Thursday, December 31, 2009

Anxiety: a Disease of Significance

I think anxiety should best be thought of as a disease of significance. What the fuck am I talking about? The main obstacle with anxiety, and almost any type of inappropriate worrying is significance. We place a lot of significance on our thoughts and sometimes our feelings and end up getting hung up on them. For instance, a person might say "oh crap, I'm starting to feel this or that. I wonder what that means. I need to understand it or feeling something else because I don't like where this is going." That's the key mistake, in my opinion. If people, instead, just let things go and looked at them with a calm, inquisitive attitude, they wouldn't be so bothered and would either keep their head on straight, or recover soon thereafter. Creating too much significance is what leads people to separate from their experience and reject it. It plunges them into a control spiral, where they begin controlling their mind, and then seeing that they have become farther removed from themselves, control the controlling tendencies, ad infinitum. The solution, instead, is to just see what's going on and not fuss with it too much.

If don't believe me, good. But just picture the difference between two people. One person gets some input and judges it, quickly and subconsciously. They say "I don't like this" or "this is not the best" or "this is a bad sign of something." They then launch a campaign to force themselves into feeling, thinking, or acting like someone else. They either pretend they are someone else and practice techniques of control to get to be someone else. For example, a person who goes out to a bar and gets anxious might act like they're not, like they are supremely macho guys who disparage women (or conversely, stuck up girls who are beyond reproach), or they might start talking positively to themselves until they're become numb to their own anxiety and take it from there. They are, however, phony.

Now consider the alternative. A person walks into a bar and feels anxious. But rather than judge it, they just look at it with light curiosity. They might feel some feelings and have some self-defeating thoughts, but by looking at it with curiosity and not making it into this big huge obstacle that needs to be conquered (i.e., not creating significance) nothing too terrible ends up happening. They retain a connection to themselves throughout the storm and the severity of the storm diminishes because of that connection. By not significating (it's a word now!) they need not react, and by not reacting, they keep their cool and their feeling of self-connection.

It's for this reason that I don't always advocate going to the therapist. I get the feeling that many therapists, especially from a psychoanalytic background, feed into the significance of these experiences, thinking they have all this hidden meaning, and go on a fishing expedition for some underlying cause and secret. I think this is a gross mistake. Therapy should be a last resort if the person cannot practice letting go/mindfulness/awareness/"insignificating" on their own.

Being able to truly guide people out of suffering requires that the guide (the guru, the therapist, the mentor) know what happiness looks like. I think this is interesting. One of the premises embedded in the section above is that living well RESULTS when people don't fuss too much and let things unfold without steering them too harshly. It's a process of simultaneous engagement and disengagement, depending on the way you look it. It takes a great deal of faith to suspend one's impulse to analyze and control, especially for chronic analysts and controllers like yours truly. But without that experience, a guide can fall prey to the lures of control and analysis and lead one's followers into further analysis and further control. This, to me, is the main problem with traditional psycholanalysis, as well as the problem with most DSM junkies who believe that with enough thought and analysis, something will eventually happen. And probably, something important will eventually happen -- exhaustion and surrender, which are another, organic way of making things less significant.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Theory to Understand all Human Behavior (including Anxiety)

Human behavior, if uninterrupted, is always running the same "program" or playing the same game. The program/game is thought-structuring. We structure our thoughts in certain configurations to yield a certain result. Some configurations yield pain and discomfort. Others yield pleasure and temporary respite centered in the shoulders and back area (sounds weird, but think about it). Thoughts can be restructured by either (A) manipulating memory or (B) by changing our environment, or (C) both. Both methods restructure our thoughts and perception.

Pain, Depression and Pleasure
The thought-configuations that lead to pleasure are always carry the same theme: they relate to permanence, progress, acquisition, and dominion and physically, feel releasing. All those ideas are similar; those ideas that keep up sustaining so evolution has passively designed them for us. (Thanks, evolution!) Thought-configurations that lead to pain and strife also are linked thematically, and come in 2 forms, loss-depression and stagnation-depression. Loss-depression is feeling defeated and depressed because you have lost something valuable that promises prosperity -- money, romance, health. Stagnation-depression is much more tricky. It's the feeling that something is wrong just when things are not moving forward. In the body, it feels like tension in the shoulders and middle back. Pain always triggers pleasure-seeking via "positive" thought-structuring. Since pain is tied with stagnation, pain is the default feeling one feels.

An Example
An example. I lose a job. I worry about my financial future, my reputation, my future job prospects, my pride, and so on. I play memories of how I lost the job. I also play memories of what I did wrong. I might speculate about how others will disapprove of me. Together, all these thoughts form a painful thought configuration and I begin to feel stress in my back and shoulders. I automatically begin searching for a solution. The solution is to conjure up a new set of thoughts. (A) I can restructure my memories: reflect on the situation and challenge my thoughts of failure and my fears of humiliation, and in so doing, revise my view of myself. That new, self-promoting thought-configuration creates pleasure -- the feeling of progress and industry and the alleviation of physical stress -- and replaces pain . I can even try to think certain thoughts and offer myself affirmations of my value. (B) I can also make physical changes to my environment, contacting recruiters, maybe writing a letter to HR, or going on a vacation. All these decisions change the thoughts I hold in my head about the situation and stimulate pleasurable feelings. Anxiety, depression, status-seeking, romance, and careers all work according to the same principles.

Mankind's Hopeful Game
The great illusion is that pleasure can be made permanent if we get enough of it. So people engage in all types of thought-structuring (and environment structuring) efforts to amass it. But because it's linked with progress and movement, there is rarely any rest. As soon as you start to adjust, you begin feeling antsy again as stagnation-depression sets in.

And this is how human behavior works. ;)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Updated post

My boyfriend is addicted to porn has been updated with significant changes. Please take note. Thanks.


For the past 3 or 4 days, I've woken up with the same thought, which might better be described as a curiosity. I wake up asking myself "what are these thoughts I'm having and these feelings?" It's not that I can't identify them or label them, but I just wonder about them. Thinking is peculiar. It's a strange experience when you think about it. You can say the same thing for all experience, and it's all true.

Take taste. Taste is a whole experience that is strange as shit. It blooms in all different flavors and textures. As my fingers rest on this keyboard thinking of what to type next, I'm sensitive to the strangeness of touch. It's an experience that is happening in the world, right-effing-now. In fact, all of this stuff is happening right-effin-now, and it is all very peculiar. Why is it all happening? What is happening? You can attach the same curiosity to panic, breathing, longing, and self-monitoring. It's strange and amazing. To me, this is what wondering is about: choosing problems with no real solutions. It's humbling and it engenders Rest. Try it?

