I am a habitual emotional self-harmer in the sense that I have some strange addiction to unrequited affection. It’s always been the way, from my time at school to university to now. You try to fill the gaping void with all sorts of distractions and pleasures but ultimately the chasm still remains. It’s self flagellation of the soul, and you think I’d learn before letting desires, crushes and stronger feelings consume me and leave me a melancholic grump until I find the next hit of dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. It’s a vice I can’t seem to let go of, deep rooted like Japanese knot weed that suffocates and ruins a perfectly balanced garden.
It’s made me very good at ruining friendships much like the song “Jenny” by the Studio Killers (great song, I’ll link the Spotify at the end). Yet all of my actual relationships have formed with people in the nether zone of having feelings for another. I thought I’d learned but apparently not. It’s becoming a thing I’ve got to live with like my height or ginger bits in my hair. Can being a completely hopeless romantic be cured? I always thought I was the Creed Bratton of The Office US, living my life with my own little adventures but some days it’s like I’m shamefully Michael Scott.
Today, I’m fairly certain I killed a friendship that’s become very important to me because of the icky feeling. I’m going to have to live with that. Feeling like a twat on a Naked Attraction or Take Me Out making a fool of myself once again and taking for granted meaningful friendship, overcome with a strange pull to make things complicated within my own mind. This friend apologised to me. It’s like saying: “oh I’m sorry because it’s my fault that you are sat there smashing your face on a brick for no reason.”
Times like this, I feel like I’m a bad stoic, not even a stoic – the rational mind lost to ether. I have this feeling in my chest and numbness on my tongue. I don’t know what it means but it’s more familiar now than it’s ever been the countless times before I’ve felt it.
I have a feeling that destiny is telling me repeatedly that now is not the right time for feelings. Or that destiny is telling me that there is never going to be a time for these feelings.
“Look at causation stripped bare of its covers; look at the ulterior reference of any action. Consider, what is pain? What is pleasure? What is death? What is fame? Who is not himself the cause of his own unrest? Reflect on how no one is hampered by any other; and that all is as thinking makes it so.” – Meditations 12.8
It’s a vice, isn’t it? A pleasure seeking of the mind and heart, constantly in conflict as the yin and yang. In these moments, the desire unbalances and shakes the foundations of the still lake, disturbing the delicate ecosystem within. To be a stoic is to accept being alone. This has roots in my own outsider syndrome meaning that I prefer close one-to-one relationships rather than large groups. Yet it’s a double edged sword and I need to learn to accept. I need to accept the need to control and regulate this facet, this flaw of my own human condition; be contented to live without. Rocks don’t need someone’s hand to hold.
“Another saying of his [Epictetus]. “We must discover an art of assent, and in the whole field of our impulses take care to ensure that each impulse is conditional, has a social purpose, and is proportionate to the value of its goal. We must keep absolutely clear of personal motivation, and at the same time show no disclination to anything outside of our immediate control.” – Meditations 11.37
Infatuation with anyone or anything is an emotional self harm, is my conclusion. Passion is a hop, skip and jump from obsession. Desires should be directed to virtuous goals not cloying needs for companionship; imposed ideas and ideals on another human being that they neither can or want to live up to. In reflection I know, it sounds very nice guy but I disagree with that as to say that it’s a duty of acceptance. Being alone in the self, not spiritual connection to the universe, is a reality like death. To reject being alone, to fear being alone in the romantic sense is like fearing the night, rejecting the sky.
I look out my window and see stars. Would they be anymore beautiful if were to admire them while holding hands with someone? No – they don’t care, they twinkle all the same.