Mitigate the damage of your own self-destruction

Caleb Walsh illustration

One afternoon — in that hazy time period dubbed "the holidays" — I experienced a holier-than-thou moment with my television. Pontificating, punctured by swearing, I lectured Ms. Fiona (Fi) Gallagher, a character on Showtime's Shameless. Memory of my exact words fails, but it went something like this: "What is wrong with you? After a literal lifelong-losing streak dating awful people, you finally partner up with someone who treats you well and you implode, blowing everything — a line of coke, your strong, interdependent family relationships and your boyfriend's brother. Get. Your. Shit. Together."

click to enlarge Inga N. Laurent
Inga N. Laurent

Now, I have gone on record before but this declaration bears (like a grizzly) repeating — we are at our most insufferable, judgmental-Judy-selves when witnessing reminders of the ways we've misbehaved. Walling off by luxuriating in the illusion of self-superiority is the ultimate projection. Quite cunning we humans be — capable of crafting elaborate justifications for ourselves while casting aspersions onto others.

Mid-sentence into a soliloquy, I recognized my misdirected anger. Akin to a Gallagher, I'm no stranger to derailment. Fiona's actions hinged on questions of worthiness, fabricating an inability to accept being loved well, so she opted for a burn-it-down approach. My actions hinge more on questions of freedom, fabricating an inability to sustain positive choices and so opting for death by small dumpster fires — the mounting of poor, daily, incendiary decisions.

For illustration, observe. During the TV tirade, I was embroiled in a self-induced-sugar-smog in addition to multiple co-occurring addictions, including a Netflix binge, incessantly checking on my Sims (the irony of obsessing over the Ziadi family's well-being rather than my own is so noted), and a Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Basically Every Day in December buying frenzy fueled by a sense of "it's such a good deal!"

Yes, I realize the season could suffice here as a scapegoat, a societally acceptable excuse. However, I'm really trying to develop better warnings, alarms that can only ring once I take responsibility for sussing out root causes. Wildfires do tend to smolder until you reach their systems underneath.

So, if one of your reactions when life is going well is to get the matches, or if you recognize a little Gallagher in you, or also suffer from chronic inflammation, then I'm inviting you into this joint investigation.

Why do we continue making choices that do not ultimately serve us well, especially ones so definitively destructive? Is there a balance somewhere between healthy habits and monotony? Can creativity coexist with routine? Are the real superheroes people who constantly survive chaos or those committed to a steady existence, building a life they find satisfying? Why does seeking peace within sometimes feel like selling out, abandoning the cause? Do stable relationships, startlingly devoid of sharp edges, precarious highs and lows, prove to be just as or possibly even more meaningful in the end? Is moderation a sign of mundanity or maturity? Does healing from our internal trauma always lead to so much less drama?

Though few answers exist, some have shared solutions. Containing requires tools. For example, a fireline or break is a barrier, either naturally occurring or created, to slow raging progression. Yes, every situation is different but prevention or recovery all require positive and sustaining action. Personally, nonjudgmental observation, resetting an intention to nourish, reading good fiction, meditation and to-do lists help. Just like learning new skills, listening to podcasts (Happier by Gretchen Rubin), registering for and calendaring in tai chi and salsa classes, keeping a daily gratitude journal, and being in close proximity to people who make me light up, encouraging me to burn brightly without ever stoking a flame. ♦

Inga N. Laurent is a local legal educator and a Fulbright scholar. She is deeply curious about the world and its constructs and delights in uncovering common points of connection that unite our shared but unique human experiences.

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About The Author

Inga Laurent

Inga N. Laurent is a local legal educator and a Fulbright scholar. She is deeply curious about the world and its constructs and delights in uncovering common points of connection that unite our shared but unique human experiences.