Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Circuitous Circuitry

by Daddy X

The dictionary tells me that a phobia is an irrational fear.

In that understanding of the concept, someone who nearly drowned as a youngster and still afraid of water would experience a rational fear, a predictable result of a particular incident. Water almost killed them, so they’d naturally be wary of the dangers. Nothing irrational about that. I guess that type of fear is not an actual phobia. Or is it just a matter of semantics?

Fear is a rational response to experience, an instinctive survival mechanism we employ to make similar experiences easier to handle. Or avoid.  A phobia is a perversion of that instinctive sense.

My younger brother committed suicide five years ago. He was a hoarder, unable to throw anything away, fearing that it would be needed somewhere down the line. Nobody, including myself, my father, mother or sister, was allowed in his house for at least fifteen years before he died.  It was an unspeakable scene.

A few examples: His shower hadn’t worked for over a decade; he showered at the YMCA so no plumber would ever have to see the place. His basement was constantly flooded, and stayed that way for the same reason. Furniture, stairs and bannisters piled high with decades old newspapers and catalogs, printed out e-mails, dirty clothes, magazines, books, dried-up pizza cartons, potato chip bags, stacked alongside hundreds of brand-new and freshly dry-cleaned clothes. Dozens of new dress shirts languished in their cellophane wrappers. The kitchen hadn’t been used for years, almost impossible to get to the moldy sink. The only vacant piece of furniture was a folding chair where he sat at his laptop. There were no other empty surfaces available for anyone or anything.

School came easy for me. He had to work at it, and work he did. Since a youngster, he was an information junkie, always reading, studying while I was on the street or in the woods, learning other aspects of life. There were five years between us, so we wouldn’t be hanging together anyway, but other differences were obvious from the start.

How did his problems begin? Was it sublimation for his lack of serious relationships? Although he had friends as a kid, he never seemed able to make connections like our sister or I could. As an adult, he became successful, with a high paying supervisorial position, head of his department in pharmaceutical information. He made a small fortune in the stock market after an early retirement. He had two residences and a new car. He had women chasing him.

Conversely, he had stalked women too, and written to others who didn’t want his attentions, promising them riches, which he actually had. He just couldn’t get it right. Seemed his best friends were Catholic priests and religious fanatics. He read the Catholic canon for clergy every day, and his best friend friend continues to practice “matins”. Matins requires praying at specified times, thirty minutes every two hours throughout day and night.  What kind of hatred must one have for their own well-being to choose a lifestyle like that?

Who could know the root of his problems? He took a huge financial hit in the crash of ’08, taking him over the edge. What phobias or other misalignments influenced his thinking enough to justify a suicide?  

Every psychological case involves infinite complexity, and nobody knows it all when it comes to a human mind and its inner workings. We do know there is no simple concept that can define the mind’s circuitous circuitry. It takes a lot of misadvised tangential thinking to create a phenomenon so all-encompassing as to take over a life.



  


  

11 comments:

  1. Daddy:
    Painful, thoughtful stuff. Who knows really? In our search for closure, we search for simple explanations. None are forthcoming.

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    1. We all look for simple answers. Perhaps that's the appeal of Fox News. Nothing's nuanced over there, but truth is always found in nuance.

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  2. I suppose legitimate fears can go so far as to become phobias in people prone to such things. To turn around a well-known saying, "Just because they're out to get me doesn't mean I'm not paranoid." Your "misadvised tangential thinking" description is brilliant. Obsessive-compulsive people, among others, grasp onto ordinary ideas and then run with them to extremes.

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    1. You've heard me mention inertia as a concept for living. I often wonder what simple habit run amok can amount to if the traction isn't interfered with.

      Thanx on the complement on the term. I went round and round with that sentence.

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  3. So sorry to hear of your brother's sad demise. Sometimes financial ruin can lead to manic depression and suicide, although his reliance on religion does seem at odds with both of those. I hope you also have happier memories of him, Daddy.

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    1. Thanx, JP-

      Manic/depression (bipolar) syndrome runs in my family on my mother's side. My grandmother also died by suicide, and my mother was bipolar all her life. She was institutionalized several times. My brother, we knew was depressive, even he'd admit, but he wouldn't see his flip side behavior as manic. For instance, he'd spend most of his day on the internet, buying and selling stocks. IMO, he was a consummate gambler who directed his efforts to the stock market after realizing casinos were rigged. So he put all his money in casino stock, and when the market for that industry went belly up, it was too much for him.

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  4. Daddy, I'm so sorry to hear about your brother, and I can't imagine what you went through when you finally saw his house. When my father passed away, it was so overwhelming to go through his things—and they weren't anything close to what you describe.

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    1. When we finally got to go through his house, he'd been gone three months. He went into the river in January, but it was spring until his body surfaced. There was little to be nostalgic about in that scene, just awe over what the place had become. By that time, it just represented a massive job separating garbage from good stuff. I must say that there were many tears shed at his lack of competence, since he'd always presented a stable facade.

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  5. Daddy - What a sad and somewhat frightening story. I've known people with houses like that, though. The outer reflects the inner, perhaps.

    Grateful that you turned out so - well, I was going to say "normal", but that's probably not the right word for you...! Shall we say, resilient?

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    1. Not a day goes by when I don't count my blessings. My family was snake-bitten to the extreme by venomous inertia. Luckily, my sister and I managed to turn out as happy, positive people.

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  6. Daddy, thanks for sharing this story.
    Annabeth, my sisters and I bowed out when my mom, uncle and brother had to go through my father's personal belongings. He died a "suspicious death" and my brother told me later there was still blood all over the place. The police don't clean that stuff up. And his body wasn't found until weeks after his death either.

    I think of myself as a boring person but, man, I got some stories...

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