5-10-2020 unf*ck my boundaries

I’ve been listening to the audio book “Unfuck Your Boundaries” several times. It is relatively short but there is a lot of deep stuff in there. I just had some serious insights become unlocked for me this morning. I had already recently come to understand that I have issues with my internal boundaries which make me particularly sensitive to criticism that attacks my character, and issues with indirect manipulations on myself (people trying to get me to change my behavior/emotional responses without directly asking me to do so). In the book, the author describes the physical responses we have when those boundaries are crossed, and went in to basically explain our brains are hard-wired to avoid pain, and so even when we don’t logically understand the trigger, we respond. The little man in the stomach idea.

I think I understand why I have so much trouble with criticism that gets interpreted as character attacks or, and this is perhaps the bigger trigger, is based on false assumptions about my intentions. My brain is literally trying to avoid pain. Both physical and social. And I know social pain activates the same as physical pain (I need to find articles supporting this). I remember getting physically hit by my sister, and come to think of it, one of my brothers as well directly because my words or actions were being interpreted maliciously. I have a particularly vivid memory, though I can’t recall the words too well. I remember the summer I had spent with my cousins in SC, along with my sister. She started getting angry about something (and now we understand she has severe anxiety issues as well, so I don’t blame her for her behavior, but I do understand how it effected me growing up), and I called her out on it. I think I might have said something along the lines of “stop being a bitch”, but then I might have used a different word as well. Regardless, it resulted in my getting punched in the mouth (and I had braces on at the time). I think I understand more now why my father was so strongly against any violence now. Anyhow, there were quite a few instances like that with my sister that involved me getting physically attacked. It was basically always because something I said/did was misconstrued as something else.

Things like this happened with my mother as well, although it was less likely to result in physical punishment. It did lead to literal abandonment. I remember there was this one time she got real angry at my sister and I at church one day. I never understood why. But she literally left us there and we had to walk home. We were maybe 12 or 13 at the time? Now that I think on it, I see exactly where I got my silent storm issue too. She brooded often.

And then there was school, particularly elementary. I was a pariah there. I was fat and I had a nose picking habit. This led to me being singled out and just reviled by nearly everyone. It literally led to me being physically attacked and socially isolated. As a child, that is major fucking pain. It is no wonder I can get such intense social anxiety around groups of people. The only time it isn’t there I realize, is when I’m running something. I think that script got flipped when I started guild leadership back as a teenager. It was the only time I wasn’t afraid.

So yes, all of this for me to realize the fear I experience in trying to fit in (unsuccessfully) in social groups, and how I handle nonconstructive criticism from loved ones is literally born out of those experiences I had growing up. When someone appears angry at me, especially for reasons I either don’t understand or that aren’t true, my brain flips into survival mode. It learned there was pain incoming and that is why I would feel so bad afterwards. I need to explore more on how I can get help to calm that trigger.

Update, talked with my wife a bit more about this understanding. A couple of things I need to do going forward.

1. In newer relationships that actually seem to be going somewhere, I need to bring up this boundary up as soon as possible. I need to explain I have a trigger around nonconstrucive criticism, and if it gets triggered I need space. This is *especially* important in the age of social media where we’re always available because of all the instant messengers. It is vital to have that space and not allow anyone to simply blow up on me without permission. I can dig into the source of that trigger if they want, but the important part is establishing that boundary early. It also makes it easier to run the “no” test early on. It is a form of PTSD, in the sense that I get the same emotional response as I did back as a child. I have to be able to tell someone that triggers this that I am feeling hurt and that I need to back away from this conversation, now. We can schedule out a time to come back to it later. If they continue to lay into me, then they are crossing my boundary. I need this boundary to function. It becomes more important the closer I get to someone as that is where the pain lies.

2. I also need to explain the intense social anxiety I can get in group situations. I mean heart pounding I’m about to get attacked by a bear type anxiety. Again, I could dig into my childhood and how I was a social pariah and how social exile is literally interpreted as physical pain, but that isn’t as important. The point is I’m going to likely feel that at some point, and I *need* to be able to get away periodically into more quiet spaces to overcome it. This is a need for me. Non-negotiable.

4-13-2020 thought about my father

I gave a listen to “Breathing” by Andrew Weil MD after a recommendation from a friend regarding finding meditation material. It was helpful. I started using the techniques I learned last night before going to bed, and this morning. And during my lunch hour. A big storm was rolling in so I decided to take advantage and sit in the back and further work on those breathing techniques while I watched the storm roll in. It reminded me the day before Hurricane Andrew. And through that, I was reminded of my father while I worked on engaging my parasympathetic and I realized another reason why he always seemed so calm. He had gardening as a hobby. All that time spent alone, doing an activity that required relatively little processing while doing it. If the goal is to spend more and more time in this state, therefore making it easier to enter and stay there…then he sure had a ton of experience doing just that.

