Auto-Correct

A few months ago, I took an old notebook, half-filled with Russian words, out of a cupboard, and appointed it my new diary notebook.

It has more ink in it now than it could ever have as the kind of notebook you take to classes. In fact, it’s almost full by now. When I wave it goodbye and take on a new one, I know I’ll remember it with fondness because it is the place where I’ve learned and am practicing a new life skill: auto-correct.

The pages filled with Russian words are the only pages from my notebook that you're allowed to see...
The only pages from my notebook that you’re allowed to see…

Let me explain. For most of my life, I thought I lacked self-confidence but that that was the way I was. I thought that not being sure what you want and not believing that you can get what you want was something you were born with and that you couldn’t change regardless of how much effort you put into it.

“Being the way I was” in this aspect never made me happy. But it wasn’t until my early twenties that I decided I can get rid of tendencies that make me unhappy.

One of the eye-opening events during that time was reading Anna’s post about women’s lack of confidence in their dreams, plans, and abilities.

It was this post that made me start to notice the little “I think’s” and “maybes” that I slip into my utterances, my diary entries, even my thoughts. And when I became aware of the number of those seemingly harmless words in my language, I decided to… one after another, get rid of the fuckers.

So when I had filled some of the new notebook those few months ago and, flipping through it one lazy day, spotted several sentences starting with “I think I may want to…” or “maybe I will…” crowding it up, I corrected them to what I actually wanted to say: “I want to”, “I will”.

Since then, I’ve crossed out many “I think’s” and “maybes”, and you know what? Over time, I’ve begun to feel more confident about what I want and how I feel about things. In fact, I’m just beginning to believe that I have the right to want things, and to feel about things the way I do. In other words, I’m beginning to feel that my life is actually mine.

Auto-correct may well sound silly to you, but to me it sounds like the best way to start. I have always experienced words spoken out loud as “heavier” than ones you just turn over in your head. That’s probably because I don’t like talking very much, so when I do talk, I try to at least make the words “heavier”, that is more meaningful.

The same goes for words that get crossed out on paper — the act of crossing them out means that I don’t want them in my language. It’s a manifestation. It means that I want to change.

So if you also want to change something about yourself… why not try out auto-correct?

Ugly Emotions

“I hit you in my sleep.”

“What have I done?” he asks jokingly.

“Nothing, I wanted to hit somebody from my dream but I hit you in reality,” I say, all brimming with guilt.

“Doesn’t matter. Come here.”

***

One of the most important lessons I’m taking in therapy continually is about accepting my emotions as they are. High or low, strong or weak, nice or… ugly.

Before I began therapy, it seemed kind of natural to dismiss all kinds of emotions that I didn’t experience as “nice”. I just wanted to see myself as a nice person, you know? And nice people don’t hate others or feel angry at them. Nice people, you know – they forgive.

Or whatever it was they taught me in religion classes. Did  you have religion classes, too? Doesn’t matter. I’m sure there are plenty of us out there – people who would prefer to be incapable of anger, hate, jealousy, reluctance, or spite. Because then, in the end, we could be sure we are the perfectly acceptable “nice” people we want to be.

I guess we could all blame our pushing the “ugly” emotions away from ourselves on religious teaching, on the expectation that every girl should be a nice little angel, on our failing parents… you name it. But the origins of this habit matter very little once you realize that it is doing you harm.

Suppressing emotions is bad for you, we all know it. You may, for example, end up having terrible dreams where you fight someone who made you angry ten years back, and be hitting your significant other in the present. Or you feel tense all the time for no apparent reason, or your body eventually says “no more of this” and falls ill. But if we all know the consequences of suppressing unwanted emotions, why don’t we stop suppressing them if we know it?

Because it’s not so easy. You probably already know that, too. It’s not easy to admit to emotions that you have been denying for a long time. Because, in a sense, you have been acting rationally – you have been denying them for a reason, and with a purpose.

Why, then? Why do we deny the existence of the “ugly” creatures that inhabit our minds – the snakes, the rats, the lizards? We do that precisely because we think of them as “ugly”. Cumbersome. Undeserving. We don’t like to burden ourselves with the difficulty of facing them and owning them.

And what for do we suppress those lovely – “ugly”, you probably still think – creatures of our minds? Quite simply, we do that to feel better about ourselves. It may also help you to avoid conflict with other people; but above all, it allows you to avoid conflict with yourself: you are now, without any doubt, the “nice” person you wanted to be, so everything must be okay.