Monday, December 28, 2009

I found out my bf is still addicted to drugs

Dear Edahn, 

I did something fucked up and now I'm all fucked up about it. I found out that my boyfriend is lying to me because I suspected he was, so I went through his Blackberry while he was in the bathroom. He isn't cheating on me, but he has returned to an addiction that he told me he has quit (I don't want to give too many more details online, because its weird enough that if he ever sees this he'll know it was me writing). I probed him a bit and tried to give him an opportunity to come clean with me, but he just kept on lying to my face, which only made me angrier. My response is to shut down and get passive aggressive (which I hate doing) but I don't know how to tell him why I'm upset without admitting that I violated his privacy. Everytime he lies to me I also trust him less, even though I know that he is lying out of shame over his actions, and desire to protect both him and me from the truth. I want to tell him what I did, and that I know. I want to be able to discuss his addiction. I want him to be honest with me. I know that if I tell him that I looked through his phone, he will probably be ashamed, and angry, will get very defensive and will not trust me either, which will likely only lead to him being further addicted and going further out of his way to hide it from me. What should I do? I don't want to drive him away, and I also don't want to be angry at him anymore.

Update: it turns out the addiction is to a drug.

Alright. Well, if it's dangerous to his health, then I think you should be upfront with him and tell him what happened, what you know, and let him know that you don't want to be in a relationship with him until he gets clean. You can explain why you searched his phone and how you did it because you were worried about it. Your heart was in the right place, and that mitigates, if not excuses, what you did. Besides, there are more pressing issues on the table.

I know you want to help him and be with him, but you can't really be in a healthy relationship with someone who's an addict. He needs to get clean for his own sake and for the sake of your relationship and he needs to do that by going to a rehab clinic and joining NA. This is neither something he can do alone, or something you can do for him. You can support his recovery, but you need to find a professional to guide you through it. This is the kind of situation where you need to search yourself and follow what your heart tells you is right without making this your own personal burden. In other words, help him, but don't make it your responsibility to make him get clean.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Are guys interested in having sex more than once?

Dear Edahn,

In your opinion, as a man, is having sex once with a woman you just met enough? Or do you think he would want to have sex again with that same woman, specially if he said it was good and he liked it. Can you please answer? 

Depends on the guy and what his intentions are. For a guy who's just looking for a fling, once is enough. If you think about it from a biological standpoint, the payoff for a guy is when he gets to impregnate you. After that, he's accomplished his genetic destiny.

For a guy who has a deeper romantic interest, sex isn't the object of the relationship, so he's more likely to continue having sex as long as the other parts of the relationship are working.

If you want to try and figure out what your guy's intentions are, see how quickly the relationship turns sexual, and how comfortable he seems. If he seems like he's scheming to get into your pants as soon as possible, he's just looking for sex. If he's opening up to you, dating you, and setting up a relationship, then he's probably investing. The tricky part is when guys fake like they're investing but are really just looking for a fuck. Trust your intuition and don't let your hopes get the best of you.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

On Vacation!

Hi folks,

I'll be on vacation next week so I've scheduled a few articles to post. They're good articles I wrote a while back. Back to normal posting on Monday. Again, please share this blog with a friend! Happy holidays.

Sexless marriage, now an affair

[I've edited the question and added titles for the readers. The gist is that **SPOILER ALERT** she's in a very cold, sexless marriage and started having an affair that's now coming apart too.]

Dear Edahn,

Sexless, painful marriage
I'm a 40 yr old woman, married for 22 years. We were young and crazy. I don't believe I really loved him, because I didn't know what love was, and from my husband side, I think it was puppy love; he was possessive and controlling. I never was able to have sex with him. I never really trusted him because of the way he treated me, so the natural solution for him was to find someone else, but we never separated, we stuck together, like roommates, friends, we cared for each other! About 4 years ago, we decided we need to have children. My husband did not want to have regular sex with me, so we tried in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination unsuccessfully. I felt extremely lonely. I often went to bed with tears rolling down my face!

I meet another guy
Last October I met someone first over the phone who works in my field. We started e-mailing each other, I really felt sparks immediately from the first day! He's 35 and married! But he was interested in me and wanted to know about my sexual life, and like an idiot, I immediately told him about my relationship with husband, never had real sex, etc. He came over to see me that same weekend and boy was it intense! He made feel like a REAL WOMAN, the best thing that ever happened to me..I was a little nervous, but he made it easy for me to get close to him, and give myself to him, I don't know how and why I trusted him that way, but he was sweet and gentle, and extremely hot! This was a turning point. I realized what I was missing all my life, the touch of a man who cares! A man who can make someone like me feel incredibly beautiful.

I start to feel better about myself, but the guy starts backing away
My self confidence shot up, felt very attractive, very energetic, can't stand the site of food. I lost close to 35 pounds in less than 2 months. I'm exercising 4 hours a week, and I'm shrinking and feeling more beautiful. Unfortunately, my inspiration does not want to return my calls, or e-mails, he's ignoring me completely, he talked to me for a month or so after our hot meeting, but every time we talk, he says let's talk in a month, and he keeps on saying that I'm too attached! I can't wait for a whole month. Just the fact that I have interaction with him over the e-mail gives me butterflies, and when we talk about what we did, and how I want more of it, I get extremely wet. At the end of our conversation he asks for a month off. What is that, a game? What is he trying to do? Early this week, he started ignoring me completely, I e-mailed him an apology, saying that I acted like a child, and he was nothing but a sweetheart to me, but he still he won't answer. I promised I won't bug him again. I wear a rubber band around my wrist, and I snap myself every time I feel I want to e-mail him.

Trouble coping
I feel so lonely again. I hate my life at home. This is the holiday season but I can't get in the spirit. I can't feel happy, all that I feel is longing and sadness! And he's probably just doing great with his wife. Songs remind me of him, the place where we met that I see everyday reminds me of him, his words are still playing over and over in my head sometimes at 2 or 3am in the morning. I don't know how to overcome my need for him, my lust, my love of being wanted? Maybe you can shed some light and advise me what should I do and how to get over this. This was my first ever real deep sexual relationship with anyone.

There are a lot of layers to what's going on here. The most significant, to me, are dependence on other people's approval, the resulting anxiety that that creates, and the depression that ensues when you lose someone or are too anxious to be yourself. The first thing I'd recommend is finding a really good therapist who practices Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. I think it would be appropriate for you, but you would need to consult a therapist in person to make sure it is.

