Avoidant Personality Disorder

Avoidant Personality Disorder

Recently I had an opportunity to interview a young man who has been diagnosed with avoidant personality disorder (AvPD). AvPD is a personality disorder where the person suffers from high social anxiety and fear of intimacy despite also desiring social interaction and intimacy in most cases.

The person often feel as if they are being judged or ridiculed by others and feel unattractive, uncomfortable, or inept in social interactions.  They are usually extremely sensitive to the opinions of others and fear rejection and being judge negatively. To cope they usually withdraw from social interactions as much as possible which while it may help them successfully avoid the things they fear, it also often leaves them feeling more socially inept, lonely, anxious and depressed.

Avoidant personality disorder often results when a child has been rejected by one or both parents or his or her peer group, but it can also be caused by other factors such as a history of abuse and/or neglect.

People with avoidant personality disorder often only socialize with others they feel assured will not reject them. A very small number of people (often only one or two) will usually have gained their trust enough for them to feel confident and secure in their relationship with them.

They often look down upon themselves, minimizing their positive traits while inflating whatever flaws they perceive themselves as having. The person I interviewed is a serial “ghoster”. He would attempt to make friends and do so successfully, just to end up ghosting them. He told me that the fear of pain of what he saw was the inevitable (his friends rejection or abandoning him), was so strong that he would reject them before they had a chance to reject him. He isolated himself. He doesn’t have any current friends, but he does have a longtime girlfriend who is the one person he is closes to. He purposely chose a job where he works from home and has to deal with other people rarely. He has tried in the past to be more social. He went to college, but dropped out because the stress of having to interact with others was unbearable. He eventually went back and completed an online program. He has also often thought about suicide because he often fells anxious, lonely and undesirable and reports that it is a constant battle. He is in ongoing therapy to help keep him grounded.

Is Social Anxiety and Avoidant Personality Disorder the Same?

Avoidant personality disorder shares some of the same characteristics of social anxiety, but is less common. People with AvPD tend to have more severe symptoms of anxiety and depression than people with social anxiety. Also, people with social anxiety tend to fear the social circumstances (i.e., being at a party with a bunch of people judging how they look, act, etc.) while AvPD is more an aversion to intimacy in relationships.

How is Avoidant Personality Disorder Diagnosed?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association has a diagnostic code for avoidant personality disorder diagnosis (301.82) and describes it as a widespread pattern of inhibition around people, feeling inadequate and being very sensitive to negative evaluation. Symptoms begin by early adulthood and occur in a range of situations.

Four of the following seven symptoms have to be present to make a diagnosis of AvPD.

  • Avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact, because of fears of criticism, disapproval, or rejection
  • is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked
  • shows restraint within intimate relationships because of the fear of being shamed or ridiculed
  • is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations
  • is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy
  • views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others
  • is unusually reluctant to take personal risk or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing

Treatments

Some of the treatments for avoidant personality disorder include cognitive therapy, social kills training, group therapy and drug treatments. As I said earlier, this particular young man is actively in therapy with a psychotherapist. He still prefers to isolate himself even making it a point to let me know that the only reason he felt comfortable opening up to me about his experience with AvPD was because he knew he would never talk to me again.

Signs of Narcissistic Abuse

Most people don’t choose to fall in love with a narcissist. Narcissists have an uncanny way of being charming and swooning. Yeah, they may be a little arrogant, but confidence is attractive. What separates someone who is confident from someone who has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Is your partner a narcissist? I know that term gets thrown around a lot out of context, often when someone disagrees with their partners behavior, but if you were in a relationship with a true narcissist you would know it.

Perhaps you know that your partner isn’t treating you right and that they are arrogant, seem to have an inflated ego, takes pokes at you that make you feel bad, and they have angry outbursts that are often out of proportion to the situation. You may not realize it, but you may be stuck in what is known as “the narcissistic abuse cycle”.

Narcissists for the most part are not capable of being in a healthy, loving and equal relationship because when it comes to the narcissist, they must always put themselves first. Even when it seems like they’re not, it’s usually because they are planting seeds for something later.

As someone in a relationship with a narcissist, you will feel the relationship is constantly suffering and you might not be quite sure why.

Here are some signs you should look out for to help determine if you’re indeed in a relationship with a narcissist and caught up in the narcissistic abuse cycle.