It works so well that you may not even notice it that it has become your way of being. You don’t pay attention to feelings of frustration or jealousy when they appear around the corner; you tell your feelings to shut up when you’re angry at someone; you keep all the “ugly” stuff neatly hidden under the carpet. It makes you a super-nice person…

…who sacrificed an important part of themselves to achieve that goal. And if you think about it – was it worth it?

In my case, I think it wasn’t. Sure, this habit of keeping “the ugly” out of sight has been making my life a lot easier by providing me with a sense of security. I always knew what to do when an “ugly” emotion crept out of the dark: shove it back there! But you know what? I like to think of myself as an animal preserve. In that preserve, each animal has its own niche, and each should be fed and taken care of so that the ecosystem is – well, preserved, because that’s what preserves are for.

And each animal, including the “ugly” ones – my hate, my anger, my sadness – should be there, not out. Otherwise, I’d lose something very important. I think I don’t have to explain what it is.

So, what do I do to stop suppressing my emotions? What have I learned in therapy so far? Admittedly, no more than I what I have ranted here about up until now: that the “ugly” emotions that I’m afraid of, and that I would rather keep in a very dark, forgotten place, are just as good as the “nice” ones, and that all emotions need to be experienced.

And what do I do with that knowledge? Well, I just repeat it, and repeat it, and repeat it until I’m completely bored with myself talking. In this way, I’m coming to believe in this simple fact of life more and more…

I’m a slow learner, that I must admit. But even if you are a slow learner, there are lessons out there really worth learning no matter how much time it takes – and worth sharing, too. If you want to share what you’ve learned, or any other thoughts, you know where the comments section is.

Have a good day!
Renata

Post scriptum: You can read a Polish version of this post at uczesiemowic.blogspot.com.

 

A Friend I’ve Never Seen

I have a friend I’ve never seen
He hides his head inside a dream

Probably as much as I like words, I like stealing other people’s words.

And these I recall every time I think of an Internet pal I’ve been exchanging e-mails with for the last five years at ever longer intervals. It developed from the discovery that we both like misty autumn mornings, to discussing our (very different) literary tastes, to cherry jam, book publishing, prostitutes, death, and neodymium pipes.

Neil Young’s lyrics remind me of him not only because I’ve never seen him, but also because Krzysztof’s head is filled with the love of nature, idealistic notions, and Plato, who he often recommended to me but, being a bad friend, I never made the effort of reading any Plato to understand Krzysztof better.

Once in a while, I get the feeling I should send him an e-mail… It’s a long while because we’re good friends without being close friends, so we don’t need to contact each other more often. It’s for the same reason that I haven’t read Plato — I probably would read a book if someone close to me was recommending it as important to them.

Still, on a several-monthly basis, I do get the strong feeling that I need to contact Krzysztof. Recently, I began to wonder why it’s so strong, and here’s what I came up with: perhaps even though most of us give priority to close relationships over the superficial ones, we also need the superficial ones to fulfill the selfish need of getting a new picture of our own lives.

When we write to those distant friends of ours, and give them our short summaries of what we’ve been up to in the past several months, we can stop, “listen to ourselves,” and think, for example:

  • “Oh my, this doesn’t even sound plausible, going through so much stress and not dying”
  •  “Hey, hey, how come I didn’t realize I have such an interesting life?”
  •  “Why does this enthusiastic letter feel so fake? Why do I feel dissatisfied?”
  • or, like I have recently: “Thinking about it now, my sadness, even if sometimes overwhelming, is just a small portion of the large, wonderful, and ever-expanding life that I’m sharing with other people.”

It doesn’t matter whether you feel you can be honest with your friend, or whether you’d rather only talk about what’s good in your life, and not about what’s bad. If you take the time to reflect on your words, you’ll get a new picture of your life in all cases. And this helps.

It helps me with my sadness. It can help you too to see how interesting or stressful your life really is. It can also help you fix whatever makes you dissatisfied.

Because having a friend always helps — even if it’s one you’ve never seen.

And if you’d like to see what Krzysztof is up to, go to his blog [PL]. It’s mostly pictures from the Polish mountains, scenes from the author’s life, and his love of nature, books, philosophy, and his daughter described in thousands of words.