Coded gray.

Saturday 27 October 2001


Pic of the day: "Some people are afraid of being naked, even alone in their own home." Not I, obviously. But that doesn't mean you can just stare at my chest!

We are all different

I have reflected more over why some people are happy and others unhappy, when they are not in extreme situations of pain or pleasure. And the phrase turned around in my head: "All other things being equal ..." All other things are never equal, are they?


When I grew up, psychiatry was still in the trench of the all important mothers. It was assumed that a psychosis such as schizophrenia was caused by "cold mothers" who sent mixed signals to the baby. The baby felt accepted and rejected at the same time, and grew up to become schizophrenic. And I'm sure if you asked their mothers repeatedly if they had been cold mothers and sent mixed signals, they probably would confess eventually. Blame it on the women! At least they did not say outright that it was caused by the evil eye ...

Today we know that psychoses are accompanied by changes in the brain. In the case of schizophrenia, these changes are rather easily visible. So there goes the theory of the ambivalent mothers. It has also been a while since I heard that homosexuality is caused by dominant mothers and weak fathers. There is even doubt about the theory that multiple personality syndrome (or dissociation, or whatever the politically correct name is this year) is usually caused by incest.

Still, it can't hurt to have good parents. It is hard to say how much genes count and how much the environment, since most people still grow up with their parents. There is a tendency that children who grow up with both their parents do better in school than those who grow up with only their mother. But in these days, single mothers are only rarely widows. Mostly they have kicked the male out of the home, or he never lived there. It is entirely possible that people who remain married (or some reasonable facsimile thereof) are already more intelligent on average. Certainly when you talk to divorced people, they usually make it sound like there has been at least one moron in the family ...


Quite apart from the genes, it is probably a good thing to have parents who love you, especially if they do so with some wisdom. I was myself lucky to grow up with two parents who loved me. It is entirely possible that they loved me unconditionally, but I don't think I believed so at the time. I had a good reason to doubt it, too. But luckily, the imaginary condition was easy to fulfill: To be smart.

You see, I had an uncle who lived in a room upstairs. He never came out that I can remember, until the day he left for an institution. I do not think he meant anyone harm, but I guess he could easily have harmed one of us children by accident, and more easily himself. He could not speak at all; given that he later acquired manual skills, I suspect that he might have been at least in part autist. But the impression I got, not that we ever talked much about him, was that he was severely retarded. He may have been that too. Anyway, such were the times in which I grew up, that retarded people were hidden in the attic. I must have known deep down that this would happen to me too if I wasn't smart enough.

Even as an adult, I feel nervous around clearly retarded people. It just feels creepy, kind of like having a big spider in the room. And after I one day by accident saw my uncle's face in the window, I remained scared of windows for many years, but only when I was outside them or it was dark. When I saw my face reflected in the dark windows, I felt an irrational fear. I guess it was my inner moron staring back at me ...

I mention this just to show that however great your genes, it takes little to unbalance you in some way or another. Other children have had other experiences, each of us slightly different. I know some people for instance are afraid of small rooms. They don't take the elevator (neither do I, usually, because stairs are healthier, but these people panic in elevators). They don't close the door to the bathroom. (This can be really impractical at the workplace.) They don't think clearly in a small closed room, like an office. (I guess this explains some things too.) Others are afraid of flying, or afraid of being alone, or afraid of crowds, or afraid of people in uniform, or afraid of being naked, even alone in their own home. There are all manner of strange twists to the human psyche.


A main source of contentment and happiness in my life is my religion. Again, I guess I have been "lucky" in this. Christianity teaches that God is like a heavenly father. But not all people have had fathers of the type that God would like to be associated with, I guess. I don't know how this would interfere with people's faith, if they grew up with the idea that their father was evil and did not care for them at all. Perhaps the father archetype is so solid in our collective psyche that they would keep that separate from the unlucky instance of their earthly father; I don't know. Frankly I am a bit worried that christianity is already being colored by the image of a father as someone who lives far away and sends money.

Other people may have had bad experiences with one particular religion or religion in general. Relatives that abuse them in God's name, for instance. It is not entirely unheard of. It won't be easy for these people to draw comfort and strength from their faith.

The same goes for other sources of happiness. Many people for instance have had a bad start for their sexuality, because of terrifying things that happened in their childhood. Or to a lesser degree because they just came out with a wrong start in their puberty, and had experiences that convinced them to abandon that part of their life entirely or twist it to something dark or painful.

And don't get me started on the trench war between modern humans and food. Women in particular, but it's spreading to men too. How can people feel that their life is full of happiness and fulfillment if every bite they take is tinged with fear and guilt and shame? Now that's a whole story in itself. Perhaps you can find a better description of that in someone else's journal?


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