Friday, 11 January 2013

Disconnect



Life is a cycle of interaction and connections with people. However, if your ability to do this is thwarted then you are left unable to cope. The human psyche is a fragile little waif at the best of times. In children it is raw, it hates being hurt and will find ways to adapt to pain and disappointment. Some kids become tough, some smart, others adapt with humour to adverse situations. Problem is when you are told not to express negative emotion at all, then you have no option other to simply cut off from the things that hurt.

My fave example of this is a Goofy (Walt Disney) toothbrush holder I got bought when I was 4. It was a reward from my father for “sticking up for myself” to a bully at playschool instead of running home blubbing every time he picked on me. This incident later caused a row between my parents which I believed I had caused. The once wonderful toothbrush holder was no longer a trophy to courage, but a thing that had no emotional value for me. Simply a thing. I had disconnected from it.

I grew up in an era where bullies didn’t like you to retaliate at all. Nowadays most people expect to get a dig or a harsh word if they are victimising someone else, even if they know they can overcome it simply through upping the bullying factor. Back in the 70s and 80s you’d quite often hear:

“What did you just FUCKING say?” (in response to finally being told to “fuck off” due to their prolonged and deliberate behaviour towards a weaker child).

“Don’t you kick/ hit/ punch ME!!!” (when the victim finally lashed out in frustration after physical attack/ name calling/ or damage to possessions).

“Don’t look at me like that mate!” (as glaring was cheeky).

Disconnection remained the only option for anyone too weak or too timid or who simply didn’t want to lash out to provocation.

It starts in dribs and drabs but gets to a point where you are physically an adult but unable to interact with others.

If you know someone or live with someone who has no respect for your property and damages, destroys or throws your stuff away then you will have to disconnect any value those items had for you. If the person is in power in your life, you have no recourse to complaint and no one cares or can do anything…then the only option is to remove any emotional value from the situation.

If you have a treasured item that is lost or destroyed and no one cares… then you remove any value the item had to you and believe it “didn’t matter.” When I was 15 some kids in my class took an engraved pen my grandfather had given me for Xmas and snapped it to pieces. I told myself it was cheap and I hadn’t really liked it that much anyway. Truth was I was simply burying the desire to care as I could do nothing to stop them or make them suffer for what they’d done. *

If you are a teenager who gets dumped by someone you thought you really had a thing for, then you may disconnect from any ability to trust others. You were genuine, you were nice and they still chucked you for that spotty, skinny guy. You may say that you don’t care, and that as her standards seem to be scrawny runts with over-active salacious glands then you're better off out of it. Truth is you are burying the bitterness and may even convince yourself it doesn’t matter.

When adults or authority figures disappoint you or even deliberately hurt you, you won’t be believed. A friend of my parents was a right cunt who said on more than one occasion “you give your mother another look like that and you won’t be watching any TV later!!!” In his world, even facial expressions were insubordinate and emotions had to be kept in check. Result= Nothing matters any more…but really it does. **

When I was about 12 I ran my heart and lungs out in a cross country race. The marshals messed up the placings as we came in to the finish line, meaning people who came in later, got higher rankings than me and a lot of others. I cried my eyes out. A mixture of impotent anger, exhaustion and frustration. Only reaction this got was a telling off for me for “being a big baby.” Result= disconnection. No point trying if failure is beyond my control and in the hands of fuckwits.

Because the problem with disconnection is that you don’t really disconnect. You are simply left unable to form “normal” human attachments.

Some time ago I had a fling with a Moldavian girl I loved very much but who had the trifling inconvenience of a boyfriend (that she has since gone on to marry and have 2 kids with). She however wasn’t all that bothered about me. One night, 7 years ago I got maudlin drunk and rang her. She was in bed with him…and asleep. I then sent two sarcastic text messages and went to bed. Woke up with a horrible hangover, realised what I’d done and eliminated all elements of her from my life. Her phone; her email; her address and all the photos I had. I tried to disconnect any feelings I had for her but it gnawed away at me. Occasionally I’d dream about her and in those dreams we’d simply talk. In the dreams she’d say it was no big deal, but in the dreams she seemed very bored and unsettled. It was nearly 4 years before I had the courage to run her name through Facebook and it was as I’d predicted. Married the guy, baby girl. Another year later a mutual friend asked me about her and I told her we weren’t speaking any more. I explained what had happened, how bad I felt about it and said that if they spoke again, to pass on that I was sorry. She then cut and pasted what I’d said in a private message on Facebook to her and assured the other girl that these were my real words.

This stopped my dreams about her but my attempts at disconnection had simply made the situation a lot worse. Even to this day I know that it was infinitely better to NOT KNOW exactly how she felt about me after my drunken phone call…than to try and get in touch and find that she hated me or worse, had simply forgotten who I was.

By not dealing with the situation by either phoning or texting her to say sorry or genuinely moving on and forgetting about her, the disconnected wires of human emotion were just waving about, sparking and flaming, but carrying the current nowhere. Disconnection hadn’t worked because I had never properly addressed the feelings I had for this girl and had instead tried to shut them out completely, where they built up a landslide over my door.

Disconnection doesn't save you from feeling pain or loss. All it does is leaves you permanently in a childlike state of emotion, unable to interact properly as the network cannot communicate correctly. I envy the few people who are genuinely islands. But I realise I myself was merely a broken bridge.


* Ringleader of this group had his head fatally split open in a motorbike crash a couple of years later.

** This guy died of cancer in the late 90s. His wife apparently turned off his life support machine.

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