Forum Replies Created
Thank you so much for your words. It is good to be reminded that I don’t have to wait until I no longer feel afraid before I take that chance of connecting. A voice in my head is always telling me, “you’re going to say something wrong” or when I do take the chance and try and express myself and become part of the conversation while I am speaking the voice tells me, “you’re going to sound stupid” and then I look around and everyone’s faces somehow confirms that fear. But it’s all distortion. If I look for disapproval then I’m going to find it, I realize that. Even if it’s not, I will interpret it that way.
I am familiar with Brene Brown’s work and I am very thankful to her for it. It’s a daily battle and it’s taken years just to get to the point where I am now which is just barely opening the door to my heart a tiny crack. I am so very aware these days of my heart’s desire to be open and to be free and to love and to let people in – but there is some kind of inner critic of sorts standing at the door, guarding it. I just wish there was some kind of practical method of opening the heart in those social circumstances. I suppose a lot of the work is done outside of those circumstances – metta, therapy, mindfulness. It just sucks to be in social situations with really great people and knowing that your heart is closed to all of them. I want to let them in, but I don’t really know how.
It’s a journey. Thanks again so much for your heartfelt response.
I love that I am committed to a path of lovingkindness and compassion. I love that this is important to me. I love that I try to be attuned to the feelings of others and myself. I love that I commit myself over and over to a lifestyle that cultivates love and goodness in the world. Thanks to this thread I have realized that I do actually love myself very much! Thank you!
That is a question that I have been asking myself a lot recently. The people in my life are good people. They are kind, they are caring, they are not overly attached to “career” or money, or the idea of family. They try to take one day at a time and carve out an existence that makes sense to them. However, the path I am on seems so very different than others’. I do not have more than a few spiritually minded friends, none of which are that close to me. So it becomes difficult to talk with many of my friends about the things that are nearest to my heart. I want to cultivate compassion and lovingkindness – that is a goal that is very important to me. Of central importance. But if I tried talking to my friends about this – who are not spiritually minded – I am afraid they will think that I am crazy and would not understand. As far as what I want to do with my life – I don’t know. I want to do something that makes sense to me but that changes from day to day. I live with the experience of feeling difficult and painful emotions in my body on a daily, hourly basis. I want to reach a point where I know how to navigate them so that I can live my life with more tranquility and calm. Thank you for your inquisitive post. It has helped me examine my own goals and intentions more – which is something that I benefit from doing on a daily basis.
What a wonderful thing it is to meet someone like that! We go through so many relationships feeling luke-warm and then to meet someone who really resonates with us is such a delightful, enlivening experience! I am very happy for you and this moment in your life. Which way feels most prudent for you? What does your heart want to do? Though you may want to jump into this, head over heels, would the decision be grounded in wisdom? I wonder what this fear is about that you are experiencing? From where does this fear originate? There is no right way to go about this – only you know the all of the details of the situation and only you can decide what is best for you. May you be led to make a decision based in wisdom, joy, and happiness.
Your description of the abuse as being a kind of “red” is very interesting. Have you read “Autobiography of Red” by Anne Carson? It is about this very thing that we are talking about and she uses the color red as a way of relating to it. Very very beautiful book.
I too have a friend who has been in a similar situation. I also have done a lot of study in the area. Kay Redfield Jamison is the leading writer for the lay person on manic depression or bipolar disorder. Also a man by the name of Andrew Solomon wrote a book on depression called The Noonday Demon that is very informative from a psycho pharmaceutical stand-point. This is so typical a situation for someone with bipolar disorder. And when you’re up you’re up and think you can stay up and so you drop the meds but you only do so because your body is bracing for the fall and when the fall happens those meds aren’t around anymore. The most troublesome thing about this situation is that, as Andrew Solomon says, that with each discontinuation of medications the medications lose their effectiveness the next time they are started again. So with some people it reaches a point where nothing can help them anymore. What a hellish thought! It is better to stay on until absolutely certain that coming off of them is advisable – always under the supervision of a psychiatrist of course. I would suggest doing some more reading on the subject, like I say Kay Redfield Jamison has written several books about her experience suffering from a very similar mental illness. She is intelligent, articulate, is successful and now a doctor herself, and compassionate in her writing. She has experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows due to her illness and she has weathered it all and emerged on the other side, intact and at last with control. She may provide some answers for you and hopefully your friend can read them too and hopefully understand her situation more. This is a difficult and trying time for both you and your friend. May you both find what you need to resolve this cycle of pain and suffering.
