Category Archives: beliefs

inhale, exhale, slow down

As you know, the last few days have been tough. I started feeling better yesterday afternoon though, but the depression hit again on my way to therapy. I didn’t want to rehash everything that’s been happening; I didn’t want to think about anything any longer. I just wanted relief and understanding, and, surprisingly, I got it last night in therapy–sort of.

***

Most sessions start with me manically describing every detail of my week; it’s like a giant exhale. I don’t feel much at that point, because it’s all very shallow. There is a little anxiety, I guess, because I’m processing everything so fast. I want to get everything out there in the open and let my therapist decide what to look at. Inevitably, at one point or another, he stops me, asks me to take a deep breath, and slow down. I smile. There’s no more anxiety, but now I don’t feel anything at all–which is sometimes worst.

Sometimes I say a few more things, sometimes I don’t, and then he decides what to focus on, and more often than not, it’s the things I don’t want to touch; it’s the subject I speed through even quicker, hoping he won’t hear it. I like this about him; he knows what I don’t want to touch, and he makes me touch it. Anyway, we talk for a bit about the subject, still superficially. I’m a little anxious; I can feel the tension creeping up from my stomach, like a tank slowing filling with water. And then it happens–

“What’s beneath?” he asks, knowing I’m going to shut down. “What are the underlying beliefs–that’s what I want to know about.”

I manage a few more sentences before shutting down. The remainder of the session is like pulling teeth. He brushes right up against my beliefs, and I push back. I get angry, frustrated, and very defensive. I feel attacked. I feel threatened. I feel like he’s not on my side. It usually gets to the point where I don’t say anything for the last five or ten minutes. We sit in silence. Sometimes he talks about how difficult therapy can be; sometimes he even congratulates me on coming in and doing the work, which is the last thing I want to hear in that moment. Thankfully, there’s a beautiful picture of the ocean right behind his chair. If I look long enough, I leave the room altogether.

I become the ocean.

***

Last night I did something different, though. I started out by talking about the thing I didn’t want to talk about: my suicidal thoughts.

“I don’t know what to do when I have them,” I said. “It’s hard. Most days I just have them while walking down the street–looking up at every building, wondering if it’s high enough for me to die if I jumped off it. But over the weekend, the thoughts intensified. There was intention. I may have had a plan, I’m not really sure. When they get that intense, I’m not going to call you. I’m not going to call anyone. When I’m that low, I only want to binge because that’s the only way I know how to regain control.”

I paused, letting this seep in. His facial expression changed; he was visibly upset. Sensing I had more to say, he nodded.

“But I’m scared because binging is becoming less and less effective. I can’t rely on it anymore. I’m scared that I won’t be able to quickly pull myself out of my next deep depression.”

I talked about the wedding, and the holidays, and my upcoming class presentations. I’m scared of them, yes, but they are not the cause of my suicidal thoughts. It’s easy to blame them, but the real culprit is beneath.

“Tell me about the beliefs?” he asked, as always.

“I’m a monster inside,” I said. “An ugly monster. I’ve made so many bad decisions in my life. I deserve everything I’m going through. It’s all my fault. People do not like me because I’m not like any of them–and I made the choice not to be like them. I will fail. I am a failure.”

“There’s more there,” he said. “It’s in the room. We just nicked it.”

At that point, I was flooded. I felt a bit nauseous. All I wanted to do was leave, but I didn’t. I never leave. I guess I like the pain, or I just don’t want to disappoint. I thought he was going to push back against my beliefs again, but he didn’t, something different happened–

“You know,” he said, “if it becomes too much you can ask me to pull back. It’s okay.”

He gave me exactly what I needed in that moment: space. I looked at the clock: five minutes left. Five minutes of silence and me staring at the ocean. I am that ocean, I told myself over and over and over again.

trust

I’ve talked a lot about trust in the past, particularly in this post where I discussed how I replace trust with constancy. Anyway, I came across an interesting comment on this post, and I want to address the questions left by the author–

Trust is an interesting one though…you’ve maybe done it already but it can sometimes be useful to explore the following three areas:

What trust means to you…
What has to happen for trust to be there
What stops you from trusting

What does trust mean to me?

