"Whatever our issues are, no matter what we are fixing, getting your shit together requires a level of honesty you can’t even imagine." There was nothing easy about realizing I was the one that’s been holding myself back this whole time and having to admit I've let myself down in the worst way. It was harder to admit that I already knew my character was flawed even before I was cheating. I just didn’t care enough about myself to ask why and what I can do about it. That would take change, and change is hard, right?
I learned quickly that I was fighting two fronts. Essentially, on my BS’s front I’m working to “get it” and on my front I’m working to “own it”. And it seems my work was different yet the same on both fronts. And at some point, owning it became all I could do for us and for myself anymore.
I had to start somewhere, and I saw two things that I did have complete control over and worked towards strengthening both fronts.
1. The truth
But, I went into self-preservation mode on dday and to do these things didn’t come as a natural response for me. This is actually a common thing, not saying it’s right, just human nature. Its often referred to as cheater script because we lie, deny and minimize trying to save ourselves and control the fallout in our favor. To achieve that we all basically say and do the same stuff because it’s the only way “out”. It wasn’t physical, it’s your fault, It was only, this only that. It’s a psychological reaction, the stress response kicking in. We go into survival mode. I often suspect TT, defensiveness, victimhood, and a whole host of obstacles are due to remaining in this acute stress response. Realize, my survival is all about me, right? A person gets selfish and desperate, I learned for survival to go CYA mode. It all fits the cheater script doesn’t it?
Except, now I’m learning that if I wanted to survive with H, I’d have to go about it differently. I would have to start with those two things and continue with everything that I learned in “HTHYSHFYA” by MacDonald which is also the basics I learned here. I would like to credit my remorse for following through with these things, sadly I think a large part of it was simply basic instinct to survive. Don’t get me wrong I was deeply sorry and wanted to make things right and if it weren’t for that, maybe my survival would have looked different. I have even thought that perhaps I needed the adrenaline of survival to act on my remorse. It was hard stuff getting the truth out there, I was crazy afraid of it. IDK, but the point is that I had to actively work to get myself out of this survival mode. I can’t grow there. So I practiced the opposite of selfishness and desperation.
By practicing these in my life basically every second of every day to everyone and everything *including myself* the more I moved out of the stress response. IC was really good for this too. But, it wasn’t enough because I still felt at any moment EVERYTHING could blow up (and there was truth to that) so I was still on guard, still stressed. An extra step was needed.
Letting go of the outcome.
This was so hard for me to do and still is when I get an idea in my head. I think a lot of us struggle here. From what I understand desire for a specific outcome is healthy, attachment? not so much. Attachment is where feelings of false control breed. When so much energy is put into one outcome you can become blind to everything else. Letting go of surviving this with my H started with detaching from that idea. Of course I didn’t want to. And as hard as it is to face the scary unknown, that (the M, surviving this with him) in and of itself was already determined an unknown. I was surrounded by unknowns and quite frankly always have been. Life is one great big unknown after all.
That realization at the time was both terrifying and reassuring all at once and a transition began to take place. The more I could convince myself that I didn’t need to be in a constant state of survival, the more I could relax and open myself up to my H and really get it. AND open myself up to myself to really own it.
I had a huge problem though. My biggest difficulty early on was getting lost in the fearful feelings. The moment I started indulging fear I became engrossed in reactionary thoughts and feelings. Anxiety inducing thoughts because often my reaction was to go straight to catastrophe. My thoughts of myself were extremely negative as well and the emotions attached would take me so low. This obviously had to change, so I learned a handy little tool to help with that. And it was as easy as challenging these thoughts. And so, every time I noticed a negative thought I stopped it and replaced it with something else, sometimes being only slightly less negative, but it was a start. These days I can’t remember the last time I truly put myself down and meant it, and it’s only because I started here. Challenging my thoughts meant opening them up to new/different thoughts and ideas.
That ultimately worked its way to challenging and changing my beliefs. This was the crux of my work, I think of it as my own Age of Enlightenment. I started questioning everything and discarding long held beliefs that didn’t serve me anymore. But before I could just throw things out all willy-nilly, I sat down and started to compile a list of what I valued. I needed something to reference. Honesty/Truth was at the top of my list suddenly. I had this belief that lying was a problem solver. That belief neither serves me or my values. So that one could go...like it’s that easy huh? It’s not, I promise you that. I still feel a pull to this belief it was so ingrained. I practice honesty every day, rewiring or forming new habits, whatever you want to call it takes dedication and hard work. Who knew you actually had to protect and cherish it. Or y’know in other words, value it if it was to be long lasting.
I put a lot of thought in my values and how I’ve expressed them in my actions. I said I valued family, but my actions destroyed my family. I also questioned if my current values even have meaning to me. Turns out some things I valued was only because I was taught to. It had no substance to me upon real examination of my true self. I started with my values for fundamental reasons. I found myself needing to pour a new foundation of my own, what went into that foundation was going to determine well, me.
