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PostPosted: Fri Jul 29, 2011 5:41 pm 
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Lesson 33 - Developing Emotional Maturity (continued)
Day 5 (Thursday)
Bumped into an old tutor of mine from college over fifteen years ago. In the past I might have kept my head down but I said hello and straight away he recognised me and remembered my name. we briefly chatted and he surprised me by saying that he thought I was one of the most talented students he'd ever taught. That meant a lot to me as I know I threw much of that talent away through clouding my life with addictions so it made me feel a bit sad but also gave me a renewed sense of purpose to continue to rekindle my creativity as I have been in this class. Who I really am is an artist and I want to do the things that artists do. Do them well and share openly with others along the way. Art will no longer be a selfish pursuit for fame for me but instead a way to connect and share with others.

There was an opportunity for standing up for myself later in the morning when the woman I mentioned yesterday put my name forward for a task she thought I could learn. I said with some strength that I was happy to watch and learn instead. Because I now had awareness of what I needed to do to be true to myself I felt much more secure. Not sure if she sensed that but she never tried to push me into anything else. Noticed later how she would try to manipulate others in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways too. Because I anticipated the emotions and situation previously when it actually happened I felt pretty calm and it was totally different to the day before.

My emotions as this week and art course has gone on have become much less intense as they were at the start of the course. Everyone was new, every situation was new and something to be feared, seeking approval and acceptance - all of that gradually morphed into feeling more comfortable in the environment, feeling more at peace with the people and appreciating the course and the opportunity it was giving me. New situations tend to produce more intense emotions then they will mellow out after a short time. It sounds obvious and of course I knew this intellectually before but experiencing it with awareness as it was going on has been really helpful. I'll now be less intimidated to try new things and push myself because I know those massive fears can be conquered and are finite.

Another time I was aware of my emotions was when I got home and was washing up, just mundane stuff. I decided to listen some music and spoken word and I just completely welled up with emotion. It just hit me how unbelievably thankful I felt that I'm reconnecting with myself. That I'm breaking through the layers I've spent years building up through addictions and I now have a chance to live a great life. I guess it struck me just how great my life could be and I found it overwhelming.

To show how my emotions can shift so quickly I later got a mail from a gay couple asking to stay through the host/travel site I'm on. I thought they must think I'm gay then felt really down about that, paranoid and questioning yet again of my sexuality and all the confusion and obsessiveness I still have with it. I looked at my profile wondering if I looked gay, sounded gay, wondered if all my friends suspected I might be gay but just couldn't bring it up with me. It spiralled basically and within an hour or two I was feeling strong emotions of frustration, sadness, fear and confusion. In retrospect I can see how it was all my doing, I obsessed and snowballed a neutral event into a stressful and painful one. Next time another such event occurs I need to heighten my awareness of it and weigh it up alongside my values before taking it on.

Day 6 (Friday)
Woke up feeling pretty rubbish as haven't slept well all week. Was a real chore doing my exercises but I did them anyway and was glad that I did in the end. At class that woman said I looked tired in front of everyone which I took as a bit of a dig so felt my emotions change negatively for a little. I felt nervous about making my own decisions today but when I finally did it felt quite liberating. I felt focused, peaceful, connected and creative. Had some good laughs and conversations with some of my classmates (mostly girls and managed to do so in a non sexual way, maintaining an awareness of their boundaries). I've found myself quite attracted to the instructor but have been careful to avoid any love addiction tendencies. She's obviously a very warm and genuine person who everyone seemed to appreciate. When I said goodbye to her today I felt a strong emotion of appreciation, she's a really good teacher. As this was the official last day of class (I'll go back tomorrow for a bit) we all exchanged emails and said goodbyes. The instructor said it's the first class she's had where everyone has gone to the pub together - we just all got on really well and I feel so lucky to have been a part of it. I'm definitely going to go back as a member and continue making prints in the workshop. It's an incredibly social and creative place, friendly too. It's exactly what I needed anyway. Shaw72 if you ever read this then a huge thanks for asking me in this thread how I could make practical and doable plans to be more social. Within and hour of reading that I'd signed up to this class and I feel like it could be the start of a huge shift in my life towards my vision of being a part of the creative community and being creative myself. It's been a sometimes challenging, confusing and difficult week but it's also been great fun and hugely informative and inspiring too. Feel like I've made some good friends and it's he start of a new way chapter in my life.

Health based recovery initially looks like it's about overcoming addictions - but the more you absorb the lessons into your daily life the more you can see it's barely about addictions at all. It's about life and how to live it the way that you want to, finding out what it is you really want and what it means to be authentic. It's about facing reality, overcoming fears, seeing yourself as you are. It's about learning to accept and believe in yourself by doing what you think is right because you want to. It's a real gift. The hard work comes from us and our hard work rewards us.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 31, 2011 3:34 am 
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Lesson 33 - Developing Emotional Maturity (continued)

Day 7 (Saturday)
One main emotional awareness I had this day was some conflict I had about doing what I thought was the right thing and doing what I felt like doing. After working a few hours in the studio on our final day of the art class I was walking back with a classmate who said he was leaving the next day. He's a nice guy, retired, near my dad's age and I didn't want him to spend the last night alone but was also aware that I had loads to do and didn't want to take some more hours out to socialise with him. I didn't offer anything then he asked if I wanted to go for a drink later. I made excuses saying I had lots on (which I did) but I took his number and said I'd call him if I could. On the walk home I really felt the emotional turmoil as I battled with doing what I felt like or doing what I thought was right. It made me realise that I often end up in situations like this and they almost always cause me quite a bit of stress. I'm really unsure when it's okay to say no and put my own life first when faced with an opportunity to do something good for others. I guess seeing I've lived so much of my life selfishly I should err on the side of doing good for others to balance that side of my life. Anyway, I decided to look through my values list to help me decide if I should meet up - that was pretty conclusive! I called him and met up for a meal and a couple of drinks and only took a couple of hours and think he enjoyed it. So I learned that it's not always as painful as I think it might be (doing something uncool or seemingly uninteresting) and if I change my mindset about it I can enjoy it too.

3. At the end of the week, assess the level of effort you put into this task. Did you remember to consciously seek out such developmental opportunities each of the seven days? Post your assessment in your thread.
Think I put quite a bit of effort into this. It worked well because I didn't have much time for reading and writing lessons due to the summer course so it was like doing fieldwork - taking this lesson out into the day to day to experiment with it (as it should always be).

The main things I learned:
1. My emotions are in good working order! Experienced the full range of positive and negative throughout the week.
2. Just the act of noticing an emotion can lessen its impact and make it seem more manageable.
3. Preparing for a situation that previously brought up negative emotions puts me in a much stronger place to deal with it next time around.
4. Strong negative emotions can often be improved significantly by doing something physical instead of ruminating. Get out for a walk, notice the environment etc.
5. Feelings aren't a reliable guide as to whether I should do something or not. If I wake up feeling low and not up for exercising - and I do the exercise anyway - I usually always feel glad that I made the effort and my mood improves as a result. If I feel like I can't be bothered doing something that's not what I should base my decision on. I run my decisions through my values first then let the feelings follow.
6. Acknowledge when I'm enjoying myself. When I feel positive feelings then be thankful - they won't always be there so enjoy them, share them, embrace them.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 31, 2011 4:50 am 
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Lesson 34 - Obstacles to Emotional Maturity

Quote:
Observing Immediate Gratification
Consider a woman who has always wanted to get a college degree. Over the years, she has had to weigh the sacrifices she would need to make in order to achieve her goal, and consistently concludes that the immediate sacrifices would be too great. And so she instead opts to postpone her enrolment for one year. Then another. And yet another. Before she knows it, its been ten years and she adds this goal to yet another major goal that she has failed to accomplish. Why? Because when she looks ahead to the long-term commitment that she must make, she doesn't "feel" the long-term benefits that come with the successful completion of that goal. All she "feels" is the stress that such a pursuit would bring to her immediate life. Naturally then, she bases her decisions on what will provide her with the immediate relief (in this case, the relief of not adding more stress to her life).