You Hold Back Constructive Criticism

Do you Feel like you can’t give your partner constructive criticism because they always take it the wrong way? It turns into a fight you weren’t trying to have, or they find a way to turn it around on you? So instead of saying what’s on your mind you tend to bite your tongue more often than you’d like. An example is, if you tell your partner after his fourth beer that maybe he doesn’t need another, he lashes out at you for calling him an alcoholic or he says you’re always breathing down his back and you’re the reason he drinks.

You Come Second Almost All the Time

Do your wants, needs and desires come second to your partners? Does it feel like most of the time they’re not even considered? A narcissist is so focused on themselves that they often don’t even consider what their partner might want or need. For example, your partner knows you’re a vegetarian, but never takes you to a Vegan restaurant, but instead to his favorite Steak House where he insists you can order a salad and veggies there.

You’re Unfairly Labeled

This is a form of gaslighting that narcissist do very well. They dismiss you as being “dramatic’, “silly” or “controlling”.  The way a narcissist does this makes you start to question yourself. You start to doubt your own thoughts and believes. What the narcissist is doing is slowly eating away at your worldview while reinforcing theirs. You start wondering, “Maybe I am too sensitive and dramatic”.

You Start Falling for Their Fantasies

Often narcissists live in a fantasy world where they are better at things then they really are. This is especially true when it comes to money. Very often, a narcissist will spend money they don’t have in order to appear more successful than they are, even if that means neglecting their spouse and other priorities. They may not buy you gifts, or buy you gifts that seem not thoughtful, while splurging on gifts for themselves they can show off.

The Relationship Is Unstainable

Being in a relationship with a narcissist is very much like being in a relationship with someone with borderline personality disorder, much of their traits are similar. The only way the relationship has a way of surviving is if you are okay with always putting the other person first and your needs, desires and dreams second if at all. That isn’t a healthy relationship for anyone and yet many people stay in long term relationships with narcist and suffer every day. Their wishes, desires and dreams are constantly being ignored and even extinguished. This can not only cause the person to have low self-esteem, but can actually be traumatic and cause post traumatic stress disorder in some people.

It’s important to recognize if you’re in an unhealthy relationship with someone with a narcissistic personality and start educating yourself and taking the necessary steps to protect your mind and emotions. It’s important that you separate your reality from their fantasy and in the end, it will help you determine to either end the relationship or at least keep you from totally losing yourself while in it.

Cheslie Kryst: Rest In Peace

Cheslie Kryst: Rest In Peace

I was saddened to hear the news yesterday of the apparent suicide of Cheslie Kryst, former Miss USA 2019 . Not only was she a beautiful woman on the outside, she was also intelligent, working as an attorney in North Carolina practicing civil litigation and worked to help prisoners who may have been sentenced unjustly get reduced punishments, free of charge She was also a former Divsion I athlete and work as a corresponded for the show ‘Extra’. She was only 30 years old.

Cheslie served as a role model, inspiration and a light for so many people which is just another reason it’s so disheartening that her light has been extinguished. I have no ideal what her personal struggles were, but I truly wish that the light she gave to others had been bright enough to help see her through those self destructive thoughts.

According to reports, police found her unresponsive on the ground outside of her apartment in New York where she apparently jumped to her death in the early hours of Sunday morning. She  left behind a cryptic message on her Instagram page along with a pho of her self, “May this day bring you rest and peace,” .

Suicide is always a tragedy, and many times it’s a mystery. We may look at someone who appears to have it all, their entire future in front of them and wonder what made them decide to take their own lives. We never know what demons someone is grappling with on the inside, despite their outward appearance and the way they portray themselves on social media. That’s why it’s important to remember that we’re all dealing with something and to check in with each other often.

Suicide often comes from profound feelings of hopelessness, the inability to deal with a certain problem or to see an end to a temporary problem. That feeling of hopelessness is so tense that it feels permanent.

As you might expect, depression also plays a major part in suicide as well as substance abuse, psychiatric disorders, chronic pain, impulsivity, a family history of suicide and past history of suicide attempts.

Suicide is complicated by the fact that some people, once they have decided to kill themselves may be at peace, appear happy and show no obvious signs that they are actively suicidal (To learn more about warning signs of suicide, see Signs That Someone Is Contemplating Suicide.).

If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources 

Is Your Partner A Wound Mate or a Soulmate?

Is Your Partner A Wound Mate or a Soulmate?