These days, in the electronic industry that has blown up since I was a boy, there is this strong drive to *always* be engaged in something, being productive in some way. To always have some sort of input, whether it be movies, books, games, music, or other people. We forget what it is to just…be.

To feel the wind on your skin. To hear the birds chirp as they find their next meal. To see the wet grass sway in its’ chaotic form. To feel the moisture of the early rain showers on my legs as I set on a chair. To smell that moisture in the air. To just exist in the now, as tomorrow is never a certainty.

6-13-19 post therapy

Points brought up

  • Let wife know it is ok to reach out to me on wanting to spend time. Talked about cycle of fear of rejection
  • Focus more on time spending together if that is what brings happiness.
  • I’d like to plan to visit more faires, like Michigan…maybe Sterling one?
  • Wife inviting me to spend time with her is how our relationship started
  • I’m more busy than I give credit for

6-13-19 pre-therapy thoughts

It’s that time of the month where I try to recall the emotional journey I’ve been through this month so I can get the most out of my session later today.  Currently I feel…neutral?  I guess I’ll make some quick bullet points on the things that are more top of mind…slightly better organized that way.

  • Marriage
    • I created “X_discretionary” categories in our combined mint for individual play money in an attempt to help my wife better control her finances.  The akimbo card method isn’t working, mostly due to technical issues.
    • I also created a couple_discretionary budget to account for stuff we do together, i.e. faires
    • Her health has gotten worse in terms of fitness.  She prioritizes work more than her health.  On an emotional level, I feel like that is shit.  This is also why I *hate* the billable hour model.  I don’t feel like she will change on that front.  The most I can do right now is wait out until she is done with school this year, and keep the finances under control.  I suppose the question then is what happens after?  The assumption is that she’ll be working on her business next.  Ideally she’d switch to a company that doesn’t constantly expect her to work late hours and not give holiday pay unless she’s working.  I expect she’ll have the same work obsession, probably even worse, when she does take up her own business.  I don’t feel like her health will ever be a priority.  Which makes me sad, and afraid.  Because I know how that story ends.  It feels like some looming inevitable curse where I know I’m going to be emotionally devastated once her health becomes critical because of her lack of time spent addressing her health.  I’m not capable of just cutting things off, emotionally or practically.  I’m just waiting patiently for the bomb of suck to explode right next to me.  I don’t like it.  I guess I don’t have any hope for things to improve.  Maybe I can ask if there will ever be a time she thinks she’ll dedicate to her health? That’ll probably send her on a shame spiral too.  Can’t win.
  • Finances
    • Considering taking out a CC debt consolidation loan since the plan to pay it off manually failed with the tax situation.
    • There is a bit of an irony that I make more and spend way less than my wife when looking at these discretionary funds now.  Well, maybe more of a dark humor than irony.  The majority of the money goes to food.
  • Fitness
    • The early morning workouts have been consistent.  I haven’t done as much rucking as I had planned.  I ran into some difficulties with it.  It might just be as simple as reducing the weight even more.  I had right hip problems last friday (maybe related to the snapping hip issue, almost felt like it was getting pulled apart on large step downs)
    • I should take up that evaluation from SSR, even though I really don’t want to pay more money right now.
    • I should recognize that I am still making some strength “gainz” despite being hard on myself.  My pushup form has improved so that I am doing them correctly (Started shortcutting earlier until it was pointed out, resolved).  I’m still no where close to being able to output the insane volume some trainers seem to want, but 12 isn’t horrible.
  • Poly
    • Not a whole lot of movement here.  I’ve been struggling lately with thoughts of my last ex.  There were good times, and the sex was really good, but then I looked over the texts/messages before I broke it off and saw all the shit thrown at me and remember why I got out.  I can’t go back, even if it feels like it would be “easy”.
    • I had a date maybe 3 weekends ago?  It went well enough, but I could tell the person had a lot of negativity inside of them, and her mother’s health issues were only going to make it worse.  I did appreciate how direct and quick she was to get to the point, but I could tell it would not have been a happy relationship and likely would of impeded my other health goals.
    • I think it was 2 weeks ago I had a date with J.  From what I can see of FB, it looks like she is starting a relationship with someone else.  Which is fine.  While she was attractive, I never quite felt that intense connection with her like I did with the last couple of poly relationships I did get into.  It makes it easier on me really.
    • I’ve been talking on and off with T via hangouts.  I kind of like that she represents another introverted soul but I’m unclear on what she is looking for romantically speaking.  At some point I’ll have to push for at least 1 in person meeting.  Ideally before faire season, where she expressed interest in hanging out.  A whole day thing might be a bit much without at least 1 earlier in person meeting.
    • I was thinking about my first poly relationship, and how I screwed things up there.  It wasn’t perfect, but it felt really nice to have someone that was actually into me.  My own shame issues made it irrecoverable.
  • Social
    • I had planned to start using tuesdays to invest a little more social energy, and at least hop onto a friend’s twitch channel to support.  That didn’t happen.  Doing anything during the week is difficult with my morning schedule, and I haven’t really formed any workout friends.  I wonder if that is a thing I should push for?
  • Career
    • I think this is stable for the most part.  Work is still tough with the many projects I’m juggling, along with the support and security issues (Which can often seem at ends to each other).  I do feel a bit bad that I haven’t been able to make as much progress as I would like.  Getting RDS to work on Azure has been a pain, and I still have a couple ghost support issues.
  • Goals
    • I’m pretty focused on the fitness aspect now.  Maybe because I put so much of my time into it I’m feeling frustrated that I’m not making more progress.  Progress being wanting to get into the 170s…maybe even 160s.  I should spend more weekend time doing something fitness related, aside from SF.  I’ve felt overwhelmed just trying to keep up with house maintenance to even get that time.

