Tag Archives: Trolling

What am I doing here?

I have recently pondered the purpose of this blog and whether I should feel the obligation to continue it. Although I do not feel an obligation to a readership base, there is frequently a lingering thought that I should regularly create and post content. Perhaps this is the result of neural pathways that have been constructed resulting from dopamine released when I see views, likes and comments, or the slight adrenaline released when I debate with the friendly folks at the Orthosphere and the troll that has taken a fancy to my blog. There is also the sense that this blog feeds my need to be creative and strengthens my creative muscle.

But there is also the sense that I have something to say regarding my perception of this world. I have many thoughts, reactions and impressions, but until I write them down they are typically not in their most organized and coherent form. The act of writing works to shape these ideas etc. into a more coherent form. It also helps to process and release the ideas etc. That is, the ideas tend to linger in my conscience until I write them down and organize them. Once I write them down, the lingering tends to cease. I do not fully understand this process but it seems to be true.

So back to the initial question: What is the purpose of this blog? I believe the answer is: The purpose of this blog is to serve as a creative outlet where I can organize, process and release my thoughts and insights. I am not sure that purpose works to serve the interests of blog readers. Perhaps it does. But their interests are not my primary purpose. However, there is something about publishing a blog where other people can read it that aids in this process. To wit, if I write something in my private journal there is not much thought invested in the neatness of my hand writing or the organization of my ideas as they relate to another person reading them. If I am being honest, there is some thought that someone might read my journal. But when journal writing, I cannot worry about that because it defeats its purpose. In other words, my journal is a venue for me to be completely honest with myself. The purpose is simply to put the thoughts onto paper as a means of processing and releasing them. I rarely go back and reread a portion of my personal journal unless there is a specific idea I want to retrieve. In that sense my journal serves as a personal historical record but it also serves to process and release the ideas as I previously described. By contrast, blog writing incorporates an additional step whereby effort is expended to coherently organize thoughts and write them in a manner intended to be presentable to an outside audience. There is something about this extra step that more fully does the work of processing and releasing the ideas. I do not feel I completely understand this last point but it seems to be something along those lines.

This blog has existed since 2013. When I started, the initial purpose was probably more oriented towards amassing an audience. At that time, I was in a different place intellectually and spiritually. To a certain extent, this blog documents my intellectual and spiritual evolution since that time. In that sense, I make no claim that there is an internal coherence to the thoughts expressed except that they document this personal evolution. The purpose of this blog has likewise evolved from its initial state of wanting to put myself “out there” in some form, to a venue to organize my thoughts in a more coherent manner and to release them in order to move on to whatever is next from that intellectual platform.

Before I close, I would also like to touch upon the title of this blog; “Winston Scrooge”, which is a combination of the names of the protagonists in “1984” by George Orwell and “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. Both of these literary works have resonated with me deeply for various reasons. I can relate with Winston Smith of “1984” in his feeling of isolation, that the world can be a hostile and oppressive place and that struggling against it can be a fruitless and ultimately self-destructive enterprise. But I also relate to Ebenezer Scrooge of “A Christmas Carol” in his initial hardness of heart, but also in his underlying openness to change through the benevolent intervention of outside and divine forces. The telling of both their transformations through the course of their respective stories have lingered as ideas in my mind for most of my life. The fact that they have lingered so long suggests that I have not fully processed and released them.

I recently reread 1984 for a podcast I recorded and still extracted new and interesting information. I typically, reread “A Christmas Carol” before the end of the year. At the very least, I re-watch the Patrick Stewart version and hope to experience the unique resonance I have with it as well. Perhaps I will never fully process the depths of these stories. I hope I will never fully release either of them in the sense that I do not wish to loose that sense of resonance. I have to admit that my resonance with “A Christmas Carol” has dissipated somewhat of late. Perhaps I am clinging to something that should be released. But even that dynamic is informative. It demonstrates that in this life, all things evolve. I grow older and hopefully wiser. Old wounds can heal and the process of their healing is an evolution and an education if I am open to allowing it to be so.

And so, I will continue with this blog because it serves the purposes articulated above to do so. If there are readers out there who profit with me by my writing, so much the better. It is nice to think that is the case but I will remain on my guard not to let that be the motivation behind this enterprise. I will also keep in mind Winston Smith and Ebenezer Scrooge and their respective transformations that have resonated so deeply with me and continue to ponder why this is so as long as I continue to write.

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A Conversation with Writer’s Block Part III

I burned Cate's book today in the woods as a symbolic conclusion to this project.

 

WS : Your underlying premise so far has been that writer’s block is caused by a subconscious, psychological process designed to protect me from experiencing uncomfortable feelings.

WB : Yes, that is essentially what I am in a nutshell.

WS : So how do I break through?

