A thread about interest and intent

Go down

A thread about interest and intent

Post by Hirundo Bos on Wed Mar 29, 2017 8:21 am

In one way, I've figured out so much over the past two or three years, and in another, I'm still confused by many of the same questions. Maybe one reason is that behavior change isn't really something you figure out, it's rather something you need to change by action… I don’t know. Problem with taking action is that I still don't know even where to start.

There are still some unknown factors in my life that makes my actions not lead to many sexual or romantic interactions, and I'm still not quite sure what they are. I am aware of a couple of things though.
I'm thinking they are also the kind of things that impact my other social interactions, so they're worth looking into anyway… but then, I ask myself, do I really need to justify wanting sex and possibly romance? Maybe I've got one of the main issues right there… anyway…

One factor I've been thinking about has to do with being interested in people. Or rather maintaining an interest in people over time. I… see myself, so often, fall out of the rhythm of back and forth. In a text exchange, I will wait longer and longer before I reply. In a conversation, I'll fall back to either passive listening or monologuing about myself, my go-to topic for autistic monologue. I'm pretty sure I'm not doing my part of the reciprocal work that goes into building a connection, and without reciprocity, the connection will tend to fade.

"Interest", of course, is a key word with autism. My attention tends to be intensely focused on one particular thing. It will often be something internal, like a train of thought, because my inner landscape is so much more familiar to me. And attention, once fixed, is difficult to shift… so when I ask a question, for example, in a face to face interaction, I think so hard on the act of asking that I have a hard time focusing on the reply. Especially if they answer something different that I had thought when I was mentally preparing for the next step of the conversation. (If I learned how to not plan so far ahead it would probably help.)

So it's not that I'm uninterested in people. Quite the opposite. I believe the driving force behold my sexual, romantic, and social desires is mainly curiosity. There's so much going on behind every other person's eyes, and there's something so beautiful about that. But in social interactions, my attention is on simply making it work, so I forget how to be interested in people as soon as I actually get the opportunity.

In text exchanges, I think part of my long response time is that I take some time to process a text or message I've received, and then replying starts to grow as something I ought to get done soon, which raises the bar for getting it done until it becomes too high.

Another part is a habit I picked up when I had more problems than I do now with boundaries. Waiting a while before replying became a strategy I used to reduce the intensity of the exchange… either because the other person was to intense, or because I was. But I have other ways to regulate intensity now, and other ways to be aware of boundaries, and don't really need that habit anymore.

So what I want to do is train myself to be more open to input, to expand my repertoire of responses beyond simply asking more questions, to train myself to respond faster, to not have to compose a written reply the way I'd compose a non-fiction text like this, not have to think about it all that hard… those are my goals when it comes to sustaining interest.

My brief exploration into improv theatre suggests that these are the exactly kind of skills they work with, so that might something to do more of…

As an exercise in faster communication I'll take a break here and follow up later with some thoughts about intent. That is, when I interact with people, just like I forget to be interested, I also forget to intend things. Which may be another reasons my interactions aren't going places all that much.
avatar
Hirundo Bos

Posts : 567
Reputation : 326
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile http://abouthirundo.blogspot.com

Back to top Go down

Re: A thread about interest and intent

Post by Hirundo Bos on Fri Mar 31, 2017 11:24 am

Nuance of feeling
I'm beginning to learn how to parse my different feelings around liking and attraction. I used to experience almost any kind of attraction as just a huge lump of anxiety. A feeling that I really ought to approach, and intrusive thoughts about why I shouldn't, and an overwhelming feeling of helplessness from the squeeze between intent and inability.

The anxiety was such a dominate feeling, that as soon as I did not feel anxiety around a person, it was as if I was feeling nothing at all. Or maybe it was emotional exhaustion, that nothing-feeling, I don't know. Or maybe I actually didn't have much feeling beyond anxiety. In any case, when I was in relationships it brought on another kind of anxiety, because it seemed like my commitment to them was then a lie. (My problems with sustaining interest in people may be related to this.)

I had this problem not only with attraction, but with all kinds of emotions. Everything was too intense for me to know nuance. Everything was a lump of frustration and fear.

