if I can't tell free stories for people.
I'm going to talk about why I think that is, because it's not because anyone here on Dreamwidth has been a jerk. It appears to be more tied into the kinds of "abusive religion / family" things that we're used to writing about. It just took a visit to a "Mormon Meme Translator," which explains the hidden meanings behind the things we grew up with, to help us see why we are having such trouble with this.
Content note: Brief, nongraphic mention of how we were so depressed as a Mormon that we almost killed ourself, which is not how we're feeling right now, and spoilers for the plot of Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
Meme 8 -- Try Harder
Here it is on the left, with its "translation" on the right:
We wrote earlier about the coded, "dog whistle" messages in Mormon teachings, that not everyone hears or is susceptible to. Here, the author of Thoughts on Things and Stuff spells out the actual meaning behind this quote. What Mormon church leaders and other narcissists see as fluffy, meaningless, feel-good encouragement that they are all on the right path is, if taken seriously, a terrible condemnation.
Here's another one:
As the author of Thoughts on Things and Stuff explains, this kind of teaching is how Mormon church leaders absolve themselves of responsibility for the effects of their teachings. Because they say, on the one hand, that the Gospel will make your life better. But if it doesn't, they say that the fact things are worse for you now means it's working! It shields them from criticism, and places members "in a bind where they experience hurtful consequences as a result of group policy and teaching, and must accept that these negative experiences are proof of their legitimacy."
When we started reading the Tao te Ching, the admonition to be like water -- to flow downhill, seeking the path of least resistance, and in so doing carve canyons and reshape landscapes -- was revelatory. It was the opposite of what we'd been taught all our life, but when we thought about it, it really described our experience. The reward of effort largely seemed to be effort itself, but when we reached what people (perhaps appropriately) call a "flow state" we actually got things done much more quickly, and to a higher quality standard.
Getting to that flow state can require some effort. Actually starting your workout, going out to play games, or sitting down to put words on a screen can feel like unplugging a dam, or "shifting gears" as we've put it. Once you've crested the hill, though, you can put it in cruise and enjoy the ride. Things don't have to be difficult in order to be valuable.
But that's not what we were taught
And I'm going to try to explain, now, how those kinds of teachings affect someone who deals with disability.
Most of you reading this journal are probably familiar with Spoon Theory, from the essay "But You Don't Look Sick." It's the idea that you have a limited pool of resources each day, and that every activity -- even things normal people take for granted -- costs you a resource. Trying to do everything a normal person is supposed to leaves you unable to do anything, so you have to choose what to leave undone. Otherwise, your lack of "spoons" will end up making the choice for you.
We tried to explain Spoon Theory to our mother of origin, but she thought it was just an excuse to get out of our chores. She spent a lot of time being upset with us. As a result, so did we.
Teachings like the first meme blind you to how many "spoons" you have left. They imply, or even say outright, that there's always something more you can do. And when Mormon leaders get nasty, that turns into "there's always something more you have to do." You make a literal contract to give everything that you have to the Mormon god, in their temple, and in return he promises you your own godhood. But if you hold back, they say, so does he.
The problem is, just like in the anime that screen capture is taken from your inner reserves of hope and kindness can only last you so long. Especially when your reward for putting out is to be taken for granted and used up, leaving yourself undone in order to do what they say is your purpose. Over and over and over again.
When the last bit of life and hope is drained from you, maybe you disappear. And become a wreck, or a statistic.
Or maybe you become one of them. Someone who isn't powered by hope anymore; someone for whom the feeling is alien. With a grieving heart buried deep at your core, so deep you can't even sense it, while you live a hollowed-out echo of life. One that's a caricature of inadequacy, a mess of alien symbols and rituals that represent what you need but can never have.
Not even your loved ones can save you then. Nothing outside of your dream, of your magical thinking, is real to you anymore. Even other people and their feelings are no more than objects, mere props for your stage show. Because now, you are a narcissist. And the real world will bow before yours.
Well, that escalated quickly
Obviously, that didn't happen to us. We didn't become a clinical narcissist (at least not according to our therapist), and we didn't ascend in the ranks of Mormon church leadership, and get put in a position where we could treat other people as instruments.
But we did burn out, while trying to be Mormon, and we almost became a statistic. A suicide, instead of a resignation. Because their teachings blinded us to what our "obedience" really cost us, and to how much we had left to give. We didn't even care about godhood anymore; we just didn't want to be worthless. We thought we were letting others down just by existing, and knew that if we didn't give more and more, every day, we were selfish.
What the second teaching did to us was it told us that this pain we felt, this feeling that we were squeezing our blood from a stone, meant we were doing it right. Anything fun, any flow state we had, was a meaningless distraction. Life was toil, toil was hard, and if we couldn't hack it things would get even worse. Because Satan's path only seems easier at first, and once you actually get on it you find your options closed off until there is nowhere to go but down.
So, what does this have to do with RPGs?
Just read Wundergeek's comic about depression and anxiety. :P And how they make you sabotage yourself.
So, what does this mean for you?
Honestly, I don't think you (meaning anyone reading this) have to do anything. We have to not be so hard on ourself, to be more realistic about what we can do, and to be accepting when bad things happen or we can't do what was expected.
We're pretty sure our readers and players are. We just need to learn it as well, because this perfectionism is a bigger problem than our triggers and lack of spoons are. The latter we can work around or wait to subside, while the former makes us feel like we shouldn't try to begin with.
Having said that, some more hugs and encouragement would be nice. >_> We're sorry we're being so hard on ourself.