It’s often difficult to distinguish a wound mate from a soulmate or helpmate because at least in the beginning of the relationship, they feel exactly the same. Both wound mates and soulmates feel like the perfect fit. The connection you feel towards the person, the chemistry and things you share often feel uncanny.

Just like with a soulmate, you will feel like your wound mate understands you better than anyone else. As if they are a part of you that you didn’t even realize was missing. Your feelings for them will be intense and your closeness will feel natural as if it were meant to be. Falling and being in love with them can feel intoxicating.

The issue is the connection you feel with your wound mate doesn’t come from the best of places. You and your wound mate connect because you share unaddressed emotional issues and therefore the bonding you create is due to trauma. You form a trauma bond.

The love you feel for your wound mate is eventually followed by negative energy. At first you may not be able to put your fingers on it, but your intuition tells you that something is off. One or both of you may have trouble committing to the relationship or have inappropriate outbursts of anger, rage or jealousy. Your relationship will become unstable, often breaking up and getting back together only to do it again and again.

Because of your shared unaddressed emotional issues or trauma bond, you and your wound mate trigger each other in ways that are deeper and more heartfelt than in other relationships. This can leave you feeling a mixture of exhilarated and heartbreak. On one hand you have this person who you feel connected with like no one else, but with that connection you also know how to hurt each other like no one else can.

Your wound mate is a person that is so much like you because they are a version of you. They are the dark parts of you that you don’t let anyone else see. The parts of you that you may be ashamed of, scared of, think others will judge you on or simply parts of you that you don’t think others can understand or accept.

Your wound mate triggers and reopens does wounds constantly.

Your soulmate in comparison will not re-open your wounds the way a wound mate does, instead they will help you see what wounds need to be healed and allow you to work on healing them. It’s not your soulmates job to “fix” you, but they can show you what needs to be addressed and allow you to work on yourself.

It’s common in relationships for unresolved emotional baggage to be triggered by both people, but it’s each person’s job to recognize what is their baggage to claim and work on and what’s their partner’s so that they can connect and grow. Wound mates on the other hand, even if they have the best intentions, don’t have the capability to do this. Instead, they just continue to trigger and be triggered creating an unhealthy relationship that will drag both people down.

You feel connected to your wound mate and want to make the relationship work despite all the anxiety, anger and chaos. However, you’ll realize at some point that the relationship is reflecting your wounds and not who you really are. The relationship may be showing you the parent who left you, the kids who bullied you or the brother or sister you hurt.

Your wound mate will show you all those wounds and you will see it as an opportunity to heal through intense love, but that is not love. A healthy partner wouldn’t do that or allow you to do that, only an unhealthy partner will allow for such a toxic relationship.

So many people spend their lives dating wound mates, confusing them with soulmates, but if they checked in with themselves to see how the relationship really makes them feel, they’ll realize that they are just continuing to hurt themselves and potentially their partner as well.

Are People Ruder When Wearing Masks?

Is it me, or have you noticed that since the pandemic, people have become less cordial and almost downright rude while wearing masks?

I first noticed this several months into the pandemic when I was at my local grocery store. It seemed like people didn’t bother to even say “excuse me” when they nearly bumped into me or say “thank you” when I opened a door for them, let alone even mumble “hello” or “good morning” when passing by.

I live in the south where people tend to have the curtesy to speak to each other in passing, probably more so than they do in other parts of America so at first, I was amazed at how quickly people seemed to have change once they felt partially hidden.

Think about it, wearing a face mask isn’t that far off from wearing a Halloween or custom mask. People wear masks during Halloween and at custom parties because it allows them in some sense to be hide their identity, thus allowing them to act out of character. Some people will say that it allows them to be someone else while others will say that it allows the person to be more of who they really are and not the person they feel they have to present to society.

In the same vein, I feel like face mask do that to some degree. People who would normally smile and be polite in the grocery aisle now feel no obligation to be polite. I noticed this even more so when I started my new job in the hospital. I would say good morning to people and half of the time they wouldn’t even acknowledge me, let alone speak back.

I do know that sometimes with a mask on it’s hard to hear and understand people, especially with not being able to see their lips moving so I do take that into account, but it happens way too often to dismiss it as people just not hearing me clearly. I do know also that masks hinder communication to a great degree.

A lot of the way we communicate is nonverbal. We read a lot from a persons expressions and we tend to look at the whole face for understanding and not just the eyes. The eyes and mouth work together to communicate feelings. The mouth in general is more expressive when it comes to showing emotions.

