Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

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Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by TGnerd on Wed Mar 04, 2015 1:13 am

So, I'm sure there are plenty of these types of topics out there, but... well, I thought it would be easier to get everyone's opinion if I had my own.

I'm something of a mess personally. I'm in my late 20's, bald, grossly overweight, bad teeth, bad skin, just a generally unattractive person. I had my first real relationship, the first love, when I was 18. She broke up with me just after Christmas after about... 6-7 months, and well, it hurt. It hurt hard. I got depressed, I even fell into drugs and alcohol pretty hard after shortly moving out on my own, but in time, I got better. I stopped being so angry, realized I was being a self absorbent ass when it came to dating in all that time, and started working on myself. That was a 6-7 year process of angry attempts at dating, which of course failed. But I got better. Sure, I still have baggage, mostly from being judgmental, mostly about myself, and paranoid and stubborn, but baggage is something everyone has. I want to try and get rid of those traits before I date, because no one should have that thrown at them. People on the forum's have been helpful with that, (Kleenstar in particular, if his/her name is the same) but, its not the only hangup I have.

My hangup is quite frankly that I feel that I'm wasting time. All this talk and working through getting better is... helping, but it's very slow. I worry about having no experience when it comes to dating. I know many people will probably say to just do it as the only way to get experience is to get it... but, throwing myself at a brick wall while trying to feel better and more confidant about myself isn't something that helps me, it only serves to be more frustrating as time passes. It's part of the reason why after about 2 solid years of internet dating/ bar hopping/ whatever I could do to meet people I just stopped. It was frustrating when I was younger, and it still is. I'm worried my lack of experience on top of everything else will lead to my solidarity permanently. As I get older, more and more complicated relationships appear, such as single mothers, which as DNL has put it, is a tough situation to get into, and not for the inexperienced. So... I guess I'm asking what do I do? Do I continue getting better and improving myself at the cost of any such relationship happiness, to stay unloved? Or, do I risk falling back into my depressed and angry days just for the chance of affection? I mean, I haven't been on a date since... 2005 I think, and the thought of stumbling through that without being prepared just terrifies me. I'm incredibly lonely these days, and it really effects me. I know I'm whining about it, but.. I really don't know what to do.

Any and all advice is appreciated
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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by Werel on Wed Mar 04, 2015 1:42 am

Well, first question:
TGNerd wrote:Do I continue getting better and improving myself at the cost of any such relationship happiness, to stay unloved? Or, do I risk falling back into my depressed and angry days just for the chance of affection?
How does falling back into anger and depression increase your chances of receiving affection? Why do you see self-improvement work as coming at the cost of relationship happiness?

Second question: what's good in your life right now? What brings you joy? What makes you feel positive about yourself? What helps you to alleviate the feeling of throwing yourself against a wall that won't yield, and is it possible for you to spend more time doing it? Feeling better and more confident about yourself is tough to produce out of thin air; it's much easier to build from a base of "I like myself when I'm doing X."

Third question: what's some of the baggage, especially relating to anger, that you feel you need to shed before dating? Cause you're right to flag anger as something that's likely to be a major obstacle-- many people can sense anger under the surface, even if they're not quite sure what they're sensing, and (quite rightly) flee from it.

Not a question: I'm sorry it's been so rough for you in the last few years. Props to you for working to improve yourself and your situation; it's one of the hardest things people can do, and you're not whining for expressing that it's frustrating and difficult.
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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by TGnerd on Wed Mar 04, 2015 1:57 am

1) It's poorly worded in retrospect. I meant more to say that if dating doesn't work out for me, and it turns into me throwing myself at a wall for nothing, is it worth slowing down my self improvement? I see it that way because I'm, for lack of better terminology, not good enough to be dating material, or at least, I view myself as such. I wouldn't want to date someone with the same baggage I have, it's just not something you share, and keeping it to myself in a relationship is toxic. It's the bunker buster of relationships.

2)... If I'm being honest, I'm not sure. I just.. I kind of live day to day now. I still get joy out of video games, both playing and collecting, but I don't feel fulfilled from it. I used to do what I always wanted to do, write video game reviews and do a podcast, but after a couple of years of that it was all time and work, and while I liked doing it, It wasn't something to make a career out of, so I slowly phased it out. I mostly due hobby stuff, collect board games and video games, play them, and piddle around the house. Outside of work, of course.

3. Honestly? I want to shed all of it. I understand that's probably not possible, but I would go with getting rid of as much as possible. I'm paranoid and judgmental, with little to no self worth. It's frustrating to me because I feel they are unattractive qualities, on top of everything else as already mentioned, it's toxic. If it isn't noticed right away, people will find out eventually, and they will flee. They have no reason not to, plenty of people out there in much better situations then the one I'm in.

