It’s early morning here in Japan, and I woke up at 5 suddenly, even though there was almost no noise to wake me. The mind was racing though, primarily in regards to endless “what if” scenarios and what to do in those moments. I used to think that was quite stress inducing and tiresome, but nowadays I use it more as a signaling that I need to think on some particular things that those thoughts are referring to – maybe not the thought precisely, but something antecedent to it. In other words, its root cause.
Through that I end up being pretty chilled out afterwards because my demons are effectively dead. I went Doomguy on temporary thought trains and ripped out the beating heart of rationalistic whirlwinds of stupid. It’s a necessary thing to do here and there because it’s necessary to keep your thinking clean and calm. It’s easy to become a crazy rationalist filled to the brim with conspiracy theories. Happens to the best of us, even nobodies like me.
Anyway, my impending madness is not the point of this blog post – demon killing is. What do I mean by “demon killing”?
Well, you could take it as a recommendation towards Doom, because Doom is a pretty amazing game (albeit Quake 3 is peak ID I think), but I’m talking more about the kind of demon’s that keep you up at night, torment you during the day, and attack you suddenly for no reason while you’re enjoying an ice cream – and no, I’m not talking about your wife.
I’m talking about the past – specifically, shitty events that happened in your past.
Everyone has shitty events in their lives – whether it be literally shitting your pants while surrounded by other student’s in class when you’re twelve (true story! Traumatic at the time, hilarious now), being assaulted, losing a loved one, etc – everyone has some kind of event that has caused them some kind of grief.
These are events and stories to many, but can end up becoming some really nasty demons in people’s lives. They torment people’s present living, whether it be through panic attacks, anxiety, depression, etc. Some people seem completely alright in dealing with these things and just moving on, others not so much. Many people seem to have difficulty letting go of whatever past event transpired in their lives.
Personally, I don’t – or, not anymore at least. What changed?
My thinking changed. I’ll explain.
When I was younger, I used to always think back to bad events in my life and focus on them as big things that transpired. Things like the whole sharting in the middle of class tormented me for years – it was a pretty delicate time given it was around puberty after all. I actually distinctly remember having pretty significant anxiety after that for several years, worried to hell that it’d happen again, with phantom shits flying out my ass like cans out of an angry vending machine.
It tormented me and caused me to create endless what if scenarios in my head, over and over again. It kinda sucked, but what changed was eventually, I just saw it as kind of funny. I ended up looking at the situation and finding that while it sucked, it was also ridiculous and a story I can tell to others comfortably, especially over eating chocolate cake. Makes for good dieting material.
Humor aside, I killed the ‘demon’ by realizing I was giving it all the power by letting it chase me. By seeing it as something I want to run away and hide from, I gave it ‘legs’ to find and haunt me over and over again. By instead walking up to it and pointing at it, calling it just a story in my life I could share, it suddenly became just that – a story. One that I owned.
There’s mounting evidence in psychology journals that talking about events to people helps us restructure how we view those events – we start off as it being a mountain, but over time it becomes a mole hill through storytelling.
I think that is quite accurate, but one thing I don’t like is the endless repeating of these events to therapists, with zero effort made by said therapists to tone down and normalize the actual story. There’s no humor, no objectivity, no removal of adverbs, adjectives and intense hyperbole – it’s just “compassionate” understanding and listening. It’s part of the rules of counseling too – you’re not supposed to give advice and you’re supposed to remain completely neutral and objective.
Fuck off, I don’t like that – and it’s part of why I just don’t like that industry in general. Everything is about sharing one’s “traumatic experience”, “my trauma”, “my scars”, “wounds”, “heartbreak”, “shattering”, “burning urethra” and other overtly descriptive crap. How about toning down the words used and just calling it a story in your past? Or maybe just getting angry at the situation and taking action to make a better future?
That’s what these experiences are, stories – and there’s no shame in them. Perhaps you may feel ashamed over actions you have done – I certainly have felt it – but that’s part of what “good” stories do. They tell you something, and then you learn from it.
Your life experiences are meant to be about learning lessons, not just for experiencing and endlessly holding onto. When I say “good” stories, I don’t mean that the experiences were “good” for you – but the lesson learned can be. If you said something horrendous to someone you care about and felt deeply ashamed of it, what did you learn from that? Why not confront the demon of shame and kill it?
Why not? And if it’s hard to do alone, why not share it with a demon-slaying friend? It’ll make for an interesting story between the two of you and help you see it for what it is – a demon that you kill and gain experience points from. Get angry, upset, sad, teary eyed or whatever if you need to – then get on with it.
Look, I’m not saying your experiences, whether traumatic or not, are not “serious”, and a minority of people really do need a lot of work in therapy due to some very, very harsh experiences – but right now, I think most people take their past way too seriously. It’s a symptom of thinking you’re far more important in the world than you really are – you’re important to you, and to some people, but not everyone. Most people just don’t care about you.
That said, you share those experiences with the people who do care about you, kill whatever demons lay in those stories, and then go on and make new chapters. Your past doesn’t define you, you define you. The past is for learning and storytelling, it’s not for reliving. That’s the wrong way to think about your experiences.
I went from being a person who thought the world of his past experiences and trauma to a person who thinks the world of his current life and the people around him. I shifted what defined my life to what I do now and what the future brings instead of what I did in the past and how it shapes me. There’s a big difference there.
The past still matters to me. I still sometimes think about exes and have both nice memories and also ones of mistakes and regret. I also sometimes think about crappy experiences like the sharting adventure and have a laugh at how silly it all was.
There’s a lot more that I think about, but they’re just stories to me now – stories that are part of what makes my life mine, and what has given me the wisdom I have. Life is alright really – I own my shit.
I killed my demons. Maybe you can too.
Think about it.
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