Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Growth: reading, learning.

I started reading a book. It wasn't the one that the article suggested. It was a book I had actually picked up as a joke gift to my mother that I later decided not to give her because it might actually hurt her feelings. It's called "The invisible presence." How a man's relationship with his mother affects all his relationships. I made it about fifteen pages in before the spiritual mumbo jumbo about finding the warriors way got to me and I had to put it down.

I then went out and bought the book the article recommended, "Attached: The new science of adult attachment and how it can help you find and keep - love.", and so far it is fucking fantastic. It has a different tone than I expected.

The first part of the book breaks down how we need attachments and how they evolved with us as a species to give us a survival advantage. It explains that there are three basic types of attachment behaviors: avoidant, anxious, and secure. There is no finger pointing or saying one is evil or anything. More so explaining that different people require different types of behaviors to meet there emotional needs.

The book also gives you a link to an online test, which I thought was pretty transparent but was still worth taking. I recommend it for everyone. You can find it here. It allows you to see what your attachment style is. Turns out I'm not as avoidant as I could be, but am still very avoidant. On a scale of 1-7 I was a 5.25.

The one part of the book that blew my mind almost instantly was the situational stress test they talked about. It is an experiment that was performed on a child because child to mother attachment is surprisingly similar to that of regular adult attachments. They took the child and mother put them in a room filled with toys. The child would venture out from the mother and explore the room. The mother would get up and leave the room and the child would freak the fuck out and go to the door and cry. The mother would come back and  console the child and eventually the child would go back to exploring. The part that blew my mind was that the same parallels could be drawn to adults. The child could only develop and grow, becoming more independent and growing it's strengths when the emotional/physical attachment of it's mother was there. This means that as adults we may not reach our true potential without some sort of attachment to be dependant on to encourage us to grow and actually be stronger. Seemed so paradoxical in my mind before but now it just seems to make sense.

I'm still reading and working away but I wanted to give you guys an update.

Turns out, I'm not a lost cause.

Later Days,

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Growth: Step one, Research.

Since my last post when I divulged my lack of emotional availability I've been doing some research. I honestly had no idea how to go about getting over my cold personality.

What I've found rings all too true. I think I have something called an "attachment avoidance pattern". The article I read, (Full article here) listed some words and phrases that collectively capture, on the surface at least, the various dimensions of "characterological coldness":
  • aloof, apart, stand-offish
  • impersonal, disengaged, un-involved; closed, shut-down
  • detached, distant, remote
  • haughty, or projecting superiority (though, if these narcissistic features are present, they could reflect the individual's outward demeanor, or self-deception, far more than how--deep down--they actually see themselves)
  • self-absorbed; insulated, passively withdrawn
  • emotionally unavailable, inaccessible, unresponsive, indifferent, un-invested
  • unfeeling, unemotional, affection-less; unsmiling--straight-faced (or stone-faced)
  • cold-hearted--as in "cold fish" or (even worse) an "iceberg" or "ice queen"
  • lacking in empathy and compassion
  • untrusting, wary, guarded;
  • angry, hostile; critical
  • excessively independent and self-reliant
These describe me surprisingly well. When I post something on Facebook like this: "It's not that I don't care, I'm just fresh out of fucks. I don't have a single fuck to spare." The comments I get are generally "Classic Hero right there." or "This is not surprising." My friends and family have just accepted that this is the way that I am. I don't accept it though, so I kept reading.

"These traits are not to be confused with introversion." I don't think I'm worried about that.

The article goes on to explain that developmental psychology has explained this behavior as stemming from my childhood. They say it is caused by a lack of emotional bond between the primary care giver, ie. the mother, and the infant. Given my relationship with my mother this also holds true. 

The defense mechanism instilled into the child from the emotional detachment from the mother is to protect themselves from the painful sting of rejection. Basically I can't get hurt if I don't but myself out there, this is apparently learnt in infancy. I have a distinct memory of wanting to cuddle with my mother as a child and having her push me away. I saw the same behavior from my mother with my brother who is 18 years younger than I am. The article says this on the subject, "For to insistently "bother" her for love and have their efforts repeatedly dismissed only functions to contribute to the fear that they may be unlovable--and so expendable. It's only reasonable that children regularly rebuffed in their attempts to establish a stable, secure attachment with their mother would actively strive to reduce to a minimum their expectations for succor and support." The child becomes "preciously pragmatic (another word commonly used to describe me)" and learns to walk the fine line between proximity to the mother and yet virtually evading any risk-fraught chances of intimacy. 

This whole rejection of intimacy as a child becomes an ingrained personal trait, a learned coping mechanism eventually turning off the "activation of the attachment circuitry." 

To summarize a bit the article says "So in the case of the avoidantly attached child, inborn intimacy-seeking behavior is replaced by behavior stressing separateness and independence--qualities that the child recognizes as strongly preferred by her." the mother.