But over the past four-five years, I've gotten enough of a handle on my anxiety that I'm beginning to parse all those different feelings. I'm beginning to see nuance, to feel more specific things. My boundary-sense, for example – the feeling when I'm either threading close to someone else's boundaries, or when someone else is threading close to mine – is now a very specific shade of anxiety that I'm able to act on. The same goes for that specific shade of frustration when I'm communicating with someone and sense that we're talking past one another.

When it comes to attraction, I've experienced some feelings lately that are almost too specifically nuanced. There's 1) been people in my proximity that have had several traits I consider attractive, and I've noted the presence of those traits, but I haven't felt the attraction as a real emotion. I've been unable to for example fantasize about kissing them. And this I've interpreted as not actually being attracted.

Then there's 2) been cases where I've felt the attraction, but not felt any intention to act on it. Because for one reason or the other, acting on it would be off the table. Some were in a relationship that I assumed was monogamous, some were people I only knew in a professional setting. Some were people that I assumed just wouldn't be interested. (Or that I assumed might be interested if not for my own preference of non-monogamy.) And in all these cases, I've been able to more or less enjoy the crush, without being bothered by that intent vs. inability squeeze. Intent has simply been removed from the equation.

On the other hand, except for a couple of Twitter crushes, I've hardly ever had the feeling 3), where I've both been attracted and intended to act on it. And so, there's still not a lot of sex or romance in my life, and even platonic attractions appear hard for me to act on. And this is probably also related to my problems with sustaining an interest.

Now, there are things about the feelings of 1) and 2) that makes me think they're not as clear-cut as they appear. When they appear, they're always accompanied with a rather noisy inner monologue. When I'm theoretically-but-not-viscerally attracted, I repeat their theoretically attractive traits to myself, over and over, I take not every time those traits appear, I wonder almost fascinated about why I'm not feeling attraction, and I ask myself how I would react if they were to make an approach on me… if they were to kiss me, would I enjoy it anyway? If I were to enjoy it, would that feeling be real, and true, or would I just be lying to us both?
And when I am attracted but don't intend to act – I get most of the same inner dialogue plus I repeat to myself over and over all the reasons why I shouldn't act.

When my head spins around like this, there's usually some hidden anxiety at the root. The fact that I never get to feeling 3), and always come up with reasons not to act, some of which are just based on assumption, does also support the suspicion that I don't experience as clear a nuance as I thought, and that I am in fact still quite anxious about approach.

I suspect a main factor in my anxiety is this: That I am afraid to even intend to act.

I'll take another break there, before I try to figure out what intention does and doesn't mean.
avatar
Hirundo Bos

Posts : 567
Reputation : 326
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile http://abouthirundo.blogspot.com

Back to top Go down

Re: A thread about interest and intent

Post by Hirundo Bos on Tue Apr 04, 2017 8:10 am

Sexual intent
I'm not exactly surprised to discover that my sexual intentions scare me. It was one of the very first discoveries, in fact, years ago now, when I started forming some thoughts in my head about why it was so hard to find a partner.
One of the images I started out with was the way I imagined sex when I was around three or four years. I used to tell myself stories even then, create narratives in my imagination, and one of the narratives required babies… and I had just learned where babies came from, so I tried to insert that into my story. But being four, I didn't understand sexual intent. So I tried to make it work without intent… and came up with a scenario where the future parents were walking around naked, and then, well, tripped and fell into a coital position.

It's not unusual as a childhood thing I guess…

but I started to think of how my adult fantasies weren't all that different. As a (younger-than-today) adult, my sexual fantasies would still involve some fadeout or workaround when it came to sexual intent. They would just be doing it, without the lead up. Or in other fantasies, the initiative would come from the person not representing me. In my erotic writing, I could never really get anywhere, because I allow a protagonist I identified with to display any kind of sexual intent.

So one of the first steps, when I started forming these thoughts in my head, was to cautiously allow first myself, then the world, to know that I would like to have sex from time to time. Or maybe not so cautiously, because I published it on my blog with my name and full face attached, then advertised the blog post on Twitter. And was really surprised when it had been out for a day or two, and no one had yelled or called me disgusting.

