Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Persecution Complex

I think the main difference between having a persecution complex when you're younger and having one when you're older is acknowledgement. When you're young and naive and new to the world of persecution, you are positive you don't have a complex—you are sure it's true. People are, in fact, conspiring to judge you harshly, and the world really is out to get you. Fast-forward a decade or two, and you've got a lot more life experience under your belt. You are quite sure that you're too mature and secure in your own skin for persecution complexes, thank you very much. And then, one day, you realize you are knee-deep in one. This happened to me today. I have spent the past little while feeling frustrated and alone in some ways, and thinking lots of people were judging me and my family harshly. How could this be? I have tried hard to be kind and honest, and I'm pretty much an open book. Aren't people less likely to talk about me if it's easy to talk to me? I thought I had accumulated enough good will for people to give me the benefit of the doubt if they didn't understand my decisions, or something they heard about me or my children. But then you hear whisperings of things said by people who don't even know you, and the immortal words of Buffalo Springfield come true: paranoia strikes deep. After a few weeks of paranoia, you're in a full-blown persecution complex. So, here it is, but this time I'm admitting it to myself. I'm feeling a little persecuted by the world. I want to run away. So, what's the psychological antidote learned from all those years of life experience? Having been raised by my particular mom and grandma, it's not hard to come up with a bunch, and quickly: "Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I think I'll go eat worms!" "I'm sorry for myself, so sorry for myself." "There's only so much pity to go around. Best not to waste it all on yourself." I can sing these antidotes over and over to myself, and hope the persecution fever breaks. It will. It's silly! Shouldn't the very acknowledgement of it render it powerless? Ah, but there's a twist I didn't recognize. When I was young, I felt persecuted on my own behalf. That's just plain self pity. Now, I feel persecuted on behalf of my children, and my efforts to do the best by them. That's a new strain of the virus entirely. It's tougher to beat. It's still self pity—I'm aware of that. But it's a lot more potent. So what do you do? How do you shake it? I can't run away. And I can't let myself wallow.