“Just a few seconds away
from everyone, everything.
Just a few seconds away.
A second of your time
and an inch of my own space.”
— Just, Mudvayne.
It’s not that I dislike people — individual people, anyway; groups are another matter — it’s just that I have a people tolerance that is exceeded all-too-easily. Even on my brief smoke breaks at work, more often than not, I hide in my car. Far before my work shift ends I’m ready to go home and be alone, to replenish myself in solitude, to find my center again as I allow the isolation to rejuvenate me.
Being alone, specifically in my own environment, seems to be the only way I have the vaguest chance of feeling relaxed, the closest approximation I can get to a state of personal freedom, the closest I can get to ripping away the masks and being me. Otherwise, I always feel trapped, always feel fake and suffocated by the persona. It almost feels that from the time I leave for work until I return to my third-floor, one-bedroom apartment that I’m holding my breath and forced to remain underwater; only when I lock and bolt my apartment door behind me can I exhale and get my rhythm back.
I’ve always been this way, and I had a smidgen of hope that it might get better as I got older, but that hope has been obliterated: I desire — nay: need — solitude now more than ever.
I am what the NLPers would call incongruent with respect to socializing: in the moment, hanging out with friends after work or on my days off sounds all grand and fucking dandy, but as soon as the time comes — even if I only made plans half an hour prior — I’m bickering inside my head as if someone is forcing me at gunpoint, as if I didn’t make the vow to hang out myself, annoyed to all high hell and frantically looking for some way out of it. I used to just not show, at least if plans were made far in advance; on better days, I’d call or text to cancel, often with some bullshit excuse. Now? More often than not, I just dodge that whole initial process of making plans, unless it’s that whole, vague, “Hey, we should get together and have some coffee sometime” stage of plan-making.
Why am I like this? It’s not as if I don’t want to hang out and nurture my connections with specific people, it’s just that I feel on overload. I’ve heard references to sensory overload, and that’s certainly something I’ve noticed, but in addition there is the emotional overload. Be it a delusion wed to a sensory hallucination or not, I consistently feel an energy around people (much how some claim to see auras around people, though in my case it is not visual at all but more akin to an electric-like, kinetic/tactile sensation) and feel as though I can feel their emotions as our energies mingle and resonate. Not only do I often find myself taking on the emotions of others as if they were my own, but on top of that I have my own intense, emotional reactions to those sensed emotions to deal with.
To some degree this can be explained by what is known as “psychological absorption,” Joseph Campbell’s explanation of how a child playing “as if” their play were real can result in a “seizure” by the fantasy, at which time the child comes to react to it as if it were indeed real. This is why good stories provide at least one character you can identify with, as it sort of hooks you and drags you into the narrative — be it in the form of music, a book, movie, or television program.
Someone gets punched and you wince; a circumstance a character is in is awkward and you involuntarily feel your own skin crawl; a touching moment brings tears to your eyes. This phenomenon is so effective that one can train for real behavior through “covert conditioning” — by means of generating elaborate daydreams dealing with practicing the behavior.
Even so, strange events in my life betray some other element, seemingly telepathic, when it comes to actual people in authentic circumstances. In other words, it doesn’t seem to be entirely wrapped up under the heading of psychological absorption.
In any case, it never ceases to overwhelm me and the only hope I have of returning to my emotional and cognitive baseline is to isolate myself for a period. And recovery time appears to take longer than the damage that makes its necessary.
Much of this overload derives from the fact that I am evidently the kind of person that most people trust very quickly and feel fit to spill their thoughts and emotions to. Strangers have divulged secrets to me, often stopping in the midst to say — at least as much to themselves as to me — how they don’t know why they’re telling me this, as they’ve never told this to anyone, right before continuing with their verbal cascade. They know I actually give a shit, perhaps, and that I’m listening, retaining, contemplating what they say and are not likely to betray the confidence. I’ve had a few slip-ups in my life, as is to be expected, I suppose, but generally I keep my mouth shut. And I’m not complaining about this, as it provides an unofficial social function for me, a sense of purpose — but I need to run away, process and recharge even more so due to it.
I’m fucking hypersensitive. Every emotion is extreme, every thought slices through my brain like a serrated knife, every reaction is an overreaction. Apparently, it’s just the way I’m wired.
My monk-like, isolationist tendencies, along with the fact that during social hours I am a walking confessional, has often made me think that I would make a good priest — there’s only that whole atheist factor that gets in the way. I also have memories of being a priest in a former life, which may have some relevance. But I also remember staring into the mirror, hating myself and holding a gun to my head, which is just another indication that such a path just isn’t my own.