Learning To Be Selfish

I don’t know who swore first — me, or my therapist.

But the feeling was mutual: there was a point where my awkwardness began to melt away, and more and more I found myself able to be me.

I’m not sure if she does this on purpose, but my therapist naturally inserts her very being into conversations. I am able to glean little bits and pieces of her life from things she says, and the way she acts. This is not a bad thing to me. I don’t know if it’s at all normal, but I like it – I like being able to engage with a real person, instead of a textbook, and it is good to feel like the therapy process is not just some stiff ganging up on me and telling me how to live my life; it’s refreshing to be able to just connect with someone and be myself.

I started therapy for a handful of reasons, but one of the main reasons was for anxiety. And even with that knowledge, it took me a while to not be anxious about my therapist. Sometimes you end up finding a therapist that isn’t good for you; what if that was happening to me? What if I had picked someone who just wasn’t on the same wavelength as me, and I was just wasting money by going and sitting and telling her about myself?

But something finally clicked in my head these past few sessions. Possibly it’s because I switched to twice a month instead of once a month… I never quite felt like I was getting everything out over the span of a month, I felt like I wasn’t conveying what I was supposed to convey and so was not helping my therapist help me. Ha. How’s that for anxiety?

But therapy is finally starting to pay off. I’ve got a long way to go, but after a while, some of this stuff starts to sink in.

It’s funny about therapy… I know plenty of people who scoff at the idea of sitting and talking about feelings with a person they don’t know. And that was completely me a few years ago… I refused to believe that talking to my friends about my thoughts and emotions wouldn’t provide the same comfort.

But that was because my perception of a therapist was someone who listens. I didn’t think that a therapist could tell me anything I didn’t already know about myself. Now I realize, regardless of what I know, it is the matter of taking action that’s the problem. Deep down, I don’t trust myself — I’m not willing to follow my own advice.

So a therapist is part accountability, and part… well… teacher. She tells me that a lot of emotional stability is conditioning, working to continually correct my thought process until it naturally goes in the direction I want it to. That’s wicked hard to do on your own. But the goal is to eventually be able to do it without help.

I do feel like this blog has gotten a bit me-centric lately, and I almost want to apologize for that. But I will hold my tongue… I never promised that I would treat my readers to issues only pertaining to them, and 80% of what I say in this blog is me just sound-boarding my thoughts and ideas. I realize that may not be what people want. I also realize it’s what I need.

I’ve always announced that perhaps an additional benefit to writing about personal stuff is that someone else may read and gain something from it. But I have begun to realize something else: I didn’t see that as an additional benefit, I hoped for it to be the benefit.

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Maybe my relief in finding a therapist whose personality I can see is because I like focusing on others instead of myself. And maybe my hope that others will relate to my posts is really just a hope that people will take the me out of what they read, and insert them.

Oftentimes, I feel uncomfortable taking ownership of something that’s solely about me because I feel that people may not be interested in it, or that it’s selfish in some way, and essentially discredit my own personal journey in hopes that someone else will find their focus. But is it so wrong for a personal blog to focus on the person who writes it? It’s like writing a story… You obviously must recognize the audience you’re writing for, but if you don’t gain anything yourself in the process, why write it? To some extent, the act of writing should be selfish.

I’ve got a long way to go with therapy, but I’m learning more and more every day that sometimes I just need to working on satisfying my own needs, instead of freaking out about everyone else around me. Sometimes there will be things in my life that no one cares about, and maybe I shouldn’t hesitate to write about those things like I have in the past. Maybe I should just let the chips fall where they will, and if one happens to land in someone else’s cup, then lucky them. But otherwise, they’re my chips.

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Hope Sucks

I don’t get why everyone’s so in love with the concept of hope.

Seriously. Everybody’s all like, “Don’t give up hope,” and “Without hope, we’re nothing.” But can we just take a moment to differentiate between the words, want, hope, and fantasy?

Want. Noun. A desire for something.

Hope. Noun. A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

Fantasy. Noun. The faculty or activity of imagining things, especially things that are impossible or improbable.

So the difference between want and hope is expectation. I could want a million dollars, but I don’t expect to get it. Therefore, I do not hope for a million dollars. But I do hope in the sun rising. That is a desire, and an expectation.

There are two differences between hope and fantasy. One is the outcome – how probable is it? Do I want a million dollars? Sure. Do I sometimes imagine what it would be like to have a million dollars? Yeah, sure. But the idea of having a million dollars is highly improbable, so again, I don’t hope for it. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, it is very possible that the sun won’t rise tomorrow, but it is more likely that it will… So I don’t fantasize that the sun will rise, I hope that it will.

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The other difference between fantasy and hope is that fantasy doesn’t include expectation. Pay attention, because at first glance, this concept looks the same as the previous one. I can fantasize about having a million dollars, and I don’t actually believe I’m going to have a million dollars. But what about those who fantasize realistic things, but don’t expect them to happen? For instance, you could apply for a job, and be fully qualified for that job, but not get it, because there is also someone else that is just as qualified for that job. There are some who would hope for the job, and some who would fantasize about getting the job – they want and imagine it happening, but they don’t believe it will actually happen. Okay, so maybe that’s a self-confidence thing – it’s still possible that they could have gotten the job, but they don’t believe in themselves enough to have hope. But it proves my point: imagination does not necessarily equate to expectation.

Adversely, sometimes you can fantasize about something so much that it starts to seem like more of a possibility in your head, and so your fantasy transforms into a hope. And that is the most dangerous thing to ever happen.

This is what really messes me up. You see, wants are perfectly natural, and human. And so are fantasies. And so is hope, right? Except that sometimes, hope is more soul-crushing than anything else… just because you expect something doesn’t mean that your expectation is justified. I could expect a million dollars, but that would be so unrealistic, so why would I do that?

It’s a difficult game to play, because, as I said before, a lot of the time we don’t hope for things that are possible, because we can’t understand that they are possible. And so in those moments, it’s great for someone to push you to hope. But nine times out of ten, my wants are fantasies. I don’t want to be told to hope in those circumstances. Hope is hurtful in those circumstances.

Some call this pessimism. Okay, fine, if there’s truth in that, then I’d rather be pessimistic than continually upset when life doesn’t match my expectations. But if you apply for a job, and you don’t have hope that you will get the job, and you do get it, how awesome is that feeling? Your fantasies just became a reality! I wish that I thought all of my wants were fantasies, because my life would feel like a fairy tale. But that, I’ve been told, is more hurtful than helpful, in the long run.

This is something I’m struggling with hardcore right now. I don’t want to expect unrealistic things, but if I don’t expect anything at all, then I get taken advantage of. I need to have standards. I need to understand what is realistic. But a lot of the time, I can’t tell whether a want is realistic until I see the outcome in retrospect. And so begins the anxiety.

So let’s push ourselves to have wants, and to have realistic expectations, and to be very careful about keeping those things separate. Sometimes they do align, sure. But let them align naturally, and not because we force them to. Hope is only helpful when it’s reasonable.