As exposure therapy it worked. I'm not so afraid anymore to talk in the abstract about wanting sex. My fictional characters are also able to take some initiative or other, and my erotic stories actually work out rather well. But showing or even having intent in an actual interaction with someone is still a bit beyond my comfort zone, or so it seems.

***

Now this is where my fear about intent makes me afraid to write on, because writing means I have to show people it exists. It's as if even when it's only in my head, my intentions are inappropriate. As if they could somehow leak out beyond my subjective consciousness and cause pressure or at least inconvenience to others... as if merely thinking "wouldn't it be nice if X" is the same as expecting or demanding it to happen.

There are at least three parts to that fear. 1) is that this is how anxiety works, by blowing things way out of proportion. 2) is that it's how autism sometimes work, where I can't quite imagine the minds of others, and don't fully grasp how they're different from my own. And 3) is that like many anxieties, it does have a certain root in reality.

I might, for example, show my "wouldn't it be nice if" through body language, in ways that would make others uncomfortable. And if it's too present in my mind when I interact, it can make me too oriented towards sex, it can make me inflexible about it, in a way that would be unappealing or creepy.

I remember, back on the old forums I posted a question about why one shouldn't approach someone with a purely sexual intent, or participate in a social activity with the single goal of finding a sexual partner. The answer I got was that you can't really plan for the outcome of an interaction you have with another person... their own intentions may well differ from yours, and it's pretty objectifying not to leave room for that. And besides that, my own intentions might change along the way too. And besides that again, I'll enjoy myself a lot more in a given social setting if I have interests beyond the prospect of sex.

That question is what I'm afraid to bring up again now, because in my anxious mind, asking it might imply that I did go around being singleminded about sex, which I don't think I ever did… or that I try to justify potentially creepy behavior, which I don't think I ever would… or that I'm trying to rules-lawyer the concept of creepiness, which I wouldn't, but I know there's a lot of people who do, and I don't want to trigger memories of those people.

And while these concerns may have a root in reality, the way I obsess about them suggests there's a lot of anxiety hiding behind.

The question about intent I would have liked to follow up with is… when sexual intent is not a big part of an interaction from the beginning, at which point does it actually become a thing? I mean – people do have sex, so I suppose that at some point, there must have been intent?

I already kinda know the answer. The answer is that it isn't black and white. There are so many degrees of nuance between singlemindedness and no interest at all. Not the least of which is thinking "wouldn't it be nice if"? Starting an interaction thinking "wouldn't it be nice if"… participating in an event thinking "wouldn't it be nice if"… that's not being singleminded, it's rather exactly how these things tend to go.

In practice, though, I don't seem to allow myself the "wouldn't it be nice if", or any other degree of nuance. I'm so afraid of the singleminded intent that I seem to be going to the other extreme: Withholding any kind of sexual intent from the interaction. (And isn't that kind of objectifying too? To make it all about my own fears around intent… if I assume that my interest would automatically be an inconvenience, I erase the fact that the other person just might be interested in me…)

I know that when I'm in a social setting, I hardly ever look at someone and think "wouldn't it be nice if". And when I'm talking with someone that I would in theory find attractive, I feel completely uninterested in making any sort of move. And while this might mean that maybe there aren't any wouldn't it be nice if-people in the room, or that I'm just not that attracted to the person I talk to… it's so pervasive in my life, that as I've said before… I suspect there's some sort of anxiety at work.

Uhm, so that's it for now I suppose, though I hope I'll be able to get back on this train of thought again later. I've written some thoughts about my anxieties about social interest, and my anxieties about sexual intent, and how it may appear as disinterest to both myself and others. Some thoughts about how the things are connected. Some admissions that are probably less scary than I think. And maybe I've gotten a few steps closer to get a handle on these anxieties, to give myself tasks and goals that can start to break them apart… although I don't have many thoughts yet about what those tasks might be.
avatar
Hirundo Bos

Posts : 567
Reputation : 326
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile http://abouthirundo.blogspot.com

Back to top Go down

Re: A thread about interest and intent

Post by Enail on Tue Apr 04, 2017 12:47 pm

I was going to reply to this, but you'd answered all your own questions by the end! So, uh, yeah, what he said!

