Sunday, August 30, 2009

Perseverance/or/Holding feelings, good and bad

My therapist this past week (the new one, who I'm liking very much by the way) told me that I have a lot of perseverance; he said that even though he's just getting to know me, he can see that I'm trying as hard as I can.

Words like that mean a lot to me since I have a LOT of guilt around work-related issues; essentially, I have a very strong tendency to feel like I'm never working hard enough, and thus, since my brain long long ago adopted the belief that the work I do=my worth as a human being, I then feel like I am a bad person. My guilt about "not working hard enough" is, at this stage of my life at least, seemingly omnipresent. Hell, guilt about anything and everything is always hovering somewhere in my mind.

I didn't apply for enough jobs this week. I should have called so-and-so back sooner. I'm not studying hard enough (GRE coming up). I should have done my chores sooner and better. I should clean my room more often. I should go to bed earlier. I should eat healthier. I should exercise more. I should be more considerate and caring to the people in my life. I should spend less of my energy giving to people in my life and more on facing my own problems. I feel bad that that car had to stop so I could cross the street. I should spend less time on the computer. I should play my violin more. I should read more. I should live more frugally.

and on

and on

and on

Despite the momentary relief I felt at my therapist's words, I spent much of the rest of the week feeling very very guilty for various items on that list, and probably others too haha.

Often my response to feelings of intense guilt has been to assuage it--say, it's ok Kate that you didn't do this or that, it doesn't actually matter that much, it doesn't make sense to feel that guilty. I'm good at talking myself down, of coping with the guilt, distracting myself, removing the edge to it, dulling the pain, pushing it away..... I think this has contributed to my emotional emptiness; and clearly, all the reassurances in the world have not taken away my root tendency to assume that I am doing something wrong at any given moment, to believe that I am never good enough.

So this week I tried to hold the guilt instead of going through my usual reassurances/coping mechanisms. I tried to just sit there and acknowledge, I am feeling very very very guilty, very ashamed. Tried to just feel it, not fight it, not push it away..... So, honestly, between the guilt and the corresponding shame and sadness, it was a pretty shitty feeling week. But I am proud of myself for trying to feel what comes up, trying to not run from it.....this is all in the long-term hope that if I learn to feel these things fully, perhaps they will not continue to hold so much power over me; perhaps by feeling them I can actually move through them, move forward. (A lot of the philosophy fueling this supposition is coming from Re-Evaluation Counseling theory and Buddhism/meditation stuff I'm reading).

I started to think tonight that perhaps it's not just bad feelings I have a hard time facing. I think I sometimes run from good feelings as well. I was feeling very sad this evening and turned on some music and began to feel sooooo much better; and very soon after that I felt the impulse to turn the music off and go on with my evening the way I had been. I think this impulse came partly from a sort of fundamental distrust I have of feeling good. I think that sometimes I am so afraid of losing good feelings that I'd rather not have them or cut them off myself; that way I maintain a sense of "control" over disappointment/loss. I think that because I recognize that good feelings are so ephemeral (as are all feelings in truth), I just don't want to bother with them; I want what I know is solid; so I settle for not too bad, because I think some part of me believes that I can at least control things so that I won't feel too bad. I'm afraid to feel good because I'm terrified of losing feeling good. I'm terrified of coming to trust that feeling good can be a regular part of life, only to have it swept away. Only to be "disillusioned". Only to have to be faced with the "hard realities" of life once more.

Perhaps this is why I can't hold onto my therapist's words of praise, or any words of praise, or any feeling of accomplishment, for very long. I'm deeply afraid of *actually* believing something good about myself, and then being proven wrong and crushed. I felt crushed often at other points in my life; I learned to cope, it seems, by never letting my hopes get too far ahead of me, never letting myself feel too confident, too happy, always keeping the highs low enough that the seemingly inevitable corresponding crash wouldn't be too painful. I think some part of me believes that emotions look like a sine wave--up always followed by down--and writing the equation to make the wave as narrow as possible will mean that my downs don't go too far into the negatives.

So here's to rewriting the equation to open up my sign wave wider and wider; here's to learning to hold the really painful stuff, and perhaps even harder, learning to hold the really good-feeling stuff. Here's to learning to value not only lack of pain, but to actually value feeling good. (In the words of a good friend, "Kate, just because you're used to being miserable doesn't mean you actually have to be miserable all the time." oy! haha) Finding the courage to actually believe something good about myself, or to actually hope for my future.

When my therapist said that I am trying as hard as I can, that I have perseverance, it rang true to me. I know, on some level, that I am reallllly trying hard; I know that I have not given up; I know that I am determined to continue putting one foot in front of the other. So what is the next step? I am not going to try to force myself to feel good of course; I am going to continue to try to really let myself feel whatever comes up for me, and I'm going to be conscious of trying to let myself hold/feel both the sharp pains that I normally turn from and the good feelings that I normally truncate. Phew, good luck to me! hahahah

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Few Thoughts on Letting Go

I feel so so so so alive after an amazing evening talking with a good friend.

This feeling is so invigorating--engaged--deep--my friend is so deep, I love exploring depths of people and life--I love hearing wisdom--the poetry of my friend's language, the breadth of his experience--I am, I think, a person who loves to learn from all different life experiences, I seek out wisdom from experiences, from others.

So alive!

I want to keep this feeling, feel anxious about keeping this feeling. Then I remember something I read in "Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart" by Mark Epstein, which is a book about the intersection between psychotherapy and Buddhism/meditation. The author writes that his habit of trying to hold on to good experiences/things/feelings/etc. was so ingrained that after he learned to achieve a sense of deep letting go through meditation, he began to fear losing his sense of letting go. In other words, he was trying to hold on to letting go. He eventually realized what he was doing and worked to let his sense of letting go come in and out of his life, worked to trust that it would come back.

