Professor Green column: On The Impulse To Self Destruct
In Stephen Manderson's latest column, he looks at his need to disrupt his own life by pressing the button of self-destruction. More sharp and brutal writing prising up hidden truths about himself, and all of us.
There’s a big red button just waiting to be pressed.
Not a real red button, a theoretical red button.
It’s a bit like a button for an ejector seat.
Whether you’re aware of its presence or not, you’ve probably pressed it at some point.
Pressing the red button isn’t the act of actually pressing anything, it’s a metaphor for self sabotage. A red button triggered by an action, a choice, a decision or any combination of each.
I normally hit mine when I get anywhere near to finding the calm in my life that I so badly crave.
So badly in fact, that if I even get a scent of it I almost immediately do something to disrupt it.
Why would you repeatedly disrupt something you want so badly?
I mean, I must want it, mustn’t I?
Coming from such a chaotic background it’s almost a necessity that I find calm as an adult, otherwise I’ve failed at life, haven’t I?
But where’s the point in looking for calm in life when the chaos is inside you.
Some of my most defining qualities are both good and bad.
I’m impulsive, I’m reactive, I’m spontaneous.
If it wasn’t for these qualities I wouldn’t have had half of the fun I’ve had, but I probably wouldn’t have had half of the nightmares I’ve encountered either. It’s all about balance though…
It’s probably worth pointing out that once you read, and realise the truth, in what I’m about to say, it will change things, and not necessarily for the better, although I took the positive from it.
You can opt out and read no further:
Anyone who reckons they keep making the same mistake is wrong. You can only make a mistake once, and even that is hard work after a certain age.
Ultimately what you’re doing is making choices, the same ones.
You can’t repeatedly make the same mistake, but you can repeatedly make bad decisions.
But bad by who’s account?
If you and I, amongst a planet full of 6 billion people just happen to find ourselves in the same place, wanting the same thing at the same time, surely there’s something romantic in that? Probably not if it’s heroin, but bear with me.
We’ve both got work in the morning, but we’ve got a taste for it now, so let’s disappear to a cubicle for a cheeky bump and have a shot of tequila with our next Old Fashioned when we get back.
We know one pint leads to two,
We know where you and I lead to,
And we know where you and I leads too.
And yet here we are.
Outside having an innocent fag and a natter that’s anything but innocent.
“Can you wear those clothes to work again tomorrow?”
Whatever the outcome, we’ve both made a choice. Not a mistake.
I used to guilt myself quite a lot, which made for miserable weeks. It came with making what I was telling myself were the wrong choices and bad decisions. It took me a while to realise that the fact I was making decisions is actually a good indicator for there not being a problem.
Saying no a little bit more and choosing my battles helped a lot as well.
Part of my depression made it very difficult to accept happiness into my life. It pains me now to look back and know that for fear of what was round the corner, I didn’t enjoy things I should have. Incredible experiences, time spent with incredible people, all tainted by the voice in my head reminding me it probably won’t last, that with the good must come the bad, inducing a feeling of dread along with prangs of anxiety as my wonderful mind, injured as a result of all the chaos it encountered early on, would be constantly catastrophising.
All of which would contribute to repeating behaviours which would ultimately bring about what I was fearful of. That’s a pretty big statement actually.
Fear; you know that thing that often presents as anger as you get older, because especially as a man, god forbid you be scared of anything.
I’ve never studied psychotherapy but I find the workings of the mind fascinating, and having been doing a lot of thinking of late, and taking myself away from the distractions of every day life to do so, I’ve finally been getting beyond the feeling of boredom (that isn’t boredom, it’s just a lack of stimulation) to a state of stillness and being (human beings remember, spend more time being) which is actually quite difficult with the constant streams of information and stimuli that exist everywhere, not to mention how easy it is to distract ourselves.
I’m actually getting some work done.
Not work like writing this article (though it serves a purpose, as far as thinking objectively about everything that I write helps me shape thoughts into opinions) but work on me.
I actually think I’m starting to gain some understanding of possibly the most important thing to understand – myself.
Perspective is everything.
Hitting the red button doesn’t always have catastrophic outcomes. Variety is the spice of life after all, and sometimes we all need to hit the red button.
I did this week and it’s landed me in Budapest.
I’m writing this while indulging in a lovely glass of red on a flight 12 hours later than the one I was meant to board because I went to bed not far off when I should have been waking up and slept through my alarm.
Had a bloody good night though, I won’t be guilting myself about that one.
Read Stephen’s previous column on ‘Are We All F*cked?’
Illustration by Berta Vallo.
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