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Thank you everyone for sharing your stories, insights, and articles. This has been a really good learning experience.
Something that Lester said really hit home for me, .”..I felt alone because I viewed everyone as different from myself…I realized that every time I meet a potential friend, I would find a reason why they couldn’t be.”
And, yesterday, as I was reading “Mindfulness in Plain English” by the Ven. Henepola Gunaratana, once again, I was faced with the same concept, “Don’t dwell upon contrasts: Differences do exist between people, but dwelling up on them is a dangerous process. Unless carefully handled, it leads directly to egotism. Ordinary human thinking is full of greed, jealousy, and pride.”
Along with the list of fears that I had listed earlier, I’ve also become very aware of how often I distance between myself and others through ongoing judgements and criticism of either inferiority or superiority. Just walking down the street or talking to people, there’s a constant flow of evaluation going, “He’s better looking than I am….I’m better looking than he is…She doesn’t sound very intelligent when she speaks…Wow, she sounds really smart…Why won’t he stop talking…How could he wear that…She’s hot…She’s not…” and on and on and on it goes constant judgement and criticism of everyone around me – not just friends, but perfect strangers on the street!
And of course, I recognize that voice is also judging and criticizing me and preventing me from being my authentic self and really connecting with people.
I really need to work on stopping these automatic reflexes of thought, which are usually so negative. My meditation instructors talk about approaching the mind like an unruly child – correct it’s actions, but be gentle, kind, and compassionate. But sometimes, I just want to slap it over my knee and giving it a good spanking. 😛
I know I shouldn’t dwell on the past, but I can’t begin count the number of relationships and connections that have been missed because of so much disdain and ego.
I’m really glad to know that I’m not the only one who feels this way.
I realize that even though I maintain good relationships with a number of people, they are still somewhat superficial and don’t really satisfy my need for connection.
I took some time today and made a list of the culprits that I feel prevent me from creating deeper connections:
– Low self-esteem and some mental health issues that continue to haunt me
– Feelings of shame and guilt for past relationships
– Fear of abandonment, but also a fear of abandoning others
– Fear of being rejected, but also a fear of rejecting others
– Fear of making the wrong connections (I have a past history of co-dependence)
– Feeling inadequate and not being ‘man enough’
– Difficulty in communicating difficult feelings verbally and being vulnerable (I do much better in writing)
– Fear of being overwhelmed by the suffering of others (sometimes I find it difficult to remain present in the face of other people’s problems and in order to prevent them from opening-up, I don’t open up)
– Not wanting to overwhelm others with the intensity of my feelings and not wanting to be a burden (even I get tired by my own feelings and I can’t imagine sharing that burden with others)
I recognize these feelings for what they are and where they come from, but the way forward still seems murky and uncertain.
Everything I read about boredom talks about having some sort of creative outlet. For me, creativity and relationships usually go hand in hand – I create to share with others. Not having a deeper relationship with people with whom I can share my creativity doesn’t give me a lot of motivation to create in the first place.
Thanks for sharing your stories. I’m grateful for having this outlet where I can share and express myself more freely without fear of judgement or criticism.
Thank-you Veronica for your post. I really like the way you described the issue – “It just doesn’t pay to be spontaneous when your conscience haunts you so.” It does very much feel like you’re being haunted by a ghost or a demon of some sorts.
Just to give you an update, I didn’t listen to that judging and critical voice in my head and didn’t follow-up with anyone to try to get validation. In my mind, I kept postponing the need to validate. Luckily, I gave myself such a large of amount of time and space to process and resist that temptation to seek out validation that by the time I saw this person again, I didn’t feel the need to validate. And of course, the person didn’t bring anything up issue or show any kind of resentment towards me because there was nothing for them to be resentful for. It was just my mind playing it’s old games.
I recognize that judge or inner critic is not my own voice but that of my parents and other overly critical people that I’ve been exposed to over the years. But these voices are really not helpful and need to put in their place fast because I realize that they’re holding me back from living the kind of spontaneous and joyful life I want to live.
Self-awareness is the first step, but I’d love to know how many more steps there are until I’m completely free. At least we can find some peace in knowing that we’re on the right path. 🙂
I agree, connecting with other open-minded people is key and I try to do that in all aspects of my life. Sex is not a topic of public discourse often enough and I myself would probably struggle with it face to face in a group setting. If this book prompts a dialogue and allows people to learn from the positive experience of others, I think that would be great.
So I picked up the book last night and read the first couple of chapters, the rest of the book I just perused. I’ve read about the history of sex and the science of sex before, so a lot of this was not new.
I don’t mean to curb anyone’s enthusiasm and you’ll have to forgive me because I’m in a somewhat cynical place today when it comes to relationships, but I think it takes the right kind of emotional and mental space to be able to appreciate this kind of text.
I understand completely where this book is coming from. I spent years in a sexless marriage with five years of couples therapy and one of the reasons I left that relationship was with the promise of sexual exploration and gratification beyond its confines. Thinking myself free of my marriage as well as the sexually morays instilled by my family and society as a whole, what did I find on the other side? More pain, more suffering, more anxiety. Turns out, that despite wanting to break free of social constructs, I’m still very much a prisoner of my mind.
Satisfying my sexual needs without suffering the pain of loss, guilt, shame, anxiety, stress, jealousy, fear of abandonment, and unhealthy attachment is something that runs deeper than simply understanding the sociological, historical, psychological, and evolutionary development that have made me the person I am today. It’s one thing to say I’m not going to subscribe to this formula that’s been imposed on me and then actually have to deal with the emotional and psychological repercussions that made you turn against the tide in the first place.
