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Discussion Starter #1
After reading what Mavish said about not being feminine enough to another poster, I realized I STILL (even after being admonished by RL friends) put up walls and come across as tough and unapproachable.

It's been 9 years since separation and I know I have emotional baggage still after 7.5 years of divorce. I didn't love him but he was so mean about everything I never let him "in" - early on I started to but since everything from my body, my sexuality, my political/religious/social opinions... everything was up for ridicule.

So I've been very cautious about just letting go, and allowing myself to be open to love. Even with long-term boyfriends. Whether or not things work out with the guy I'm dating, I still haven't exposed my soul. I don't flirt with strangers, make eye contact and smile at strangers in a store like Lowe's or the grocery store. I don't project that openness that attracts people.

Does opening ones self to vulnerability happen automatically with healing? Is this something that requires work? If so what can be done? Is it a more a factor of going through the motions until it becomes more natural? How do I keep the wall knee-high instead of head-high? I guess it's all rooted in a fear of rejection - that once they know 'me' they won't like me so why bother... yet I usually feel like I pretty well like myself.

I'm thinking maybe a few IC visits? I hate starting with someone new - my family counselor moved about 3 years ago and for the 3 years prior to that I'd only gone a couple times a year about specific child-rearing issues. And the court ordered one isn't allowed to provide IC due to a conflict of interest should she ever need to testify.

Thanks for any feedback - guess I'm in an introspective point with the BF thing and possibly being back on 'the market'.
 

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Enjoli,

You are still carrying the scars. It is very unfortunate that the relationship has created in you such deep emotional blockages.

Counselling is a very good idea. I have seen many of your posts on here, you are thinking and moving towards something it seems, you even say,"...guess I'm in an introspective point with the BF thing and possibly being back on 'the market'."

Sounds like you want change. Change is hard. Why alter that which protects you so well? Why drop that shield in the face of those spears?

You want to get in touch with yourself again. You need to befriend yourself. Trust yourself. You are stronger now than then.

You know what you DON'T want, and it seems you have a very good idea of what you DO want. So fear is possibly your challenge. You want to foster some courage now.

Finding support to endorse your courage comes form firends, family , counsellors, clergy, what-have-you.

But I think that courage must be rooted in the firm belief in yourself, self-confidence. Knowing that you have the tools to deal with whatever may come your way.

The mind and the body are forever linked, excercise, Yoga, and meditation ( or prayer...it's subjective...) should allow you to feel your true strength: remember, you, me, people reading, everyone out there...are just people. Weak, strong, fat, skinny, wierd, funny, it's the beauty of this life, the tapestry of this world that awaits you. You need to be the artist, to find in the mix that which inspires you.

Those walls have served thier purpose, but you are trapped behind them. Open the gate, walk through to the other side, take heart in the fact that you are not alone...others are just as or more afraid than you!

Each of us deserves happiness, that comes from within. Once you feel that...others will see you for who you are and the walls will not be necessary. Your open-heart and open-mind will attract others.

Be brave. Take heart. It's a beautiful life, well worth living outside the walls!
 

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It is all so hard at times post divorce. A few things you have said really resonate with me.

Can only give you a reply from my own experience, does not mean anything to anyone else but more for reference.

I had different issues to you in my marriage but the end result was fear of rejection, worthlessness and other negative issues. One thing I always have know though is that I deserve to be loved and I really enjoy loving another.
I left the marriage, got drunk for 12 months then told myself I had to find the courage to go back out there. Life is short, I wanted to have fun and deep down I wanted to find love.

I had heaps of fun, OMG men in their 40/50's are just all that and more. Coming from a sexless marriage to being free out in the world was like a non stop party for awhile.
Then I accidentally met Mr Amazing, it was all laughing and fun at the start but then a really scary thing happened, we both realised that this is more than fun so with an emotional bond growing we had to face issues we both have.

I say scary because it was not till I found love did I realise how damaged I really am. It is easy when you are being superficial and pleasure seeking. But to have found a man that is everything I want well that terrifies me. Will I stuff it up, am I good enough, will he leave me, what happens if he sexually rejects me, what if my kids don't like him, what will happen in a years time, 3 years time, 10 years time??????????