Oh wait, one additional thought: As well as degrees between 0 and singlemindedness, there's also degrees of activity one might have those levels of intent about. One can be at "I'd like to kiss you, and it seems mutual, so I'm going to initiate" and also at "wouldn't it be nice if this ended in us having sex" and also "doing X particular act with this person is not on my radar at all (whether because I'm not in the mood for that, because they're not someone I'd necessarily want to do that with, because I just haven't happened to think about it in this context, or because it's something I'd only like to suggest with an established partner and this interaction isn't there.)" Different things that either fall under the category of sex or that are often lead-ups to it can each have their own level of nuance of intent, if that makes any sense.
avatar
Enail
Admin

Posts : 3668
Reputation : 1937
Join date : 2014-09-22

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: A thread about interest and intent

Post by Werel on Tue Apr 04, 2017 12:54 pm

Enail wrote:I was going to reply to this, but you'd answered all your own questions by the end! So, uh, yeah, what he said!
Laughing That's exactly what I was thinking. But I have enjoyed reading these and watching your thoughts progress on it!

avatar
Werel
Moderator of "Meeting People and Dating Advice"

Posts : 1916
Reputation : 1120
Join date : 2014-09-25

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: A thread about interest and intent

Post by Hirundo Bos on Tue Apr 04, 2017 8:13 pm

Thanks. And yeah, it was mostly thinking out loud. + an experiment in serialized writing.

I do have a lot of answers in my head. I just don't always know how to access them. And then I find a clue and suddenly a lot of things falls into place. One way to find clues is to write, and work particularly hard when I sense I'm getting anxious about it. Another is tossing out a lot of questions here, and use the replies I get to deduce what I'm actually asking about... but yup, with this one, I kind of found both questions and answers by myself.

To your one more thought, Enail – "things that are often lead-ups to sex" is a category I might want to look into.

Another thing to keep looking for is how to take this from the intellectual and on to the behavioral level. Exercises for my anxiety so I can get past all the noise and have a chance to actually see the nuance. (I have some vague ideas, but not quite the words for them yet).
avatar
Hirundo Bos

Posts : 567
Reputation : 326
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile http://abouthirundo.blogspot.com

Back to top Go down

Re: A thread about interest and intent

Post by Hirundo Bos on Fri Apr 14, 2017 8:17 pm

A new thought: Just like singleminded intent has its nuanced, more workable version in "wouldn't it be nice if", so maybe all the reasons not to that tend to intrude on me can find their more nuanced version in "yeah, but what about?"

Like, I talked with someone some weeks ago at a party, and felt a tiny wouldn't it be nice if, but she was pretty drunk at the time and that was a pretty firm reason not to. But then today she sent me an instant message, and I replied in a playful way and immediately felt dishonest because all these "yeah, but what abouts" popped up in my head.

For one thing... having placed her firmly in the reasons not to-box last time, I kinda still pictured her there, because mental categories are a bit inflexible to me. But there were others, like what if she enjoyed being drunk a whole lot more often than I do? What about the fact that she lives far away? And all the regular what abouts, like what if she's not really interested in that way at all, and what if she is but then is disappointed when she learns about my "not so sure about monogamy"-thing and thinks I've been leading her on, and what about etc. etc...

There are so many unknown factors when getting to know someone new, and assuming too much in either direction is... not really taking the other's perspective into account, and I think I could really profit from practicing on feeling more nuanced, more workable versions of uncertainty.

Yeah but what about?
Well, we'll deal with that when and if.
avatar
Hirundo Bos

Posts : 567
Reputation : 326
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile http://abouthirundo.blogspot.com

Back to top Go down

Re: A thread about interest and intent

Post by Werel on Fri Apr 14, 2017 8:53 pm

Hirundo Bos wrote:Yeah but what about?
Well, we'll deal with that when and if.
This x1000.