So, it takes getting honest and worse becoming VULNERABLE with yourself, that’s where the REAL work begins. This almost did me in, the introspection. Not even kidding I wanted to stop here. Nope, fuck that, you can’t make me. This was actually a daily argument I had with myself. I’ve spent a life time keeping all of this inside me “protected” and to open it up risks exposure and emotional harm or so I thought. It was just another false belief. At some point I was listening to a pod cast about my Briggs personality type of all things and I heard vulnerability and introspection described like this; Imagine there is a dragon inside of you (my fears of turning inward) then think about what dragons guard, GOLD. Slay the dragon (conquer your fears) and you’ll have all the riches in life (authenticity, self-worth, joy, health, it’s endless). I took that as an absolute truth and it encouraged me to go there. But however you want to think of it here’s the bottom line, I went there and better off for it.
I won’t lie and say it was a beautiful experience every moment of the way discovering myself and once in, I wanted to give up every day for months. Then something happened as I started doing this work, it wasn’t as painful as time went on. I was actually eager to learn everything I possibly could about what makes me, me. And how to authentically live. Be unapologetically the BEST me. The real me. I wanted to wholeheartedly love myself for the first time ever and nurture that hurt child within.
It meant a lot of acceptance as well. Accepting that I haven’t exactly been the best person and I need to own the bad-for-me choices I've made and the ugly choices hurting others (beyond the scope of infidelity too). I didn’t have to go through it all one by one, I just had to practice a general forgiveness. I wasn’t giving my best in life, sometimes I think along the way my stress response kicked on and never turned off. Life seemed about survival and it’s all about selfishly looking out for number one. On the flip-side, I needed to accept the good too. I can assure you in the moment I didn’t see much good, but I knew I wasn't a heartless monster. I made good choices in life, worthy of recognition. During my struggle with introspection I often spoke about acceptance and the power in it.
I need to mention something though. None of this would have been possible without a few things.
First, I had a true desire in every sense of the word for change. I will never be grateful for the destruction I caused to gain this desire, it was the destruction itself that provided me this want. I didn’t want to be a person capable of such extreme abuse EVER again. Whatever it took. I am not an abuser and that is exactly what I did. THAT’S not me in my core. That sadly was my life’s pain expressing itself in an abusive form. I can fix this.
Second, I needed tools because I didn’t know how to fix this.
Knowledge, the most useful of all tools. I knew I was out of my element on dday, my first internet search was “I cheated how do I help my husband”. There it was, all the knowledge I could ever ask for at my fingertips. I didn’t waste any time diving right in. I learned all about what his healing would look like and mine. It grew into more than that, I was actively seeking knowledge in all things.
IC was a must because I didn’t know what “healthy” looked like and without understanding it, I wasn’t going to change much. When that wasn’t an option I was reading a lot of self-help. I was careful when considering my whys. I’ve seen strong attachments form to FOO and other reasons that border on excuses. My self-help approach wasn’t so much finding out why I have these issues but more so, how do I fix these issues.
Mindfulness is a technique that helps me practice honesty. It’s a tool I use when I want to keep anything in my conscious, to y’know, be mindful about. I would take honesty moment by moment with awareness, keeping it in my forethoughts. It’s diligent work. Sometimes no matter how much I practice, a lie would just come out (something insignificant) and I would want to correct myself immediately, “Sorry that was actually a lie, they weren’t really out of milk I just forgot”. Yeah, things like that. And by valuing honesty and putting my thoughts there, a knee jerk reaction to stop and tell the truth started taking place. We talk about rewiring of the brain, there it was, in action.
Coping turned out to be a tool I needed to RElearn.
And so on it goes.
Third, courage. When we take on ourselves it feels like a lot at first and maybe it is. Some of us have done years of avoiding. It’s going to take a lot of determination and courage to keep up the fight. When it gets hard I stop myself (try to) and acknowledge, it is what it is. Sometimes I would get so uncomfortable just peeking in a box, my thoughts and feelings would freeze up on me and I couldn’t go there. It’s okay to say not today, I’ll try again tomorrow. I had to get comfortable with the uncomfortable, I knew that much. It’s not so easy but, totally doable, and courage helps.
Fourth, I actually had to DO the work. One of my favorite proverbs for this, “If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.” Sometimes it felt more like I was crawling or dragging my feet. I would get lost and circle around. I would stop to dig in or rest. But what I valued more than giving up was perseverance (a new one btw). And so, I kept progressing.
Today my work doesn’t feel like the hard work it once did. It only feels like a responsibility I owe to myself, which is taking an interest in my greater self and trying to love whatever authentic me comes from it.
[This message edited by foreverlabeled at 9:20 AM, February 2nd (Saturday)]