November 23, 2023•1,608 words
Woke up from a dream early this morning with a voice loudly making a sharp spooky sound into my ear/mind. Kind of like "aaaaaAAhh!". The dream wasn't scary but that moment was and I woke up feeling a good deal of fear, and while I lay in bed my thoughts were roaming around various aspects of my life and painting over them in frightening ways. At some point I decided that it was probably repressed emotional pain coming up, and I disengaged from the thoughts and lay there for a while feeling it in the body.
After some time it passed enough that I was able to fall asleep again before waking up an hour later to go to my second tai chi class. I'm grateful it was today, it was good to do something engaging but mindful with some friendly people around. Afterwards though, I felt what the mind described as "horribly lonely". I lingered in the building for a bit just to be around people but the feeling was only worsening, so I decided to head home and have some breakfast (I hadn't woken up in time to eat before the class).
Once I made my breakfast and sat down to eat, the feeling was still there and radiating heavily. It occured to me that this was an opening to process it and that eating would likely stuff it down again, so instead I got into bed to feel into it. I ended up coming across a guided meditation online that focused on loneliness resulting from emotional abuse and let it play while I felt into the emotions/sensations. Initially my mind was wandering around various aspects of my life and basically strategizing how to alleviate the loneliness/get my needs met. But at some point the speaker mentioned how the mind is always looking to "solve the problem of the pain", and it reaffirmed that the "solution" to what I was feeling in that moment wasn't going to be found by looking outward via thinking about others and the apparent conditions of my life situation. It was to look within, directly at the source of the pain itself, which was generated long ago. So I let go of the thoughts and locked into the source point of the feeling (around my heart and throat in this case) and relaxed into myself, at which point I started crying. I could feel the emotions being squeezed out of my chest through the tears and bodily convulsions, like a viscous invisible goo. I think it only lasted about a minute, after which I felt noticably clearer. It's now about 20 minutes later and the feeling of horrible loneliness is gone.
I think some of this cumulative loneliness is being activated by some inconvenient complications I've faced in various ways throughout my life. I'm not a conventional person but I prefer to live a relatively ordinary and simple life. I have perspectives and lifestyle choices that are out of the norm but which work better for me and seem more true or in alignment with my nature and/or needs. At the same time, I don't have much of a backbone. I won't just do what others are doing but I seem to be lacking in the solid internal foundation that some people have to externalize confidence in their choices and withstand the pushback of others, and I tend to prefer keeping quiet or censoring myself rather than asserting my preferences and views at the risk of conflict, judgment, misunderstanding or alienation. I basically figure for the most part that I'll quietly and harmlessly do my own thing to avoid the hassle of encounters with small-mindedness. This way I conserve some energy and can enjoy the benefits of fitting in but it also comes at the cost of increased isolation and disconnection, which drains energy and withers relationships. I don't get into conflict with others, but I also don't have or invite authentic connection with those who might or do resonate, understand, accept and maybe even enjoy my perspectives and choices, and thereby provide nourishment in return. I pre-emptively assume judgment, rejection and other consequences rather than giving others the chance to respond how they will. I keep quietly doing my thing, and I stay lonely even among others who seem to like and welcome me. I continue to feel phony and lacking in integrity and inner strength, and I continue to have interactions that feel boring and hollow.
I really am afraid of other people. I'm afraid of the intensity of their feelings, their ignorance towards the sources and effects of their feelings, and of becoming a pariah, scapegoat, outlet or solution for their mounting anxieties, fears, anger and grief. I'm afraid of this because that was largely my experience as a child and consequently throughout my life. Others have sensed my sensitivity and often exploited it and pushed against my boundaries rather than making room for me, and I was so used to this that I barely registered it. I've noticed it's becoming much less common as I've become more indifferent to more people, especially towards those who show signs (or just intuitively feel) unkind, controlling or entitled, and as I've gotten more comfortable prioritizing myself without as much self-doubt. Basically I've noticed that people treat me with more respect and consideration now, though it still feels unfamiliar and fragile to me. I'm still afraid of being talked badly about whether to my face or behind my back, and of being seen as a pariah or freak for thinking and acting in ways out of the norm. I'm not a psychopath and I didn't have a supportive or strengthening upbringing, so I do care about the opinions of others and can experience fear at the prospect of their rejection. I envy those who don't care, but I do. I want to be accepted and liked, even delighted in and loved. I don't want to be misunderstood, judged and rejected. I don't have a solid sense of home to fall back into if it proves to be too much, only more of the same. Nonetheless, all my efforts to avoid these things only invites them in different ways. The gaps that holding back creates tends to invite faulty assumptions, and those can often be more negative than positive.
For someone like me, and maybe most humans deep down, there's basically a choice. Either face the pain of misunderstanding, judgment and rejection in order to be true to myself and find more of what's true for me, or face the pain of loneliness, isolation and inauthenticity in order to temporarily feel safe and secure among others who I care for but who may not accept all of me. It's a tough choice, and I'd say it warrants compassion.
I was thinking the other day that I'm really not a very strong person, even though I do seem to be in some ways. I guess it's relative, since there are plenty of those that I seem demonstrably stronger than and plenty that I seem demonstrably weaker than. So I suppose comparison isn't the way to go. Ultimately I concluded that I have some kinds of strength, but I seem to be a particularly sensitive person. I'm fragile in some ways. And I'm not really thriving, I'm not moving powerfully through life. I feel like a brittle bamboo shoot in some ways rather than a strong tree with a thick core. I'm lacking in some kind of felt sense of inner integrity, wholeness and power. I tend to buckle when faced with resistance rather than remaining firm and steady within myself. At least for a while, as I sort through what's going on and what to do. The truth and the right thing doesn't come automatically, I suspect because of how much confusion and gaslighting I've experienced from loved ones. I'm filled with doubt and fear where certainty and courage was nurtured in others, who are now more able to stand firm and push back than me.
I can see how that's changing little by little. It happens so slowly and seamlessly that it's hard to notice until I look back. I'm completely comfortable dressing how I want now even if it makes me stand out, I've gotten better at saying no clearly but also politely, I've gotten better at leaving rooms and meetings if I feel uncomfortable or uninterested, I've gotten more comfortable keeping a courteous distance from people I get bad feelings with without feeling afraid or guilty, I can comfortably sit alone or in groups with my eyes closed meditating/listening without worrying what others are thinking, I'm more comfortable keeping silent if I don't feel like speaking, when I do I speak up more even when I'm feeling anxiety, I feel less anxiety while speaking up and more easily forgive myself for expressing myself awkwardly, I'm more comfortable sharing my weaknesses and shortcomings without shaming or belittling myself, and I'm more comfortable sharing my particular strengths and graces alongside those.
So change is happening. I guess that's enough for now, even though I'm not where I'd like to be. I want to be strong. I want to be bold. I want to be fearless. I want to enjoy myself and live more fully. But I'm still sensitive, I still worry, I still fear, hesitate, hold back and hold off. I still make mistakes every day. I'm still who I've always been, in a way. The question, I suppose, is what to work at and what to accept? A question for another day, for this long ass entry has tuckered me out.