an open letter

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You say my vulnerabilities are a warning flag of “emotional instability.” That I am sensitive. You use my emotions against me to prove your created perceptions of me (and your fears) right, using them as evidence for your weak arguments. Arguments, that are tailored only to buffer your fragile ego–while simultaneously putting me, and others around you, down.

Well, let me be perfectly frank with you.

My sensitivity is both a gift, and a curse. While things affect me easily and elicit deeper responses than you may feel comfortable, it also helps me to love and care very deeply, to reach to people in the midst of their pain, to let them feel they are not alone. My passion and vision walk hand in hand with my gift/curse. Yes, I take your words and actions seriously, and I feel them in my heart. But honestly, someone who believes instead that words and actions should be tossed around without care and “taken lightly”–like throwing knives freely around a crowded room–tells me there is something grave to be said about you.

Second point. I am a human being. Which means I hold both strengths, and vulnerabilities. Which means I will not always be consistently happy and perfect all days of the week. For you to use my vulnerabilities against me, again, speaks to your issues and fears. It is easier to judge and criticize another, than it is to face yourself and your insecurities.

And if I may add: I’ve been through a lot of shit. Some very, very tough shit. It is through God’s grace that I am a survivor, and thriver. I have my moments of weakness, and my scars–I will not deny that. But despite everything I’ve been through in my life and despite the struggles that continue to come up, I am standing strong here today, doing what I’m doing and radiating resiliency. I live out my passion with every breath I take. I endure whatever life throws at me and always seek to reap wisdom and knowledge from those experiences. I expand my consciousness with every moment of suffering and despair. I use my experiences to increase my empathy and counsel others. I choose to live with pure authenticity and courage–giving people me and nothing less. I allow the hard times to come like waves, and I fight, and fight, and fight, to hold onto faith, hope and love. I don’t give up. I never give up.

You can make whatever judgments you want, hon. Call me sensitive. Call me a bitch. Call me unstable. Call me whatever you please. Because if this letter does not show you who I truly am and speak to my indisputable strength and solidity, I don’t know what does.

Perhaps you are just too blind to see it.

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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.

 

facing the unconsious

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The fear inside me grows heavier and heavier. All the darkness and pain scare me, yet I have no idea why. It’s as if I am staring into the eyes of a monster, but I can barely make out its face. It resides in the deep recesses of my unconscious, and my startling inability to discern its name, appearance or nature leaves me without any words. All I know if that when I sense its presence, I am overcome by a deep need to abort. I run the other direction.

And here, is where my insight falls short, my awareness runs out, my tendency to shift toward positivity breaks down. Nothing works. I am up against an enemy that I do not know.

Freud argues that our unconscious is composed of unrealized, and often socially unacceptable, desires and wishes, along with traumas and painful memories that our mind has worked to repress. Most of us are only aware of things existing on the conscious plane, unless our developed defenses are challenged and/or we work to build our self-awareness of the ways our unconscious leaks out in our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Considering this, my current situation is pushing me up strongly against my normal defenses. I am sitting in the in-between, within the tension of what I want to do, and what is best for me. I am at the brink of self-sabotaging, and I know it, but the other, darker part of me is fighting for control, pushing me to run. Run from what? What truly scares me is my inability to answer that simple question. I don’t know. But here I am, pushing, running, numbing, kicking and scratching, anything to keep me from falling in too deep, from being captured and seen. If I move enough, never stay in one place for too long, I’ll somehow be safe. There is safety in my evasions. And this is why I cannot settle. There is something in the water that will get me if I do.

Nothing makes much sense, because logic and intellect sink like swords in quicksand when you are up against the creatures of your unconscious. There’s a reason why we are running away and repressing them in the first place.

There is one thing I do know for sure. In order to get to the healthier, better place, we have to venture through the thick of the unknown forest. We have to rise up to our monsters, our demons, and make the choice to push up against them. If we run, they win. If we repress, they’ll continue to control us in our ignorance. It’s so much easier to run… but by running, we are choosing to live in bondage. This is uncharted territory, and this is the difficult call: to trust, and to have faith. Trusting in God, trusting in yourself, trusting in the fact that despite the arduous nature of the journey, if you keep trekking, you will make it out of the forest. You will overcome someday. The call is for you to submit yourself to the unknown, and have faith that through all the dark and pain, you are reaching a better place, coming closer to a healing you so desperately need… closer to becoming a better you. The more you challenge and push up against yourself, the clearer your inner self becomes. The more control you end up gaining.

The journey, therefore, calls upon courage. Courage is not a personality trait, as some may believe it to be, but an act that anyone can do. It’s about making a choice. Despite fear, I will press forward. I will enter the tension and allow myself to be moved. Here we stand at the precipice, faced with our choice: to jump, or not to jump? That certainly is the question.

rejecting perfection

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Vulnerability is difficult. So difficult, that most of us spend our time avoiding it at all costs. We throw up defenses, guard our hearts, put in electric fences and moats filled with alligators… anything to keep our inner (vulnerable) selves “safe” and from being seen.

