Recently we were talking about when I was born, or as you put it, when I entered this earthbound life. You’d said that for some souls, it’s hard to leave the afterlife because of the loss of the feeling of being there. The emotional feeling is so complete and warm and so-on; am I getting it right?
“You are paraphrasing more than one conversation Thomas, but you are essentially correct. It is sometimes difficult for some souls to leave that very complete feeling for an earthbound life. But, keep in mind that very very few have any kind of recall of that experience once they are joined with the physical body. Is there something new on your mind you wish to discuss?”
Maybe… I was doing some thinking last night about my past, and I came up with an odd theory that might explain some of my behavior when I was younger. I’m not sure what made me come up with this, but once I got the notion of it I just felt like maybe it was true.
“Please go on Thomas, you have piqued my curiosity.”
Well, as I’m sure you know since you’ve been around throughout my life, when I was a younger man I was somewhat of a womanizer, as they say. I don’t mean that in some kind of self-judgmental way, I’m just trying to get a starting point for this. I dated a lot of women over the years, and I had a lot of different relationships, both long and short ones. But, in all fairness I was unmarried and I was looking for a committed long-term partnership.
“There is no need to justify your behavior to me Thomas, but I do worry that you sound as if you have unresolved issues with your own past.”
No, not really. I mean I do think about my past a lot, but not because I’m guilty-feeling about it, I just reexamine my past behavior to understand my motivations. Maybe it’s just part of my own learning process, or maybe it’s simply me trying to reframe my perspective on things. I suppose that almost everyone has some unresolved issues from their past though, it’s just a matter of amount or degree. I don’t think I have any more regrets than the average guy my age has.
“I did not mean to derail your thought process by having you consider your own reasoning, I apologize for that. Please continue with your original purpose.”
Well, I was thinking about the motivations I had back then, when I was dating so much – so many different people, one after another. Serial dating as one of my friends called it, although I blew that off back then. Now I see what they meant, but it’s still debatable if that’s what I was doing.
“Can you think back to that time in your life for a moment and recall what you thought your motivations was at that time?”
I guess I’d have said I was just looking for a good relationship, a romantic relationship. Maybe I’d have even said marriage back then too, I don’t know. I do remember that each time I was attracted to someone, I’d think that I had found something so powerful and important. Something about this new person was going to change my life in some great way, I just knew it.
“Each new potential relationship was full chock-full of possibilities in your mind?”
Yeah, I always had such high hopes, such big ideas about how things were going to be. It never seemed like a fantasy either, my feelings were so real and intense. I’m pretty sure I even scared a few women away with my ‘tell them everything – show them everything’ way of expressing myself. It’s just that so much was bursting out inside me, I thought it was the right thing to do to let it all out. I think I saw it as being more vulnerable and open. I’m not sure that’s how they saw it though. I just wanted to be loved and accepted so badly that I’d over do it.
“I am curious about how you developed such strong feelings in such a short time?”
I’ve thought about that too, many times, but I don’t really have a good answer so far. It was probably a combination of my own imagination and a ton of wishful thinking too. I think the psychological types call it projection – everything I wanted I imagined that new person had for me. That, combined with my own insecurities made for a pretty intense jumble of emotions. The weird thing was that it all felt completely normal to me, I never questioned my thinking as it was happening.
“When those relationships ended, were you able to reflect on them and gain new perspective?”
Probably not right at first, but after some period of time passed I could. Actually it usually took years before I could really look at some of them with any kind of objectivity. Otherwise I’d just kid myself into thinking that we just weren’t right for each other, that it was nobody’s fault. With time as a buffer I could come up with better answers. I could sometimes see where I’d been needy, or codependent with someone, or occasionally the opposite where I was almost totally withdrawn. Sometimes after an especially emotional breakup I’d think I was fine, and start into a new relationship – but I was still hurting inside so I wasn’t really emotionally available. I was just looking for a bandage to stop the emotional bleeding.
“I am impressed Thomas, you have truly done a great deal of thinking about your past. Your insight is fairly clear and balanced, which is uncommon for many people no matter what age they are. I hope you will consider this next question just as thoughtfully; why do you think you were looking for such complete acceptance in the eyes of others?”
Well, I definitely wanted to be loved, and to find someone who could, or would, accept me just as I was. I mean being accepted by someone, really and truly accepted as you are is a pretty big deal. There were even a few times where I thought I’d found that, but not really. New lovers really want to please each other at the beginning of relationships, and I would mistake that for acceptance and love. After some period of time went by, there would suddenly be criticisms and judgments bubbling up to the surface. Arguments, fights and insults weren’t far behind.