Perhaps, wearing a mask makes it easier for people to not see us, look right past us or find it not as important to connect with us even briefly. In the past, when I would go to the grocery store or the mall and want to be in my own world, shutting out everyone else, I would put my headphones on. Now, I kind of feel like putting on a mask does the same thing. Once I put on a mask I feel less exposed and less obligated to acknowledge strangers. I recognize that, but still have the curtesy to be polite. I’m just curious to if anyone else has had this experience.

COVID-19 Depresion

In the very beginning of August, 2021 I contracted COVID-19. Initially I was in denial because I had been fully vaccinated and wore a mask when I went out into public, but after I got tested twice and both tests came back positive, I had to succumb to the fact that I indeed had COVID-19. Not to mention by then I was feeling like pretty sick. I was exhausted, had no appetite, my body ached and I got extremely fatigued just walking from one room to the next. Perhaps though, the strangest and most mysterious symptom I felt was depression.

At first I wasn’t sure why I was feeling depressed. I wasn’t that upset over having COVID-19 and isolating myself didn’t really bother me because I still had family in the house so I wasn’t exactly totally alone. Still, as I laid around trying to feel better, I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was feeling increasingly depressed.

As a mental health counselor, of course I tried to process why I was feeling down. I ran through everything I could think of and while I had areas in my life that needed improvement, there was nothing really making me that sad or stressed. Then I started to wonder if it was possible that COVID-19 was causing my depression and I started doing some research.

A lot of people during this pandemic have had their mental health statuses negatively impacted for a variety of reasons. Reports of depression and anxiety have increased during the pandemic compared to pre-pandemic numbers based on research. Some people became depressed or anxious due to social-distancing, fear of contracting COVID-19 or seeing their family members or friends become sick and some even dying from the illness. I understood that, but what I was more concerned with was if having COVID-19 itself made a person more likely to become depressed.

What I learned is that COVID-19 is an illness that can actually infect the brain and increase a persons chances of displaying psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety, depression, insomnia or even dementia. One study, Neurologic Manifestation of Hospitalized Patients With Coronavirus Disease 2019 in Wuhan, China written by Ling Mao, Huiiuan Jin, Mengdie Wang; et al. showed that one-third of patients with COVID-19 developed neurologic problems. So while depression can be caused by the pandemic itself, it appears that it can also be caused by the infection alone.

Another interesting, but related fact is that I noticed my blood sugar, which normally is in the normal range, was running a lot high during and even for a couple of weeks after I had COVID-19. Again, I did research and learned that it wasn’t uncommon for relatively healthy people who had battled COVID-19, to temporarily have higher than normal blood sugars. I know from past research that high blood sugar can also increase a persons risk of having depression. COVID-19, as I was finding out, is a very complex illness affecting people in ways we may not even realize.

Here are some mental health statistics from pushcare.com when it comes to Covid-19:

  • 56.2% of young adults (18-24 years old) report symptoms of anxiety or depression compared to 29.3% of adults over the age of 65 years.
  • 53.4% of adults in households that have suffered a job loss due to COVID-19 reported symptoms compared to 31.8% of adults in households without job loss.
  • 56% of adults in households that earn less than $40k per year report a negative impact on their mental health status compared to 48% of adults in households that earn more than $90k per year.
  • 48% of non-Hispanic Black adults reported symptoms compared to 46.3% of Hispanic or Latino adults, 40.9% of non-Hispanic White adults, and 33.1% of non-Hispanic Asian adults.
  • 42% of essential workers reported symptoms of depression or anxiety compared to 30% of nonessential workers.

Coping With COVID Depression

Self-care is the best way to manage COVID-19 Depression. Eating healthy and trying to exercise when you can (even if it’s just a short walk if you’re still having symptoms such as fatigue or shortness of breath) can start to alleviate the symptoms. I started with a slow paced walk around my block in order to just get my body moving and get some fresh air. Try to stay connected with friends even if it’s through social media or texts.

Try to find time to enjoy life and if nothing seems to be working, seek mental health help.

I personally had to get back to my regular routine to start feeling better. Going back to work, while initially exhausting, helped me recover from COVID-19 depression faster. Going back to the gym and training jiu-jitsu also helped, just don’t push yourself too fast too hard. Remember, you’re in recovery and recovery takes time.  

Post Pandemic Mental Health Struggles

Post Pandemic Mental Health Struggles

Over the last year we have all been through collective trauma dealing with the global pandemic.