I was going mad. Throw in a couple of pretty big life issues that have happened to both of us in the mean time plus his baggage and it is a big whirlpool of scary.

You asked
Does opening ones self to vulnerability happen automatically with healing? Is this something that requires work? If so what can be done? Is it a more a factor of going through the motions until it becomes more natural? How do I keep the wall knee-high instead of head-high? I guess it's all rooted in a fear of rejection - that once they know 'me' they won't like me so why bother... yet I usually feel like I pretty well like myself.
well I found that SO and I are doing the healing within our relationship, it seems to work for us. I didn't know I had so many issues and he for various reasons has been running from his.
We both dated others prior to meeting each other and are not rebounding.
He is the man that I feel comfortable enough with to tell anything and he is becoming the same. He is going for IC.

I was whole in some ways post divorce such as getting into exercise, getting my life together generally but while I thought I was so strong emotionally it turned out I wasn't. It turned out that I needed the strength and safety of my amazing man to get past the vulnerability and the fear of rejection. Can't say I am healed or ever fully will be but I am OK with that now.
I no longer feel I am going mad but I take each day for what it is and I look forward to the future as well as loving the present.

What a long and convoluted reply, I hope some of it makes sense.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
It turned out that I needed the strength and safety of my amazing man to get past the vulnerability and the fear of rejection. Can't say I am healed or ever fully will be but I am OK with that now.
This is how I feel. It's getting there that is so darn scary as you found out. And just as I let it happen, I find myself getting hurt which is the whole reason I was avoiding all of this. I crave intimacy and know I have a lot to offer.

I hope I don't let fear keep it from happening. Maybe I should focus on fun and games and see where it goes :p
 

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Does opening ones self to vulnerability happen automatically with healing? Is this something that requires work?
It requires work unfortunately and a few sessions won't be enough. If the trauma isn't severe maybe 6 months to a year if you found a good therapist. You've been hurt badly and until you heal your wounds those walls will stay up. Those bags get unpacked one at a time and its quite painful.

The reason you avoid opening up is because you seek to avoid feeling that pain you have buried. But letting it out, feeling it, processing it, and understanding it is key to your freedom. Your self esteem is also very low.

You were abused by your husband so its completely understandable why you'd have walls up. Respect them don't try to tear them down. Appreciate the job they are doing for you. Love that side of you that seeks to keep you safe. They are your protectors and when you've been abused you usually have several or many depending on how badly you've been hurt.

If you've ever read up on Internal Family Systems you can name them. You have one that is unapproachable. That's not the real you it's your protector. If you can learn to have compassion for it and try to understand it you can work with it. Don't push it away otherwise it just resists and gets stronger.

This has been my experience anyway. :)
 

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This is how I feel. It's getting there that is so darn scary as you found out. And just as I let it happen, I find myself getting hurt which is the whole reason I was avoiding all of this. I crave intimacy and know I have a lot to offer.

I hope I don't let fear keep it from happening. Maybe I should focus on fun and games and see where it goes :p
As much as you crave intimacy, you might also fear it. I have fear of intimacy and there was a period in my life I often found myself involved in inappropriate relationships of one kind or another because I knew, subconsciously, that a particular inappropriate man wouldn't be the man that would make me want to deal with my fear of intimacy, no matter how interesting or wonderful he might be.

Plus, getting close to an inappropriate man helps you protect yourself a bit - in the back of your mind, you realize that there is an obstacle (long distance, age inappropriate, emotionally unavailable, married...) and that obstacle will be the end of the relationship. It's the obstacle's fault, not you. You aren't being rejected, it's just the circumstances. It's easier than feeling rejected for who you are or than knowing you screwed it up yourself.

Fear of intimacy creates a lot of self-sabotage in relationships, too. When you see yourself getting closer and more vulnerable, you might start acting out and making waves in the relationship to create some distance and breathing room.

