Core Transformation

So I went to my head to ask myself: what is the one thing that I’ve been trying to get from all of my romantic relationships? What is the common theme that unites all of my fantasies? What is the thing that I desperately find myself craving for even now? That one “if only I could have that, then everything would be fine” thing?

Initial associations: Trust. Safety. Someone who wouldn’t abandon you.

That last one seemed to strike a chord. Let’s go with that one.

Someone who wouldn’t abandon you. Safety from abandonment. Is there something deeper?

Mental image: lying in each other’s arms, looking at each other in the eyes. A sense of knowing the other, being known.

Complete openness and vulnerability. Having no secrets, revealing everything about yourself to the other. Being completely accepted.

Not just one way. Complete mutual acceptance. Seeing the other exactly as they are, feeling only love and compassion. Seeing them as perfect, just as they are. And being judged perfect in return.

I stop here for a long time, enjoying.

Is there a yet deeper thing here? Is there something that I’m hoping that the mutual, complete acceptance will give me?

I ask my mind to assume that I have this beautiful fantasy, and to show me what’s the next thing, what’s the next craving it’s hoping this fantasy will fulfill?

Peace. Restfulness.

Just being completely at peace.

From here, it doesn’t look like I can go any deeper. It’s a Core State.

So I do mental tricks intended to reinforce this sense of peace, make it more lasting. I ask the part of me that wants it, the part that now has it, for its age. Newborn, it says. I ask if it wants to grow up, if it wants to live my entire life up to this point. It does, and I let it grow up. I ask it to fill my body. I imagine what it would have been if my grandparents would have had this sense of peace, if they would have transmitted it to my parents, if they would have transmitted it to me, surrounded me in this sense of peace since birth.

I let my mind rest in the peacefulness.

There’s something more, I notice. I want to take this feeling of peace, use it to build a relationship with someone. There’s something besides just the peacefulness that I’m craving, that I feel I could get from a relationship. A separate desire.

This one comes easily. It’s a desire to build a common future together with someone. To actively work together in putting it together, build something that is unique to us. Taking things that are just about us, weaving them into a beautiful tapestry. Have children, perhaps.

Is there something deeper to this desire? Almost certainly.

But I don’t go there, not at this stage. For now I’m happy to just rest in the peacefulness, rest in the mental image of building a common future with someone.

Moving on

I expect this to be my last breakup post (about this particular breakup, at least :P).

After having processed all the pains I’ve discussed in previous posts, there was just a final one left, one that’s in a sense the simplest.

It’s that I have tremendous respect and admiration for my ex. She combines a brilliant intelligence, a fiery loyalty to her principles, and a stark determination to get through things no matter what. I’ve rarely encountered such a unique soul, and the pain on my mind was the question of whether I would encounter another again, let alone one who’d be interested in me.

But then I managed to flip the issue around in my head. To just focus on how amazing it is that she ever was interested in me in the first place, and how I’m honestly grateful and humbled that such a beautiful person held me in a high regard. To see the good moments that we had as a piece of validation that I can always remember and hold on to, trusting that if such a person saw something beautiful in me, then she couldn’t have been entirely wrong.

A few days ago I still felt some pain when I saw her name pop up anywhere online. Now I just feel happy to see her writing. Seeing that she’s still herself.

And unexpectedly, I feel some of that gratitude extend to my other former partners as well. Feeling happiness that we ever had any good moments, even if the relationships did not last.

And, if I tap into that feeling, I can extend it even further, to anyone who has ever displayed any liking towards me. Be grateful for that appreciation, for them seeing good things in me.

Thank you, everyone. And thank you again to everyone who has commented on or reacted to my previous breakup posts, for helping me get through this. I’m not going to say that I couldn’t have made it without you, but you people did make it a lot easier.

Thank you.

Re-interpreting meanings

After I made my last breakup post, siderea left me with some excellent thoughts about it. While there were a lot of good points, these were the parts that resonated the most. She started by describing the reaction that many people have to her:
 
… a lot of people, male, female and otherwise, fall “in like” with me very quickly, because for a lot of them, I “make” them feel good – put more accurately, the way I comport myself in the world is more comfortable to be around than they usually find themselves feeling. They feel – like you describe feeling for the woman you fell for – safe from humiliation or rejection when self-disclosing to me, like they can be more authentically themselves, which is a delicious feeling.
 
Here’s the first confusion: confusing how they feel with me for how they feel about me. It is one of the commonest human errors to decide that because one feels good with someone that they are good.
 
This is problematic first and most obviously because it’s how serial predators of all sorts groom victims: making the victims feel good so that the victims trust the perp to be good. Not pertinent to your case, except to bear in mind how dangerous an error that can be.
 
Less obvious and more pertinent is how that conflation confuses the one doing the conflating as to how much they actually know about the one they are so judging. The confusion of one’s own good feelings for the goodness of the person one attributes those good feelings to obscures what is often a concommitant fact: one doesn’t actually know much about the person who makes one feel good, except that they make one feel good. […]
 
You say, “What was so special was the almost instant feeling of connection” as if that feeling existed independently of any one specific human to have it. Feelings aren’t facts: that feeling of connection was had by you. It was a feeling you were having. That doesn’t mean there “was a connection” in some objective way. Further, saying that the feeling you had was “of connection” is just a projection of a meaning those feelings had. The words “a feeling of connection” don’t actually have any meaning. They’re a handwave that posits that the feelings – which probably all have names, like “adoration”, “pleasure”, “affection”, “delight”, “surprise” – indicate this hazy concept, “connection”.
 