As I see it, you've developed a strong attachment to this guy because he's alleviated some of the depression and staleness that has invaded your life. That depression is a result of being in a cold, resentful, lonely marriage, and not properly managing your self-concept. You've stopped viewing yourself as someone valuable and wonderful and this guy has given you a reason to start caring about yourself again. (By the way, you really want to make sure you pace yourself with exercise and eat healthy, rather than just not eat.) You've developed a slight addiction to new sex (which is always exciting) and to the way he motivates you. The problem is that he's only wants sex while you've come to depend on him for emotional sustenance too. He's backing away because he doesn't want that responsibility.

So what can you do? Well, you could pretend like all you're interested in is sex, but that's a bad idea for 2 reasons. First, it's impossible to pull off. Your body language, tone, excitement, conversation, and frequency of contact will reveal your emotional attachment. Second, I think you're better off without this guy in your life. (A) This affair is going to complicate the relationship with your husband which is the deeper, looming issue you need to address if you want to be at peace. For that, I think you should visit a marriage counselor. (B) The fact that you're looking for more than he is will result in disappointment. (C) Aside from your marriage, I think you need to take a look at your life and see what's going on. What steps do you need to take to achieve peace of mind? What challenges do you face? What is it that you're seeking? Is it healthy or unhealthy? How do you best deal with depression and anxiety? Those are questions that are going to take lots of reflection, studying, and introspection. This experience taught you what you're missing in your life. Learn from it, study it, but pursuing the relationship itself isn't the answer -- it's a distraction. You're just going to have to say no, just like you were saying no to any other addiction. 

Your long-term happiness depends on how you relate to yourself and how you relate to the content of your experience; it doesn't depend on whether or not you continue your relationship with this guy. Think of this guy as a sign pointing you in the right direction. He's not the destination itself. Quick story. The Chinese Philosopher Chang Tzu told a story about 2 people who both lost a sheep. One got very depressed, and turned to drinking, sex, and gambling to forget the situation. The other decided it would be a good change to investigate his mind and human nature. "Both men experienced the same misfortune, but one man lost himself because he was too attached to the experience of loss, while the other found himself because he was able to let of gain and loss." As I see it, you have the same choice and same opportunity. (Story from Lieh-Tzu: A Taoist Guise to Practical Living, highly recommended.)

To sum up, some aspects of this affair has brought you some relief, other aspects have brought you more problems, longing, and suffering. Use this experience to start looking into yourself, your life, and your unhappiness and start reflecting on what it means to be happy and at peace. What changes do you need to make to the way you see yourself, to the way you view life, and to your marriage to restore balance? How will you deal with depression and fear? By turning to something outside of you to soothe it temporarily, or by summoning inner strength and hope? How will you establish your self worth? Based on your inner goodness and kind-heartedness or based on how other people value you? This is a great wake up call! Don't ignore it! Honor it. :-)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

FREE ANALYSIS! Contestant #2

Background: In recent years, I've had 3 of the closest people pass away, and I don't think I'll ever recover. My long term relationship also ended. I feel regret in things I should of done, or I feel angry/sad for those who treated them so badly when they were around. I saw the world differently...I lost trust in most people and for those I did trust, I valued them more than ever. I find myself analyzing people and seeking their actual intentions. I used to freely make friends with anyone, just as long as I got a kick out of it. I think I used to be more selfish in the things I wanted to do or whatever benefited me (sounds bad, but I just made friends with whoever and never really thought about it before). I used to be indifferent about people with characteristics of being kind and considerate but now I find myself trying hard to build friendships with them. Those characteristics shine much more brightly to me now then they used to before. I guess I live everyday as if it was my last day and I would never want to take my good friends for granted. And I never want to surround myself around selfish bastards! What should I improve on?

[x] personal development
[x] finding some fucking happiness

* * * * *

How about being less awesome? Sounds like things are progressing splendidly. You're learning about yourself, about others, and about what you value in others. That's good stuff.

One point about death and grieving. It's true that you will never be the same after someone dies. You're never the same when people come into your life and never the same when they leave because they change you. Their personality and spirit rubs off on you a bit and leaves some residue. Some people try to get back to the person they "were" before tragedy struck, but I think that's a mistake. If they really succeeded in doing that, they wouldn't just undo their grief, but also undo all the positive experiences and personal growth they've undergone. The point isn't to recover to the extent that you go back to where you were, but to recover in the sense that you let your grief turn into appreciation for the way those people participated in your life. Cheers, big ears.

[See this post to get your own analysis. If you enjoyed reading this please share this site with one friend! Just one.]

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How can I get the girl back?

Dear Edahn,

I was dating a girl for 2 months. She's 21 and I'm 29, but she's very mature for her age, not to mention intelligent and beautiful. Despite coming from a family with dysfunctional male figures, she was well put-together. We had a lot of fun together, talked multiple times a day and I was helping her out with some financial problems. A week ago she was acting kind of weird. She told me a few days later that she was confused. She said that after 2 months of dating she expected to feel stronger about a person than she felt about me and called it off. What can I do to get her back?

It sounds to me like her heart and mind are a bit at odds: her mind recognized that something good was going on -- you were talking, spending time together, and she was being taken care of -- but something didn't connect with her emotionally. Why not?

 Maybe she's really protective and guarded. Maybe she's looking for someone abusive and dysfunctional. Maybe you're were treating her as a daughter rather than a companion and trying to help "build her" back up like a project. I don't know for sure, but whatever the reason, something made her hesitate. I would assume that she saw something incompatible with you both. I know that's probably not what you want to hear, but that's how I see it.

My advice would be to take this as a learning opportunity and let go of her. Use the experience to evaluate how you're relating to women romantically. Are you creating an authentic relationship where you both feel free to be yourself, to make mistakes, and to laugh at yourselves, or are you forcing yourself and your partner into relationship roles where you are the leader and she is the student? A second opinion from some of your exes and friends might help. Maybe everything is cool and there was just an incompatibility. It happens. Even people who have a healthy authentic friendship can still be incompatible on the romantic level. On the other hand, if you decide you have some work to do, then do it with the next person you meet. Maybe you'll meet this girl down the line, and who knows, you might already be in another healthy relationship when you do.

Orgasmic Difficulty

Dear Edahn,

I am a female in my mid 20s and find it very difficult to orgasm. I've never has an orgasm from traditional sexual intercourse. Is this possible? I find this to be a problem in relationships once the guy finds out that I don't really actually reach an orgasm ever, because he always becomes determined and then disappointed. It adds pressure, too. They ask 'how'? And I don't even know the answer. Based on discussion with girlfriends of mine, I've gathered an understanding that it's definitely not common for a woman to orgasm during sexual intercourse.

