Journey of self love

For most of my late 20s and 30s, every romantic relationship I entered, after a few months, I felt anxious. Somehow feeling that this person is not in to me as much as they were a week go, a month ago or a day ago. I used to think I am right when I think “he is not in to me anymore”. My proof was that “he was chasing after me last week, telling me how amazing I am and now he is not doing that. he is calling less or he is in his head when we are together. or he didn’t ask to go out this weekend.” This thought inevitability would make me either break up with the guy or act strange (hurt, distant, mixed messages, etc) and somehow the relationship would not work out.

With every guy, I found myself inevitably in the same thoughts, in the same feelings. In the pat 4-5 years, I started to wonder am I just picking all these messed-up guys? or is it somehow me erroneously thinking they are not in to me and they actually are? is it me being insecure?

A friend told me that there is a whole category for people like me. it is called anxious attached. And the doctor in me thought, well this is great, if there is a diagnosis, then there is a treatment. but the more I looked, it seemed to be a cure-less diagnosis. the recommendations were to seek therapy (to see why you have anxious attachment issues) which I was doing for many years and to communicate it with your partner which I tried to do when I could muster up the courage. But with every break up, I felt really defeated. that I am just so wired wrong and inevitably fuck up all my relationships.

About a year and half ago I got introduced to the work of Byron Katie. I was watching a YouTube where a girl was talking about feeling jealous that her boyfriend is in a band with his ex and and every time they are together she felt very jealous. Katie took her through the work (the 4 questions and turn arounds) and I saw how she came to realize the fallacy of her fears, of her fear-inducing beliefs and seemed less jealous by the end of it.

This was so appealing to me. I wanted to let go of beliefs that made me needy and insecure in the relationship. I wanted to do the work of Byron Katie to get rid of those beliefs and be this super cool girl who goes in to a relationship and doesn’t care if her boyfriend is talking to someone else or doesn’t give her attention. I wanted to be this cool, care-free, not-needy girl.

It seemed to work at the moment that I would do a worksheet. I’d feel sad that this guy I was dating hadn’t called and I’d write down “he doesn’t care about me” and then I ask is it true? can you absolutely know it is true?, etc, etc. and by the end of the worksheet I was out of that mental hypnotism where I was convinced “he doesn’t care about me” and I was suffering less.

I started a new relationship and I did the work every time I thought he is losing interest in me. and many times I was able to let go of an intrusive thought by just going through the questions. My relationship continued (unlike all the other ones that would only last a few months). I felt ecstatic. I remember few months in to our relationship, we were traveling together and we had a conversation that made me insecure. I was feeling really anxious and sad thinking that the thought “he doesn’t really love me that much”…. we got home from a day out, I said I want to journal and went to the kitchen and sat and did the work and totally was able to have a different perception. I even was able to tell him about the process and the icing on the cake was that he told me how I had misunderstood him to begin with and how much he loved me.

But sometimes I would try to do the work and it wouldn’t work. I would sit with the intention of getting rid of a belief and it wouldn’t work. I’d feel frustrated and then I’d feel really fearful that this insecure, frustrated, angry, sad (or whatever negative emotion) is now behaving distant or short with my boyfriend and he will leave, that he won’t like me because I am distant and in a bad mood. So I’d sit and try to write and do what work again and again to see if I can get to that blissful and care-free state and sometimes it wouldn’t come……it just wouldn’t come.

And then slowly I realized the most important part of doing the work…..That you can’t do the work to get rid of a part of yourself. You can’t do the work with the agenda of self-rejection, even if that self is the one who is believing a thought that is not true.

I asked Tom Compton (a certified facilitator of the work) to do a session with me and that’s when it started to really sink in (well, after actually 10 sessions with him or more that he kept reiterating the same thing.

Here’s a snip-it of it:

Me: I am in the living room with my boyfriend. He is in his head. he is distant and quiet. I go hug him and he hugs me back but is still distant. I think “he is probably sick of me. he wants his own space. I am so needy”. I asked tom, what do I do when I feel this way?

Tom: Can you feel the needy girl in you and open your arms and welcome her?

Me: hmmm….. ok I feel her. I feel needy.

Tom: Can you welcome here even if she were to never change?

Me: WHAT? hmmm No! not really….. I am doing the work so she will change. if she doesn’t change, she will ruin my life. She will ruin my relationship. I will be alone……actually I hate her.

Tom: Then feel the hate… just really feel it. what is the purpose of this hate?

Me: To get rid of her. to get rid of the needy girl

Tom: has it worked? being at war with her and hating her, has it worked? has it made her go away?

