“There are things I’m not doing. Things that might have a chance of helping, but I just don’t have the energy to do them. I’m spending too much of my willpower already just getting my work done and getting through my days.”
“Do you think anyone would blame you for that? Do you think anyone you know is the kind of person who would think badly of you for not having the energy to do everything that might help all at once, when things are as hard as they are right now?”
She was right. I don’t think anyone I know would think badly of me for the things I’m not doing right now that might have a chance of making my pain problems better. I don’t think any of my friends would assume I was just being lazy, or any such thing.
So, who is it that I am arguing with? Why, when I think about the things I’m not doing, do I feel like I need to have an explanation for why I’m not doing them? Why, if no one I know would question how hard I have tried, am trying, will try to get through the stuff I’m dealing with right now, does this argument play out in my head so often? If I haven’t allowed anyone into my life who would demand explanations for why I’m not doing more, why do I feel compelled to come up with the explanations anyway?
Who is this antagonist that I am so obsessed with satisfying?
When I put this question to my brain, an answer surfaced almost immediately: the anthropomorphization of culture.
There isn’t anyone in my life who would ask these questions of me. But the culture that I grew up in asks them all the time, and the voice of that culture lives in my head.
I will never fully understand the anxiety that some ex-religious people feel over the idea of going to hell, even years after they have de-converted. But in having this revelation yesterday, I feel like I have come a little bit closer. There is a voice in my head whose words and attitudes have nothing to do with mine. There is a culturally constructed antagonist that I feel the need to satisfy in spite of knowing that so much of what it says is bullshit.
At the very least, now I know how to think about it. I’m going to think about this voice like a god. It is the voice of something imagined, something that doesn’t exist, but that I have been taught to believe in. It’s the god of culture. I haven’t beaten it yet, but now I know how to think about my enemy.