Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ask Haven! Episode 3: Obsession

A Reader asks : How much obsession is too much obsession when in love?

Well first let’s start off with: What is obsession? The dictionary says:

Obsession =

1.     Compulsive preoccupation with an idea or an unwantedfeeling or emotion, often accompanied by symptoms of anxiety.
2.      A compulsive, often unreasonable idea or emotion.

As I’ve written about before, I’m not sure I know the difference between real love and obsession. However I do recognize that a compulsive preoccupation with anything is probably not healthy.

So the short answer is: Any amount of obsession is too much obsession when you’re in love.

Obsession is an unhealthy preoccupation with the object of fixation. Love should be a mutual emotional act between two people. You can be in love, think about someone often, want to make their lives better, but maintain your own identity as a person. When you are obsessed with someone you love, your own identity begins to slip away in favor of being everything you believe that person desires. Losing who you are as a person is not healthy.

Obsession often leads to stress and anxiety when you can’t constantly be in the prescense of the one you love. Your very happiness seems to depend on them. No one should have this kind of control over your mind.

Being in love is a beautiful place to be. Being in obsession is not. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Lucid Analysis – Trials in Therapy: Good Decisions, Bad Decisions

Good Intentions still hurt.
::deep breath::

 I managed to get Therapist kind of worked up last night, but she wasn’t angry at me. She was angry at Friend. Remember I sent him the letter I needed to send him. He responded. I responded again. It’s been a week now and I haven’t heard back from him. I read therapist the letters that I sent him and his response so far.

 I was floored by her reaction honestly. When I first read his response I thought he was being gentle with his words. I only really read it through once or twice. I can’t read things like that a lot. It’s painful. I also do this thing where I’ll skip to the end and read a letter backwards. Gradually skipping back up to beginning, reading things out of order, before I read it straight through. Does anyone else do this?

 When I read it back to her, she asked me how I felt. Honestly, I was pretty annoyed. He did acknowledge that how he acted and how he treated me was wrong and that I deserved to have been treated better. That he failed me in that way.  However…. and he pompused himself up a whole bunch, lied a couple times, and made a lot of hot air about how much ‘they let me into their lives’.  ::blinks:: Plus the tone was just, flat.

 He ended with this: But I can't have you seething at my wife all the time. Or even quietly hating her. It would make socializing uncomfortable at best.  You need to sort out your problems with her and reach some sort of accord. Healing can't happen if theres hate and resentment. It can't. I don't want to lose you as a friend, but I don't want our future interactions to be strained and awkward either.  I want you and I and {her} to work this out because she values you as well. We both do.

I’m sorry. You’re worried about things being uncomfortable… now? This isn’t new information I told him. He’s always known that I didn’t care for his wife. Also… I’ve been beyond uncomfortable around them for the past YEAR! I’ve managed to suck it up and act like an adult because I valued my friendship with him. Of all the vulnerable emotions, hurt, love, and value I’d placed on our friendship and told him in my previous letter, right now he’s worried about awkward socializing?  Our past interactions have been strained and awkward for me, for the last year.

 My relationship is with him. My problems are with him. He does not get to dictate terms. Friendship shouldn’t involve terms of engagement. He doesn’t get to tell me how I need to be.

Part of the reason I valued him so much as a friend is because I sincerely believed that he  accepted who I am as a person. All of me, even the bad parts that I usually hide. Accepting someone means working with them to figure things out, it does not mean telling them they have to change to make socializing less awkward.

 Amongst many things in my reply I told him: No, I would not be seeking a relationships with his wife.

I’ve never had a relationship with his wife. She’s never had much of an interest in me, except for what I provide them. What I can do for her. Beyond that, I have severe issues of object constancy.

With Friend, because we did have a very intense, positive and meaningful relationship I was able at times to feel truly connected to him. This is also why everything hit me so hard. Things hit me hard but it meant he felt like a real presence in my life. Part of the reason my connection to him was so strong, was that we were in such close and constant contact. It made him consistently real to me on an emotional level, not just a cognitive one so our friendship was essentially whole.  Because I felt this connection, I can understand that there is something meaningful there to hold onto. It allows me to hold onto the thought that he is someone of value in my life and keeps me from splitting him into a place where I cannot form an attachment any longer. I’ve never had this connection with his wife. Like most everyone, she is just another passing face, an annotation next to his picture. I have zero emotional connection to her. She also suffered an absolute devaluation with me. Despite all warnings from people I did place some small trust in her. She threw it back in my face and tried to use it against me to victimize me emotionally. All that actually accomplished was to piss me off, but all previous value I’d been able to maintain, shattered. Besides how she’s treated me (and there were lots of little bullshit things she’s done), I’ve watched how she treats other people. I saw how she treated Friend, I saw how she treats people she considers friends, I saw how she gossips, instigates drama, and tries to manipulate people when they call her on her bullshit. She has zero integrity and treats people very poorly. At least when I fuck up I can admit it. She just blames everyone else. I’ve had too many abusive and destructive friendships in my life, and she is not the kind of person I will willingly allow close to me. So I’m sorry, but no.