And seeing as I've done this all in order, thanks. It hasn't been easy, and likely won't be in the future, but I'm working on it. One day at a time.
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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by Wondering on Wed Mar 04, 2015 2:04 am

One thing that might help is to think of improving yourself for you, not just for dating. If you're doing it only with the goal of dating, then I can see how you might start to get bitter about the whole process if you haven't been successful yet in dating. Thinking about improving for yourself, for the sake of improving might help.

As an anecdote, my husband had a girlfriend in high school and they broke up, and then he didn't have a girlfriend again until me, when he was 28. He didn't go through the difficulties you describe, but he did fall into being a Nice Guy in college and had to work on improving many of his attitudes over the course of his 20s. There's no promise you will find someone, of course, but I have this one example where it did work out.

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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by kleenestar on Wed Mar 04, 2015 8:30 am

If you are torn about whether to start dating again, that's okay! You don't have to make up your mind about what to do right now. Yes, dating gets more complicated in some ways as you get older (kids) but gets easier in other ways (more people have worked through their shit). So I would suggest that you be patient and explore your desires instead of making up your mind right away in either direction.

Meanwhile, I'd suggest working on two things. First, find something that brings you joy. You may need some help with this - it sounds like you are a bit stuck right now. Second, work on developing and practicing behavioral scripts that address your biggest challenges. Not only will this help you treat a future partner better if you go that route, it will actually help you change your underlying feelings and traits. Big change, like being less paranoid, isn't something you can think your way out of. You have to practice.

I think you are underestimating your positive traits and the positive impact you have on people - I was super delighted to see you post here - so I am rooting for you!!
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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by TGnerd on Wed Mar 04, 2015 10:41 am

Wondering wrote:One thing that might help is to think of improving yourself for you, not just for dating. If you're doing it only with the goal of dating, then I can see how you might start to get bitter about the whole process if you haven't been successful yet in dating. Thinking about improving for yourself, for the sake of improving might help.

That's admittedly what I'm trying to do. I can't pretend that I didn't want to get better at first to get laid (it was my original end goal) but at this point, I just want to be a better person in general. I just wonder from time to time if I'm still only doing it for female affection, as I often question why I bother. I mean, I am happy... for the most part. At least, I was. I dunno. Sometimes I just feel down, and other days I don't.

kleenestar wrote:Meanwhile, I'd suggest working on two things. First, find something that brings you joy. You may need some help with this - it sounds like you are a bit stuck right now. Second, work on developing and practicing behavioral scripts that address your biggest challenges. Not only will this help you treat a future partner better if you go that route, it will actually help you change your underlying feelings and traits. Big change, like being less paranoid, isn't something you can think your way out of. You have to practice.

That's the other thing... I was happy doing what I was doing. I have a great job, plenty of friends, I'm constantly busy and keeping myself occupied. Just... after a while, it stopped being what I wanted. And your right, now I have no idea what I want. I worry I will go back to focusing on getting a girlfriend like it's the last key to opening the locked treasure chest of happiness. That route will only lead to more frustration, for myself and anyone I drag along.

And I'm not gonna lie, I have no idea how to be less paranoid short of just... ignoring it. That's probably not the right way to go about it, but I have no idea how to avoid that little voice in your head saying everything is too good/ your too happy/ something is gonna blow up in your face. That's a issue I have, I just have no idea how to clean up this baggage that drags me down. Stubbornness, as has been mentioned before, can be beneficial if used correctly, but a judgemental attitude? Paranoia? How does someone focus that into anything?
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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by Enail on Wed Mar 04, 2015 12:53 pm

A couple of thoughts: If you feel stuck in a blah mindset where you don't know what you want, maybe it's time to try something random and different? Take a class in something that seems kind of cool or join a group that does something you've always wanted to try? Just something to shake your brain out of its post-crap-i-don't-want-this-anymore realization rut? Although, you sound pretty busy already.

Have you considered trying therapy? Might be helpful to get a professional's guidance in figuring out how to work through the baggage. WRT a judgmental attitude, I think practicing noticing something positive or interesting about the people or things around is one thing you could try to help get your mind into a less judgmental track.

I think it's great that you're working on dealing with this stuff, and you're smart to recognize that anger and judgmentalness in particular can be really toxic in a relationship. But you also sound like you might have a bit of a jerkbrain way of thinking about yourself, that you might be magnifying your flaws and minimizing your good points to a degree that will make it hard to recognize when you're able to be a loving and healthy partner for someone.

