Skeletons in the Closet

(first draft)

Haven't we all such monkeys on your backs in one form or another? There they are, skulking in the dark recesses of our minds, always looking for a way to rise to the surface, being eager to see the light of day, as if separate entities altogether, with minds and consciences all of their own. What to do with them is the thing? Thankfully, we do have some control over their freedom of expression, but scant, little control, unfortunately.

Repression is practised by many, suppression by others. Those who have a clear penchant for the 'stiff upper lip' approach to life appear to be able to keep a tin lid on proceedings, without any outwardly noticeable change, but is this really the case? As I have stated previously, such niggling thoughts are constantly looking for a way to express themselves, be it by a mental or physical manifestation - could the skin rash or tick you might be suffering from be nothing more than a misguided attempt to stifle some disturbing memory? Such physical ailments, which have their roots in psychology, have a name, considered ailments which are 'psychosomatic' in nature.

So there we have it - disturbing, potentially illness inducing, murky memories, constantly undermining your everyday life. Ignore them at your peril. There is only the one solution by all accounts - to let them breathe - to confront them head on - to share them. Such offloading is easier said than done though ...

What causes these memories to form? I should think in most cases they are born from feelings of guilt, therefore they are not easily confronted. They might well have been twisted in some way as to make their existence more tolerable. It could well be their meaning, once unravelled, will lead to further disclosure and further pain; even so, time and consideration must be allocated to their understanding if they are to be deciphered, disassembled, to be eventually disarmed (hopefully).

Here is a thought: if you suffer from such pangs of conscience therefore you have a conscience, in other words you are an individual who has some misgivings about his or her past, where some behaviour or attitude has left an indelible mark. Doesn't this at least show you are a person with feelings for others? I should think psychopaths or socio-paths don't lug these heavy weights around on their shoulders, therefore you are not one of them however heinous you consider the act to have been. Does that mean we all have such qualms - skeletons in the closet, that is - those of us we are not unfeeling towards others? Are they simply mechanisms for behavioural control - a hidden, societal constraint?

I'm veering off topic here a little, I think. We all have a conscience and it is this which governs many of our everyday actions to some extent, whereas 'skeletons in the closet' are memories which have a particular dread associated with them - planted in the forefront of our mind for a reason - a reprisal, punishment if you will, to remind us of a wrongdoing, more than likely. Strangely enough they can form at a later stage of anyone's life, when experience and learning has enabled a person to reappraise their life's journey through much more knowledgeable eyes; 'they' become 'past regrets' so to speak. At what point do they become so troublesome as to impact on a person's daily routine is the thing? Again are 'regrets' something else entirely or are they the building blocks of something much more sinister, as is the conscience - with both the conscience and regret mechanisms finally working in unison to dish out justice of a very personal nature - colluding so to speak? We all know by now there are aspects of the mind we have little control over. I detect religious undertones to all this - is there an all-knowing, governing, judgemental mind behind it all - if not ours then whose? A sobering thought and one I might well return to ...

How do we all manage to live so closely together? You could say we are controlled by restrictions imposed by the laws of the land - you could say such a thing, that is, but it doesn't mean this is the only control in evidence. What stops us from taking what we want from a weaker person? What stops us from doing all sorts of things - antisocial acts, day in day out? Could the police cope with such behaviour if experienced en-mass? Isn't this how many apocalyptical films depict the future after society has broken down entirely from some catastrophe of our own making or otherwise? Or is such a vision completely wrong and our inbuilt, behavioural constraints - those which take into account our innate, motherly concern for the underdog in particular, kick in to protect and stabilise whatever remains of the fractured dregs of humanity? Extreme behaviour of all sorts will be seen, no-doubt, but in amongst all the chaos people's conscience will still be very much in evidence, with each person avoiding additional mental baggage with indecent acts towards others. I could be wrong though and complete anarchy could well ensue, survival of the fittest kicking in big time. Could a conscience be deemed a weakness and we evolve to become beings where consideration for others will be of much less worth - are we already evolving in such a manner? If we are then 'skeletons in the closet' will become a thing of the past. Is the future one where psychopaths and socio-paths will be in charge of all aspects of our lives? Are many already in positions of high authority? I should think this is very much the case and becoming more so - they are driven people after all.

So there you are, stuck with this torment eating away at your everyday happiness - thwarting any attempt of yours to live a life of bliss. Right, how to get to grips with the beast and cast it off into the wilderness where it belongs - somewhere, anyway, away from the forefront of your throbbing bonce? How indeed? It is undoubtedly dug in like a Alabama tick, feeding off your despair and quite happy to be doing so, where it will continue to gorge and fatten with any further consideration you care to give it. Exorcism might work? You never know. I have alluded to the religious aspects to this conundrum so a visit to the local priest - or one well versed in 'casting out demons' - might well provide total and long lasting relief. Worth a shot for some I should think. A dab or two of rosemary water, along with a rendition of anti-demon rhetoric could well do it for those who can be deemed fervently religious. Not sure such a service would work with me though, being too cynical for my own good.

