Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Insight 28Mar2012

It's been a pretty interest past week for me.  I've been gaining a lot of interesting insights into me and life in general.  Some of them were shared in the 'Worth of Tools' post I made last week.  Here's a list of some more that I've gotten.

In talking with my sister:

Repentance is more than changing behavior.  Repentance is changing how I think.  How I think is really the sum of who I am.  It's what really matters at the end of the day.  How I look is temporary, but how I think about how I look has much more significance and importance.

In talking with a man from the ward:

Labels and stigma only divide.  If we are to 'mourn with those who mourn', we need to be united.

In talking with my therapist:

Friendships are not based off of the two friends using each other.  It's based off of the two people sharing what they like with each other.  It's based off of two people reaching out to support and help each other.

My therapist and I talked about how common interests often help draw friends together.  I tried to compare two different people I knew.  One of them, I enjoy spending time with.  The other, I don't like spending time with.  I have things in common with both of them.  The difference is that one friend seems to give and share.  The other seems to take and drain.  Probably explains why one friendship still seems viable and I need space from the other person.

Isolation is something that has hurt my ability to make friends.  If I'm not sharing or being open to other people, how am I to make friends?

We talked about my Elder's Quorum president a bit.  I stated that I had written a letter to him, talking about how I had same gender attraction.  My therapist suggested that I would need to talk to him in person, and that it would be a form of conflict.  I said that it was more me taking a risk and being vulnerable.  He then smiled and stated that the conflict was with myself, rather than with the Elder's Quorum president.  That's when I remarked back, half joking, but half truthfully that I was tired all the time because I was always in conflict with myself.

One of the most powerful insights I got from the therapist was that I was trying to derive a sense of self worth from being touched  rather than having the touch affirm or validate my value.  As I talked with another friend, I realized that I craved touch and become addicted in a sense to it because I must have a sense of self worth.  If I don't feel of worth without being touched, I'm going to be constantly pursuing touch.  On the other hand, if my worth is independent of that, then I can simply enjoy receiving touch, without it determining if I'm of worth or not.

It may be a bit jumbled, but those are some insights I've gotten into myself and life.  I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Worth of Tools

This is not an easy post for me to write.  What I'm going to write about myself has me feeling very exposed and vulnerable, even before I write it.  I plan on sharing something that is very personal; something that perhaps hits right at the core of the beliefs that I have about myself, other people, and Heavenly Father.

I was having a conversation with a friend a few weeks ago and he referred to himself as being a 'tool'.  My first impulse was to deny the fact that he was a 'tool', and then I realized that I really didn't know what the word meant.  I decided to do an internet search that gave me some enlightenment.  Based on Urban Dictionary, a 'tool' is a person who can't think or make decisions for themselves, a person who is used by other people (knowingly or not), a person who relies on the judgement and approval of others, a person that is wanted solely for what they can do (rather than being liked), etc.  After another discussion with another friend, the idea really solidified in my head.

I came to two very scary realizations: I have a tendency to use other people, and the tendency to let other people use me.  Even with those realizations, I had no idea why I engaged in that kind of thinking or behavior (most of the 'using' was in my head and didn't go much further).  

Yesterday, I had another insight that hit my like stray asteroid: my sense of self worth is tied to what I can do.  I can remember countless times being among groups of people and feeling useless because we weren't 'doing' anything.  I was simply sitting there, possibly talking.  In other situations, I've felt like I've showed up, done some kind of work/chore, and then felt like I should leave because my value in the situation was gone because I didn't have anything further to do.  On the flip side, I've felt guilty in some friendships because the other person seems to be 'doing' so much and contributing so much, and I don't feel like I'm giving anything back.  Sometimes I feel like I interact with people simply for what they can do to me.  It honestly makes me feel sick inside.

What is the worth of a tool?  A tool is useful so long as it can do something useful.  If a tool becomes broken, then it is discarded and another is procured to take its place.  There isn't any use to keeping around a broken tool, unless it can be fixed.

This post seems to be in stark contrast with another recent post of mine where I spoke about the worth of a soul (Paradoxes).  It's honestly makes me feel saddened, angry, and sick that I've been thinking like this.  I've been thinking like this for years so it will be something for me to keep an eye on.  

I remember hearing a statement like the following: "We are commanded to love people and use objects.  Problems occur when that gets reversed and we love objects and use people".  I honestly feel like I am very guilty of doing the latter over the former.  I wonder, how different would life be if I had a more accurate view of my worth?  What if I thought my worth could never change?  I would probably take more risks.  I would stand up for myself and say 'no' to people that would want to use me.  I would also be more loving and giving to other people.  I would see other people as people.  I would see that other people have the same great worth that I do.