Before I even get into the advice portion, you need to know that this is EXTREMELY common! Most of the women I've slept with have not had orgasms because I came so fast! Just kidding. Sorta. But honestly, I've been with thousands of numerous girls who didn't come from sex or needed something extra. Don't be ashamed, okay? It's all good.

Now lets get into the advice part. Think of having an orgasm as unlocking a door. You need to make sure that there's nothing blocking the keyhole and you need to have the right key. The thing that blocks the hole (sorry, I didn't mean for this analogy to sound dirty) is pressure and anxiety. The right key is a matter of technique.

As far as relieving pressure and anxiety, some of that pressure is probably melting away as you read this post and discover that you're not a monster/mutant and actually fairly normal. The rest of it will dissolve as you adopt the right attitude and get your suitors to join you. The right attitude is not taking your Orgasm Quotient so seriously, giving yourself room to not have an orgasm and still enjoy other parts of sex (other sensations, the emotional aspects, etc.), and just having some fun. Lots of guys know that putting pressure on the girl to have an orgasm will backfire, but for those who don't, tell them that you just don't come from sex, but that they can go down on you for an hour afterwards. Don't let them take it personally and base their entire performance on whether you come; you can still enjoy sex if you don't come and having an orgasm doesn't ensure you've enjoyed the other aspects of sex. If they keep talking, just tell 'em to shut up and put out already.

Once you've removed the obstacles, you can address technique. For this, I'd suggest looking to your masturbation habits. What technique do you use when you masturbate? Hands? Penetration? Both? (Mouth?!) Try and adapt that technique to having sex. You can do some stuff yourself and guide the guy to do some of the other stuff. You don't have to come from it or calculate whether it'll lead to an orgasm down the line. Just ask if it feels good. If it does, continue. If you don't masturbate, then start. It'll help you get to know your body and feel more certain about how to navigate it.

You're a student learning about your body and mind. Maybe you have an orgasm, maybe not. If you experiment with your attitude and techniques like I suggested, the experience -- orgasm or not -- will feel better emotionally and physically, and that's a positive step.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sleeping with Boxers

Dear Edahn,

I've noticed a trend in men that I sleep with, in that they always seem to put their boxers back on after sex. Is there a reason for this? I've always remained naked for the sleeping part of sleeping with someone. I can't seem to get a straight answer out of my male friends!

And you're not going to get a straight answer out of this male friend, either! Instead, here's a list of possibilities:

1. They never sleep naked and prefer the feeling of boxers.
2. When they wake up, they don't want to be seen naked (and flaccid).
3. They don't want you to feel their junk pressing against your junk.
4. They don't want to feel your junk pressing against their junk.
5. It saves time in case they have to run out in the middle of the night for some reason (earthquake, gas, your references don't check out). 

I have an idea. What if you ask the dudes and then report their response in the comments? If there are any guys who would like to share their sleeping habits, maybe we can get to the bottom of this.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Feedback and Suggestions!

What would make this website even better (besides nekkid pictures of me)?

Do you think I'm a douchebag?

Have the posts and questions been getting better or worse?

Let me know by leaving a comment here!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

FREE ANALYSIS! Contestant #1

Brief history: I am finishing college. It seems like all the good friends I meet end up moving away, and its hard to make new friends that last. I try to be friendly to people, but I feel like I do things that others think are weird, anti-social, or that make me seem bitchy or unfriendly. At this point I don't know if I'm just overly self-conscious or if I really need to work on major personality things.

[x] Why no one wants to date me
[x] Finding some freaking happiness

* * * * *

At this point, I don't know either. I'd need some more info and examples, including examples from your dating life. What kinds of things are you doing? Have you ever been told that you're bitchy? Give me a example of that too.

With that said, I'll tell you this. Introverted people -- I'm assuming you're an introvert -- tend to "orbit" around what's happening rather than join in. They like to connect to themselves and watch what people are doing in the center. They watch what the group is talking about but don't fully join in or they watch what they're doing (dancing, playing) but don't really fully participate. There's nothing wrong with that. Most of my life is spent "in orbit" too.The trick is to find a balance where you don't drift so far out that people think you've left the group and are rejecting them but can still maintain a sense of independence and distance.

You're sensing yourself drifting and your romantic life isn't blossoming, so there's a good chance you've been drifting a little too far. You don't need a complete personality makeover, you just need to make a minor adjustment so you stop floating off. That depends on what's happening and you're in the best position to determine how to accomplish that, but I'll tell you what I do. One thing I'll do is hang out with the group but be quiet. If people ask me what's wrong, I tell them I'm fine, or that someone keeps bothering me and asking me if I'm okay. A little humor always helps people relax. When I need to go home, I just say I'm socially exhausted and need to recharge. Lots of people feel the same way, they just don't say it.

Since I have lots of weird things about me too, I try and pay attention to my language: instead of saying "I want to be left alone" I'll say "I need to go hibernate"; instead of "I'm going to check on my tarantulas" you can say "I'm going to play with my baby." Language like that will convert your alarming weirdness into charming quirkiness and bring you a little closer to the group. Overall, it'll help you find a balance where you can orbit comfortably and stably. I'm guessing the same advice applies to your romantic life as well.

Friday, December 18, 2009

How do you get a guy to stop chasing you?

Dear Edahn,

How do you do tell someone to fuck off without being a bitch? I was afraid that I'd scare my buddy off after I turned him down when he confessed he liked me, but now he has this delusion that he could convince me to change my mind if he persists. I'm just getting REALLY annoyed...I think its best if I stop all contact with him...should I just continue to ignore his text messages? Wow I feel like a bitch...

Dear Bitch,

No, you're not being a bitch. Your friend is being annoying and you need to give him a reality check. Tell him in a real serious voice without laughing or smiling that you are not interested in him, that his persistence is making it hard for you to stay friends with him, and that if he respects you and wants to continue being friends with you, he needs to cut it out and take the option completely off the table.

Now that ball's in his court. If he fixes his behavior, cool; move on. If not, unfriend him. You're not being a bitch. You're honoring the personal boundaries that he's ignoring.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How do I win at life?

Dear Edahn,
When are you truly satisfied with what you have? What happens once you reach the end of the tunnel and you realize it's not what you wanted the whole time? How can you differentiate between what is ideal and what will truly make you happy? 
I want to try all possibilities but time is a constraint and sometimes you can only choose one path. Sometimes I feel like I should take risks, but when I do, I can't handle being out of order. It's nice having a change once in a while but I feel vulnerable and frazzled. My whole life has been set with guidelines but now I'm tempted to break through. I'm afraid that what I presently have is as good as it gets, and that changing things could be worse. I can't keep floating too...I want to let things "just flow" but I feel uneasy.

