Tag Archives: intimacy

where is my mind?

Yesterday I ran into one of my girlfriend’s friends on the street. I didn’t see her, and if I had I would have done all I could to avoid her, but she spotted me and approached me. She said hi and gave me a hug and we asked each other how’s it going. We both said “good” and then I bent down and petted her dog, and then we said goodbye. Simple, harmless social situation, right? Wrong.

Between our “goods” and me bending down to pet her dog, there was a moment of silence. Lots of silence. In reality, it lasted no more than two or three seconds, but in the moment it felt much longer–and I started to panic. She looked away, as if she saw the panic on my face. Was she searching for an escape? Did the silence make her uncomfortable too? What did I do wrong?

The questions caused even more anxiety, deepening my panic, and my mind went blank–but why? Why did my mind go blank? Why did I start to panic? What’s so wrong with a little silence?

In those seconds, my heart raced, I felt tense, my body grew heavier and heavier. I could feel the dampness in my hands and the sweat dripping from my armpits down my side toward my waist. When I got home I stripped off my shirt, discarding the evidence (sweat) and curled up in bed. Such a simple social interaction went wrong, and it ruined my night.

But back to the issue: What’s so wrong with a little silence? I think silence between two people is very intimate. A lot of information is exchanged. I can’t hide behind my words or the other person’s words. I have to be there, in the present moment, with another–with someone I think is better than me. The intimacy causes me to panic, which causes me to put immense pressure on myself to break the silence, which causes anxiety.

Again, it comes back to being comfortable in my own skin. If I had been comfortable, I could have dealt with the silence without panicking: letting it pass naturally and then saying something else or just saying goodbye.

therapy, 10-5-10

Therapy’s supposed to be safe. It’s supposed to be a place where I can share and my therapist can share, and I can grow and my therapist can grow, together. It’s an intimate bond between two people. In fact, there’s probably nothing more intimate than two people sharing the same space, just being who they are.

“Therapy isn’t safe,” I told my therapist, J. “I can’t run or hide, and I can’t use distractions either. I can never get the attention off me. I have to be here, and I have to be present. I have to be me.”

“You can’t protect yourself from the intimacy in here,” J said.

He paused, and I looked away. When my eyes returned, I saw him looking at me–I mean really looking at me. I don’t think anybody has ever taken me in like that before. My eyes darted away again.

“You can’t protect yourself from yourself,” he said, breaking the silence.

He’s right: Therapy, like meditation, has only one demand–that I be myself. Simply me. Whoever that may be in the moment.

And that’s why it’s not safe.

I spend so much of my energy outside of therapy just trying to fit in and remain anonymous. By doing so I don’t live in the present moment, and I think people probably recognize this. When I’m feeling comfortable and can be present, people respond to me. They enjoy being around me. People like that; they want me to be there with them, not somewhere else. And if I am somewhere else, people can sense that too. Their response changes, they see me differently, which reinforces the anxiety.

I’m very fortunate that I have a place where I can be present. I may not be present all the time in therapy–I can go places in my head, make lists, think about what I’m going to do outside of therapy etc.–but I really believe that I spend a little more time in the present moment each session, and that this present awareness is beginning to spread to other parts of my life.

constancy

Maintaining friendships is very difficult for me. This is a very complicated issue and one that isn’t easy to talk about, but I’ll do my best to explain it.

It all comes down to trust. I don’t like who I am on the inside, and so I keep people at a distance because I’m afraid they’ll see who I really am and run the other way. By not letting people in though, trust does not develop. Trusting others is risky, and I think people need to put themselves out there in order to build trust. This includes opening yourself up to others by showing them who you really are, speaking your true feelings, and revealing secrets–all of which I don’t do. Without trust, relationships become disposable. There is no replacement for trust; yet, I’ve spent my whole life replacing trust with constancy.

Constancy is stability; it’s being faithful and loyal.  Constancy is part of trust, but it’s definitely not a replacement. In my case, constancy develops through repetition: the more I see somebody, the more I feel comfortable around him or her. It’s vital for my personal relationships. Without it, there is only anxiety.

So because constancy, rather than trust, is the glue holding my relationships together, my friendships never feel right. I always question them. I think the person doesn’t really like me. I think he or she is always talking negatively about me behind my back. I think he or she is always trying to find a way to get out of the friendship. I think he or she doesn’t even really like me. In reality, I am the one talking negatively about myself. I am the one trying to find a way out. I am the one who doesn’t like me.

