Occasionally one of my friends writes something that I find truly interesting or outstanding. This is a short essay written by a friend of mine and posted with her permission which I found provocative and interesting, particularly in the discussion of “hidden keys.” I think the essay speaks for itself, so I’ll provide no further introduction.
Understanding who I am has always been almost instinctual for me. Not the understanding itself (certainly not!), but the drive to achieve it. In the past I have felt alone in my pursuit of conscious self awareness. The culture I spent my childhood immersed in certainly does not promote much introspection. My mother and father were rarely seen apart from the television set on the seldom occasion they were not dutifully acquiring currency through whatever means of employment. Why then do I continuously beat my head against the “hows” and “whys” of perception and my own existence when everyone around me seems perfectly content to float through life from one television screen to the next until their eventual demise? What sets me apart from the masses? I believe the answer to that is a tendency toward existential thought.
For a long time I have felt tormented by the confusion of my childhood experiences. I have been a broken person. Early in my adolescence (and throughout my teen years) I employed heavy drug use and the application of agony through manipulated negative circumstances to block out or amplify the vestiges of a nightmarish upbringing. My need to completely shield myself from the intense pain was sometimes countered by an utterly baffling compulsion toward self harm or the affliction of self harm through carefully orchestrated circumstances (IE relationships with people who sought to do me harm, dangerous situations or situations which left me vulnerable, etc). As this compulsion toward self harm and negative interaction continued it became apparent that I’d developed what I call “an addiction to suffering.”
As I entered young adulthood I abandoned drug use in favor of the active pursuit of emotional misery. Why? Well, partly because I’d found that torturing myself (or better…finding a skilled tormentor) produced a far greater high than any street drug could even come close to producing. But, more so, I quickly discovered that through my blinding agony and grief I was able to reach intellectual and emotional highs never before experienced. I was somehow allowed access to what I eventually defined as “hidden keys” within myself. As I gained access to these keys I was able to unlock aspects of myself previously unexplored, unidentified or unknown to me. On the flip side..I felt a tendency toward emotional and intellectual stagnation in the absence of abuse (self inflicted or otherwise). It became an obsession to relentlessly pursue the greatest possible infliction of harm onto myself in spite of or perhaps BECAUSE of the potential risks involved.
Ironically, the eventuality that came of my aggressive self punishment was a sense of well being and a rapidly growing and shifting sense of perception. I was gaining a profound sense of understanding through the experience of hardship and pain. I began to interpret my experiences with a clarity and transparency previously unavailable to me. It was incredibly liberating.
As I made more connections through my heightened sense of understanding I became aware that others were defining their existences based almost entirely on the profundity of their individual human experience. Many of these people had outlined the importance of suffering in gaining access to the “hidden keys” within themselves that allowed them to unlock doors to their true identities. In addition to the importance of understanding I became familiar with a sentiment of responsibility or duty to pursuing meaning in ones individual existence. This concept came as a revelation to me and I felt absolved of the oppressive guilt of my early shortcomings. I began to feel empowered by my experiences. Instead of pursuing emotional freedom and intellectual expansion under a stack of heavy masks or a black veil I felt I could begin to set those instruments of stagnation aside and finally explore all the exciting and terrifying possibilities of my future selves.
I can only hope that going forward my knowledge of existentialism and other philosophies will expand as my understanding and experience also expands. The concept of existentialism and my awareness of the existence of existential thinkers and their philosophy has brought a sense of clarity and eased the pain of isolation through uncommon thought. I’ve gained insight to many great minds through my discovery of existentialism as an existing concept and hope that their wisdom can help me to define my own existence.
– Helena Brevity