Nightmares of Our Own Making

We torture ourselves far more than any one else ever could. When we read The Scarlet Letterir?t=palmettobugdigit&l=as2&o=1&a=0486280489 back in high school (at least by then hopefully) we marvel at the Reverend Dimmesdale’s self mutulation. “How could someone do that to Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare, circa 1781themselves?” the young voices in the classroom ask. But, we do far worse to ourselves with amazing regularity – instead of the welts and bruises being hidden by our clothes, they are concealed deep within us.

We use our hopes, fears, loves and doubts to brutalize out egos and self-worth. We find the possibilities our hearts fear the most and dwell on them until our world swells with an anxiousness that anticipates with far greater magnifications the outcomes of what will happen. And then we pull ourselves back from the brink. We find reason, small shards of the glass we view reality through, reasons to hold out that what we want may be real or at least possible. And what we fear the most isn’t so.

That zigzag, too and fro, yo-yo of the emotions is what breaks us in the end. Holding a strip of tin maybe, no a paper clip, in our hands we bend it back and forth. This paper clip that should be holding the pages of our life together. Keeping everything neat and tidy and it the right order, but we are bending the metal back and forth. Bored? Expectant? Why do we do it? Hell, who knows, but we keep on flipping fore and back. Watching the joint, the bend, slowly turn murky and white as the structure weakens. And we keep going. With some perverse pleasure we wait for that small sound. That little click that accompanies the severing of the strand. And now it is apart. And can’t be put back.

Problem is that I can find another paperclip. I can make a chain of them all the way around myself and slowly twist them all into pieces, and there will still be more. I can keep going until my fingers bleed but then, pick up a new one, put it on my stack of papers, and move on as if nothing ever happened. What if the stain from my bloody fingers shows? Maybe a drop of red hit the otherwise pristine black and white paper and leaves a tell. A sign that something was going on. But no matter, the new clip holds, the papers are present and all has been put right as far as anyone looking on can see.

That pile of twisted clips still lies on the floor by the chair. They are all useless now. They can’t bind the papers together and they can’t even make a chain. Where before each one could be useful and functional unto itself or join with the others to form a common bond, now they are so much rubbish. There is no making sense of it. If a paperclip were to have a nightmare, this would be it.

But it wouldn’t do it to itself. No, it wouldn’t reach to its extremities and twist itself around. That would make no sense. We do it though. We do it with amazing regularity. We stretch to the furtherest part of our psyche – that place  we reach out to when we need comfort the most, and we grasp firmly and twist. We wrench around with all the mental muscle we can muster to make our minds turn inside out. We force our spirits open to make our emotions ingest into themselves and then spew the rotten refuse back out on us. It is the ultimate form of torture and it doesn’t reside in an interrogation room, a third world prison, or a literary liturgy from a bygone age. It lies in us.

We are the makers of our dreams and the artists of our nightmares, and they are siblings selves of each other. Ingesting each other in the womb.