I’ve had a lot of thoughts. Some of them pulling me in various directions, gnawing at the edge of my identity, begging me to change. Others were brief, like wind, fleeting as quickly as they arrived. I’ve had thoughts pull me from a deep sleep, forcing me to splash cold water in my 3 A.M. face, awakening me to the understanding that it was all in my mind. Just as I’ve spend whole days daydreaming about the bountiful abundance the future may hold for me.
They have always been there, as long as I can remember. I used to spend whole days, weeks stewing on anxiety, spinning thoughts into a thread that I would sew my mornings together with. This rumination was rarely productive, and most of the time out of my control. I remember spending the earliest years of my teenage career running, drowning out any empty time with myself. Life would jump from movies, to music, to video games, all in succession to prevent any time, any opportunity for my thoughts to take the forefront of my mind.
As age progressed, so did my inability to handle what occurred between my ears. Fits of rage would erupt into screaming matches, territorial wars drawing lines in the sand with my father. Instead of processing what was occurring in my life, I would ignore it, push it deep into my subconscious like a storage tank of everything I thought I couldn’t handle. When my brother began struggling in school, and in his home life, I stapled headphones permanently to my ears, turning my back so I wouldn’t see it as my problem. When my mother’s health began to fail, I preoccupied my mind with any external stimulus that would provide a buffer between the realization that I wasn’t a very productive member of the family.
Obviously, it is well known that pushing down all of our unhealthy thoughts only leads to negative consequences. I had a friend in highschool, who I would try and share what it felt like to hide from this part of yourself. I would explain it like a balloon, that once full of everything I pushed into it, it would pop.
I think now about a lot of things. I think about how seemingly inconsequential and small the problems we fret about turn out to be. I ponder on the realization that everything bad has a positive side as well, so maybe life is all in our perspective. I allow my mind to wander over the sore spots, the spots that once were cautioned taped off. I think about growing up in my childhood home, and if I had the power to change it, would I? I think about when (if) I have kids, how I will provide them a home where they feel safe, supported, and free to be themselves. I would fight the world to ensure that fear didn’t rack their brains, that they weren’t afraid of the parts of their mind that they didn’t know how to handle. But then I think about the person I have become, and how I wouldn’t have become this person if I wasn’t forced to grow, to change, if my childhood wasn't a trial by fire that in turn strengthen me. Would I change it if I could?
Towards the end of highschool, my defense mechanisms began to wear down, and life began another road of trials. The ongoing battle between parents sparked war #3, and I felt angry, betrayed by both sides that they dare pull me into it. My friend decided that there were brighter horizons, and that her ears did not need to be filled with the consistent, self focused, array of negativity chalked out of me. It didn't seem to be raining or pouring, but storming, as if the world decided that it was my turn to sit in the eye of the hurricane (Looking back, things were not nearly as bad as they seemed in the moment. But that is always how it goes).
Some psychologists have defined the fear of being alone as actually the fear of oneself. Reflecting back on my earlier time, it is obvious that I was afraid of myself. I was afraid of my inability to cope, I was afraid of what I’d find if I looked into the depths of my mind. I was afraid at the rage I built up towards my parents, afraid at the sadness that seemed to consistently course through my veins. I feared what laid inside, and therefore, I would fill every empty second with a stimulus.
I don’t think that I am alone in this regard. I have witnessed the daily cycles of grown adults in where they never spend a second alone in their thoughts. The morning is filled with news, then the car ride with radio or talk shows. Work is filled with clients, co workers, phone calls, etc. The car ride home is the same radio or talk shows. An evening at home is conversations and eyes staring at a television. Then bed, so that they can wake up and do it again. We fear what lies inside of us, and so we never allow ourselves to be alone with it. “One man runs to his neighbor because he is looking for himself, and another because he wants to lose himself. You're bad love of yourselves makes solitude a prison to you” (Nietzsche: The Spoke Zarathustra)
Maybe it is that we will realize that we don’t like our lives. Maybe we don’t like ourselves, who who we have become. Maybe we hate our job, but convince ourselves it is necessary, so we refuse to listen to that voice inside that tells us we can do better, we can be better.
I’m lucky that my storm hit me at such as young age. When all of the coping mechanisms ran out, and I couldn’t find another party to attend, or another girl to lie to, I had no choice. When I could no longer fill my nights with Nyquil induced slumbers, and my days with headphones, I was forced to come face to face with what I was running from all along: Myself. Like monks spending weeks in caves to reach enlightenment, I was forced to stare down my soul, to fight every ounce of me, and either accept it or change it.
I think now about the irony of it all. There is a song that I love by Sleeping At Last, where he says, “ It’s a cruel, cruel trick, how we find ourselves, when we lose everything else.” Maybe everything else is all of the distractions in life. Abraham Maslow coined the hierarchy of needs, with the end goal enlightenment, self actualization, or fulfillment, depending on your choice of word. Maybe this is what he meant when he said that we, as humans beings, can “not be fulfilled by other people” (Ernest Becker). It is a lie if anyone tells you that you can’t grow while alone. Meaning can be found, and we can grow as individuals, in the solace. It is deemed and well known by philosophers, that solitude for the mind is as essential as food for the body.
I now think a lot about who I want to be, and reflect on who I was in the past. I force myself to look within, to come to terms with what I can’t possible change, and to forgive others. I think that we all grow at our own rate, we all find peace at different stages in life. But in order to do this, in order to really look inside and find out who we are, we need time to question our thoughts, to roll around in the depths of our minds.
It is here, in the depths of my mind, where I begin to question what is true. I begin to question who am I? Who do I want to be? Where can I find peace? If we don’t spend time in the hidden quarters of our soul, how we will ever know what is in there?
“The fear of finding oneself alone -That is what they suffer from - and so they don't find themselves at all” (Andre Gide)