How do you convince a part of your brain that seems unaccessible by cognitive function, yet holds beliefs that are affecting your life poorly? The combination of two such "unalterable" opinions has me currently locked into a course that will exacerbate, not solve, some very long-lasting problems.
Through therapy and a great deal of thought, I've realized that there are two subjects on which my undercore (for lack of a better word: it seems to suit things better than unconscious or hindbrain) does not seem to be able to budge, despite the fact that my intellect has tried to exert a great deal of effort over years of my life to alter it. No matter how much I mentally batter at the gates, it feels almost like a phildickian
reality split in my brain: my intellect can fully accept a position and know that it's the right and more healthy way to feel, but that doesn't affect my undercore's certainty that the opposite position is true.
The first issue is that I am revulsed by my physical body. I'm morbidly obese with a very long road to hoe back to "normal". My intellect understands the 'reality' of knowing that I'm not horrid, that there are others far worse in appearance due to malformity and so on, and that a woman could look at me and perhaps see something
I don't that would make me pleasant in appearance to her. Furthermore, I have known women in love with fat men — and there's been no disagreement in my head between intellect and undercore that those women actually did love the fat men they loved. Acknowledging a reality for others and yet saying that that very same reality does not apply to you is irrational, but that undercore doesn't decide things rationally, and it nonetheless holds as unrevokable reality that my
obesity is so very disgusting that I could not possibly
be a focal point of romantic interest to anyone. And as unkind as it is, while my intellect
is really pretty kink-tolerant, my undercore holds a pretty poor opinion of the kink wherein obesity is sexy
To clarify: yes, I can anticipate women responding below to this that their boyfriend is quite overweight and they love him. The problem is that my intellect
reads, understands, and adopts those words; the undercore doesn't seem to have any sort of input mechanism by which I can affect its beliefs. My intellect
can understand that there are people with horrifying deformities who are loved (warning: tragic photos linked to in MeFi story)
and even made love to; again, this undercore doesn't seem to want to move. This has the sum effect of all
of me being utterly blind to any signals of romantic attraction a woman might be giving me. Since the undercore has said that a woman cannot be attracted to my bulk, any possible signs go into the bitbucket, just as if purple disappeared from my life. I seem to be nigh-autistic (no offense intended, but it seems an apt metaphor) when it comes to the hidden "language" of romance — I simply seem to have no (or, perhaps, some but very little) ability to differentiate a girl flirting with me from a girl just being nice to me.
The second issue is that this undercore seem to believe that making myself open and vulnerable is a one-to-one ratio for emotional pain. In the past 10 years, the three short-term relationships I've had — really, the only ones of my life — have all ended with abrupt, painful, reamed-out "jab the fork in the nuts" kind of endings. I was first good friends with a girl in college who I realized didn't treat me nearly as well as I loved her. I ended the friendship for my own sake. A few years later, I met a girl on the subway in a classic movie-romance scenario: she was reading a book by my favorite author. We talked for hours without realizing the time that had passed, it was all quite classic. Then, one day, she just stopped writing; looking over our past interactions for a clue, I found buried in an earlier e-mail a sentence telling me she sometimes tended to be very social and then hide. I licked my wounds and eventually tried to open up again. A year that was absolute stark flipping hell (for non-romantic reasons) followed, but life upswung: I found a nice job, and a cute girl at said job who was charming, intellectual, well-read, and sending tons of signals (a viewpoint corroborated by MeFites in a past thread). It turned out she wasn't, though, and that entire thing fell apart painfully over the months after that, even despite attempts to swallow my pride and keep the friendship going.
Consequently, this undercore now can't be shaken from the belief that this screwy chance-cycle isn't going to screw me over every
time I make myself vulnerable to love (or even friendship), since it's screwed me over each time I've made myself vulnerable to same before (cf. learned helplessness
). I'm finding that if I'm in a situation where my mind is urging me to open myself up to risk, terror results. That sort of "closure, protect-vulnerability instinct" now seems to be stronger than even the parts of me I can influence by intellect and rational thinking. (What's more, there are rational
arguments for hopelessness that enlist my intellect as well: the dangerous thought of how few relationships actually seem to survive — the number of relationships where people bail, and the percentage that make it past marriage's initial hiccups to stability, for example. Or the thought of how it feels certain that a woman might flee for her life once she becomes aware of my utter lack of relationship experience and physical experience. If it's taken most of my life to get to Relationship Chance #1, would it take the rest of my life to get to Relationship Chance #2?)
The problems these two issues have created, aside from their mere existence? I have never been with a woman, never had a long-term relationship. I've not even really made out that much, which inspires insanity in today's hypersexualized world. I've French-kissed. And although I've done a pretty good job of living my life alone, I have a very deep-seated loneliness and desire for companionship — not just for what I could receive, but for what I could give. These issues have affected my ability to hope; I used to believe that things had at least a chance of working out someday and that gave me enough power to push past the "closure, protect-vulnerability instinct," but now that instinct rules the roost. My intellect recognizes that if these precepts continue to rule my behavior, my fears run the risk of becoming self-fulfilling; that's why I want to make a course correction now. But given that the undercore seems to have no input mechanism to alter its beliefs, I'm not sure of how to go about changing things, since it seems to have the power to override cognitive-based actions.
Some codas that didn't fit in anywhere else: (i)
I am in therapy, and my therapist has agreed wih me that Ask MeFi has resulted in some really intelligent and meaningful answers before. (ii)
I am not on antidepressants, and am very loathe to consider them except as a last resort, since they seem to harm others more often than they help; I won't rule them entirely out, but dislike the idea intensely. (iii)
I am aware enough of my own behavior on those few dates I've had to know that I am not doing any big no-nos: no overt or subtle acts of desperation or trying to get close too fast, etc. Pleasant conversations, showing interest in her life and interests, etc. — I don't think I've broken any major tenets.