The Many Faces of Self-Loathing

Self-Loathing has taken up residence in my emotional house. I allowed her to do this back in June, working on the premise that she’s a part of my emotional make up, after all. And I suppose I wished she’d be positively influenced by spending time with Joy and Compassion. She hasn’t developed in quite the way I expected, however.

When she first appeared, she was a dismal, dirty thing and stank rather like my dog does when I let her eat too many table scraps. I gave her a cozy bedroom and lavender bath salts. She got cleaned up a bit but still wasn’t likely to be stopped in the street and asked where she got her skirt or who did her hair.

But now, I am quitting my job. I am turning my life upside down, unsettling some of my favorite colleagues, raising enormous questions about my long-term financial stability, all in the name of caring for myself. And Self-Loathing has taken this new situation as inspiration. Suddenly, she’s following me around all the time, whispering her repetitive refrain so that it becomes a broken record in my head: I’m so bad. I’m an evil person at the core. I’m so bad. 

I’ve been trying to ignore her (even though I have plenty of evidence that this doesn’t work). When I do that, she gets mad, sticks an invisible needle in me and sucks out my energy. She just wants me to pay attention to her.

So finally I turn to face her, and I’m surprised. She’s grown taller and seems stronger. Her clothes are dark colored, clean and pressed. Her nails are polished–and sharp. She’s powerful, a sort of corporate executive with goth sensibilities. Instead of pathetic, she’s rather frightening.

If this is what happens when I’m not looking, I think I had better pay more attention.

“Do you want to talk?” I ask her.

She raises her penciled eyebrows at me, disdainfully, and says nothing.

“I assume there’s something you want me to know; that’s why you’ve been sidling up to me the last week or two. You might as well tell me.”

In response, she uses her pointy fingernail to pin a fly to the arm of the chair she’s sitting in. She lets it flutter about for a few seconds. (I knew she had a sadistic streak.) Then she flicks the fly at me.

I’m in no mood for her antics. If she’s not going to explain herself, I’m not wasting my time. I go out the front door and head out toward the meadow for a walk. My dog follows me (fortunately, no table scraps this morning).

On the walk, I start to think about SL, and what she’s trying to accomplish. E tells me that everyone in “the system,” as she calls it, is working in my best interest, though potentially in a dysfunctional way. It’s hard to see this creature, either in her disheveled form or in this sharp and stylized version, as someone interested in my best interest. What does SL “help” me with?

And then I think: when she’s working hard, I am not mad at others. I am not mad at my abusers, because I am blaming myself. I am not mad at the sexism and manipulation I experience at work, because I tell myself I should be able to cope (in a nice, witty way that doesn’t make anyone uncomfortable of course). I am not mad about the injustices in our town, our state, our country, because I am too busy deriding myself for not doing more about those injustices. SL, I think, protects me from Rage.

Interesting, I think, as I turn back toward the house. I wonder if I can get her to talk about this idea?


    • Thanks, Serena. And I have no doubt that Self-Loathing will show up in future vignettes. (It would be kind of nice if she suddenly, magically, disappeared, but I don’t think that’s too likely.)

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve only just stumbled across your blog and I’m glad I did. The way in you personify self loathing intrigues me. I expected it to this stagnant character. Yet this story seems to indicate that could change for the better. Great work!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for reading and for your comment. I do think it’s interesting to see these personified aspects of myself evolve and develop over time, but it makes sense, since we ourselves are not stagnant characters.


  2. It sounds like she’s gaining power. This is going to sound ridiculous, but I wonder if underneath, Self Loathing is maybe a little bit…hopeful? Thinks it’s better to blame you than to be mad at other things you can’t control, and thinks maybe if she follows you around enough and criticizes you enough, you will be “better” and things will get better. Maybe there is a chink in that fly-spearing armour.


  3. That is a theory I had not considered before, Rea. Self-Loathing is heaping on the criticism in the hope of motivating me to change things so she and I can both feel better?

    If that’s the case, though, she’s really not using a very effective or efficient strategy. Maybe I should talk to her about that.


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