WB : The first method is to muster the awareness and courage to break through the writer’s block which means you have to allow yourself to experience that uncomfortable feeling that you are unwilling to experience.

WS : That sounds simple enough to do from a theoretical perspective.

WB : It is simple but unfortunately it is also impossible. At the very least it is extremely difficult to do.

WS : Why is it impossible?

WB : Because you cannot change the fact that you are unwilling to experience something simply by declaring that you are willing to experience it. The truth of the matter remains that you are unwilling to experience it and making a declaration of your willingness to experience what you are unwilling to experience is simply a misstatement of reality.

WS : How does a writer get through you then?

WB : In order to bypass the mechanism that I personify a writer must distract me or sneak by me in some manner.

WS : How does a writer do that?

WB : What I am about to tell you will probably only apply to you on the level of the specific because everyone has different fears. However, it may work to shed light on the process of writer’s block in general and in that regard may help someone other than you who happens to be reading this.

WS : Lay it on me.

WB : A method you are employing right now is to write in dialog. For some reason this allows you the freedom to generate ideas in a way that writing prose does not much of the time.

WS : Why is that?

WB : I think it works because you are in a sense stepping out of your head which is where the fear resides and stepping into the head of another entity that does not have that particular fear.

WS : Yes but the head I am stepping into is created from my head so really I’m not stepping out of my head.

WB : True, but you cannot deny the results. It is a slight of hand, but it works so why question it?

WS : Are there any other methods?

WB : Sure. Recently you have been generating a great deal of material for your blog by debating a certain individual who is let’s say easily antagonized. This seems to be another way in which you can bypass me. Do you know why that is?

WS : Well, by entering into a dialog with him it is in a sense like entering into a dialog with you. We bounce ideas off of each other and together we come up with something that neither one of us would have come up with on our own.

WB : Yes, that’s part of it. The other part of it is that you sort of “get off” on fucking with the poor guy. You get a charge out of it and that charge is perhaps more enticing that the fear is scary. Does that make sense?

WS : It does although I am not proud to admit it.

WB : Part of you is not proud to admit it. Part of you thoroughly enjoys it. We’re entering into territory that you have covered extensively on this blog. It is the addictive nature of trolling that is caused by a personality that was shaped by shame.

WS : Yes. A shame based personality enjoys making other people feel ashamed. This is the primary reason why people pass judgment on others and why they cloak their judgment in morality. They judge other people because they get off on it. It feels good to put other people below them hierarchically. But they cloak this desire for relative supremacy in morality and objectivity in order to mask this true desire.

WB : Right. We don’t need to go too deep into this. It is good to acknowledge that is what is going on here and to recognize what a powerful motivating force this is. It is so powerful, for example, that you can harness it to bypass your fears.

WS : But there is an evil negativity associated with it.

WB : Yes. It is dishonest in that it claims to be doing something good and right when it is actually serving a base desire. It is also evil in the sense that it achieves its goal of benefiting you by hurting someone else.

WS : Yes, and the more I use it the more I feel pulled to the dark side and become dominated by it.

WB : It is an addiction in other words.

WS : Yes, it starts out serving me or perhaps more accurately it starts out with the appearance of serving me but eventually displays it’s true nature and becomes my master.

WB : So although it can be a powerful force it is probably better to leave it alone.

WS : It is difficult to do that. I find that it comes and goes in waves. I will indulge in the behavior. At first it is fun and exhilarating but after a period of time it begins to disgust me. At that point I cut myself off. At first being free of it feels liberating and peaceful but after a period of time it becomes stale and boring. And so I think maybe I can do it just a little bit. And so I do and the cycle repeats itself. I know that if I were to strive for a more perfect me I would divorce myself from this cycle entirely. But again it is difficult.

WB : It is but if perfection were easy we would all be perfect.

WS : Assuming we all want to be perfect…

WB : Good point.

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How To Write About Painful Topics (Interview)

Here is a link to an interview I had with Gary Smailes of Bubblecow, a company based in the UK that provides editing and publishing assistance for self-published authors.

In this interview Gary asks me about writing honestly about painful topics as it relates to my first self published eBook “Shame and Internet Trolling.”

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Contraception, Morality, Conservative Christians and Shame

I was involved in a comment section discussion for another blog post entitled “Breaking Sex.” The blog itself is a community for conservative Christians so it follows that they have a strong anti-contraception philosophy. Basically the author argued that contraception goes against the natural order of rolling the dice every time the urge to have sex is acted upon. Because the use of contraception goes against the natural order it is illicit and immoral. As evidence of the immorality of contraception the author points out the negative impact contraception has on the fertility rate and how a population that uses contraception will naturally be replaced by a population that does not use contraception and this is all indicative of God’s will.