I haven’t heard back from him since, other than some passive-aggressive Facebook comments. Typical.

Therapist noted my 2nd letter was of an entirely different attitude. I heard her sighing and sucking in her breathe at times. She told me she could hear in my letter how I was shutting down emotionally and acting to protect myself. She could hear me intellectualizing my feelings (< ~~~~ This is funny because I was just talking to someone about this very thing and she said it).  I intellectualize in order to help protect the more vulnerable aspects of myself. It probably contributes to why I can write this blog the way that I do. But I’m pushing away the experience of actually feeling those emotions.

 She was very angry. She doesn’t usually give me advice or make decisions for me. She lets me do that for myself. She had a very solid opinion that I should end this friendship. I left out a lot of what he wrote me, but she believes that he and his wife, are fucking crazy. While his words may express favorable sentiment, his attitude, the flatness of the content, and the message as a whole, expresses something very different.

I’m not sure how I feel about ending it yet, but it felt good to hear someone make a solid decision about what I should do. I told Roommate about it too and she agreed that it sounds like a healthy decision to cut them out of my life (which is an experience she herself has already been through).

 I think I’m going to do something very out of character. I’m actually going to listen for a change.

Therapist doesn’t think I need to tell him “THIS FRIENDSHIP IS OVER” or anything like that. She thinks that might be too traumatic and triggering for me. But it would be healthiest for me if I collected my thoughts and let this friendship go in favor of having the opportunity to cultivate newer, healthier relationships. I still feel like I'm abandoning this one. It's a contradiction of my own fears that I can't reconcile yet.

Homework: Write a letter of closure for this friendship. I don’t have to send this to him, but for myself I do.

Therapist believes Friend was a catalyst for me. This was a relationship that inspired change in me. It allowed me to remember that I could be close to another person, that I could love another person, care more about someone than I do for myself and grow in a positive way because of that person. That he doesn’t seem to have grown or changed at all is unfortunate and a failing of his character, not mine. It’s important for me to look back and remember the positive things that came from this relationship. Like the fact that it is possible for me to feel safe with someone.

Though at this point I had to question my ability to trust myself.  How can I trust myself or how I feel if this ending is the result? Clearly my feelings about the situation were wrong. Therapist disagreed. She believes my feelings were very real. And perfectly appropriate for how our relationship developed and the intimacy that was cultivated between us. That he is incapable of reciprocating the same level of caring is his failing, not mine. And not something I should waste any more time hoping for.

Not all relationships are meant to last. But they can all be meaningful in ways. Even if it hurts to see them end. I grew a lot in this relationship. I learned a lot about myself and the things I care about (and don’t) in people. I don’t feel ready to let it go yet, but I think I have to anyways. When left to my own devices I make terrible decisions about people and relationships. I routinely ignore what people tell me about others in favor of finding out for myself and hoping that things will be different with me. Well ya know what? Sometimes other people are right. There is no doubt in my mind that Therapist only has my best interest in mind. No ulterior motives, no personal agenda. She sees how very triggering this relationship has become over the last year and how emotionally destructive it’s been for me. Just because something can be pieced back together doesn’t mean it will ever be whole.

They say BPD is a disorder of relationships. Frankly I think the human condition is a disorder of relationships.

Aye. Tech Boy! As I mentioned earlier this week, it was my birthday on Wednesday. He surprised me with a night out to my favorite restaurant. For as much as I believe he is emotional immature or unavailable, he’s been surprising me a lot. The sweetness of that night was definitely one of those times. We got back to my apartment, spent a couple of tense moments picking a movie before I couldn’t restrain myself anymore and practically tore his clothes off. We didn’t even make it to the bedroom. The heat radiating between us was just that intense. Afterwards we just laid down on the couch, he pulled me on top of him, legs all entangled, brushing his fingertips lightly over my skin, wrapping his arms around me tightly. Every now and again he’d tilt my chin up and just stare into my eyes, finally kissing me. He may not be verbally expressive when it comes to emotions, but he finds other ways.

