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Gerascophobia
   Sat Nov 28, 2015 7:51 pm

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Gerascophobia

Permanent Linkby heracles on Sat Nov 28, 2015 7:51 pm

This will be another "sub-log" which I'll add entries to from time to time, many of which may be "mined" from other posts, from this or other forums. The following was on the NPD forum, on a thread on narcissism and ageing.

**********************

How I see myself, externally and internally, fluctuates. Often, when I look in a mirror or reflective surface, I will still see a young man of 28. I'm sure it depends on the lighting, its intensity or quality. Other times, in certain predictable mirrors I tend to avoid, I see a man every minute of 57, or older. Even when I see the young man, if only in the back of my mind, I wonder, or strongly suspect, that there's "magical thinking" going on, that I'm filtering out what my mind fears to see, and filtering in what it wants. But I never know for sure, one way or the other. In any case, even if time's treated me well for longer than others, my magical thinking can't last for ever, and I know I must get old, visibly and otherwise.

Why does this matter to me? Intellectually, I know it shouldn't, but it does. Gerascophobia. I've been obsessing about the passing, the racing by, of my youth, since my mid-20's. Most people are worried about the big 3-0, I was agonized about the big 2-7. It really shouldn't be all that surprising. In my struggle to rise above it, to let it go, I've been delving into the literature, film and lore----of gerascophobia---and have been compiling a bibliography and filmography about it of sorts. I'm not the only one who's had this disease. It has a long, long history. And I'm sure, though they've all had the basic similarities, the fine details of the feelings of every gerascophobe, I suspect have been very different.

It's not just the loss of youth. It's the loss of a time, a place, a world-----an identity.

We may all know the old saying, "One picture is worth a thousand words". So far, the cold, clinical, binary, reductionist language of "clinical psychology" (or whatever it is) cannot convey what my gerascophobia feels like. So what I have done is posted links to a couple film clips, which, in their "thousand words" have some chance of hinting at, much closer to any "scientific" formulation, what I feel.

I was hoping to include a clip from the 1935 version of She, of the final words of "She Who Must Be Obeyed", but I couldn't find one separate from the film itself. They were painfully poignant-----"I remember......long ago.......a garden.......in the sun...."

The Guest not only has gerascophobic themes, but perhaps narcissist as well. But it's not the glamorized narcissism. It's the tragic and nightmarish. The scene of young Tess, only 18, in the graveyard with the young drifter is just so powerful. I saw this episode decades ago, maybe as a teenager myself, and it stuck with me all these years. I only just watched it again on DVD.

The Guest, Outer Limits

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJs7pZg_ngQ

I'm not a stud or Casanova like the swimmer, but I can relate a lot to him. All the dreams of strength, power and competence...and all the emptiness that finally finds you. I was hoping I'd find a trailer with the final scenes of his dark homecoming, but I couldn't, so I settled for this one. You can't really put all this into words, tie it up in a neat explanatory bow. It speaks its own language.

The Swimmer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIegoQAayFs

The sadness of aging is probably ineffable. It cannot be easily analyzed. Now, I don't feel it all the time---often, I'm just fine----but sometimes, when I do, it can be so intense, it's excruciating. Glib advice about the benefits of "cognitive behavioral therapy" or "neuroplasticity" are so inane in the face of it, if they weren't so clueless and insulting, they'd be laughable.

If I live any longer, I am going to get old and be old for a while. I'm working on coping strategies for that, but please...

[ Continued ]

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A Stepford Heracles

Permanent Linkby heracles on Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:46 pm

Throughout my teens and adulthood various members of my family have tried to reach out to me----siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins... Beginning in my teens I started becoming more and more alienated from, more and more aloof to them. I feel tremendous guilt that I ignored several aunts and uncles until they died, and that I'm ignoring some who will die before I ever visit them, many of them who were very kind to me in my childhood, teens and twenties. I understand that they may "love" me, I suppose, "unconditionally", but as a schizoid these are vague and abstract concepts I don't feel or genuinely appreciate. (Sam Vaknin says some schizoids are "shriveled narcissists" and despite his gratuitous brutality, he may be right.)

The problem is that to visit or interact with them, they expect affection and warmth from me, and if they don't get it, they feel hurt or rejected. In order not to hurt them, I must wear a mask and put on a performance, which are very, very internally awkward to me, because these are so inauthentic. It can be excruciating. To me, my family is "society". I can magnanimously ignore society most of the time, but if I have be thrown into the midst of it and pretend to love it, inwardly I begin to seethe with resentment, and it's very hard to hide.

I have to hide my monster, because my family is so naive, it would just be too traumatic for them to see it. It would devastate them. Even though I admit I have "blunt affect", I do feel guilt and remorse for this, perhaps all the more reason I'm very avoidant about it.

Does anybody remember "Peter" from the old Folger's commercial?(www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4kNl7cQdcU). One fantasy I've had for some time is that somehow a "Stepford heracles" could be created. Some sort of android, that would look like me, but be like "Peter" to my family. A warm, loving young---actually now, middle-aged---man. The real heracles could then recede into his own world, free from guilt, knowing his family would be emotionally provided for.

But alas, that is just a fantasy, and I'll just have to suffer the torment of guilt for the rest of my life. I just hope my sentence in purgatory won't be too long.