“That must have been very hurtful when it happened. How did you deal with that kind of personal diminishment?”
I’m a pretty tolerant guy, so at first I’d just try to accommodate whatever the issue was about – change my behavior, watch my language, clean up more, etcetera… But, that wasn’t really what it was all about, so the relationship would usually fall apart not long afterward. I never found a way to not be the actual me I guess. As for dealing with it, as I said a minute ago, I’d just tell myself we weren’t ‘meant to be’, cry in my beer for a few days, and slowly move on.
“You do not believe that those criticisms left you with any long term hurt, scars still unresolved?”
You know, I’m sure it did sometimes, and I don’t know for how long either. I’d just hang out with my friends, throw myself into whatever work I was doing at the time, and get over it. After a week or two I was ready to see what the possibilities out there were. I was back on the market and looking for a real relationship again. I don’t think any of it still bother me, not anymore.
“May I ask why you refer to it as a ‘real relationship’? Did you look at the ones that did not work out as not-real?”
Well, there always seemed to be some level of deception in a lot of my relationships, so I guess I just pictured that the best relationships were more real, more authentic. No masks, no games or hidden agendas – just two people open to each other. Basically, no bullshitting each other, always being honest and genuine.
“Were you guilty of deceptions yourself?”
I mean everybody probably is, Omen, I’m not special in that respect. I’m sure I probably over-sold myself a little on occasions, but it wasn’t like I was outright lying to people. Everyone I know has probably done all of the same things I have, it’s just part of the dating game.
“The dating game… that seems to indicate that you did not see your quest for a true relationship as something truly serious. Did it seem like a game to you?”
No, well, I mean not in the actual sense of a fun-game. It’s just an expression we use about how people act when they’re dating each other, when they’re sizing each other up. We all put on our best faces, so to speak, and we’re on our very best behavior. No one wants to scare someone away by being a dork, or being rude or whatever. You want to make a great impression so you have a shot at another date.
“But, if you are both wearing your facades, then it seems true to me that you both would be falling into a relationship based upon unreality; thereby almost certainly dooming the relationship from the beginning. I say that because given enough time you will eventually ‘discover’ the true person beneath the veneers. It seems it makes more sense to be your true unfiltered self for each other and see what genuine attractions develop.”
Well, yeah, that’s probably the best way to go about it, but you’d be very single for a long time before you finally met the one person who liked what they saw.
“So, besides looking for a true relationship, you were also afraid of being single for long periods of time?”
I wouldn’t say afraid, more like I just didn’t want that. I liked being with someone, I enjoyed the companionship, the learning about each other, and the sex of course. The sex was always so good at first, but even that would fall apart eventually. No matter what I did, or how good I did it, there would always be that fade-out of the sex life.
“Do you feel like you were truly enjoying the beautiful physical experience of sexual intimacy between two people? I realize you have not said it directly, but something in the way you just spoke made me feel as if you were ‘performing sex’ more so than being a partner in it.”
Man, it’s hard to believe you lived a few lives here and still don’t know some of this stuff. Everyone performs a little during sex, especially in the beginning of a relationship. You try harder, you make sure you do everything they like, and the way they like it too. I’d always make sure that the girl I was with was um, enjoying herself a lot… a few times too. Look, I know that sounds a little detached or something, but eventually you get to a point where you both settle in to a nice routine.
“The distillation of what you are saying seems to be that you ‘behave’ in certain ways that you are aware are not your usual behavior. You put on a sexual performance aimed at letting your partner see what a truly skilled lover you are – yet within some period of time both of those acts fall away and you return to being your authentic self. I do imagine that what is unsaid here is that you wait until you believe you have ‘hooked’ this new lover, and only then can you drop the facades and masks to reveal your true self. Yet, in the process of all that, it seems to me that your new partner may end up feeling deceived by you. Much like an advertised product you purchase, only to find that the real item does not match the advertisement’s promises.”
I, um… yeah, I can see what you’re getting at. I didn’t think I was deceiving anyone Omen, I was just trying to be a better me than I really was. I wasn’t trying to trick anyone into being with me, that doesn’t really seem possible anyway, in my opinion. I mean if anyone felt short-changed they were always perfectly free to leave.