I've always thought of immediate gratification in terms of getting or doing something. The example from this lesson shows that avoidance and procrastination can also be a form of immediate gratification - the relief of not adding more stress in the short term. This is something I've been an expert in for much of my life. The fifteen or so years that I've stopped making art has pretty much been down to avoiding the stress of starting something, of taking a class, going to an exhibition, facing a blank canvas, meeting people and just making the effort to begin anything. All of those short term 'minor' decisions have accumulated to me pretty much giving up as an artist. A major life decision if taken in one moment but sneaks under the radar if made up of thousands of little decisions over the years.

I know I'm doing a similar thing with travel right now. I've been putting off doing a round the world trip for years because of the anticipated stress it would bring to me in the short term. End result equals no trip and no long term satisfaction achieved through travel just short term immediate gratification for not doing anything stressful. Same goes for redoing my kitchen, starting my website etc etc... It's time to start exercising my long term decision making muscles so I can realign my daily decisions with my long term vision.

Quote:
Feelings are nothing more than a natural response to a perceived situation.

This sentence jumped out at me - says so succinctly what feelings are. Sure they arise naturally but we can still evaluate how our perceptions have influenced them and, if necessary, change our perceptions thus altering our feelings.

Quote:
As you transition, there will come a day when you no longer need to take pride in recovery, but will take pride in the other areas of your life that grew as a result of your decision to recover.

As I continue making the changes that I currently am then I can totally see how this would be the case. I can almost see the pride I will have at resurrecting my career as an artist, the new friendships I'll have made and the creative community I will feel a part of... all of these things will cause me to feel a deep and lasting sense of pride at how far I've come.

Exercise 34
A. Describe a time in your life when the "Immediate Gratification" principle has come into play:
While going out with my ex (after she'd moved back home) when visiting I would be frustrated that our relationship had become pretty much sexless so when she was sleeping I lower the volume on the TV and masturbate to films or channels with nudity/porn in them. The longer term problems of our non existent sex life were subdued by my immediate sexual relief from masturbation and fantasy.

B. As best as you can, describe the anxiety you feel when you are trying to NOT ACT on a compulsive sexual thought or behavior. Be specific. Compare it to other feelings of anxiety that you experience. The purpose of this exercise is to begin to define the limits of your emotions--and where your compulsive urges stand within those limits.
When I went on holiday with my ex last year we had the opportunity to go to a nudist beach and my adrenaline was pumping as we pulled up and looked around. A part of me thought we could find an even better one so we left and found another. However this new beach was not nudist but we'd already committed to it. I wanted/needed to keep walking to find a spot further along that might be naturist but my ex wanted to stay at this clothed part as it was more sheltered. We had a big fight and I ended up getting my way but felt that I'd ruined the day for her in order to satisfy my compulsions. It turned out this part was not really nudist either so I felt great anxiety that I'd passed up on the opportunity to be on the nudist beach earlier. I spent the rest of the day on a continual quest to get naked underwater or to find a secluded spot where I could. The anxiety I felt was all consuming, physical even, a restless, insatiable thirst for immediate sexual gratification - of need to feel free and naked - right now. I would continually scan for signs of nudity and was never at peace. It was a different anxiety to what I would feel going for a job interview, not as intense and nervous. More of a restless, unsatisfied, searching need that takes me out of the moment. So what felt very intense at the time was perhaps maybe only a 5 or 6 where a job interview or new social occasion might be a 7 or 8.

C. As best as you can, describe the feeling that you experience while you are engaging in a certain compulsive sexual thought or behavior. Is it a trance-like feeling? Is it a hyper-alert feeling? If someone could get inside your mind as you were experiencing such a ritual, what would they find?
The following day we went to an expansive beach which was largely nudist. I felt hyper-alert as I walked around, swam and sunbathed naked. It was like reality was intensified and turned up a notch. When I would walk from where we were lying to the sea while naked I felt almost giddy, trance-like yet super alert to who may be watching me, who I could see, what I could feel. I was very aware of my body, how it felt in the sun, the win, looking down at how it looked, admiring and feeling admired. Then I might feel shameful and embarrassed if others approached. I would try to get as far from them as possible, avoid eye contact, try to make myself invisible in my mind to escape the 'reality' of the situation. I felt most free when I was living it within a fantasy scenario in my head rather than when someone brought me back to reality. If someone could have got inside my head they would know pretty instantly why I craved it so much. This was my drug, my natural, intoxicating drug where all my senses where heightened. In the moment it was bliss. What they might also be aware of is the flip side of fearing that it will end, that I'll have to leave and feel clothed and restricted for hours until the next opportunity, that the burning need to get back will overtake all my other thoughts, the stress would be palpable along with the high.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2011 2:41 am 
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Got family over visiting for the next few weeks so my daily routine might be broken up a bit. Am aware that my vision and values are more important than ever when I'm liable to be changing my days around, facing new situations and dealing with the stress that brings. So I'll be heightening my awareness and focus - reminding myself of my values and working on activities that affirm them.

The main culprit of stress in my life at the moment is completely my own doing and is one I'll learn an important lesson from. We all went out to a country park yesterday with friends and kids. We were having a laugh and towards the end of the day I was challenging a friend to jump a waterway/dam thing. A clean and long jump would land on the grass while a shorter one would land on concrete. He landed on the concrete so I was determined to beat him. I did but I landed right on the edge and it totally jarred my right foot. Now I can't put any weight on it and probably won't be able to join in the plans for the day and who knows how long after. I feel stupid, know it was an immature, stupid thing to do. The kids were saying not to jump it, the adults were saying not to jump it. Yet I did, and I usually always do in these situations as I had earlier in the day. Why do I do these things? It's fun. I like overcoming my fear to beat an obstacle. I like the attention and showing off. I guess I also want to prove I'm faster/stronger/fitter/more fearless than my friends. This comes from insecurity and weakness that I'm not enough as I am, that I have to go the extra mile to impress - even when I put myself in danger to do it.

The consequences are that now I might be out injured for a while, I might have broken something and I can't enjoy the activities I was planning today and possibly for the next few days and weeks. I'm going to learn from this. Realise that I need to respect other people's boundaries of what they think is safe as well as develop some new ones for myself where if something has a strong potential to put me at risk of injury then I won't do it. Meantime I won't beat myself up over it any more. I made a mistake but I'll learn from it, will grow stronger and more mature when faced with similar situations in the future. I'll still always be up for doing fun jumps, climbs and challenging activities but I'm going to run any of them by these filters before I do:

Would doing this mean that I overstep a boundary of someone else?
Have I weighed up whether there is a strong risk of injury or whether it's safe to do this?
Am I doing this out of a need to impress others or for my own fun and enjoyment?

If I answer all of these questions honestly then I can make a better decision when faced with a similar scenario in the future and avoid a repeat of the consequences I'm facing now.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 03, 2011 8:29 am 
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Still can't walk on one foot so my sister and brother in law are away visiting museums and stuff while I've been indoors doing work related tasks. It's frustrating - the things they're doing are healthy things for me to be doing yet I'm here alone reminded of the foolishness of why I got injured in the first place. But at least I'm getting some stuff done that I've been putting off or haven't had much time to do otherwise.

