Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Untangling the Snarls

I've always loved untangling snarled necklace chains. I love the puzzle aspect and teasing out and loosening the knots and then watching it all unravel back to individual chains. 

Two weeks ago (when I started dressing my truth), I found three delicate chains stashed in the back of my jewelry box, so badly tangled that I'm still working on it even though I spend time every day loosening the knots.  I've made progress: one chain was set free, and the central knot that holds the remaining two together grows smaller at each session.

Untangling those necklaces is a good metaphor for what is going on with me internally lately too. The two one-on-one counseling sessions I've had, regular attendance at Celebrate Recovery, and four completed steps from David Burns' workbook "Ten Days to Self-Esteem," all have been working together as God's instruments to untangle snarls in my soul.  

What parts of my inner life represent the real me, the authentic being God created me to be?  What are mere cognitive distortions and negative thinking and coping mechanisms that I've lived with for so long that I began to believe they were the real me?  

It's been fascinating and rewarding journey, if a little painful in parts.

Dressing my truth as a bright and animated woman (in colors that pop, gold accessories among other things, started the first knot loosening.

When I started dressing my truth, it brought back a flood of positive memories from my childhood. I remembered the me that was full of enthusiasm and never short of ideas. 

I wrote silly short stories (like Mystery Martian and the Lost Glove, or How the Catfish Got Its Whiskers).  

I was an instigator and organizer of fun.  Once I wrote a script and rounded up my cousins to put on a Christmas pageant for our family (my youngest sister played baby Jesus!).  

I had business ideas. My sister and I made bookmarks with crayons and scrap paper from my dad's office.  Then I came up with the idea to go around the neighborhood selling them!  We even had a few customers in the little old neighbor ladies who thought we were adorable.

Yet somehow in my adult years, I started to see myself as boring and low energy and no fun.  I can't explain exactly why dressing in a bright, animated way validated and unleashed that part of me again, but somehow it did.  

That unraveled one set of knots.

Extreme self-consciousness and social phobias led me to believe that I'm an introvert.  But over the past few weeks, as my social anxiety has lessened and I find myself increasingly comfortable in social situations again, I'm finding that rather than being drained by them as an introvert would be, I'm actually energized by them!  

Last night I took a ginormous personality test over at SimpleMinds. And I although I've tested as INFJ or INFP in the past, last night I tested as Myers-Briggs ENFP, and it really resonated with me.

The ginormous test gave an Enneagram result too and came out with Type 4 (with a strong 3 wing). The Enneagram profile for a 4 says my driving motivation is needing to be unique and different, and the 3 in me needs to be admired and noticed.

I can see that in myself, and also see how when I'm unhealthy/depressed it gets turned upside down to "I'm so different that no one understands me or I'm so different that I'm missing out on something everyone else has," from the 4 and "I stand out like a sore thumb, everyone's watching me/judging me," from the 3.

Last night I was doing some reading about cognitive dissonance and rationalizations and confirmation bias that helped me to see how once I get started on those type of thoughts it's hard to stop.

For example, part of my social anxiety has been that when I see a group of women chatting, my default reaction would be to feel left out, and assume they have a closeness with each other that I can never have. I'm finally seeing the lie in that, and how my belief in that lie becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy (i.e. I hold back from joining the group, withdraw into myself and so of course never do get close to them).

Yet despite the behavior I've had based on those irrational beliefs, God has blessed me with many caring people in my life.  What mercy and grace!

I'm so full of hope in the possibilities for the future now that I'm beginning to see the old rationalizations and fears for what they are and know how to defeat them. Even though it is a battle, I will choose to live in truth .... the truth that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, am capable of loving and being loved. 

At the same time, I recognize that I'm at a danger point just now.  In 2006 I went through and recovered from an episode of depression/anxiety.  I even used the same workbook I'm using now.  I looked through it and noticed that back then I started but never completed Step 5 in the workbook, and the rest of it remains blank.  

I can remember putting aside part way through Step 5 because:

a) I was feeling much better by then (much like now), 
b) my brain had already rapidly made some of the connections the author was leading up to with the exercises (much like now) and it felt redundant to go through them when I already "got it"
c) the exercises started getting harder/less fun!

I completed Step 4 just last night.  As I looked ahead to see what Step 5 entailed, the same feelings about continuing that I had last time reemerged. But this time I don't want to let those feelings trick me into stopping recovery.

I need accountability to make it through this workbook, continue going to therapy and continue attending Celebrate Recovery. Telling this blog audience is one way to keep myself accountable.

I want to fully untwist and untangle my thinking and not let the snarls stay and get me all tangled up again in a few days, weeks, months or years!

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