I Am In Control
Odd title, I know. It was just a term that occurred to me when I was thinking about what to write this week. I wanted to write something personal, again. I enjoyed writing about things I loved, and I frequently write about how I feel – always in the negative mind – with poetry. What I rarely commit to is why I feel how I do. It’s much easier to deal with the outcomes of feelings, and sometimes (where clearly identifiable) to deal with the causes, preferably loudly and with many swear words. I do believe that process of expression is one of the most important ways of dealing with that ghastly human complex of emotion. At heart we are not in control of ourselves. There are many fascinating arguments about free will and determinism but it seems to me that the conclusion of determinism and at best the illusion of free will are inescapable.
You Know I Know You Know You, Or I
I think it’s the seeming inescapability of that which hurts the most. I want to believe that I am a free agent, that I act on my will alone (taking into account whatever details or information I have that leads me to act), that I could, admittedly with some trouble, explain my actions to myself and possibly to others. There’s no particular reason why our actions should be readily explicable to others – they aren’t privy to our internal cogs and grinding. One of my favourite things to hear is when we describe others as “acting out of character”. The assumption that we know each other well enough to make that assessment is amazing. All we ever get is the outward signs of internal sentience (and frankly I think those are misleading signs of intelligence in many people), and then only in those contexts that we have had dealings with those individuals. So to say someone is acting out of character presumes so much.
How Well Do You Know Yourself?
It interests me even more to think about whether I would ever describe myself as acting out of character. To do that I need to have a keen awareness of my behaviour, and I guess, some way of evaluating whether my actions are in keeping with the expectations and predictions I would make based on that past behaviour. It immediately begs the question ‘what do I think is my usual behaviour?’ What would I base an answer to that on? It’s difficult to analyse my own actions – I’m aware of external and internal influences on my activity, but can I draw straight lines between feelings and the resulting actions (or vice versa for that matter)? I’m not sure.
I suffer from a species of anxiety; I feel it grow in intensity throughout the evening if I am not entirely occupied in some engrossing and demanding activity. I genuinely am unable to determine the cause of that anxiety. It can follow a good or bad day, with the prospect of tomorrow being bright or dark; at a time when I am otherwise happy and content, or equally enraged and miserable. The anxiety does not appear to follow my mood; it does not seem related directly to the world outside either. So what does generate it? A lack of activity? Perhaps, though it also follows the successful conclusion of activity. It’s fucked up. An unhelpful summary!
I do not know what motivates my actions and decisions. In part I can synthesise a trail of logic in retrospect, but the presence of my anxiety serves only to undermine my faith in that analysis. Tonight proves to be a good example. I have had a disappointing day – just one of those days which started off with a surprisingly bright early awakening (as required for a slightly earlier start), a fairly gay jaunt off to work before it was punctured by the grim, resentful and uninterested faces I was thrilled to spend the day with (that’s somewhat unfair, but fuck ’em; this is about me). So I was a bit dispirited, but then left work to go into town for a little diversion, a spot of writing and to meet up with a friend before planning and enacting the evening’s improv class. That was all excellent. A pleasant drink in the pub, head home which was lovely; a bite to eat, a whiskey. Off to bed.
Failure And The Inevitable Failure of Will
It is now quarter to two: I am awake and possessed of that nervous anxiety which allows my mind to drift and busy itself with irrelevance and considerations I would mock during the daytime. I have of course spent many hundreds of nights like this, but since earlier this year I’ve been taking sleeping tablets (anti-depressants) which are frankly miraculous in their general ability to eradicate that anxiety and permit me to sleep. Having had a pint tonight I decided not to take them (I have “wisely” concluded that mixing these things is not a great idea)… so now I am awake, explaining my anxiety to the word processor and taking a late night dose in the hope of knocking myself out. I know that I can survive for weeks on very little sleep, but I’ve grown used to getting a lot more, and I like it.
So where is my agency in this? It seems limited to deciding whether or not to comply with medication – a literal prescription in itself. Am I just choosing the least worst of alternatives? I still cannot tell you from where this anxiety arises. Perhaps I ought to conclude it is the work of some external daemon who dwells in the space between mind and ceiling, working inexorably to stress and frustrate me. Better not – that’s the kind of thinking that sticks.