So how have I been doing in my recovery?
Well, I'm finding it tough with my sister. I always do. For some reason I always feel slightly annoyed with her, overly defensive, passively argumentative and I suppose there's an undercurrent of subdued anger bubbling under the surface. Why? I don't really know as it feels so ingrained. I seem to always know what she's thinking, can read her like a book and it both bugs me and allows me to wind her up and have subtle digs at her character, eating habits, tastes that are different than mine etc. We're very different people but also have this common family bond and some similar character traits which I don't really like to be reminded of - people pleasing, passive/aggressiveness, shy, timid, hiding true feelings, not speaking up for ourselves... so I guess the things I'm angry with her about, the 'faults' I keep seeing and the traits that bug me are really projections of anger and a lack of acceptance towards myself. If I was more consistently at peace with myself then whatever she did wouldn't alter that. One of my values is to show unconditional love for my family. I've been consciously putting this into practice at times over the last few days but often I haven't too. I need to step up to the plate with this and really work on making that value real and practical. Unconditional love is a term that means to love someone regardless of one's actions or beliefs. The very things that seem to wind me up about her. In unconditional love, love is 'given freely' to the loved one 'no matter what'. So how do I show her love regardless of what she says or does? Well, we're heading off for a couple of days to visit our parents and brother so there'll be plenty of opportunity to practice learning how to love my family unconditionally. I'm going to take with me 'True Love' by Thich Nhat Hanh as I'll probably have a fair bit of time on my hands seeing I won't be doing much walking so I'll be absorbing and putting what I learn into practice. It won't be easy anyway - I find loving my family to be one of the biggest challenges in living by my values. I often seem to regress and fall back into familiar patterns of behaviour when around them so I need to maintain my awareness so I can correct any unhealthy attitudes, comments or actions. I want to mature and grow as a brother and son and that means changing my behaviours into more healthy ones.

Lessons
I'll be continuing with the lessons later this week if not sooner - I'm still putting them into practice daily but I also miss the routine I had when I didn't have visitors and wasn't injured - but this is real life and that's the arena where I need to put this stuff into practice. I've read over the next lesson on health monitoring part two so my daily monitoring will be looking for opportunities to show unconditional love towards my family. This is a great opportunity rather than something to be endured - it's a stage to grow and flourish and become a better person so I'm going to embrace it and really live within it.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2011 5:51 am 
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Back home after a few days with family. Still limping around like Keyser Söze but ended up having a good time. Was working on strengthening my value of showing unconditional love to my family and I couldn't have chosen a more apt value to work on. When visiting my parents house with family I often want to escape on my own - this time I sometimes did but I also pushed myself to get involved, to have conversations, not hide behind a book, face uncomfortable silences and initiate conversations. One night I really wasn't in the mood to play a card game but I stuck with it and in the end shared a bellyache laugh with my brother in law that was just too funny. We all had a good laugh and it brought us closer together. I faced some of my anger/annoyance with my sister through breathing and mindfulness and engaged with nature, went for walks and helped out generously whenever I became aware that I could. I also talked with my brother who's going through a rough time and tried to help my folks deal with it through talking too. It feels like I'm wearing a new skin at times being so present and vulnerable at times but I'm sure it will feel more natural as I continue to work on my values to shape me into the family member I want to be.

Lesson 35 - Health Monitoring II--Daily, Weekly
Daily monitoring: Stage two
I'm meeting up with some of my best friends today, friendships that stretch back to college days.
Today, I am going to look for opportunities to deepen and strengthen those friendships. I can do that by being generous in brining food and drink and sharing gifts. But mostly I can strengthen them by actively listening. By showing genuine interest in their lives and really listening to what they're saying - finding ways I can help, support or be there for them. Let them know that I value and appreciate them - that they make me happy by being themselves. Mention 'I' less and instead say 'you' more. be vulnerable and honest in sharing my weaknesses (a strength) and give up my need to try and impress or exaggerate.

Quote:
Throughout the day, LOOK for such opportunities and take advantage of them. This second stage of Daily Monitoring isn't a game that can be played 'when you have the time and energy'. It is a developmental tool that teaches you priority and awareness. When you settle on something to strengthen, place that above and beyond your 'normal day'. Treat it with a special reverence.


Weekly monitoring
Quote:
For your weekly monitoring, there are four key questions that you must ingrain--as they will be used down the road in helping you to regain balance should that need arise.

Question #1: Over the past seven days, from what areas of my life did I derive the majority of my meaning and fulfillment. Think specific actions you experienced, not general ideals. "On Tuesday, I took out my guitar and just played for my kids. Took the time to teach them a few notes. It was meaningful to me." This, as opposed to...'music, kids...'

Question #2: Over the past seven days, where did the majority of my energy go? As in, was there chronic stress/pressure I had to manage? Were there any major traumatic events? Any intense emotional events?

Question #3: Given the meaning that I derived this week and the events I had to manage--how well did I do in maintaining emotional balance through healthy means? Were there times when my life management skills were inadequate and I ended up turning to artificial means (e.g. compulsive behavior?)

Question #4: Looking ahead to the next seven days, are there any significant events that I need to prepare for, so that I am not caught off guard? Deadlines, reunions, holidays, dates, etc.

Beyond that, monitor anything that is important to you. Your relationships, your health, your progress towards certain goals. Anything can go on your Weekly Monitoring as long as it is consistent with your emerging value system.

...weekly monitoring should take you between fifteen-thirty minutes. If it is taking you less, your monitoring system is either not as well-defined as it should be or you are not being thoughtful enough in the depth of your assessments. If it is taking you longer than thirty minutes, you are being too detailed.


Exercise 35
1) Evolve your daily monitoring as outlined above. Post the first thing you will be monitoring in this way in your thread for feedback and, share where you will be placing the reminder. Do not wait for feedback to begin.
Today, I am going to look for opportunities to deepen and strengthen existing friendships.

2) Create your weekly agenda. Post it in your Recovery Thread.
1. Have I created new work as an artist this week?
2. Have I done anything to build my social confidence this week?
3. Have I practically shown or expressed unconditional love to a family member this week?
4. Have I participated in an engaging offline activity this week?


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2011 4:43 pm 
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Just want to write a few words about how I feel today went. Met up with quite a lot of my closest friends from college as we do once a year when R+N come to visit. I was meant to be strengthening my value of deepening my friendships but I don't think I did a very good job of it. It started as I was about to leave. I was wanting to bring some art prints I'd made in class as gifts to them but I didn't. I started to think they might think it arrogant of me or showing off or that they weren't that good. What I should have done was run it by my values. The gifts would have been a generous and kind gift to give to my friends and in retrospect I'm sure they would have really appreciated it. Instead I let my insecurities and fear inform my decision. I should have made myself vulnerable and accepted the chance that they might not like them and give them anyway because I thought it was the right thing to do.

Once there I felt a bit overwhelmed with the amount of people there (even though there wasn't that many) and just felt a bit awkward and not on great form. I felt kind of boring and lonely, like I couldn't be real. There's a girl who I've always thought hasn't liked me that much and I've feared sees through me or sees me as a bit snobby and arrogant. The fact is I was listening to my doubts and fears rather than countering them with positive enforcements and affirmations. I need to set out a list of affirmations, positive things that are true about myself that I can refer to when I start believing the negative onslaughts. I've been dong better of late but today was a bit of a bump back to earth and I came home feeling pretty sad and lonely. I felt a bit sorry for myself that all my friends now have kids and partners yet I seem to be forever single. I enjoyed playing with the kids but was also aware that I found it much easier to do that than having conversations with my friends. I can do it, just didn't do a great job of it today. I think a part of me was too scared to be vulnerable and wanted to create an impression of everything being good and together.

When I got home I spent a few minutes just breathing and acknowledging the sadness I felt. This helped to quieten my mind and made the pain less intense. Obviously I have some work to do in learning how to be vulnerable. I feel overly defensive and prickly and I don't want to be that way. I need to project my true self to others, I want to, I need to learn what that means in practical, everyday ways.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 4:31 am 
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Weekly Monitoring
1: Over the past seven days, from what areas of my life did I derive the majority of my meaning and fulfilment.
- Going to a park with friends and family. Having a pine cone fight and skimming stones, good fun.
- Drawing pictures of family after playing a game, was crying with laughter, too funny.
- Talking with my brother about his financial situation and offering help and support.
- Appreciating the beautiful landscape while driving through the country.
- Taking time out to read H's book and ended up enjoying it.
- Going to the gallery/bookshop and really appreciating the work and finding inspiration.