I love reading these posts because almost every time, if I'm thinking of a response to the problems you're talking through, I'll find you've already arrived at it by the end. Smile
avatar
Werel
Moderator of "Meeting People and Dating Advice"

Posts : 1916
Reputation : 1120
Join date : 2014-09-25

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: A thread about interest and intent

Post by Hirundo Bos on Sun Jul 01, 2018 9:15 am

I always meant to continue this internal monologue, but I have this tendency to postpone things for a very long time. There's also been stuff both internal and external that's made flirtation and dating less of a priority. I think the pressure from some of that stuff may be lifting now, though. I've had some recent bouts of sexual frustration, and it's actually been rather welcome, a sign that old interests were returning.

I haven't reread my old thread here, but I remember I was talking about a couple of mental knots that held me back from flirting. One of them I managed to solve: How to have act intentionally, but without too many expectations. The answer was to frame the intention as "wouldn't it be nice if …" I think I can now talk to people with that intention somewhere in the back of my mind.

The other mental knot was all the second thoughts, all the "cool, but what about"-s that come up when anyone shows interest. I figured out that the answer was something like "we'll worry about that when we get there", but that one I haven't quite managed to internalize.

It looks like almost any potential connection over the past few years – sexual, romantic, platonic – has brought some rather forceful, second thoughts to my consciousness. Like, this person's best friend has such a complicated life, I'd be scared to get involved even at a distance. Or, this Tinder match brought up "falling in love" waay to soon. Or this person talks with contempt about other people's choice in number of partners. Or this person, for personal reasons, hates the song of one of my favorite birds.

I do have quite a limited data set – a handful of interactions. And for the most part with people I've met on dating sites, where the initial connection has been weak to begin with. But from that data set, the high availability of second thoughts, ranging from serious to petty, make me worry that deep down, I don't really want to connect. Or if I do, I'm too afraid of intimacy to go through with it.

The last time I posted in this thread, I wondered if it was right to even try to date if I believed I was highly unlikely to go through with it. I told myself something about how there are never any guarantees in dating, and how it's not my place to decide if someone else should take a chance on me or not. Which I suppose is right. But on the other hand – there is such a thing as giving people false expectations, isn't it? Playing with people, leading them on? If I'd been absolutely certain I would ultimately reject a person, then asking them out on a date would have been wrong?

Where's the line then, between "definitely uninterested" and just "highly unlikely to follow through"? What would be examples of actually, unfairly, leading someone on?

And how, with my limited data set, do I know where to place myself on that line?

That's as far as my internal monologue had got, the last time I was thinking actively about this thread … and then some months passed, and some more months, and I've been somewhat depressed, and lost a bit track of my inner life, and so I'm not quite sure if these are the most important questions to me now, but I think my mind will be stuck on them until I've at least tried to type them out.
avatar
Hirundo Bos

Posts : 567
Reputation : 326
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile http://abouthirundo.blogspot.com

Back to top Go down

Re: A thread about interest and intent

Post by Werel on Mon Jul 02, 2018 2:02 pm

Hirundo Bos wrote:Where's the line then, between "definitely uninterested" and just "highly unlikely to follow through"? What would be examples of actually, unfairly, leading someone on?

And how, with my limited data set, do I know where to place myself on that line?
Hmm, I think that line might be set internally at different places for different people, since there's so much variation in what people assume, and what they read into, dating interactions. Like, for some people and their cultural contexts, five dates might come with an assumption of exclusivity, whereas for others exclusivity isn't assumed until there's an explicit talk about it. Both parties could go on five dates in good faith, and if one assumed exclusivity because of their norms, the other didn't, and a conflict arose out of it, I don't think any leading on happened (maybe some lousy communication, but nobody's been an asshole).

In your case, it's not about exclusivity so much as "I tend to have fairly rigorous standards for partners, which most people don't meet", right? I think that's one of those things where expectations/assumptions may vary, but in most cases, going on one date is assumed by most folks to mean "this person has some degree of interest in me romantically/sexually, but neither of us is sure how much yet". If you do have at least a liiiittle interest in someone, even if your gut/your experiences tell you most people won't work for you in the long run, I don't think you're leading anyone on. You're doing the whole exploratory phase thing, which seems pretty standard for most dating contexts.