Once an adult I, apparently, took this learned behavior with dealing with a lack of intimacy with my mother and figured, subconciously, that it should apply to everyone. Some of the consequences in adulthood again ring so true. "Disconnected from many of their own feelings, such individuals frequently struggle to pick up on the nonverbal cues of others, to sense what they're feeling. Fundamental social awareness and sensitivity is lacking in them (if you're a long time reader you'll know this is so true), for never having been properly attuned to maternally, their feeling (vs. thinking) side has never adequately developed." as well as "Given that the amount of shared emotion between them and their caregiver was seriously wanting, and also that they frequently felt compelled to shut down any spontaneous expression of feeling they feared might be received negatively, the very capacity for avoidantly attached adults to experience positive emotional states--such as enthusiasm, excitement, pleasure, and delight--may be dwarfed."

I remember one Christmas when I was a teenager, my mother complained that I lacked enthusiasm and excitement. She even went so far as to accuse me of knowing what she had gotten me. Which, in my family, if it had been the case the gift would have been returned. I started that day to "fake it till you make it." I have since learned how to actually feel excitement and enthusiasm, or at least feel the possibly numbed version of it. 

The article says that it isn't surprising that I find close relationships unexplainably uncomfortable, as well as dependancy on others and to go so far as to trust them would be terrifying. I mean how could I when my original relationship had betrayed me from the very beginning. Therefore, "being so emotionally sealed off from others virtually guarantees that they won't be sufficiently "available" to be vulnerable to such a threat."

I started to think here though that if this was such and ingrained trait why do I feel like I'm missing something in my life. Couldn't I just be happy with the little emotional contact I've been getting. Then I kept reading, "Yet, it must be added, this chronic self-insulation also forever denies them their heart's deepest desire--the loving connection that so painfully eluded them originally." Ah, OK, that makes sense. 

Hey, remember when I said, "I've carried that metaphor as far as a I can without making myself gag." Yea, well here is another quote from the article that hits home and by home I mean right in the testicles. "In fact, as the "dismissive adults" they've become, they're even likely to think and speak pejoratively of anything so touchy-feely as, say, sharing, love, or togetherness." 

Apparently this behavior is passed down from parent to child generation after generation. Could this explain why I don't want children. Maybe, I'm male so I don't have the wiring of maternal instinct and desire that women have. I would be willing to bet though that my sisters, who don't want children either, have the same issue. 

The article has a disclaimer that these behaviors can turn into narcissistic personality disorder, or schizoid personality disorder. I read the description of these I can say without a doubt that I don't have the schizoid one, and I can say that I lean towards the narcissist side but I haven't actually crossed over to the full disorder. 

I'm far from fixing this problem, but I think I may be on the right track to get there. I may need to go get the book they recommend in the article. I'll do some more digging but keep you posted. 

Later Days,

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Unexpected... like seriously.

This weekend I ended up doing a little bit of soul searching. I didn't exactly set out to soul search but I ended up catching a glimpse of it it, my soul that is. The slippery bugger exists, which is more than I could say before.

When I say soul, I don't mean the metaphysical soul that people tend to think goes to heaven. No, I mean my humanity. My empathy and compassion. I have been wondering what has been bothering me as of late and this weekend I think I found out what it is. I'll start at the beginning.

Friday night I set out to have an adventure. Perhaps have something new to post as an "I did something stupid" post. That didn't end up happening. I had a whole lot of fun, but it was surface fun, passing in moments. It seems, lately that is all that I've been having is surface fun. Don't get me wrong I enjoy my life. I'm not depressed or anything like that. I've been rock climbing, hiking, camping, sky diving, and white water rafting. So, I would say I've had an awesome summer. Anyway, back to Friday night. I met some people, had some fun but at the end of the night it was still just me and Token. Walking home I decided that I wanted some Chinese food. We swung by the Chinese food place and you won't believe what happened next.

I had the unique experience of having a nice little sit down with the CLR. That's right the cute little redhead. You can read about some of our escapades here, here and the end of it here. Turns out the reason she stopped calling me is because the last night we hung out, I was an insensitive asshole, I was drunk, and she figured if I was interested in her I'd call. Well I didn't call. Back then I rationalized it as I wasn't really available. I was working 10 hour days. Looking back now though, I just wasn't feeling it. I ended up being totally honest with her. I mean I had nothing to lose so I came clean about everything. Dating multiple people, which she admitted she was doing as well. I came clean on lacking empathy and mostly just not giving a fuck. During the whole conversation the same things kept catching my attention.

They were the same things that my ex, the one that I went to go visit a couple of times, the one I was trying to get to move here, kept saying. She said "It's been ten years and it feels like I don't know you." This was after she didn't think I could do auto repairs and actually laughed at the thought of me doing them. Little did she know that other then the electronics in a vehicle I can fix most things and those that I don't know how to I can figure out with little help. This was apparently a side of me she didn't even know existed. How could someone I care about so much be so far away emotionally.