2: Over the past seven days, where did the majority of my energy go?
- Hosting my sister and brother in law in my flat for a few days. facing problems in my relationship with my sister and creating an environment where they could relax and enjoy themselves.
- Dealing with my brother staying at my parents and discussing the best solution to his problems and trying to find a path that would be best for everyone.
- Meeting up with old friends for our yearly reunion and not feeling very confident. Facing the stress of being self concious and withdrawing into myself.
- Dealing with a work problem that was potentially very stressful.
- Dealing with an injury that's impacted what I can do this week.

3: Given the meaning that I derived this week and the events I had to manage--how well did I do in maintaining emotional balance through healthy means? Were there times when my life management skills were inadequate and I ended up turning to artificial means (e.g. compulsive behavior?)
I think I actually did pretty well considering there were a lot of stressful situations to deal with. I applied the breathing techniques featured in the True Love book when I felt angry, sad or stressed and they definitely helped to calm me down and centre myself. Now that I'm becoming more practised in being aware of my emotions I'm finding myself consciously choosing healthy means to manage them. Breathing and quiet contemplation are the tools I'm most often turning too as I find that they really work. Saying that there were still times where I 'rewarded' myself with some web browsing (without any goals or focus) when I was alone after doing a lot of socialising. While this isn't harmful of itself it's a form of medicating my emotions by numbing them through escaping to online browsing not dissimilar to watching junk on the TV.

4: Looking ahead to the next seven days, are there any significant events that I need to prepare for, so that I am not caught off guard?
- I have a few days of unscheduled time ahead of me with no plans or immediate goals. I need to be proactive here and plan some goals for Monday-Friday.
- I need to plan ahead for the hiking trip up North from Sat-Tue. Prepare food, clothing, art related things and anything else that would be good to bring.
- Need to plan and prepare for going back to the workshop.

5. Have I created new work as an artist this week?
No. I did some funny drawings but not any considered art. I found some inspiration in a bookshop/exhibition and have ordered a book that I'm excited about as it contains lots of source material.

6. Have I done anything to build my social confidence this week?
Yes. I proactively talked to a couple of people working in shops. I also joined in with family when I might have stayed by myself and spent time with friends on a couple of occasions.

7. Have I practically shown or expressed unconditional love to a family member this week?
Yes. I showed love to my sister by listening and talking when I just wanted to escape (sat through the uncomfortable feeling) and sincerely tried to help and be there for my brother, mum and dad. tried to make my brother in law feel included and comfortable.

8. Have I participated in an engaging offline activity this week?
Yes. From going to the park with friends to walks with family, cooking, reading, playing games and socialising with friends.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 5:56 am 
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Lesson 36 - The Role of Boundaries
Quote:
the development of boundaries can very well be the single most important tool you can develop in recovery

So pay attention, absorb and apply. This is incredibly important information to ingrain.
Quote:
Without a clear set of boundaries in place, a person's values become unstable or meaningless.

This is all about integrity. The need to back up what you believe in by living your life according to your values and not flinching when it comes to protecting them.
Quote:
...boundaries protect the foundation of your values, which provide the foundation for your life.

Need any more reasons to absorb their importance?
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Much like a fence protects the property that you own, boundaries protect the values that define who you are. They provide the world with the means of identifying the rules that you have set up for your life.

Not sure who I am? Feel like a chameleon around other people? Then having a strong set of boundaries in place lets others know who I am and more importantly helps me see myself clearly too.
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You must develop a consistent and well-defined set of boundaries that are not susceptible to the influence of others.

These are rules for my life that clarify what I've determined are important to my life. If I let them be swayed by the opinions or demands of others then what value do I place on what I've deemed to be important?
Quote:
By maintaining a well-defined, consistent set of boundaries, you will have created an environment where you no longer need to question yourself in the great majority of situations where values conflict.

A clear set of boundaries will make my life easier. They'll remove much of the stress in everyday decisions as I'll already know what I should do in relation to my boundaries and values.
Quote:
...the poorer the mastery of boundary skills, the lower the self-esteem...

Clear boundaries will help to raise my self esteem as I'll have a clearer sense of purpose and worth.
Quote:
Summarizing, people who have mastered the use of boundaries tend not to fear the unpredictability of their environment; and in fact, most come to see it as an exciting, refreshing element. They find strength in knowing that no matter what life may happen to throw at them, they remain in control of not only their values, but the boundaries that protect those values. This combination of life management skills provides them with the very foundation for emotional stability.

Knowing oneself by knowing the values that are held close and the boundaries that protect them gives an unshakeable peace in an unpredictable world.

Exercise 36
I. Describe a scenario from your past where not having a well-defined set of boundaries has prolonged and/or intensified the personal consequences that you have experienced.
While I was in a long term relationship I allowed myself to have an emotional affair with a younger colleague. It increased the emotional and sexual distance within my relationship while the end of the affair caused me to sink lower in self esteem and depression.

II. Describe a situation in your life where having solid boundaries will assist you in managing the event in such a way as to protect your value system.
While socialising and drinking with friends or family they encourage me to join them in drinking to excess and getting drunk. I know that if I get drunk I'll won't sleep well and I'll feel depressed and severely hungover the next day which will make me feel very our of balance. By enforcing my boundary of not drinking to excess then I can protect myself from those consequences and stay in control of my actions and determine how I will feel the next day. I will drink in moderation with my longer term interests at heart as I know what's ultimately best for me while others may not.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 5:24 am 
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Lesson 37 - Identifying Personal Boundaries
Exercise 37
I. List three of your highest values (values prioritized within the top five).
- Apply workshop lessons daily
- Express myself creatively
- Build social confidence

II. For each value, list at least five concrete boundaries (rules) that you will use to protect that value.

Apply workshop lessons daily
1. I will use daily monitoring every day to focus on areas I want to strengthen.
2. I will work on the workshop lessons every morning when I am home.
3. I will plan each day the night before around values based activities.
4. I will seek out opportunities to help others on the forum.
5. I will be absolutely honest with myself and others when posting in my thread and in the forum.

Express myself creatively
1. I will do something creative every day. Whether it's recording a thought, drawing or research.
2. I will schedule time away from the computer every day to be creative.
3. I will contribute every day to a sketchbook to record ideas and practice creative skills.
4. I will create a focused plan for my site and set workable deadlines to bring it to fruition.
5. I will express myself honestly in my creative work.

Build social confidence
1. When I feel shy or socially awkward in a social situation I will use it as a reminder to initiate conversation and push beyond my comfort zone in order to grow.
2. I will not use the computer, my phone or any other distraction to avoid social interaction.
3. I will remind myself that I am worthy of love and acceptance when in social situations.
4. I will treat others as I would like to be treated myself.
5. I will avoid isolation by planning and participating in social events - at least one a week.

III. Absolute boundaries are those boundaries that under no circumstances will you ever cross. These must be realistic AND you must hold them in reverence. Typically, everyone should have at least three such absolute boundaries. List three that you will use to help manage your life.

Absolute boundary 1. I will treat others as I would like to be treated myself.
Absolute boundary 2. I will not do anything I could not openly tell my future partner about.
Absolute boundary 3. I will practice absolute honesty with myself and others.

Just went back to the lesson on absolute honesty as I'm aware that it's something I've yet to ingrain. In fact I'm gong to make the following a part of my daily monitoring for the coming few days:
Today, I am going to look for opportunities to practice absolute honesty with myself and others.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2011 3:37 am 
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Right, journal time. Yesterday wasn't good and I want to look at why so I can learn from it. I didn't actively work on my daily monitoring and didn't engage in many values based activities either. Instead I spent a long time on RN and a long time on the web. First I want to look at the sources of stress for the day to see how I could have handled them differently:

Areas of stress
1. Injured foot means I have to rest it and am pretty much housebound.
2. Heard from an ex girlfriend for the first time in two years over the weekend. Was replying to her mail and waiting on a reply which I found made me restless and uncomfortable.
3. I got an email out of the blue from (an attractive) friend of H who's in town for a couple of days with three of her friends and asked if I wanted to meet up.
4. Didn't make any art, worried that I've lost momentum and no longer have the skill/focus/ideas.
5. Spent too long on RN responding to a post on the community forum.