I was forced to face my fears when I became involved with my bf. He has his own issues, too. We talk about this openly. As Holland said about her relationship, we're working through our issues within the relationship and together. An important thing for me was to read up on fear of intimacy and learn to recognize my patterns and see my behaviors for what they are - an expression of fear - so that I can make better choices and actions.

Anyway, this may not be your situation, but if it rings any bells for you, it might be worth discussing with an IC.
 

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As much as you crave intimacy, you might also fear it. I have fear of intimacy and there was a period in my life I often found myself involved in inappropriate relationships of one kind or another because I knew, subconsciously, that a particular inappropriate man wouldn't be the man that would make me want to deal with my fear of intimacy, no matter how interesting or wonderful he might be.

Plus, getting close to an inappropriate man helps you protect yourself a bit - in the back of your mind, you realize that there is an obstacle (long distance, age inappropriate, emotionally unavailable, married...) and that obstacle will be the end of the relationship. It's the obstacle's fault, not you. You aren't being rejected, it's just the circumstances. It's easier than feeling rejected for who you are or than knowing you screwed it up yourself.

Fear of intimacy creates a lot of self-sabotage in relationships, too. When you see yourself getting closer and more vulnerable, you might start acting out and making waves in the relationship to create some distance and breathing room.

I was forced to face my fears when I became involved with my bf. He has his own issues, too. We talk about this openly. As Holland said about her relationship, we're working through our issues within the relationship and together. An important thing for me was to read up on fear of intimacy and learn to recognize my patterns and see my behaviors for what they are - an expression of fear - so that I can make better choices and actions.

Anyway, this may not be your situation, but if it rings any bells for you, it might be worth discussing with an IC.
It is interesting bc I always thought you had to face your fears, be whole blah blah to be able to move forward and into a healthy relationship.
Yet you also say (like me) that the new relationship was what forced you to have to face your fears.

So as long as the relationship is a good, healthy one then it can provide a safe place to be healed and learn about yourself. Conversely I guess a bad or unhealthy relationship could compound bad issues therefore making each subsequent relationship more difficult.
 

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mavash- could you elaborate a little more on the internal family systems piece, such as a book or website that you'd recommend? what OP posted and what you responded hit home for me. i don't know yet if the sense of comfort i feel being alone is my coming to terms with who i really am, or a manifestation of fear based on my experiences. i have abuse in my past, too, so that's something to consider. thanks, mavash.
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Discussion Starter #10
I had months of weekly sessions with the counselor at the battered women's shelter and years of monthly sessions, a few with my daughter but most without, to deal with parenting, ex, etc. I was just approaching norajane's situation but that is uncertain right now. I think I'd let this one in as we are both in that vulnerable place.
 

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It is interesting bc I always thought you had to face your fears, be whole blah blah to be able to move forward and into a healthy relationship.
Yet you also say (like me) that the new relationship was what forced you to have to face your fears.

So as long as the relationship is a good, healthy one then it can provide a safe place to be healed and learn about yourself. Conversely I guess a bad or unhealthy relationship could compound bad issues therefore making each subsequent relationship more difficult.
I may have given you the wrong impression - I had to do a lot of work on myself before I could go into the relationship. I had to take a good long look at my dating history and why I made the choices I had, and why all those things had led me to putting up these big walls and my part in all of it.

They say that you are the common denominator in all your relationships, so if things aren't right, you have to look at your own behavior and understand what your issues are and how you are letting those issues take over your better judgment. I used to choose inappropriate relationships - relationships that were doomed from the start. No amount of work would have made those relationships healthy because those men were inappropriate for me to begin with. You have to make important changes in yourself first, or you won't ever pick the healthy guy or the healthy relationship. The unhealthy ones will be more attractive until you get your own head on straight.

However, there is only so much you can do on your own. The rubber hits the road once you get into a relationship. You have to learn or re-learn healthy relationship dynamics. And I don't know that you can do that effectively until you are in a relationship...you have to practice what you've learned. That's what makes the relationship healthy. And that's where it gets really hard because you are forced on a day to day practical level to deal with your fears from a practical perspective.

Fear of intimacy is complicated. I probably should have gone to an IC at some point, but chose to spend time not dating and reading a lot and thinking a lot instead.
 