Many of us went through stressful moments with the lockdown bringing isolation for some, loss of income for others and increased anxiety, depression and substance use for others. Some of us have gotten sick or even worse, lost friends, family members or coworkers.

Now that there are vaccinations and restrictions are starting to lift in certain areas, you may think that everyone is feeling better, a sense of relief or hope, but that is simply not true for some individuals.

A lot of people are ecstatic about being able to gather with their family and friends without masks. Those who were working from home are excited about going back into the office and socializing face to face with their coworkers. Those who were feeling down or anxious are starting to feel their mood brighten, but for some , they are still struggling with the affects of this collective trauma. They may still be feeling down or anxious and some have reason to be. Just this weekend I was talking to a friend who had recently attended the funeral of his uncle who died from the virus a week prior. He, understandably still has some anxiety about the world reopening although he himself is vaccinated.

Healing from this collective trauma will take more time for some people and what will help is being in tune with ourselves and focusing on what we can control versus what we can’t. We have to find out what works for us to ease our anxiety and make us feel better.

For some people that may mean having a digital detox, limiting how much news they intake, exercising or focusing on better sleep hygiene.

It’s Okay to Say That You’re Not Okay

Over the weekend I had a long conservation with someone I go to the gym with about his struggles with mental illness, depression and even suicidal thoughts. We talked about how he joined the gym as soon as it reopened as a way to cope with some of the depression and negative thoughts he had been battling since before the pandemic, but had grown even more so during the pandemic.

Halfway through our conversation he told me that it felt good to have someone to talk to without feeling like he was being judged. Although I was glad to be there for him, I felt sad that he felt like he didn’t have anyone else he could open up to.

Nowadays there is so much assess to mental health help and actionable information through things like Google’s self-assessments, that it is my hope that everyone who needs help will assess it and realize that they are not alone.

A lot of people who were anxious, lonely or depressed before the pandemic, grew more anxious, lonely or depressed during the pandemic and will continue to have those uneasy feelings and thoughts even when the people and world around them returns to normalcy.

It’s important that we look out for our family members and friends who may not be as excited or comfortable with the transition out of the pandemic. For some of them, a return to normality is a return to battling their mental health issues.

Toxic Tendencies to Watch Out for in Your Relationships

Toxic Tendencies to Watch Out for in Your Relationships

Many of us have or will be in toxic relationships at some point in our lives. Some of us without even realizing it. I believe the key to avoiding allowing most relationships to disintegrate is through open communication and learning the recognize the little tendencies that can grow into habits that create a toxic environment.

What Is a Toxic Relationship?

A lot of people think a toxic relationship is only a relationship where there is physical and/or verbal abuse, and while those are often indeed the most toxic relationships, the average toxic relationship may not be filled with yelling, screaming or violence all. Some of the most toxic relationships involve emotional abuse and manipulation.

In a toxic relationship, the romance, passion and even friendship that once made you happy is pretty much all disappeared and replaced with negative feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, resentment and disappointment. Of course we all know that relationships have their ups and downs and aren’t usually filled with sunshine and rainbows all the time, but there is a difference between toxic tendencies and allowing those tendencies to fester and ruin the relationship.

Toxic Tendencies to Watch Out For

Mutual Avoidance

In relationships, it’s healthy to have your own space and even take breaks from each other from time to time. Those times a part allow you to be your own individual person and even have your own experiences to talk to your partner about when you are together. They help us grow as individuals and even as a couple, but if you and your partner both prefer to do things without each other, sigh in relief when the other one is not home or can’t come to an event you both were invited to, it may not be a good sign. There is nothing wrong with looking forward to and enjoying a night out with the girls or the guys, but when you are looking forward to not seeing your significant other, it may be a sign that the relationship is headed for trouble.

Lack of Autonomy

With that said about mutual avoidance, it’s just as important that you don’t lose who you are while in the relationship. Some people are so eager to be a part of a relationship that they almost willingly give up their autonomy and therefore, their identity as an individual. They no longer are an “I”, but a “we”. Many people think it’s supposed to be that way. They stop being Jane and become Steven’s girlfriend, Steven’s wife and if they have kids they become mom or Asher’s mom. If the relationship fails or when the kids grow up and have their own lives, Jane may become depressed and feel lost because she no longer knows who she is as an individual.