I actually had a medium sized freak out earlier that day and I thought whatever we were doing was over. My boss needed some last minute stuff so I asked Tech Boy to put it together right away (this is one of the projects that he works with me on). It was necessary for me to override some previous work requests he had and essentially display my authority in a pretty demanding way. I was CONVINCED he was going to be furious at me. In my mind all the reasons why we shouldn’t tangle up personal and professional relationships came crashing down around me. My stress and anxiety levels were off the chart. He just got it done as fast as he could. He never seemed bothered, but my mind was running away with me.

When I got home I actually texted him to see if we were still on, and told him I’d understand if he didn’t want to go out because I’d made the afternoon so stressful. He completely laughed it off, told me not to take my job so seriously, and said he’d be by in an hour. Relief.

 Therapist was impressed. She thinks he has a very mature capability for keeping personal and professional aspects of our lives separate.

And then last night he busted out with, “You keep making a better and better case for having a girlfriend”. He’d asked me if I wanted to go out to dinner {tonight}. I’d inquired as to whether it was just us or if there was something going on because of all the going away parties and whatnot. He said, “Just us, I don’t think anyone else would be up for it.” I told him I was happy with just us. He said, “Me too, I want to make that happen more often…” and that’s when the girlfriend statement came into play. Gotta say, I was pretty shocked. It’s like a baby step in the direction of thinking about a relationship, but that he’s thinking about a relationship at all is sort of a shocker. 

I was so down after therapy. Therapy can be very painful. And I come home, and am greeted with these warm sentiments and him telling me he wants me to be in his life more. Not gonna lie, I was pretty elated.

I just want to be wanted. Sometimes I think this is why Borderlines get such a bad rap or have such impulses to cheat. We crave this constant affirmation that we’re needed in someone’s life. Necessary. That kind of emotional attention coupled with the physical expression is just addicting.

I’m still very guarded. And conflicted. I think I’m afraid to be happy. I’m afraid to place that kind of hope into another person. I can have hope for myself, but I have some degree of control there. I don’t with someone else.  Which is probably why I still don’t think this is a great idea, but it feels good and I’m just kind of letting it go where it will go right now.

It shouldn’t be so hard to let go of a hurtful relationship and open yourself up to a caring one. It shouldn’t be. So why do both scenarios cause so much pain?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thoughts from the Borderline: Change

…I still feel like dying sometimes when I’m overwhelmed but I have to maintain hope. As long as you’re alive there’s a chance for change. As long as things can change, these feelings can change, and there’s a chance to be happy. Or at least a lot happier. Some days I think I’m naive. All days I remember that this is the only life and chance I get so it’s my responsibility to make it worthwhile. Even if I don’t always like the idea of it.

~Haven~  ... my Readers inspire my thoughts. Love.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

As Tech Boy reminded me yesterday, today is my birthday! I knew it was coming up, I’ve just been so busy with work and this blog that I completely forgot to, well, remember what day it was. It’s Today! So yeah, I made no plans, no parties, no celebrations. I asked Tech Boy if I should bring in cupcakes today or dye my hair instead. He told me to pamper myself since he planned to pick something up for me. Then he also surprised me by deciding to take me out to my favorite local restaurant after work today =) Aw. So now my hair is a lovely deep black cherry once again and I’m going to a beautiful Eastern Gothic restaurant for dinner.

I am officially one day older than I was yesterday and have seen my way around the sun once more. I don’t usually think birthdays are much of an accomplishment, but when you’re not always sure if you want to see the next one, it’s a bigger accomplishment than it initially seems.

Go, me.
If anyone would like to dress up like Marilyn and sing me Happy Birthday I promise to give you some executive orders.
That’s all I got. Cheers!

The “How’s” of Mindfulness: Effectively

We’ve gone over how to be mindful Non-Judgmentally and One-Mindfully (is it just me or is this word a little cumbersome to place grammatically?) so today we’re going to finish up with learning to be Effectively mindful.

It’s exactly what it sounds like it is. Learning any new skill takes time, training, and practice. As you practice your proficiency becomes more refined and your ability to utilize those skills becomes more effective. This allows you to maximize the benefits of the skills you’re developing.

In short, to be effective you need to do what works. And developing the skills that will aid you in coping with life situations are what work.

