Teaching the Non-Rational Part of Yourself that Risk Isn't Always Pain?
March 20, 2007 5:10 PM   Subscribe

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.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

The universe is inherently probabilistic in nearly all aspects. The two certainties are, firstly, that you will one day have no opportunities, and secondly, that opportunities rejected will never be realised. You have to force yourself to take chances before you die, because after that you don't get any more. That's all there is and there isn't anything else. This is not depressing: it transcends the human concepts of good and evil and depressing and uplifting to form a basis for all existence. It's a law of physics (the second law of thermodynamics).

Also try Slim·Fast.
posted by thirteenkiller at 5:28 PM on March 20, 2007 [5 favorites]

It seems to me that you are over thinking things. Introspection and self-analysis can be very healthy and constructive if taken in moderation. However, it's impossible to solve your problems, even ones that pertain to your personality, without some action in the real world. As you have realised, your 'undercore' doesn't respond very well to rationale. What you need to do is take small, concrete steps to alter your behaviour. And that's really the crux of what you're trying to achieve - behavioural modification. Do you have friends? (In the real world - online doesn't count.) Go and make some. If you don't know how to, join a book club, sports league, bridge club, cooking class, unicycling club, chess club, or professional organization. It might be helpful to make it based around an activity that you enjoy doing. Start to talk to people. Talk to the least intimidating and most friendly and like-yourself person there. Take it step by step (remember, you can only modify your behaviour in small, concrete steps). Eventually you will befriend females. It's far easier to find a girlfriend if you have female friends. It also makes you less desperate. The idea here is to increase the pool of potential girlfriend candidates.

In the meantime, continue to diet and exercise (again, small, concrete, achievable steps). Try to enjoy yourself (I know it's difficult to believe, but it's possible to make yourself enjoy exercise). You will feel more confident if you are successfully working on becoming less fat, and confidence is more important than your outward appearance.

Try to enjoy yourself. Happiness and joy are states of mind. Try to see the ridiculous in everyday life. Force yourself to smile! Fake it until you make it, no matter how miserable you feel.

Lastly, don't worry so much about being inexperienced. Any girl worth being with will see it as cute. Despite what the media tells you, there are many many people out there who've never had sex or fooled around.

You are approaching this problem as one big one. Look at it as many small ones.

Small, concrete, achievable steps. You can do it!
posted by sid at 5:39 PM on March 20, 2007 [4 favorites]

The core of your question seems to me to be: "How do I take control of myself?" Practice.

What do you want? Work on it, every day, as hard as you can. Spend more time exercising. Use positive self-talk or obtain some reliable outside validation. Do something you love that is good for you, like a longer shower, or a quiet cup of tea, or pleasure reading. Structure your life around building a road to the place where you love and respect yourself so much, that you become a brave individual who sees the world as a place under dominion to your capabilities and not beset with risk. Write down all those thing you want to be. Smarter, fitter, more outgoing... and then write down something that a person like that does. Remind yourself all the time to do those things. Me, I want to be like people who "have it together" and I think of those people as people who are in great shape with clean houses and a good balance of fun and work. I have an actual checklist of things to do each day that will make me match that profile. It's a sort of "act it till you are it" technique.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:41 PM on March 20, 2007

On preview, following up what thirteenkiller said, look into MediFast shakes. The key here is 'Medi', as in medically supervised. Your doctor prescribes it and then monitors your progress. It's fairly expensive but I've known people who've had spectacular results with it.
posted by sid at 5:42 PM on March 20, 2007

Thinking only takes you to the brink of doing. Thinking about thinking takes you farther from that brink. All happiness depends on adopting behaviors that take you in the direction you want to go.