Scary scary scary that I cannot keep experiences, hold on to them, make them always be there for me. I feel like one lesson I'm starting to try to embrace is the fact that life is change; everything is always changing; part of really living is accepting that you cannot keep things the same, and by accepting this you perhaps can learn to really be present with whatever is happening for you at the moment.

My friend and I both have deep, deep love for music, and we were discussing last night some of our experiences and habits around listening to music. Since I was a child, I have had a fear that if I listen to a song I love over and over again, I will rob it of its potency. I used to have a rule for myself that if I really liked a particular track on a CD, I would have to listen to the entire CD rather than just that track so that I would not get bored with it. Similarly I limit myself on rereading of favorite books, rewatching of favorite movies; contained within these habits is the fear of the inevitability of loss; the fear that next time I pick up this piece of art, it won't give me what I've come to expect. I think these habits demonstrate a way in which I limit my ability to enjoy things that I love by focusing so much on my fear of losing them.

I experience so much less anxiety if I stop worrying about keeping good feelings indefinitely alive. Feeling amazing from my evening with my friend right now; goodness life is amazing, so so much more out there! This feeling cannot be kept permanently alive, things come and go, always changing all I can do is experience it right now. Perhaps learn to trust that good things will come into my life just as they go out; trust that other good experiences will come in, probably at some points experiences like this feeling...but in a way, more to the point....whether I have that trust or not, no matter how much I try to hold onto my feeling right now, I cannot do it; it is impossible. In that light, the only thing to do is, insofar as is possible (and for me at this point in my life, I do not know that it is possible to all that deep of a degree), to accept the reality that everything is always changing. Enjoy this moment, do not add anxiety by trying to hold on, by trying to do the impossible.



Thursday, August 6, 2009

I switched therapists, oh my!

It's been a while, and for this I apologize. It's been an odd month, but I'm starting to feel a little more settled in myself again, and I want to come back to writing here.

I switched therapists. Holy cow! This was a scary decision, but I'm feeling good about it now. I made this decision for a number of reasons. For one, I've been feeling kind of stagnant with my former therapist. While I've learned a lot from her, and was still learning some things, for the most part I felt like we were talking about the same things over and over again without really moving forward. For her part, she expressed that she thought that what we were doing was important and was actually building toward something, but I got to the point where I didn't want to wait anymore, had begun to lose faith that it was actually going to prove productive in the long run. I'm open to the possibility that I may have been wrong about this, but I also respect my own thought process; in other words, I respect my own urge to try out a new therapist and see how it feels, see if it's better, see if I can feel like I can get more forward momentum again.

I also decided to leave my therapist because I had grown uncomfortable talking to her. This is probably the root reason why I decided to leave; I probably would have put up with the feeling of stagnancy and kept trying had I felt more comfortable with her. The very first time I met with my therapist, I had a slight sense of discomfort with her. However, I liked her a lot in other ways, and I was leery of challenging her when she said she thought we would work well together, so I pushed my sense of discomfort to the side. And I must say, I got a lot out of working with this therapist; I am in so much better shape now than when I first started working with her.

However, at one point several months ago, she expressed strong disapproval of a personal decision I had made. This was very out of character for her, and she later acknowledged as much, but this incident really shattered the sense of safety I had had with her. I tried for a long time to rebuild this sense of safety, but within the few months I kept seeing her was not able to restore this sense to its previous strength. I think my inability to rebuild my sense of safety rose perhaps in part from the original discomfort I felt with my therapist; a feeling of not quite wanting to open up fully to this person, of not trusting them to see me fully, not trusting them to not judge me. I have no idea how she actually sees me; as she pointed out, it is very possible that my discomfort with her has nothing to do with her and everything to do with my fears of being judged. She did not want me to stop seeing her; she said that it was quite possible that if I started working with another therapist I would run into the same issues.

I felt a lot of guilt around leaving this therapist: I've been working with her for almost a year, and she has given me a lot of help. I took her words to heart and worried that maybe I'm just running away because it's getting tough. While I was in the process of leaving her, however, I began seeing another therapist (recommended by a friend), who I really like so far and who gave me some very helpful ideas about the decision of whether or not to leave my old therapist.

"Maybe you are running away. So what? You're running away! Fantastic!" What a concept--I don't ALWAYS have to take the hardest path available?!?!?! Wow! hahaha ;) (I actually don't always take the hardest path available, but I pretty much always feel guilty about doing that, at least on the level of gut reaction.) The new therapist pointed out that if I am running away from some issues, they'll pretty surely come up for me again and I'll always have a chance to face them again.

In my own brain, this idea strengthened my confidence in the thought that popped into my head when my therapist said that I'd probably run into similar issues of discomfort/feeling judged with another therapist. So what? If I run into the same issues with another therapist at least then I'll know for sure that it's me, and not the therapist, and then I can work on it.

At root I think my decision to leave is a decision to listen to the part of myself that all along was saying, I'm not so sure about this therapist.... Wherever that voice is coming from, I'm deciding to trust it, try something new (I can always go back if I begin to see it in a different light). Honestly, I don't think it's just me and my issues, I do think it's at least a little bit her. Whether or not I'm right, it just feels good to go ahead and try it out, and so far I'm having a really really good experience with the new therapist I'm seeing, so.... Here we go! I feel good, I feel not stagnant, I feel kind of excited. :)