But when you say you're absolutely certain you'll ultimately reject a person, does that mean you've already decided to reject them before you even go on a date? Or does it mean that in some very narrow set of circumstances, you could discover that you do actually like them (but again, VERY NARROW circumstances)? If it's the former, then... why are you going on a date with them? If it's the latter, I don't think you're giving anyone false expectations. The default setting for most first dates is "this won't go anywhere but at least we tried," and if people build up expectations beyond that, that's on them to manage.
avatar
Werel
Moderator of "Meeting People and Dating Advice"

Posts : 1916
Reputation : 1120
Join date : 2014-09-25

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: A thread about interest and intent

Post by Hirundo Bos on Tue Jul 10, 2018 6:56 am

Hmh. I hadn't thought of it as a matter of rigorous standards, but maybe it is? "Must not have close friends whose personal lives I'm afraid of" does sound like a rigorous standard. While "must like the same bird calls as me" is more of a petty one. The type of standard that makes me suspect there's something else going on as well. Like, fear of commitment. Or of intimacy. I do know I'm pretty scared of intimacy.

(Which is material for therapy, rather than online forums, and I really ought to find a new therapist, now my old one has retired … but my problems with reaching out to people applies there as well.)

I'm pretty scared of intimacy, and I think that was the subject I was reaching for in the last post. My rigorous standards are mostly variations of "must not set off that fear", but even the smallest thing can. I guess that's how it is with anxiety …

So, what more specific things am I afraid of? How do I imagine that intimacy would be hurtful? Am I afraid I'll hurt myself, or someone else, or both? It's partly that vague anxiety avoidance thing – if I get too close, something or other might happen, and I don't know what because I'm so good at avoiding. But there are certain of the something or others I can imagine more specifically. A few keywords would be insufficiency, unpredictability, and conflict. I think I'll talk about them separately:

insufficiency
I'm afraid I won't be able to meet the other person's needs. That my emotional skills, social skills, comforting skills, are so poor that I'll just sit there, helplessly, while they're in pain. Eventually come to resent them for needing me, and then resent myself for being unfair about it. There's some basis to this sense of emotional insufficiency, like when I had to end my studies in psychotherapy a week into my internship because I couldn't cope with meeting people in pain. And I'm not exactly the first to offer help when I someone around me hurting.

unpredictability
I'm afraid that the other person will need, or expect, or require me to be available at short notice, either physically available, or emotionally. "Emotional availability" is a concept I've heard people use, but I don't quite know what it means … but I suppose it has to do with communication, and with employing emotional skills. In these areas I know both that I struggle more than the regular person, and that I probably underestimate myself a bit. I know I'm capable of more than I believe.

But I do need some time to prepare myself. I need time to turn that part of me on. And I need spaces in my life where I can feel reasonably certain I won't have to. Where I can go into relaxation mode without being prepared to snap out at short notice. I don't know how realistic that is, when you reach a certain high degree of intimacy? If you live with someone, for example? Human beings don't always have predictable emotional lives.

There's also this misconception I've mentioned in other threads, a while ago – that the normal mode of relationships and close friendships is to drop everything as soon as someone needs you. Like the theme lyrics in shows like Friends (I'll be there for yooou! I'll be there for you toooo!), or Gilmore Girls (all you have to do is call, and I'll be there on the next train). I so wanted to be that person – until I found out I couldn't. I know at least some people who measure their own worth by whether someone else will drop everything for them, and then fall deeper into depression when that doesn't happen. And I just … get the impression that it is what's culturally expected. Even when people keep telling me it's not.

conflict
I'm so afraid of conflict. Of arguments in close relationships. In several past relationships, there was conflict all the time, seemingly small things would consume the entire evening or weekend, communication would break down completely, no hope of resolution in sight. I also didn't deal with conflict very well, and generally was a problematic person at the time. I know I'm unlikely to repeat this pattern today – my last serious relationship ended in 2004, and I've grown up quite a bit since then. But in my fear-driven mind, it's still my main reference for how conflict in relationships work. All-consuming and persistent.

