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Monday, December 8, 2014

Fate, Dreams, and Reality

I remember the first time in my life I realized that things I had planned and assumed would automatically work out had taken a devastating wrong turn.

At the time, I was a relatively innocent young man enrolled in college who enjoyed being with my friends and living a "What? Me Worry?" day-to-day existence. A huge believer in fate, I assumed a natural course for my dreams was developing as I merely got up in the morning, attended classes, studied, and worked my modest-paying part time job.

Then, one day reality hit me squarely in the jaw with an unexpected left uppercut of sensibility that put me flat on my back. When I awoke from the initial shock and felt the excruciating pain, I realized I had just entered the realm of reality. Nothing had ever brought me down so hard, so quickly.

Feeling totally confused, I didn't understand my new feelings or even how I had lost my old world, but I knew my long-term relationship with my girlfriend, my plans for the future, my belief that good things always happen to good people, and my vast store of lost opportunities had combined to harden my view of life.

I began to see that I had to face my foes and my mistakes, find new routes to some kind of alternate success, and make decisions that would effect changes in my life. Doing so meant leaving a wonderful, carefree environment and never returning to my old "walking in Disneyland" outlook. I blamed myself for my new condition while the hurt in my gut and ache in my mind constantly gnawed at me, reminding me that enduring pain was to become part of this instantaneous enlightenment.

Many of my pleasant memories -- once good, old, dependable companions -- became bittersweet reminders of a lifeless "used-to-be." The past was no longer a place where I might dwell until the future arrived. I realized I had no assurance of a pleasant future. There was only the present, and the new reality I felt was cold, damp, and dark without the innocence that once contained my dreams.

I realize this post is vague; however, I believe the details, the names, and the facts don't really matter in the story as much as relaying the changes I felt. Suffice it to say I had taken wrong paths with love, wrong paths with college, and many wrong paths with pursuing adulthood. I had passed up opportunities that would likely have resulted in molding my bright providence.

The world was suddenly thrust upon me. Even with a loving family and many great friends, I realized I, alone in the world, had to accept responsibility for my life. I suddenly saw that no simple twist of fate was going to produce whatever I wanted; instead, I had been blindly walking straight into an ambush of risky proportions and stupidly believing "things just work out."

The only two things I could do now were to wilt into obscurity or step into the frightening forest of personal accountability. Yet, having lived so long as a rash and gullible soul who stupidly believed that some force of destiny would write me a favorable script, I became temporarily frozen -- nothing but a disbelieving object of inaction.

Today, as I look back with the perception of distance on my introduction to actuality, I understand this was also my first fall into deep depression and the beginning of my troubles with mental illness. Even though I can't relate exactly how these events combined to cause a breakdown, I can clearly see how this initial emotional reaction was the first of many, many to follow -- a great number being even more devastating to my nervous system. 

"The ego represents what we call reason and sanity, 
in contrast to the id which contains the passions."

(Sigmund Freud, 1923, The Ego and the Id)

As a child, I listened carefully, absorbed the necessary knowledge, and did everything I possibly could to internalize cultural rules, mainly taught by my parents as they applied their guidance and influence. Freud calls this the development of the super-ego from an earlier combination of the ego ideal and the "special psychical agency which performs the task of seeing that narcissistic satisfaction from the ego ideal is ensured ... what we call our 'conscience'."

(Sigmund Freud, On Metapsychology)

For Freud, "the installation of the super-ego can be described as a successful instance of identification with the parental agency," while as development proceeds "the super-ego also takes on the influence of those who have stepped into the place of parents — educators, teachers, people chosen as ideal models."

With a strong superego as a young man, I struggled with tempting egotistical tendencies to please my id's basic instinctual drives -- needs, wants, desires, impulses -- in realistic ways that would benefit me in the long term. My ego often caused me to conceal conflicts with reality and consistently contributed to my inflated sense of self-esteem. My early popularity reinforced my belief in fate. What an unfortunate view.

For whatever reason, my adult life was meant to be a war with my emotions, and these emotions suffered from a mental disease that periodically led to my instability. I eventually recovered from the first blasts of reality and set new courses for my life. Of course, I did this with the understanding that my own aberrant behaviors would never leave me but would continue to require medication and counseling.

I can honestly say I have never recovered from my egotism or from my lost dreams. Even though I do well on medication, I still often struggle in times of tension and quickly fall to find myself indulging my base tendencies. I hate this, and, of course, it causes pain for others I love. My apologies can never suffice, and I abhor blaming anything at all on my "condition." So, as is my usual custom now, I open a wound and let it scab over with time and a much harder exterior than I desire.  

Still living with the recurring memories of the past, I think often about days before a natural change arrived with the added baggage of mental illness. I sometimes wish so hard for the return of innocent days past even though I know the absurdity of trying to return to them. Someone once said, "A man without a future will return to his past." These days, at age 63, I do frequently indulge in reminiscing.

Is there a lesson in discovering your life contains wasted time and unfulfilled goals? I'm sure to a certain extent everyone has to deal with these problems. In my case, I believe taking a winding path and expecting to discover good things instead of a walking a straight to my dreams was very costly. The theme is while you are young, set your dreams, don't settle for less, and take significant actions to forge your own fate. You can't begin this too young, and while you are young, you have less responsibility to weigh you down along with the significant energy to endure a difficult quest.

From "To a Mouse" 

by Robert Burns

But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar'd wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear! 

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