Reading through my own words I can see to suffer from mental 'baggage' is nothing more than a life well spent - a life of experiment and adventure, where toes are bound to be trodden on and where naivety at a young age can lead to all sorts of repercussions, both of which are the building blocks of self-reproach at a later date. Is a 'wise' person then riddled with conscionable thoughts thereby curbing his or her every desire, or at least his every action from that day on? Has a 'wise' person then been found guilty of many past misdemeanour's - at least in their own eyes? Yes, it appears to be so. A 'wise' person has been a very 'naughty' person in their preceding life - how else can judgement be passed unless from experience? What can we derive from this? You can only become 'wise' after being very unwise, obviously. The most disagreeable of us could well become the most agreeable if we have the mental faculties to self analyse our own behaviour. Trouble is you cannot put an old head on young shoulders so history continues to repeat itself - individually and collectively. Makes me think: am I 'wise'? I am certainly very different to how I was. Yes, I am definitely more level headed these days, though my head is so full of 'stuff' I still have to tread very warily with regard to my own life's decisions; and passing on 'wisdom' to others is something I care little for, it being a pointless exercise more often than not (having strong opinions on various subjects is not the same thing).

Let's get on to the 'sharing' aspect of the above ailment - if 'ailment' it is, by this I mean if the baggage is so heavy and intrusive, imposing its will to such an extent the person is being affected by negativity at all times. Who to share the thoughts with is the thing? Well, they have to be of an understanding nature, not likely to be too judgemental, and they also need to read the disclosure with objectivity - from a distance. All that is needed is a friendly ear, really - nothing more than to become a living , breathing, sounding-board, so to speak. For one thing the outpouring might not be coherent - not in an easily understandable form - it could well be as a dream - full of metaphorical images and visions with no discernible start and finish - garbled nonsense, maybe; but then again, more than likely, the afflicted person knows only too well exactly where and from what the recollection stems from - from whence it took root and why. Do you need to be a psychologist or psychiatrist to help out here? Nah, unless the person is in so much turmoil they have lost the plot entirely there should be lots of people able to lend a helping hand (or ear, I should say). How many people have 'spilled their guts' to barmaids or barmen? I wouldn't recommend this approach though as some things are better off not said at all to the wrong person - and you might not remember what it was you did say the next day in this instance - awkward! I shall leave it to you who you speak to, but someone from your family or friends seems a good a place to start as any (an attempt at passing on some 'wisdom'). Just bear in mind if the content of the 'trouble' is in anyway connected to them they will find it very hard to be objective, and the very last thing you want is to exacerbate the problem.

How quickly is relief forthcoming? From my own experience it can be instantaneous. The problem doesn't go away, but seems to regress further back into your skull and the pain lessens for some reason. 'A problem shared is a problem halved', is a truism and not just a phrase - in practice this seems to be the case; but be mindful the problem doesn't multiply by using the wrong person to divulge your troubles too; after-all, very personal information will be floating around at the time of disclosure.

Who makes a good 'sounding-board'? I know one thing, if a person is too close to me - say, romantically involved, I'm absolutely pathetic at it. Apart from that I'm pretty good at listening, but, from experience, attempting to steer the person in some way just doesn't work very well. Nearly everyone learns from past mistakes and will not learn from others however heartfelt the implorations (in one ear and out the other). To this extent a person on the receiving end doesn't need to do anything but just sit there and nod every now and then - to outwardly show understanding and acceptance even if their own thoughts are off in cloud-cuckoo-land somewhere (some docs get big bucks for doing this). As you can see it doesn't take a lot to be a good listener in such circumstances. But the best listeners will have lived through similar times and have dealt with similar emotions, along with having the ability to express themselves in certain thought provoking ways, thereby instilling something of worth in the long-run. Not a job I would like full time as it would drive me nuts, I bet, being a few cards short of a full deck as it is.

To summarise ...

'Better out than in', is a maxim that has been well tested and proven to be right on many occasions. A troubling thought can fester and grow out of all proportion if allowed to exist in fertile surroundings (a head full of doom and gloom for instance). Best not to dwell on such memories, unduly. If they become too burdensome then offload them as soon as possible. We all have regrets, things we should have done, things we should never have done; this is life in all its twisted glory. There will be many peaks and troughs along life's journey, with unsure footing at times. Best to tread warily, but you are bound to step in some crud at some time or other. Just need to wipe your feet occasionally before settling down in comfort to the autumn or winter of your life - you will have surely earned it one way or another ...