Project: Shadow
Project: Shadow
When support feeds our sense of inadequacy

When support feeds our sense of inadequacy

or how learning to oscillate can help our mental health

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I've had a bit of a hard time lately. It's been not the best kept secret in the world. My. Podcasting has dipped and I've been talking a whole lot about how this is hard, that is hard, hollowness emptiness, ennui. But yeah, it's tricky sometimes to get past all of the chemistry in my brain and see the world as it really truly is .

I have some friends that are very supportive , and really trying to help me out right now . And my brain decided to interpret that as them having absolutely no faith in me. And that's a me problem. That's not as them problem and we're going to talk about that on today's episode, of Project Shadow .

Hello everyone. My name is Charlie. I'm a non-binary scifi fantasy writer, and you can find all my stuff over at And yeah, I'm going to have kind of a low key chat. With y'all today. I hope that I have some morals to the story. I hope that by the end of this, you'll see the path that I'm trying to walk through and maybe, just maybe if you're having a similar crisis of confidence, you will find something in this that'll help you out too.

Because I've made no bones about it. I have no self-esteem. Absolutely none. In fact, anytime I take pride in anything that I do, fear grips me and I am afraid that I have become a narcissist.

Yeah. Any thing that even resembles self-esteem gets interpreted by my brain as some form of vanity, and that's not a good thing. That's not how my life should be in. That's not how living should be.

And I know I'm not entirely alone in this. I've talked with quite a few people that. Have similar struggles. With how they interpret. Events that happen around them. And that this lack of self-esteem, of seeing our innate value and worth, is infectious, and it bleeds into every aspect of our lives.

The struggle is compounded this year as:, I don't want to rehash everything that I said in last week's episode. But yeah, this pride is hard and it's such as this pride month. It's the last couple years have been really hard. And it seems to just be getting worse and it seems to be getting harder. And I mean that on so many levels, I mean that professionally, I mean that in my personal life, my health. And just society seems to be crumbling around us in this weird apocalyptic nightmare that we're going through. We're not addressing any of the issues that actually matter, and, instead freaking out over whether or not drag shows should happen. That just feels like something from a bygone era that I thought would be gone by now. But here we are.

In this place where I have a very kind and supportive friend group. I have both friends in the town I live in. Not many, but some. And I've made some very good friends online and we've built a very good community for each other. And we're very supportive and helpful, one for another.

And lately, there's been a part of me that has felt that the support, care, and kindness I get from these friends. Is just pity. It's just them in the kindest way that they know how offering to do things that they know that I am just incapable of doing for myself. That I am just so bad at life and living that they have to do things for me.

And I know that's not the case. This is definitely a me problem. This is the depression that is trying to reassert itself in my life. This is the depression that is trying to take me down again. And so it's trying to frame all of the acts of kindness, of love, and support that are aimed at me into something other than what they are, so that it will have more control over my life. And sometimes, in the grip of it, it is really hard to see that. Sometimes, when it's so viscerally grabbing me, it is really hard to see through it's lies.

Even strangers who make polite comments, my initial reading of them lately has been something condescending, or something bad.

The good thing is that I've learned to see through that. I've learned that this is a tactic that my brain uses when the depression is trying to set in, and truly get a grip over me . And I know that like with everything it will pass .

It is something that comes up and it goes away. It's like the tide. And right now, the tide is rising. Because with all the stress and everything else in my life, it's been triggered. Also recently I had somebody just pass through and, hit all of my PTSD triggers one after another really quickly. All on like a. 10 15 minute time span. And, that jingled up a lot of things that still haven't settled back down. A lot of unprocessed trauma.

And. What I've realized through all of this is that the advice that we're generally given to just let go it's not always the best way through .

