Today’s big support breakthrough came through being encouraged to ask directly for what I want, and then practicing it in a safe container.
Asking directly for what I want has been an edge since I was nine, but the container felt so safe that it became easier and easier to get more specific about my exact preferences. Somehow I always equated being super specific about what I want with being a hassle, but when someone is encouraging you to share your true self with them, it’s almost an asshole move not to.
Afterward I noticed that the micro-stress I sometimes experience after social encounters wasn’t there at all, and in it’s place was a deep well of appreciation.
Is it really this easy to reverse old habits? Is the recipe as simple as find someone who’s eager to experience what you normally shut off and practice turning it back on?
There’s something about that felt sense of “I did the thing that was supposed to lead to hurt and everything went well” that seems to be more healing than any amount of exploring why the hurt or fear exists in the first place.
I experienced two hours of support nirvana today. We dove into a juicy, yet sobering IFS session, encountering a band of marginalized parts that called themselves “the unloved and abandoned.” Meeting them felt like stumbling into a cave of bastard children I’d forgotten I’d fathered.
Since quarantine started, I regularly experience suicidal ideation that voices itself through my system like a band of dissidents broadcasting on pirate radio. It’s heartbreaking, but at the same time easy enough to live with, because I have that felt sense that this voting bloc will never achieve the majority needed to pose a serious threat. But today felt like discovering the source of that radio signal, and putting faces to the voices I’d only ever heard spoken through me in somatic cries for help.
It quickly became clear that these parts were socialized to believe they were unacceptable. While other parts of me were loved and nourished—these parts were left to endure existence with little support. I learned to ignore them like the homeless, distancing myself in hopes of never ending up like them. Thinking that what they needed to do was to change to be more like the rest of us, instead of exploring the possibility that they never received the basic ingredients necessary to healthily mature and succeed in modern times.
While it’s a sad history that got these parts and me to where we are today, the experience of connecting and reconciling with these parts was quite beautiful. My support buddy teared up as I realized that my mission to create a world where anyone can make a living just by being themselves, felt strikingly similar to the creative potential these parts held for me. “They’re my mission,” I uttered. The work I was looking to do in the world was now presenting itself within me.
Reintegration will likely be a month long multi-session process; but I’m excited to dive deep and bring my full potential online, as I reclaim all the parts of me cast away by a society that wasn’t equipped to embrace the fullness of who I am.
Something strange happens when you receive something that feels so foreign you didn’t even remember you wanted it. It questions who you’ve come to know yourself to be.
Sunday, about an hour before my partner was going to leave after a wonderful weekend together, I asked her to just let me hold her. I wanted to soak her up like a hot shower in the dead of winter. Instead of controlling my behavior to avoid looking clingy, I let myself indulge in my desire to be as close to her as possible.
I’m so used to that behavior driving partners away, that it was almost confusing that she welcomed me in a way that suggested she’d hold me until my heart’s content. “What’s happening?” I thought. “Why isn’t she pushing me away or growing impatient?” In the aftermath I found myself questioning long-held conclusions: “Maybe there’s nothing wrong with what I want, maybe it just wasn’t right for everyone.”
Today I had a similarly surprising moment in a completely different arena. I shared a very vulnerable project with some close friends, and got feedback from a friend of a friend that I’d never met before. I felt very touched by the feedback, and was absolutely flabbergasted by the response it generated inside me. Here’s what I replied to him:
I am laughing and releasing as I receive this. Something feels really loving and almost surreal about someone I didn’t even know taking time to contribute to something so important to me, and being impacted by it.
My body is activating old patterns and releasing them. I’m having a trauma response of “no!” Immediately followed by laughter and a genuine smile. Like some threat I was living under is being lifted.
Wow. I didn’t expect this to feel so healing.
“Wow. I didn’t expect this to feel so healing.” I could say that about a lot of things I’ve experienced in these first six days. Fear is starting to abate in favor of acceptance. Living a life full of rich and rewarding support feels more and more like the future I want to live. And I’m going to continue living it.