So, not trying to discourage you from working on these things, but I do want to say that you don't have to be perfect to be someone people might want to stay with. Like you say, everyone has baggage, and it's not a competition where whoever has the least baggage is the most desirable. People with low self worth, people whose brains tell them that everything is going to blow up in their faces, can still be desirable dates and good partners, as long as they work on handling their issues in ways that don't harm other people.
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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by kleenestar on Wed Mar 04, 2015 6:13 pm

I agree with enail - one way to see if you can find more happiness is to try a bunch of things and see what you respond to. You probably won't get it right the first time out, but you'll learn about what is attracting you right now. Maybe what you are missing is the sense of an audience you got from podcasting, so you'll find yourself drawn to theater or improv. Maybe you are missing people valuing your game expertise, so you want to join a board game group. Maybe you just want to be making things, so an art class could light you up. I don't know you well enough to make specific suggestions, but my advice would be to try at least three different things and - here's the key - write about your experiences after each one. Don't try to make a decision about whether you did or didn't like it. Your goal is to capture the way it felt - to understand what clicked with you and what didn't. Then you can go back to what you wrote after you've done all three, and use what you've learned (we can help!) as clues to uncover what might make you happier.

Here is how we are going to turn your paranoia into a benefit for you. What are the three situations that you most worry about in relationships? Tell us, and we can help you work out ways to behave in those situations that will be both ethical and (hopefully) awesome. See, your paranoia is the flip side of self-awareness and planning ahead. You are just way too good at it, which means you are always worried, and you don't trust yourself to respond fairly to the situations you imagine. So we can work on focusing your paranoia into appropriate vigilance, and using the extra energy to give Future TGNerd tools to handle potentially difficult situations well.

(This is, er, something I have some personal experience with.)

I'll also echo enail again - you don't have to be perfect. My advice would be to develop at least one tool that lets you deal with each of your issues when it comes up. Then you can use that tool to a) develop more tools and b) make sure you aren't hurting others (including possible partners) while you do. Again, we can help. So can a good therapist.
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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by TGnerd on Wed Mar 04, 2015 7:21 pm

Actually, I do run a board game group. But I take your point. There are a couple of things that I have always been meaning to try, but sadly expenses have gotten in the way. I could in theory make some attempt at those things in the future, once I get some debt figured out. It's something worth investigating, trying new things. In fact, I have a couple of things that may work for that. I'll get back to you on that.

But on the point of therapy... It's something I have considered, but it's costly, even here in Canada. My health insurance doesn't cover it either.

And ok Kleenstar, I'll take the bait. Let me give you my three common concerns/fears/ panics about dating.

1) A common, but simple one. I'm worried my interests and hobbies will not interest her at all. I know, not everyone can be perfect, but a relationship with someone you have nothing in common with? To be more specific, I'm worried that the girl I fall for is some kind of she-devil who is more interested in changing who I am then being with me for me, treating me like clay so to speak. This vile temptress would make me change everything, give up anything I like to be more in line with what she does.

2) I'm worried about being cheated on. I'm not proud to admit this, but I've been the guy on the side, more than once in fact. I'd love to say that I didn't know, and she had lied to me about breaking up with him, which is true, but it doesn't matter. I was the guy on the side, and I worry about being the victim of that myself. In fact, I did it to a close friend of mine, and it practically burned our friendship to the ground. I never wanted to be that guy, but I was, and now I'm worried the universe will see fit to punish me for it.

3) And seeing as we are talking about common ones... I have no social skills. More specifically, I cannot tell any signs of infatuation from women. Hell, I can barely read social signals among people I have known for years, so I'm always awkward around new people. I come on really strong, because I'm shy, and send all the wrong signals. And of course, I confuse acts of platonic friendship as romantic ones very easily. So I'm second guess everything, and rarely act on any impulse. But of course, more often than not I over think things and waste time when I shouldn't. I've had many crushes in my life, acted on maybe 3 of them, because I over think my way out of asking them out. On top of that, I worry that if I do... well, I'll offend her if I do ask her out. Someone like me stands no chance with anyone I find attractive, It's a social faux pas to even consider it.

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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by Enail on Wed Mar 04, 2015 7:27 pm

On the therapy front, this link has some suggestions for free/low cost mental health resources.
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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by kleenestar on Wed Mar 04, 2015 7:46 pm

These are great! Thank you for sharing them - I know it isn't always easy to share one's fears and vulnerabilities.

Let's tackle #1 first. Your fear is that your interests and hobbies will not interest your partner. That is a very reasonable fear! If these are things that are important to you, I imagine it does feel frightening to believe that someone might try to take them away from you.

