I wanted to title this with the environment because that was one of the first causes I took to heart. The prevailing disregard for the environment and its welfare was easy for me to justify. That began in college, where I also studied human evolutionary biology, which deals a lot with relationships between life, humans, and the ecology.
When I graduated, I also went abroad to teach in Africa. There, I was reintroduced to issues of international development, and the impact of colonial history. My father had been working to resolve the conflicts involved with these issues.
After teaching overseas, I soon got involved working in foster care and substance abuse treatment. These all lead me to the need, and tools available, for therapy.
Meanwhile, my relationships with girls had tended to be short-lived. I wasn't really clear why, although I had vaguely perceived some kinds of deep-seated fears in myself. I wasn't really able to articulate them that well.
I was also aware that I wasn't all that comfortable around the mainstream roughhousing and partying. The thought of keg parties and frat parties and jocks tended to make me nervous. I guess my awareness was that there were serious problems in the world, and most people didn't seem to care.
While working in social services in New York, I had taken up practicing Jiu-Jitsu to give myself confidence in physical confrontations. There had been a few close calls in Africa. I also took some acting classes and holistic healing workshops. By the time I started a second position after a year and a half at one job, I started dating a new girl. She was the friend of a friend, and had called me up to ask me out. In fact, she had just graduated school, and was trying to decide between Boston and New York. Meeting me seemed to lead her to New York. Auspicious as that was to start, four months later she broke up with me, telling me, "I feel critical of you."
Just before she broke up with me, I was introduced to the Twelve Step groups and there use in substance abuse treatment. The groups that helped with other issues also came to my attention, Sexaholics Anonymous, Al-Anon for those in relationship with alcoholics, and so on. There was also one group for people who wanted to improve their relationships.
When this girl broke up with me, I began to feel really bad. My work also was in a funny situation, since the new agency I worked for was just starting up. There was no prescribed routine. A depression hit me hard, and quickly turned into a feverish despair. I took to meditating on the Tao Te Ching, which I had first heard about in college, then again in Africa. Then I headed for the support group about relationships.
There I started to benefit from the clearheadedness of the program and the process of talking without unsolicited criticism. The reality of feelings was validated there, the importance of healthy, encouraging attitudes, and a person remembering their experience all were permitted to happen in an environment prepared to be supportive.
As I learned to identify emotions like anger and concern, and behavior patterns like control and compliance, I experienced some relief and a greater sense of hope. Memories from my childhood began to emerge, like a time I had thrown a rock at an apartment basement window of where our family lived in Boston at the time. Then, after two years, I experienced a flashback to my infancy. A six second black and white image appeared vividly in my mind's eye of a woman standing over a little version of me. She moved her arm compromisingly, and bent down as if to kiss me.
Then it vanished. What followed was pretty nightmarish. I had laid down on my bed when the flashback had appeared, and now experienced a series of internal, psychological dreamlike visions, of a snake, a homeless man, even Hitler. These ushered in a long period of emotional and psychological instability for me. I think it must be like what the insane, eccentric, and otherwise socially ostracized seem to express in their behavior. Instead of my running around screaming, "Snakes, homeless people, and Hitler!" however, I got a job going door to door for the environment, and kept going to therapy.
After a year or so of this, and some return of some sense of stability, another flashback came to me. This time I was at work during lunchtime at the World Financial Center. A series of images came to me in dreamlike fashion like before, including one of a hand against a brick wall, a dog that bit me behind the ear, and a kid who had jumped and kicked me from behind.
Understanding the psychological impact of these and a smattering of other less vivid events has been years in the making, leading me to work as a bicycle messenger, security guard, and now financial services.
Robert Bly and the men's movement was very helpful. Martial arts, too, but I still find myself emotionally vulnerable, and easily exhausted by some continuing lack of resolution. I'm glad to find this site, and to return after a little bit of time. Wishes of blessings and hope to everyone.
Two of the greatest stories of hope that I know of are Milton Erickson's treatment of Harold, a poor guy who goes from boxcord shoelaces to playing the piano, John Bradshaw and his clarity.