What came first? The writer’s block or the procrastination?
A friend of mine commented on yesterday’s post suggesting that I may have a part that pressures me to get things done and another part that’s polarized against it that leads to procrastination. Let’s call them Get Things Done (GTD) and You’re Not the Boss of Me! (YNBM) and see what happens when we let them talk.
GTD: I have watched us squander years away, hours at a time. I’ve watched our ambition get co-opted by video games and ungrounded day dreams.
YNBM: STFU. You are so stupid. You don’t even know who you’re talking to. You’re the worst boss in the world and the only reason anyone tolerates you is because you’ve bullied out other thoughts with your cutting criticism and cold logic. You use the idea of what should work to kill the creativity that could otherwise find what would work for us. And the moment we have a brilliant idea you’re already applying it to every other problem in our life, hoping it will bail you out of the debts your mismanagement has generated. We’d be better off without you. An iron-clad commitment to laziness would generate better results than you repeatedly trying to turn me into someone who follows a schedule and does what he’s told.
YNBM: I don’t mean to be a dick, I just want to be treated better. You look down on us as if we’re some lazy piece of shit that probably won’t even make it through basic training. You don’t inspire us to be our best. You don’t admit that your theories don’t actually work in application. You aren’t willing to throw that out and actually understand how to set us up for success. You just try to bully us into doing things.
YNBM: You want control. You want control because you’re afraid of what happens if we let go. But guess what. We are built to surrender. Everything we love about who we are has come as a result of letting go who we once thought we were. Let go of this. Let go of trying to become someone who has it all together. Embrace the messiness! If you want to be in charge and systematizing things, be in charge of systematizing surrender. Find ways to let go of control that isn’t paying off. Make your job easier. Make your jo to get out of the way so beautiful things can be born through us. All the instruments are in place. We just need you to loosen up so we can find flow and let it carries us.
GTD: I don’t know what to say. While it may seem like I’m the one in charge, I’m just trying to keep us safe. We’ve got unhealed trauma, and unloving ways of treating ourselves. It sounds like I’ve done a poor job of directing things. But you’ve also done a poor job of sitting with reality. Of sitting in uncomfortable reality and just accepting it as it is. I never have an accurate map of reality because you’re so addicted to fantasy. And because of that, it’s so hard to make any sense of anything. We have to rely on things that have worked for others because we have no working knowledge of what is truly right for us. I’m not the boss of you, but life is trying to tell you something, and you refuse to listen because you are trying to escape the pain of your past.
YNMB: It sounds like the real work is to slow down and sit with uncomfortable truth. And that when I can do that, then I won’t be afraid of any reality. But I can’t do that if you’re constantly broadcasting messages that I’m not good enough. If I have to tune you out, then I’m fighting a two front war, and I don’t want to have to defend myself from you. I want to feel loved and supported by your gifts.
GTD: I didn’t even realize I was being so abusive to you. I’m seeing now how I’ve acted like a parent who doesn’t know what the fuck they’re doing and ends up screaming at their kids all the time just to have some semblance of order. The screaming isn’t effective, but it allows them to convince themselves they’re doing everything they can. I want to treat you better. I want to be able to admit when I don’t know what I’m doing, and be able to figure things out with you together.
YNBM: And I want to be able to get information from you without having you make decisions for me. We could make a wonderful team, but your skills are actually best suited for a support role. It’s my job to feel into what’s wanting to happen and let that energy fuel us. It’s my job to allow us to evolve into who we are wanting to become.
GTD: If you can learn to sit with discomfort, then I’ll get a shit ton of clarity. I’ll be able to connect all the dots and get a great understanding of what’s happening for us. I’d be like the GPS that allows you to basically drive on autopilot and still get where you’re going. But in order for that to work, you have to drive with your eyes open. You can’t just wish away the traffic or the noise or the homeless people you emotionally distance yourself. If you want to feel your way through life, then you have to let yourself really feel. My thinking and theories may not always work for us, but it’s what you use to justify how everything’s going to be OK.
