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This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On the Habit of Acting like a Wallflower

Today I told my therapist it wasn't working out.  Some culturally influenced part of me wants to make it a "big, comic deal" and use phrases akin to a break up.  I'm going to refrain from doing that though.  I'm not going to say that I said, "It's me, not you" or anything like that, except there, where I just did say that and must have still needed to get it out of my system.  Sit-com writing aside, I can tell you what happened and why and more importantly, what my point is. 
Of course my story can't begin at the beginning, because that wouldn't be the whole story.  I have to begin at yesterday and still may veer back even further into my mentally logged history.  Yesterday, I forwent the indoor prenatal workout DVD and opted for a walk outdoors instead.  I drove to my favorite local walking place, Twanoh State park, did a little stretching and lunging, and began on the trail.  The light was magnificent.  The air was moist and cool but the sun, being hot, made a hazy mist when it broke through the hundred foot tall canopy.  I encountered a handful, a nest perhaps, of small black snakes with yellow stripes the lengths of their shiny bodies.  I stopped to watch them, a little skittish, but friendly "hello" passed my lips and then I moved on. 

The incline is pretty steep on the first mile of the walk.  I had brought my i-pod in case I wanted to zone out to music, but wound up just carrying it the whole way so my ears could be in sync with what I was watching.  As the incline gave way to switch-backs my heart pumped hard, I concentrated on deep breaths, good posture, and being able to carry on a conversation.  The prenatal workout DVD tells me to check to see if I can carry on a conversation, because if I can't, it says, I'm working too hard.  So I began talking to myself.  I started timidly with a "how you doin?  doin good" check in and affirmation.  That talking aloud felt good.  I spend much of my days quietly with the occasional commands for rambunctious doggies bursting through.  I kept right on talking to myself, just saying my internal thoughts aloud.  I felt freed somehow; like a mental space that would have been reserved for this internal dialogue had been cleared up just by vocalizing it all.

The first thing I talked to myself about was today's impending session of therapy.  Last week I met with "Doc" after not seeing her for three weeks due to visiting friends and out of town traveling.  The session felt entirely lackluster and left me wondering what the point of continuing with such an event would be.  In my dialogue with myself I uncovered some habits to delve into.  "I'm really easy going," I said aloud as I hiked further up the switch-backs.  The truth is I am really easy-going, but I can also be downright chameleon-like.  I remain on the fringe of every new situation in order to assess it and adjust my personality and stature accordingly.  I don't think about doing this, I just habitually do it.  I have a subconscious need to seem always cool, a need to be accepted in every circle I encounter.  I don't particularly care for this behavior, though it does have some smart advantages to it, such as: I can often communicate with strangers, I am able to feel safe in most unfamiliar situations, I can seem diplomatic all the time.  However, this habit also makes me look flighty, like in situations I've watched and decided I don't want to partake in - I'll quietly escape such situations, with no explanation to those around me.  It also prevents me from having authentic experiences because I hesitate, waiting to see what is acceptable to the majority present.  Additional to that it prevents those around me from getting an authentic version of "me" from the outset.  Once I feel safe in any situation, or if the situation happens to be one that encourages free expression and exploration, I'm able to let down this protective wall papering and expose myself more.  I wonder now if my expression then is truly authentic, or if it is tailored to the "free expressionism" of the event.

This is an ongoing dialogue for me and my closest advisers or teachers and as such I have no resolution to it now.  One outcome, that seems particularly ironic to me, is that I'm often told that I have a very strong personality or sense of confidence about me.  My response, when I give one in such a dialogue, is that that's exactly part of "the problem" - I seem confident but I am keeping my distance due to an innate fear of rejection.  Additionally I have feared that it might keep really great people at a distance from me because I seem somehow unapproachable.

Visit again tomorrow for more on The Talk with the therapist...

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