Your Neurosis is a Guardian

A neurosis is a containment field of personal power: a guardian spirit which once protected you against something worse than the heavy cost of neurotic behavior. Thus every neurotic entanglement is a steep contract you signed in a moment of desperation. Making shady deals with twisted spirits for the sake of protection: unfortunately that’s the norm in a modern childhood, and almost no one buys their way out of that deal. What does it require? Such a spirit cannot be frightened away, wished away, nor commanded: that’s precisely what qualified it as guardian. It must be appeased: there is always a sense in which even the most ridiculous neurotic distortion was, is, and will be correct. "Everything’s bullshit anyway"; "no one can be trusted"; "no one really cares"; "I’m unlovable"; "I’ll never be happy": these are all self-fulfilling prophesies, the fundamental validity of which can’t exactly be disproven in even the best case. Fake it til you make it doesn’t work with neurotic contracts: no matter how much evidence piles up in the opposing category, the conviction will remain. The neurotic spirit must be allowed a place at your table: it must be fed a little blood now and then, honored, named. After all, it is your first faithful friend: the depression he created was a warm blanket you shared together. You cannot ever leave him behind, else he will curse everything you do: he must be allowed to be correct, he must be allowed a little sacrifice of optimism, he must be allowed to shade your eyes from stupid wishfulness. There is a place for doom and gloom, there is a place for the worst, there is a sacred seat for violence and horror and a bitter end: that was the meaning of the ancient practice of sacrifice, a commonality in every culture of the world. Blood, sacred blood spilled right at the heart of the contract with life - the old ways said there was no greater mystery. Our private neuroses, our all-too-personal skirmishes with darkness, our needlessly ashamed thirst for the worst which inevitably finds its way to expression in every relationship, every squandered opportunity, every brutally flattened expectation which makes the general character of modernity seem so bleak and pointless: aren’t we looking for a return to the sacred relation with death and loss? Isn’t the "anxiety epidemic" a symptom of a body aching for a little contact with sober reality? Aren’t the endless consolation schemes and heavily medicated suppression apparati a stopped-up steamvalve that only builds the pressure?

I see both a growing acceptance of debilitating anxiety and a growing shame surrounding the thirst for the worst: it’s no accident that the movies of the 21st century seem to become ever more adolescent, escapist, and yet overstimulating and absurdly violent. Both cloyingly escapist and na├»vely pessimistic: the "John Wick" series as example… The proliferation of the comic book point of view: the deferral of adulthood and its sense of responsibility for the world as we find it - and not as we wish it were. The proliferation of moral posturing and ridiculous politicizing belongs here also: all of it is merely as-if social positioning, which seeks to mine strategic advantage out of absurd fantasies no one actually believes. The great insight, which takes years to internalize, is that the ape will gladly feign stupidity as long as it’s socially advantageous. No one actually believes that sexual dimorphism isn’t an important genetic fact, for example: already the smarter actors are backing out of the extreme transgender rhetoric, seeking an unexhausted vein of moral decoupage…

There is my dark vision laid bare: can you stand it? He is my guardian spirit. He’s right in this case: and hearing his voice and following his logic is generally worthwhile, because no one else will go down that dark road with a cheerful knowing grin - but somehow he can. He looks at such things and laughs: the ape makes him laugh, despite how deeply he feels wounded by its wretchedness and how much he longs to admire it again. But not until he’s been heard, in every gory detail, and every bit of mendacious cowering in our situation is exposed, will he sit down and allow the overflowing heart of the poet to take over. So it is that the two sing together in my best moments, mingling into one tremulous voice.