IN MY EXPERIENCE AND reflection, I've come to the conclusion that everyone knows what's really best for them deep down. They understand what decisions, including hard decisions, they need to make to really be happy. Not the kind of happy where you feel a rush like you're kicking ass and "winning the race" but the kind of happy where you're at peace, calm, content, friendly, open-hearted, and kind. If you read some of my other posts, I usually refer to this state of being as "Rest." (See also this post.)

Part of the reason I belabor the importance of honoring your conscience is that your conscience is that guiding voice. Your conscience will always guide you in the right direction. Some people have trouble distinguishing between their conscience and their thoughts that masquerade as their conscience and instruct them to do unkind things like kill infidels, convert heathens, or destroy property and people for the sake of some social cause. That's not their conscience talking because it's not coming from their heart; it's coming from their mind.

Here's a big key: you don't "get" happy. You don't get something and that makes you happy. That's not real happiness, it's materialism and that high will fade quickly. Being happy, being peaceful, is an attitude you take. It's a relationship you have to things, to others, and to yourself. It's an outlook rather than a thing you attain. Some of your worrying is healthy, because you know something is off. Another part of your worrying is just habitual worrying that'll melt away when you start getting in touch with your conscience.

So here's my advice. Put all the worrying and thinking and speculation aside for a minute and ask yourself: What does it mean to be at peace? What does it look like? What does it mean to have an attitude of joy and patience? What is truly good for me? What will I look like with a soft smile on my face and eyes? Just by reflecting on those questions, you'll make contact with your conscience. Every decision you make from that place of self-intimacy, even just small decisions, will be laced with wisdom and intelligence. Don't take my word for it; try it. Living from that space IS being happy; it will diffuse the questions and doubts you're having and help you make decisions that are congruent with that feeling of happiness. Trust it.

Why do I turn into a stupid slut when I drink? Part 2

Dear Edahn,

Lately I have noticed that when I start drinking, I do stupid things. When I get a little tipsy I may talk louder and repeat the same inane comments over and over again: "I had so much fun, I had so much fun, I had so much fun" ad infinitum. I may make suggestive statements I don't mean or be affectionate with people I don't truly care to be affectionate with. I begin cursing more and more profusely. Luckily I don't drunk dial/text people (guys) I shouldn't, although I may shoot a friend, oh, 12 texts in a row ("I'm soooooo drunk, I'm soooo drunk, I'm soooo drunk"). In the morning I feel stupid and I don't like that. I also fear I may alienate friends who don't really wanna go out with the annoying drunk girl. Now I know you had a similar posting to this in the past but my question to you is the following: how can I drink yet prevent myself from doing stupid things while drunk? Can I have my cake and eat it too? Help.

LOL. Yeah, it is kind of annoying to be with someone like that. 

Here's what you have to do: start acting more mature. Even when you're drunk, you still have self-control. You need a bit more control, and the best way to get that is by copying people who have self-control. Find someone whose style you like -- who doesn't act like an annoying drunk and who keeps their composure -- and act the way they would. That includes not being annoying in any form, texting, repeating the same inane shit, repeating the same inane shit, being really affectionate, and repeating the same inane shit. Do this the next 4 times you go out and you'll start to see that a) you don't have to be the annoying fucktard at the bar and b) it actually feels natural and better than being the annoying drunk. This is just growing up and now's your time. Welcome to adulthood. :-)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Free Personal Analysis!

Well, I'm bored again and want to spice things up. Would you like some feedback on your life, your personality, your growth, your character, and your makeup? You can leave a comment under this post and I'll give you my thoughts.

Please include relevant info and history (but make it brief) and check 1 or 2 of the following areas:

[  ] personal development
[  ] career
[  ] finding some fucking happiness
[  ] why no one wants to date me
[  ] ending a shitty chapter in my life
[  ] why am I such a bastard/bitch

I expect you to share this with your close friends when you're done; I'm super serial. Remember, I'm not licensed and this is just for fun, even if the advice is totally on point and awesome. If you have a general question, you should go here. (There's no advantage to asking in one or the other.) You can click here to read previous analyses.

Ready? GO!

My friend's a bitch (or something like that)

Dear Edahn,

I know this girl whom every time I meet, though not often, kind of leaves a bad taste subsequently. She recently entered a relationship but when she's not around her boyfriend, she feels a need to degrade her other girlfriends so much so that one gets the impression that she considers her other 'friends' worthless and in her own words a 'punching bag'. From what I can tell, maybe this is related to the fact that prior to meeting her recent boyfriend, she was very unhappy (though she had the same attitude towards her other friend) and she directed all her frustrations towards her. All I know for certain is that she has a lot of growing up to do and needs to learn to cope with her own inadequacies.

Ummm. Okay. Is there a question here? She sounds like a bitch. :-P

Monday, December 14, 2009



How would you define freedom? What if any connection do you see between freedom and meaning? It seems to me that many of the things that people find meaningful (e.g., relationships, religion, careers) require us to sacrifice our freedom. I'm curious what you think about that.

When I babble about freedom, I'm usually referring to psychological freedom. Psychological freedom is what happens when your fears and needs stop bossing you around. It doesn't mean you don't have fears, but the fears you have are legitimate. It comes, I believe, from deep self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is just being in your own corner, through whatever losses and hardships you suffer. You're always there for your self, supporting yourself. In my view, meaning is a feeling that derives from this self-acceptance and gentleness. It's not dependent on what you do, since you can feel meaning without doing anything at all. You can feel it just by treating yourself differently.

So all this business about relationships and religion and careers...I have no doubt that these enterprises can urge someone to change the way they treat themselves. Kids can help people be more gentle and nurturing. Religion might have the same effect (but not always) and some careers, especially those in service of others, might also help people engage the world and themselves with more dignity, more gentleness, more gratefulness. That's the essence of both meaning of freedom. Other times, I imagine, people seek these things out because they're needy and hungry. In those cases, I would agree that they serve to bind people rather than free them.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Public Hair Removal for Women

Dear Edahn,

I have a questions that I can't ask my guy friends about. I'm considering permanent laser pubic hair removal because I'm tired of shaving and the hassle and itching and bumpiness that come with it. My problem is that I don't know what guys like anymore. Every guy Ive been with seems to prefer something different. I'm in-between boyfriends right now. Is it a bad idea to take it all off, just in case the full bush 80s look comes back? Should I leave just a landing strip at the top? Should I just do the bikini line? I don't really have a huge preference as long as to whether there is even anything left at all, so what are men into these days?