Trust is hard to define. It’s much easier to describe the after effects–i.e., what happens after trust is established. In the most general sense, a trustful relationship is a peaceful relationship. When there’s trust, I feel comfortable calling the person and talking to him or her about anything; I don’t get hung up on my negative thoughts; I simply don’t care what the other person thinks of me. He can judge me all he wants; it’s not going to affect the relationship. Finally, and this may be the most important factor, in a trustful relationship, I not only trust the other person, but I trust myself as well. I’m not constantly questioning or analyzing my behaviors. I can be myself.

Trust is important to me. I want and need to have open, trustful relationships with others. Trust is the willingness to be whoever I am in the moment. There are no walls. Or filters. There’s only me.

What has to happen for trust to be there?

Several things need to take place for trust to develop–

Be honest: Being honest with yourself as well as with the other person. Your actions must match your words, as well.

Be reliable and predictable: If you say you’re going to do something or be somewhere at a certain time, then do it and be punctual. Predictability is important, too.

Have the willingness to share: Tell the person who you are, faults and all, and reveal what you want/need from the relationship.

Take a leap of faith: All of the previous things don’t really matter if you aren’t willing to take a leap of faith. Trust means you have to open up. You have to put yourself out there. You have to put yourself on the line. You have to be willing to be hurt. You have to have faith that the other person will be there when you fall–and you have to be there, too.

What stops you from trusting?

I don’t like myself. In fact, most of the time, I hate myself. I’ve been hurt so much in the past and have gone through so many negative social experiences, that these hateful feelings are ingrained deep within. I can’t seem to penetrate these ancient beliefs; I can’t change them, in other words. Hate is there–and it may always be there.

So, how can I let someone else in when I hate myself so much? If I don’t like what I see and feel inside, why would anyone else? I know exactly what I need to do–I need to learn to accept, appreciate, and love myself. But I don’t know how. Or rather: I do know how. I’m doing it right now. I’m going to therapy, I’m writing, etc. It’s just hard.

Also, I can’t ignore empirical evidence. I have let some people in, and, more often than not, they run away. They must have seen something they didn’t like. And so, I’m no longer willing to take that leap of faith that’s so vital for establishing trust in relationships.

reiteration

I want to go over something I briefly touched on earlier this week. In the post life means suffering, I said–

When I’m anxious it’s very difficult for me to smile, and as a result I look serious or angry or mean. Ironically, inside I’m terrified. I just want people to like me. The response I got from Ms. D reinforced my anxiety, and it was appropriate given my comment and how I looked. I really shouldn’t take it personally, because she’s responding to my social anxiety not my true personality, but I still do.

Essentially, I felt like I got criticized by Ms. D, my girlfriend’s half-sister, and I took it personally. But when I took a step back and analyzed it a little more objectively, I felt like she was attacking my anxiety, not my true self.

This is important because I take everything personally. When a co-worker’s having a bad day and doesn’t smile at me, it must be because I didn’t smile at him first. When a friend’s angry at someone else but he takes it out on me, it must be because I did something wrong. When a librarian is aggravated because she is busy and gets pulled from her schedule to meet me, she must not like me. When I’m with an acquaintance and there’s an awkward moment of silence between us, it’s because I’m boring and don’t know what to say. Whenever something goes wrong, it’s my fault because there’s something deeply wrong with me.

None of those are my fault, none mean there’s something wrong with me. They’re just negative situations which can be interpreted in a number of different ways, and more often than not, I find the negatives: it’s my fault and they don’t like me, personally.

Awareness is key. When someone negatively judges me, real or imagined, because of how I act when I’m flooded with anxiety, they aren’t attacking me personally–they’re attacking the anxiety.

***

Have a great weekend, and enjoy Halloween–if you have/celebrate that.

life means suffering

Leap of Faith

So: I can’t change how I feel in social situations because I can’t change my beliefs, and I can’t change my beliefs because I can’t change how I feel in social situations.

