When we’re children, most of us have a lot of chutzpah, which is a Yiddish word meaning audacity or fearlessness. In the context of a loving and warm environment, we develop the belief that it is our duty to speak from our hearts, to share our ideas, our sorrows, our frustrations, our joys, and our expectations with the world. At that juncture, the universe seems to present us with a positive feedback loop, from which we come to believe in the power of our words and discover our significance. However, there are also those of us reared in chaos, whose voices are effectively silenced.
The most challenging, and often debilitating, aspect of my life is emotional intimacy, which is why I write about it so much. (I struggle with it more so than the average person.) And my biggest flaw is my difficulty being vulnerable, which stems from a deeply-seated sense of shame about who I am. Where did this wretched thing come from? I suppose, it’s multi-determined, like anything else… It came from being bullied in school; it came from being afraid of a stepfather whose moods and actions were unpredictable; it came from being mocked by a teacher and told that I better focus on my schoolwork because I would never get by on my appearance, and from the one who told me that I was intellectually sluggish; and, it came from being rejected and betrayed by childhood friends whom I thought would always be there for me. It was all of these things, and likely even more, that made me who I was, that transformed me into a recluse. (Thankfully, the brain does us this wonderful favor of erasing some of the horrific events that we experience.)
So, I never really expected to become anyone, and decided to escape into my self-created world of writing; it was where I had a voice. In my domain, I was able to express myself through the dynamics of the characters that I created; I had a voice through other voices, imagined beings that would never exist outside of their highly-limited confinements, because that was what I wanted. In a sense, writing can connote safety, a means of expression without having to actually express anything to others. To me, it became a haven in which I could manifest the full expression of who I was, without being judged, or ridiculed, for it. Writing offered me a refuge from the world, and it pulled me into a place from which I never wanted to leave. In essence, I had finally found my home.
Despite everything that writing gave me, it’s also done its share of taking. In clinical psychology, there’s a concept called maladaptive daydreaming, which means getting oneself stuck in a world of fantasy as a way of escaping reality; and for me, writing became maladaptive. For there isn’t much to fear in your own world, as it carries minimal risk of rejection and abandonment by those you trust. In it, exist these characters who embody different aspects of your personality, who live and perform in exactly the ways you want them to. They interact when you want them to, and remain silent at your command. Writing connotes safety, and safety connotes freedom.
In my world, I was free from all of reality’s emotional ills; yet, bereft of its joys, because the price one pays for maladaptive daydreaming is having never fully lived. So, I wondered what it would be like to place my characters on display, exposing the deepest essence of the darkest part of my soul, all that constituted my all-encompassing, and suffocating, sense of shame. Through my clinical work, I learned about how similar we were, and how our struggles bound one to the other, uniting us in their ubiquity; in a sense, we are all one.
Shame’s driving force is the belief that it is I who should feel shame because I am so dissimilar and deformed. Shame shackles us and drives us into the shadows. But, the light can bring us out.
My writing has since evolved into a form of open expression, as I sought to disclose my various shameful parts. Writing, like any other tool, can be used for good or bad, can be adaptive or become maladaptive; fundamentally, the choice is ours. While it once served the purpose of companionship and acceptance, writing now brings me closer to the world around me; it helps me share and open up about the parts of me that have remained hidden for too long. Through my works, and their disclosure, I hope to help others open up about their own struggles so that each of us could see just how similar and how normal we really are. If it’s truly so that man searches for intimacy, then writing is the best means of discovering its wonderful gifts.