Christina and all,
I am sorry that you all are going through such a hard time. My heart goes out to you and the suffering you are currently enduring. We all reach those points in our life from time to time, sometimes (many times) worse than the previous time. But I don’t say this to be disheartening. When I have reached these points in my life and I have allowed myself to mourn the loss of my life as I know it, when I look back I see a long train of attempts to try and control my life that inevitably fail. The truth is there is very very little that we can control in this life and that should not be a troublesome thought, it is a thought that can actually embolden us and empower us and here’s how. We’re all familiar and maybe even a little sick of the serenity prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” Perhaps the suffering that we are experiencing, all the regret, bitterness, and anger we are feeling is due to a lot of unmet expectations. That has been the case for me – whether it is the case for you or not, I don’t know – only you can answer that. But instead of fighting fighting fighting working harder and harder and harder to try and keep the good things in your life and the bad things out – just allow and accept the coming and going of both the good and bad without the clinging, without the aversion. Let go of the expectations. Let go of the idea of “fairness” or “unfairness”. I know that seems scary – it’s very scary for me to accept things – especially the bad things. But we will feel so much better and so much more at peace. The war in our minds and your bodies stops – because you have stopped feeding it. We have taken away the guns, taken away the bombs. Let go. Accepted. Without the anger, without the bitterness. This is the magic and serenity that comes with surrender. Try saying, “ok, whatever happens – happens! There is very little I can do about it one way or the other” The flipside of this is that there ARE things we can do right now. Perhaps getting out and going for a run – though difficult at first, once we do it we think, “ahhhh, I’m so glad I’m out here in the fresh air moving my body! It feels so good to move, to feel alive!” Typically the things that we can actually do are the small things. The seemingly insignificant things. They won’t get rid of the bad memories, they won’t get rid of the broken dreams, completely remove the sadness, the despair. But doing those small things will make a world of difference for us personally and RIGHT NOW in this very moment. It will restore our faith in ourselves. It will restore self-respect. Self-love. Doing metta meditations is probably one of the best ways to do it, that I know of. It will not guarantee that the future will go just as we want it but it will bring us peace. “God helps those who help themselves”. It’s true and I’ve needed to hear that so many times when I’ve fallen into despair, bitterness, and anger.
May these words bring you comfort and well-being,
-JDAugust 16, 2013 at 6:17 pm in reply to: Lost and terrified – endless loop – will things ever get better? #40642
There’s not much I can say that would add to Matt’s sage advice but I will offer a personal response. I have struggled my entire life with feeling like that no matter what I do I am never “enough”. I have been, slowly, been in the process of extricating myself from a similar cycle of setting my goals and hopes unrealistically high and then of course being disappointed by the results. I know for me this process of setting the bar so high, the goal so lofty, was to offset an underlying feeling of worthlessness and unworthiness. I thought that if I just worked hard enough that I would become someone that I could respect and be proud of. I felt that without some kind of concrete big accomplishment to my name that I would forever remain someone unworthy of other people’s love, of other people’s esteem. Early life circumstances I think gave me the wrong impression about who I was. My mother was always rushing here and there, never taking the time to be content with where she was – she was always trying to do more and more. I think that she was haunted and being chased by that same feeling of unworthiness as I was. I think she did not feel good about herself and wanted to try and prove to herself and maybe to other people that she was a good person because she didn’t feel much like a good person. So anyway, I think I picked up on that and that became my mode of being and my way of relating to myself. I assumed that I was not good enough and did not, until recently, start to question that assumption.