You Tell Half Truths

Okay, so maybe you don’t consider yourself a liar, but you find yourself telling little half truths because it’s easier than telling the whole truth. Like you may say you went to the bar with Jane and Erin, but purposely leave out that John was also there, maybe because you know that will become a fight between you and your partner or that he’ll start asking more questions you don’t feel like answering. It may seem relatively innocent, but telling little white lies is definitely a sign that there may be a bigger issue that needs addressing.

You Can’t Do Anything Right

Your partner is always nagging or criticizing you. It’s a sign that your partner doesn’t appreciate you and in-turn can lead you to develop little toxic tendencies of your own that will only add to the overall toxic level of the relationship.

I once date someone who complained about how I washed the dishes, cleaned the kitchen or made the bed. It got to the point that I just stopped doing those things out of rebellion. What was the point of me doing it if it was never right. Eventually part of her argument became that I never washed the dishes, cleaned the bathroom or made the bed.

You Feel Malcontent

When you’re around your partner you feel unhappy, uncomfortable, anxious or like you’re walking on eggshells, then it’s a sign that you’re in a toxic relationship or one that is on a clear path to being one. Your partner should bring joy and happiness to your life, and like I said, there may be times when you two aren’t happy with each other, but that should be the exception and not the rule. You should never feel in a constant state of unhappiness or anxiousness around the person you’re supposed to be in a loving relationship with.

Jealousy and Envy

Your partner is jealous of your achievements instead of celebrating them with you, Instead of making you feel good, they try to bring you down. In one of my last relationships, I got promoted three times during our relationship nearly doubling my income whereas she didn’t. She would bring that up, not as a means to celebrate me, but in a way of throwing a pity party for herself in which instead of feeling good about my professional growth, I had to turn my attention to her and try to reassure her of her career.

Constant Drama

He or she is constantly finding something to fight or be upset about. If you’re at the beach he or she complains that the sun is too bright, the water is too rough and the waves are too noisy. Some people can’t be happy for too long or they get bored so they constantly stir up drama. It may look like they’re upset, but it’s what makes them feel alive while it drives you crazy.

Living in the Past

Your partner is always bringing up the past. Past mistakes you made, past hurts you may have caused them. They never let you forget that one time you messed up. In a relationship where one partner sees themselves as a victim and wants to hold on to that title, it’s hard to see a promising future because no matter what great things you do in the present, they will always bring up the times you weren’t so great in the past.

Disrespect

I once dated someone who when we fought cursed me out like she hated me. I always always amazed and hurt at the level of filth that came spewing out of her mouth. On top of that, even when we weren’t fighting, we’d go out and she’d start drinking and openly flirt with other people. It was something I tried to ignore, but when it was brought to my attention by other people I realized just how disrespectful she was. If your partner disrespects you often and you have any respect for yourself, then those two realities will constantly clash and you definitely deserve to be with someone who respects you.

You’re Probably Part of the Problem

I have been in a few toxic relationships and eventually learned that I was part of the problem. I eventually learned that I was choosing partners who had certain character flaws and I myself, had a big character flaw called codependency. If I didn’t take time away for myself to address that issue, then I would continue choosing the same toxic people and having the same toxic relationships over and over again. It took a lot of self-discipline, introspection and learning about codependency for me to start trusting myself when it comes to dating again. I know what I am attracted to and I know what I am attracted to is not good for me. I had to learn to trust that I was good enough for healthy partners, not partners who needed saving or that I thought I could fix, help or change.

And that’s the thing, if we don’t find out what it is about us that chooses the type of people that we end up in these toxic relationships with, we’ll just recreate the same mess with someone else. There’s a saying that goes, “Wherever you go, there you are”, which to me means, you can change people, jobs, cities and even states, but if you don’t change what you need to change about yourself, you’ll just recreate the same environment over and over again.

Letting the Dead Die this Easter (2021)

Nine years ago, I wrote a post entitled Letting the Dead Die this Easter and since it was so long ago, I thought I’d rewrite and expand on it since a lot has happened over those nine years.

Holding on to Dead Stuff

One of the reasons we get cheated out of living our best lives is that we tend to hold on to too much dead stuff. Dead relationships, dead jobs and dead dreams for example.

This Easter, the resurrection, no matter what religion (or no religion) you believe in, can have significant meaning for all of us. Perhaps you are married to something that is dead or holding on to a dream that is dead. Too many of us are holding on to death while trying to live.