It's very hard, sometimes, to see what is right in front of you. We have this misperception that, what we see in the world around us is the actual world around us. And it isn't. It is on a slight delay because there is a delay in the brain between when the optical information hits the brain and when it's processed. Also how that information is gathered leads to distortions. We may or may not see the full color spectrum. We may or may not see the full event. Our eyes are constantly darting around and the brain is interpreting what it's seeing and filling in the gaps. The world that we actually perceive, the world that we see with our eyes, is not necessarily the world outside us. And I don't mean that in kind of some kind of a, spiritual way. I mean that in a quite literal way.

Our assumptions have a lot to do with how we perceive the outside world. And those assumptions are tainted by a lot of different things. Our mood can affect the way we perceive and interpret events. Our physical comfort can also do that. It doesn't help that while I'm going through all this it's moving into summertime, and so there are a lot of fronts going through that are causing all of my muscles, and joints to ache.

But all of those perceptions get mixed together in the brain to produce what we call reality.

And once you come to accept that what you are perceiving is not in fact reality, but your personal interpretation of it, your subjective interpretation of it, then you're getting. Better. At actually interacting with what is real. And that's a whole topic that we could go into on a completely other day, but not right now.

And so where I've come to is going back to this concept of oscillation.

I've made no secret out about how I am a Metamodernist. I am fascinated by a lot of the ideas in metamodern theory. And how it actually describes the world around us, as well as, how we participate and interact with it, and oscillation is one of those things that is so rooted in metamodern thought. And I don't see a lot of people really talking about it. At least not outside of those boutique Metamodern salons, where we gather around in our dark corners and talk in, very long-winded, academic terms.

Oscillation is hopping back and forth. Oscillation is in a lot of ways, what replaces, dialectical thinking, which is what happened in postmodernism. And see there, I did it. It's all these $20 words. Let's try to simplify that just a little. Okay.

A modernist had an ideal, and interpreted the entire world in accordance with that ideal. It is the way the things are. It's how things shall be. That's what we are going to do. We are going to impose our will on to the cosmos. Yeah. That didn't really work out so well.

The post-modern came along and accepted not necessarily Hegelian dialectics cause there are very specific form, but except that the idea of dialectics. So there's this thing on site a there's this thing on site B. And that's our thesis and our antithesis. And what we have to do, if we're going to be all smart, and brilliant, and get to the other side is we're going to figure out the synthesis. What's that thing in the in-between that's going to get us there. And the apex of this kind of dialectical thinking is the triangulation of the Clintons. If the right's over there and the left is over there. Let's pick this point. It's somewhere in between and we'll call that the center. And we should be able to get a little bit of the people from the and a little bit of the people from the left, and that should be enough. And it worked for Bill. Didn't work so well for Al Gore or any of the other Democrats that tried it after. It definitely didn't work that well for Hillary. But that triangulation. Is the basic mode that a lot of postmodern thought has taken. Where we try to take the middle ground, we try to find between the fight between the thesis and the antithesis would try to find that thing that comes out of the middle, between the struggle between the two.

Oscillation is different. Oscillation kind of gets into this whole realm of spectrums and spectra. All the different ways that the world can be seen. And it says that we don't have to take a side. I don't have to decide today with our I'm going to be an idealistic, modern person, or if I'm going to be a sarcastic, ironic post-modern person . I can oscillate between the two.

Now, this doesn't mean that I'm wishy-washy and I just flipped back and forth. It's that I start to see this spectrum between just bleak sincerity and empty irony. And it's like the plus and minus ends of a battery. So I can draw power from it . And the power that I'm drawing will put me on one side or the other, maybe a little bit more this way than that way. It's a field In which I can play. It's a place in which I can find out for this situation right now, am I going to be. Ironic or honest or some mixture in between.

See it's beyond the simple relativity that you had in post-modernity. Where there's no right, there's no wrong. There's really no answer after that. There's just, there's no right. There's no wrong.

But with oscillation, we see both of these poles as sources of power, sources of energy, sources of thought that may inform the situation modes of action that might in fact be the way forward, but instead of having to pick one or the other, instead of being either or, like you would in the modern era, or both, and we would be in, the postmodern era. We find ourselves in this place where it could be both neither, either and. And until you start actually doing this, it may sound confusing. It may sound so paradoxical. And you know what it is, but paradox is a huge part of our lives.