You could continue to examine your situation from this place of unworthiness and shame and you may get somewhere but speaking from experience, I am doubtful. What might be way more helpful would to do as Matt suggested and work on cultivating metta for yourself and for others. Get yourself to where you are able to access your heart and look at your situation from that vantage of acceptance and caring and you might find that what you see is entirely different than how you saw it before. Before, where you saw embarrassment and shame, you simply see life – doing what life does. Feeling ashamed is an interpretation of events. Something happens – and somewhere you chose to feel ashamed about it and consider it evidence that something is wrong with you. But with metta the shame will dissolve – maybe not permanently but if you build up enough and consistently you will find a new abode for living. A place far more suited for living a life of worthiness and happiness. You will see things not through a lens of shame but a lens of acceptance and love for yourself. This is the truth about who you are and I hope that you will come to see things in this more workable way.
With thoughts of peace and refuge for you,
I’m very sorry to hear that you are going through this very painful time right now. You must be feeling very alone but you must believe that you are worth a lot! You have the power of thought and that is all that you need! It is human nature to want to be near the people we love in times of trouble and crisis, like what you are experiencing now with your sickness. That is a healthy urge and necessary urge and so it can be very painful, devastating, and frightening when that need is frustrated – like you are saying has happened with this important person in your life. I am happy to see that you have reached out here. These forums are full of good people who are compassionate and understanding. When I am gripped by feelings of fear or worthlessness I find that the best thing for me to do for myself is to practice metta meditation. This is a form of meditation which cultivates a sense of loving-kindness toward oneself and also towards others. It opens up the heart and allows it to heal as well as pour out your natural ability to care and love yourself and your world. You may not even know that you posses this and can exercise this quality even in the midst of all your suffering.
This is one I found that gives a good overview as well as guides you in the meditation itself.
May you find peace and warmth even in the midst of great suffering,
I would like to but I don’t know how. I know what they look like but what is the inspiration? Are there guidelines to making mandalas? Could you explain?
I read that same book years ago after a breakup which showed me the truth about the kinds of relationships that I was pursuing at the time. I remember telling someone that I read it every day and that I hated doing it. This is something that I still struggle with and I think most people do to one extent or another. Another way of thinking about this is by considering boundaries. Everything has a boundary, trees have a physical boundary, cells have a boundary, animals have a skin boundary. Boundaries say “this is where I begin”. But there are also emotional boundaries that delineate where you end and another person begins. It is important that these boundaries remain in tact otherwise the people in the relationships wind up feeling unhealthy and stretched thin due to the stress of overstepping other people’s boundaries and having your boundaries crossed.
I went through a breakup a few months ago and in the wake of it I realized that both me and my partner were dependent on our need to feel needed by the other person. This, I think, was fed by a deep seeded sense of inadequacy and desire to feel useful. Instead of taking care of ourselves, we let the other person take care of some aspect of our life and that kept us joined, glued, and inseparable. This was done on purpose to ensure that we would never be alone because we both needed each other so much we couldn’t think of life without the other person. For me, this left me feeling exhausted and so I ended the relationship. But the underlining fear for me was loneliness. Since a union based on mutual freedom, and autonomy seemed risky given my level of underlying loneliness – I relied on a union based on codependency, enmeshment, clinging, and fear. For me, that felt more safe – and perhaps more familiar. As the adage says, “if you love something let it go” – we must remember that what is most important in this life is freedom. And among those freedoms is freedom from negative mental states – such as loneliness. But if we rely on another person to remove our loneliness then what we have done is enslaved ourselves to the feeling that we are connected. Here there is clinging and that is not freedom. I would rather experience loneliness than be addicted to feeling feelings of companionship. You can still experience loneliness and be free but you can’t be free at the same time as being codependent. I hope this makes sense – I am still working it out myself in my own head.
I disagree that any relationship will have a level of dependency on one another. Dependency implies addiction. In our society relationships are depicted as such. But I don’t think it necessarily needs to be that way. How that balance is struck – you got me?? Having similar goals perhaps? I know that I don’t have the best track record on healthy relationships so coming up with something helpful to say to you has proven to be very difficult. Most all of my relationships were based on codependency and fraught with boundary issues. Perhaps that is a book that I ought to pick up and read again! But I am so disillusioned by intimate relationships right now I would rather focus on non-intimate relationships until I can find this balance that you are asking about.
