Harness the Hate

“Suck it up, you worthless lump of bison dung. You suck. Why can’t you be less of a tool and do something right, for once? Stop bitching you whiny little girl. OH. MY. GOD. You’re terrible! Are you going to cry? Are you going to give up and finally admit that you’re not worth the sweat on your brow? You’re PATHETIC.”

Ahhh. My normal inner monologue; I just wish I weren’t so disrespectful to me. This particular diatribe took place during an ice climb in Hyalite, moments before a terrifying almost-fall. You should have heard the expletive-laced mental flogging that followed. But I got up the damn pitch… eventually.

See, I respond best to negative reinforcement: I need to suck in order to achieve. And I’m not alone—at least two other O/B editors have the same affliction. (Sick) people like us need it to hurt a little—to sting rather than soothe. To burn rather than bubble. We demand pain before pleasure in ways that some people find sickening—or at least stupid.

“Other” people whisper soft, positive encouragement to themselves—“Oh, look how good you’re doing! You’re rocking this trail today! It’s a new personal best! And damn, your glutes look awesome!” They smile when they skate ski, because it makes them feel good. They greet everyone they see with a hearty “Good morning!” that upturns at the end, just to sound more energetic. Snow melts in their presence and birds flock to their outstretched arms while sunlight streams through their hair in perfect rays of diffused happiness.

These are not my people.

My people prefer to dwell in chilly darkness, siphoning energy from the sadistic self-loathing that ultimately fuels us. We grimace when we ski, because skating uphill isn’t fun and we aren’t any good. We greet anyone we meet with a grunt and a wild-eyed sideways glance because they’re clearly superior. Dark clouds form in the sky and vultures circle overhead while stinging wind pursues us into the wild. We aren’t doing great. We aren’t looking good. We aren’t improving. This is how it must be.

ice climbing, conquering fear

I’m not complaining, of course. This motivational tactic (or neurosis, depending on which psychiatrist you ask) has served me well. I’ve done things I never thought I could do—with that little voice reminding me that I couldn’t the entire time. “See? I sure showed me!”

It’s not that I haven’t tried positive reinforcement—I have. It ended poorly, as I was so awash in good vibes that I forgot to try. I just sat in the sun, drinking a beer and feeling all warm and fuzzy about the world. It was awful. Luckily, I was there to call me a pansy. 

No, I need The Hate. I need the little voice in my head telling me I can’t… and I’m fat… and kind of below average in bed. I need the crack of the whip and the burn of the brand. After all, there’s nothing quite like proving yourself wrong when you finally succeed. “There. Take that, jackass!”