How could I have managed that stress in a healthy way?
1. Injured foot
- Work on my sites and provide more value within them.
- Create list for A of sites to work on.
- Create artwork, work on sketchbook, research ideas and source material.
- Work on site for brother.
2. Mail from ex girlfriend
- Reply as myself and don't try to be anyone I'm not. Opportunity to practice absolute honesty.
- Once I've replied then let it go, I've been honest and don't need validation or approval.
- Recognise any Facebook checking as compulsive in nature so eliminate it immediately.
3. Mail from friend of H
- Run it past my top values, what action could I take that would align with them?
- Recognise any fantasy/love addiction rituals beginning and eliminate them immediately.
- If they decide to visit use it as an opportunity to strengthen my values and boundaries.
4. Not making art
- The important thing is always to do, whether the feelings of inspiration are there or not.
- Just start something, cut out images in PS or by hand ready for my next idea.
5. Spending too much time on RN
- If I'm feeling off balance at all then focus only on the lessons and my own journal.
- My priority is to get myself healthy so I can live the life I've always wanted.
- Maintain awareness to make sure I'm using my time on RN productively.

Thoughts
I can have no room for complacency. Last year I completed the workshop lessons yet almost straight after I went back to compulsive behaviours. This happened because I got complacent - I separated the lessons from the rest of my life and had one identity while on RN and another in my day to day life. I did not ingrain and embrace much of what I learned - I got it intellectually but I didn't embrace it with my heart. The foundations were weak and the structure soon collapsed. This time I largely have been absorbing the lessons into my life with depth and commitment though the potential for complacency's still there. Sometimes I let some stuff slide, I take my eyes off the goal and figure it's not such a big deal to have a break from strengthening my values when I could be compulsively checking news, sports or other sites instead. This a reminder to me that this is a big deal. learning how to manage my life is my absolute top priority and has to be. I can't afford to think I'm already there, doing better than others or free to relax on applying what I'm learning. What I write on the page has to transfer to my daily life, has to reach into the mundane, has to help me practically manage stress and find meaning in my everyday life. Be real. No bullshit. Effort and application. Integrity. Action.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2011 4:51 am 
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Yesterday I was still feeling a bit off but didn't spend overly long on RN and got the main thing finished on my to-do list. I was going through Jon's Christmas Gift post and in particular the one about forgiving someone when I got a call from that friend of H. I was already feeling pretty raw and emotional as I thinking about this event from my past so I didn't pick up - felt too nervous and just in the wrong frame of mind. I called her back within half an hour after doing some breathing exercises to calm down and talked for a bit, I was nervous and talked too fast without listening enough so felt annoyed with myself after the call. It was a good reminder though that I still have a big task ahead of me in facing my social anxiety. When I thought I might have four people in my house within a couple of hours I felt really nervous and that I wouldn't be 'enough' to keep them entertained, I felt sure I'd disappoint them - especially if they were all young and attractive... so my unhealthy thoughts went anyway. When it turned out they couldn't come I felt so relieved and my emotions changed instantly. Just shows how quickly our perceptions can alter our emotions. I didn't really learn anything new from this but it has emphasised how much I need to build up a positive image of myself - how I need to believe in myself at my core level - really believe that I'm worthy of others attention, love, interest and time. It's time to start confronting this issue head on...

Negative thoughts and limiting beliefs I continue to have about myself
I don't think negatively all the time and the more I live a values based life the more my self respect and belief grows but I sometimes fall back into old thought patterns and ruminate on thoughts such as these.
- I'm too old to be interesting/relevant/worthwhile
- My prematurely greying hair is something to be ashamed of and makes me unattractive
- My receding/thinning hair is a sign of weakness and makes me unattractive
- My slim build means I'm not man enough/weak/insignificant/unattractive
- No woman will find me attractive until I am more muscular, have a six pack and gain weight
- My pale skin is something to be ashamed of and makes me unattractive
- I'm boring
- New people will always be disappointed in me
- People won't like me once they knew the real me
- I'm not a good person, the 'goodness' in me is faked, the badness is real.
- I don't really like other people
- Other people probably think I'm gay
- Attractive girls won't be attracted to me and are out of my league
- Other people probably see me as asexual
- I'm not a real man
- Being single for two years makes me weird and is something to be ashamed of
- No one with high self esteem would find me attractive
- I'm not worthy of a relationship with someone with high self esteem
- I need to embellish my stories and conversation to be interesting to others
- People can sense my neediness and naturally want to escape from it
- I am unworthy of love
- I have way too much baggage to ever be in a successful relationship
- I will never orgasm during intercourse
- I'm full of shit
- I'm a fraud as an artist and can't create anything original/worthwhile/skilled/beautiful
- I'm a hypocrite, dishing out advice to others when my life is hardly enviable
- I'm not as good as confident people
- I'm always going to be socially anxious
- I don't like myself and wish I could be someone more confident, younger, better looking...
- I'm not young/confident/interesting enough to travel the world alone
- I have to be careful not to reveal the real me to anyone or they wouldn't like me
- My friends don't really like me or they wouldn't if they knew what I was really like
- I'm abnormal/weird and will never fit in
- Other people are probably talking about, laughing at or judging me
- I'm too old/awkward/self concious to be seen dancing, having fun, being stupid in public
- I should never do anything to draw attention to myself
- If someone isn't enjoying themselves in my company it is my fault
- My opinions aren't as important as others
- I have to be faster/fitter/more daring than everyone else

Constructive alternative ways of thinking

- I'm too old to be interesting/relevant/worthwhile
This is obviously rubbish. I'm 39 years old and still have possibly half of my life to go or more. Do I look at artists, actors, musicians, friends and family that I respect and who're older than me and think they're not relevant, interesting or worthwhile? Of course not. What keeps people young in spirit is a curiosity about the world and an interest in other people. We all grow old, every single one of us is continually getting older and has to learn to deal with it. It's not easy for anyone. We all have to face death eventually so enjoy life whatever age I currently am while I still have the opportunity to. Artists can go on to create great great work long into their later years. In that regard I have a lifetime ahead of me of creating, of making new friends, discovering new places, foods, experiences. Life is there to be lived and there are people much older than me living it fully. If I maintain the negative way of thinking I will forever limit myself to what I should do appropriate for my age.
Alternative thought: I'm healthy, fit, creative and curious - I can do anything I set my mind to.

- My prematurely greying hair is something to be ashamed of and makes me unattractive
Has any girlfriend ever said they found my grey hair unattractive? Nope, in fact they've used words like distinguished, sexy and said that it suits me. Does grey hair in people I admire lower my opinion of them in any way? No. I respect and admire them for the people they are, for the work they create and the integrity they display. Many men are just as handsome with grey hair as they are with darker hair. It's just not a big deal. Make light of it, embrace it as a part of me and use it as a route to not take myself so seriously and not be so vain. Although greying hair is associated with growing older and old age it isn't exclusive to older people, it's a person's outlook that ages them. Growing older is part of life and the quicker I accept then embrace that then the more at peace I'll be. As for grey hair being unattractive it hasn't exactly put women off George Clooney. If anything it's increased his attractiveness. Confidence, charisma, kindness and integrity are some of the attributes that women find sexy - colour of hair is way down the list.
Alternative thought: My grey hair suits me and many women find it attractive in a man. It helps people remember me and gives me an opportunity to not take myself so seriously by joking about it as I have the maturity to know that it's no big deal - the important stuff that really defines me is internal.