Perfectionism is one of the many, many defenses we use to avoid vulnerability. Dr. Brene Brown elaborates that perfectionism is essentially the avoidance of three things: shame, blame, or judgment. In its root form, we attempt to maintain a perfect facade, or force ourselves into an impossible mold of perfection that will, in reality, never come into fruition. Because the concept of “perfect” does not exist, especially as we apply it to humans, who are designed as imperfect.

I am a perfectionist, so Dr. Brown’s words resonate with me very hard. As I chewed and chewed on this idea, I came to see how my “I have it together” facade is a part of my perfectionism. I avoid asking for help as much as I can, I try to figure everything out on my own… and as a result, I don’t allow myself to ever be vulnerable with others. And here I’m wondering why I can’t get the support I need from other people, or develop very intimate connections in my relationships? If you’re putting up a constant front that you have your shit together, then the obvious conclusion is that people are going to assume you don’t need any help or support. You basically look like you only need a relationship with yourself, and no one else. We need to look at our role in creating the dynamics that perpetuate our misery.

Today, I was with my supervisor and she challenged me as I was discussing a case with her. Taken aback, I thought about my reaction, and I realized that I became defensive not only because I got caught in my client’s “sob story,” but also because if I were being honest with myself, I was subconsciously trying to hold up my “I have it together” and “I know it all” front. But the truth of the matter is, I don’t have it together all of the time. I don’t know it all. And I need other people to help me, and to provide me with their perspectives.

In one of my sessions with another client, we talked about this very topic, as she has the same issue as me. I had told her to practice saying to herself, “I don’t have it together all of the time, and that’s okay.” After my meeting with my supervisor, I saw that I needed to take my own advice and do the same with myself. The thing is, as difficult as being vulnerable is, we need it. We need to be vulnerable in order to develop deep, intimate connections with others; intimacy cannot exist without vulnerability. We need to be vulnerable in order to learn, grow and become the person we have the potential to become. We need to be vulnerable if we want to heal our deepest pains, fill the empty trenches in our souls. Embracing our limitations, weaknesses and “ugly bits” in truth empower and liberate us. Yet the funny thing is, many of us choose to avoid vulnerability, and thereby keep ourselves stuck in the hole.

Being a therapist doesn’t mean I am perfect, or have everything figured out. I don’t have everything figured out; no one does. But I am committed to self-growth and self-love, even if it means loving those pieces of me that I internally fight to reject. And I choose not to live by the dictation of shame, blame, or judgment… because no matter what others, or even I, say, I am imperfect by nature. We are all imperfect. Simply, it means practicing what I preach, not only as a therapist, but as a friend or human being. I have limitations and I make mistakes… but that’s okay. I am human. I am me. And we all wired to need one another.

beauty in the tears

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After a very heavy crying session, I wiped my eyes gently with a tattered tissue and found myself staring at my reflection in the mirror. My automatic thought?

I look beautiful. Somehow I look more beautiful even after I’ve cried.

Pink cheeks, pink nose, full lips, watery eyes, yet in the light the tears make them look almost silver. How can I even look this pretty when I’m in such agony and pain?

But so it is, and as ashamed as we are in this society to show our emotions and tears, I was taken aback by the thought that by being in my emotions and expressing them, I became more beautiful. I looked raw, real, authentic. And there is something attractive about that, something in that that morphed my face into embodying and actualizing the beauty I hold. The mask I consistently maintain and my “I have it together” demeanor seem to dampen it, and I didn’t realize it until the moment I stared at my tear-streaked face.

You hold so much beauty in just allowing you to be you, in your emotions, in your pain. The truth is, I don’t have it together. I struggle, and feel so deeply that it hurts, and I can’t bear it on my own. I make mistakes, I fear, and I doubt. And perhaps it is that vulnerability that makes me beautifully human. Beautifully me.

There should be no shame in your feelings, if they are a part of who you are… if there are what make you even more lovely.

diary entry

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There’s this guy at Starbucks that I have a big crush on. Every Monday and Tuesday, before I head to work, I see him.

Most of the time, the extent of our conversations are if I want sweetener in my latte, or honey with my tea.

Once I tried to strike up a conversation with him. My heart pounded in my chest, I swore he could hear it, and I felt vulnerable, bare, and stupid.  We just talked about sprained wrists.

Whenever I see him, I wonder if he feels attracted to me too, or if I’m just spinning fantastical fairy tales in my head as I’m prone to do, or if I’m just a regular customer to him, another face in the crowd.

He remembers my name.

But that doesn’t mean anything.

He looks so calm, cool, and collected. So it makes me want to play cool too.

Yet to what end? Here I sit, here many of us sit, chewing on our feelings, putting up a “cool” mask, holding back for the sake of social propriety, saving ourselves from the risk of being vulnerable because it fucking sucks to hurt.

I wish I didn’t have to hold back. I wish I could just fearlessly say what I really feel. I wish vulnerability wasn’t seen as so ugly or scary in society, but seen for what it really is: real, genuine, and beautiful.