I had an “aha” moment driving home from therapy today: I’ve Nazi’d myself!
That statement will probably take a little unpacking, so let me back up a bit …
Regular readers will know it’s been a tough few weeks. New friends, welcome! For your benefit, here’s a list of key lowlights: my best friend’s brother suicided; the hospital rotated my mental healthcare worker; and I realized I am incapable of working, and my partner and I must face the scary financial consequences of that.
Now, it would be nice if my mind could go, “Oh you poor thing – look at all the curveballs life’s thrown at you! I’m going to be extra sweet and coddling until things calm down again.” But no, the mind of a very depressed and anxious person – or at least this very anxious and depressed person – doesn’t work like that. Instead, it goes on a savage rampage of destruction.
My clever little logic-distortion machine comes up with flowcharts like this:
You’ll notice there are no branchings or choices; there’s a simple, “logical” path to the point of self-destruction, until – finally! – part of me wakes up to what’s going on and puts a stop to things.
Don’t worry, I didn’t injure myself; instead, my partner and I enjoyed a very constructive conversation. Almost 24 hours later, though, I got to wondering: What on earth was I thinking? How did I reach the point where doing myself a serious injury actually seemed like a viable option?
Obviously we’re not going to get to the bottom of this in a brief post, but after therapy today I had an insight. Or came up with a theory. Whatever. I had a thought. (I often find I’m at my wisest driving away from the therapist’s office, wishing he was in the car with me so we could discuss my revelations.)
I had made myself ‘other’. Instead of feeling connected to myself, instead of being united by self-compassion and impulses of self-preservation, one part of my mind had decided that the rest of me was somehow less than human, less deserving of the moral code which normally inhibits violent or hateful behaviour.
When have we seen this in history? When people in power want to persuade others to destroy a group. The Nazi leaders made Jews, homosexuals, gypsies and various other peoples ‘other’ and thereby made it acceptable to round them up and destroy them. In Rwanda, during the 1994 genocide, the ruling Hutu-dominated party made the Tutsi (and moderate Hutus) ‘other’, and between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people were slaughtered.
Yes, there’s a war going on inside my head, and I am both invader and invaded, perpetrator and victim.
What I would like to happen is for a great peace to settle in my mind. I was in Rwanda in 2007 and spent time among survivors of the genocide. They were very open about their experiences: who had been killed, and sometimes by whom – “my neighbour, him there”. The place I was in had made peace with their past, because they were trying to build a new future.
Can you believe that? Being able to live in peace beside a person who’d taken a machete to members of your family? I don’t know whether I could do it. However, that’s what I feel is needed inside my head right now: a truce. A dawning of compassion.
I see a lot of loving-kindness meditation in my near future, with myself as its focus.
Do you ever feel like there’s a war in your mind?