I'm hard-pressed to find concrete data on this topic. Surprisingly, the US Census Bureau doesn't keep any statistics on the subject. (I know, right?) I was, however able to find some recent internet polls on the matter. The results are:
  • 34% No hair at all, nothing, nada.
  • 5% A funny design (arrows, stars, flowers and hearts)
  • 21% A jungle. “The Last Tango in Paris” looks
  • 16% A landing strip or a metro ticket
  • 17% Whatever she wants
  • 8% I don’t care as long as I have a woman
        570 people have voted in this poll.

A funny design? That means at least 5% of the people who voted in that poll are virgins.

The poll shows you that there's a lot of variability in what guys like, and, that pubic fashion is always in flux. I say you play it safe: do the bikini lines and keep the rest trimmed, that way you can keep the option of styling it differently, including, yes, a funny design. If "Bikini Lines" becomes the next pubic hair fad, you're just going to have to wait it out (or buy a merkin).

P.S. FYI, the people who were sitting beside me at Starbucks have now upped and left. ;-)

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dances with Boners

Dear Edahn,

When I'm dancing with a girl and things start getting freaky I sometimes get hard. Is this something I should try to prevent from happening or do girls expect it (and maybe even like it)?

Dude. I feel you. This is one of those ambiguous situations that's open to interpretation. As such, if you're really confident and sure that nothing is wrong, chances are the girl will follow suit and believe it's normal too. Here're a few guidelines to help your confidence:

1. If you're bumping and grinding, it's expected. The whole idea behind bumping and grinding is to simulate sex. Taking offense is tantamount to saying "how can you be thinking about sex at a time like this?!" while giving you an HJ under the table. If she gets offended, she doesn't know what she's doing, and if she walks away, whatever. She's probably annoying anyway.
2. If you're slow dancing -- not so much. If you start getting hard, you can start doing the swing-dancey thing when you hold hands and you both take turns going spinning under each other's arms. It'll give you some distance and time to calm down.
3. If you do get hard, pull her in closer. You can support her by putting your hand on the bottom of her back.
4. It never hurts to prepare a few lines for awkward situations.

She says / You say
1. A little excited there, are we? "Sorry, I was thinking about [your mom][my mom][dentistry]."
2. Can you relax? "No."
3. [She start getting uncomfortable] Push her away and preemptively yell "oh that's disgusting!" and walk away without offering any more explanation.

After a little practice it won't be such a big deal.

[Please share us with your friends, especially if they have their own blogs and/or money! Next up: Pubic Hairless!]

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Obsessive Time-Management has got me Wondering

Dear Edahn,

I’m having a problem with time. I feel that I am always rushing when there is really nothing urgent. I consistently impose arbitrary deadlines that have no actual consequences. Do you consider this just a practical problem with time or, as I suspect yet can’t quite grasp, some deeper psychological issue in the way I relate to the world?

We have a name for your condition: successful. Seriously, there are people out there who would kill for your self-discipline. Literally. I'm one of them. Beware.

If you feel stressed and anxious all the time, that's another issue. In that case, I'd suggest having fun with your self-imposed micromanagement by exaggerating how important it is that you get something done in time. For instance, if you have to brush your teeth, set an arbitrary time when you must brush your teeth by and pretend like it's really, really important that you get it done by that time. You might say "oh crap, oh crap! I have 2 minutes left and I'm FREAKING THE FUCK OUT!!!" In your best dramatic voice, you can say something like "Damn! DAMN!!!! What the hell are we gonna do now?" If you don't meet your deadline, you can pretend like you're melting or shutting down internally, as if the deadline was actually quite significant. Oops. You can also share your deadlines with your friends, telling them they have 12 minutes to pick you up, 6 minutes to finish their beer, 4.4 minutes to bring you to orgasm, and 3 seconds to STFU.

Mix 'n match and be creative. Do whatever it takes to put a smile on your face so you can keep yourself disciplined and organized without being super serial about the whole thing.

[Next up: Dances with Boners, followed by Pubic Hairless and Freedooooom! Please share us with your friends, if you have any!]

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

One a Cheater, Always a Cheater?

What do you think about someone who cheats? Do you believe the saying "once a cheater always a cheater" is true?

I don't think absolute statements like "once a cheater, always a cheater" are true. If you can see how cheating involves certain thoughts, patterns, and acceptable norms, then changing those thoughts, patterns and norms would change the cheating behavior. To do that, you have to understand their architecture.

There are, I'm sure, lots of reasons people cheat. Some might see it as a natural part of a relationship. Others might use it as a tool to exact revenge on their partner. Still others might resort to cheating to sooth their loneliness. Whatever the reason, cheating, like all sex, has addictive properties that make it hard to change; sex, flirting, and feeling attracted to someone are all stimulating and addictive. 

All those cognitions and behaviors can be changed, but you need something really impacting to do it, especially since they're locked in with addiction. Overwhelming guilt, deep self-reflection, illness, or some other kind of crisis might have that effect. I'm not sure it's the kind of thing you can change in another person, but I'm sure it's the kind of thing you can change in yourself if you were inspired to. 

I don't want to judge cheaters, but I think they'd be be happier if they didn't cheat, even it meant ending their primary relationship. You can't really care for a person when you cheat behind their back and violate their trust, so cheating complicates things rather than resolving them. Also, cheating cuts you off from your conscience, a connection that I believe is the key to deep happiness.

[Pretty please share us with your friends! Next up: Obsessive time-management.]

Monday, December 7, 2009

How do I get the guy I'm dating to sign off his dating website?

Dear Edahn,

I have been dating a guy for the last 2 months. We see each other 2-3 times a week, but things aren't defined as exclusive or that serious yet. I like him but am not really ready for the "are we exclusive" talk. Last week a friend of mine told me that she has seen him logging into a dating website (not how we met). Apparently he logs in at least every week, but not every day. 

I don't know what to do. Should I call him on it? Should I assume he's not that into me and just preemptively stop dating him so that I don't have to go through the process of having him dump me? Should I ignore it and just hope he stops logging in? Should I assume that him logging in means that he is dating other people or that he's at least interested in dating other people?

Perhaps my response can best be expressed with this:

The reason you're not ready for the exclusive talk is because you're still feeling him out and want the option of leaving if you meet someone else. By asking him to sign off the site, you're asking him to do what you're not ready to do yourself, which is restrict your dating pool and invest in the relationship. That's not really fair. It doesn't matter if you're on a dating site or not, since there are so many other ways to flirt with your options outside of a dating website.

