Look into yourself. Examine the characteristics you assume to compose who you are. What do you see inside? Do you see optimism? Do you see shame? Perhaps there is nothing palpable you can make out. Perhaps it’s more of a feeling; of contentment, or disgust, or embarrassment. I’m sure you know the cause of these feelings about yourself (and if you don’t, maybe you will soon). If they’re negative, what does that feel like? Is it desperate? Is it empty? It’s not difficult to feel like this at some point in life, and I would conjecture that, for many, the presence of this feeling might linger in the background of all one’s choices and regrets.
In a previous story, The Something, I propose a process of sorts for dealing with those immensely intimate and personal things at the very core of our psyches that inhibit us from living a peaceful life. Our Somethings, I suggest, can be scrutinised and managed so that we might progress and become mentally stronger individuals. This never means that we might desert our Somethings, however; only that we may study them and accept them and live with them. Do they desert us, though? Do they leave?
To investigate this, we have to dissect the concept of a Something. It would be easy to throw out examples and have you, the reader, compile a concept out of the rubble, but that rather slapdash approach pays no heed to the experiential subtleties of living with suffering.
Imagine looking down upon a stretch of ocean with a thousand ships. Ferries and yachts and aircraft carriers alike all float on the surface, as if together in some common cause. While the sight of such varied vessel kinds is peculiar to behold, their proximity nonetheless seems to suggest unity. Indeed, it is under the water where the secret to their interconnection lies. Algae-ridden chains from each ship stretch taut to a singular point on the seabed, so deep that the blue of the water turns a cold, inhospitable black. There, an imposing, rusted, forgotten anchor sits, keeping the fleet from floating away. Inconspicuous it remains, ever-present it must be, and restraining it proceeds.
A Something, I think, is like this anchor of a thousand ships. Almost-buried in a frozen, bleak, unknown place in our minds, the unexamined Something hides from us. It silently puppeteers our superficial actions and behaviours from below, restraining our various traits from flourishing into the exploration of the Earth’s seas, all the while compiling the ships into a fleet of a character we know as ourselves.
Perhaps this is all a bit Freudian, or a bit speculative, or just a bit weird. After all, nobody feels like there’s some little demon (or whatever) inside them controlling their every choice. We feel like we have free will, and we’re quite sure we’re happy in that feeling of liberty of action.
The trouble is that there are reasons for the way we behave. On the surface, we might call these intentions; I did x because I intended to. I conjecture that there is something more, something underlying, that contributes to how we act — and that, specifically, it comes from a very central part of our beings. Why is it that you drink alcohol? Are you anxious in a social setting around others? Do you wish to numb a feeling of guilt or worry in the name of a good time? Are you freed by the release of inhibitions and the embrace of non-judgemental fun?
Yet, what is it that makes you anxious? Are you scared of what others think of you? Are you insecure about the way you look or act? Are you overly preoccupied with the potential outcomes of impossible situations?
Yet, what is it making you feel guilty or worried? Have you done something you regret? Are you ashamed of yourself and your past actions? Has someone done something to you that lowers your self-worth?
Yet, why do you want to feel freed of your inhibitions? Is the stress of day-to-day life too much to handle? Do you ordinarily restrain yourself in other social interactions? Are you fed up with the constant consciousness required to function as an adult?
The simple fact is this: there are underlying drivers of our choices of which we may not be aware. If you keep asking these introspective questions to yourself and, eventually, if you inquire into the right series of issues for long enough, you’ll find an answer.
I suggest the following: this answer is a Something. It’s an anchor, holding you back. It lies, stagnating and miserable, in amongst the barren, shivering depths of your psyche. Covered in limpets, strung with seaweed, it remains a stalwart opposition to your personal progress.
In every person, there is a place for misery. It is malignant and intoxicating. It is persuasive and reassuring. It is a seat to sit in. Your energy is burnt from the candle of flickering sorrow. If someone came to take it all away, would you let them? You couldn’t. It would rip you apart. It would uproot you. You would be dead as the soil without the miserable potatoes. You don’t want to be miserable. You need to be. It sustains you. You can’t open that box. It scares you. You’re petrified yet your inaction plateaus your worth. Don’t change and be miserable. Don’t be miserable and change. What’s more terrifying? Your vocation is the abyss. Hate yourself and live, go on. That’s life. Flicker, fall, fade.
Or, don’t. Open the box. Love the pain. It’s you, after all. There’s nothing else. No one else. You and the horrors inside your mind. Let it consume you and make you sweat. Let it eat you inside. Let it hate you. Watch it. Closely. Look at it as it tries to trap you in its malice. Learn how it enchants you and ensnares you and controls you. Feel it recoil at your curiosity, insulted by your indifference, cowering at your deconstruction. Hate yourself at your peril, but listen to your hate and fly. Your darkness is dreadful, but your potential is beautiful. Nurture yourself and live, go on. Inspect, conquer, soar.
You want the truth? I hate you. Not you, I hate in you — I hate the darkness that defines you. It’s so ugly. You’re not as magnificent as you could be. That’s terrible. It’s the everyman tragedy. The darkness invades, occupies, and I cry. Do something! Go and fetch it, catch it, quick! Quick or you’re dead. Go and get it. Then what? Then, maybe, it’ll go.