So here's a little story.

One month and four days ago, I spent a long, long time on the phone with Ticketmaster's automated ticket-purchasing system. I was attempting to purchase tickets for an Oasis concert which is tonight. Somehow I hung up the phone with the impression that I had purchased these tickets and everything was fine.

We waited until yesterday (the stipulated 24 hours before the events) for the things to arrive in the mail. They did not, so I emailed customer service. Customer service told me they had no record of any such purchase. I got all huffy and went into my bank account so I could pdf-ify my e-statement and send it to them to prove otherwise. Turns out there wasn't any such purchase. Yes, I really do pay little enough attention to my bank balance on a day-to-day basis that the non-spending of about $120 I thought I had spent could go unnoticed by me. Financially irresponsible as hell, but still unfortunately the case.

So both Geds and Dave, who are both more into Oasis than me, who had been looking forward to this concert for more than a month, now do not get to go either. Because I misunderstood the promptings of an automated phone purchase system and then failed to follow up on my supposed purchase to the extent tat would have been necessary to discover that it did not, in fact, take place.

This is one of those things that sometimes happens which have an extremely negative impact on my general state of emotional well-being.

Oh, and I still can't figure out how to turn off the feature on my phone that makes it attempt to wirelessly sync up with internet and email service. Which it cannot do, because I have never set up the email or internet service that comes with my minutes package. So every time it attempts to do the wireless sync thing, it keeps trying and failing, trying and failing, trying and failing until the battery runs out. Which it did again this morning and I, again, failed to notice this fact.

Here's the ironic thing. I really, really, really want to do some mental-breakdown type stuff and run off and sit in a Starbucks somewhere where nobody knows where I am and cry and write idiotic, angry things on a yellow legal pad until I regain some semblance of cognitive control. Not communicate with anyone until either I have my shit sorted out, or someone comes out and finds me. Then, when I come back, get all surly and defensive and brittle because of my narrow escape from total emotional collapse.

However, to do that would cause undue anguish and distress for the people who care about me most, and is in fact very rude. So instead of doing what my instincts are screaming at me to do, I am going to describe how it tends to happen. Insecure people in great emotional pain who are not thinking very clearly have been stumbling upon this technique down through the ages, and finding it extremely effective. Though it is terribly wasteful and impractical.

It is a form of emotional blackmail. One of those instinctive action-reaction things people move through without conscious intent in their desperate desire to avoid the disapproval of others. This particular process, within its category, is milder than (for example) threats of suicide, but more extreme than (for example) initiating a guilt-trip with "you know what a flake I am, why didn't you make me double-check it?" sort of arguments.

The way it works is this:
-- Hideous feelings of guilt, loathing etc. rise up in me, far out of proprtion to the triggering event.
-- I either perceive these feelings as generally valid because of other, unrelated low-self-esteem issues, or choose to perceive them as valid for other, consciously selected reasons.
-- Having validated extreme, overreactive negative emotions and identity beliefs, I become mentally unbalanced enough to do something stupid, destructive, reckless, or otherwise potentially even worse than the triggering event.

People who care about me and/or who are affected by my reckless actions must then redirect all their attention and emotional energy to those actions rather than to the triggering event. It becomes their responsibility to prevent me from remaining in a dangerously unbalanced state or doing anything else stupid. This means people who would have been angry at or disappointed with me because of the triggering event must tone down or even abandon altogether any expressions of criticism towards me, because getting me back into a state of emotional stability is now their first priority.

Thus can two wrongs seem, on an emotional level at least, to make a right.

This process is also inadvisable because of the "boy who cried wolf" problem. Sometimes a person, no matter what their other issues, will have a serious long-term problem which they are unable to fix, or of which they are not consciously aware. But if they muddy the waters by extorting emotional support out of the people closest to them, then those people become less and less likely (not to mention less and less able) to provide them with emotional support in dealing with their more serious underlying problems.

So I am going to apologize like a big girl, and pay more goddamn attention next time I buy concert tickets, and endure a certain amount of disappointed anger from the people I have disappointed. Because it is, after all, appropriate.

Now I am going to take my stupid dead phone and go eat lunch. Working at the restaurant taught me damn well the consequences of punitively depriving myself of food when I am feeling angry with myself. Unsurprisingly, it makes me feel much worse about myself. So I will not do it.


Anonymous said...

Four truths:

-You didn't let anyone down. Ticketmaster did.

-Going on the freakout you described would have been a bad thing... but to me, analyzing the root of it, and not doing it, is a good thing. And just as powerful.

-This weekend will still be extraordinary. I am hearing talk of Geds buying good booze for us.

-Oasis hasn't been mixing up their setlists, so I know exactly what we're missing. And speaking for myself, I'm not sure that list at that venue is $60 worth of rock and roll.

So seriously, :-D.

Fiat Lex said...

*pounce hug!*
Thank you, darlin'. You are always full of truth, and your comment and your emails made me feel much better.

Yeah, analyzing instead of doing is a right handy skill to have when dealing with emotional problems. I think this type of situation is part of what the pointless dystopia dream (with monster) was trying to tell me about. I hope I can keep this in mind next time I start to get uber-upset about something, wish to blazes I'd figured it out years ago. Spose I should be proud of having figured it out at all, eh?

Huzzah for getting to hang out and get boozed up together anyway! :D

We should bring over the Deck, and maybe that VHS we made of The Method if Geds ain't seen it yet. Hey, since you know their setlists from das interwebs and we've got those albums, maybe you can burn a CD of what we're missing, and we can listen to it anyway? That would be sweet.

Love! :-*

kisekileia said...

Interestingly, the situation you describe with anguish leading to emotional blackmail is what people with borderline personality disorder experience and do all the time. (I've researched BPD both for non-academic reasons and for a couple of essays.)

Fiat Lex said...


That is an interesting insight! I'd read "I Hate You, Don't Leave Me" a number of years ago and been frustrated by how much it glosses over and leaves out. Even though it was recommended to me as the best book on the subject for lay people. A book I much prefer is Wasted by Marya Hornbacher. It's nominally about the author's experiences with anorexia and bulimia. But the more I read, the more it was obvious to me that for this woman, the anorexia and bulimia were powerful rituals through which she tried to exteriorize and gain control over the emotional bulimia that is Borderline Personality Disorder.

My dad had had a psychiatrist of his suggest that my mom has it. The guy recommended "I Hate You, Don't Leave Me" to him and Dad was shocked at how well it matched up, and that the condition had a name. But, in large part because of his issues with Mom that he was never able to resolve, he took the disorder and loaded it up in his mind with all kinds of negative baggage. So the idea of me having BPD hadn't been one I took seriously. If I'd gone that route, living with him would have developed all kinds of unnecessary problems.

Makes me wonder all over again how much of BPD is genetic and how much is learned. Genetic predisposition, learned responses to trigger situations maybe. Like a lot of other disorders. My catchphrase on the subject has been, "People with BPD aren't on the borderline of having a disorder. They're on the borderline of having a personality."

It would explain a lot, though, and I'm definitely going to give this some serious thought. What if I've always trouble forming lasting bonds with people because I started out lacking some of the psychological equipment that people need to form bonds with each other?

I would be interested to read your essays and get your views on the topic!