Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde...Subtitled: When Good People Go Bad...

I imagine we're all familiar with the novella, "The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". But, just in case one among us is NOT, let me refresh your grasp of late 1800's literature.

The story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was first published in 1886...or so Wikipedia says...my unvalidated source for all online research. Ehem. Wikipedia goes on to say: "This story represents a concept in Western culture, that of the inner conflict of humanity's sense of good and evil. The novella has been interpreted as an examination of the duality of human nature (that good and evil exists in all) and that the failure to accept this tension (to accept the evil or shadow side) results in the evil being projected onto others. Paradoxically in this argument, evil is actually committed in an effort to extinguish the perceived evil that has been projected onto the innocent victims. In Freudian Theory the thoughts and desires banished to the unconscious mind motivate the behavior of the conscious mind. If someone banishes all evil to the unconscious mind in an attempt to be wholly and completely good, it can result in the development of a Mr. Hyde-type aspect to that person's character."

Yeah, yeah, Wikipedia...whatever. "The actual story line is about a good doctor who has covered up a life full of secret deeds (I'm STILL quoting Wiki here because I lack a better summary). He feels as if he is constantly battling within himself between what is good and what is evil, and is pushing away people dear to him. After drinking a potion of his own creation, Jekyll is transformed into the cruel, remorseless, evil Edward Hyde, representing the hidden side of Dr. Jekyll's nature brought to the fore. Dr. Jekyll has many friends and has a friendly personality, but as Mr. Hyde, he becomes mysterious, violent, and secretive and as time goes by, Mr. Hyde grows in power. After taking the potion repetitively, he no longer relies upon the potion to unleash his inner demon."

In 2009, I think the title of this novella would best be summed up as, "When Good People Go Bad"...just like that show in the 90's about good pets that go bad! Yes, sadly I've stolen THAT title, too. :-)

"But," you ask yourselves inquisitively because that's how you are. "Why is the CHEESE talking about good people going bad and where in the h - e double toothpicks is she going with THIS one?" I DO like the way y'all think. LOL

Well, my preciouses...the CHEESE is going to dance out on that far limb here (probably falling and breaking my neck) and discuss when good people go bad, because I've been encountering quite a bit of this phenomenon lately...not only with others, but also within myself. **GASP** I know...hard to believe, isn't it?!? Well, probably not that I'm going to TALK/WRITE about this topic, but more likely hard to believe I'd demonstrate any insight into my OWN behaviors (and the latter truth remains to be seen).

Here's the rub: We've ALL experienced others in our lives who we THOUGHT were one type of person or who's behaviors demonstrated themselves in a positive light, only to become sorely disillusioned by something negative we discover in them or uncover a malicious intent. Many of us have been in RELATIONSHIPS with these people, some even living with or marrying them...because the "Mr./Mrs. Hyde" was either not easily seen or we simply chose to overlook it, believing only the "Dr. Jekyll" could possibly be sleeping in our beds or sitting across from us at the breakfast table. Such are the blinders of love (and our faulty subconscious!). We see what our eyes (and hearts) CHOOSE to see...just like we project ourselves into the world as we "think" we should be seen. In 23 years of working in psychiatry, I have yet to meet a person who wakes up in the morning believing their own behaviors are WRONG or morally unjust...we choose to BE what we want to see also, often for the benefit of others or society...and we justify our own behaviors on this same scale.

Yet, inside each of us exists our own version of "Mr. Hyde"...some might refer to this as our *shadow* while others go so far as to call this our *dark or evil* side. That is, of course, if one believes in the duality of "good versus evil". Each of us spends a great deal of psychological time trying to *purdy up* our dark side(s) and make this part of ourselves more acceptable...we try to justify the behaviors of our shadow selves in many ways...either by projecting our internal negativity (I prefer this term, negativity, over the use of the word *evil*) onto others or simply overcompensating with extreme goodness in hopes of somehow stamping out or covering up our own negativity.

When good people go bad, there are many behaviors we employ in this process. Gossip, dominance, deliberate withholding, and verbal abuse are just a few of the more benign behaviors "good people gone bad" utilize in expressing their dark selves/shadow selves. Out and out physical violence or malicious intent to defame or steal from another are more of the extremes.

I've personally been encountering a great deal of gossip in my life about others and harmful words others have spoken about me...and, the travesty of my shadow self has also been ENGAGING in this negative behavior as well. When I engage in gossip, it is a primitive behavior and attempt to temporarily make myself feel better or to CONTROL a situation that feels out of my control...and ALWAYS at the expense of others. That's just how gossip works. If it didn't, there would be no impulse to engage in it...a temporary *fix* is sought as a means of finding temporary *relief* from something bothersome in my own psyche. It is also a means of attempting to rally false support for myself when I am feeling weakened by something else. In other words, I PROJECT MY OWN SENSE OF WEAKNESS/SHADOW SELF/LACK OF CONTROL ONTO THE LIFE OF SOMEONE ELSE WHEN I GOSSIP ABOUT THEM. I am in turn, attempting to expose what I deem as the gossip recipient's weakness as a means of hiding or denying my OWN weakness(s)...a "look how bad they are or what they did" attempt to distract from my OWN *badness* or shadow self.

Often times, when I feel weakness in myself or learn someone else is spreading gossip about me, I feel hurt and anger...which only perpetuates my sense of weakness. Rather than examining if what is being said behind my back might be TRUE or confronting my own sense of hurt/anger/weakness, I instead retaliate with carefully crafted COUNTER GOSSIP...after all, if someone is saying something hurtful about ME, isn't it fair game to return the favor?

