Got faith?
August 25, 2007 8:46 PM   Subscribe

I haven't dated anyone in several years now (I'm 35) because I have absolutely no faith that a relationship will work out - in fact to the contrary, I'm quite convinced that it will cause me nothing but pain. This lack of faith is inherent in other aspects of my life - work, personal time etc: I just don't do things because I visualize either pain or failure with great ease, and find it almost impossible to visualize success. How do I go about building faith in my endeavors?

I don't consider myself to be depressed - I have been treated for that in the past and I don't think this it. I function pretty well - I have a good job and people like me - I just don't invest in people or activities (or my work any more) because at an unconscious level I relate these things to unpleasant experiences.

I don't think this is a question of optimism either - seeing the sunny side of everything isn't going to get me dating because all of a sudden I'm telling myself it's going to be great and work out.

I am trying to get my life on track - I gave up drugs & booze a few months ago, and I'm working out regularly, all of which is making me feel much better physically. I guess I'm wishing I could improve my self-belief and belief in others in a similar way.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I gave up drugs & booze a few months ago, and I'm working out regularly, all of which is making me feel much better physically. I guess I'm wishing I could improve my self-belief and belief in others in a similar way.

It takes time, sometimes lots of time. Call back in a year if things haven't improved. I bet they will.
posted by caddis at 9:07 PM on August 25, 2007

Would being in a relationship make you happier? It's not for everyone, and it's certainly possible to lead a fulfilling life outside them

If you do think it's for you, but you are somehow unfit, it sounds like you have low self esteem. The standard AskMeFi line is that you should deal with this before pursuing anything with anyone.
posted by phrontist at 9:12 PM on August 25, 2007

I know 'therapy' is kind of a boring answer, but...

You sound for a perfect candidate for cognitive behavioral therapy. You seem to have adopted certain patterns of thinking that are learned and can be unlearned.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is very common, and it's quite different from traditional lying-on-the-couch-talking-about-your-mother-and-dreams-style therapy. It is usually short, 1-2 months, focused, and goal-oriented. It's about learning to analyze your thought processes and adopt new behaviors and interpretations of your situations that are more constructive.

Or if you can't afford this but are still interested in the idea, there are lots and lots of books on the subject.
posted by bluejayk at 10:20 PM on August 25, 2007

I would recommend reading the book Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns. It's kind of cheesy, but it contains lots of exercises to build self-esteem and stop thinking negative things about yourself and your prospects. I know it helped me a lot when I was feeling bleak about relationships.
posted by arianell at 10:33 PM on August 25, 2007

If you find a good answer to this question, please let me know. My brother sounds a lot like you. He's a pretty good-looking guy with a good job, a pleasant personality, great sense of humor, etc, but hasn't dated in years. Long ago he was dating a girl and then she broke up with him and went back to her old boyfriend. He took it very hard and stated at the time "I'll never trust another woman." I think there are all sorts of deeper issues going on, and that he should seek help, but he's the type that just flat-out won't. His outlook in other areas sounds just like you, too...whether at work or elsewhere, he just cannot get excited about a project, because in the end, all he visualizes are all the things that could (and probably will, in his mind) go wrong.

I'm no psychiatrist, but to me it sounds like maybe a combination of obsessive/compulsive disorder and depression. But how to get someone so steadfastly against medical intervention to see a doctor?

I will watch this thread with interest to see what the hive mind comes up with. And sorry to semi-hijack your question.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:15 PM on August 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I am trying to get my life on track - I gave up drugs & booze a few months ago
caddis's comment is correct.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:30 AM on August 26, 2007

Look, when it comes down to it, all relationships eventually end, whether by separation of death (how's that for not looking on the sunny side?). But do you stop making friends because you may one day drift apart or even have a falling out? Probably not. Do you force yourself not to love your parents or siblings (or even a pet!) because you know they will one day die? It's doubtful. So why expect a guarantee of nothing but happiness and success from a romantic relationship?

Life is a string of uncertainties joined together by the best guesses in between. All endeavors involve a measure of risk -- from taking a new job to starting a new relationship to walking out the door in the morning. Nothing is certain. There are no guarantees. You can judge it as existence's basic flaw, or you can just accept it as existence's basic fact.

Everyone -- everyone -- experiences pain in their lives. Everyone has their heart broken sometimes. Everyone feels grief, and loss, and loneliness. It's part of the human condition -- there's no way to outrun it, no matter how much you may try to avoid it. The flipside, of course, is that we all have the capacity for great joy and togetherness and passion and delight, too. We get the full measure of feelings and experiences -- if we go out there and allow ourselves to live them.