Right now, I would like to adopt some better views and thoughts about myself, and I know they will spread to other people given enough time.  I want to give myself some more positive 'self-talk':
  • I am of great worth
  • I am worthy of love and connection
  • My worth is constant and unchangeable
I honestly feel that those things are true.  It's when I forget their truth that my tendency to 'use and be used' starts to come across.

Thank you for reading.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A New Perspective - 18Mar2012

I've had a really interesting change of perspectives lately.  I've been experiencing a lot of feelings of numbness lately.  It something that comes and goes and thankfully has been spending more time going than coming the last week.  Two things have been on my mind a lot.  One of them is friendship and the other is plans that I have for my life.

As for friendship, I've found myself over the last few weeks (arguably months) worrying over the fact that I didn't have any closer friends.  I've been thinking back to all the people I've met at college, at previous work places, at places like Journey Into Manhood and Evergreen, and wondering why I hardly ever hear from any of those people. 

I have a tendency when I think about this to first start to feel angry toward the other people.  I start to blame them for no sort of friendship forming.  Then I start to shift all the blame to myself.  I start to think that I didn't try hard enough, or that something is wrong with me.  I start to think that I was either too uninteresting or that I scared the person off.  Lately, I got a huge piece of insight into this.  I realize that one reason I was struggling with having any feelings of a close friendship is because I've been too absorbed in my own problems, faults, and struggles.  I've been very emotionally needy and draining, in my judgement.  I judge that I've been scaring away, pushing away, or simply ignoring potential friends and possibly alienating myself from existing friends.  I sometimes wonder if being too needy and demanding on past people has led to friendships either not forming, or causing other friendships to fall apart when I got disappointed with the other people.  Ultimately, I've decided that I need to take a different approach.  I need to focus more on being my own friend.  I need to get to know myself, do things with myself, and learn to enjoy my own company.  I have a feeling that will have a positive effect on my friendships with other people.

The other thing that has been bothering me is the fact that I don't have any 'big plans' for my own life.  I see other people who are ambitious in their careers, who have plans to buy houses, get married, go on trips to other places.  I sometimes wonder if there's something wrong with me to not have plans like that.  My plans typically are short term and it's usually invitations to do things with other people or things that just 'need to be done'.  I think that somehow over grown up, I've lost to ability to dream, to imagine, to have hopes about the future.  I feel like I've spent a lot of time being adrift, going along with the flow of life, and not working toward any kind of future goal.  I honestly feel apathetic about plans for the future.  I don't seem to care what will happen to me with my career.  I just live from one day to the next, without any expectations or hopes for the future.

I had an impression in church today that was very helpful to me.  Someone in Elder's Quorum was sharing how one of the General Authorities had taken some time to embrace and comfort him.  I was struck by the love that the General Authority had shown for the man.  It reminded me of the fact that God gives everyone callings to grow.  He's given to some people to lead the entire church and to others to do other things in His church.  The fact is that the calling I have is one that will help me grow.  It encourages me to interact with the other men in the ward.  It calls me to step up and be bold.  I got the impression that my purpose and goal in life should be to get back to live with Heavenly Father, and to be like Him.  My primary goal in life is not to have a great career, to visit a certain place, or to have so many friends.  My primary goal is to live like Jesus Christ, to grow in love toward to my fellow man, and to love myself as Heavenly Father loves me.  That is a purpose and goal that I feel passionately about.

So, maybe I don't have big plans for the future, maybe I don't feel like I have friends that I could call 'BFFs'.  I definitely do feel I need to have a more serious and loving relationship with myself and with my Heavenly Father.  I can see how that would extend to my relationships with everyone around me.  I feel happy to have a sense of hope and joy about the future and an increased feeling of peace in the present.  I feel more ready to face the world with all of its joys and trials.  I feel grateful to have a new perspective on life.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Paradoxes - More Random Things Bouncing In My Head 6Mar2012

I've had a number of things on my mind.  Some of them are paradoxes.  Some may be called paradoxes.  A lot of them relate to humankind, my brothers and sisters.  I figured I would share a few of them here.

The Everything/Nothing paradox

In Elder's Quorum this week, the topic of the discusson was Elder Uchtdorf's talk from last general conference entitled 'You Matter To Him' (click on the name to read it, I highly recommend it!).

In the talk Elder Uchtdorf states that man is nothing, and that man is everything.  It's something that I've pondered and thought about.

Man is nothing

Compared to God, man is nothing.  If I think about it, my comprehension of things is nothing compared to God's.  My physical strength can only move very small objects, at least in comparison to the rest of the environment around me.  I can't create planets, set up solar systems, and plan galaxies.  I'm one person in a sea of over seven billion people (and growing).  Even our planet is a small object in a larger solar system.  Our star is one light in a sea of countless other lights.  Simply put, I'm a small speck when it comes to the whole universe.

