Posts tagged with "self-improvement"

projector

A while back, my therapist asked, “Do you think Heather will love you, regardless of whether you’re actively contributing to the relationship?”. I told him I wasn’t sure, cause I was still trying to understand the concept of unconditional love. As a child, my parents told me they wouldn’t love me if I wasn’t a good boy, and a good boy would do exactly what they wanted. The affection they doled out was directly related to how well I did in school, or how much I impressed other parents. They used it as a tool to control me, and this dynamic has influenced my understanding of relationships to the point that it feels like I constantly need to be making efforts in them (or they’ll decay).

So my therapist instead posed the question, “Do you think Heather will love you, no matter what?”. My first reaction was one of confusion; I heard the same question as before. When I realized it had completely different implications — would Heather still love me if I was an axe murderer; if I was racist; if I burned the house down; if I didn’t love her back — it dawned on me that I was projecting this monumental requirement on myself to be constantly making efforts towards the relationship. It wasn’t an expectation Heather was bringing, but my own; one I projected on her due to my childhood trauma.

To realize that I was doing this in such a specific and significant manner was a shock. My mind inadvertently made bounds in logic, and every time Heather said, “I’ll always love you”, I would hear, “I’ll always love you, as long as…1

Continue reading “projector”…

  1. It blows my mind to know that Heather’s love for me isn’t conditional, that she loves me deeper that I’m even able to understand at the moment. []

you die, all you do is die, and yet you live

I never intended therapy to take such precedence, but it’s become the re-occurring event around which I work all my other plans. I’m still learning how to be an emotionally healthy person, while unlearning the destructive habits I developed to survive the relationships of my past. They affect me every single day, and I know I’ll be doomed to recreate the dramas of my earlier life unless I have outside help. At the same time, it’s not a process I can rush. Every session leaves me emotionally exhausted, and I need a healthy dose of happy to recover1. It also takes time to process what I learn, reflect on ongoing behaviours, and put new techniques into practice.

I’m fortunate to have found a competent therapist with whom I’m comfortable, especially when doing cognitive work that often leaves me unsafe2. After so many months, he knows enough about me and my history to understand the kind of guidance I need. There’s no structure, but he always lets me start. As a person who’s spent his entire life being socially submissive, the role reversal is a welcome change. It’s a reminder that the time is mine, that I’m free to be myself, that I get what I want out of our hour.

Sometimes, I catch myself wishing he would validate me without the need to explain myself, but he consistently remains the neutral ally (albeit one with plenty of compassion). I’ve learned that it’s important he never side with me out of loyalty the way a friend might, so I can trust his opinion is always balanced and fair. Other times, I wish he would simply tell me what I need to know, but he lets me come to realizations by myself, to make sure I’m always in control, and to avoid influencing me by the act of making a suggestion. It’s a unique role in my life that he plays well.

I dread the pain, but still look forward to every session. So much of my progress is tied to the memories I’ve kept in the back of my head and the emotions I’ve left to experience. It’s an opportunity to show myself compassion, while flexing mental muscles I don’t get to use often enough nowadays. Not to mention the gratification and hope that comes with uncovering long-seated, self-defeating thought patterns.

Heather hasn’t been coming in with me lately, but she still comes with; I don’t need her as a witness as much as a support when it’s over. It’s comforting to know I have a partner who accepts me now amid all this uncertainty, and will continue to no matter who I become. She’s the one who tends to my wounds at home, the love I’ve been missing my entire life, the reason I’m strong enough to do this work. The least I can do is strengthen my bond with her by learning to be more a trusting, patient, and accepting person.

  1. Something that usually involves turning into a blitzed-out hermit for a few days. []
  2. I’ve always wondered what other people’s experience with therapy is like. I don’t know a single person who goes on a regular basis. []

slow plays and hybrid strains

Darren stopped by for a stay on the way to Montreal for his first multi-day holdem tournament. The first and last nights ended up being the only ones we had to ourselves. Otherwise, it was a mix of friends and strangers, sativas and incidas, coming and going through the house each day. I’m glad he was along for the ride, even though I’m always up far too late when we’re together, and it’s getting harder on my body as I get older.