Letting Dreams Die

Many of us have dreams that need to die. It’s not the most pleasant thought, but holding on to a dream that will never come to fruition holds us back from realizing the dreams that can and have already come true. It can’t happen until you let that dream die. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have dreams or fight for those dreams, even when they seem impossible, but sometimes we have to readjust the way expect that dream to come true.

For example, I have a client in his early fifties who has always dreamed of living in foreign exotic countries. He thinks about it pretty much every day and gets depressed when he realizes he’s not currently living that dream. At this moment, for him living that dream isn’t really practical. He has family obligations that are keeping him anchored in one place. My advice to him was to stop dwelling on the fact that he wasn’t currently living his dream because he was missing out on the beautiful life he has right in front of him. I told him he could still travel to and take vacations to those places and even study the languages of the places he wants to live. This particular dream doesn’t to die, but he does have to let go of the idea that it’s going to happen today or exactly how he had imagined it.

Another example is that some people say that they want to be doctors or lawyers, but they don’t like to read and they hate school so they are currently doing other jobs that don’t require much education and are still saying that they want to be doctors and lawyers. Of course if they decided they really wanted to apply themselves, thy could be whatever they wanted to be, but the reality is, they don’t want to be doctors and lawyers bad enough to make the sacrifices. They need to let those dreams go and create more realistic dreams based on the things that they enjoy doing, value and are willing to work hard to make come true. Otherwise they’re going to continue to be stuck doing menial, unsatisfying jobs while telling everyone around them they want they plan on being a doctor or lawyers.

Letting Relationships Die

A new great romantic relationship can’t happen until you let your old relationship die. You’re tied to something dead. Since I wrote this in 2012, I’ve had to let several relationships die. One was with someone I’d dated in high school and into my early adult years. After we broke up we remained friends, but it wasn’t a healthy friendship, it was almost parasitic on her part and it damaged and threatened any new relationship I tried to have with another woman. As much as it hurt, I had to let that relationship die if I wanted to have the chance of building something with someone more compatible.

A year later I did meet someone great, but that relationship also turned toxic and as much as I wanted it to work out eventually things go so bad that I knew I had to let that relationship go and force it to die. It was hard, just like letting any relationship or dream die because I saw so much good potential in it, but the reality was the bad outweighed the good and I would just get dragged through the mood trying to hold on to that potential.

More recently, I had to let a friendship go. I was friends with someone and we were just growing in totally different directions. I try to be healthy and workout and he likes to smoke and drink all day while partying all night. We started to have less and less in common and it got to the point were I dreaded hanging out with him. I found myself canceling plans we made or if I didn’t cancel I was glancing at my watch the whole time waiting for our evening to be over. He isn’t a bad guy, or even a bad friend, but in my opinion, he brought no added value or joy to my life. I could think of a dozen things I’d rather to doing then hanging out with him including doing nothing at all. I was forcing myself to be in a friendship I should just let die and by letting it die, I felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulder and like I had got back just a little more time to do the things I enjoy doing.

Letting Jobs Die

I know a lot of people who waste years at dead end jobs. Jobs that they hate, jobs that don’t utilize their talent, creativity or intelligence. They just show up, some for decades and they’re not happy, but they’re not miserable enough to leave. Working in a correctional setting I have met guards who hate their jobs, feel like they’re basically baby sitting adults and yet they will come show up for the next 20 years so they can retire and they will complain about it for the next 20 years. I personally can’t leave like that. i’ve definitely been in jobs I should have left long before I did and there’s many reasons behind that, but for me, the biggest reason is fear of the unknown. Your current dead end job may be comfortable, even if it’s not stimulating or making you happy. Your dream job may require taking more of a risk, learning something new, putting yourself out there where you don’t know if you’ll fail or not. So it’s safe to stay at your dead end job, even if it’s slowly killing you inside.

Your dream job might be right around the corner, but it’s hard if not impossible to get to it if you are holding on to your dead job.

What’s in Your Life that Needs to Die?

This Easter, and periodically afterwards, I want you to examine what is it in your life that needs to die. Perhaps you need to let some guilt die, fear die or something from your past you’re still holding on to… let it die.

Maybe it’s a fantasy. Maybe you’re holding out for the perfect person and you’re missing so many other terrific people because you won’t let that fantasy die. This Easter is all about resurrection. Let what is dead go so that you can make room in your life for everything that is waiting to be raised.