“It sounds as if all of them did leave, Thomas. Were you still wishing to convince the two of us that it was just because they were ‘not the one for you’ as you previously have said?”
Wow, you give a pretty hard reality-check Omen. But, I swear, in all honesty I don’t know what more I could have done! I bent over backwards for some of those relationships, and they still went to shit. I went to counselors, either with my partner, or even on my own – all to figure out what was going wrong with my relationships, but none of it worked. Oh, things might improve for a few weeks, or even a month or two, but then we’d be right back where we were earlier. At some point I’d get tired of all of the ‘trying’ and I’d just call it quits. I was worn down and couldn’t do it anymore, so it was better to just end it and cut our losses.
“Thomas, all of those partners, both short and long term ones, all had one thing in common, didn’t they? You. You are the single common denominator in all of those relationships Thomas. Each new mix with a different person still included you, so only one ingredient was actually changed. These explanations you have woven around the circumstances of each failed relationship have only served to blind you to a truth I think that you have long suspected. Have you not felt that truth trying to come to the surface from time to time?”
Truth, what truth? That I’m a failure at relationships, that I just can’t seem to do it right? Yeah, I’ve felt that a lot, but I try to shove it down before it has a chance to take hold of me. Because if I let it really come up then I’ll have to admit that it’s never going to happen, and I’m destined to be single for the rest of my life. Sorry, but I’d rather not have that particular realization shoved in my face right now.
“Thomas, Thomas, Thomas… that is not at all the truth I was referring to – in fact what you just said is not a truth at all. What I was alluding to was that you have a fear of being your genuine self. You seem to believe that you, the real and authentic you, is somehow not ‘enough’ for another person to love. And, that is simply and completely not true, not one bit. You do not have any need to project ‘a better you’ for anyone, you do not need to ‘perform’ for anyone in order for them to love you.”
I don’t know what to do Omen, I just… I guess I’ve always been this way and I am starting to hate it. Goddammit, I don’t even know how I got like this, I don’t remember feeling this way when I was a kid, back then I had all kinds of confidence. I want to feel differently about myself, I really do, but I’m not even sure how to do that much. I’m so tired of feeling like I’m the only actor in the play who hasn’t even seen the damn script.
“If you really want other people to know the true Thomas, you will need to get to know the true Thomas. You will not be able to introduce anyone to the genuine you until you truly know yourself, until you believe that you are worth the love you seek. You have to be able to give the exact kind of love that you wish to receive, and to do that you must truly love yourself.”
That’s actually possible? I mean, I’ve heard that expression my whole life, but I always thought it was more about just liking who you are. Other times I just thought it was some new-age feel-good babble that people bought into but didn’t actually achieve. Do some people really feel love for themselves; an actual loving feeling about their inner self?
“Yes Thomas, many people really do have those very feelings about themselves. It is not a form of conceit, or selfishness either, but an appreciation of the person that you are. Let me give you an example that I am sure you can relate to. Thomas, you have a wonderful sense of humor that brings laughter to so many people around you. How do you feel about your sense of humor, do you appreciate it?”
Oh yeah, I love making people laugh. I really like joking around and playing with words or commenting on funny situations. I don’t mean at inappropriate times either, but when the moment is right, making a group of people laugh is pretty awesome. Yeah, I guess I appreciate my sense of humor a lot. It sure has gotten me through some tough times in the past too.
“Good, I already knew you did, but I did wish to hear you say it aloud too. Just one small feature of your personality such as that, and how you feel about it, is the very essence of loving yourself. Discover all of the things about yourself that you truly like, that you cannot picture yourself being without. Gather those things, look at them carefully, gently embrace how they make up the complex, but real-you.”
It’s not like I’ve been going around bashing myself all the time, I know that’s a sign of messed up self-esteem. But, I see what you’re saying – I don’t show the rest of the world the real me, like I’m afraid they’ll all point and laugh. Yet, at some level I don’t really think anything so terrible is actually true, it’s just irrational fears I guess. Damn, insecurities are like night shadows, you don’t really see them unless you look for them. In my case, I think I’ve found a lot of them too.
“More than some and less than others Thomas, such as are many things in life. The only perfect person, the only perfect soul is the one that created all of us, and we aspire to become closer to that wonderful being. But, in the process of doing so, we also need to practice both self-kindness and self-love. I have complete faith in your ability to discover those things about yourself that are so very worthy of your own love Thomas. In the practice of that I know that you will find so many others who are on the same path as you – some of whom will love all that makes up the real you as well.”