Wednesday, June 20, 2012

shifting, part two

grab a cup of coffee...this is a bit of a dense one. i apologize ahead of time. wait--no i don't. :-)

Photo by Flickr user orangeacid

okay, so where to begin…
since this is primarily a blog about moving to new places, i want to frame my discussion of "shifting" within that perspective, helping me to avoid the overtly personal and hopefully universalizing, for the reader, what i am currently experiencing. it will be best to begin by breaking down the key areas where i have noticed the shifts taking place. they are:




as i wrote in the previous post, “shifts” often begin even before we take action towards a change; they begin when we start thinking about a change. for me, moving out of los angeles is not just about moving away from this city, it is also about moving away from who i am in this city. to be honest with you, i sometimes doubt that this is even possible. noticing myself in this city is a combination of awareness of the environment and awareness of the personal, and involves a consideration of where, how, and even how much these two factors interact. i have written plenty on how the city affects the personal, but what bothers me is noticing how the personal may just be, well, the personal. in other words, i may just be who i am, despite the influence of where i live.

at least, to an extent.

i once had a very bad therapist. well, to be fair, he was a good therapist for the first seven years when i was seeing him, but during the last three he was indeed very, very bad. this is because it appeared to me that he started to dislike me, and that is not a good experience for a client to have! my hunch is that he was envious of me, but that is just my hunch, and we will leave it at that. the most egregious example of his insensitive position was one time when I confessed to him that i feared i might be developing some sort of social anxiety, and he responded by saying, “MIGHT be!”. needless to say, that didn’t make me feel any better! bad therapist!! but you know what, i suspected what he suspected, namely, that i might suffer from social anxiety. i might. now you can look up the definition of social anxiety on your own, and i don't intend to go into details here about why the label might be true for me. but what i do want to highlight is that whether or not it is true, i have been blaming most of my discomfort on los angeles rather than admitting that this may just be a part of who i am in relationship to the world. i mean, i am a therapist, for cryin’ out loud, it is not a stretch for me to understand this issue and recognize the triggers.

so it would be foolish for me to think that i could move out of los angeles without bringing along some of the baggage, since some of that baggage may include items that i brought to this city with me.

one of the bloggers i follow, max, recently took the brave step of describing what it was like for him to suffer from PTSD. i applaud him for doing so, since it is often hard for non-sufferers to understand what the sufferer is dealing with. well, for me, i will say this about social anxiety: it is often difficult for me to be in the world. not impossible, but difficult. some places are easier(safer) than others. i am most comfortable when surrounded by people i know(and like), or when i am in a place where i have the control. but in a crowd of strangers, i become somewhat anxious and guarded. it is something like this: when i am around people, it is hard to relax. i find myself suddenly aware of almost everything: whether they are too fat or too thin; whether or not they can leave their phones in their pockets for more than five seconds; whether or not they have more items in their baskets than the sign allows; whether they are complaining about how 'this place never has enough cashiers'; whether they are aware of me or not; whether i find them attractive or not; whetherwhetherwhetherwhetherwhetherwhether.

i usually get through it by looking at the floor and just "going inside" until it is my turn at the cashier, for example, and then i get out of there and wonder what the hell i was thinking for coming to a store in the first place.

this is why i consider it a miracle that i had a career onstage performing in front of audiences of strangers—but i am grateful for that, because it has helped me to be less anxious in the world(maybe because i am in control onstage). it is not lost on me that many actors admit to having their own social anxieties--i once heard a story about al pacino that reported how he hides behind large plants at house parties. but i don’t think that my anxiety will magically change when i leave this city. i just hope to make it easier by moving to a place where there is a greater chance of being surrounded by friends, or at least people i like, instead of hostile narcissistic strangers. more importantly, i would like my sense of safety to extend beyond the walls of my apartment.

but back to the shifts…

in a nutshell, the personal/professional/environmental shift i am feeling is connected closely to the fact that i am turning 50 this year(let's face it, they are all connected). i am sure that i have volumes to write about this, but suffice it to say that, despite looking youthful and being fit, i am aware that I am no longer young(though i AM fit), and that some adjustments in behavior may be warranted. NOT because a 50 year old should act a certain way, but because i want to put my focus on behaviors that enhance my sense of self-worth as an older gay man. for me, that means "shifting" away from certain behaviors i have engaged in successfully as a not-so-older gay man. this is not proving to be too difficult, as i find that lately i have less and less interest in many of these behaviors. yay! (if you find me being vague, it is in the interest of writing universally, as i mentioned earlier.) i credit this shift directly to the idea that i am thinking differently about myself recently--better, in fact--perhaps due to being close to finishing my internship hours and moving on toward licensure, and also perhaps because of how i want to think about myself as i approach fifty. fortunately, i am reading a very helpful book that uniquely describes this very shift process. concerning behavior, dr. morin has this very powerful and succinct statement to offer: "the to bring one's behavior into alignment with one's values--not perfectly, of course, but as close as possible."(italics mine)

i highly recommend checking it out if you are experiencing a similar process yourself.

dr. morin focuses on shifts in the "erotic" self, but his book is more far reaching than that. what i will share with you here is that he writes that when we shift how we think about ourselves, we will often find that the things that turn us on don't turn us on so much anymore. he says that this is because many of our turn ons are based on the ideas we have about ourselves. in my case, one of the things that no longer turns me on is "los angeles". in fact, if i think of los angeles as one of my "relationships", it feels like i have broken up with this city, but am still living with it because neither of us has found new places to move to yet. actually, it feels like los angeles has indeed moved on to other relationships, and is doing just fine, and i am stuck in the awkward position of treading water. it is time for me to move on as well(the environmental shift--no longer thinking of myself in a good relationship with this city).

what it all comes down to(if you have lasted this long) is that for the first time in my life, i am starting to feel like i don't have to love or be loved by only damaged people, and that i don't have to try so hard to love or be loved by a damaged city. whew!

that is certainly a shift.


  1. what a tale; thank you for sharing it.
    I am glad you found your shift - may it take you in good and adventuresome ways.

    1. like you, dr. spo, i think i would welcome a little adventure! unfortunately, not planning to go to alaska anytime soon, but moving can certainly be an adventure.

  2. Never too late to learn. I really like how you are able to articulate what you are felling and experiencing. You couldn't be in a better profession and will assist a ton of people in coming to their own realizations about 'life'.
    Have you ever read anything by Pema Chodron. She is a Buddhist nun and really knows how to cut things down to the core to their harsh truths and acceptance of them to 'move' forward.She has gotten me out of a few 'jams'. Oh yes! She is NOT religious!!! No god stuff or guilt.
    Have a great weekend.

    1. hi jim! you have recommended pema to be before, and i have a book or two saved in my amazon wish list. i appreciate the referral! (and thank you for qualifying that there is no god stuff...ha!) i am always grateful to people who write well about their own process of "shifting", because it all helps. without dr. morin's book , i know that i would be feeling a lot more panicked about what i am going through right now. have a great weekend yourself! -tony