Explain, please

Just randomly, while cruising YouTube for videos, I came across something tacked on as text to a video I was watching.  (I was looking for a particular scene in HBO’s In Treatment.)

The inability to live one’s own life due to the fear of hurting or disappointing others is a leading cause of mental disturbance.

Really?  Can somebody explain that to me?  Leaving aside for a moment whether or not I’m “mentally disturbed” – is that really true?

Maybe it’s an illustration of my own psyche, but I always thought that fear of hurting or disappointing others is kinda like sunshine.  A lot will hurt, and too much will kill you, but a little bit is downright necessary.

Or am I really wrong?  I’m not being facetious; I’m sincerely asking.

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10 Responses

  1. The inability to live one’s own life due to the fear of hurting or disappointing [all] others is a leading cause of mental disturbance.

    Make more sense?

    No? Okay. If your normal, everyday life is constantly hamstrung by the terror that other people will be somehow bothered by what you say and do on a moment-by-moment basis, you won’t be able to do anything. Whatsoever. Like, you can’t open your mouth in a conversation with a stranger because you’re afraid you’ll offend them. You can’t try to get a job because you’re afraid that you’ll let down your employer with your eventual performance. You can’t even sit in your house and do nothing, because someone is probably hurt and disappointed by your lack of action.

    I think “hurting or disappointing others” is sort of a mother category, meaning that all kinds of other more specific anxieties fall under it. Anxieties can be thoroughly crippling, and I think that’s what this is meant to say.

    But I am not a licensed mental health professional, so if one of those is reading this blog, please smack me down with the truth.

    Okay, I think I agree with you here, in that the author of that line could have been using this as sort of a catch-all.

    My take on it was that I do (and don’t do) lots of things every day for fear of hurting or disappointing others. You know, steal that bright yellow Ducati that I see parked in a front yard fairly regularly; dye my beard neon red; not take that fifth drink before going to work in the morning.

    Clearly there’s a point at which it becomes pathological, and I don’t think I’m at that point. Am I mentally disturbed by the level to which I do take it? I dunno.

    • The quote speaks of an inability to live. Not ordinary restraint from being a criminal. There’s lots of stuff in between. Psychopaths just don’t have this wire in their brains; people unbalanced in the other direction can’t do anything at all without taking others into consideration.

      I think there’s a difference between “inability to live” and “inability to live one’s own life.”

      Maybe the video the quote was taken from is skewing my perception of the line: the video depicts a man in therapy who lost his older, “golden child” brother when he was a small boy, and then subsumed his own desires in order to fill his brother’s shoes for his family. Later in life, a similar situation occurred in his professional life. It wasn’t that he wasn’t living – he just was living the life that he thought his brother would have had, out of what he felt was a responsibility to his parents. There was nothing wrong with it, it just wasn’t coming from his own desires and ambitions, but from external sources.

      Pathological? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

  2. Sure, there’s a difference between healthy, reasonable fear and paralyzing, irrational fear. And I think that ability to give a shit what people think of us is part of what makes us human.

    I also don’t agree that fear of disappointing/hurting others is a leading cause of mental disturbance — he may be referring to one kind of disorder, like social anxiety, but I would say a chemical imbalance causes most disorders, not just fear alone.

    But what do I know. Freshman psych rears it’s ugly head!

    Well you and I are speaking from the same level, at least. Good ol’ 101.

    I think fear can fuck you up, but *this* fear? Unless you’re using that as a broad brush to lump parental/filial/relationship issues all together into one group that you’re afraid to disappoint…

    Personally I think that from time to time I’ve taken the don’t-hurt/disappoint thing a little too far. (See also: Nice Guy Syndrome.) But where does that start meaning you’re not “living your own life?” Even though I’ve taken it too far, I can’t say that I’m not living my own life. I suppose if “my own life” meant stuff like lots of drugs and sleeping around like I’m an 80s hair band singer, that might be a problem.

  3. I am not so quick to brush aside your disturbed state…but can pretend.

    A part of my growing in the past year and a half has been getting past some of these same issues…but I don’t think it can be the leading cause…I think the lack of it, more of a narcissistic behavior, has more to do with it…people unable to deal with things not going in their favor.

    My disturbed state? True, this whole state IS disturbed.

    I know what you mean. I think you have to have a healthy ego to successfully move through life, but you can’t slip over into narcissism, either – that way lies just as many, probably more, dangers.

  4. Where does that leave me? I can’t fear hurting or disappointing others because it’s part of my daily routine. I like your sun analogy. A little of most things isn’t bad for you. It would help round you out. You get used to being aware of your surroundings or prepared for bumps in the road.

    Instead of being wound so tight that the first bump sends you off the road entirely? I like it.

    Yeah, if you couldn’t disappoint others, you wouldn’t have a job, would you?

    • I do have a very specific skill set, don’t I?

      One might fairly say so.

      I’m not saying you should go out of your way to hurt or disappoint people but it is a part of life. To be afraid to do that can accumulate in your psyche and be a contributor to a breakdown but there needs to be other factors involved.

      The thing is I’ve learned just about anything can contribute to a mental disturbance. What do people in the news say about their neighbor who takes a Black & Decker to his family? He was a quiet man, he was a nice man.

      I was starting to think you were onto me until you said Black & Decker. All my tools are Ryobi!

      I think your second paragraph really hit the nail on the head.

  5. You know what I always say, the names and brands have been changed to protect the psychotic.

    …fuck.

  6. I think a leading cause of mental disturbance is my mother.

    Ding ding ding!

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