Me: crying, no…. it hasn’t.

Tom: Are you interested in hating this part of yourself? you were under the impression that hating on it would work, now that you see it doesn’t, are you still interested in hating her?

Me: crying, no….. crying (tears of release, tears of sadness, tears from feeling hugged)

Tom: can you open your arms to her?

Me: I am scared that she will ruin my life.

Tom: ask her if she wants to ruin your life?

Me: hmmmmm….. me asking some imaginary part of myself who feels needy “do you want to ruin my life?” and I see this scared girl, saying no, just crying and sad and scared.

Tom: can you welcome her, just at this moment? you will see that these parts of us just want to be seen, accepted and loved. are you interested in unconditional love or conditional love?

Me: hmmmm…. wow, I really do want unconditional love.

Tom: then here is your chance. letting her know she is accepted even if she never changes. that’s really all she wants.

Sessions like this does remind me that this is also what I learned in the mindfulness course I took some years ago. or in the Radical acceptance book by Tara Brach. or what my therapist used to remind me. But somehow during these facilitations, I really felt like Tom showed me the road map. here it is, you wanted to know how to love yourself, here it is….. and only and only after you totally welcome this scared, insecure girl (even if she never changes), then you can say “hey love, let’s do the work together and see if this belief that hurts you so much is true or not.”

Which reminds me of what I read in one of Byron Katie’s books “do the work for the love of the truth, for the love of freedom…..not to change the world”

Is he lying to me….. or…… do I not like me?

Last night I was talking to the guy I am dating. I was telling him that not being able to go to the gym (because of the gym closure in this corona times) has made me get anxiety about getting out of shape. At one point, he stopped me and gave me a complement about my body, smiling and saying how he is in to my body. It momentarily (like for 5 seconds) felt good, before the next thought crossed my mind “he is just saying that… maybe he likes my body but preferred it was more toned…. He likes it now but will not liked it if I gain weight” and my “problem areas” or what I think as “problem areas” flashed in front of my face strengthening the thought that “he must not really like my body that much”

Then it hit me. If I don’t believe I am good enough it doesn’t matter what someone else says, I won’t believe them. Which reminded me of the work of Byron Katie (also called “the work”), a self-reflection process I’ve been doing for some time. It is a process of identifying and questioning stress-causing thoughts.

When I do the work on insecure thoughts about my relationship…. for example; he will lose interest in me (a thought I have every time I date someone I am in to), I find out that I am actually looking at his words and actions through the lens of this thought “he is losing interest in me” and finding evidence for it. 

And when I do the work and realize this and go back and for example, read an old text message that at the time had made me freak out, I suddenly realize that I hadn’t even read the text right and dismissed parts of it. 

Forexample, in the first few weeks we had started dating, he had invited me to his friend’s house who was having a party. I texted him saying, do you want to meet up together and hang out before going to your friend’s party? And his response was something like: “I’d love to see you earlier and spend more time with you. I am already here early to help him out but why don’t you come here if you want and we can hang out here” 

When I first read this, the feeling that came over me was that subtle anxiety… thinking  “I am more in to him than he is in to me.”, “he is being nice and polite but doesn’t care much about seeing me as much I want to see him”

I decided to question the validity of this thought, “I am more in to him than he is in to me” by doing the work which is questioning the validity of the thought using 4 questions and then turning the thought around. (really sitting with each question with an open mind)

1-Is it true? 2- Can I absolutely know it is true?  3- How do I react when I believe this thought (as in what emotions come up? What images of past and future come up?how do I treat him and myself when I believe this thought) 4- Who would I be without this thought? (Who would I be looking at my phone with his text on it and couldn’t even think this thought?)

And then turn the thought around and see if the turned around thought (he is in to me as much as I am in to him or he is more in to me than I am in to him, etc) is true or not?

When I did this process, in the midst of sitting with these questions and turn-arounds, I had this mind-blowing realization that as long as I think I am not good enough, as long as “I am not in to me” (which was also a turn around), I won’t believe when he literally says “I’d love to see you and spend more time with you”. I see these words and think oh, he is just being nice. 

And how many times in the day, in our other relationships, we are certain someone is lying or just flattering us, or doubting them. And we are certain of it because in the past our experience showed that this person or another person had just been flattering me. And this is how we live in the past, never really giving the present person, the present moment, the words we are hearing, a real chance. The mind has a narrative that it gets from the past and it projects to now and future constantly. It’s our safety mechanism….. how we protect ourselves from getting hurt. 