Right now my life is like this: beliefs + action = I’m a fucking failure

For example, I just RSVP’d “yes” for a game night on Friday. My thoughts are already telling me I’ll be awkward, people will see that I’m awkward, and because of this they won’t like me, etc. etc. etc. These thoughts will probably intensify over the week, culminating with me telling myself I’m going to fail and I probably will fail if I’m telling myself I’ll fail–which will reinforce my beliefs. So … what do I do? Logic tells me it’s irrational to believe I’ll just wake up one morning and be anxiety free–hence, change must come from my beliefs. But how can I change my beliefs if they are just reinforced by my actions? Leap of faith? Whatever that means. Suddenly believing everything will be fine is absurd. My beliefs are deep-seeded. As beliefs become stronger and stronger, they sink deeper and deeper in my intuition. Change must come there but it has to start in my logic.

I’m thinking too much about this. Off to do some CBT …

changing beliefs

My beliefs about myself and about the world have significantly changed over the past few years. But why hasn’t that lead to any significant changes? Why is my thinking still so irrational during social situations? Why is change so slow? In theory, I know I’m fine. I know I’m smart and I know I can carry on a conversation and I know I’m fairly attractive. In action though (when I’m in the midst of a social situation) I tell myself I’m an ugly idiot who can’t engage socially with others. There’s a huge disparity in how I look at myself in the comfort of my apartment or even in therapy (objectivity) versus when I’m in the middle of a group social situation (subjectivity).

I want to look at some examples. I’ll start with a belief about myself I know is true when I’m not in an anxious social situation, and then I’ll counter it with what I believe in a social situation (in bold).

  1. I am not ugly. I may not have been the best looking during my formative years, but I’ve changed. I no longer have bad acne or an under bite. People are staring at my jaw. They can see my under bite. I wish I didn’t have these scars from acne. Why do people always have to just stare at me? What can they see that I can’t?
  2. I’m intelligent, witty, funny, and interesting to talk to. People don’t want to hear what I have to say. They’ll laugh and think my opinions are stupid. I just won’t say anything at all. But I really want to say something. Maybe if I just say some joke really quickly that will be enough. Why can’t I just feel calm and relaxed and speak about myself like everyone else. Why can’t I be witty and funny like everyone else?
  3. Nobody is inherently better than me. Some people may be better at some things than I am, but I’m better at some other things. Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses–that’s what makes us human. These people are beautiful and perfect. They have no flaws that I can see. All my flaws are exposed. People can see them. I can’t hide. They can see right through me.
  4. People are not talking about me behind my back. They are not laughing at me. They do not have a secret system setup (of glances, of nods) to subtly communicate with one other about me. People are talking about me, telling one other how awkward and stupid I am. They are also laughing about me. What else could be so funny? At the very least, everyone is having negative thoughts about me.

There’s more but I have to stop there. This is too hard for me.

So what’s going on here? If I truly believe my thoughts outside of social situations, then they should carry over into social situations. Why don’t I believe them? It’s because I tell myself that no matter what I’m going to fail. It doesn’t matter what I believe. It doesn’t matter how smart or funny I am–I’m going to fail. But I don’t think just changing those thoughts will help. I can’t just say, “I’ll be fine in this situation” or “I’m going to wake up tomorrow and not feel anxious.”

The work has to be done on changing my beliefs, but I need to have the overall belief that those changes will help–which I don’t have.

I think that changing beliefs works like this–

I state my irrational belief, then state a rational (counter) belief, and then hopefully a synthesis will occur: where I pick the truth from each belief, and hopefully that will change my overall belief to a more positive one. Once the belief has changed, I then test that belief in a social situation. So far, my new beliefs haven’t stuck and so I go right back to my old beliefs. But maybe, somewhere deep within, my beliefs have shifted a bit, and eventually the new beliefs will become set. It just takes practice and a lot of time to change–both of which I don’t feel like I have.

***

By the way, when I started writing this post I felt good. I felt calm and collected. Now I just feel terrible. I’m extremely anxious, and I feel depressed. Stirring up these thoughts hasn’t done me any good. Hopefully in the long run this blog will help, but right now, in the present, it’s doing more harm than good.