illusions we keep

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Today, I found myself meditating on the concept of illusions. What are the illusions, or facades, that others present to us? What are the facades we put up ourselves? We all lie to some degree, whether blatant (cheating on a spouse) or subtle (lying about feeling “good” when someone asks how we are doing).

It struck me how very few people are exempt from the illusions they see, and the illusions they keep. I recently started dating, and I saw how especially in this setting, the concept is apparent. I see all different types of men. There are the ones with a different excursion in each photo, giving off the image that they are adventurous and fulfilled. There are men who gloat about their high-power careers and positions. Then there are some who write nothing at all, appearing aloof and cool. The unspoken norm, whether in dating or any other social setting, seems to be about hiding parts of yourself, while projecting out only your perceived “best” parts.

To take it a step further, I also saw what happens when someone “threatens” our illusions. Cue Freud’s classic defense mechanisms–projection, displacement, regression, repression, rationalization, introjection, acting out, just to name a few. Like my recent ex, when the illusion is jeopardized–risking your true, vulnerable self to be revealed–many would do whatever it takes to maintain their self-fantasy… even if it means hurting others, or ultimately themselves.

But then I turned the focus onto me. What are the illusions I try to put out for others? Being brutally honest with myself, I saw that I try to give the image of being strong, confident, intelligent, logical, emotionally held together. Even with this blog, I package my personal experiences in a way that would benefit others, while not fully expressing what lies underneath. And the parts I try to hide? Well, the reality underneath is, I have moments of severe weakness, moments when I feel like I’m collapsing and breaking. Although parts of me are confident, there are other parts that feel low self-worth, who secretly believes she deserves to be treated badly, that she doesn’t deserve better. I must always endure pain. I do not deserve joy.

I almost never let anyone see those parts, for fear of judgment or the deer-in-headlight looks I may get, when others have no idea what to say–or worse, say the wrong thing, and awkwardly change the subject. People have often preferred and admired my strong parts, and shied away, or even lashed out, for my weak parts.

Perhaps that is why we all hide away parts of ourselves. And I know I am not the only one. Even those seemingly confident, “high-status” men are hiding parts, while presenting their version of their ideal self. It is interesting, because by looking at the illusions, you can see the flip side, of what people are trying to hide. For example, the man who attempts to appear aloof and cool, may very well be trying to hide his need for others and emotional connection–because to him, this is believed as being “weak.” Or for me, I attempt to appear strong and logical, because the need for emotional help and support seems subconsciously weak. It is funny yet sad how we seem to run from vulnerability like the plague, when in actuality, embracing vulnerability is the cure to our emotional ailments.

But it all starts with us–building awareness of the illusions we keep in our lives. If we stopped judging ourselves for our vulnerabilities, our weaknesses, then we can learn how to stop judging others for theirs. And the thing about vulnerability is, we all have it. It is like judging someone for having ears. So instead of focusing all of our energy denying the existence of ears on our body, we could instead learn how to accept and love our entire selves, ears and all. Maybe putting on the illusion once in a while can help us in some situations, but to super glue it onto our being only hurts, rather than helps, us.

 

freeing ourselves from others

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I’m sure that there are those out there who feel pressured and overwhelmed by the thoughts and opinions of others. Everyone has their say, and there are some out there who feel a particular strong need to impress it upon others… even if it means ignoring someone’s free will and individuality. This has been getting to me as of late.

Lately, I’ve been getting headaches. And I knew it’s all been psychological; our feelings can manifest in our bodies in this way (i.e., somatic symptoms). When we get anxious, we feel tense. When we’re depressed, our bodies feel zapped of all energy. Our body, mind and spirit are all connected.

With all the craziness that has been happening in my life, I spent a good hour meditating last night and soon realized why I was having so many headaches. Everyone’s voices have been in my head, mucking up my thoughts and consequently my being. Anna, do this. Anna, do that. Anna, you’re squandering your potential. Anna, [insert opinion on my life here]… on and on it goes, all the things people are telling me to do, telling me how to see it and how to be. Until my brain finally exploded in pain, screaming, shut up! I’m so sick of hearing all of you!

I just want to hear me. I just want to hear what I need, and what my Inner Voice says is best for me. Only I know what’s best for me, no one else. Who makes you think that you know what my potential is? What makes you think you know what’s right for my life? No one knows that, except for my Maker. So don’t act as if you have some authority over my life.

I know I am not alone in feeling bogged down sometimes by the opinions and feedback of others who think they know what you should do with your life. I hope these words can help someone else, as they are the reminders I need constantly. Only you know what’s best for you. Only you know who you can and want to be. This life is not for others to live, but yours. You’re the one who’ll have to face all of the consequences of your choices. Not them. So they don’t get to have any say in how you live your life.

