An Epiphany?

An Epiphany?

I recently looked up Erick Erickson in an old psychology textbook of mine from college & these thoughts came to me. I looked up Erickson because a young guy whom I work with is a therapist in neural linguistics & I thought he’d mentioned Erickson. I have had and still do have mixed feelings about psychology. I don’t really consider it a science and feel that a lot of it is bogus or pseudo “scientific” but I have respect for humanistic therapists like Maslow & Carl Rogers. I have long said that I get more comfort from philosophy than I do from psychology & that is because philosophy does not offer simple explanations & solutions to our complex problems like many ‘pop psychologists’ nor does it reduce us to lab rats like B.F. Skinner. I know I’m “screwed up” and have been trying to unravel & understand the seemingly glaring contradictions of my personality, character, & behavior, for most of my adult life. And if I had to narrow it down to what concerns me the most, it would have to be my lack of connection to people.

I have always felt that I’m a warm and loyal friend & many “friends” and strangers have told me that their conversations with me were some of the most stimulating conversations of their lives. Yet, no one, “friend” or family hardly ever calls me, comes over to visit me, writes me, or remembers my birthday? I’m not saying this because I want pity or sympathy but to illustrate the point that I am trying to formulate. My mother used to really bug me when she would say, “you expect too much out of people Rob.” I always countered with “I don’t expect anything out of people that I’m not willing to give myself.” And I have physically & verbally defended many people in my life so why aren’t people attracted to me or why don’t they care enough to even pick up a telephone? Am I too intense? Too judgmental? All I know is that I have been a loner or have felt separate from others for as long as I can remember. In addition, as I get older, this feeling of isolation is weighing ever more heavily on my spirit & psyche. I do not want to die alone with no one to even mourn my passing. Perhaps I am grabbing at straws but my cursory review of Eric Erickson the other day gave me this possible theory of why I am where I am?

“According to Erickson, a child develops a basic sense of trust during what Freud called the oral period, autonomy during the anal period, and initiative during what Freud called the phallic period. Failure to meet the developmental tasks of these periods leads, respectively, to mistrust, shame and doubt, and guilt.” (pg. 425 Psychology Today: An Introduction, Fifth Edition, copyright 1975, 1979, 1983) Now, in some respects, this could be seen as somewhat like a fortune cookie in that it’s so generalized but it does add up somewhat if you take into consideration what an aunt of mine, whom I detest, told me when I was somewhere in my early twenties. She said that the guy who’d last name I have i.e. he wasn’t my biological father, used to beat me terribly when I was just a baby & that I’d hide behind chairs or whatever whenever he or any other man came into our house. I cannot consciously remember any of this but I do know that I have always been slow to make friends or to open up to strangers. It takes me a long time to really trust someone but once I do trust them, I trust them completely and I’m willing to do just about anything to protect them. I have stood up against several guys at the same time to defend a friend or even a stranger. I am usually a very gentle, easy-going person and can take a lot of verbal abuse before I explode but my anger scares me. People who have seen me explode have told me that they did not recognize me or that I was like Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. And to be honest, it is probably that dark, savage side of me that has given me the confidence to hitchhike across the U.S. & land in Europe on more than one occasion with a one-way ticket & a hundred or so dollars in my pocket. I have gone into the most dangerous i.e. high crime areas, of whatever city I am in and will drink in the bars by myself.

On the other hand, deep down inside I truly believe that most people are good & that my heart is pure and therefore I have nothing to fear. And this too is why I will go & do things that many friends have thought crazy. When people hear my tales, they want to put me up on a pedestal and while this makes my ego feel good, it makes my spirit feel sad because it creates an artificial distance between us. What I would much rather is that people simply called me & invited me to hang out with them as “normal” friends do. I have never understood & often feel sick unto my soul as to why I have to continually beg people for their friendship or those who profess my friends, to simply call me on a semi-regular basis. The one person whom I feel a kinship to here in Portland is Phil and when he is drunk, he calls me his brother but even he only calls me when he’s drunk. We have lived together as roommates and I have been there for him verbally and physically against those who would insult or threaten him but when he’s sober, he has nothing to say to me?

However, I just noticed a book on top of Jeri’s China hutch which reminded me that I have successfully resisted perhaps one of the most powerful “cults” or groups that most people have never even heard of i.e. Gurdjieff, and as I have often described it, “they make Scientology look like the Mickey Mouse Club.” So, am I strong or am I weak? I really don’t know. Mistrust, shame, doubt, & guilt have been my companions for as long as I can remember. My mother had a series of boyfriends & husbands and all except one, I hated & feared. I learned to be very sneaky and to bury my feelings to such an extent that when my brother, Tim, died at the age of 18 due to a heroin overdose, my mom commented, “this is the second time in your life that I’ve seen you cry.”

As for the “shame,” I am not really sure what I feel shame about. Oh yeah, I feel shame for all the stealing I have done (mostly books). I feel shame, guilt, & blame for my brother’s death because I think it may have been because of me that he started shooting heroin? One night, my brother invited me and a friend of mine over to the apartment where his girlfriend was babysitting. My brother and my friend went to the store to buy some beer, his girlfriend and I kissed, and when my brother & friend returned, his girlfriend and me were upstairs making-out. My friend told me the next day that my brother’s face turned white when he realized what had happened. After my brother died, I tried my best to find out when he started shooting heroin & it seems to have been right around that time when I betrayed him. Since my brother’s death, I seem to cry at the drop of a hat. Gone are those days of John Wayne bravado or foolish machismo. I have done many other things that I am ashamed of but my responsibility in regards to my brother’s death is what haunts me the most. Maybe my aloneness is God’s punishment for the sins I have committed? All I know is that ever since my brother’s death, I have been searching the world & my soul in vain attempts to make some sense of it all. I cannot focus on material wealth or financial success because they just seem so much empty bullshit! Instead, I have been obsessed with at first esoteric knowledge then political insight so hopefully I could help to alleviate other people’s suffering. However, for all my efforts, I feel like an utter failure and that my fanatical search for knowledge has been a fool’s errand.

Why a fool’s errand? Because nobody seems to give a shit. I have spent thirty years searching like a mad monk. I have read thousands of books, which I have researched. I have listened to and taped thousands of radio broadcasts of some of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century. I have traveled extensively & listened & conversed with thousands of individuals about the meaning of life, politics, philosophy, psychology, etc., and here I am, 56 years old and living under my ex-wife’s roof, working as a teaching assistant in Special Ed & hating it, and feeling like a complete loser. My ex-wife but best friend, Jeri, has taken more shit from me than any human should have to. She has bailed me out of serious trouble more times, than I can recall and how do I repay her? By insulting her & stressing her out because, I will not even follow her requests regarding how she wants to keep her house. Jeri has accused me at times of having an overblown ego & perhaps she is right? Maybe that is how I have “survived” if you want to cal it that? Perhaps I’ve built an impenetrable wall of ‘ego’ around my fragile core and that’s why whenever I feel attacked, I retreat into my ego cave and reassure myself that I’m a brilliant artist whom no one can understand or appreciate???

Epiphany (a moment of sudden and great revelation or realization).

—Rob DeLoss, Dec. 29, 2008

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