I struggle with finding the right balance between immediate sexual gratification and the desire for a long term monogamous relationship where I hope to build a family, find stability, companionship, and an authentic and profound emotional connection.
I applaud all books like this one who challenge our traditional views on sex and relationships, but I think it’s going to be at an evolutionary pace and not a revolutionary one that will move me towards becoming a more wholesome sexual being.
It looks like an interesting read, but I’m skeptical as to the claim that any research would allow, “…people to free themselves from the anxieties and burdens imposed on them by the current social order.” While it may explain why we are the way we are, the what and how are still going to be hard to come by.
I have struggled with issues of monogamy and promiscuity and I know that it’s largely due to my upbringing and the values that I was raised with. (Free love was just never in my vocabulary.) And even though I support sexual freedoms and perhaps am even I envious of those who can take sex so casually, having had my critical developmental years indoctrinated with fairly conservative and overly romanticized views on love, sex, and marriage, there’s certain things I don’t think I’ll ever be able to let go of even though I rationally know that they don’t make sense. Feelings usually trump reason.
When it comes to sexuality and relationships, I think the biggest missing piece is positive sexual and relationship role models. To be honest, I can’t name one of the top of my head, either personal or popular. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t suffered, been burden, or become anxious because of their sexual experiences and relationship issues. If this book paints a picture of what a healthy sexual relationship looks like in practice in the real world, I’d love to see it.
With that said, I really do appreciate the recommendation and I will try to put on it my reading list, and even perhaps come back with my own review.
Just a quick reply to my own post. After writing the above, I started googling my symptoms and I came across something called “Existential loneliness”, which is different from interpersonal loneliness and can’t be alleviated by more social connections.
I guess there really is nothing new under the sun.
Hope this help others who may have resonated with my description.
As I read through all of these posts, my heart goes out to all the lonely individuals in this world.
I too feel very lonely, but, the thing is, I’m rarely alone. My social calendar is filled to the brim almost everyday. I have my family nearby, I join clubs and meet new people, I interact with people at work, I go out with friends, I date, and sometimes, I even have relationships.
But the underlying thread or rather threat of loneliness is always there. It feel like it has its hooks me and won’t let me go. The moment I do find myself alone, its like I’m the only person on the planet. Everyone has completely disappeared or it feels like they’ve forgotten about me completely. Rationally I know that they haven’t, but it feels like they’re all having an amazing time somewhere out there with one another and I’m not.
When I hear about people’s adventures, I’m jealous I wasn’t invited. When I am with people, I’m constantly thinking, “Is this it? Is that all there is? Where are the real connections that will help me rid myself of this loneliness once and for all and why am I not making them?”
I’m wondering if simply more friendships or relationships is not the solution to my problem. Anyone else experiencing this kind of loneliness?
Thanks Lily. I think you’re bang on; everything that I’m experiencing right now in the dating world, the emotional ups and downs, the hormones, etc. it’s normal, it’s unavoidable, and so I just have to get used to it. It is a roller coaster, but getting off of it would simply mean I’d have to stop living all together.
I do my best to postpone physical intimacy since I know myself and I know that I get attached when it happens. Sometimes, yes, I would just like to fool around, but at the same time, there has to be a romantic and intellectual connection in order for me to want to breach that barrier, which, once again, means that there’s going to be some sort of attachment. At this point in life, I know myself pretty well and so I don’t think that’s ever going to to change. 😉
These posts have been tremendously helpful and I appreciate all of your input. Thank you.
Thank you both for helping me nip this in the bud. Looking back at my original post and this conversation have been a fantastic reminder of how my monkey mind continues to pull me into the weeds of things through judgements about myself and making comparisons to others, to the past, and to the future. I know deep down inside I’m a good person and I would never ever try to hurt anyone intentionally, but the mind continues to throw slings and arrows at me. Not sure why it does it and I don’t think I’ll ever figure it out, but through mindfulness and meditation, I can at least recognize when this negative self-talk, guilt, and shame come up.
Your comment about monkey mind reminded me about my favourite scene from Kung Fu Panda. Like Po, I tend to experience a lot of self-doubt, making comparisons, self-judgement, and negative self-talk when it comes to dating and relationships. But we can all learn a lot from Master Ooguay. 😉
I’ve been very luck in that the relationships I have had thus far have been very authentic. At least on my end, there’s always been striving towards making a soulful connection by being open, honest, and vulnerable. With that however, comes pain and sadness, when for emotional, psychological, physical, intellectual, and sometimes even practical reasons a long term connection isn’t there.
To Justin’s point, I think I may also being dealing with issues of self-judgement, guilt, and shame as to the pleasure I get from these relationships without feeling the need to commit to a long term relationship or marriage right away. I honestly do try and be open to the possibility, put the time and effort into it, and search for the feelings within myself to tell me, yes, this is the one. But if they’re not there, they’re not there, and I simply have to walk away. That doesn’t make me a bad person, does it? See! Once again, feelings of guilt and shame. Where is this nagging voice coming from? I’m going to journal about this one and see where it goes.
Thanks Justin for your great response.
Am I judging myself to harshly? Is the pain I may inflict on others and others inflict on me simply the realities of dating? I like you, you don’t like me, you like me, I don’t like you and on and on it goes? What a roller coaster and how do I get off? 😛
Not to be striving for a long term relationship and being content with a few short or mid-duration relationships is a very foreign concept since I would like to get married and have kids someday.
Que sera, sera is a very tough pill to swallow.