- My receding/thinning hair is a sign of weakness and makes me unattractive
For starters it's not that bad and I have more hair than several of my friends my age. Most men recede or lose their hair at some point so the quicker I get used to it and accept is a part of life the better. I can use it as an opportunity to practice vulnerability - by making light of it I can display my strength to others by showing that I'm comfortable in my own skin (a more attractive trait than a full head of hair) as I know that what defines me is my character, not my physical characteristics.
Alternative thought: My character makes me strong, not my hair. I'll enjoy what I have while I have it but it's no big deal, just something that sits on my head. My personality is what makes me attractive and how I act is what people will ultimately remember me by.

Right, I'll continue this later or tomorrow and will summarise it with a condensed list of alternative affirmations to print out and carry around which I can pull out whenever a negative thought pattern starts.

Just do
Will finish by saying that I made some good progress later yesterday. I was starting to get caught in the loop of wasting time online again so at 3pm I switched the computer off and started drawing even though I didn't feel inspired or particularly want to. The result - by 5pm I'd made a good start on something that evolved naturally and by later in the evening I'd completed a fair chunk of it. Now today I'm excited to take it on to the next stage and it feels really satisfying. Moral of the story - just do it, even if you don't feel like it (perhaps especially when you don't feel like it) and the rewards will come, usually quicker than you think but the long term rewards could be much greater than you think too.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 11, 2011 4:41 am 
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Eeughh... not much of a word just how I feel right now. Pretty shitty. Just took a half hour break to meditate after writing that, I know the tools I can use to make a difference in managing my emotions, sometimes I just need reminded that I have them at my disposal and I do feel a little better after some deep breathing and quieting of the mind.

Part of me wants to continue with the lessons and make sure I'm doing one a day but another part of me feels a bit stuck and believes it's more important to understand where and why I'm stuck and do whatever I need to do to unstick myself, absorb the current lessons and move on when I'm ready.

I don't think I'll continue with the negative thoughts I was dealing with above at the moment. It's something I need to address but I created a bit of a rod for my own back the way I set it out. I think what's best for me will be to come up with a few simple and practical positive affirmations I can refer to rather than a comprehensive list to back up each and every negative thought.

Part of the reason for my stress yesterday and today was after receiving an email from H after I did some work on her site. She was telling me that she's been modelling for an artist, she has such a gift with words that I felt a wave of emotion as I read them - feelings of attraction, fantasy and desire. When I became aware of emotions I stopped any fantasy and reigned in my thoughts but still felt conflicted that I still have some feelings of desire towards her. She is very attractive and I can't imagine not feeling attracted to her but I can't let myself dally around the edges of love addiction again. I'm not obsessing about her but I have crossed the boundaries I set to keep our relationship within the healthy category. Anyway, she also recommended a book and said she thought I would love it. It's by Patti Smith and recounts her early years in New York and her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. I always thought he was gay so didn't know he had a relationship with patti Smith. But turns out they did for a few years before he realised he was gay and it tells of how they maintained a very close friendship until his death from Aids in his early forties. After reading that I felt a real sinking feeling in my stomach, H thinks I'm gay. She knows I've had girlfriends in the past but now suspects I'm actually gay and just haven't accepted it myself. Or so my all or nothing thinking led me to think - I actually have no idea whether she thinks that or not. But it got me paranoid again (which I haven't felt for a while) that maybe I am gay, that maybe I am in denial, that I feel terrified and trapped by my sexuality. That all my future relationships with women are destined to fail, have to fail until I accept and embrace my sexual orientation. This is tiring stuff, exhausting to deal with. Within the space of five minutes I'd gone from a moment of desire and fantasy about a girl to feeling depressed and scared that at my core identity I'm gay and just refusing to accept it.

I keep thinking back to the days that H visited here. On one night we went to the theatre, something I've never really liked but a friend gave us free tickets. It was the interval and we got a drink at the bar. One of the barmen was obviously gay and is just a nice friendly guy too. I felt quite uncomfortable as I thought that he either thinks I'm gay, is attracted to me, will think I'm attracted to him or H will recognise some tension there. When we sat down I felt quite self concious sitting with H. For all intents people might have assumed we were a couple, part of me liked that and part of me felt uncomfortable with it. For one I'm quite a bit older and for two I just didn't feel man enough, good enough, strong, witty or confident enough to be her boyfriend for real. I found this disturbing and depressing. A part of me felt that she could sense this too, that she could see my inner struggles but was in no way judging me, just letting me be who I am.

Also when she stayed here she walked past the kitchen from her shower with just a towel on and smiled a big smile saying good morning as she walked past. I thought at the time that it was quite flirty and I felt turned on by it but in retrospect it could also have been that because she suspects that I'm gay she sees as me non threatening sexually so felt free to not care about just wearing a towel. Ah I don't know, so much of this is based on what others perceptions of me might be and I'll never have any control over that - it's a sure path to madness if I keep trying to second guess what others are thinking about me. I need to find peace within myself. Accept, understand, respect and do what's best for me by acting with integrity. So how am I going to deal with this whole sexuality question now? I don't know. On Saturday I'm going away for a few days with my sister and husband as well as my older cousin and her husband. They have a young son who has came out as gay and the dad's having a really hard time accepting it. J tried to discuss it with him recently but he just couldn't talk about it. So I'll be there on my own with these two couples wondering if they're wondering whether I might be gay seeing I'm single at 39 with no women on the horizon. A recipe for stress if I carry on down that path of paranoia.

The main value I'm meant to be strengthening just now is being absolutely honest with myself and others and I'm having a hard time reconciling this with the whole area of my sexuality. People are often asking if there's any romance on the horizon, trying to set me up and ask about my future plans. The truth is I haven't been in a relationship for just over two years and I can't pretend I'm looking to be in one just now either. The main reason for that is that I know I need to be living a healthy life before I get into another relationship so I feel that I'm hiding my recovery from others as it just feels too personal to talk about. I can only talk about it with my ex who's now a good friend. On the other hand I still have serious doubts about my sexuality which is also a reason I'm wary of entering another relationship - this is also another area I feel that I can't talk about with others, again I've only discussed this with A. So when asked about my singleness I tend to circle around the subject saying I don't want to make the same mistakes, I'm working on myself first etc. This isn't lying but it also isn't giving the whole picture - but maybe that's fine. I wish in some regards everything was out in the open, that it would be a relief, but maybe that might just complicate things more as people might pigeon hole me into a category that I'd find difficult to live with.

In some ways, when I do feel ready to enter a relationship, I wish I could meet quite a tomboy-ish girl. One who was quite fluid in her definition of sexuality and who accepted and loved me as I am. Even if it turns out I might be bisexual I still value monogamy - at least I currently do - not sure what I think of open, poly-amorous relationships. Is all of this writing just me disappearing up my own ass or is it actually of any value. Again, I don't know. I'm hoping it's cathartic, that it's better outside than suppressed within. That it's part of accepting who I am, of being honest and sharing my true self with the world around me. What's important is that I don't let these issues sidetrack me from my recovery, from my values and vision. I have to trust that these things will work themselves out as long as I stay true to myself and my values. I don't need a solution today, I can live with the unknowing, things will get clearer as I move towards my goals.

In the meantime I've copied the boundaries I set up a few weeks ago for my communications with H - I need reminded of them as they're there to protect me and my values.