Sadly, the answer to the above question is "no". The sense of temporary relief/expression of anger via gossip only serves to further perpetuate a vicious and unending cycle of hurtfulness...to myself and toward another...like a hamster on a winless exercise wheel, never going anywhere and always revolving back around to the same place.

I've been worn down recently by a few situations in my life (see previous post on admitting depressive symptoms!) and I'm tired. Like a boozing, over-eating, lazy athlete, I've been letting myself *go*...I haven't been taking the time or care necessary to maintain a healthy psyche because sinking is frankly less effort than breaking the water and surfacing. But just like obtaining a fit physical body, my emotional/mental body requires constant care and observation...lest I fall into negative habits that ruin my "game".

Today I'm going to start by identifying and embracing my "Mr. Hyde"...the little booger is there inside me and the only person I seem to be wasting energy *hyding* from is myself. Today, I'm going to practice acknowledging my shadow self, and then taking RESPONSIBILITY for it...I'm going to refrain from gossip or even LISTENING to someone else gossip. I'm going to pay attention to my shadow self and be mindful of what triggers this side of me to come alive...I'm not going to drink my own potion and transform into this other self. And owning my shadow's existence/Mr. Hyde is the first step in taming this inner negativity.

Not engaging in gossip sure may cut down on my fatigue factor...I wonder if I really have that much to SAY when I'm not focusing on others?!? Hmmm...life just became a quieter journey...LOL.


PedestrianCrossing-Colleen said...

Yes, yes, yes!!! I so agree with you! (Altho my Ms. Hyde self readily comes out with the "potion" of steroids).

After my dx I was AMAZED at how insensitive people I work with could be to me. People who I've known and worked beside for 8 years. Not necessarily about the MS, but still saying things that were, to me, cruel, especially in my newly mentally fragile state.

I vowed to remove myself from that situation. I DO NOT gossip. I don't even go in my co-worker's offices to chat. I don't discuss my family or anything else. I am pleasant enough but I just don't start conversations and if gossip starts I remove myself. A co-worker has repeatedly told me she has various gossipy things to tell me ("but you have to promise not to tell, because you KNOW HOW YOU ARE") and I have just told her NOT to tell me.

At first it seemed oddly restrained in the office, but now I am used to it and I am soooo happy. I don't have to hear about anyone elses problems, and I don't discuss mine.

That and Lexapro and all is good in the world!

Spaz Attack said...

Yep, learning to Keep Your Mouth Shut (KOYNS) can lead to a quieter and saner, albeit lonelier life.

I could be wrong (a first!) but those of us writers have extremely creative minds, which tend to be overactive and our own worst enemys -- you agree with that BrainSplat?

When tired our "Mr. Hyde" personality comes to the forefront...combine that with MS, pain and meds and we are certified NUTCASES!

Without our ability to "Let it all out" through our gifted writing abilities (HA) we'd both be on the "commit to mental hosptial" side of your work as a "committment specialist".

Am I making sense? Probably not, but right now I really don't care. But Hay BC...I AM LISTENING to your words. That mean anything to ya?

Blindbeard said...

Makes me think of the saying that the things we hate the most in others are the things we hate the most about ourselves. I have found that to be too true... and I am not going to elaborate on that because it would be too revealing.

Have Myelin? said...

I so hear you. Thus, the new direction of my "blog". I suppose you noticed it changed, no?

It seems to take too much energy to focus on other people's "shadows" even when they are trying to trap you.

I'll focus on my own "shadows" thank you very much. Besides it is less confusing...LOL.

I've missed you.

Denver Refashionista said...

It is strange because while we are not our ego, our ego sure has a lot of control and when it is threatened, it likes to find faults in others in order to feel better. I am guilty as charged a million times over. When I feel good about myself, it is much easier not to gossip. For one reason or another, MS has taught me to take less joy in judging others. I still listen to gossip every now and then but I don't put forth the effort to seek it out like I used to. Life is a practice, don't be too hard on yourself:)

Gerry said...

I have been reading down through several of your entries, but this one in particular gave me a lift, for I do find that it is more peaceful even in the family not to engage in negative observations about other members of the family. I had to learn not to respond to negative talk coming from one sibling about the other. If I just did not respond to it, I knew it would not get so deeply engrained and apt to cause permanent bad feelings toward that person. I would listen but had to learn not to respond so that the scale was tipped into negativity, and I have even more trouble doing this with sisters I have fought with, especially after a big fight has been iniated I did not think I started, but I would soon remember remarks I made that were bound to push my youngest sister into erupting. So I would try to take responsibility for that and vow not to go there with her the next time. I always have to remind myself not to get carried away with the negativity which causes me to feel like I am wading through knee deep mud eventually. I know the more I can control analysis that goes too deep into their faults, the less heavy going it is going to be, a constant watch necessary on the mouth and brain! Gerry

Spaz Attack said...

Hay there BC

Life's a dizzy whirlwind these days -- sounds like for both of us. Are whirlwinds a good thing? I'll let you decide.

Just letting you know I's a thinking about cha.


Janine said...

"I haven't been taking the time or care necessary to maintain a healthy psyche because sinking is frankly less effort than breaking the water and surfacing." Best thing I've read in forever.
Thank you more than I can say for the kick in the behind.
I will add, "The mind is like a dangerous neighborhood, don't go there alone." Don't remember where I heard that but, I am going to put your sentence on my computer desktop as a permanent reminder!!!