I still haven't heard back from Adam, but after almost a week, I was feeling less preoccupied by the whole situation. It helped that the following weekend, I went out of town to help a friend move. Aside from the joy of seeing my friend (whom I hadn't seen in person in some time, but with whom I had grown especially close in the last year or so), it was a great opportunity to get in some more physical activity, and it was a good distraction from my problems. I dreaded getting back to "normal life" when the trip was ending.
But a few days ago, yet another thing went wrong. At a meta level, I find myself wondering a few things:
- Are these just normal blips in life, actually no more frequent or disruptive than regular life and what most people go through, and am I just attributing metaphysical significance to all these things by having the attitude of "Well, of course this is going to go wrong, too--my life is just a disaster, and I can expect even more shit to go sideways.", in the spirit of a malevolent universe premise? Trying to be objective, it's really hard to regard these things as less significant than how I'm experiencing them. Sure, I don't necessarily know the details of others' lives, but this does not seem like the sort of mountain of hellfuckery that ordinary people deal with in the ordinary course of their lives. I certainly can't remember another time in my life when I felt so overwhelmed and had so many things going wrong, one after the other, and in seemingly disconnected and unpredictable ways.
- Assuming that I don't bear responsibility for these outcomes through my own choices and actions, is there still some way in which, at least for some of these problems, I'm inviting them into my life? Is my dysregulation, for instance, creating dynamics that increase the risk of these disasters? What about undermining my resilience and magnifying the effect of each problem?
- However much I try so hard to differentiate my own responsibility for a given disaster from the sense in which I'm a victim of uncontrollable external factors, at a certain point, I still find myself questioning, at a more abstract level, "Is there something about me that's the problem here?". I can look at the individual situations and (I think) objectively conclude that, while I might have been able to do some things better, I certainly didn't deserve the outcome; indeed, it's the good things about me that prevented it from potentially being much worse. I'm good, and it's everything else that's fucked up. But--if you're an egoist--"good" is judged by the standard of whether it leads to practical success in life. Yes, accidents are possible, and bad things occasionally happen to good people, but if being a certain way regularly leads to bad outcomes, is it time to reevaluate whether being that way is actually "good"? Now, I don't think I truly believe that what I've come to regard as good (and how I've correlatively chosen to be) is mistaken; I can't throw away three and a half decades of induction because of a few years of misery. But if the way that I am is part of the causality of so many of these problems, even if, from a moral accountability perspective, that's not what's responsible for the problems, it sure leads me to wanting to withdraw from society and human relationships.
I don't want to get into the details of this last disaster a few days ago, but it follows a familiar outline:
- I judged someone to be kind, caring, compassionate, and supportive.
- I was open, transparent, and vulnerable with them.
- They gave me ongoing positive feedback about their own evaluation of me. I thought we had a good, strong relationship.
- Out of the blue, they delivered a biting condemnation in a way that severely damages my reputation and undermines my career prospects/trajectory, attempting to justify with "non-examples" to rationalize the conclusion.
- Among other things, I find myself wondering what might be going on with this person to have led to this outcome and what incentives might be at play to explain the situation.
This further undermines my confidence in being able to trust people. This is turning into a pretty strong pattern:
- I trust someone (sometimes being "all in").
- On the basis of that level of trust, I have reasonable expectations.
- Those expectations are not met, sometimes in very painful or destructive ways.
- I'm severely disappointed and dysregulated.
In this situation, it's not the substance of what I was open about that I think was used against me in some fashion. However, the person's response to that openness certainly led me to feel closer to them, which magnified my feelings of disappointment in what landed with me as a betrayal. But it's the fact that I don't know, even now, what I should have seen as a "red flag", telling me that maybe I shouldn't trust this person as much as I did. How could I have seen this as a possibility, and what could I have done to protect myself? Am I supposed to be suspicious of and guarded with everybody until I develop better judgment? Should I regard everybody as a potential "snake in the grass"? And how can I reconcile that with my firm belief that people are generally doing the best that they can?