I heard a friend once say, I am very good at profiling people. They say one sentence and I can read them all the way. And she was proud of this. But then life becomes dull to say the least. No chance for anything new.

I have heard Byron Katie say “if my husband didn’t wash the dishes last night and I see him in the morning, he is innocent this morning” I used to hear this and find it bizarre. I’d think but he is guilty of not washing the dishes last night.  But the more I sit with events that have hurt or bothered me and find the thought behind the emotion and question it, the more I am realizing how nice it would be if I could totally forget the past continuously and see only the now. And even though I can’t really forget the past, but questioning the validity of my perception of the past allows the past to show itself to me more clearly and often times it is a lot less painful than I had perceived it.

In my forever quest of how to suffer less, my newest friend is this work of Byron Katie but I find the essence of this work the same as what mindfulness (MBSR) says, the same as what my therapist of the past 3 years who describes her spiritual path as “a course in miracle” reiterated to me on each session or what Echkart Tole says. They say it in different wording but ultimately all trying to bring you to the pure experience of this present moment. 

So I guess a moment of victory for me was when I heard the guy I am dating tell me how he is in to my body and then immediately doubted him, thankfully, I then doubted my doubt. Is it him lying to me about liking my body or is it me not liking my body and therefor finding it hard to believe him no matter what he says?

This being me… whoever that is

It was many moons ago but I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. I was on the phone with my sister, asking her what I should text this guy I had gone on a date a few nights prior. I was asking if what I had planned to text him sounded good (I guess a mix of witty, cute, sweet and yet not too sweet, that shows I like him but not too much, etc, etc). This wasn’t unusual in my circle of friends where we’d be hanging out and someone would ask if their planned text message was good enough to send or if they should say something different. On that day though, instead of her usual response, my sister surprised me and asked “Why do you think I would know better than you?” I didn’t think much of what she said at the time and went on with my quest for the perfect text. 

But in the past decade or so, her words have come to me at times and more so recently.

As the etched words of Bob Dylan on my necklace remind me “All I can do is be me, whoever that is” 

All these efforts for self-love over the many years had not really driven this point home as well as recently when I went to a Byron Katie School of work. And while there, sitting with myself, questioning some belief, I started to realize how incredibly relaxing and freeing it is to let myself be. Whatever comes out. 

I recently met a guy I like and as we were texting back and forth, I found myself thinking if the text I had just sent him was good. What if he misunderstands it or thinks I am too much of something or not enough of something else and likes me less. And it hit me, perhaps for the first time that the words that I had just texted, was ALSO me, however perfect or imperfect it may be to him. Obviously when I sent it 30 seconds ago, it seemed good enough to me and yet 30 seconds later I am not so sure. 

The title of Byron Katie’s book “A mind at home with itself” gave me this idea…..  What if, god forbid, I accepted my mind? The crazy, monkey mind that has fear and anxiety- causing thoughts in it…. Of course I don’t like my mind when it gives me self-deprecating or fearful thoughts. And yet, what if I accepted it? I mean, these thoughts are running through my mind anyways and hating on them and trying to ignore them doesn’t work for me (It may work for others but not for me). Resisting them and hating on them doesn’t make them go away. They circle right back again. Yet, questioning their validity with kindness makes them slowly lose their grip on me and evaporate and not circle back as strongly. 

I remember an episode of the TV show “Friends” where Chandler is getting ready to go on a date and the group’s advice to him is “Just be yourself, but not too much yourself”. That’s the kind of advice that can subtly drive me crazy. A part of me thinks I am too much, too open, too nice, too independent, too needy, too naive, too a lot of other things. 

So in this journey of self-acceptance, I have realized that when I am sitting here thinking of the perfect text and writing, deleting it and re-writing it, that I should just send what I am thinking as corny or dorky or whatever as it may sound cause that is ALSO me. Sometimes my words are witty and funny or whatever is acceptable to myself and sometimes they are not and yet it is all a part of me. And someone who wants to be with me, will inevitably see all of it. 

It feels so much more freeing and relaxing since I have adopted this. The minute a self-doubting thought comes to my mind about what I said the night before, I think it was THE ME at that time and it was supposed to be like that.  And if I turned this guy off because he didn’t like what I said or did, then he wasn’t meant to be. I’ll be sad to not see him, but I will get over it. After all, if I don’t like my own company including my own thoughts, how can I expect someone else to like it? 

And I know as clear as I feel about what I am writing here today, that next month, I may totally be driving myself crazy over what I said and how I should have said or done it better. Hopefully if that happens, I can come back and read these words that my sane mind is writing right now and remind myself that it is all ok because all of it is part of me and this being human.