One technique I’ve been doing that has been helping is mindfulness meditation. You can find apps or scripts online, but it helps train your mind to be rooted in the present and to let all thoughts and people’s voices in your head go. And specifically in this case, it also helps to let go of all those opinions and should-bes. Mindfulness is a practice that orients your mind to accept yourself and the world as it is in the present moment. It’ll clear out all the junk in your mind, and give you the clarity you need.

We need to learn to let go of other people’s opinions of us, to stop letting their thoughts control us. It’s the only way we’ll be able to be who we are, our true selves. What they say does not have to go, and does not have to hold significance we do not want it to. It’s a self-care and self-love practice, by not forcing ourselves into a mold or into a kind of thinking that is not truly us. Some people may be too dogmatic, too judgmental, too needy, and try to force you to be someone you’re not, but they are who they are. It has nothing to do with us. Just let it all go. Let it all pass without judgment. It is what it is, and people will be who they are.

And the same also applies to us… allow yourself to be who you are. And let the rest of it go.

changing the love story

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Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting, coming to a plethora of realizations about myself. One of them is how in most of my real love stories, I am a secondary character. Never the one, the main character, the center of the plot.

But this isn’t a “woe is me” post. Rather, I begun reflecting on the role I was playing in creating these stories, forcing myself to take responsibility for the stories I tended to slip into. As a therapist, I so often see my clients refuse to take responsibility for their actions and the roles they play in creating their misery. I get that, because it is tremendously easier to take the victim posture, than to own your shit. It’s exceedingly difficult, which is why most of us avoid it when we can. Because it means taking an honest look at yourself, including all of the “uncomfortable” or “ugly” bits you fight to ignore or deny.

But it’s only when you own your crap you can engage in the possibility of change, of re-shifting the story of your life. So what has been my role in my story? I have not come to a full answer as of yet, as I am still exploring and analyzing… but so far? Passivity, taking on the martyr complex, operating with the tired, faulty belief that I can change someone with my love, and letting past pain rule over my present. I used to throw myself whole-heartedly into the process of love, even though the other party was less than inclined… I believed that maybe they would eventually catch up. But unfortunately, what you often see in people, is really all that you’re going to get. Now I’ve veered to the other extreme of the spectrum, where I refrain from expressing or acting on my feelings, for fear of living out the same rejection yet again. Rejection sucks. And I’m sick of that story.

But that’s the thing about love. In order to hold it, grow it, you have to let yourself be seen by others. You have to take risks. Not doing so will only leave you alone, with a heavy longing eating away at your heart.

Recently, there has been someone that I’ve been having feelings for, and it’s through those feelings I’m coming to a better awareness of myself and how much my past pains have affected me… and how I am still holding onto them like a crutch. For protection? Certainly in agony and fear. But despite the long conversations we have (and how much I have grown to love them) and the strong attraction I feel toward this person, he told me of his past/somewhat current relationship troubles with his ex. In that conversation, I was struck with déjà vu, and it wasn’t until I was driving home that I realized it was because my past, or “one of my sob stories,” was happening again. The girl helping the boy who is still in love with another. The girl waiting to be seen while the boy mourned, and frankly, didn’t give much of a shit to the girl.

The secondary character role was sitting there for me to take.

And it’s there, right there, where we can change the story. Why I always stress to my clients and friends that awareness of your shit is so important. I saw that it’s in those decision points where we can re-shift. So what do I do next? Normally, Younger Anna would wish and hope that he’d acknowledge her and forget about his ex, because Anna has so much to offer too and he’ll eventually see it… and then soon she’d become disappointed, because life doesn’t function like a romantic comedy, and in reality, break-ups are tough. Plus he’s still in love.

As for Matured and Aware Anna, Present Version? She’s not feeling that story anymore. Because even though she does have so much to offer–she deserves to be with someone who will love her, appreciate her, be there for her, and see her for who she is. She doesn’t have to wait for someone to deal with their baggage for her to live her life, because this life isn’t for others to control or dictate. Maybe she’ll share her feelings in the future, or maybe she’ll let them fade as she looks elsewhere for a man who will want and is ready to engage in the process with her. Whichever way she chooses, it will be her choice, on her terms. And regardless she will ALWAYS choose to live life, to seek it out instead of waiting for it to happen.

Because this is my story, and I have the power to change it, to live a different one if I wish. Whatever happens, however the chips may fall, I want say I lived at the end of it all… all the while never losing faith that it will come when it comes along.