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My Buddhism, My Narcissism: Amended

Permanent Linkby heracles on Fri Dec 05, 2014 10:42 pm

I feel I should clarify something. I did a little research on "Classical Theravada", and I realize I probably can't call myself a "Classical Theravadin", at least not a in a strict sense. I would say that I lean much more toward "classical" in my interpretation than "modern". Also, as I've said before, I look to what extent I do believe in it as an ideal, since I'm currently very lax in my practice.

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My Buddhism, My Narcissism

Permanent Linkby heracles on Fri Dec 05, 2014 7:07 pm

I have been a Theravada Buddhist for 36 years, since I was 20. I am not a secular Theravadin, but a religious one. I think the preferred term for what I believe in is "classical Theravada" and this differs in many respects from what most Westerners and I'm sure most of the posters on Psych forums think of as "Buddhism". But I'm not here really to get into debates about the myriad schools and interpretations of Buddhism, just to share some thoughts about how my Buddhism relates to my narcissism.

When I was in my 20's, I was much more assiduous and enthusiastic in my practice. As time went on, I slacked off very badly, and my practice is pretty much just trying to follow the precepts and giving, i.e., generosity. Although I always hope some day I can get back to following a stricter path, right now, I feel I have to follow other pursuits. I know that most classical Theravadins would see this as the foolishness of Malankyaputta, but I must read and think freely at this stage in my life---other philosophies, other theories. So I respect the Dhamma, but cannot live up to the expectations of the Theravadin community as to how I should follow it, so I am somewhat estranged from it by my own choice. I also admit, though I still believe in it,, my heart isn't in it as much as it was when I was younger. I wish it were, but it just isn't.

I know my somatic narcissism and gerascophobia are delusional and bring me suffering. I don't defend them. They're deeply ingrained addictions I hope I can one day overcome, and I am trying to do that in my own way. I know, intellectually, that I am foolishly clinging to an ideal past I can never return to or experience, again, like some sad character in the old Twilight Zone series.

Another thing, which I think ultimately complicates my angst, is that I don't know what kind of circumstances I will be reborn into, if the teaching is indeed true, and I will be re-incarnated. Even if I'm fortunate enough to be born in the human realm, will I live a life of disappointment, confusion and regret, like I have in this one? What kind of society, what kind of world will I come to? (I know this question would be met with scorn by other Theravadins, but I'm just trying to bring my worries out into the open.)

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My Somaticism

Permanent Linkby heracles on Thu Nov 27, 2014 3:10 pm

When I first came to Psych. Forums in search of some relief from my angst, trying to understand it and alleviate it, it was to the body dysmorphia forum. Like many, but not all, who have come to the BDD forum, my symptoms didn't quite fit the official definition of body dysmorphia. Sometimes I was quite pleased with my appearance, sometimes I was devastated by what I saw as my ugliness. It was, and still is, off and on. Some days I'm ridin' high in April, some days I'm shot down in May.

Although I never put it into words, and it was only in the back of my mind going back to not only my 20's, but early teens, and maybe even before, by my late 30's I realized how much I was obsessed with my appearance===how much it formed a deeply visceral sense of self-worth and self- esteem in me. How good my mood was, how happy I was, how I basked in it, when I was "feeling good-looking", and how disturbingly anxious and self-conscious I was when I was "feeling ugly". Since I wasn't a classic body dysmorphic, the only conclusion I could draw from these feelings was that I was vain...and shallow. Yet this comes smack up against my other very important sources of self-esteem, as someone with depth, character, intellect, virtue and spirituality who despises shallowness. Intellectually I know that looks don't matter---character does---yet on an emotional level they do matter to me, very, very much. My self-image, self-esteem and sense of happiness and well-being are extremely intertwined with how good I feel I look, physically. As pathetic as I'm sure it will be seen, this isn't about wanting to find a mate or sexual partner---I've been very avoidant all my life---my "high" is to be admired from afar, and even more twisted, not as some "hunk de jour", dandy or metrosexual, but as a good-looking young man who's indifferent to and not even aware of his good looks. I guess this might be a classic "covert" narcissist trait. It seems other people on the BDD and narcissist forums have expressed very similar feelings, and if they're anything like mine, there's a certain "ineffability" to them.

I could be ridiculously deluded about it, but I think I've had a long Indian summer of youth. But if it's really true, I know it can't last. My obsessive, desperate mantra every single year, is "Just one more summer, just one more summer, just one more summer..."

There's a certain symbolism to a group of young men running. A desire to be among them and seen among them and look as good as they do. I'm not defending that desire. It may be ridiculous. Although I'm sure I haven't, I'm just trying to explain what I feel, not defend it.

As I get older and older, and deeper and deeper into this "identity crisis", more and more, even if very rarely, I can almost accept what I really look like, be content with it, or at least not be tortured by it. Maybe there's a slim thread of hope for me as I drift into my dotage.

My somaticism is a major and integral part of my angst, but there's also a sense of grief and longing for my past, the time, the world and culture of my youth, which no longer exists, where I either squandered my opportunities for "supply", or was never provided them. Like many of those old Twilight Zone episodes with the theme of going back into time to ones ideal past, my fantasy is to be 14 again in my time, but where I would "pull strings" to make it better. You can laugh or sneer, but there's a lot of literature and film that speaks to this longing of people my age, and maybe even younger, It's age old. Problem is, it can't be wrapped in such a neat pretty bow as the old Twilight Zone episodes were.

In this entry I'm sure I've only scratched the surface of my somaticism and how it fuels my angst. Perhaps I will have better explanations and insights in the future.

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