So if I'm here to tell you that my self-doubt and my self esteem are a spectrum that I oscillate between, they're both places that give me power. The problem is I spend most of my time over on the self doubt side. And self-doubt really, isn't a bad thing. Self-doubt helps to keep you from thinking too highly of yourself, from becoming vain and narcissistic, and keeps you from ignoring the problems in what you're saying, doing, working on. There's a healthy kind of self-doubt that we can cultivate within ourselves that isn't self destructive . And it seems true with self-esteem. Self-esteem is not just vanity. It's not just puffery. It's not just thinking highly of yourself. It's valuing what you're doing.

And when you start seeing these is the spectrum that creates this plane. This field on which we play. Yeah. Sometimes it's okay. To say, I know the sentence isn't exactly right. It's not the way it should be. I know that line really isn't where it should be, but. I kind of like the aesthetic. It's okay to do that. It's okay to have so much self-esteem in what we're doing that we just accept it's flaws. And move on. But it's also okay to have a certain amount of self-doubt , and to sit back and go, well, no. I don't think I'm confident enough to say it that way. I don't think I did this exactly the best I could, maybe it should be revised. It should be edited.

But when we talk about oscillation, I love this word. I love this term oscillation cause it reminds us we have to oscillate. We have to go back and forth. We have to play on the field.

It's kind of like if you're playing soccer or football, if you're in the rest of the world that's not the United States, if you're playing football, and you just want to stay on one end of the field. You don't want to actually go out and play.

And I know what you're saying, because you're probably seeing what I say. Right. Well, in this analogy, then you, what you don't understand is I'm the goalie. No, no, no, no. You're not the goalie. You're out on the field. There are times to be a goalie. There are times when we do need to hold our ground quite firmly. When it comes to the spectrum between fascism and anti-fascism, I'm a goalie. I'm on the side of anti-fascism and I am not getting out on that playing field. There's no game to play. My goal is to block fascism every time it tries to score.

So, yeah, sometimes, sometimes, yeah, play the goalie. But in most of the things in our life, we actually need to be out on the field. We actually need to be out there playing. But we convince ourselves way too often that we need to be on one side or the other.

And I'm not arguing for some kind of enlightened centrism here. There are some things that, yes, you should be on a side. Human rights. Yeah, I'm going to block everybody who wants to take away basic human rights. LGBT rights. Feminism. Now feminism still has a plain field because I can see some of the points that most feminists make, but if there not being intersectional, If they're not looking at race and gender identity, sexuality as part of how they're looking at, feminism, if they're not looking at socioeconomic class and all of that, I pretty much play on one side of the field. Like I'm not all the way over in the goal, playing goalie. But I'm not really going to cross midfield cause Intersectionality is important.

And that's the power of oscillation is you start learning where the poles are. You start learning, where is this field of power? Where is this field of energy? Where are the limits.

And so as I'm struggling with my own self doubt, one, I need to learn to see the strength that I can find in it. Very few of our emotions are truly 100% bad . Some are bad. My desire for self-annihilation that it gets some time, that's bad, that's bad. But generalize self-doubt, yeah. I need, some of that, I need to constantly be challenging myself and. Wondering if I could do better in my fiction, in my podcasting, in the way that I deliver a philosophical idea or an artistic one.

I need to be challenging myself all the time on those things.

But it's also a good thing every now and then to go across midfield, cross across that center line, over to the other side and maybe have a little steam.

Maybe, let myself look at something that I've done and be proud of it. And go, yeah, I did that.

But always with that check in my mind of, have I gone too far?

Not so much so that it's controlling or limiting or. Isolating her breaking me down. But. Just enough to keep me from running around thinking that I'm so great and I can do no wrong because. Yeah, none of us are so great that we can do no wrong.