Man is everything

On another hand, all of God's effort is directly for the well being of man.  The creation of the universe, the dance of the planets, photosynthesis, the earth and everything on it.  God's entire focus is on us.  D&C 18:10 states: "Remember, the worth of souls is great in the sight of God".  I find that intensely amazing.  I'm am nothing, yet my worth is great in God's eyes.

Elder Uchtdorf goes on to speak about the dangers of pride and how Satan strives to mislead us by appealing to the extremes of the paradox.  Sometimes, he tempts us ignore the fact that we are nothing.  We become swollen and prideful.  Sometimes, he tempts us to ignore the fact that we are everything.  We begin to feel powerless and insignificant. We feel forgotten by our Heavenly Father.  We feel like He doesn't care. I can see that my path relies on embracing both sides of the paradox.  Feeling the humility that comes from being nothing, yet feeling the love and the power that comes from being everything.  It can be a tricky scale to balance.

The Worth of Souls

Going back again to the scripture I shared earlier.  "The worth of souls is great in the sight of God".  When I think of it now, it makes me think of another scripture. D&C 88:15 states "The spirit and the body are the soul of man".  I am a being made up of two parts: a body and a spirit.  Together, they are a soul, and they are of great worth in the sight of God.  It's led me to a number of thoughts.

I've disparaged and hated my body for many years.  I've believed that my body was something bad and foul, something to be demonized and hated.  I realize now that my body is a gift of God.  It is something that I need to treat with respect.  I need to take care of it and meet it's needs.  It is a valuable part of me.  I also have a spirit, which is also equally valuable.  I need to take care of it's needs as well.  Often times, it's a tricky balance between satisfying both of their needs, as well as learning what is a 'want' rather than a 'need'. Neglecting either my body or my soul leads me down paths that are not healthy.

I have a degree in computer science and I sometimes use computer concepts to try to understand things better.  Most modern computer programs have an interface.  The interface lets us, as humans, interact with the computer.  The interface lets us send messages to the computer and receive information back.  I've lately thought that I have three interfaces.  One: my body.  My body lets me interface with the mortal world and interact with the objects there. Two: my spirit, which allows me to interact with the diving.  Three: an interface between my body and my spirit.  The two are able to communicate and interact with each other.  It's often a very subtle interaction.  What influences one of them tends to influence the other.  If I'm not getting enough rest, it's difficult for me to feel inspiration.  When I read my scriptures, my body tends to feel calmer.

Other random thoughts

I had a very interesting and insightful discussion with a friend of mine last night.  We talked a lot about love, sin, Utah culture, etc.  I had recently had a very positive and uplifting experience that helped me feel very loved.  I realized that I was trying to mentally discredit and sabotage the experience I had.  As I called my friend up, he was able to hand me some thoughts that I found were very helpful.  I started to tell myself 'I deserve to feel loved. I am loved.  I need to be loved.'  I realized that the love that I seek is very much like the love of my Heavenly Father.  A love that sees my potential, my worth, where I am, and doesn't seek to try to abuse or use me.  I realize many times in my life I've just wanted to scream out 'I just want to be loved!'  I think a good many of the world's problems could be solved if people actually would feel a Christlike love for each other.

As our discussion continued, I realized that I need to feel God's love for me.  If I'm not feeling it, I'm more vulnerable to being tempted to do something to try to fill that void in my life.  Sin tends to cover up my real needs.  It pretends to fill the void.  Yet, it can't fill my need for love the same way that God's love can.

As our discussion continued, my friend expressed that he felt that Utah LDS culture could be very judgmental.  I honestly have felt the same way at times.  The worst culprit in that has been me.  I've been very judgmental and unloving toward myself for years.  I feel like I've looked at God and the gospel, and only seen one half of it.  I've only been seeing the justice side.  The side that speaks of punishment and guilt.  Many times I find myself ignoring the other half of the gospel, the mercy side.  The side that speaks of love, forgiveness, and redemption.  I believe that Heavenly Father is a perfect balance of justice and mercy.  How He makes it work is beyond my comprehension most of the time.  When I realize also that Heavenly Father acts out of love, some of His acts that seem to lay on the justice side of things, also speak of the mercy that He has.  It's a very interesting point of view.

Personal Note

To give a personal update, I have been feeling better.  By feeling better, I mean I'm actually feeling emotions again.  I've felt fear, anger, joy, sadness, excitement, nervousness, and all sorts of other emotions.  I'm grateful that they have returned.  I honestly think it is healthier for me to feel, acknowledge, and honor these feelings.  I still don't have many things figured out.  I still have a lot of questions.  I still feel there is hurt to work through.  I just feel like I'm moving forward once more.