May we experience a greater sense of freedom from our relationships,
I am sorry to hear that you are dealing with thoughts of self-hatred and especially doubt. Doubt is very difficult because it is more subtle and undermines our own very power to enact change in our lives I think that it is good that you are looking for ways to improve your mental environment and mental diet. It shows that you are committed to your own transformation. What I have found most helpful are metta meditations – that is lovingkindness meditations. They are not quite the same as self-affirmations but they are similar. What they do is cultivate an attitude and stance of acceptance and love toward yourself and toward others. I have found that in my own personal experience, focusing on MY thoughts, and MY behaviors aren’t even half the battle. Although it is my thoughts that bring me the most pain, working on them alone is only going to bring partial results and relief from my suffering. So the solution might not be exactly what you think. Even though you see your thoughts as being the problem – working on changing your thoughts may not be the solution. What I have found is that through the cultivation of metta my thoughts natural change and start to work in my own best interest more. They are more loving, more accepting, more compassionate. And so it was brought about not by changing my thoughts directly, but by putting my focus on my desire for myself and others to be happy, to be healthy, to be safe, and to experience well-being. You can find guided metta meditations on you-tube, or consider picking up Sharon Salzberg’s book, “Loving-Kindness.” Or Thich Nhat Hanh’s books are also very helpful and practical and reading them alone will serve as a balm for your suffering.
May you be happy and experience the peace of well-being
-J.D.August 16, 2013 at 2:07 pm in reply to: How do you stay connected with the world while dealing with anxiety? #40629
It might be helpful and clarifying for you to ask yourself why you feel that it is important to watch the news? Is it really important? Who writes the news? Is news really news or isn’t it not filtered several times before it reaches you? Is watching the news really going to help you know what’s going on in the world? Is watching the news actually important or is it only important because of a thought that you have created out of your head and you tell yourself that it is important?
I think that it is enough to engage with the world that is immediately around you. You may have noticed that there are times when you are able to read the news with equanimity and other times where it is very easy to be thrown of balance. Maybe try obeying what your body tells you is right to do. Trust that when you are thrown into a negative mind-state by reading the news that refraining from reading it is the best course of action for the time being.
In one of my most beloved books: “Lovingkindess” by Sharon Salzberg – she talks about the 4 brahma-viharas. 1. Lovingkindness, 2. Compassion, 3. Empathetic joy, and 4. Equanimity. If you feel like you can be thrown out of balance quite easily perhaps try this mantra next time you meditate – it is to cultivate equanimity: “May we all accept things as they are. May we be undisturbed by the comings and goings of events.” The near enemy of equanimity is indifference but it sounds like with your level of compassion and caring this is not going to be a problem. The amazing thing about the brahma-viharas is that they all work together to balance everything out.
A lot of what we read in the news is so off balance so it should be no surprise that reading it would throw you off. It throws me off nearly every time but I don’t turn it into a problem and I will just put it down. I would rather spend my time meditating on the good in this world – there’s enough bad in it that it’ll find it’s way to me eventually – I don’t need to go looking for it! I’m sorry that you are dealing with panicky states of mind. I went through an experience like that some years ago, especially at night and found that I had to make a lot of changes to my environment to compensate. One of them was avoiding the news completely. It was a great success. There is nothing wrong with this. Thich Nhat Hanh himself has said that he doesn’t follow the news and that if there is something big and important going on in the world he trusts that one of his monks will tell him.
May you find solace for your racing thoughts.
I have been following this thread for quite some time but have been avoiding writing a response to it. This was on purpose. Everyone sounds so brave, everyone sounds like they’re on this fast-track direct path straight to healing. This has not been my experience. This is a journey I started about 3 years ago. At times I feel that I am healing but other times, like the past few weeks, I feel stuck and completely back where I was before – stuck in shame, in fear, with a heart that is closed off and a mind that is frustrated, angry, and hateful. Sometimes I get so sick of trying to heal – and I think at these stages I am in CONTROL mode where I try to control my experience, control my emotions – through thought. And then I deny the truth of my emotions. “I am tired of feeling this way – I’m going to force myself to feel or do this…” But of course I can’t and just end up feeling frustrated. I am really afraid of my emotions in a way. I think that I might explode with rage or shrink into a hole with shame or cry and never stop.