Some of the main lessons I took away from this comment:
 
Part of my pain was in the feeling that I’d had a unique, almost mystical “connection” with someone, that we’d then lost. But as siderea pointed out, “a connection” doesn’t actually mean anything: it was just a way how I interpreted the feelings I had in the presence of my ex, as well as the feelings that I thought she had in my presence.
 
Going from “there was a unique and magical connection” to “there was a person who happened to fall into some kind of mental schema of a ‘safe person’ based on relatively superficial information, and thus made me feel safe, and at some moments there seemed to be mutuality in this” changes one’s perspective a lot.
 
For one, I had been feeling like it was a personal failure, telling of some deeper fundamental flaw in me, that I had screwed things up and “ruined” that connection. With the new perspective, it’s more like… Well, there were some moments when those feelings arose and others when they didn’t, and that had more to do with the quirks of our individual psychologies than anything else.
 
And as several people commenting on my last post implied, my side of the “connection” being primarily an emotion that *I* had suggests that recapturing that feeling doesn’t necessarily require finding someone who’s magical and rare and unique in some sense. Rather, it may be much more useful to just work on myself and my own emotions, to make it easier for me to achieve that feeling around people in general. (to use psych terms, this is a major inwards shift of the locus of control)
 
In the few days after reading siderea’s comment, painful memories of various kinds about this relationship kept popping up. It wasn’t very pleasant, but at the same time there was a sense of… my mind pulling up those memories so that it could reinterpret the meaning it had given them, and to then reconsolidate the version of the memory with the updated meaning.
 
Yesterday evening I noticed that I was feeling much less of an urge to go back and “make things right again”, but I still had a compelling need to have my ex think well of me, to fix any respect that might have been lost.
 
I asked myself: why do I feel that this is so important? It made sense to have this desire back when there was still a chance to fix our relationship, but what would fulfilling that desire do now?
 
No answer came back. Instead, the feeling seemed to weaken.
 
This night I had a dream where I was hanging out with my ex, and completely forgetting to think about what she thought of me, just getting absorbed in whatever activity it was that we were doing together.
 
And today I’ve been feeling pretty okay about that whole relationship and breakup thing.

On perceived connections

Writing about this seems to be useful, both for me and some other people, so more on breakup pain:

The fact is that I don’t have very much experience of long relationships, and that I haven’t had many deep friendships either. At this moment I feel like I only have one really deep friendship, and I don’t get to see that person nearly as often as I’d like. I’ve long had a deep feeling of loneliness and being alone.

When I started hanging out with this person… she was unique. Now, of course when you get infatuated with someone new, they always seem unique and perfect and special. But even looking back at it with more objective eyes now, it still feels unique. Even before I’d really developed any strong crush, even when my attitude was still just “I like this person and they seem like there could be some potential”, on our first date there was already something magical.

We shared interests and values, but that’s true for a lot of people. What was so special was the almost instant feeling of connection. I can with confidence say that I have never in my life had any interaction with anyone go that smoothly and pleasantly.

On that first date, there was never a moment of awkwardness or being unsure of what to say; not the slightest feeling of unease. It felt completely, utterly, entirely safe; I confessed to some private things which I had intended to leave until later, because it felt entirely inconceivable to my intuition that she would react badly to them (and she didn’t). Conversation seemed to flow completely smoothly and naturally, the topics moving from sex to religion, from religion to the subjective nature of reality, from there to the academic study of gaming, from there to the probability of two people sharing a birthday.

I’ve never felt such a feeling of understanding and being understood, of everything just… clicking. And if this was just the first date, how deep and rich could our relationship yet become?

It – and several other early interactions – were enough that I was ready to move to an unfamiliar town and leave basically my entire existing social circle behind in order to have that on a regular basis. It was enough that, if there would have been any other incompatibilities, I would have been ready to put in practically any amount of work in order to smooth them out.

And I thought that this feeling of already being totally committed to it – despite how little time had passed – and being ready to invest practically anything in it to make it work and maintain that magic smoothness, was mutual.

That mistaken assumption on my part ended up shaping – and damaging – much of our interaction when things started going less well.

By the time the relationship was practically over already, I heard her characterize it as “a brief thing of a few months”, not worth putting inordinate amounts of energy into if it looked like things weren’t going very well.

Not that magic, unique thing that I – maybe foolishly – had thought it was.

And now the next pain and fear that I need to process is the fact that it took me 30 years to find a person with whom there seemed to be the potential for such a deep and rich friendship, even if just for an instant. How much longer will it take to find somebody else like that? Let alone someone with whom that feeling of a genuinely unique connection would be mutual?

And is there any reason to assume that the answer to that question isn’t “longer than my remaining lifetime”?

I genuinely don’t know.