My gut tells me that neither of you are really feeling the love connection. You probably both sense that something is still off, still hasn't clicked, and won't end up clicking. Now's a good time to take a look at how things have been going and decide what direction you want to take the relationship. If you think it has a good chance of working out, maybe it's time to have the dreaded exclusivity talk. If not, then you can either call it off, keep it just sexual, or just suck it up and accept that dating other people and jealousy is the result -- and definition -- of dating without exclusivity. It's an unavoidable part of the process.

* * * * *

Update: I guess I should clarify. I would like to date him exclusively but sense that he is not ready for "the talk". Does this change your answer?

So basically, you want him to commit and invest in your relationship. Investment is something he needs to want to do on his own. If he's convinced or pressured to invest, he's only going to be confused about his true feelings. You don't want that kind of instability in your relationship.

I think what you should do is tell him how you're feeling and what you're sensing from him. Don't do it with the intention to make him fix the situation, just tell him as if you were trying to assess a situation objectively, like you were just looking for the truth, regardless of what it is, without any specific goal. Don't be afraid of it not working out or of him saying he's not interested. So what. Isn't not a personal reflection on your self-worth. Sometimes things don't work out because the guy has issues. Other times they don't work out because people just don't mix right together. Ranch dressing and cotton candy don't go well together, but they're delicious with other foods.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Am I perceiving the world accurately?

Dear Edahn, 

Is it possible for the mind to create a whole world of its own, apart from but as a reaction to the real outside one? By this, I'm referring to how the mind is reacting to the external world yet at the same time internalizing and creating a quite different world. I understand this is perhaps too broad but I'm looking for a general answer.

Absolutely. In Zen Buddhism, they compare a clear mind to a clean mirror that perfectly reflect what's going on in the outside world. An unclean mind is like a mirror with dust on it that distorts what's going on outside.

Your perception, the thing you're experiencing right now, is a combination of your sensations and the judgments, labels, and automatic associations your mind produces ("JLAA" for short). You can think of it like a mathematical function* where x is stuff in the external world (lets call them "events") and y is your experience. When your mind is active and noisy, y = * JLAA. Events and JLAA fuse together and are impossible to distinguish. An extreme form of that is schizophrenia where JLAA and events have become completely indistinguishable, but it's also really obvious with other disorders like body-image disorders, anxiety disorders, Borderline personality, phobias, etc. In a phobia, there's an automatic association of danger with some object or situation -- spiders, hammers, intimacy, etc.

Most of our perception contains an element of fusion except in those moments where we really feel relaxed and calm, what I keep referring to as Rest. When your mind is relaxed and at rest, the JLAA disappears, so  = x. The mirror is reflecting perfectly. A Buddhist would call JLAA your karma. The objective of Buddhism is to clear your karma by making peace with desperation -- needing thing to change -- which is the source of karma. The primary tool is meditation, which is a tool for coming to peace with where ever you (and who ever you are) are in your life. Kindness towards yourself is a key component since when you're kind to yourself, you're not judging yourself and demanding you be a "better" person. Being kind to others is another key, since it helps you take your mind off of your needs and your struggle to change yourself.

If you're interested in cleaning up your mirror, you can give meditation a shot. I've had some favorable results with meditation and a lot of frustration. The frustration is actually a great opportunity to be kind to yourself, but it's easy to forget that. Cognitive-Behavioral therapy is all about identifying the JLAA and challenging it. Gestalt therapy is another technique that's really a form of meditation that came from Zen Buddhism. If you want my advice, I'd suggest trying to be a reasonably kind person (even if you don't totally feel it). You don't have to go overboard and pretend to be an angel, just try and be helpful and agreeable. If you have some specific area of your life that's giving you a lot of trouble, perhaps the reason you wrote in, then try and pay careful attention to your reactions and see what's going on. Some situations are truly threatening, others are only threatening because the negative automatic associations are scary and intense. When you identify those automatic associations, challenge them. Be tough and strong! Don't take shit from no one, not even yourself. Try this out for the next 3 weeks. If you want some more instruction, check out Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach or The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa. Very accessible, modern, and inspiring.

*Fuck, more math? What the shit is this, Not yet, fair readers!

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Real Strength

I've found that people are ingenious when it comes to overcoming their fears. I'm not so much talking about fears of external things like spiders, heights, or Dutch people, but fear of certain attitudes and feelings. The biggest fears I've found thus far are a fear of seeing yourself as inferior, of loneliness, of losing a loved one, and of losing yourself and not being awesome. Seriously scary shit.

Some people develop gimmicks in order to overcome those fears. They might, for example, put others down so they feel superior; they might criticize others so they feel more included in their group; they might play subtle or over control games so they never feel vulnerable. I don't consider this real strength. It's a strength that's dependent on other perceptions and relationships and therefore, ultimately unstable. It can also be very destructive.

Real strength, in my opinion, is finding the courage to stand up to those fears and see that you can actually endure them. Even if you feel like your world is falling apart, you wait and see what happens and have faith that you'll turn out okay. That's an amazingly stable strength since it doesn't depend on any one else, just yourself. 

All outta questions!

Either we've solved the world's problems, or we're doing a shitty marketing job, but I'm all outta questions.

If you know anyone who'd be interested in this blog, please send them a link. Until then, I'll continue posting mini-articles on topics I deem relevant and helpful.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My anxious mother

Dear Edahn, 

Tell me your thoughts on this. I have a mother who for the most part of my life has been "supportive." Only, as I grew older I started to realize that something wasn't quite right. 

I am currently in a graduate program. For many years now when I touched upon the subject of building a life for myself, a career, and eventually becoming independent and moving out on my own (yes, I still live at home), the first sentiments she would express amounted to her being proud. Only by the end of such a conversation, she always ended up by painting a clear picture of how hard life is, and that I will never make it on my own, that i would never make enough to pay the bills or live on my own, etc. She never failed to remind me how hard it would be to find a job, and that the debt would kill me. (Keep in mind, I am in a J.D. program and that my future plans always consisted in renting a not at all expensive apartment, nothing luxurious.)

For many years I felt afraid of life, not to mention even of people. Ever since I have distanced myself from her, though I still live at home, keeping conversation to a minimum, and all this for some time now, I feel I have grown enormously, as if I've come out of some dark, sinister world. I trust in myself and I know that is a good thing.

The last sentence captures it all -- you trust in yourself now. I think your mom lacks Trust, capital T. She doesn't trust that things will be okay and that people will be safe. When her anxiety starts flaring up and poking holes in things, she's not really aware of what's happening or doesn't have the skills to control it. So inevitably, her anxiety runs wild and tramples on other people's sense of Trust by convincing them that things, other people, and the future, aren't safe.