The problems are with me, and yet instead of dealing with them, I project them onto others.

What’s more, I’m always searching for someone I can have a deeper relationship with. Everyone needs to have some deep friendships. We need someone to talk to about our feelings, someone to confide in and feel save with. I don’t get to have those things in my personal, platonic friendships so I seek out deeper, sexual relationships for my true friendships. Then once I do find that true friendship and start connecting, I abandon all of my disposable friends. I think it’s normal (to a certain degree) to desert friends when one enters into a relationship, especially at the beginning. In my case, it’s hard to view my life objectively at the start of an intimate relationship. I’m lost in euphoria, filled with happiness and excitement. When that phase is over though, people generally reconnect with friends, creating balance between their intimate relationship and platonic one’s. I however continue to cling to the sexual relationship.

So after I find a sexual partner and establish an intimate relationship I don’t reconnect with friends and so I just ignore them altogether until they eventually go away. There isn’t a malicious intent, and I’m not even really conscious of this behavior–it’s a coping technique because I lose the stability or constancy I once had in the platonic relationships.

Let’s look at this deeper. Why is it so difficult for me to reestablish relationships? It’s simple: because constancy is lost. That’s the one thing needed for my friendships to work. Some people can go weeks or months without seeing someone and still be “close”, and when they finally do see each other, “it’s like nothing changed.” They go right back to what they had before the separation. If I get separated from a friend for even a week (depending on the situation, of course), that relationship won’t be easy to pick back up. In a sense, I feel like I have to start over with that person.  Often times, it’s easier just to abandon it altogether.

Sexual relationships, on the other hand, are easy to maintain because I generally see my partner every single day. There’s constancy. Plus, I generally open up to my partner so there’s actually trust. But constancy is still more important. For example, if I’m dating someone and we see each other every day for a month and my partner decides one day not to see me, I’ll get very, very upset. I’ll feel depressed, lonely, uncertain. I’ll think my partner doesn’t really like me.

All this because of constancy.

***

The hardest relationships for me are the casual kind in which constancy haven’t been established. It’s the people I see semi-regularly but not regularly. The people who live in my building. Co-workers I’d see at work but not really know  (when I used to work). And those I have to say hello to at my girlfriend’s work. Even deeper relationships–like with parents or life-long friends–can become difficult and anxiety-provoking when I don’t engage with them for some time.

Again, part of the issue is that I’m just not comfortable with who I am on the inside. How can someone else accept me if I can’t even accept myself? I wonder what some of the other causes are? Maybe my parents didn’t give me enough attention? Or maybe I was afraid my dad wouldn’t come home from work–and maybe he didn’t for a while (like he went on a business trip or something)? With my hyper sensitive nature, issues that seem small or trivial to other people can have a profound, lasting effect on me.

Consequently, a number of events could have been the cause for me to have difficulty with relationships. I don’t think it’s that important to find causes from my childhood or adolescence. I do, however, believe it’s vital that I become more aware of this issue and learn to deal with it as it arises. Trying to maintain balance in my relationships is vital when I enter into an intimate relationship. I could also share this with my close friends–and maybe even talk with old friends about this so they have a better understanding as to why I suddenly started to ignore them. Finally, I need to work on becoming more accepting of myself so that I can build trust with people and let them in. By doing so, constancy becomes less of an issue.

***

I addressed this very issue in therapy a few weeks ago, and my therapist and I concluded that I lock myself into romantic relationships to protect myself. It’s a defense mechanism.

To summarize: It’s very difficult for me to maintain friendships because I don’t open up to people. I replace trust with constancy, which doesn’t really work. The friendships seem superficial and disposable–and in a way they are. When I’m not in a serious romantic relationship I strive to make friends, and I succeed. But there’s just something missing. I feel empty inside. That’s because I don’t allow people inside, to see the real me. Consequently, I settle into a relationship, somewhat open up, and allow that relationship to fulfill my interpersonal needs.

Fortunately, in my current relationship, I’ve recognized this past behavior and am trying to have more balance in my life. It’s been difficult.

“By giving yourself solely to the other person,” my therapist asked, referring to my past romantic partners, “is that your way of showing that you love and care for her?”

Of course not. I’m using them to protect myself from the world. Love is secondary. Up until my current relationship, I don’t think I’ve ever loved any of my romantic partners. There was an intense emotional feeling that I thought was love, but it was only there because I was being saved.