Monday, 7 January 2013

The Cycle of Despair

So the day after I understood the vicious cycle of compulsive saving, I started to write the entry on it. Half-way through the first draft I felt that it wasn't the whole story and there was something else going on. The next day I wound up working out the diagram below on Visio (oh the ways we can blow off work hiding behind a screen!). I called it the Cycle of Despair. It works like this:

Start out green, approaching and interviewing and generally offering yourself to the world (girls, employers, galleries, theatres, whoever). They say YES or NO. Mostly, they say NO, because there isn't enough to go round and there are a lot of people asking. If you have enough denial (aka 'optimism') or resiliance, you keep going round the green cycle. If you are lucky, the world says YES and you're set. For now.

If your denial or resilience flags, as it can for a hundred reasons, you turn red and enter the Cycle of Despair. Your hopes drop and you may not bother trying again, entering into a loop of self-justifying bitterness and cynicism that further lowers your hopes, motivation and resilience. You may try again, but if you do so with lower levels of all-round gung-ho-ness, you will follow the red path through the right-hand loop, exiting back to the Cycle via a NO from the Real World. The key to staying in the fight is keeping up your resilience and denial (sorry, 'hopes'). That is not easy, faced with enough experience of the Real World. That's why I call it 'denial' rather than 'optimism' or 'hope'. 

First interview rejections, failed relationships, "not suitable for our list", rejected grant applications, blown out day game approaches, rejected new product proposals, returned book proposals, grey mornings and dismal evenings, Saturday nights out that go nowhere, entries to shows and competitions that don't make the cut, let alone win a prize... eventually it piles up and even the hardiest soul loses hope. A few get lucky - and it is just luck - and hear YES. Then they don't have to apply, approach or compete for perhaps a long time. And everyone gets their ideas rejected, no matter how famous and money-spinning they are. Track records count for nothing: the gatekeepers' opinions count for everything.

Too many bad experiences and my resilience drops, or I get a cold and don't have the energy to keep up the denial, and into the Cycle of Despair I go. There are two big mistakes when first visiting it: first, try to justify your position there as an inevitable consequence of the small number of opportunities in the world (aka "it's the economy"); second, trying to deny that, for now, you're exhausted and beat. Neither ever got me out. The first because I was convincing myself there was no way out, and the second because I couldn't see what I was doing wrong. Neither of those are the worst that can happen.

The worst that can happen is when I did nothing wrong and still didn't get any results. This was back in the mid-Ougties. There was always another more suitable candidate, or they changed their mind about appointing anyone. The numbers and the zeitgiest really were just against me. It was horrible: carrying on required neither fortitude nor heroism nor optimism, which I ran out of after six months, but sheer freaking day-by-day slogging. And when it was all over, I was the man dragging himself onto the beach exhausted, surrounded by blithe holidaymakers who don't get that he had just swum five miles, and each hundred yards was the last he could do.

I got out of the unemployment, but it took a lot longer to get any resilience back. I was in poor physical health, overweight and with higher-than-recommended blood-sugar (I didn't know that at the time). I was in a decaying LTR and was about to work for an insecure and over-promoted manager. Oh yes. The hits just kept on coming.

Anyway. I finished this, and it still felt like there was something missing. So onwards we go...

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