Living with Mr. Hyde

Few pieces of popular literature will enjoy anything close to the effect Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has had on our society. As both a piece of fiction in of itself and a separately understood entity within modern nomenclature, the understanding of a basic personal duality has allowed us to conceive of so much. While one might argue any average person has far more than just two basic sides, the Freudian reading of the suppressed subconscious existing equally as something both foreign as well as a part of ourselves is just a glimpse into the complicated image this story has allowed the general public to ruminate on for over two centuries.

Of course, some of the story’s popularity seems to stem from the fact that it resonates with people as a common but private experience. Be it the kind of ‘problematization’ of a concept someone like Micheal Foucault speaks to or a more modern understanding of our desires, there are parts of us we tend to depict as problematic. One might even say there’s a drive to characterize those parts of us as foreign. The story of Jeykll and Hyde has many readings, but the mere concept that he assumes an entirely different form is something that plays into our natural discomfort with desires we don’t understand and, quite frankly, don’t like.

For those of us who are lucky enough to be in therapy, it can often feel like every part of ourselves is under revision. That feeling can often be positive. Verbalizing an event, or our understanding of our everyday perceptions can help us get at the root as to why we feel the things we do and become more comfortable with the outcomes therein. But there’s a part of this, dare I say, dialogical process that can feel like an insurmountable climb. There are parts of ourselves that always sat on the edge. Stuff we’re comfortable with changing. Even if they require some effort, we’re bolstered by the effects of an easy fix. However, there are some more deeply rooted behaviors that don’t let go quite as easily. They’ve attached themselves to our identities, motivations, and basic thought processes. Stuff we don’t even know we’re doing until it’s too late.

Like everyone, my reflective process is constant. Though I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety for my entire life (I’m writing this at 4 AM, propelled by anxiety), I’m slowly but surely discovering all the ways these natural ailments have calcified elements of my being. Be it forms of self-isolation, a genuine allergy to even friendship-based intimacy, or an unhealthy relationship with almost anything, there are a variety of things I am always picking at. But there is one thing, in particular, that is tough to look at. One part of myself, actually. He’s sitting next to me right now, telling me to do things I know I shouldn’t. But it’s only in these past few months that I find myself even able to understand why I ever listened.

Sex and love addiction is one of the least understood forms of compulsion in modern psychology. Despite sex addictions being relatively established in the cultural zeitgeist, it’s left to the imagination as to what an addiction to love might look like. It’s not alcoholism where there’s material proof of use, nor is it something that can really be fully codified. In my experience, like many subconscious compulsions, it’s individual.

For a while, the ambiguity of its definition allowed for a false sense of hope. I didn’t want to add another thing to my ever-increasing list of ailments, so the little writing that’s out there on the topic let me take on an attitude of blissful ignorance. But there comes a point where it can no longer be ignored.

While any addiction can and often will wreak havoc on the lives of those in its vicinity, the trail of destruction I’ve experienced has been uniquely painful. Though I haven’t crashed a car or stolen anything to satiate a desire, I have unwittingly used people to fill a void I didn’t and still don’t truly understand. I used people to feel better about myself, thinking that becoming the object of their desire would allow me to actualize my own.

Inevitably it never works out that way, and for a while, we are merely passengers sat firmly on the back of an insatiable creature. Consuming person after person, wrecking relationship after relationship- a piece of ourselves taken with each and every one. Like a mortal coil for something or someone that lies within me, something more nefarious, I’ve often failed to understand why or what I’m doing to people until after the fact.

That, of course, is a generous, perhaps, Hyde-ian telling of events. There’s a natural desire to express my actions as something other, as things that don’t belong to me because I don’t enjoy the effect they’ve had on both myself and other people. But they are a part of me. They’re as much a part of me as the things that I am proud of, and my conception of this other has allowed me to compartmentalize that and refute responsibility.

Other stories have had a more positive effect, though. Like the concepts put forth in Jeykll and Hyde, certain pieces of contemporary culture have let addicts experience the most unsettling, depressing, difficult parts of their life with removed comfort. Through depictions of unique experience or genuine honesty with regards to situations previously thought of as taboo, shows like Love and Fleabag have helped me conceive of things I couldn’t when under the influence of my own mind. Love’s Mickey Dobbs, a character whose arc is focused around her own battle with a sex and love addiction, is the person that introduced me to the concept of this kind of compulsion. Phoebe-Waller Bridge’s brilliant Fleabag is a character who acts out a variety of parallel situations, allowing me to see the full scope of my selfish justifications.

But, perhaps, most importantly, these characters and shows have pushed across a feeling synonymous with any meaningful expression of a perspective- comfort. Even after seeking professional help, it’s been easy to feel alone in my struggle to try and become a better person. And I don’t mean that in some high and mighty way so that I might be saved from eternal damnation or so that I could one day look at you with a self-satisfying air of pretension. I’m simply tired of hurting people. I’m tired of pushing people away, and I’m tired of submitting to the part of myself that doesn’t deserve to define my being in service of a selfish hunger.

Every day I think about the people I’ve hurt and how I’ve done so. The regret is often paralyzing. What these shows have allowed is the conception of a healthy relationship with these issues. That others struggle with these kinds of compulsions too, and that while a claim to a codified form of addiction does not absolve us of the blame we are due, it does help in making that previously insurmountable obstacle more approachable.

It’s difficult to look at our past actions and accept them for what they are. We often say ‘that isn’t me anymore’ or ‘I’ve changed,’ and while that may be true, that rationale can, at times, allow for an escape that hinders actual change. Accepting the parts of ourselves that have taken our traumas and misconceptions, and twisted them into harmful habits takes effort because we don’t initially see the destructive nature of our everyday thoughts. These thoughts, when normalized through our day to day experience, can allow us to forego the painful truth these behaviors often willfully look to hide. The more we learn to live with Mr. Hyde and try to rehabilitate him instead of seeing him as a separate person, the closer we come to change for the better.

My name is Nic Morales, and, among other things, I’m a sex and love addict.

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