Understanding what's going on is really the key to climbing out of it, as you're already doing. You may want to take it a step further and ask "why hasn't she taken responsibility about her anxiety?" Is she unaware? Does she lack the inner strength to challenge it? Does she lack of understanding of where her anxiety originated? Did she, for example, have her own anxious mother? Is she, perhaps, worried that you're going to become too independent and abandon her?

Asking these questions will help you see that your mom isn't vindictive or blameworthy. She's got her own issues, her own fears, her own shady upbringing that has disturbed her peace of mind in the same way yours was disturbed. Just as I wouldn't blame you but encourage you, with kindness, to understand what's going on and make the necessary corrections, I wouldn't blame your mother either and would treat her with the same care. If you can really appreciate the similarities between you and your mom, you can find a good balance so that you're not so close that you let her anxiety trample you, but not so far that you lose your relationship with her.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Is the ability to love innate?

Dear Edahn,

How do people learn to love? Is it innate? Or does it have to be nurtured in infancy? And if it wasn't, are you basically fucked?

I'll tell you how I see personality. I believe everyone has a core that radiates joy, love, and peace. From the age of 3-5 it shines pretty bright. As you get older, language develops and needs (for status, recognition, power) become stronger and more pressing. Thinking and worrying eventually take over and covers up that core.

In most people, that core comes out to play around certain people or during certain activities. Family, best friends, (some) psychologists, and comedians can help shore up worrying and thinking and expose the inner core. Likewise, artistic projects, contemplation, and Flow can expose the core. In other people like psychopaths, the core gets buried deep but I believe it's still there. (I don't think anyone can really tell whether it is or it isn't. There's some evidence that psychotherapy can help psychopaths, but how and to what degree is hard to tell.)

A good upbringing can help expose the core by helping kids develop mental resilience, Trust*, and calmness. That makes them available to connect to others and care for them, from one core to another. A checkered upbringing can bury the core under layers of confusion, self-doubt, and worrying which then requires excavation by developing mental resilience, Trust, and calmness. There's no research either way, but I would guess that 99% of people fall somewhere in between those extreme. Of those, lots of us, myself included, are looking to make contact with that core through all sorts of techniques and tricks. That's what mysticism is really all about.

*"Trust" is capitalized because I'm talking about universal trust

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Hope your turkey doesn't blow. Har har.

See you again on Monday,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Have you ever considered what people look like from space? I can't say I know since the highest I've ever been has nothing to do with my altitude, but I imagine we all look like little germs moving around and interacting with each other.

If you take a minute to think of yourself as an amorphous germs, floating around and interacting with other germs, something cool happens. The labels you normally ascribe to yourself -- "Edahn," "me," "I," "human being," "animal," "playa" -- suddenly evaporate. That, in my opinion, puts you more in touch with reality. You're directly perceiving yourself and others, rather than perceiving through the "veil" of thinking, analysis, labels, and names. It's kind of like taking off your sunglasses. It also helps you see how you -- a germ -- aren't fundamentally different from the germs around you, or even the environment you live in. As Alan Watts' might have said, you've separating the territory from the map.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How do I find myself when I'm in a relationship?

Dear Edahn,

Here's my deal. In my teens through my early twenties, I was in an unhealthy relationship for about seven years. It ended badly. Looking back, I truly dislike the person I was during that time in my life. I really sucked and wish I could have that time in my life back. I regret almost everything about it.

I've been mostly single for the past five years. I've had a couple of girlfriends, but I find myself worrying about turning back into that person that I was and ultimately freaking out about being in a relationship as a result. I just don't feel like myself when I am in a relationship. Naturally, this ends with me breaking up with whoever I'm dating. The more time goes on, the more upsetting the thought of being in a relationship becomes to me. I know there are awesome people around me who I should probably be dating, but every time the thought of having a girlfriend comes up, I nearly have a panic attack. I keep telling myself that, at some point, someone will come along and I'll stop caring about the obligations and drawbacks of a relationship, but, realistically, I'm not sure. Is there something I can do to help me understand that I can be in a healthy relationship, preserve who I am and be happy all at the same time?

I completely understand what you're going through and I don't think you're alone at all. In fact, it's funny that you wrote me today. This exact question is what I want to dedicate my life's work to and something I've been thinking about recently. It's a dilemma I've struggled with for years and continue to work with, though I have found some techniques that work.

First off, what's going on? People like you are special. You understand things like beauty, authenticity, and naturalness. Not everyone does. You see value in it and when anxiety makes you question yourself, the naturalness gets hidden. You immediately know something is off. Is it really off? No. It's all working according to plan. Your mind is identifying a threat and going into "threat mode." It's actually trying to protect you by monitoring the threat -- the girl, a gap in conversation, rejection -- it's just clumsy. It's kind of like a new mother who sees threats everywhere she looks and keeps her kid sheltered, preventing the kid from becoming self-reliant.

You say that you don't like yourself when you're in a relationship. In truth, there are two things that change when you get into a relationship. The first is that you become a self-conscious dork much like everyone else, myself included. (I say that endearingly, not mockingly.) The second is that you become very self-critical. You reject yourself. This is what people mean when they say "conditional acceptance." You're understanding when you like the person you're being, but when you start getting nervous and dorking out, you cut off the compassion and understanding. Instead of saying "it's alright" or "it'll be okay" or being playful with yourself like you would to a friend in need, you place demands on yourself to be someone else and escape the frozenness.

So the first (and most critical) step is in finding a reason to be patient with yourself. The reason is simple: you're hurting. How would you respond if you saw someone at Starbucks who was clearly and genuinely hurting over something? Grieving? Depression? Inner conflict? Confusion? What would your gut tell you to do? It would tell you to ask them if they were okay. You would be nice, kind, maybe offer a few words of encouragement or just listen compassionately. You and I are in the same position, aren't we? In those moments of intense inner conflict, either before a date or when things start getting serious, we're in pain. We're confused, afraid, lost, and maybe ashamed of the person we are and worried about the future. As soon as your recognize that you can't help but be supportive and understanding.

So start recognizing the times when you're in inner turmoil. Just recognize it for what it is -- real, genuine pain. You'll start to see that even if you're not shining at the moment, you're okay. You're safe. You're still pretty awesome even though you're not perfect. You might even see how all the hardship you went through actually had a purpose, in bringing you to this moment and teaching you some valuable lessons. This is how you slowly find yourself even when you're lost. Eventually you'll have all the evidence you need to see that you can be happy, yourself, and in a relationship at the same time and you won't need any gimmicks or pep-talks to give you some fleeting hope.

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