Archive for March, 2015

20 MAR 15

Cognitive Triangle

I had a dream last night. One that, at first, I labeled as “bad.” It, of course, had no beginning and a questionable end. At least that is what I had initially thought. I was in what seemed like a very cluttered room. Other times it was an apartment with an open floor plan. I may or may not have noticed him come in, but he was there now. The love of my life. The man of my literal dreams. I haven’t spoken to him in so long. It’s probably been about six months or more, but it feels like so much longer.

It did not seem as though we interacted with each other. He just rushed around the place unearthing items and collecting them together as though preparing for a deployment. I was used to this – we’ve been through at least two or three. Though I did not scream out to him, I was extremely upset. And much like a night of blackout drinking, my dreaming consciousness darts around the room to piles of stuff, to him walking out the door, to the clutterlessness that now surrounds me.

After I lose sight of him through the window just right of the door, I look around at the mess that was not left. I think, for just a moment, that my stuff is gone. When I go over to the bookshelf on the other side of the room, I see that my items upon it are neatly folded and tucked away, hidden from obvious view. The same was true for dresser drawers in other areas of the room. There was no mess where once there was more than I cared to deal with. From there, the scene degrades from my mind, but the unhappy and unsettled feeling takes longer to dissipate. In fact, with each breath, I can still feel a twinge of pain in my heart.

I woke with mixed feelings. It’s been years since I dreamt about him. It wasn’t long however, that I was onto thinking of other things. The melting images of the dream drifted in and out of my mind for hours. It wasn’t until later that evening, when I began to tell Jessica about the breakthrough I had in therapy the other day, as well as minor details from last night’s dream, that pieces started coming together in front of me.

***

This past Wednesday, as with most recent Wednesdays, I attended my CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) Self-Esteem Group through the VA Women’s Health Clinic. We discussed biased expectations and negative self-evaluations. We’ve been working with the Cognitive Triangle, whose corners represent thought, behavior and mood. Each of which can affect the other. When one of those three is negative you must catch, check and change it. Generally in my case, it is a thought that leads to the other two and therefore the “three c’s” are usually used for my negatives thoughts.

Before learning about the triangle, my negative thoughts would put me in a sour mood and lead to less than stellar behavior or vice versa. For example when my thoughts are consumed with insecurity and doubt, perhaps I may drink too much to try to forget these feelings and in doing so I wind up miserable and even more negative.

The three c’s come in when I realize I am having a negative thought and I catch it. Catching a negative thought is not always easy, but once I do, I try to check it, or as I believe that to mean, I identify it and evaluate why it is negative and what evidence I have that the thought I am having is true. With no evidence that my negative thoughts are valid, I can change it with a more positive outlook. In having more positive thoughts, I begin behaving in a more positive way and I will be left with a more positive mood.

The group went well that day. I feel like I am learning about myself and self-esteem in general more and more each appointment. Just after the group, I went to my appointment upstairs with my Social Worker who had referred me to the group in the first place. We talked about some of the positive moments of the group as well as changes in my behavior lately to help better myself. One of the things I mentioned was the way I have been dealing with my obsessive and inappropriate feelings towards potential mates. This behavior, of course, leads to a feeling of neediness, clinginess, self-consciousness, not being good enough, not being sexy enough and general inadequacy.

When she asked me how I was resolving those scenarios, I told her that I realized that the way I treat and feel about men that I am not interested in is very different from the way I treat men that I am sexually or mentally attracted to. That being said, I have no problem being friends with someone I am not attracted to and I analyzed the emotion with which I conduct those friendships. In using the same mindset that I do with those friends, when projected onto someone I may be attracted to, it brings a certain perspective that I would have otherwise missed. Instead of allowing my hormones and emotions to escalate out of control, I treat the person with the asexuality that the meeting warrants. I only just met someone, and even if that person is attracted to me, it matters not – we just met and I cannot build a relationship out of the fantasies in my head. With such an approach I am able to accurately and appropriately have a realistic frame of mind about the person and treat them just as I “normally” would treat anyone else in that scenario.

It was while I was explaining this to my Social Worker that I realized I was having a breakthrough. If I do not jump to conclusions with people, or I do not think instantly that they are a good mate for me, and if I stop trying to impress every single man I meet, I will not have feelings of inadequacy because my validation will no longer be a result of their reactions to me. I will have impressed myself with my control and I will feel better because I made me feel better; my heart-felt emotions will not be hinging on the words, thoughts, feelings and actions of another. If this theory is in fact true, then I can rest assured that in not seeking validation from others, that I will no longer experience the depression that comes from personal rejection as I will not be seeking any approval. Instead, I will feel better about myself, do activities that please me, and work toward getting my own approval. If I am not happy, I will make corrections to rectify the problem, but my happiness or lack thereof shall no longer rely upon outside forces.

When I shared with a close friend about this whole epiphany thing, I also brought up the dream I had about that certain someone (which occurred days after my therapy sessions). I told her of how he came into my cluttered living space, a space that I felt during the dream had been “ours,” and how he seemed to gather things and leave without a word. I told her that when I lost sight of him I looked around the room and there was no longer a cluttered mess or items and personal effects, rather a tidy room with neatly packed drawers and nicely stacked shelving units. I was about to tell her that somehow I knew that everything that had been left in the room was in fact mine and that nothing remained of his.

As those words came out, I felt yet another rush of inspiration, an epiphany if you will, that my dream had legitimate significance and was not random or upsetting as I had originally thought. For the first time, perhaps ever, my dream spoke to me. It represented the fact that he was no longer a part of my life and that without him, I was not only able to survive, but able to thrive as was evident by the immaculate condition of my living space after he left. It may have been inferring that while he was a part of my life, I allowed myself to be so caught up in his world that I disregarded the health and safety of my own. With the simple act of coming in, getting his stuff and leaving I was left with myself, and my belongings in a better condition than I have ever been in to my memory.

It is with these thoughts that I can feel what great strides I am making for myself. I feel like I am on the cusp of greatness for myself. I relish in the idea and the feelings that I am almost there.

UPDATE: Just A few nights ago I had another dream about him. I was having a gathering of some sort – not really sure what kind. And even though we don’t speak anymore, he was there. The only detail, was but a moment, that I remember was that of hugging him and knowing that I was hugging him goodbye.