It’s been hard for me – being a heterosexual man who was abused at a very young age by boys much older than me (one being my brother). There’s a loud voice coming both from the inside and the outside screaming, “That should never happen! What happened to you is not something that happens!” It’s crazy right? I called a women’s center one time because they had a group that would meet to provide support as they had been victims of sexual or domestic abuse. The woman on the phone knew that I was a man and so she said, “This is a woman’s only group but we do have groups that meet too for abusers”. I’m not an abuser! I’m an abused! Sometimes it feels like there is no room on this planet for people like me. Men who were abused by other men. It makes me extremely angry. I’m filled with so much anger sometimes, it’s unbearable. And then I read about how you guys have healed and are healing and it all sounds like flowers and sunshine. I am happy that you have all made such progress in healing but a voice inside of me is saying, “see, they can heal – but you can’t – with you, there’s something ESPECIALLY wrong”. I know how that sounds and I am in no way trying to minimize ANYONE’s pain. I hate it that you all went through what you did. I also see how this voice thinks that my circumstances are “special” and of course they really aren’t. THere’s nothing special about my pain or my suffering or my trauma. But a voice, an energy source in me somewhere THINKS that way. I know it’s just a voice in my head but it reaches over and grabs the steering wheel from me so often it is really hard to live a life free from despair, fear, anger, and hopelessness. Maybe I’m just not healing enough – maybe I”m not doing enough to heal myself. Maybe I’ll never heal. That’s what I’m afraid of. I so desperately want my heart to be open and to have compassion and love for myself and for everyone. Really, that is my deepest aspiration. To experience that level of freedom is what I want more than anything. But how to do this? I seem to be making progress and then my heart CLOSES down and I’m filled with terrible thoughts and feelings again that seem insurmountable. I can barely do counting meditation at that point without getting distracted by a million voices in my head. Is this normal?
I’m afraid that after writing/saying this people will exclude me from their hearts. Is this shame or truth? It’s really hard to tell sometimes.
Thank you everyone for being brave and writing about your experiences.
I have dealt with chronic shyness my whole life and though how you behave may not be called “shyness” – the mental habits which you describe are the hallmark of that affliction popularly known as “shyness”. I once picked up a book on it called “The Mindful Path Through Shyness”. It suggests addressing shyness and social fear and anxiety through the use of self-compassion. I would also suggest implementing a regular metta meditation as I have found this to be the perfect antidote to any type of fear..
As for your negative thoughts – it has been my experience that you can NEVER NEVER stop negative thoughts by trying to STOP negative thoughts. Just give up that strategy right now. It has been my experience that you can never stop any kind of thought with more thought. And by thought I mean logical, reasoning, thought. Instead just try STOPPING everything all together. Stop trying to do anything. Even stop trying to stop your thoughts. Just pay attention to ONE thing. Be it your breath, be it the color of the table in front of you, be it your fingernail, be it the curve of a back of a chair. This will put some SPACE between your thoughts and it will help you recognize, “oh! I’m thinking negatively.” And that will be all – you don’t need to think anymore about it than that. A thought is a thought is a thought is a thought and that is all it ever will be. It does not need to be answered by another thought. Creating spaciousness through mindfulness and awareness will help you to see that. And so your fear of criticism or your fear of what people will say will not go away – it will still be there – but it won’t seem like such a big deal. You will be able to act with courage and bravery despite the fear because you will have a spacious mind. And I must say that metta meditation is one of the quickest ways to develop this spaciousness – especially when it comes to fearful thoughts. Perhaps try it. Your mind is so much bigger than these fearful thoughts – you are so much bigger than your thoughts (which are barely real in the first place) They do not need to dictate your actions or constrict your behavior. They do not need to limit your freedom. But it does require some work and effort to ensure that they don’t. I hope that you will do something to ease your suffering and live your life with more freedom and spontaneity. May you be happy!