If you want love or even companionship, you need to go in that direction, not think about it. Simple, simple strategies, consistent and constantly applied, are best. Begin by meeting 100 new people, in the next month. That's it. Male or female, or undecided, or meh, meet 100 people, such that you know their names, they probably know yours, and you know at least 3 facts about them, that you could recall if you saw their face, or were asked about them. Yes, this will involve you introducing yourself 3 times a day. You'll need to do that, and the practice will do you good. You'll need to make at least 3 verifiable, fact based observations about each of those 3 people, each day. (A: "Mary has blue eyes." B: "Mary has only been working in this shop for 4 months." C: "Mary is from Shreveport, which I know because she explained this when I noticed her accent." and/or A: "Greg wears khaki pants to work everyday (they're part of the uniform)." B: "Greg has an unusual collection of belt buckles, which he like to wear with those khaki pants." C: "Greg smokes.")

At the end of a month of this, you'll be much more practiced in introducing yourself, and you'll be somewhat more observant of the world around you, and the people who populate it. Out of those 100 people, you might even have a new acquaintance, or even, possibly, a casual friend. More and better friends result from applying the same simple technique for longer periods, and working, using other simple techniques, to cultivate those people who you discover, and who discover you, through nothing more complex than this.

Yes, it's a numbers game. Yes, you're behind.

Get to doing.
posted by paulsc at 5:48 PM on March 20, 2007 [5 favorites]

Don't like being fat?


To paraphrase the Big Yin: I've been fat, and I've been slim. Slim wins.

Now, if only I could persuade my undercore to get with the program :-) It is, as you mention, a long row to hoe. Well worth it, though. I'm finding as I get older that the hoe doesn't work as well, and the row is getting longer, so it's worth getting stuck into as quick as you can.

With a bit less flipness: there's a damn good reason your undercore is telling you it's not OK to be morbidly obese. It's because it's not OK to be morbidly obese.

If you can achieve an emotional and intellectual separation between My Physical Body, which should be filed under "unconditionally acceptable", and The Condition Of My Physical Body, which should be filed under "troublesome, possibly repugnant, needs concerted effort to fix" you'll likely get less fear and nagging, and more help, out of your undercore.

I'm sorry I can't advise much on the vulnerability-leads-to-pain issue, except to note that invulnerability is not an effective way to avoid horrible pain; it just changes its character. Sometimes, life just sucks, for whatever reason. That's not awful or unacceptable - that's just the human condition.

Of course, sometimes life is just sweep-you-off-your-feet flat-out wonderful, too. The trouble with going all insular and invulnerable is that you can pretty easily cut yourself off from most of that, and end up miserable most of the time. Which is why it's worth diving into openness and vulnerability with your eyes wide open, knowing full well that it may end in tears, and doing it anyway.

Tears are OK.
posted by flabdablet at 5:52 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

You should try the anti depressants sooner rather than later. You're bogged down in a whole pile of desperation, justification and why, why, why? Life needn't be like this for you. Take some advice from a doctor and try and lose some weight on top of that. Whatever you need your doctor can help you more than introspection on here can.

A bit like a flaming automobile, your current state isn't something to be intensely scrutinised and debated at length, you just need to make make a big leap and get out. You can analyse it at a later date. You will feel better when you make a move to improve your life, however small it is. (You won't be on fire at least.)
posted by fire&wings at 6:07 PM on March 20, 2007

Do you find overweight women disgusting? If you don't, then there's a pretty good indicator for you that excess weight is not as bad as all that. If you do, then examining that feeling might help you to get somewhere towards understanding how you feel about yourself. Get better at seeing the beauty in other people and you might get better at seeing the beauty in yourself.
posted by teleskiving at 6:13 PM on March 20, 2007

When I get like this I say that the front of my head (rationality) isn't talking to the back of my head (emotionality). For things large and small, essentially my solution has been to "fake it til I make it". Just get up and do something I'm terrified to do until it no longer carries that fear. The "right" notion has made its way to the back of my head.

I've been in various therapies over the years and don't need it much now, though I have a long-term diagnosis of Social/Generalized/High Anxiety. I take Xanax for that. I was warned that it was habit-forming, but I figure at least that will make me remember to take it. :) I've been on it for about a month now and I am noticing a difference*.

Also, when I really want to find something, I try to stop looking. (Stay with me here). I'm not sure what your main focus/issue is here: companionship/love or a leaner body? So, you don't want to be alone, and you don't want to be fat.

Turn that around and look for the "do" behind the "don't". This is where it gets really, really hard and the "fake it" part comes in.

I'm not you, so all of this is imaginary now:

1) I don't want to be alone. The opposite is not "I do want to find a freind/companion/lover". Examine why I don't want to be alone. I don't want to feel isolated, unimportant, unremarked. I don't like spending time with myself.

A very simplistic example, but again, I'm not you. Turn them around, and you get I want to be important, remarkable, able to spend time with myself and feel renewed and not emptied. That's where you make a plan of attack and do one small thing at a time to fake it til you make it.

2) I don't want to be fat. That's a harder one. You know by now there are endless ways, fast and slow, to get where you want to go. What's worked for me (I waver between clinically overweight and obese) is asking why I'm craving x food. When I want a Pepsi with ice in a quart-sized Mason jar, I want the feeling of accomplishment, refreshment after a big job done. When I want a huge plate full of fresh Lay's potato chips with Louisiana hot sauce, I want to recapture Sunday afternoons with Dad, lazy and comfortable. Once the realization is there, I can still have the Pepsi and chips, just not such large portions. I also don't put these things on my grocery list, so I have to go out of my way to get them.

There are very very few direct inputs to the back of the brain when you're an adult. You have to let the ideas and habits seep in like tea. Then there's the famous quote "Life is pain, Highness..." etc.

*phew* I know a little of what you're going through, and I think that you'll make it, even if you have to fake it for a while. Good luck!


* I also was on Paxil for about 18 months during a particularly difficult time when my only social life was work and it was terribly, terribly dysfunctional. Side effects were mainly that I wanted to smoke a lot(get that dopamine up where the Paxil took it down). It was good for me at the time, but the withdrawal was hell. It was easier to quit a pack-a-day habit than the Paxil. Not trying to discourage you, just give a real life example where a hard thing might be a good thing.

posted by lysdexic at 6:15 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Have experiences that challenge the beliefs you want to change.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:41 PM on March 20, 2007

"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."

You referenced Seligman's theory of Learned Helplessness. Have you read his book Learned Optimism? If not, pick it up. It sounds as though the crux of the problems you've described is that you are not successfully arguing against the pessimistic conclusions that your "undercore" wants you to believe. Learning to successfully dispute the conclusions of your "undercore" will help you to stay strong against the urge to become invulnerable and closed off to opportunities for personal growth and satisfaction with your life.

Practice arguing with your fear-based conclusions. Chances are that there is rational evidence that flies in the face of your greatest fears. Fear is an emotional tool that exists to help us stay away from actual danger, unfortunately it can also make us avoid those situations and opportunities that lead to a richer and happier life. Challenge the "certainty" that you feel when your fear is getting the better of you in otherwise harmless or minimally risky situations.

Clearly you are an intelligent and sensitive person - two highly desirable traits to many women. As sid said "small, concrete steps" towards losing weight and building the strength to take the risks that you MUST take in order to create the life you want.

You can do it!
posted by man on the run at 6:58 PM on March 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

A few random observations:

Isn't recalibrating or taming this undercore fundamentally what your therapist is supposed to be helping you with? Maybe you need to review the strategies that your therapist is offering - either you aren't applying them (do so in good faith), or they are not working (your therapist needs to offer new ones or you need a new therapist).

The vulnerability and hurt: well my friend, that's how almost all relationships end. Those who have many relationships get to experience this again and again. But it's worth it.

Perhaps you are opening up a little too fast, though. If you're dating someone, and then they want to stop, that's a bit different from getting divorced from a 20 year marriage. It's a bummer, but you can overcome it. Especially because there are always more fish in the sea. Really, there are. Your perception that potential partners are very rare and hence valuable is wrong, and this is causing you to despair wrongly. This ties in with your concerns about your body. You think no one can want you, so when they do it's a miracle, and if it ends no one ever will want you again. Maybe if you can get the body thing under control, the relationship thing will take care of itself, because you will have broken that link.

On a very practical note, I have a suggestion. Take up a new, group activity with a physical focus where beginners classes are offered. For example: ballroom dancing or a martial art. This will offer a few good things for you all in one package: a regular opportunity for small talk; the confidence that comes with learning a new skill in a safe uncritical environment; exercise that will likely lead to weight loss and increased body confidence; a research-proven antidepressant effect.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:44 PM on March 20, 2007

I am going to give you my opinion straight and uncut. I am doubtful it will be of any use, but you never know.

You are a kind of patient who is a great trial to a therapist. Your cognitive frame uses intellectualization - rational thought - not as a vehicle for positive advancement against the irrationally held beliefs of the id, as you claim to believe, but instead as a defense mechanism against intrapsychic conflict and perceived threats. The clue, to my eye, is your level of expressed certainty about a number of concepts. Forgive my bluntness, but no one so poorly socialized and deeply conflicted as yourself possesses the degree of insight you believe yourself to have.

In other words, your claimed insights - everything you pretend to know about yourself and your unconscious schema and your approach to life - are all wrong. Disguising your armchair Freudianism by renaming the id the "undercore" and pretending to have perfect insight into its functions doesn't make you right about it.

What you're doing now - talk therapy - is the right way, but if I were you, I'd radically re-adjust my approach. Keep doing it - but be much less convinced about nearly everything you said in your long explication above. Every time your therapist challenges one of your long-held theories, receive those words as if they were precious gold, and ruminate on them with the care you would give the words of God.

Finally, I suspect I know you via a non-MeFi connection. If that's true, feel free to contact me if you want to talk more about this.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:53 PM on March 20, 2007 [11 favorites]

Look up Cognitive Behavioural Therapy -- that technique is designed to deal with disconnects like this.
posted by loiseau at 11:09 PM on March 20, 2007

Come on man! I am the ONLY one here going to give you the truth. The truth is going to be painful, but so long you REFUSE to face it, you will never get fixed.

Should I tell you the real problem? The REAL problem? You want things, but you are unwilling to sacrifice to get those things. You want to be comfortable, but for you, comfortable is not going to get you what you want.

Do you know the truth? Let me tell you the truth: Most women are not attracted to obese men. Similarly, most men are not attracted to obese women.

Think of the old joke: Churchill is told by a lady at a dinner party - you're drunk. He replies: yes, Madam, I am. But in the morning, I will be sober and you will still be ugly.

Unlike deformed people, you can remould yourself. You can really sacrifice and make yourself into who you want to be.

Watch the movie 300. You see all those men with ripling muscles? They burnt themselves out every single day working out to become like that. If you are unwilling to do that, you will not get the rewards they offer either.

You have 4 paths you can choose right now:

1. Stay the way you are. Sooner or later, you will meet someone, but this person will be the result of desperation. You will be desperate, the woman will be desperate.

2. Decide that for the next two years, women are not your priority, but physical fitness is. Forget women and obsess over your physical strenght and your weight. Burnout every single day. Slash your diet. Make yourself beautiful.

3. Travel the thailand and get yourself a wife from there

4. Go to an African fat camp. These are camps in the village in an african jungle where you get a farm and nothing else. Every day you have to harvest, sow, cook, just to eat. The sun burns you, you have to walk everywhere. My cousin was there for a year and lost 60kg.

You have to recognize the problem and fix the problem at it's root! The problem is not in your head, the problem is with your weight, and if you attack that problem (which is very fixable), you will solve the others.

Forget therapy or anti depressants. These are for weak people who cannot stand the pain of metal. You think a warrior needs anti depressants? No! Just battle and forget tricking your mind into thinking it is happy, when in fact it is not.
posted by markovich at 12:26 AM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

There are lots of things my undercore (nice word) believes that I don't. I thinks it's quite a common human thing. Not everyone has it, but a lot of us do.

My response is simply to accept the undercore and try and ensure that everything is filtered through the intellect. It's not going to stop your internal struggle but accepting that I felt a certain way and that way was wrong went a long way to balancing me out.

I don't believe in remoulding. Just learn to live with yourself and ignore those elements of your undercore that you don't agree with. Just because you feel something doesn't make it true.
posted by seanyboy at 2:11 AM on March 21, 2007

Maybe there's no undercore. Maybe there's a long tunnel that stretches back through your life, and throughout your life what you've done and felt created echoes in this tunnel, the older the fainter, that you can still hear.

Of course you can't "change" an old echo. Of course you can't dialogue with it, reason with it.

The only thing to do is make new sounds echo, and as you move further down the tunnel, gradually, over time, you will hear echoes of the past which are now your present.

I suspect that it is best not to argue with yourself. Doing is an act of will and feeling is a kind of sixth sense. Decide what to do, do it. Recognize how you feel, feel it. Today what you feel and do is today. Stick with that. Don't go imagining life down the tunnel. Today, it is tempting to imagine the future and define yourself by what you imagine. Resisting today’s temptations is all we have the power to do.
posted by ewkpates at 3:41 AM on March 21, 2007

Listen to markovich, and choose his second option. Apply your rational mind to The Hacker's Diet.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 4:22 AM on March 21, 2007

Original Poster wanted me to add their response:
This thread has given me a lot of new ways to look at this problem, grist for the mill. I appreciate the insights more than I can honestly say.

To respond to teleskiving, I do still find somewhat minorly to moderately overweight women attractive; I don't find extremely obese women attractive, although I'm *definitely* not revolted by them as I am by my own body. I do honestly wish I was enlightened enough to look past extreme obesity to consider personality, so that I might be attracted to an obese woman with a great personality. At the moment, I'm not there.

To respond to loiseau, I believe my therapist is using cognitive behavioral therapy in our sessions together.

To respond to ikkyu2, my anonymity precludes an extended back-and-forth with you, so I'll simply say this: I was *greatly* offended by what you wrote, I suppose because I wasn't prepared for it: I am used to Ask Metafilter being a place where snark does exist but where people have always responded to honest vulnerability with good intent, sensitivity, and wisdom.

You seem to feel that eight paragraphs was sufficient for you to cast aspersions on and make assumptions about not only the course of my therapy (your vehicle v. defense machanism remarks) and my relationship with my therapist (a "great trial" to her). Indeed, you felt comfortable enough to in eight paragraphs state that your insight into my mind trumps my own, stating that "everything [I] pretend to know about myself [...] and my approach to life" is wrong. I'll let the sheer grandiosity of those diagnoses speak for themselves.

I'm not sure how you read me having "perfect insight" into the above, especially given that I'm talking about problems of *perception* and of *input*. And you were doing nothing less than making fun of me describing this immutable block of fear in my head as the 'undercore' by calling it "disguised armchair Freudianism," especially given that the extent of my knowledge is that I know Freud was a psychologist and that the 'id' is something like our caveman self -- which is not what I was talking about here. Finally, I've operated by your suggested "approach" ever since the first days of my therapy; the therapist I've been seeing is a talented individual whose guidance and insights I have always held to be extremely valuable and, almost without exception, utterly true.

I'm not sure why this post ticked you off enough that you felt the desire to go off half-cocked upon my query and play intellectual bully on the playground, but this definitely makes me rethink the sense of knowledge and authority I've had previously always associated with your answers.
posted by mathowie at 6:33 AM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Mkay. I've been told by my counselors/therapists here and there that I "think too much" and that I've sometimes used that (and crying) to avoid moving on or getting on with an unpleasant task. That's pretty close to what I read ikkyu2's answer to be. Take the "cannot possibly be's" in his(?) post with a grain or shaker of salt. And chill.

We question everything but what we truly believe, and I think your almost visceral response to ikkyu2 says that a core belief is being challenged.

I'll end with another quote: "When people make us think we're thinking, we love them. When people make us actually think, we hate them."
posted by lysdexic at 7:40 AM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've been in pretty much the situation you describe. Not specifically with the weight and lack of romantic experience, but with a deep-down, very difficult to shake sense that something is deeply and unfixably wrong with me and that I'm unlovable. My life is a lot better now than it was then, and the reason that it's a lot better is because my therapist, a very gruff, no-nonsense guy, told me pretty much exactly what ikkyu2 has just told you, and over time, after him saying it enough, I realized that he was, in addition to being totally infuriating, totally right.

I was a little bit surprised at your response to ikkyu2, because everything he said seems so obvious to me now, but then I remembered that the first hundred or so times that my therapist said it to me, I had basically the same response. I was angry and offended and hurt and believed that someone who would attack me and tell me I didn't know anything about myself couldn't possibly have my best interests at heart. I'm pretty sure that if I'd had the financial means to switch therapists (he was basically seeing me for free), I would have left him and gone to someone more gentle, and I never would have gotten any better. It's only because I was stuck in a room once a week with him that I started to listen, and looking back on it now, I believe he saved my life.

There's no reason at all for me to think that you'll believe me any more than you believed ikkyu2, and so I'm not sure why exactly I'm baring my soul to the internet, but I guess I'm just hoping that you're like me and that hearing the message more often will make you more likely to eventually believe it.

You don't need to know anything about Freud in order to have internalized a view of yourself that is consistent with his theories, and no one is accusing you of anything or making fun of you if they point out that your beliefs about yourself display many of the same errors that Freud's theories tend to have. No one is trying to bully you or make you feel bad. But sometimes, when someone is stuck in a way of thinking about the world that is wrong and unhealthy for them, others who see them suffering get the urge to just shake them until they can see more clearly.

Finally, I'll leave you with this: think about why you reacted so violently to a series of statements from a stranger on the internet. Think about how you would have responded if someone had left an answer that said, "I think you're completely wrong about your view of the world because you're clearly responding to negative engrams, and Scientology can help you," or an answer that said, "you don't have a psychological problem; you have an alien parasite living inside your head, and you need to drink three gallons a day of ionized water in order to flush it from your body."

Those answers make a lot of very presumptuous assumptions about knowing more than you do about how your brain works. They're clearly half-cocked, and definitely grandiose diagnoses. But I would bet money that you wouldn't have taken the time to write four paragraph responses telling each of those responders how offended you were by their answers. If ikkyu2 is so clearly wrong and you're so certain that he has provided no insight into your situation, why did his answer strike such a nerve with you? Think about why it made you so angry, and then think about whether that anger may have been a response to a small part of you that thinks he could be right.
posted by decathecting at 8:03 AM on March 21, 2007 [4 favorites]

Sometimes, when looking in a mirror, we see everything backwards. Sometimes, other people really can see things in us that we ourselves are blind to.

If somebody on the internet gives you advice you find offensive - especially somebody with, as you note, as well-established a record for thoughtful and insightful answers as ikkyu2 - it's generally worthwhile to let the feeling of being offended stew for a few days before responding to it.

Sometimes, the most appropriate way to manifest good intent, sensitivity and wisdom is via a sharp blow with a clue-by-four. Ikkyu2 is a neurologist. Hitting nerves is his job :-)

Now, if his conclusions are simply the consequence of faulty assumptions, there's nothing to be offended about: his diagnosis is simply mistaken. He's charged you nothing for it, you're anonymous, and such a mistake has no consequences at all.

So, spend some time thinking about why you're offended by what he said, read over your rather excessively defensive response a few more times, and use this whole experience to help you take yourself less seriously.

You really do go on a bit, you know.
posted by flabdablet at 8:10 AM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

try to take yourself less seriously
posted by sid at 8:40 AM on March 21, 2007

Just to back up ikkyu2 as well....

Your cognitive frame uses intellectualization - rational thought - not as a vehicle for positive advancement against the irrationally held beliefs of the id, as you claim to believe, but instead as a defense mechanism against intrapsychic conflict and perceived threats.

I was told something very similar during therapy at some point and although it was hard to take at first, it did help me in the end.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 10:38 AM on March 21, 2007

There's no need to pile on here, people.

To the OP, I don't doubt that you're sincerely trying to find a way forward. Whatever you may feel about the tone of ikkyu2's response, he is right about one thing: this is not a problem that you can cure solely through rational thought. Your "undercore" doesn't respond to all your sincere but misplaced efforts to think your way through this, because it's not made of thoughts or beliefs. It's made of emotions and feelings.

Right now, what comes out is a mix of disgust, sadness, lonliness, desperation, anger, hatred, fear, hurt, and a million other feelings that are all perfectly normal and that everyone has inside of them. Somewhere inside of you there may also be feelings of strength, desire, hope, and compassion for yourself. The only way to sort all that out is to let it out, rather than burying it under rational explanations.

Your feelings are real and they're just as much a part of you as your thoughts or your body. Try to express them and describe them, without judging them or trying to change them. That's hard, because maybe you don't want to be the person who feels all those things, but you need to stop trying to reason about the person you should be. You'll come to know yourself and your possibilities a million times better that way.
posted by fuzz at 10:39 AM on March 21, 2007

I thought Ikkyu2 was bang on the money, actually. I've suffered from low self-esteem and it's amazing how sure of your own opinions you can be. You know you're worthless, you know with absolute certainty that your future will turn out dreadfully, you know that your brain just works in a particular, freakish way and you're doomed to a lifetime of failure and misery. The poster's affronted response only reaffirms my suspicion (not, of course, absolute knowledge) that Ikkyu2 had hit upon something.
Oh, and try AskMe favourite Feeling Good, if you haven't already. Awesome for beating the blues and procrastination.
posted by RokkitNite at 1:19 PM on March 21, 2007

Where can I find more information on these "African Fat Camps"?
posted by josher71 at 3:02 PM on March 21, 2007

If by chance the original poster's still reading, I want him to know that I wish him nothing but good things, and I'm sorry that my answer was upsetting to him.

What I didn't say, but could have, is that I'm quite confident that if you keep approaching your problems as you have here, asking for help with an open mind, you'll eventually do the work that will resolve the problems that you're having now. I hope that journey is speedy and pleasant and I do sincerely hope my ideas expressed above do not serve as an obstacle in that journey.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:09 PM on March 21, 2007

The OP has admitted to two issues:

1. He's repulsed by his own body.
2. He feels like he will be hurt if he opens up to anyone.

His minor intellectualization of these raw facts seems proportional to me.

ikkyu you are making many assumptions, starting from the passive-aggro: "I'm doubtful if it will be of any use, but you never know."

You label and mind-read him saying "...everything you pretend to know about yourself and your unconscious schema and your approach to life - are all wrong". Where do you get the authority to tell him that?

All wrong? Think about the word "wrong" in that context, the context of identity. Think about why you would condemn someone, who, however misguided you may feel him to be, asked for help.

The OP ripped his heart out and admitted to things that are not easy to admit. You don't agree with the way he thinks about himself. The fact that you then slam him with the language of absolutes makes me think that this might have more to do with feelings he is bringing up in you, rather than in his situation.
posted by turbojav at 11:37 PM on June 5, 2007

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