate Socrates (I have no idea who he is but he sends inspirational quotes five times a day). I swore when I started this blog that it wouldn’t be filled with inspirational quotes, written in italics set against a mountain backdrop – but now those quotes don’t seem so bad to me. I’m going to the dark side… I’ll be burning incense soon.
My inbox is just as jammed, I’m getting email alerts from someone called Miss Thrifty, offering me helpful ways to save money by re-using parmesan rinds (?!!) and emails from The Universe, – no really – who sends me mystical messages every day . Today it wrote:
‘Marianne, nothing is ever lost in this adventure of all adventures. The lessons and discoveries of every single life, no matter how large or small, difficult or easy, are added to the whole. Like stones in the base of a pyramid, they permanently raise and forever support every manner of adventure that follows. And so it is that the hearts of those who came first continue to beat in all subsequent generations forevermore.’
This is the kind of opaque gobbledygook that now fills my head. I dread to think how much time I’ve wasted reading this stuff. Productivity was never my strong suit, but it’s now fallen through the ground. I am getting nothing done because I’m too busy contemplating my navel.
John C Parkin, of F**K It therapy, says there’s a left-hand side of the brain and the right. The right is the more woo-woo, intuitive, trusting gut, feeling side while the left hand side makes a plan, sticks to it, gets things done, uses logic etc.
Most poeple spend too much time in the left hand side and not enough in the right but actually I’ve been spending WAY too much time in the right.
Brene Brown says that it’s important to feel your feelings but she also says that its too easy to over identify with them, so that you get caught up in them and swept away by them. I’ve been feeling way too many feelings and they’ve been running me. I’ve been self-indulgent.
I need to get back on solid ground, make a plan, get back on track with the schedule of this blog.
So to that end I am going old-school with my next book: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. It’s an old-school book that looks more like a text-book than a self-help book – there are diagrams and everything. Not an angel wing or affirmation in sight. I’m hoping it will be as bracing as a cold shower.
Tomorrow I’ll wrap up Brene Brown, then Thursday I’ll get onto being Highly Effective. Oh yes.