In DBT the major skills that you learn are core mindfulness (which is what I’ve been talking about), emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance. Your whole goal is to bring about the most positive outcomes you can and effectively implementing these skills are major aids in helping you achieve a more balanced, less stressful life. And let’s face it, living a life that is less earth shattering, and actually happier, is the entire point. Not traumatizing everyone else around us is also a pleasant bonus.

As I’ve mentioned though, it takes time and practice, and yes even patience, to really get a handle on some of these skills and ways of thinking. Being effectively mindful is not about the end result. It’s about the process. Every time you try and make these changes, and use this thinking you’re increasing the positive outcome of your mental journey. It’s about developing the skills, connecting to the moment you’re in, and focusing your mind on creating more positive outcomes.
In order to do this it’s important to not avoid the problems we face. This is something that is EXTREMELY difficult for me to do. I love to avoid my problems, bury my emotions, push them aside and leave them to rot in a dark hole until they fester and infect my psyche. This is bad. There are a lot of ways to learn to actively engage your problems that DBT helps you learn. One of the key benefits that I find with this is it allows you to gain control. This isn’t something that’s really talked about as far as I’ve seen, but I know my big issue is control.

I avoid things I don’t have control over. Lacking control creates an intense anxiety in me. Avoid problems and emotions leaves the possibilities open to endless ruminations and wanderings of the mind. You can’t see an end to the problem when you refuse to even look at the problem directly. One of the best ways to regain control and put your mind at ease, is constructive confrontation. Identify the problem, square up your shoulders, and pop it straight in the nose. Figuratively speaking (especially if your problem is a person – physical assault is also bad). When you confront your problem effectively you can begin to create constructive solutions. At the very least you can channel your emotions directly and release them in a healthy way instead of letting them fester. But you need to be WILLING to take a look at the situation. A willingness to change is key to living a healthier lifestyle. No one can make you change. Change has to come from within. You must be willing to take some responsibility for the life you want to lead.
Once you’ve made the decision to change you also need to be willing to follow through and do what needs to be done for each scenerario whether it’s something you want to do or not. As much as I would love for life to be all puppies and rainbows, sometimes we have to do things we’d rather not do because it’s actually in our best instance (like telling Friend how his actions hurt me, even though there’s the potential for him to be mad at me). When you are willing to face a situation, you are in a place to recognize the reality of it. Sometimes it’s painful, not everything in life is easy, but being willing to accept the distressing aspects of life, actually reduces the intensity of the loss and pain because you can see it for what it is. A problem with me, and many with BPD, is that our imaginations run the fuck away with us. The monsters in our mind are by far worse than the scrappy little mutt of reality. Being willing to face the pain, allows you to recognize that the monster isn’t real, and what you’re actually faced with is much more manageable.

“Act as skillfully as you can, meeting the needs of the situation you are in. Not the situation you wish you were in; not the one that is just; not the one that is more comfortable; not the one that… Meeting the situation you are in may require you to dismiss your wishes, abandon your ideas of justice, and leave your comfort zone.”
  • Wishing is a way to avoid. Wishes indicate that you are trying to solve your problems by magic not by using skills.
  • Thoughts of injustice provoke anger and increase stress. If the situation is not just, remember, life is not fair.
  • Comfort is temporary. Tolerating discomfort is much easier if you learn distress tolerance skills. [source]
And don’t forget to incorporate the rest of yourmindfulness into each situation. Observe what is happening. Don’t judge it. Decide to participate by effectively facing the situation and doing what you need to do to make the most of the situation. Not all situations turn out great, but they can certainly turn out better than you fear.  

Because srsly, this guy knows what he's talking about.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The "How's" of Mindfulness: One-Mindfully

Last time I talked about being Non-Judgmentally Mindful. Today I want to talk about being One-Mindfully.
"Mindfulness has to do with the quality of awareness that we bring to what we are doing and experiencing, to being in the here and now. It has to do with learning to focus on being in the present, to focusing our attention on what we are doing and what is happening in the present. We have to learn to control our attention. Many of us are distracted by images, thoughts and feelings of the past, perhaps dissociating, worrying about the future, negative moods and anxieties about the present. It's hard to put these thing away and concentrate on the task at hand.