YNBM: I can open myself up to feel more. It’s scary, but I can do it. It won’t always be scary. So much has gotten less scary in just these five days of asking for more support. We can get support in these areas too. We can do this.
Sometimes the best support is feeling into the timing of everything. I ended yesterday in a stress spiral, hardcore procrastinating on moving forward on a project. Today I spent 6 hours at a meditation retreat and then witnessed myself doing everything I wish I had done yesterday and more in an inspired whirlwind.
When I think I have to get things done in order for good things to happen in my life, I pressure myself to do them, often to the point of procrastination or dissociation. So why do I keep doing that? When will I learn to trust the timing and look for what’s ripe and ready now instead of lamenting about my inability to do what I think I’m supposed to?
Either way, once I got into flow, magical things happened. I shared the first unedited video for my upcoming project with a small group of people, set up a support call to look at all the ways I can improve my support system, wrote some things I’d been procrastinating on for weeks, and made a several direct asks for support—all in the span of a couple hours.
Tomorrow is another meditation retreat day, so I hope to anchor myself even deeper in flow and really feel where the Universe is guiding me. The more I experience the benefits of letting go, the more I realize it’s not about giving up, but listening up. And the more I listen, the more the things that are most important to me come into focus and get clearer.
Something is starting to bloom within me. Some sense of self-worth that I still squint at skeptically when reflecting on it, despite feeling it deeply when it arises unexpectedly. I think I’m starting to believe that the world is a better place when I’m better off in it. That investing in myself means more than working hard to improve, it means investing in self-care and asking for what I need.
“I love being able to support you. And I love witnessing your process.”
That’s an actual quote. I reached out to a friend for support, talked about what I was striving for and how I was falling short, and received all these beautiful reflections on all the ways I’m already living what I’m striving toward.
Argh! I am so afraid of accepting that I’m good enough. Of resting on my laurels. But when I pressure myself to be perfect, it always backfires into obstinance and procrastination.
At some point I’m going to have to choose between the shallow prizes that come with striving to improve so I can win the imaginary comparison game, and the deep well of grounded wellbeing that comes with choosing to just love myself the way I am.
Right now I’m just overwhelmed and in a shame spiral because I procrastinated on asking for help on a big project I’ve been working on. I want to edit the project so it’s perfect first, but the help I need is to have people watch it so I know what parts to keep. But if there are too many slow moments, I’m afraid no one will want to continue on, and I’ll lose momentum and the project will never come to light.
Blah. I am trying to control, and it’s choking off all my flow. Oh well. It’s never too late to surrender and just let the chips fall where they may.
Mmmmm, that feels yummy. To surrender and let what wants to be born come through me, instead of trying to make what I want happen. I can take responsibility for showing up and being vulnerable, and let go of responsibility for the rest of it.
I’m starting to wonder why I put the word extreme in this challenge. It doesn’t seem like this is an area where I can do anything impressive. Asking for seemingly small things like, “I’m feeling down right now, and my instinct is to go it alone and not be a burden or make a big deal out of something small, but I could really use some presence and perspective right now” can feel overwhelming to me. I’m much more practiced in self-criticism than I am in self-esteem.
Today my big leap of vulnerability was to ask my Mom for support when I was feeling down. And instead of just having a regulating conversation about what was up for me, she actually shed light on some traumatic things that happened to me when I was only four, and helped me drop a story that I was powerless or a failure and embrace that it was something simply outside of my control.
Then I received an IFS support session that was absolutely scrumptious. Going back to a traumatic experience when I was nine that has held me back more than just about anything (it involved writing down my desires and then having them used against me—an experience that resulted in decades of not being specific with my desires and wanting to meet other people’s desires instead). The cool thing about this IFS process was that she kept guiding me to unburden myself from even more, so I shook off layers and layers of programming and old story (“It’s not safe to shine,” “Letting myself desire fully is greedy or ‘too much,'” “I need to care take others to be safe,” etc.) and felt so full of freedom and hope by the end.