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mavash- could you elaborate a little more on the internal family systems piece, such as a book or website that you'd recommend? what OP posted and what you responded hit home for me. i don't know yet if the sense of comfort i feel being alone is my coming to terms with who i really am, or a manifestation of fear based on my experiences. i have abuse in my past, too, so that's something to consider. thanks, mavash.
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Self-Therapy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Wholeness and Healing Your Inner Child Using IFS, A New, Cutting-Edge Psychotherapy, 2nd Edition: Jay Earley: 9780984392773: Amazon.com: Books

You know how we've all been taught we have inner children? This new therapy recognizes we have MANY inner sides that have been wounded. As you heal you integrate all your sides into one managed WHOLE self.

About Internal Family Systems
 

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Thanks, Mavash!
It's truly fascinating and even after all my regular therapy I was able to read this book and apply it almost immediately. One of my protectors likes to make me tired. That one shows up when I'm overwhelmed and feel like I can't do anything right. I talk to that part calmly and remind it that I can handle this and that it's okay if I don't do it 'perfectly'.

I also show that part a lot of love. If it still insists I need a nap then I take a nap. Usually when I show it compassion it will let me get up fairly quickly.

I know this sounds crazy but trust me it really does work.
 

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It doesn't sound crazy in the slightest. I have noticed that at certain times, even when I was in the midst of a really bad episode with my mom or my STBXH, I would be totally overcome with an overwhelming desire to sleep. And sometimes now, when things are really crazy, I'll feel almost narcoleptic.

I'm definitely getting this book.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
When things are bad, I don't allow myself to feel anything. I've only started doing that recently when it's "safe". Because I couldn't afford to have a melt-down.

All through separation, job loss, divorce, custody, custody, WWIII custody, I shift into an emotionless problem solving mode. I know i have to focus on positive, precise, well thought out action to get the results I need.

I think I've just gotten into the habit of always being ready to deal with crap so I harden up and bulldoze through whatever it is. I'm like the guy in my circle of friends - I try to SOLVE stuff vs. commiserate. Even my reason for being here was solution-oriented.

I have gotten better about crying thanks to BF. Who happened to think of me first when he was having a bad day and wanted to talk. Hm. Sign he feels for me? Convenience? See, I need to solve and understand. I can't just ROLL with it. Gah.
 

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Ha! That sounds a lot like me, EW. At one point, my IC forbid me from reading anymore about things to do with my situation. I just NEEDED to find solutions, answers, plans, etc. But it's who I am. I was sort of like my extended family's personal Google, lol, always the one to find information and figure things out.

It served us well, but yeah, I feel like that problem-solving personna is falling down around me these last few months. Where I used to be uber-efficient, never doing less than 2 or 3 things at a time, etc., I find that my mind is rebelling. I just don't have it in me anymore.

This situation is forcing me to become acquainted with all the parts of me. The fun, happy, carefree parts were so buried that they almost died. I think I'm working towards more of a balance now. It feels really weird not to have 19 simultaneous crises to figure out, and people depending on me to take care of them. What to me feels like laziness and falling down on the job is actually just more healthy. It takes a while to get used to it, lol.
 

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Ah ya'll are problem solvers just like I used to be. :)

I still like to solve problems sure but my focus is on MINE not everyone else's. My sister recently called and yes hinted for me to google something for her and I didn't. I was so proud of myself. I suggested SHE look it up since it was her problem not mine. :)

Yeah she's no longer talking to me. No not because of that but because I no longer revolve my life around her needs anymore. It's funny.

I also gave up multitasking. It's highly overrated. I do ONE thing at a time. Oh sure sometimes it can't be helped but overall I find I'm calmer if I give everything my full attention instead of trying to juggle 12 balls in the air.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I think multi-tasking is part of the problem solving nature, too. I'll be in the shower Saturday morning thinking if I start a load of laundry right after on cold, the next load there will be enough hot, run dishwasher last, do yardwork after load 1, house work requires no daylight so do that when it starts getting dark, etc.

Like solving a puzzle to make the most efficient use of my time.
 
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