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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns

I started reading this acclaimed book Feeling Good The New Mood Therapy and find it to be extremely helpful in dealing with the volatile emotions and racing thoughts that come with despair and depression. The basic premise is that no other person or situation makes us feel the way we do. We are the ones responsible for our feelings. However we interpret and perceive things is how we will feel.

One of the issues that affects me more than most is communication, or more accurately, a lack of communication. I can't stand being ignored or silenced.  I seek answers and justice.  I'm an open and honest person and I feel others should be as well. And when they aren't, it frustrates me. Dr. Burns addresses our "shoulds" as unfair and unrealistic values. Just because I'm comfortable with candor doesn't mean others should be.  I am the one who needs to respect that and deal with it. And not take it personally when someone is unwilling to express exactly what they're feeling or thinking with me just because I want to know.

When it comes to love and dating there's so many things that often go fully unexplained or understood. That's a hard bitter bill for me to swallow. Without proper information we jump to conclusions or let our mind drift to places that wreck havoc on our emotions. Not knowing why or how come is the greatest source of anxiety and depression that leads to self loathing and hopelessness. If I only knew...I could feel better. Right?

When we're angry or disappointed with someone perhaps it's better to step back and look at the situation from the other person's perspective.  Learn to be empathetic and you will free yourself from being trapped in hostility, self-doubt, and despair writes Dr. Burns.

Recalling my unrequited affair, she clearly was not someone comfortable with properly expressing her real emotions. Her dramatic outbursts aside, she never took the time to communicate with me or allow herself to become intimate. And that's what's continued to bother me most years later.  But there's nothing I can do about it. That was her choice. Her decision. I tried as best I could to get her to share or open up to me, but the more I engaged, the further away she drifted. It hurt tremendously to think she didn't care enough about our connection or about my feelings. But does that make her an unloving, uncaring person?

No. The thing she lacked was empathy. And for someone who struggles with their emotional candor it's not a surprise she lacks the skill to step into someone else's head. Clearly she has the capacity to love because she stuck with her boyfriend, in spite of our legendary connection and whatever sexual problems the two of them were having at the time. I'm fully aware she needed to get rid of me if she had a chance of salvaging her relationship with him. It's also why she could never just be friends with me afterward. Not because she didn't like me....simply because she couldn't afford the temptation.

So where does that leave me? My self-esteem should be encouraged knowing I was such a temptation to her that she needed to sever our ties...but in my eyes, only the defeat remains. I lost out on her. She loved someone else so incredibly she was able to dismiss me like I was nothing. How can I feel good about that? 

Friends and Family try and tell me all it was all for the best. That she was too crazy or too unstable or too manipulative or whatever her faults may have been would have been a recipe for disaster. In the end, I'm better off without her they say.  For whatever reason, I'm unable to accept that I dodged such a bullet. I do realize it's not worth being miserable over, yet I'm still not at peace with it. What have I learned? What have I gained?  Going forward, these are the things that matter.

For more answers, and for now, I'll just have to keep reading I guess.