And that's really. What I've been learning lately, is this really intense struggle in me, to always be on just one side, and not to see the other side of the spectrum. Or that there is a spectrum in between this huge playing field that, you know, what might have more than one axis. We may be playing on a two dimensional field where there's also a left and a right, not just a forward and a back. We may be playing on a three-dimensional field where there's also an up and a down. There may be all kinds of intersections that come in to play, where we learn where we need to be at any given time. But it's not ever a fixed point, unless, you're dealing with fascists, or racists, or sexists, or homophobes or transphobes. You know, the general maybe people shouldn't exist for an innate characteristics people. Maybe we should control people because of innate characteristics people. You know the ones. Yeah, no, the people I'm talking about.

And when you start understanding oscillation, when you start understanding this back and forth, this give and take, this playing field that exists before us, it really helps navigate life because you don't have to pick a side all the time. You don't have to be mad that you're on the wrong side or fight to be on the right side. Cause maybe, right now in your life, the site for you to be in somewhere. In between. Maybe you're slowly drifting over to the side that you want to be on. But in most situations, there's actually a large and varied series of options that we hide between simply naming the poles. Simply naming the goals on either side that overly binary thinking that gets us into trouble. All the time.

So, yeah, that's, that's how I'm going to get through this. Yeah, I want to be independent. I think we all want to be independent to a certain degree and those of us who are in indie publishing definitely have a bit of an independent streak. Also, when you have chronic pain, you feel like you're putting people through a lot, just because you can't do things sometimes because of the pain. When you have chronic depression, you also feel like you're. Being a burden to people a lot. And just because people are helping you, and either ways that you find actually helpful or ways that are well-intentioned, but wrong for you. As long as they're well-intentioned, as long as you can have a dialogue with them. As long as you can have that understanding that there actually trying to help. And not just trying to insert themselves in your life cause I think they're better than you. Yeah maybe their support isn't so bad. Maybe them trying to support you is not their way of telling you that they have no faith in you as a human being, or you as an individual. Maybe, you should stop being so self serious. And yeah, I keep saying you, but I'm really the you I;m talking to . I don't know. I might be talking to you too. And if so, Here we need to get over ourselves. .

That's the struggle that I've been having lately, and that's where I've ended up here.

I hope that this has been able to help you in some way. Thank you so much. For your time.

Don't forget to share this with anybody that you think would, like it, or need to get this lesson in their own life.

You can find. All my work over at

And until next time, don't forget to have the fun.



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Project: Shadow
Project: Shadow
Welcome to Project: Shadow, a captivating podcast hosted by C E Dorsett, a nonbinary science fiction and fantasy writer. In this unique audio experience, Charlie takes you on a journey through personal essays that delve into the realms of life, writing, and media, weaving together threads of thought and imagination.
Drawing inspiration from Metamodern philosophy, Project: Shadow embraces the complexity and contradictions of the modern world while exploring the intersections of identity, creativity, and the power of storytelling. Charlie's insightful reflections invite listeners to question conventional narratives and explore the myriad possibilities that lie beyond the surface.
Each episode of Project: Shadow is a thought-provoking exploration, where Charlie examines the profound impact of media on our lives, offering fresh perspectives and unpacking the deeper meanings within our favorite books, movies, and TV shows. From the farthest reaches of science fiction to the enchanted realms of fantasy, Charlie guides you through the landscapes of the imagination, illuminating the transformative power of storytelling along the way.
By sharing personal experiences and reflections, Charlie creates a warm and inclusive space for listeners to reflect on their own life and creative pursuits. Whether you're a writer seeking inspiration, a media enthusiast eager to engage in meaningful discussions, or simply a curious soul yearning for a fresh perspective, Project: Shadow is the perfect podcast for you.
So, join C E Dorsett on this thought-provoking journey. Embrace the interplay of light and dark, the blending of the real and the imagined, as you embark on Project: Shadow. It's time to discover the untold stories, unlock the hidden potentials within ourselves, and reimagine the world in all its infinite possibilities. Tune in and let the adventure begin.