I can think of four ways to start addressing this issue and your beliefs about it. These complement each other - meaning, you don't have to do all four, but if you do then I think it will help you address this fear from multiple angles.

1) Believe that there are women out there who share your interests. I know you may already know this, but knowing it is different from feeling it at a gut level. The more women you encounter who share your interests, the more frequent they will feel and the less you will be responding to this issue from a place of fear. So I would suggest watching Let's Play videos by women, listening to podcasts about gaming by women, reading articles about games by women, and if you can, adding women to your game group. Adult women are actually the single largest demographic of gamers - it's just a question of seeking them out. But the nice thing is that the more you spend time around women who game, the more women who game will appear in your life. So this approach won't just help your beliefs and attitudes, it will help you actually reduce the odds of meeting someone who doesn't value your hobbies and activities.

2) You can and should practice ways to respond to someone trying to change you. My default is to never say yes or no right away, because sometimes the other person actually has good insights about how I can change. So my script goes something like this: "Thanks for letting me know about X. I can see why it bothers you. I need some time to think about how I want to deal with this issue, but I hear you and understand your point." You can come up with a script like that, which will give you some room to decide when and how much you want to change. The next thing to practice is figuring out how you are going to make decisions about what to change. There is no question that you will have to make changes and compromises in a relationship - that's the price of admission for everyone, both you and her. So you need to think about what you really value about what you do, and where your lines are. Would you be okay with someone who went out with friends once a week while you had your board game night, or do you need her to participate? Obviously you cannot figure this all out in advance, but you can start to figure out that some things are negotiable and others are not. Just knowing that, and practicing feeling the difference between the two, will help you. Finally, it sounds like you need to practice setting boundaries. She may try to change you, but you can and should sometimes say no - and it won't necessarily mean the end of the relationship. If you already do this with friends, pay close attention to how it works and when it's successful. If you don't, then learning to do this with friends will be a great investment of your time and energy.

3) You can work on ways to get people excited about the things you care about. She might not start out caring about what you care about, but that can change in both directions! For example, I wasn't at all interested in military history until my partner showed me why he thought it was cool. To do this, you want to practice talking about the things you love in a way that lights people up. This might not work with close friends, who already share your interests, but family and acquaintances are both good places to start. That said, this might be the hardest for you to do right now because it sounds like YOU are not very excited about the things you do. The better you are at lighting people up about what you do, the better the odds that she will at bare minimum respect, and ideally get excited by, those things.

4) Look for commonalities with people other than hobbies. Are there things about your friends that you value besides the things you do together? What are they? How do they become visible in their behavior? Do you know couples who don't share many hobbies? Can you talk to them about what they value in each other?

Is there one of these four approaches that particularly strikes a chord for you? Or does it excite you to think about working on more than one approach?
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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by eselle28 on Wed Mar 04, 2015 8:05 pm

In addition to kleenestar's excellent suggestions, another possible way of managing these worries is to intentionally seek out women who take a Your Hobby Is Not My Hobby, and That's Okay approach to interests. You can learn a lot from the stories people tell about themselves, and if it doesn't make you anxious to do so, you might want to practice listening for how people talk about their loved ones' interests. A woman who mentions she's going to her friend's art show or kickball match when you know she's not otherwise interested in those things is probably at least somewhat open-minded about things she doesn't enjoy personally. One who refers to her family member's interest in restoring cars as "always being out in the stupid garage" or who speaks derisively of a friend who enjoys writing but doesn't earn money from it is more likely to be judgmental. This is less predictive, but people who already have social networks with people whose interests vary have more practice at negotiating this sort of thing than people whose friends mostly like the same thing they do - the latter person may not have intentionally sought out suck likeminded friends, but they may not be as used to the idea that perfectly cool people can be fascinated by things that bore them.
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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by TGnerd on Wed Mar 04, 2015 8:28 pm

Good suggestions all around, I must say.

First, thanks to Enail on the therapist advice. That will come in handy I suspect.

Second, Kleenestar, in all honesty, no, it does not excite me. I do believe that there are women out there that share my interests, but the few I do I lose fairly quickly to others or to oneitis.... that's my bitterness talking though. But, I could use the practice setting boundaries with people. I tend to be a reactionary person sometimes, just doing without thinking because it needs to be done. This leads me to just doing things, boundaries be damned. And yes, I am having trouble finding passion in things.

And eselle, I would have no idea where to find people in relationships like that, but its something worth trying.
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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by eselle28 on Wed Mar 04, 2015 8:41 pm

TGnerd wrote:
And eselle, I would have no idea where to find people in relationships like that, but its something worth trying.

