The Chameleon Complex—Chapter 52 Isolation

I decided to join the army, the infantry, as J. D. Salinger did. Seriously. Dad said, “But you don’t like to take orders,” and I said, “No prob. What’s two years?” 

      I asked him to sell my car, and he sold it to his National Guard buddy, who gave it to his own son. Dad later told me the guy and a couple of his buddies picked up a prostitute, smoked some meth, drove into the mesa, and bashed in the hooker’s head with rocks so they wouldn’t have to pay her. I don’t know what happened to my old car after that. I don’t even want it now anyway. They tossed the bad guys into the penitentiary, but they’re already out. There’s this weird unfolding of my life where I’m often just one or two degrees away from horror. I always thought it was normal, but as I began sharing more of how I experience life, people seemed aghast at the experiences that didn’t actually happen to me but that I was somehow obliquely connected to, such as my car used in a murder. It makes me wonder if synchronicity goes so far as to ensure that I’m in the observer role. Perhaps I’m supposed to warn others. Perhaps that’s actually my calling in life. More likely, that’s just more magical thinking similar to pretending that memorial pennies or sandwich quarters had anything at all to do with me.

      If I were in prison, I’d request solitary confinement. I think I’d do well for a while if I had books, pencils, paper, and could keep whatever I wrote. I’d read and write all day, wallow inside my head, and ignore the bars and criminals.

      But eventually, without other people, I’d get lost beyond recovery in my imaginary world and become clinically insane, not just pretend crazy. I’ll tell you about my snowy winter in Vermont soon. It won’t be as good as The Shining, but there will be parallels, and it’ll clarify some things regarding physical and emotional isolation and the danger it presents to humans. Until then, suffice it to know that in solitary confinement, I’d get paranoid and socially phobic and eventually risk integration with the general population. I’d probably hang out by the chessboards with the criminals who liked to discuss literature and lament their unjust incarceration just for holding a little bit of weed for a friend. The point is, I’d need human contact.

      People may behave like agreeable chameleons so that they won’t be isolated, and sometimes they behave like fearsome chameleons to become more isolated but safer. However, behaving like a chameleon isolates them emotionally with the added stress of working hard to uphold a facade to hide their shame. This working hard feels like anxiety. Without an awareness of the problem, it can be befuddling to both chameleons and those who care about the chameleons in their lives. Without clear interventions, it can seem like a dilemma to the chameleon: share and risk the pain of rejection, or don’t share and risk the pain of isolation. This conflict produces even more anxiety. There’s often comorbid depression, because who wouldn’t be at least somewhat sad under these conditions? When dealing with anxiety, sometimes the intervention (e.g., exposures) can feel more stressful than the actual dysfunction does. But keep in mind that with time, you will habituate and feel better. Regardless, you get to consider if it’s worth it. I think it is.

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