So the One-mindfulness skill is an effort to help us focus our attention on the here and now, to be able to absorb the DBT information and take part in the present. Please do not judge yourselves about this. This can be a difficult skill for people to learn. It requires lots of practice and willingness. Be patient with yourself.” [source]

Put simply to be of one mind, means to do one thing at a time. If you’re like me your mind often runs at top speed, barreling through a dozen different issues at once. It’s no wonder everything always feels so hectic. One-mindfulness asks you to slow this down. All things will continue to be there in the future. In the now, right now, just pick one. If you’re eating, just eat. If you’re with a group of people, or having a conversation, just focus your attention on that moment.

DBT has roots in Buddhist meditation and this is one place I see it most strongly. If other thoughts or actions distract you, note them, but try to let them go. This is not easy. It takes practice.

One-mindfully is sustained attention in the present moment. This helps develop concentration. It also makes things more manageable. When you’re staring at a mountain of worries, it can be overwhelming. When you focus on one thing at a time, you realize that things are manageable. Doing one thing at a time decreases your anxiety by allowing your mind to focus on one thing, pushing preoccupation about everything else into the background.

Make no mistake. Letting go of distractions, distracting thoughts, intrusive memories, can be difficult. You may be only able to concentrate on one thing for a short time before some other thought jumps into your head unbidden. Push it away. Allow yourself to refocus on what you were previously doing. Do this over and over. It does take practice, but you can get there. And you’ll begin to see the calmness that comes with doing only one thing at a time.

Awareness of your attention gives you the opportunity to direct it to one thing or another. Distractions will come from all directions. Let distractions go and turn your mind toward what you are doing. Returning to what you are doing is powerful. A deceptively simple strategy when you find your thoughts wandering astray is to say to yourself, “Be here now” and turn your mind toward what you are doing.

Concentrate your mind.

Concentration is the gathering of the mind, bringing all the parts together, uniting the mental faculties. Attention is focusing on a selected object. Intuition, desire, and curiosity naturally concentrate your mind. Concentration is one of the qualities of Wise Mind.
If you find you are doing two things at once, stop and go back to one thing at a time.
Focusing on one thing in the moment does not mean that one cannot do complex tasks requiring many simultaneous activities. Like the dancer on the dance floor, at one with the music and her partner, attend completely to what you are doing. Dancing integrates many processes – listening, moving, looking, and balance, but you are still doing only one thing.” [source]

You may think that just doing one thing at a time is easier said than done. In this day and age everything is so often hectic and rushed. You may feel pressured to multi-task and do many things at one time just to get everything in. I’m very guilty of this. However, the reality of this is, that when your mind is focuses on many things at once, your attention to quality is also divided. If you focus 100% on one thing, you are putting all of your effort into producing something with undivided quality. If you focus on 4 things at once, multi-tasking, it’s impossible to give each task the maximum amount of effort, and therefore the maximum amount of quality you would be able to give it if you were focusing on that thing alone.  One project gets 100% of your attention. Four projects allow each to get about 25% of your attention. Math doesn’t lie.
Some Skills to work on:

Letting go of distractions – Thoughts, worries, strong feelings, fears, memories; all of these things may creep into your mind unbidden and unwanted. Try to let them go. Take a couple deep breaths and with each breathe let each thought or feeling be released. Often these return. So just repeat the process.

Concentrate your mind – Focus on one thing at a time. If you  notice that your attention is divided. That you are doing two things at once. Stop. Choose one, and  continue with that one thing.

Thought Stopping – If you have intrusive or bothersome thoughts or feelings, tell them to go away. As many times as possible. Actively stop yourself. Take note of the thought, tell yourself that it is not helping in this moment, this is not the moment to deal with it, and refocus on the task you had been previously focusing on.

Be careful not to invalidate your thoughts though. One thing that can be helpful is to actually worry. When you decide to worry, just worry. But do it on your own terms. Pick a specific time. Pick a specific place. Pick a specific duration of time. “I’ll go to the den at 7:00pm and worry for ½ an hour”. And for that half an hour let yourself worry about the stressors in your life. Give them their time so that you can take note of them in order to fix them, and once you have given them their time, let them go. Some worries you’ll realize are unfounded, just anxious ruminations of the mind running away with itself. These are unproductive. Others may be very valid life issues and now is a good time to think about them and come up with constructive ways to deal with them. Most importantly, when the time you have set aside to worry is up, stop worrying, and move on to another aspect of your life.
Start small. There’s no rush and no expectation that you will be able to transform your way of thinking over night. Pick a single task to focus on mindfully. One task. Do that one thing.

In time this will allow you to cultivate an inner calmness, away from the turmoil that often sweeps us away.

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