I let these little brain waves settle into my mind sometime Saturday morning. There it sat stewing away, simmering down and condensing into something. I didn't know what exactly till I was sitting at home Sunday night. I was browsing through my blog reel when I came across my friend Haven's blog and there, right in the title was my little conundrum spelled out in plain English. "The power of Vulnerability and listening to shame." It called out to me and I immediately clicked on it and went on reading. Haven has a link to a Ted-talk in there and it was exactly what I needed to hear. “This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there's no guarantee..."

I lack vulnerability. I am untouchable by other people. I numbed myself to it. Don't get me wrong I have faults I feel sadness and unease but I don't ever, ever let people see it, never mind know that it exists. The lady in the talk points out that you can't just selectively numb one type of emotion, you have to do them all to get any. I need to experience the vulnerability of being human in order to build human connections, which I haven't allowed myself to do for as long as I can remember.

I'm a self proclaimed asshole for fuck's sake. My moniker is Not the Hero. I think one of the things that really got me going on this soul search happened earlier on Friday. I sent out a tweet, I meant it mostly as a joke but it is only funny if there is a grain of truth in it. This is what I said, "I'm an asshole and a narcissist with zero self worth. How do you think everyone else rates?"

Looking at this with fresh, and sober eyes I still find it amusing but in light of my recent self discovery, it saddens me. Then the more I think about it, it scares me.

I'm terrified that I won't be able to fix it. I have no idea where to start to get back to the more human side of my personality. I'm lost in my own world of asshole behavior, and a lack of giving a fuck about anything.

I've built impenetrable walls of sarcasm, snide remarks and an air of superiority that I used to take comfort in. I used to feel like I was king of my castle and everyone should be jealous of how awesomely fortified I was. I could never get hurt and it was fantastic. I always figured that I'd find someone and invite them into my fortified emotional state and we could be happy together in there, guarded away from everyone else. I think I was wrong though, no one wants to come in, never mind stay. They may come have a peek at it but all they see are the stone walls and parapets and then turn away. My walls that were supposed to protect me from pain are now trapping me in my loneliness.

I've carried that metaphor about as far as I can before I make myself gag. Honestly though, I have no idea how to become more emotionally available. Not just faking it either, but to actually let my guard down.

Step one is realizing you have a problem right?

Step two might be adjusting my paradigms?

Step three?

Later Days,

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Kicking Ass and Taking Names.

These last couple weeks have been pretty intense. Nothing exciting however.

I've been trying for once to actually get back into shape. I am sick of being a little doughier than I like. I found a fantastic dieting company that cooks and delivers the food to your house. Yay, it's like eating out every meal like I was but slightly cheaper and way way more healthy.

I've been swimming to get my cardio better because I tried to go on a hike about 2 weeks ago and had to turn back not even an hour in because it was kicking my ass. I felt like mold.      We then went and did the responsible thing and went to the best micro brewery around and drank beer all afternoon. I know, probably didn't help with the whole out of shape thing.

I found a new app to help me do some weight lifting to put on muscle. It's called jefit. I love it. Who needs a personal trainer with this thing. I do have one problem though and this is probably why I am not a ripped massive body builder because I love lifting weights, endorphins are fantastic. The problem is I get sore. Not just regular sore, debilitating sore. Like after leg day I can't walk. I've been told it means I'm lifting too much weight but when I cut out the amount of weight I'm lifting I don't get a workout. I've been told it gets better as you work out more. I've yet to see it get better ever in my life. Then I was told I was missing something from my diet, but since I'm on a structured diet from a fitness company that shouldn't be the case either. It's my biggest problem when it comes to getting into a routine. If it takes me a week to recover from one day in the gym it's kind of hard to get into a rhythm.

So that pretty much takes up my days of the week. I've been trying to find a house to move into with Vegas and Token but alas we can't find anything. We aren't all the picky either but apparently things don't stay on the renters market for longer than a day. If you don't get it first you're fucker'd.

I went out last Friday and you'd never guess who I ran into. The same chick that had gotten me punched in the face. I tried to apologize for being an asshole but she was equally as unreasonable as she was before. I ended up just leaving that bar for a bit went to a different bar then came back and she was still looking at me like she wanted all the terrible things in the world to happen to me. I was later told by a guy that knew her that she was just legit style crazy. I still didn't like it. She wouldn't let me apologize again so I ended up just ignoring her. The night got to a point that I was drunker than I was comfortable with, which is something that never happens to me. I actually ended up stumbling home. I never stumble. Weird.

There you are all caught up on my life at the moment. Really exciting ya? I know, I feel like uber lame sauce.

Which actually gets me thinking. Why am I feeling out of sorts? Why am I not out and about doing stupid things and enjoying my last legs of summer? I have no fucking clue.

I may go out this weekend and do some remarkably stupid things just to see if it is still as fun as it used to be. I think that part of the problem is I can't find my set point for being drunk lately. I've been over shooting the mark by a whole fuck load. I may have to scale it back a bit and see how that goes.

Who knows if I really do manage to get into this fitness kick I may actually start going completely sober. I'm pretty sure everyone I know would die of shock if that were to happen but the look on their faces would be priceless.

Eventually I'd like to get to a happy enough place to start dating again. That would be nice.

Later Days,