I think I’m starting to turn the corner on this whole asking for support thing, where the benefits are starting to outweigh the vulnerability hangovers and I may soon find myself believing that I truly deserve the support I’m desiring. Until then, I’ll continue to dance with “not good enough” and slowly build up my ability to accept that maybe love is not something I need to earn.
Asking for support is lot like asking for a vulnerability hangover. But unlike real hangovers, where you can drink more to delay the headache, vulnerability hangovers just keep stacking up until your nervous system feels like a 22 car pileup.
My “self-care” practice involves a lot of numbing, coping, and distracting. A trio that acts like three legs to a stool that sits high above the river of shit flowing underneath it and safely allows me to spiritually bypass anything. Today was periodic numbing and coping with no time for distraction, so the stool tipped over and I fell face-first into a pile of my own shit. 🤷♂️
This is not as despairing as it sounds, because I already made peace with the transition period sucking. I’m treating this month like receiving an organ transplant. Even if my old ways were failing me, my system’s still going to fight the new in a misguided attempt to maintain homeostasis.
Doing the work means staying with the discomfort. It’s recognizing the river gets deeper as you wade into it, but ultimately you’ll end up on the other side. The worst thing you can do is expect not to get wet, or assume there’s something wrong with you if you do.
I have a story that the biggest thing holding me back is a resistance to letting help in. When I name my needs and someone responds by trying to meet them, I often feel uncomfortable. Like I’m doing something wrong just by needing their help. Like I’m making a big deal out of something I could easily just push to the side.
The downside of pushing my needs to the side is that it’s a recipe for entitlement. I give and I give and I give, and then when I really hit a breaking point and need support in return, I act like I’m owed it.
Ew. It feels icky just to admit that. But it’s true. If I dig deep enough, there are latent expectations of reciprocity buried in almost everything I do. A hope that if I do enough good in the world, it’ll somehow find its way back to me. An unspoken “today you, tomorrow me.” A silent nod to the Godfather’s:
And each time I let my needs ring silent and push them to the side, I not only handicap my ability to be fully resourced and give my best, but I sow seeds of resentment.
Even if I never project that resentment on another, the parts of me that feel overlooked will feel resentful about my tendency to value connection with others over caring for myself. And eventually they will go on strike, refusing to support a regime that abandons the wellbeing of its own people in service of making friends abroad.
Letting Go of Rugged Individualism & Letting Support In
Nooooooo! I am a failure. I am a failure because I can’t do it alone. Never mind the fact that no one can do it alone. That everyone receives help from thousands of people they don’t know every day every time they send a text message or go to the grocery store. I should be better. I should be able to figure this all out on my own and present the world with a finished product that absolutely wows the fuck out of them, finally proving that I’m worthy of being enough.
OK, now that I’ve got that out of system… Now that I’ve adequately mocked my bullshit fairy tale of the self-made trauma survivor who picks himself up by his bootstraps and heals the world. What now?
That’s what my insides scream.
Help me magnify all the beautiful things bubbling up inside me, dreaming of the day they’re released into the world.
Help me by sharing some of the beauty inside of you.
Someday, and this day may never come, the directions I need to find my way home may be exactly where you’re capable of pointing me.
Introducing the 30-Day Extreme Support Challenge
BE BOLD Commit to living a life that requires more support than you currently allow – Adam Quiney
By the end of this challenge, my goal is to become a world-class support receiver who can consistently complete meaningful projects. To become the maestro of the orchestra inside and around me. To tune into the music that wants to be played through me, and at long last, sing out.
The format will be simple. Each day for the next 30 days I’ll pick an area of life I need support in and… ask for it!
Tada! Extremism to the max!
The caveat that will allow for some casual extremism is that I’m stripping away all governance of selfishness. That’s right. For the next 30 days, I’m going to lean in to being as selfish as I can be. To reverse any nice-guy programming and replace it with, “There’s nothing more selfish than to silence the music inside me. Today, I receive all the help I can get. Today, the choir inside of me gets its voice heard.”