The following is based on a video that my favorite Youtuber, Olly of Philosophy Tube, recently did. He’s a British Philosophy MA and after going through a phase of making old dogs like Nietzsche, Mill, and Kant look shiny and new for a nascent and only mildly interested audience, he turned away from a bunch of brilliant but wrinkly old white guys and into the juicier area of fresh, modern philosophy, decorated with costumes and characters (very much like ContraPoints) and of course what + how it draws from classical and ancient philosophy. This is where he’s gotten the views and how he affords to live in London doing his channel full time. I cannot recommend this brilliant, thoughtful, sensitive, wildly attractive thespian, and myfuturehusbandfingerscrossed, enough.
He’s covered abortion, Steve Bannon, the “Friendzone”, Instagram aesthetics, crowdfunding, and refugees, among many other salient topics. I want to begin to migrate over to some of Olly’s videos as models for some of what I write. Perhaps I’ll relate what learn in my three (3!) philosophy courses this semester to mental health for you all. For now, let’s bite into “Men, Abuse, Trauma,” Olivia style.
He begins with the admitted (see, this is why I love Olly!) “pretentious arsehole” Sartre and his one-act play, No Exit. The play is actually one I’m familiar with, I’m relieved to say, and in short it’s about three damned souls who are sent to hell only to find that it’s simply a rather fine room, though mirror-less, in which the three are supposedly intended to torture themselves, and that they do. They are forced to only evaluate themselves through the eyes of others, others who are hardly fit to be the judge of anyone, given their terrible crimes that damned them. Eventually, the worst tormented of the bunch is afforded the opportunity to leave, but he decides not to. Eh bien, continuons… and that’s a wrap.
Ollie continues on to discuss a concept shortened to “colonization of the mind,” conceptualized well by the likes of W.E.B. Du Bois and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. In short, it’s the sneaky implantation of invasive, external perceptions of the self into that self’s own brain. Olly wisely likens it to the plot of Get Out, which I appreciated as an homage to the true roots of mind colonization, which is in colonized black liberation.
The grand theme of Olly’s video, really, is about the implanting of foreign thoughts into one’s head. This is most easily achieved through stereotypes or oppression of a historically marginalized group, such as black, brown, and trans folks, but it can apply to everyone (though we shouldn’t forget the concept’s roots) in both individual relationships and relationships of general “others” to the self.
Olly has a history of mental health struggles, ranging from self harm to suicide attempts and much in between. He urges his audience, as he was urged by his therapist, to examine where in their bodies they felt suicidal.
For me, Olivia as I understand myself, I felt like I was folding into myself. I feel similar, when suicidal, to how Olly felt- he called himself big and oafish, literally fucking Shrek- but a more gendered version wherein I feel like I take up so much space and any space I take up is unjustifiable, so that if I could just fold myself to be infinitesimally small, I would achieve the appropriate amount of existence, but the closest I could get to that would be ashes scattered over the Potomac River.
He goes on to discuss how he was in an abusive relationship, though he at first denied it, and how his escape from the relationship facilitated his new relationship with himself, wherein he pursued the artistry that he loved most and built a life he felt worthy of.
“Sometimes trauma is like poison that someone slips into your food in little doses.”
He covers what he glibly calls “Philosophy 101,” which seems even more rudimentary than that when he characterizes it as basic criticism of the golden mean; how can someone be too compassionate? Otherwise obvious, it’s a set up to his explanation of what his abuser did, which was turn his outpouring (imbalance) of love and compassion and self sacrifice into itself and use those beautiful qualities to force the victim to self harm and put up with traumatic conditions.
See any of my previous literature to explore my experience with abusive relationships. My therapist likes to say that I was initially traumatized by “traumatic parental invalidation,” and that many of my struggles with identity and self worth stem from that. Sometimes it feels like my two abusive relationships sting more, but they’re just more recent.
The reason Garcin doesn’t walk out is because his view of himself has become dependent on Ines.
I’m attracted to people who make me feel small and I’m less considerate to people who are kind to me because they aren’t comfortable to me, I’m terribly uncomfortable in good treatment and have only once or twice dated someone who was good for me, let alone was a morally upright person. My view of myself is entirely dependent on those who, if we equate Hell to my old therapeutic school (very fair imho), are damned themselves and are nothing like mirrors. I take consensus, I take even scraps of personal opinions from anyone I can snag them from, and I ball them up inside to create my self-image, the thoughts must fundamental to my existence. My philosophy.
I need a new philosophy, damnit!
What’s Olivia’s new philosophy?
I will only accept relationships that build me up. I will prioritize my relationship with MYSELF because I can’t have good relationships, truly, with others if I don’t properly value myself. This feels painful to write. It’s entirely antithetical to my own, deeply personal Descartes truth. That is to say, my Descartes truth of days past. Today’s fundamental belief, tomorrow’s? I am good. I am smart. I deserve to take up space. I am valuable. And I’m undeserving of trauma and torment. How else does one live? For a long time I didn’t want to live.
Eh, it seems pretty worth it now. I’m still figuring out why, but I do believe it is. My above philosophy is how I keep going, and as Rupert on my favorite (and philosophically JACKED) show Survivor said, “I have to, time and time and time again, and I will.” How’s that for an ending?