I'm also in general afraid of anger. And annoyance, resentment, and all the related emotions. This comes from more recent data: I don't handle my own anger very well, I don't respond well to anger from others. I feel afraid, helpless, again unable to communicate, and then get even more angry. While the cycle doesn't go as far as it once did, I still sometimes find myself shouting at strangers when I perceive that they've been unfairly angry at me. Then I stew in my own shame about it for a long time after.

When I think a bit further, I suppose it would look different with someone I argued with regularly. I have some data for that too. With the one person I'm close enough to for regular arguments – my mom – those arguments aren't very frequent, and we manage them ok when they do occur.

My mom and I, now, have known each other for 40 years, and are well adjusted to each other's argument styles. I don't know I'd be that well-adjusted with anyone else. But maybe … huhm … adjusting to one each other's communication styles is exactly what happens in the course of establishing a relationship? So that … we may or may not be compatible, but if we are, we'll grow even more compatible together over time? At least as long as there's someone out there I'd be compatible with at all.)

I think I'll go back to the form where I break up my line of thought into several posts, and I'm reaching the end of this one. One thing that's become clearer as I've been writing (though I really knew it before) is that in addition to being anxious, I don't have a very high opinion of myself. The clinical name for that would be depression, I suppose? I'm not as familiar with depression as with anxiety, have less practice with spotting the feelings and thought patterns that go with it. But I've gotten a bit more insight this last year.

So in summary, when I find myself dismissing someone else's interest, I think it's less about standards, which means less about the reasons I give myself. (Doesn't like my favorite). I think it's more about anxiety and depression. I overestimate how likely intimacy is to bring confusion and pain, and underestimate whether I even deserve someone else's regard.

(To be continued, hopefully)
avatar
Hirundo Bos

Posts : 567
Reputation : 326
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile http://abouthirundo.blogspot.com

Back to top Go down

Re: A thread about interest and intent

Post by Hirundo Bos on Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:02 pm

I'll use a question from Werel's reply as a starting point, although I'll probably end up answering something else instead.

Werel wrote: But when you say you're absolutely certain you'll ultimately reject a person, does that mean you've already decided to reject them before you even go on a date? Or does it mean that in some very narrow set of circumstances, you could discover that you do actually like them (but again, VERY NARROW circumstances)? If it's the former, then... why are you going on a date with them?

And well, it's correct to say I'm not absolutely certain. When I've been on dates (which means coffee centered see-how-we-work-in-real-life meetings with people from online dating sites) I have thought okay, maybe something nice will happen … I just haven't had any clear ideas about the specifics. And I should mention: Though I've been talking about my own loss of interest, the rejections have mostly been mutual. It's mostly been that we meet, have a nice talk, send a few half-hearted follow up messages that then peter out. In the other cases I mentioned – like the one whose friend had a difficult life – I backed away long before it came to any actual dates.

But for the question of why I'm going on a date with them, the answer for the last year or so has been that I haven't. I had two or three Tinder encounters in the spring of 2017, and they all went how I described above.

This is, you know, the kind of thing that happens all the time: Low stakes meetings that don't go any further. But in my mind, these two or three encounters were something that were bound to happen again and again and again, as if I were incapable of forming any connection at all. As if chatting on Tinder was like reaching out for some undefined human contact, feel something barely brush my fingers, and then dissolve. So, I stopped using Tinder, stopped using okcupid, stopped … looking.

Recognizing depression
Now a year later, more than then, I'm aware how this interpretation is influenced by depression. Both from how exaggerated it looks, written down, and from observing from other sources that my levels of depression have increased. I even know why, a confluence of factors. My therapist retired, and I haven't found a new one. I went from temporary to permanent partial disability allowance, which is a big life change in itself. I decided to spend my remaining work capacity writing, which works best for me at home, and so I'm more isolated than before. And as I'm discouraged by depression to seek contact with others, the sense of isolation grows even worse.

I also made an experiment in the spring of 2017: I tried to see how I did without anti-depressants. It was partly out of curiosity, partly because one of my problems have been a lack of emotional awareness. When I first started on meds, my awareness increased. The noise level went down, and I was able to distinguish between separate emotions. But on the other hand, some other, more low-level emotions may have dropped beyond a certain threshold, become too subtle to grasp with introspection. I wanted better access to those, and as an experiment, I think it has worked. I've discovered two or three things.