So yeah. Even the best relationships will one day end, one way or another. But what grand, wonderful, joyous possibilities they can offer in the meantime.
posted by scody at 12:42 AM on August 26, 2007 [4 favorites]

guh, first sentence should read "whether by separation OR death."
posted by scody at 12:44 AM on August 26, 2007

It sounds like you want something that you don't have. Set a goal. Avoid things you think you "should" have or want, make it something you really, truly desire with all your heart. Then do everything in your power to get it.
posted by trevyn at 1:10 AM on August 26, 2007

< /preaching mode>

Reprogram your mind, get rid of expectations, take things as they come without selfdestructive and selfrestricted judgement.

Even 'bad shit' can make life and people 'interesting', because tragedy, drama and turmoil help you to bond and experience life together. The fun stuff is good too ;-)

Built up your own (inner) life and do stuff that awakens your passion and interest. Unless you do your own thing that fullfills you and awakes your inner spark - how can other people be of interest to you. Don't use other people to fill an inner void, that's your job.

Unless your rediscover your sense for exploration, interest for life and exchange with others - almost anything will look & feel phoney.

< /preaching mode off>
posted by homodigitalis at 8:20 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

This sounds exactly like my ex boyfriend. Turned out he had Asberger's Syndrome. I'm not saying that's an answer for you, but it could be worth checking out. He was unable for months to move to a new apartment or change jobs because he couldn't be 100% sure that the new situation was any better, and he couldn't get past the inconvenience of moving/job searching possibly being worth nothing.
posted by nile_red at 8:56 AM on August 26, 2007

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a good suggestion, but then I'm always on that bandwagon.

Here's another idea, sort of based on CBT: Start very small. Not with relationships, especially not important relationships, but with minor activities.

I just don't invest in people or activities (or my work any more) because at an unconscious level I relate these things to unpleasant experiences.

If you can think of a small activity, something you normally wouldn't do because of a negative expected outcome, try it. It has to be something that wouldn't get you terribly down if it failed. Go to a movie that isn't your taste but gets rave reviews, or buy an album based on a recommendation from a store clerk who seems nice. In both these situations you'd be making a small financial and time investment based on something someone else suggested.

When these experiments fail -- sometimes they will and sometimes they won't -- force yourself to think about what was good. (I got out of the house, at least I had an interesting experience, I'll be able to tell people at the office that Album/Movie/Book sucks.)

I don't know. Just an idea, but if you start with small things like that, you may eventually be able to progress to, say, having coffee with a new person in the hopes of becoming friends with them. Etc.
posted by brina at 9:37 AM on August 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Take up fishing. You'll soon learn there's a reason the activity is called "fishing" not "catching." Fishing teaches patience, gives you time to reflect, is alternately undemanding and pretty exciting, and can help people with low expectations feel that they're doing something which can't turn out badly. Because, after you've got a line wet, anything else that happens is gravy...
posted by paulsc at 11:47 AM on August 26, 2007

I visualize either pain or failure with great ease, and find it almost impossible to visualize success

then don't visualize anything, it isn't helping -- keep your eyes open for someone you like, take a deep breath, and dive. it's the most natural thing in the world. good luck.
posted by matteo at 11:53 AM on August 26, 2007

"Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they're yours." My advice is, learn to stop thinking of yourself as a person who does or does not think certain things in certain ways. Take the zen approach: experience your fear, acknowledge it, then set it aside. You may have baggage, but it need not have you.

It will take some time to learn to do this and it will probably not be easy, but if you make it your goal, you can improve, and your life will be so much better for it.
posted by kindall at 2:12 PM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

you're coming from the same place as me, but i'm a few years ahead of you. for me, it worked out. i found love and a great job.

i think one of the keys for me, relationship-wise, is realizing that a relationship that ends hasn't necessarily failed. if you understand clearly what you want and how adaptive you are - the ability to adapt to another human being is fundamental to success in any kind of relationship - you will have to shop around a bit. that means getting to know a series of potential mates and setting them adrift again (same goes for them).

it often happens that one who fears the end of a relationship will cling to their mate and subjugate their own wants and needs to those of the other, just to try and keep it together. in that case, the relationship hasn't ended, but it has failed.

i also believe that improving your health is a great way to learn about how small changes in your behaviour can easily effect huge changes in your life. exercising and quitting booze will make you feel better and look better, and people - including you - will respond. this will improve your self esteem and encourage you to keep up with your program. you're creating a positive feedback loop.

when you become accustomed to the idea that you can change yourself physically, it will become easier to do so in other aspects of your life.
posted by klanawa at 11:43 PM on August 26, 2007

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