I think this is enough for now.

5-22-19 unhappy emotions

Not feeling great emotionally today. The workout was fine and starting rucking last night was good too. But all these things I’m working towards…health…mental fitness… financial stability…art… I realize I’m doing them alone. I realize my greatest gains have been when I accept that change and improvement only happen through the force of my will. It is my journey.

But the thing is that even though I am an introvert, I don’t truly want to be alone. These are the paths I need to take and I won’t veer from them. My journey is a hard one. For a little while my wife seemed to want to tag along. But I don’t feel that is the case anymore. If she does join, it feels like it is out of obligation or atonement…not because she genuinely wants to travel on this metaphorical journey with me.

5-16-19 therapy

Topics discussed in no particular order

  • Shame cycles and how they interact with partners shame spirals
  • Alpha, beta, theta waves. Ideal to be operating at alpha with short shifts into beta. Extended operation at high beta leads to crash (depression)…makes particular sense with last year extended anxiety leading to depression
  • Financial advisor recommendation to find a balance between working towards financial goals and still enjoying life

5-15-19 pre-therapy dump

At the moment I feel mostly ok. A little tired… didn’t sleep great. Also quite sort from pt yesterday. I’m back little frustrated with not performing as well as I would hope on upper body. Bench presses specifically. I’m also not happy with my weight loss progress. I’ve been making more mistakes on food due to internal emotional turmoil. A little over 3 months until MDRF so I’m feeling the pressure.

I’m thinking what I need to do on that front is slash my protein portion in half for my meals. It worked before. After this week I should be able to keep to the early morning training sessions more regularly. Then I need to add a low intensity cardio session at night or weekend afternoon. Eat less move more. And sleep.

The other challenge to all of this is the social stuff. Thursday night dnd is sorta waivering lately but I still have to assume it will be happening which makes sleep tougher. Then there is the poly stuff. Nothing romantic has happened or even looks imminent. I still have deep rooted fears about allowing myself to be physical with anyone else will be used against me. Physical intimacy with my wife has been more infrequent (as if it wasn’t already more infrequent than I liked). I watched this interesting presentation on Ted by a sex worker that made the link that because men typically feel judged based on money, physical prowress, or their “mojo”, and that control on the first 2 can be a bit more limited, it leaves men often needing to use sex to allow themselves to be vulnerable and express emotion. It certainly makes me feel better, but not necessarily because of the physical release. There is a sort of play there.

I’ll continue this post later… hopefully. Work time. Another source of anxiety.

One more thought to explore later

With my understanding of locus of control, I better realize the depth of the problems I faced last year.  I strongly lean towards an internal locus of control.  The pro of this is that I can be very driven in going after a goal I’m interested in and I take responsibility for my actions readily.  The problem is I also tend to “inflict” responsibility on myself for others’ actions/responses (internalize negative responses).

I also have a bit of a fear of conflict, possibly related to this same issue.  Things got really challenging last year because I found myself in a situation where I had lost control, and the only way I could get it back was via confrontation.  I was afraid of conflict, because a probable negative response would have become internalized as a comment on myself…and so I choose to abstain, which only made the whole situation worse.  I then started approaching the external locus of control, which in the extreme can lead to depression from feeling helpless.

It is no wonder I had such a hard time.  This is why I have to face more situations in which there will be a negative response.  I need to balance out my drive on being responsible for my actions against not taking responsibility for things out of my control.  This will help me with facing conflict, and not beating myself up if things go wrong (and yet somehow still be able to learn what I can better from those interactions).

Being human is tough.