First, I've learned more about the emotions behind some anxiety-driven avoidance behaviors. Without meds, I could start experimenting with the things I was avoiding, to see what cues would make me anxious, and understand better what it was I tried to avoid.

Second, I've learned that the meds do make a difference, that my mood is noticeably worse when I'm off them. I'm planning to go see a doctor, ask to go back on, and it will be easier to see the point of taking those pills every day.

And third, I've learned the difference between anxiety and depression. Between negative thoughts about future, and negative thoughts about self. While anxiety is something I've always been aware of, my depression levels have less available. It's been up to others to tell me that "you look less depressed now", or "more". This last year I've learned a lot more about my depressive states, and the nature of my depressive thoughts.

The input that crystallized insight was probably an episode of BoJack Horseman. The one in season 4 where we get to hear his inner monologue. His ongoing negative self-talk. I don't, like him, call myself a "stupid piece of etc.", but I have other themes I repeat over and over. One is where I imagine getting close to someone and must warn them about all my shortcomings. I tick them off, one by one: "I tend to fail in this one, and this one, and this." The other is when I go through the list of things I want to improve about myself … which, again, turns into a list of things to dislike. I've almost stopped trying to turn any of the items into action.

The same inner monologue went on on meds as well, but more muted. When I go back on meds, I'll be able to recognize them, or so I hope. But I do have a diminished confidence in self-improvement. Finding things to work on seems more like pathology than self-awareness right now.

But this thread was originally about dating
and I've actually been on one as I've been writing, the low stakes-kind where we meet up for coffee. She sought me out: Messaged me on OKCupid, took the initiative to meet up in person. It didn't work out … and I felt a bit disappointed at that, which means I could have been interested in this person, which confirms that I am capable of being attracted to someone. I still bothered myself with some scary mental images before the date, of everything that could go wrong five steps further down the road, but decided to ignore them for a while. (Mumbling the Bene Gesserit litany against fear to myself.)

Another sign of progress is that I graped a lot more subtext this time. The conventions and expectations around meeting someone from an online dating site. I understood that agreeing to meet up implied potential interest. I understood that the dialogue afterwards would indicate if she was still interested: If it wasn't, she'd either tell me, or the dialogue would peter out. So, if neither of those things had happened, continued interest would have been ok to assume.

She sent me a kind and thoughtful rejection the next day, which confirmed that yes, that's something people usually do.

I … think … that the questions I started out with, over a year ago, about interest and intent … I think part of it came from a distrust in my own ability to discern an implied rejection. How can I express interest in someone without burdening them with undue expectations at least to some extent meant, what if I had continued to express interest after missing subtle cues to back away.

While this might happen, and can make people uncomfortable if it does, I think I have overestimated the subtleties of cues: A soft rejection is less obvious than an explicit one, but easier to pick up than I have believed. I also think I have underestimated people's good will in communication. If someone want me to pick up on their clues (invitation or rejection), they'll spend at least some effort helping me along. To a certain extent, all anyone can do is assume. But people do, for the most part, want communication to work out.

So maybe, when I get to a point again where I'm ready to look for dates, I'll feel more secure about expressions of interest and intent. I'll maybe have a more intuitive grasp of how they change and develop along the way, and have more confidence that these changes won't get lost in communication.

(Thread most likely concluded, for now.)
avatar
Hirundo Bos

Posts : 567
Reputation : 326
Join date : 2014-10-01

View user profile http://abouthirundo.blogspot.com

Back to top Go down

Re: A thread about interest and intent

Post by Enail on Fri Jul 13, 2018 1:17 pm

Hirundo, just want to say your self-awareness and ability to piece by piece figure out what you want to work on and how, and then do it, is incredible. I'm glad that you're feeling more comfortable with the questions you were grappling with when this thread started, and that you've got a plan and new tools to handle the depression.
avatar
Enail
Admin

Posts : 3668
Reputation : 1937
Join date : 2014-09-22

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: A thread about interest and intent

Post by Sponsored content


Sponsored content


Back to top Go down

Back to top


 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum