Battling Loneliness- The Fight for Intimacy Part I

30 11 2010

How do you fight loneliness? My best friend and I were talking about it the other day. People don’t realize how much time you spend alone; especially if you’re single and/or live by yourself.

 

The above question came from a good friend of mine and in the spirit of the site, AskMerce, I’ll take a crack at it.

Erik Erikson was right when he mapped out the stages of human development.  He labeled the twenties and early thirties as the time where people struggle the most finding love, oscillating between intimacy and isolation.  The successful completion of this stage is built upon the previous stage of identity formation and successfully finding a strong enough sense of self such that you are able to be in a relationship and still be an individual.

Emotional pain and anxiety triggered by feeling isolated and lonely are common to people during this time.  I know personally that I have spent most of my young adult life attempting to avoid or solve the problem of feeling lonely without ever really addressing the feeling head on.  Oftentimes I feel trapped and scared, stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Do I put myself out there and risk rejection in dating, with friends, and by meeting new people?  Or do I remain at home and continue to live a small and isolated life, not really investing in many people and not allowing them to invest in me?

I complain that I want to feel more connected and have more friends, a bigger social network, and to also find that special someone, yet I don’t live my life that way.  I am oftentimes too scared and sometimes overwhelmed to be the type of person I envision myself to be.  I see my best self as engaged, energetic, lively and attractive. When I am living in that space and get the connection and intimacy I am looking for, I set myself up to feel the love that I want to feel in my life.  Sometimes though, that’s the problem, I get what I want.

I don’t always believe I deserve to get what I want.  I act in ways that devalue my hungers so that it doesn’t seem to matter quite as much if I am getting them met.  In reality though, I’m messing with myself. Instead of living through and experiencing that hurt, I am avoiding the pain that not getting what I want stirs.  I end up living unsatisfied and ok with that because it has become strangely comfortable and familiar to be that way.

It hurts knowing I am capable of creating intimate relationships and knowing that I choose not to out of fear, scarcity and hostility.  I get in my own way and blame others for what I have created.  What I am learning though is that not only is this a natural process that people go through, going through it with an increased level of consciousness is helping me to find more satisfaction in my personal life.  I am allowing myself more grace and compassion- I am not as hard on myself as I once was.  I am beginning to see that in order to be more fully intimate with another person, I need to be more fully intimate with myself.  Through self-discovery and knowing more of what makes me tick, I have more of myself to consciously and authentically offer in relationship with another person.  Almost paradoxically, spending time doing my own personal work empowers me to be more fully present with another person, and taking the learns I get from my own growth work back to my personal relationships enriches and nourishes the bond between the two of us.

Check back on Thursday to hear some more thoughts on specific step you can take to avoid loneliness and maintain a deeper sense of connection and intimacy, especially during the holiday season!





Surprised by Success

23 11 2010
Surprised

Me in the face of success!

In my last entry I was surprised by the amount of sadness I carry around and have access to on a daily basis.  I am learning to better feel the weight of that sadness and to be more willing to work through the un

easiness of crying and feeling sad in order to experience a lightness and resulting joy.  This past week however, it was not sadness that caught me off guard, rather it was my own success.

I am a good public speaker, in fact my colleague Amy and I recently hosted a singles workshop, and yet what I am learning through this is that I don’t like to brag.  I have a very narrow definition of positive attention, and have been taught to think that any type of self-promotion is bragging.  I learned pretty early on that bragging was bad, it was arrogant, and did not lead to the type of humility that God expected of me; it was selfish.  In expanding my definition of positive attention, I am testing out exactly what the boundary is between bragging and positive affirmation, and looking to my support team to give me the feedback of when I have gone too far.  So far that has yet to happen!  Meaning there is a ton of positive attention available to me, I only need to be willing to ask for it and be willing to receive it once it is given.

I have some old messages or tapes that play in my head as it relates to receiving praise- “They don’t mean it, they only want something from me in return;” “If they really knew me they wouldn’t be praising me for this;” “They are only flattering me, it is not genuine.”  I have historically had a d

ifficult time accepting praise, and yet that is one of my deepest hungers to know that I exist, that I am good, and that I am worthy of love and attention.  At my core I both yearn to have those beliefs affirmed, and believe deep down that I am not worthy enough to have those needs met.  I am caught in a bind.  I want what I don’t believe that I deserve (positive attention), and so the type of attention I believe I deserve (negative attention) is stuff that I don’t really want.

Winner

What I am beginning to believe about myself

I am shifting my view of the world, whereas I once saw a scarcity of positive attention, I am seeing that it is abundant to those who seek it.  I have my sights set on that, on creating situations for myself in which I will receive affirmation and to also be engaged in activity worthy of praise.  I am learning to trust, to trust myself and the world that there is abundance out there and that I already have the tools to access and benefit from that abundance!





Surprised by Sadness

16 11 2010

Taylor Hall- Where the Magic Happens

Last weekend I was a staff facilitator at our annual CLE Fall Retreat where our Northshore practice makes the trip up to the Dekoven Center in Racine, Wisconsin for a time of personal growth in a safe, secluded, and sacred space.  Spanning the first weekend in November I learned and grew in ways I could never have imagined and was able to share that surrounded by a community of support.

After dinner on Saturday as I sat in the leaders meeting, wave after wave of sadness came over me and before I knew it I was sobbing in front of a room full of people I admire and respect.  Though I tried to close the floodgates by taking shallow breaths and looking down, I knew that there was no stopping whatever it was that was coming up.  Initially all I could feel was a tearful rage and had no idea what else was lurking just beneath the surface.  I was tense, angry, scared- but mostly in the moment I had the urge to kill.  I sat there in my chair, fist clenched, mind racing, heart pounding, and eyes swelling.  I wanted for the whole room to stop, for the whole world to stop, and for all of it to just go away.  I knew that that wasn’t going to happen, I knew that whatever was coming up I needed to experience.  I grabbed onto my supervisor’s hand for comfort, support, and safety.  As I did so, my feelings switched from rage to pain and once I put my armor down, each word that was being said was cutting through me like a knife.

As we processed, I was no longer in the leader’s meeting, I was back at the dinner table in my family.  Feeling lost, alone, scared, and wounded I would mentally retreat.  Each night at dinner I was braced for a fight yet could never have told you that at the time.  It all felt normal to me, just the way things were.  We said we were a nice family, and our words would have matched it too, but our actions did not.  There was a game going on underneath the surface, one of superiority, competition, aggression, and shame.  Words were words yet the tone behind them was condescending and mean.  This game didn’t feel nice.  And not having a better way to take care of myself and the upset I would feel- I would bury my head in my plate, rarely come up for air, and eat way more than any little kid should.  I could feel but not directly express the dichotomy at the table.  I was a chubby little kid who used food and extra weight to stay insulated and isolated from his family.  I learned to deal with sadness and pain by eating; my strategy was to avoid inserting myself in the conversation and risk being hurt by always having my mouth full of food

In handling an upsetting situation at the retreat, the leader, Rich Blue, took the very protective stance around my colleague Kathleen and I that I wanted to feel in my family.  I recognized in that moment my profound hunger to feel safe, to truly feel that I would be okay no matter what else was happening around me.  I had never been so in touch with this hunger than I was that night.  It was painful the ways in which it wasn’t met, and so liberating to see that that is available to me even now.  I recognized that what I longed for growing up was for someone to just pull me aside and let me in on the game my family was playing, some sort of warning to let me know what to expect.  I lived in the fantasy of what dinners and family time could be like instead of stepping into the reality of what they actually were like.  Now that I am learning how to more accurately describe my pain and experience of that pain I am more willing to live in the reality of what life is actually like and am willing to use that upset as motivation to change instead of justification to stay stuck.  Though at times it takes me great prodding to get moving and grow, this experience of feeling pain, expressing it, and living to tell the story afterwards has been one more notch in my belt of personal growth and self-discovery.

I hope to have many more notches!





The Good Fight

8 11 2010

I wish I could claim authorship of this amazing piece of text, but I must give credit to Paulo Coelho for writing the Good Fight as a part of his book The Pilgrimage. Copied below are excerpts from the text that have inspired me on a daily basis to keep fighting the good fight, the fight that the world requires of me to live to my fullest potential each day.  I hope it will serve you too as you strive to live a principled life of passion.

The journey, which prior to this was torture because all you wanted to do was get there, is now beginning to become a pleasure.  It is the pleasure of searching and the pleasure of an adventure.  You are nourishing something that’s very important—your dreams…

We must never stop dreaming.  Dreams provide the nourishment for the soul, just as a meal does for the body.  Many times in our lives we see out dreams shattered and our desires frustrated, but we have to continue dreaming.  If we don’t, our soul dies and agape (love) cannot reach it (because we have ceased fighting the good fight).

The good fight is the one we fight because our heart asks it of us.  In the heroic ages- at the times of the knights in armor- this was easy… Today, though, the world has changed a lot, and the good fight has shifted from the battlefields to the fields within ourselves.

The good fight is the one that’s fought in the name of our dreams.  When we’re young and our drams first explode inside us with all of their force, we are very courageous, but we haven’t yet learned ho to fight.  With great effort, we learn how to fight, but then we no longer have the courage to go into combat.  So we turn against ourselves and do the battle within.  We become our own worst enemy.  We say that our dreams are too childish, or too difficult to realize, or the result of our not having known enough about life.  We kill our dreams because we are afraid to fight the good fight.

The first symptom of the process of our killing our dreams is the lack of time.  The busiest people I have known in my life always have time enough to do everything.  Thos who do nothing are always tired and pay no attention to the little amount of work they are required to do.  They complain constantly that their day is too short.  The truth is, they are afraid to fight the good fight.

The second symptom of the death of our dreams lies in our certainties.  Because we don’t want to see life a s a grand adventure, we begin to think of ourselves as wise and fair and correct in asking so little of life.  We look beyond the walls of our day-to-day existence, and we hear the sound of lances breaking, we smell the dust and the sweat, and we see the great defeats and the fire in the eyes of the warriors.  But we never see the delight, the immense delight in the hearts of those who are engaged in the battle.  For them, neither victory nor defeat is important; what’s important is only that they are fighting the good fight.

And, finally, the third symptom of the passing of our drams is peace.  Life becomes a Sunday afternoon; we ask for nothing grand, and we cease to demand anything more than we are willing to give.  In that state, we think of ourselves as being mature; we put aside the fantasies of our youth, and we seek personal and professional achievement.  We are surprised when people out age say that they still want this or that of life.  But really, deep in our hearts, we know that what has happened is that we have renounced the battle for our dreams—we have refused to fight the good fight.

When we renounce our dreams and find peace, we go through a short period of tranquility.  But the dead dreams begin to rot within us and to infect our entire being.  We become cruel to those around us, and then we begin to direct this cruelty against ourselves… What we sought to avoid in combat—disappointment and defeat—come upon us because of our cowardice.  And one day, the dead, spoiled dreams make it difficult to breath, and we actually seek death.  Its death that frees us from our certainties, from our work, and from that terrible peace of out Sunday afternoons…

You, too, have to learn how to fight the good fight… The only way we can rescue our dreams is by being generous with ourselves.  Any attempt to inflict self-punishment—no matter how subtle it may be—should be dealt with rigorously.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the change to draw back, always ineffectiveness.  Concerning all acts of initiative and creations, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s face all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.  Whatever you can do or dream you can begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.  Begin now!





Questions Wanted!

26 10 2010

This blog is intended to be interactive- meaning I want to hear from you! Post any questions you have relating to personal growth, transformation, or just life in general, and I will try my best to answer them or get in touch with those who can!  I’ll get the conversations started with new entries and I want you the reader to interact as well and really make this a dynamic online community and resource for those wanting to live great lives!





Un-Mute

25 10 2010

Un-Mute

“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

My 4th grade music teacher, Ms. Deal, taught me an important lesson on the importance of sound in creating understanding.  She showed us the same scene from ET two different ways- with and without sound.  Without the sound, the intricacies of dialogue, inflection, and tone were lost, and without music setting the mood, I quickly lost interest.  As unsatisfied as I was initially, the second time, with the sound was breathtakingly suspenseful.  Each new sound was introduced and blended with the rest, creating a tense yet memorable experience.  What I came to realize was that as frustrating as it was to watch that section on mute, I often interact with the world in the same muted way.

Think for a moment about how muting keeps a speaker from transmitting sound.  Speakers rely on electric impulse to create vibrations that are amplified to fill a room with life-giving sound.  Sound is constantly being generated in the form of electrical impulses, yet muting diverts that current to an internal loop.  Un-muting sends that potential energy coursing through the wires to be amplified and expressed.

When I am emotionally muted, my face, like a screen, plays a movie lacking the soundtrack my voice provides.  As I continue my personal growth work and gain access to my internal director, I am learning how to un-mute my emotions more effectively.  The more deeply I connect with myself and express my internal drama out loud, the more my body pulses with energy and aliveness.  Each time I turn my emotional volume up a notch my soundtrack and screen begin to match, and my internal director celebrates.  Being in sync allows for more understanding and connection to occur with God, others, and myself.

My internal director is designed to make impactful movies; ones that people want to pay attention to and connect with. A great movie begins with meaningful dialogue and clear sound.  As I pay closer attention to how well my internal sound matches my external being I will be transforming my life from a boring movie on mute to an Academy Award winning film.

So, check your volume, are you muted?  Let’s emotionally un-mute and begin living in the surround sound of our lives, telling the world that we are a movie worth seeing!

—–

Andrew Mercer is a committed Christian as well as a licensed therapist practicing out of Northbrook, Illinois at the Center for Christian Life Enrichment. He has a passion for helping clients live in the full abundance that God intended. He regards honesty and truth as valuable principles in forming close relationships, and has a heart for the Northshore community and twenty-somethings. When he’s not working, you can find Andrew running, reading, and enjoying a healthy lifestyle.





I Don’t Want to Date a Country Girl!

4 09 2010
As I’m listening to the radio on my daily commute from Chicago to Northbrook,  cringe every time I inadvertently tune into US99.5.  Now I’m not bashing anyone who likes country music, it’s just that it doesn’t suit me.  Now imagine how frustrated you’d be having a radio that is only capable of tuning in to country. The twangings of some poor sap who’s lost his girl, broke his truck, and can’t find his dog would flood your airwaves.  And even though the next song may be upbeat and have a catchier tune, the foundation underneath is still country and still annoying!  How long would you be able to stand listening to that radio?

I believe that dating can be the same way.  Like a radio and a radio tower, we all have a certain frequency we send out and that other people pick up on.  As we date we emit our own unique signal that attracts us one to another.  Though the person we attract may look different each time, like different songs on the same radio station, there is a way they are all share common themes.  Our dials are stuck, and we keep attracting the same personality that ultimately drives us crazy, it’s as maddening as listening to a radio stuck on country! And yet I wonder why I find myself unsatisfied in each relationship.  I’d like to date rock, or alternative, or pop, and I am slowly learning how to change my dial, I’m realizing the issue is with me and my signal, not the receiver.

What I am finding by looking more deeply at myself is that I can change the station, and thereby attract other people.  As I learn and grow and understand more about the unconscious aspects of attraction and to what and to whom I am attracted, I can find a style of music and personality type that suites me better.