Autosarcophagy and the Ouroboros

The Ouroboros often represents self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, and other things perceived as cycles that begin anew as soon as they end (compare with phoenix). It can also represent the idea of primordial unity related to something existing in or persisting from the beginning with such force or qualities it cannot be extinguished. The ouroboros has been important in religious and mythological symbolism, but has also been frequently used in alchemical illustrations, where it symbolizes the circular nature of the alchemist’s opus. It is also often associated with Gnosticism, and Hermeticism. – Wikipedia, ‘Ouroboros’

I feel the above concept is indeed a positive way of looking what what I’m experiencing at the moment, but I feel I am still in the autosarcophagy stage, morphing into the self-reflexive. Lately I’ve been like a dog, chewing on my own ass until it bleeds. Its not comfortable, or productive or pleasurable, but I continue to circle inside my head, chasing after thoughts of my past and failures until they turn around, grin like Hannibal Lecter and then eat my face. Fun times.

The hard part is breaking the cycle, to take the little drumsticks out of the hands of the toddlers screaming and banging on drums inside my skull. I try to snatch the sticks away, they run faster, I try cajole them and they blow raspberries at me. Then the toddlers morph into spiders, latch onto my face and bite off my lips. Fun times continued, ad nauseum.

I’ll be driving along, maybe on my way to a client or just sitting on the edge of the bath testing the water, and a thought like “wow, you fucked up the matric dance” will blindside me. And then I will try force it out of my head (because I’m trying to be awesome instead of sad) by saying “I really did try my best, and I tried to help as many people as I could” and then my chirpy demon will say “yes, but instead of doing what was efficient and correct, you ended up embarrassing yourself, your family and ruining the matric dinner. You bumbling fuck.” I will usually — plaintively — reply “but no one ever remembers what they ate at the dance. Why do you keep bringing this up?”

Then the demon will smugly reply with “because you are stupid and deserve to be reminded of it before your head gets too big.” Then it’ll wriggle away like a worm covered in oil (see Schreiner, Story of An African Farm) and I will sit there and be sad.

And this is the problem with not being able to easily control or dominate my thoughts. If I cast my thoughts back into the past, I know that my department was the most efficiently run in the run-up and aftermath of the matric dance. My waitresses were beautifully trained and coordinated and my team told others that I was one of the few members of the matric dance committee who wasn’t a raging tyrant.

But all I really remember is one of the matrics sitting next to me at breakfast in the dining hall and commenting that the food was shit.

I have to ask myself what the fuck is wrong with me that I have to zone in and harp on about the negatives of my past. And it would seem I’m not the only one. From what I gather, many of my friends struggle to let go of those past memories that continue to define and limit us even now. There’s a fear of what will happen if we choose to obliterate that memory, if we choose to remember otherwise. Perhaps, for me, that particular memory is a memory that reeks of failure and humiliation, and I know that no one else really cares or remembers it. (Except my mom, who said that it was an unmitigated disaster, and I agree.) I’m not quite sure yet where this profound and crippling fear of failure comes from, and whether it stems from intrinsic or extrinsic factors.I mean, my parents never beat me if I came home with anything less than 90% or anything ridiculous like that. I’m not even sure they pushed me particularly hard at anything, and I know they’re happy as long as I do my best. When I was upset over getting 59% for History in 3rd year, they cared a great deal less than I did. They focused on the 80-something mark I got for English. The sad thing is, I can’t even remember that mark.

Then Occam’s Razor suggests that I personally drive myself so hard, to the point where I get hugely upset whenever I fail (or perceive that I have). Maybe I associate success with love, praise with respect. But its easy to praise someone without loving them for being smart or thin or fast or whatever. And some of the most successful people in the world aren’t particularly loved.

Which then leads me to conclude that having a lynch-mob mind is a part of my genetic code, that I am programmed to be this relentless with myself, to never ever give myself a break. Pop psychology found in shite magazines like Cosmo and Glamour suggest that a few words of positivity and some incence and maybe a trip to Tibet will cure all self-loathing issues. Buddha help me, but I’ve tried. I’ve written thousands of words trying to sort through the threads in my mind, trying to find out why I’m so angry and frustrated and confused. I’ve put up the posters encouraging positivity and tried to remember the positive things people say about me. I try to not slip into verbal diatribes against myself that are so violent and filled with invectives that other people flinch. Every day I get up, I try to battle the demons that my friends and readers are so familiar with, because they so often speak as me. And yet I haven’t found a way to silence them other than through working really, really hard or constantly reading and distracting myself. Sadly, martial arts feeds the demons more than it placates them.

Maybe that’s why I hate washing dishes. Hard to get away from my thoughts when my mind is suddenly left with nothing to focus on besides itself.

In any case, being able to write about this is the only thing that keeps me from biting myself to pieces. I feel that I can’t really talk to anyone, because many of my friends are going through the same thing and family members are far too busy and too familiar with my embarrassing childhood to get enough distance on the subject. And the people that are well adjusted…I just feel too embarrassed to approach them with my problems. It’s like a leper approaching a fine-bodied athlete. There are some who can never really understand what its like to feel like there’s parktown prawns and spiders swimming through my cranial fluid.

I apologise to anyone who was looking for a more thoughtful or polemic or interesting blog post, but WordPress does not offer the luxury of either hiding posts or making them selectively available to those who might be interested in such material.

Ultimately, I am always, always grateful to the people that do try to understand and who are supportive in the darker moments. These people know who they are, and I need not cheapen their tireless and generous friendship by adding their names to the trough of shit that is the internet.

On a lighter note, I want to design a beautiful ouroboros and make that my next tattoo. Maybe for Christmas.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jonathan says:

    So that is how your mind tears at you. I had no idea…


  2. Clea Schultz says:

    My beautiful friend: I remember (way back in grade six) drawing a picture of that circle (sans totally awesome dragon) for a friend when I was trying to explain why I felt so sad and frustrated. I think you are not alone. I do not wish to say that like I’m brushing your concerns off (“ah, everyone goes through that”) but to acknowledge that I wish you luck (and good kharma). It is a tough struggle.

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