Just for clarification, do most of the people you socialize with have fairly similar interests to you and to each other? I ask because that might alter your perceptions about the rarity of your interests and about whether interest in certain things is black and white or allows for gray areas of marginal or partial interest.
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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by TGnerd on Wed Mar 04, 2015 8:45 pm

eselle28 wrote:
TGnerd wrote:
And eselle, I would have no idea where to find people in relationships like that, but its something worth trying.

Just for clarification, do most of the people you socialize with have fairly similar interests to you and to each other? I ask because that might alter your perceptions about the rarity of your interests and about whether interest in certain things is black and white or allows for gray areas of marginal or partial interest.

For the most part, yhea I would say so. I tend to surround myself with people who have at least sort of similar hobbies to me. That's not to say we are all identical... but we all share a lot of hobbies.
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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by eselle28 on Wed Mar 04, 2015 9:02 pm

TGnerd wrote:
eselle28 wrote:
TGnerd wrote:
And eselle, I would have no idea where to find people in relationships like that, but its something worth trying.

Just for clarification, do most of the people you socialize with have fairly similar interests to you and to each other? I ask because that might alter your perceptions about the rarity of your interests and about whether interest in certain things is black and white or allows for gray areas of marginal or partial interest.

For the most part, yhea I would say so. I tend to surround myself with people who have at least sort of similar hobbies to me. That's not to say we are all identical... but we all share a lot of hobbies.

I thought that might be the case - and that's fine! It's great finding people who you can share lots of things with.

You might want to see if it's possible for you to find some online writing by people who are the equivalent of multi-class characters when it comes to their interests. It sounds like many of yours center around gaming and other things that might be considered part of geek culture. There are other people who might adore video gaming, be interested in but inexperienced with tabletop gaming, disinterested in most board games, and adore judo, fashion, homebrewing, and community theater, just as one possibility. Perhaps it would be comforting to seek out occasional reminders that there are people who are neither just like you nor very inclined to look down on or attempt to change your interests?
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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by TGnerd on Wed Mar 04, 2015 9:09 pm

That is something to consider. I know that not everyone is going to share the same interests.. I just happen to have many of the same as people I keep around me. The crux of it seems to be I just need to open up my interests and be willing to try new things.. which I am, I just don't often do.
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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by eselle28 on Wed Mar 04, 2015 9:20 pm

TGnerd wrote:That is something to consider. I know that not everyone is going to share the same interests.. I just happen to have many of the same as people I keep around me. The crux of it seems to be I just need to open up my interests and be willing to try new things.. which I am, I just don't often do.

Being willing to try new things can be good for people, and it's generally regarded as a positive trait, but I wasn't actually suggesting you take it as far as that. I was mostly thinking that when you feel anxious and start imagining the boring she-devil who will suck all the fun out of your life and drag you off to enjoy your things, you try to also imagine the multiclass woman who will happily play video games with you and then head off to judo class when it's board game night.
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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by TGnerd on Thu Mar 05, 2015 10:33 am

....Fair enough. It's sound hypocritical, but I do understand that people have varied tastes. It just when my paranoia kicks in, all rational thought goes out the window. It's hard to reign it in
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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by reboot on Thu Mar 05, 2015 11:15 am

TGnerd wrote:....Fair enough. It's sound hypocritical, but I do understand that people have varied tastes. It just when my paranoia kicks in, all rational thought goes out the window. It's hard to reign it in

You know, the folks on here have wide ranging interests but we do not have a thread for people to list them. I am going to make one because it would be cool for people to connect.

So not entirely relevant to your topic (sorry), but maybe it might be interesting?
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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by TGnerd on Thu Mar 05, 2015 11:17 am

reboot wrote:
TGnerd wrote:....Fair enough. It's sound hypocritical, but I do understand that people have varied tastes. It just when my paranoia kicks in, all rational thought goes out the window. It's hard to reign it in

You know, the folks on here have wide ranging interests but we do not have a thread for people to list them. I am going to make one because it would be cool for people to connect.

So not entirely relevant to your topic (sorry), but maybe it might be interesting?


...Its kind of relevant, and it's interesting. I will have to check it out!
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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by kleenestar on Thu Mar 05, 2015 11:32 am

So, are you able to recognize when a paranoia cycle begins? If so, what do you do about it?
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Re: Ticking clock (aka the lack of experience)

Post by TGnerd on Thu Mar 05, 2015 11:40 am

kleenestar wrote:So, are you able to recognize when a paranoia cycle begins? If so, what do you do about it?

Well, I wouldn't say that. It's more of a hindsight thing than anything else. During a cycle, I can't recognize it until its too late, and I can do little once I'm in it
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