It is always a little dangerous for me to get involved in comment section discussions, especially ones involving religion or politics. Although not my intent, people often interpret my view-point as hostile and accuse me (directly or through implication) of trolling. Once this happens it is easy to fall into the back and forth flame war type discussion. I used to relish this type of interaction but now I do my best to avoid them.

As I have stated many times before on my blog, these types of interactions are seemingly never about the actual ideas being discussed. They seem to always be about passive-aggressively shaming the other person. Of course this is always denied by both sides.

The Christian conservatives seemed to be arguing in favor of using shame as a means of enforcing morality on an otherwise immoral population. Specifically as to contraception one commenter argued life was better in the 1950’s when the use of contraception was outlawed both legally but also through shame and public opinion. I argued that shame is a poor means of motivating people to act morally because they will only do so grudgingly and with resentment. Further, when a person is shamed they tend to want to shame other people and it spreads like a virus creating a population of unhappy, repressed, dishonest and angry people.

This conversation does raise an interesting question. Is shame ever justified?

In his book Healing the Shame that Binds You author John Bradshaw argues that there is healthy shame and toxic shame. Healthy shame is normal and occurs when a person acts wrong and is repentant for acting that way. Toxic shame generally results from abusive situations and results in people carrying shame around with them wherever they go. They feel shame all the time in other words. I tend to overlook the healthy kind but I suppose there is a place for that. In my opinion most of the shame I see is the toxic variety so I have adopted a more sweeping anti-shame philosophy than probably John Bradshaw would espouse. Perhaps my situation is unique and my mindset is biased.

It is my observation that conservatives tend to be pro-shame as a glue that holds society together. Liberals use shame as well but generally to argue for freedom from an oppressive societal forces like religion or oppressive morality. My general feeling on the subject is that shame creates and spreads misery. In this respect I do not view shame as a fair trade-off for a well-organized society.

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Passive Aggressive Behavior and Shame

(The bulk of the material for this blog post came from my original post entitle Passive Aggressive Behavior, The Truth Will Set You Free. This has consistently ranked as my most popular post in terms of views.)

I used to troll a message board.  I describe this in my recently published eBook entitled Shame and Internet Trolling. I targeted a conservative, ex-military guy from Texas.  All I had to do was post an article that put the Republican party in a bad light and that would set him off on a vicious anti-Liberal rant.  It felt exciting to get him riled up.  When he accused me of trolling and / or baiting I would defend myself saying that all I did was post an article I thought would generate interesting conversation.  Because I did not comment on the article directly I maintained plausible deniability.  It was fun to get him riled up but when he attacked me back I felt horrible.  I had to get the last word in.  I could not let him get the better of me.  Sometimes other members on the message board would take his side.  Then I would feel even worse.

The truth is that trolling and all passive aggression comes from shame.  If I really felt the article was valuable in and of itself I would have advocated for it.  But instead I tried to maintain deniability to protect myself from counter attack and maintain the illusion that I merely posted the article to stimulate discussion.  Shame based behavior such as passive aggression comes from a mind that assumes that its true thoughts and feelings are not okay.  If somebody else were able to observe these thoughts and feelings they would judge the mind harshly so the thoughts and feelings must be hidden and denied.  To the shame based mind image is more important than reality.  Of course this mindset is ultimately undermining and self-defeating.  Reality is real (by definition).  If the mind values image over reality it is in a sense denying reality and at odds with it.  This results in more shame and anxiety to boot.

In the Book of John, chapter 8, verse 32, Jesus says, “[T]he truth shall make you free.”  In the context of this post this statement is very powerful because shame (the motivation behind passive aggression) is a prison of untruth and unreality.  In order to escape the prison of shame the mind must face its highest fear, to expose the truth within to the light of day and for all to see and judge (if they choose to) without excuses.  This is a very tall order for someone who suffers from shame.  I speak from personal experience and in my experience just as this prison takes many, many years to build and perfect it also takes some time (though not as much) to be torn down.  The fear of exposure must be approached with caution and the waters tested gradually over time so that trust of the outside world is built up.  Further, and most importantly, the shame based mind must learn to not abandon itself in the face of shame.  I used to involuntarily say, “I wish I was dead” to myself whenever I felt shame or embarrassment.  Then I would feel bad about what came out of my mouth. Now, when I experience shame or embarrassment I try to be aware of what is going on inside of me and then I say, “I can love myself through this experience.”  I have more capacity to let myself off the hook. The reality of the situation is that shame is just an emotion and all emotions are real and okay.  They have to be otherwise the one who feels the emotion is not okay.  It is difficult to emerge from shame and appreciate this at first.  But doing so brings forth the dawn of liberation for a shame based person and when this happens behaviors like passive aggression begin to fade away.

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