Boundaries for communicating with H (working on keeping this relationship within the healthy friendship category so I'll be dealing with this differently.)
- I will only communicate with her in a way that I'd be comfortable sharing with a future partner. Visualise copying my future partner into all correspondence.
- Create an instruction document so that she or a colleague can update the site and won't have to rely on me.
- Give myself a reasonable but relatively short time window to complete correspondence (never more than 30 minutes) and stick to it.
- Ask myself "am I trying to impress here, am I being totally honest?" Honesty, not exaggeration should be the rule of thumb.
- Rather than fearing correspondence, use any contact as a proactive opportunity to practice honesty, self respect and respect for her autonomy as an individual.
- When reading her stories stay honest/realistic with any praise and don't be afraid to give practical advice.
- Be professional in how I design and run her site. No hidden agendas, do the work well and on time for my own self respect.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 11, 2011 10:39 am 
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Great work on the last couple lessons and posts. Your dedication to changing yourself really shines through. With continued effort, you can truly transform. :g:

Quote:
how I need to believe in myself at my core level - really believe that I'm worthy of others attention, love, interest and time


Why do you NOT believe in yourself and NOT believe you're worthy of others' attention and love? Consider this. Get to the root of that...and believing in yourself will feel much more natural, because you'll see that the former is based on false perceptions of yourself.

Quote:
Part of me wants to continue with the lessons and make sure I'm doing one a day but another part of me feels a bit stuck and believes it's more important to understand where and why I'm stuck and do whatever I need to do to unstick myself, absorb the current lessons and move on when I'm ready.


As long as your motivation continues to be to change yourself and push yourself forward...this is fine. Work on getting yourself unstuck. I came to a similar feeling about a month or so ago, and haven't really been working on the lessons since then, but have still been making forward progress. Make sure you understand things before moving forward.

Quote:
I don't think I'll continue with the negative thoughts I was dealing with above at the moment. It's something I need to address but I created a bit of a rod for my own back the way I set it out. I think what's best for me will be to come up with a few simple and practical positive affirmations I can refer to rather than a comprehensive list to back up each and every negative thought.


For me, what I found more helpful than positive affirmations has been simply taking the time to analyze and confront my negative thoughts as they have come up. Almost inevitably, after taking the time to analyze them, I realize that they're based on false beliefs or perceptions. And after I understand this, they tend to go away. Basically over the last month, my meditation practice has made me focused in systematically isolating and eliminating my unhealthy thoughts. Slowly, my mind has become more and more clear and my stress has just dissipated.

Quote:
After reading that I felt a real sinking feeling in my stomach, H thinks I'm gay. She knows I've had girlfriends in the past but now suspects I'm actually gay and just haven't accepted it myself. Or so my all or nothing thinking led me to think - I actually have no idea whether she thinks that or not. But it got me paranoid again (which I haven't felt for a while) that maybe I am gay, that maybe I am in denial, that I feel terrified and trapped by my sexuality.


This obsessive fear about being gay is clearly what drives some of your compulsive love rituals. As I mentioned in previous posts to you, this was one of my worst, most stressful OCD rituals, which finally resolved itself after considerable meditative focus only within the last two weeks. The thoughts constantly scared me: "I am gay", "Maybe I'm attracted to men," "At my core, I'm really homosexual, I'm just avoiding it," etc. This created a significant fear within me...which then drove my compulsive rituals, as I wanted to somehow "prove" to myself that I was actually attracted to women. I realized eventually that it was the stress and fear of this that contributed to my rituals.

I can say with near certainty, if you are having these fears, you aren't gay.

The way I got over this was through some lateral thinking, combined with my Zen meditation practice which seems to have a neat way of naturally unwrapping your mind. I thought about it from another angle: have I ever actually been attracted to a man? Have I ever wanted to have a loving relationship with a man? What about kissing a man? "No, obviously not," my mind followed all these direct questions. Then I also asked: "Maybe I'm bisexual?" "No, definitely not," continued that thought. Yet the fear that I was gay still persisted, thus making me aware of this obvious paradox. This led me to realize that the problem existed somewhere else. Which it did. So I decided to just quiet my mind, meditate, and let thoughts come up as they did.

The first thought that came up as the issue was in my mind was: "You're insecure." This made sense. I was insecure about my sexuality, but that wasn't the exact answer. A few days later, another thought came up while I was meditating and my love addict thoughts were in my head: "You don't need a boyfriend." This created a bit of fear in me, as I was thinking about relationships at the time and how I wasn't ready for one, so I was thinking, shouldn't the thought be, I don't need a girlfriend right now? But, thinking about it objectively, the statement was accurate: I don't need a boyfriend, because I wouldn't want a boyfriend. Finally, the last thought that came up that I think finally unlocked the puzzle was: "my dad." I thought this was also strange, but suddenly it all made sense.

I have always wanted my dad to be proud of me since I was young. And I always felt like I was insecure about my sexuality, due to my OCD thoughts about being gay. The key was that I always thought that telling my dad I was gay would make him and my family not proud of me, even though I knew I wasn't gay. As I always suspected, the problem had to do with how I thought it would make my family feel about me, not my actual sexuality. I'm 100% confident now that's I'm heterosexual. Which, down deep, I knew all along.

Now, my answers are not your answers, and my reasons are not your reasons for this fear, obviously. But I'm convinced that you CAN figure this out. Keep meditating, and when a fearful thought comes up, take time to analyze it and confront it. And if you don't figure it out, just let it pass by. With continued work, it will reveal yourself. At your core, I think you know the truth. But I can almost guarantee you: if you are afraid that you're gay, but KNOW that you're attracted to women, the problem lies in some other unresolved issue within your consciousness.

Quote:
One of the barmen was obviously gay and is just a nice friendly guy too. I felt quite uncomfortable as I thought that he either thinks I'm gay, is attracted to me, will think I'm attracted to him or H will recognise some tension there.


See, now, I would think: so what if he does? If you're confident with your sexuality, you will realize that you have a choice in how you express it. Such confidence and understanding of your sexuality can mean that you're actually filled with POSITIVE emotions by this, rather than fear; it could be thought of as somewhat flattering that someone finds you attractive, whether male or female. That doesn't mean you have to have sex with them, or that you'd even want to, because that'd be against your own values. It's a choice that YOU control. Again, the problem lies internally, not externally.

Quote:
People are often asking if there's any romance on the horizon, trying to set me up and ask about my future plans.


Remember: don't worry about what other people think, or want for you. The most important thing right now is that you get to the core of your love addict behaviours. Trying to get into a relationship before you've resolved those will only cause more problems. Strangely enough, I no longer WANT a relationship at this point (truthfully, not just intellectually) because there's other things I'd like to do with my life at this point, such as figure out who I am and build my identity. I figure that I'll know in the future when the time is right.

Anyways, I hope that this was helpful, and keep on meditating - that's what has really helped me help myself. :g:

FT

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"It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell." - Buddha


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2011 7:51 am 
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Recovery Mentor

Joined: Sun Mar 30, 2008 6:24 pm
Posts: 569
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Great work on the last couple lessons and posts. Your dedication to changing yourself really shines through. With continued effort, you can truly transform.

Thanks for the considered feedback and encouragement FT, been one of the tougher weeks I've had so glad the dedication's still shining through. Not surprised it's been tough as my injury means I've had to stay home and rest and haven't been able to do many of the social and physical activities that help to balance my life. Drawing has been the chief source of emotional stimulation but needs balanced out with some more activities such as writing, meditation, reading and watching a film or documentary which I've latterly been starting to do.

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Why do you NOT believe in yourself and NOT believe you're worthy of others' attention and love?

Thought about this last night and I realised I'm still having a hard time forgiving myself for some of my past compulsive activities. I'm also still holding on to a lot of shame from being abused sexually and emotionally during my childhood and teenage years. I talked all these things through with a counsellor a few months ago which was a relief but I've not yet fully forgiven myself or completely let go of my past mistakes. I also took on board negative comments from my parents over the years which need offloaded. Just found a whole chapter on self-acceptance in my CBT workbook so I'm going to work through it over the coming days and seek to get to the root of it all.

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Make sure you understand things before moving forward.

I know this section on boundaries will be incredibly useful (some of my boundaries have already changed several long-term unhealthy habits) and I want to ingrain and apply these lessons further to my day to day life as part of it's still stuck at the intellectual level.