Easter represents the the new life we all can find by living in the truth. Let what needs to die die so that this Easter Sunday, and everyday forward, you can be free to be all you were meant and born to be.

Confessions of an Emotional Fluffer

Confessions of an Emotional Fluffer

For many years I was an emotional fluffer without realizing It.

What’s an emotional fluffer? Well loosely defined, an emotional fluffer is someone who basically is there for another person in the same role a romantic partner would be, but without the benefits of romance, sex or physical affection. I believe this happens most when the other person is in a relationship with an emotionally unavailable partner, but still wants to be with them and they us the emotional fluffer to satisfy their emotional needs of talking, venting sharing feelings, etc. Basically, the emotional fluffer sustains them and gives them the emotional energy they need. The term is bored from the porn industry, when back in the day before Viagra and penile implants, there would often be a person who performed fellatio or hand jobs on the male actor to get or keep them aroused between scenes.

My Story

When I was in my late twenties I was really interested in a young woman who was in a toxic relationship. She was beautiful, and sweet and being treated poorly by her boyfriend. For the life of me I couldn’t understand why she stayed with him, but I did understand attachment and later I started to feel like she had become financially dependent on him.

Her and I became friends and I wish I could say I only wanted to be her friend, but the truth was I was hoping that when she ended things with her boyfriend she would see me as more than a friend. Her and I became really close. She told me things about herself she hadn’t told anyone. She was open and genuine. She shared her fears, her hopes and her dreams. She was funny and not afraid to be vulnerable.

She had her flaws which she didn’t try to hide and all that made me even more attracted to her, both physically and emotionally. We talked all the time, sometimes every day, multiple times a day. We even hung out ocassionally, not as often as I would like, but about as much as I could expect since she was in a relationship. However, when we did hangout it felt good. It felt right. It almost felt like we were dating.

We went out for dinner, out for drinks, out dancing or just hanging out. There were multiple times we stayed out until the sun came up. We laughed together. We cried together. The bond I felt between us felt impenetrable and natural. I never wanted our time together to end. I felt like it was an escape from reality.

Physically we never kissed or became intimate. The closest contact we ever had was occasional hugs and even times when we cuddled briefly, her putting her head on my shoulders and in those moments, it felt as if everything in the world was right.

There were a couple of nights out after we had been drinking where we became flirtatious and I was tempted to make a move, but I didn’t out of both fear of rejection and fear of ruining our friendship. As much as I hoped she felt for me the way I felt for her, I wasn’t really sure. In the very early stages of our friendship when I mentioned us dating she always said she made a better friend than a girlfriend, but I always thought she was just being self-deprecating. As beautiful as she was, I knew she suffered from bouts of low self-esteem.

When we were together we talked a lot about her frustrations with her boyfriend, about how she couldn’t talk to him or express herself openly. According to her he wasn’t sensitive to her needs and reeked of narcistic personality disorder. It always seemed like she was on the verge of leaving him and each time they would get into a fight, I was there for her and slightly hoping this would be the end of their relationship, but she never left him. Instead just more and more time passed by with me feeling like her boyfriend without actually being her boyfriend.

Whenever she needed me I would drop whatever I was doing. I would listen to her vent and cry about her relationship and tried to cheer her up whenever she was down. I tried to treat her the way she deserved to be treated and I hoped she would see the difference between my love for her and the way her boyfriend claimed to love her. Still, she never left.

Years went by like this and the longer it continued, the more attached I became, but also disheartened that our friendship never developed into anything more. I felt like I was doing all the things her boyfriend wasn’t doing for her and at times it was exhausting, but I did it because I cared about her and yes, I was probably a bit selfish as well. I really wanted her to wake up one day and see me as someone other than her friend, but that never happened.

Eventually, I had to detach for my sanity. I hadn’t put my life on hold waiting for her, but I had compared ever woman I met to her which wasn’t fair. I was never angry with her nor do I think she purposely used me emotionally. I was a willing participate and sometimes there is a fine line between being a good friend and being an emotional fluffer. The main difference as far as I can tell is that being an emotional fluffer gets exhausting and frustrating where a friendship shouldn’t be that way. It’s like you’re satisfying someone’s needs without getting your needs fully satisfied.

Today her and I are still friends. I imagine we’ll be friends for life. We don’t talk or hangout as much as we used to which is a good thing for me. I still have feelings for her, but I no longer sit back and expect one day she’s going to leave her boyfriend. Yes, they are still together and she’s still unhappy, but she’s still with him.