The other day, I was watching an interview of Madonna on TV. The interviewer asked her, “are there two Madonnas?” She responded with an as matter of fact tone, “there are probably 50 Madonnas.” I found that answer very intriguing and of immense personal interest.
That’s because every once in a while, either because of some jarring experience or for no obvious reason whatsoever, I seem to unplug from my actual self and life. I’m physically present, going through the motions and functioning as if all’s as usual, but I shift into an absent-minded gear. I seem to be disconnected from my own self-experiencing life and feel as if I’m watching a movie about someone else.
These episodes can last a while-days, weeks and even months. I’ve even managed to live in this state for a stretch of years in my adolescence. These times feel like sleepwalking…not really real, but absolutely real at the same time. There’s a haze over everything and experiences are dulled and muffled.
I’ve only been aware of these “spells” for the last few years, even though they’ve been happening most of my life. I’ve only recently been able to tell the difference between being plugged into my actual life, as opposed to the state where I pretend like I’m plugged into my actual life.
During these “dissociative” episodes, I seem able to handle sadness with minimum effort and feel little anxiety, stress or fear. I tend to lose my intricate sense of introspection, only living in the present in an absent-minded manner. It’s like perusing an article as oppose to actually reading and retaining the information. I suspend all emotional digestion and postpone most emotional reactions indefinitely. This state allows my brain to deal with crises, stressful situations and anxiety-ridden interactions.
In short, some humanoid bad-ass takes over and gets shit done with minimal drama.
That doesn’t sounds so bad, right? I mean, it’s what motivational catch phrases like “put your big girl panties on and deal with it” are made of. It’s the stuff of advice like, “push on”, “move on” and “keep going”. Right? Wrong. Becoming Little Ms. Robot has a very heavy cost in every way imaginable for me.
Little Ms. Robot’s ability to postpone feeling only leads to an inevitable emotional avalanche, which wipes the authentic me out once she’s back in control. Who knew that ignoring feelings of grief, loss and longing won’t make them just disappear and refusing to deal with emotions won’t make emotions nonexistent!
Little Ms. Robot’s inability to digest and analyze events as they happen only creates a whole of lot of useless delayed should haves and could haves. And little Ms. Robot’s “can do” attitude- arguably her most useful feature, often puts me in situations that the real me would have instinctively avoided. So, if the wisdom is to listen to one’s own instincts, Little Ms. Robot’s flunking in that department, too.
When these episodes end, I am left with delayed reactions and misplaced unresolved feelings that might have been easier to confront and deal with sooner.
I think this phenomena stems from years of living in a state of emergency. It’s the product of having been expected to “deal with it” without any substantial support or care as a young girl. It is also a creation of my own sense of survival. When someone is uprooted, thrown about and expected to adapt and adjust in the blink of an eye, there is no time to deal with the fear, loss, insecurity and inner angst of adolescence and the situation at hand. There is no choice but to shut down and survive in whatever way possible, even if that means turning oneself off and giving the controls over to a self-made humanoid who’s devoid of emotional maturity.
I’d like to think that having discovered the existence of Little Ms. Robot is half the battle and a significant first step in recovering from her reign. I’d like to think that as I get older and hopefully wiser, I’d learn to cope with life all by own little self and won’t need the services of Little Ms. Robot. I have hope that with enough self care and understanding, mindfulness and emotional maturity, I’d be able to stop unplugging and start being consciously present at all the rest of the days of my life.
Still, every now and then, when the pressures of life get to be too much, when the questions and doubts begin to make too much internal noise, and when I find myself too exhausted, confused and broken to deal with it all, I unplug and allow Little Ms. Robot to march right into battle and kick ass.
I was wondering if anyone else had multiple selves to deal with different situations, when I heard Madonna say, “there are probably 50 Madonnas.” Suddenly, the world felt less lonely, not because an artist I admire also expressed what is second nature to me. But because I now know that I’m not alone in being the owner of a kick ass internal humanoid.