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Basically over the last month, my meditation practice has made me focused in systematically isolating and eliminating my unhealthy thoughts. Slowly, my mind has become more and more clear and my stress has just dissipated.

Glad to hear you're getting real benefits from your meditation :g: I'm still a meditation novice and so far have been using it more to quieten the mind, calm me down and just feel better without stressing about all my thoughts. I tried sitting for 20-30 minutes this morning but am not sure how to focus on eliminating unhealthy thoughts - the way I've practised so far is to empty my mind of thoughts or just let them pass when they arise while focusing on my breathing. Any tips for meditating as a method for correcting unhealthy thoughts and/or connecting with my core? Are you consciously bringing the thoughts you want to deal with into your mind once it's in a quiet place?

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This obsessive fear about being gay is clearly what drives some of your compulsive love rituals

When it's laid out like that I can see what you mean. The need to prove to myself and others that I'm not gay can set me off obsessing about a girl.

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As I mentioned in previous posts to you, this was one of my worst, most stressful OCD rituals

Yes, I just looked back over what you shared about it a couple of months ago. Something else clicked as I read over both this time. The stressful OCD thoughts and questions you'd continually ask yourself reminded me of a different situation I have with very similar symptoms. I was round at friends at the weekend and one of their kids was there who's now around twelve. I'm good with kids in general (high tolerance for lots of running and jumping around!) and always had a laugh with this girl over the years. My ex girlfriend used to joke and call her my other girlfriend as she was always so keen to see me cause I was good fun. However I was often hyper sensitive to how others might see it. I would sometimes get paranoid that her mum and especially her dad might be uneasy that she enjoyed being around me. 'What if he thinks I might have ulterior and sinister motives?' and similar thoughts would enter my head. This caused me a lot of stress - our culture is often suspicious of male nursery/children's workers for similar reasons - so I would get paranoid that I might be eyed with suspicion too. I would sometimes intentionally stop playing/talking with the kids as a way of countering those fears. Now she's at that awkward age of about to become a teenager I've found myself withdrawing from her more due to my paranoid and obsessive thoughts. She gets quite giggly around me and still wants to have a laugh but I mostly feel uncomfortable around her - frustrating as I don't want her to feel excluded or ignored either. I feel self concious talking to her as I worry that others will think it's inappropriate. Even writing that down I remembered that when other male friends of mine were talking to her I didn't think it was inappropriate at all, they just seemed genuinely interested in how she was doing as we've known her all her life - I create a non judgemental rule for others yet a condemning, harsh rule for myself. I could be wrong to link this with the obsessive gay thoughts but I think I can see a link between having paranoid thoughts about something I would never do at my core and feelings of fear that others may perceive that I could.

I can see that much of this fear and stress is based on false beliefs and perceptions. When around children it's highly important to protect the parent's and their child's boundaries as well as upholding and maintaining our own. It's natural and healthy to have a heightened awareness of that. What I need to eliminate are any fear based obsessive thoughts as they're not based on any truth about me. I know absolutely at my core that I would never do anything to harm a child. That is the truth that I need to respond to any obsessive thoughts.

So how can I apply this to obsessive thoughts about being gay? Not sure. I can't yet say at my core I would never want to be in a romantic relationship with a man as it still feels too clouded. I know I'm definitely attracted to women but still can't unravel my feelings about same sex attraction. There's now been quite a gap from when I last looked at porn and fantasized but it might still be too soon to say that I've worked out the difference between what I find attractive and what I find exiting. Though I think that when I have moments where I think about same sex attraction it's always on a sexual/physical level and has an exciting/unknown/dangerous element to it. I can't imagine a romantic relationship with a man or wanting one but that could also be because I've just never experienced it yet or allowed myself to be open to it. Like anyone prone to compulsion I want answers now but this might be more of a gradual process of peeling away layers to my true sexual identity. Even then I might have to come to find peace without the black and white answer I want.

The worst example of obsessive gay thoughts are when I've been in a relationship. It's a horrible feeling to have thoughts that you're trapped in a relationship where you'll never be able to fully give or receive sexual fulfilment or real intimacy because you're with the wrong gender. That's some serious stress to take on for anyone. So there's no doubt I need to work this out before I do decide to seek out another relationship. I don't want to put myself or anyone else through that kind of stress or pain again.

I decided to ask my ex last night whether she thought I was straight/gay or bi seeing she knows me probably better than anyone. It was hard to ask as we've not talked about this really for a few months but it also felt good to be vulnerable and honest. She said she was very surprised when I first mentioned it as she thought I was straight and still thinks I am. She also said that I shouldn't worry about it though and to just be myself. She agreed that the deeper issues I need to deal with are my self esteem and low self worth and that my sexuality will take care of itself.

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I decided to just quiet my mind, meditate, and let thoughts come up as they did.

This answers my question some more about your meditation technique. I'm going to continue meditating and allowing any thoughts about this to come up, learn to listen to myself. many moons ago I used to be a Christian and would sometimes meditate, I was taught that God speaks to us in a still, small voice which might sound like our own voice but comes from somewhere deeper. Maybe all I was doing was communicating with my core, listening to what I really needed deep down.

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I have always wanted my dad to be proud of me since I was young

Interesting to read how your thoughts about sexuality led you back to your dad. I'm aware that the causes and answers to my own situation will be different but I think there may some similarities here. I've always perceived that my mum called the shots in our house when I was growing up, often through passive-aggressive behaviours. She still does in many ways. My dad would get home from work and my mum would be silent, obviously stewing about something. We'd sit around the table in silence while my dad would look at us like he didn't know what was wrong with mum either. I didn't learn how to talk about feelings as I never saw it from my parents. I learned to be scared of women, that you should try to never upset them and always be on the lookout for signs that you'd done something wrong. So I was angry at my dad for not comforting/communicating with my mum and angry at my mum for seemingly being the source of so much tension.

Like you I thought that any sign of not being straight/masculine would make my dad not proud of me. To this day he labels anything that isn't tough, manly or traditional as poofy. He doesn't do hugs, rarely gives encouraging words or affirms his love. But that's okay, he grew up without receiving much love from his own father too. It's up to me to chart my own path to self acceptance. But I still harbour a lot of resentment towards my dad for not being man enough in his marriage to be on equal footing with mum and for not showing enough expressions of love to us. He once said he was scared to come into a room at a house I was staying at in college in case I might be with a guy. He said he didn't know how would take it. I felt ashamed that he would even consider it and I think that stuck with me. So I've always associated being gay with weakness, rejection and being a disappointment to my family. Any aspect of my personality I realised was feminine, caring, expressive or emotional had to be suppressed so as to keep the approval of my dad (and other men). Sports, gambling, drinking, girlfriends were all good but anything else meant I was rejecting his approval (which I consciously did at college).

Just getting this out because I'm still holding onto it to some degree inside. I want to live in the present and not get stuck because of some old faulty thought patterns from my past.

Actually had a horrible nightmare about my dad last night where he did some really terrible things to my mum an sister. Don't know if that was a form of anger coming out towards him or something else but it was really disturbing and couldn't shake it.

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If you're confident with your sexuality, you will realize that you have a choice in how you express it.

And that's the place I want to be at. Where I don't associate my own expression of sexuality and others as something to be uptight about. It just is and it's a positive thing that can reinforce my values and sense of self.

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Don't worry about what other people think, or want for you

Of course I'm always worrying about this and I need to overcome it to transition to a healthier life. This could be a good time to work through the entire CBT workbook as it seems to cover so much of these issues that I need to confront.

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Anyways, I hope that this was helpful, and keep on meditating - that's what has really helped me help myself.

Thanks again for the feedback. I'll keep on meditating and working through the issues for sure . My emotions are closer to the surface than they probably ever have been since I was a child so I feel in a good place to work through them, look at and understand my thoughts and beliefs about myself and correct them where necessary.


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