This will sound like a cliché. But for me it has been basic to survival:
There is one friend you need in the world, and that is the one who looks back at you in your mirror. That is the person you are going to have 99% of your conversations with.
Level with him.
Everybody else is going to present a front to you. When you are about to do something dangerous, all the people around you are going to look brave compared to the quivering mass of jelly you know you are. But this macho crap is the least of it.
I have known war heroes who died because they could not live with themselves – many of them. After they won their medals they died of drugs or alcohol or suicide or killed themselves in other ways. It is a very common thing among war heroes. They have the kind of physical courage it takes to win medals but their weak point was moral courage.
There was a German who wrote, “If we treated anyone else the way we treat ourselves, we would be sadists.” That is very Germanic trait, and there is a lot that kind of German in people like those who read this blog. There is a hell of lot of it in me.
The reason psychopaths have such a huge advantage in our society is because a psychopath never blames himself for anything. You and I are the exact opposite, we blame ourselves for everything, no matter how hard we try to believe the “excuses” we make up.
They aren’t “excuses.” You don’t have anything like the power and wisdom you demand of yourself. You are being cruel to a person who screws life up in exactly the same way anybody else does. But since that person is you, you can’t excuse him.
You are surrounded by people who can explain to you how, though they like to make modest jokes about how they are merely human and are sometimes ridiculous, they are never really cruel or really wrong. You see me do it all the time. I know it is a form of self-defense, and the only difference is that I know I am being self-defensive.
One of my many psychiatric diagnoses is that I have a lot of “offensive” worries. This means exactly the opposite of what it sounds like. An “offensive” worry means that you are overly concerned about having hurt someone else. It would be better for me if I were more of a psychopath. A psychopath is incapable of “offensive” concerns.
Obviously if I had the answer to this problem I wouldn’t be writing this. Some things are incurable. But if you have something that is incurable you are going to have to live with it for the rest of your life, so you damned well better be aware, ALL the time, that you have it.
Forgive yourself, over and over and over and over.
You will be told that this is a license for you to let yourself go. I wish it were. The real fact is that no matter how hard people like you and me try, we will never forgive ourselves enough.