My name is Mitch. I’m also known as Michael. I write this blog, in short, because I have been to the extremes of bad personal development and negativity, and among friends this has put me in an excellent position to understand them. I found myself writing them long emails…and then one day, I thought, “why not share this with the rest of the world?”
Let me tell you about my life. I’ll start with something very key: I was not a loving child.
As a child, though I grew up in a loving family, I did not feel “love.” I did not understand it. I understood liking and desire, but when people around me expressed love, it felt alien and intrusive. Especially when it seemed like people who “loved” me got all upset when I said or did something they didn’t like. And expected me to “love” them. Though I know now how to give and receive love [and I think, when it is authentic, we should do this often], I now understand very well why I wasn’t a loving child. I had some good reasons.
There are all these things that a child “should be” that I wasn’t. Desiring of love was one of them. Being comfortable with childhood was another. I hated the idea that as a child, I was inherently inferior–that adults somehow deserved some kind of automatic respect from children just for being adults. I still think like that.
You could never get me to say “please” or “thank you” or “sorry” to an adult just because it’s what a child should do. No no–I knew what these words meant, but why the hell should I say them if I don’t mean them? I still think like that.
I recently realized that I don’t really have any “happy childhood memories.” My single-digit and preteen years were not complete nightmares, and I was always taken care of–but psychologically, I always had a sense of being at odds with this image of the cute little child who doesn’t yet think on a higher level and just innocently enjoys their childhood. I never fit into that.
This “adultist” orientation did make for some major struggles for me. I was diagnosed with a pervasive developmental disorder early on, and put into a special-needs school at age 4. Later, it was suggested that I might have Asperger’s Syndrome, which was not an available diagnosis when I was 4. Among those who know me, it is a debate as to whether I really have Asperger’s; I kind of feel half-and-half about it, but it is true, I dealt with/continue to deal with a lot of the same issues that “aspies” face, and often feel very strongly the impression that my brain is wired differently from everyone else’s.
Being different and learning to use that as a weapon
When I reintegrated from the special-needs track into a regular classroom, I instantly had great social troubles that would shape my outlook on life forever. It wasn’t long before I was the laughingstock for everybody because of how weird I was. So I had to build a wall around my soul.
One day I decided that if I didn’t care about you, you were pretty much nothing to me. So when people would be offensive to me, I’d just lash out right back. Some were disgusted by me at times. I used that to my advantage. If they bothered me, I’d show them how disgusting I could be and get them to fuck off. I had power.
Not that I wanted to mess with people. But if they messed with me, I wanted the power to get them to stop–quickly. And I got good at it. And ohhh, it felt so good to be a bigger jerk than the jerks themselves. So good. I became almost unflappable.
Life smoothed out a bit from there. After a couple of years like this, I found ways to integrate reasonably well and not stand out too much. But the wall stayed up, because it felt good. And thus I made no close friends.
In college, I became an activist in an organization that was fighting against capitalism. I relished the atmosphere of constant debate and learning, and we learned a lot. We would read books on history of all sorts, something that has stayed with me. But in retrospect, where I went wrong was that, rather than enlightening myself through the greater potential for social interaction available to me, I became harder. More debative. More conflictive. Less of a good listener.
The “strictly political” environment of that organization matched well with my desire to keep my inner wall up. I didn’t have to be friends with anybody–just “comrades.” My political prowess grew while my already-inadequate social skills languished. I got so good at provoking conflict and smashing into it head on that I rather enjoyed it. Like a Rambo-style character who relishes the “thrill of violence,” I relished the thrill of clashing with somebody and unleashing my arsenal of knowledge on them… and I did build quite an arsenal.
Then I got a girlfriend, who later moved in with me… and we got married. And I had absolutely no arsenal for that.
My first long-term experience with love and failure
My soon-to-be-wife was a person who came from a place of love. She didn’t have the most loving childhood, but those in her life that she had respected most had been very loving, and she learned that from them. I, of course, being an argument machine with no sense of what love is, had no idea much of the time what she was thinking or why.
After getting married, our relationship quickly went downhill. I tried to learn how to love her; I was horrible at it, and I began blaming myself. My wife, who originally acted very mellow and quiet, picked up my loud, debative ways, and we clashed all the time. The lack of trust in our relationship led us both to panic and tear each other down, and our interaction was rife with abusive behavior.
Our marriage lasted five long, grueling years. During those years, a slow, painful process happened for me. I tried to completely shed my former hard, debative self, and become loving and humble. It didn’t work, because I did it blindly and out of fear. However, I did learn a lot of things out of that experience:
- What it’s like to sacrifice your life for someone else out of love, and why this is highly not recommended.
- What it’s like to be abusive and think with an abusive mindset.
- What it’s like to be abused and feel completely trapped and unable to escape.
- What it’s like to feel like you’re worth nothing and you should just die.
- That there is enough unnecessary drama in the world, and creating more of it is just stupid.
- How to keep my mouth shut in order not to create more unnecessary drama.
- How to be patient.
- Why religion is so powerful (I had been pretty much an atheist, but while married I went to church and painstakingly studied the Bible in an effort to become a Christian. Needless to say, I’m still an atheist).
- That everybody has their own truth and makes their own sense.
- That it doesn’t help anything to claim fact or prove yourself right.
Finally, in early 2009, the straitjacket broke when somebody came to live with us for a couple of months. He was a different sort of fellow, and his presence was so welcome in the beginning that my wife and I stopped fighting–which gave me a clear headspace to think for the first time in years. I began reaching out to people outside our little circle, people I used to know [whom I had stopped socializing with because they didn’t “fit into my marriage life”].
And then I fell in love. And I truly knew love for the first time in my life. And this marriage I had tried so hard to fit into rapidly began to die.
My latest stage of development: opening up, listening, and sharing myself
In late January 2009, I experienced a fierce connection with somebody I had known for a while. We sat down together and shared all of ourselves, and I finally fully felt real love for the first time. Her journey had taken her a long way, and she had been very confused about love, just like me. For both of us, this was a moment for history. We embraced each other for 10 minutes and I knew immediately that my life had changed. Suddenly, my fears no longer enslaved me, and all my struggle and all my resistance melted away.
I told my wife about this attraction, which she did not take well to. But I was free, and the strength given to me by this freedom allowed me to easily cope with her negativity. I was at peace inside, and there was no way I would go backward now. And no, I did not end up sleeping with the other woman. The love we expressed for each other was more than enough as it was.
My new sense of peace and comfort allowed me to get in touch with inner skills and powers I never knew I had. Now I didn’t have to keep up a wall–I could be strong through showing open weakness and letting go. I could put down my desire to hack hard at a problem and feverishly try to fix it… in order to just listen. I came outside of my ego, found my connection to the world and everything around me, and felt unending love. And I can feel this love, let it get into me, and project it toward others, and put their minds at ease, and help them heal. I can help myself heal. I can heal together with others… it’s so easy now.
This transformation of mine moves me to think about precisely because I never knew this inner peace of mind in the first 28 years of my life. Even in good moments, something inside me was always burning or resisting. I couldn’t completely trust. I was great at putting forth a façade of strength and airtightness, but inside, a chronic resentment always smoldered. And thus I was a very negative person–extremely so. I know intimately what it’s like to be a jerk, and as much as I have left that lifestyle behind, I have empathy for jerks.
And now I have been put at ease. And I really enjoy doing that for others… so simple an act, yet so beautiful. And every time I am able to put someone else at ease, I just tell them, “I’m only doing for you what was once done for me.”
This page is a work in progress. No doubt it will be added to in the future…