Theros draft

Theros draft at my place on release day. I walked away with 1st, but it was off a missed rules call (by me) in my match against Shawn, one that would have made a significant difference on the tiebreaker. I’ll always remember the night I won Xenagos and a Thoughtseize (which covers both my entry fee along with Darren’s), but the victory will forever be tainted.

It’s feels like I’m a different person, living a different life, every time we hang out. The distance between us means the change we experience is always significant enough to notice. This time my relationships have changed the most cause I’ve started compartmentalizing people, appreciating them for their strengths instead of expecting everyone to live up to some lofty set of expectations. My needs have always been the same, but I’m getting better at making sure they’re met after finally figuring out what they are. I’m also better at reading people, detecting undertone, and understanding social interactions, thanks to Shawn’s expertise rubbing off on me.

In terms of self-improvement, I’m trying to be more understanding of the world at large, while reducing my hate and increasing my patience. I’ve also started to analyze and resolve the triggers that keep me from being the person I was meant to be. The struggles I used to have only a few years ago seem so adolescent in comparison to the things I’m working on now. My priorities have matured, or I’ve grown in ways that have made old issues obsolete.

I’d never have realized any of this if Darren hadn’t showed up to pull me so far out of my regular life that I lost track of what day it was and the women I’d loved and the feeling of cold. I learn as much about myself as I do about him when we’re catching up.

sprung

I’m riding on so much momentum it feels like I’ll never come to a stop. This is a drastic change from only a short while ago, and I can attribute it mostly to the chances I’ve had to apply the lessons I’ve learned. Being able to prove to myself that I still have things to discover, that I’m still refining myself as a person, has left me feeling confident and humble lately.

420 protest on Parliament Hill

April 20th is the one day I wish I owned a BeaverTails stand. Protesting doesn’t get any more peaceful than this.

Making peace with myself used to be a struggle. Now that I’m actually happy with who I am, I realize how low a bar that used to be. I’ve been through stretches like this before though and they’ve never lasted, so I’m still approaching it all with cautious optimism. At least now I’m wise enough to know that happiness is something that needs to be worked at consistently, in the little ways, and I’m strong enough to keep it going.

Jon-Kabat Zinn has been helping me on this path too. I’ve been listening to a series of his mindful meditation exercises, and I carry a sense of calm through the day whenever I hear his voice. Every now and then he offers gentle advice on doing this kind of work, like how important it is to give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you’re feeling, and I’ve been discovering that so much of it has relevance in other parts of my life.

tides

I’ve been looking for new inspiration and listening to as much new music as I can find recently. I haven’t dared go into much of my old music. I suppose that means I’m not yet completely over something or other. Thankfully, people send me new songs all the time (this gem courtesy of Mansour Chow), and often it keeps me going until the next addiction.

I haven’t picked up my guitar lately either. For the first time, the break has been self-imposed, though out of a desire to pursue other interests more than anything else. Also possibly the fact that I lost two months of growth when I chipped my thumbnail, and I’m not interested in learning anything that requires a thumbpick right now. Ever since my dad gave me Larissa as a birthday present two years ago, I haven’t able to put her down until now. I’m hoping it’ll reset a few bad habits, and give me more focus when I start again.

Practicing guitar has been the one tangible way in which I could tell I was improving. Now that I’m taking a break, I’ve been faced with an unsettling sense of stagnancy, cause I’ve always held self-improvement as one of my main reasons for living. But I’ve also realized that it’s not always possible to continually improve, so I’m trying to be happy with who I am at the moment, and accept that it’s natural to go through cycles of growth and stagnancy, pain and healing, frailty and strength.