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EP Has Done More For Me Than Therapy

I need to admit this. Like any relationship it has taken time for things to come to the surface. The simple act of writing itself is perhaps half of it, especially for me. But I need to give EP more credit and stop pretending to be a perfect hermit. My attitude to this website is changing, and I’ve been pretending too many things to myself, and especially to others. The weekend before last I tried to quit EP and I wrote an impulsive and defensive goodbye story. In doing this however, what I soon discovered was that what I most needed to quit is showing off and trolling. Quitting EP is something for the future to decide.
When I first came here nearly sixteen months ago I was just coming out of a minor psychotic breakdown. I was very lucky. Mine was not the kind of ongoing psychosis that dissolves the mind and leaves the ego wrecked and spinning, incapable of presenting a rational face to the world. It’s true enough that in the pit of my crisis I brushed up against death, that I caused my loved ones great anxiety, and that many important people thought me crazy.
Yet despite all these things my psychosis was not severe or lasting. It was something that accelerated a dramatic shift in the structure of my ego that I desperately needed. This in my opinion is the adaptive function of psychosis; an accelerated transformation of attitude. Given however that the kaleidoscopic and frenetic merry-go-round of psychosis cannot be escaped nearly so easily as it is entered, I cannot in good conscience recommend anyone actively seek such a state. The ego that one discards in a psychotic state is the very thing one needs to step back into the everyday world
I make this rather dramatic point in my introduction because, in behavioural terms, my activity on EP was the single biggest agent in my recovery. It allowed me to project away from my personal social world much of my significantly unconscious intellectual aggression, and so make it more conscious. For although this philosophical shadow of mine had made me a fearsome and relentless interrogator of the truth, over the years it had come to dominate my identity, and it made me ridiculous and ill in many ways. Yet with the poetic irony typical of life the thing that most of all lead to my breakdown was the same thing that brought me back.
When I came to EP I was already somewhat conscious of all this, and my consciousness of it slowly grew as I cavorted about in front of this electronic mirror. Yet consciousness is a fickle and deceptive thing, a tiny shard always ready to masquerade as the whole object. So along with my sense of liberated play, I indulged my pride, my vanity and my will to power.
Now there was no terrible sin in this. Trolls were usually my favourite targets and I was never malicious or a stalker. If occasionally I was an outright bully it was with [at least partly] the intention of provoking others to be more honest and thoughtful. And of course I had first to flaunt my arrogance and intellectual ambition long and nakedly to be able to see them as others do. There in black and white on the page, as it were. However there was no good in my pretending I was more fair and righteous than I was.
Which brings me back to last week when I tried to quit my identity here as turtlesplash. I can’t say precisely what lead me to suddenly pass beyond boredom with my antics here and to experience outright disgust with myself. It had been creeping toward crisis point for a while, but two separate incidents seemed to be the catalyst for making this problem something I could no longer ignore. One was being blocked by a rationalist intellectual man after a short exchange. This in itself wasn’t terribly unusual, but troubled me unusually in that I felt strangely sorrowful, even guilty about it. The other was my experiencing my first tangible EP crush upon a particularly sharp, dark, and honest woman, towards whom I still feel an irrational impulse to better understand, and to unburden [if not humiliate] myself.
The incident with the man touched me in the more obvious way because even in the past such things never did more good than giving me a shallow feeling of conquest. His blocking me without my stalking or abusing him, and offering no rational argument of his own, proved he lacked the courage of the convictions he claimed [with me at least]. But so what? I still provoked him with my arrogance and disdain and produced in him the very reaction I wanted. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. Yet I don’t much enjoy the bang and kick of the rifle anymore.
The woman was more interesting. I met her in much the same way but she was less pretentious and was championing different, more personal and less noble truths than the man. However she rarely over-reacted to my insightful provocations and was not easily lead into Socratic traps. She would argue back with wit and insight, and with impeccable manners. On the few occasions that she was painted into a corner, she would acknowledge the limits of her own reasoning as well as the flaws in her own spirit. This disarmed me more utterly than any deletion, blocking or the most withering intellectual critique. When she began to ask me simple but penetrating personal questions relating to the problems we discussed, I grew a little dizzy.
So I think the other week when I tried to run away from EP what I was really running away from was the truths these two events were thrusting into consciousness. I was pretending to myself that I was acknowledging them and that EP had discharged all its requirements for me, but this really wasn’t so. Too often when we think we are acknowledging a truth all we are really doing is immunizing ourselves against its penetrating any deeper. The guy was a stranger to me and was made into an enemy by my own projections. The woman I know much better but still hardly at all. She touches something more primal and broken in me, and something I can’t easily escape. If she has little more to teach me then someone not unlike her will soon appear to finish the lesson, because her avi represents for me an archetype of Woman that I haven’t come to terms with.

I’m not humble or still enough yet to manifest my own destiny, and EP hasn’t finished with me. It is however time for me to stop spending most of my time on this site splashing about in Q&A as if I was in the kiddie-pool. My ambition has long been to writing, and my power with language is one of my greatest gifts. I have to focus that energy. It is still my conscious hope that EP shall become a stepping stone to greater things, but I have to earn that first by bringing more consciousness to my writing. I write for myself more than others, but as small as my audience is, I need you. Not just for feedback but to better understand my own need for an audience, and what it is that it represents for me.

Of course lessons in humility only end when we die. It is time for me to spend a little more energy translating my ideas into language that is easier for other people to grasp. It is time for me to practice greater patience. Time for more reading and listening to other people. For learning about others in their own terms, not merely in reaction to me. Because as much as I love power, I also know that without truth and love all power is ephemeral. And I’m incredibly grateful to EP and all of you for helping me come to terms with this.


Postscript, 20 March 2013.

It's been over a month and I'm about to backslide a little. Rereading this self-declaration i can see my ego is still trying too hard to dictate the terms of its own abdication.

I'm being too lazy [or restless or cowardly] to write proper stories, and I owe this website a couple that are already half written in my head. I think I'll get there soon. I also haven't been any friendlier to people here [I've just mostly been absent]. My time away has also reminded me of the authentic elements in my fairly philosophical trolling. I'm sure I soon won't be able to resist returning to that kind of play at some level, presumably with slightly more consciousness.

My tack won't entirely revert to my first course though, I'm sure. Or as sure as I can be. I don't know what will happen of course but i can feel the direction things are moving in, and the pattern seems to make sense. I've projected much of the animus of my philosophical intellect into this avatar. However after 18 months of living with this identity in an online community turtlesplash himself is experiencing a faint echo of the original breakdown [described above] which brought him into being. Perhaps my relationship to EP is only deepening, even as i continue to use it more as a mirror than anything else.

Writing in more common language is something that might come later. I have to feed myself before I can try to feed others.
turtlesplash turtlesplash 41-45, M 2 Responses Feb 11, 2013

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I like the authenticity/honesty of your story.

thanks - i wanted to go into the details of my personal disillusionment with psychological counseling, because the title of this story is no mere exaggeration - but that's a whole other story