I’ve been able to get excellent feedback on a poignant cause of recent consternation. Essentially my lesson has been this: that I had put up a rigid mask of how I thought society needed to perceive me in order to be accepted (validated). This was made readily apparent to me when I showed up to a counseling appointment in a button up shirt that was too tight to be comfortable. I mentioned that I was going to the bank after our appointment, and stated that I always dressed up nicely to go to the bank. I didn’t understand why. My counselor, a pragmatist, checked me and said that all I needed to go to the bank was money!
This shift of perspective helped me to unravel a deeply ingrained belief that if I dress up and present myself as a “good citizen”, then I will somehow make it, or be successful, or be validated.
Ok: let’s explore this.
My subconscious’ definition of “good citizen”: someone who is under the radar, free from contempt and scrutiny. I found scrutiny to be soul crushing in my adolescence, particularly when I was continually under scrutiny for smoking weed and watching porn. These two activities were my escapes. I needed them to cope with a dysfunctional family environment.
My parents, both raised catholic, shamed me for not following the rules. Furthermore, they couldn’t figure out how to stop my behavior, which to them was totally aberrant. I understand their frustration: I was escaping and medicating from their toxic codependency, which they didn’t have the perspective to see. When grounding me didn’t work, instead of re-evaluating their approach, they simply grounded me for longer periods of time. Dammit! I wish they were more creative, or willing to go outside their box and be cool with me as a person, but neither was in a place to do that.
I remember getting caught one time, after many warnings to stop smoking pot, in which I was grounded for 5 weeks. This seems cruel to me. Instead of reaching out for help, my parents chose to perpetuate their frustration at not being able to control my behavior by enacting lengthy punishment. I guess they had a lot to deal with, but it made me feel pretty fvcking worthless; like I was an afterthought. I still feel echoes of the resultant anger to this day – it’s something that I’m working through and I feel like I’m coming towards the end of it, thank the maker. It was soul crushing. During that time I was not allowed to see any friends outside of school. I was forced to remain in physical proximity of a toxic family environment; I had to escape somehow, so porn and video games did the trick for me. I used porn to medicate my feelings of complete unworthiness, and video games to escape from the tangled web of emotions I felt. Some Saturdays I would spend 10 hours playing games. The upside of this is that I was able to really get into a video game whose music influenced me greatly in my compositional works (Timo).
I want to make a note here that my parents are not terrible people – they did some dumb stuff and made some poor parenting choices. this was around fifteen years ago, and they both have evolved and grown as individuals since. I do not condone their actions, but I understand where they were coming from. I’m not writing about these experiences to shame them or to get back at them. It’s not about them! It’s about using the benefit of experience to rise above difficult circumstances of my past in order to greater understand the man I am now, and give credence to the lessons that showed up initially as great pain, thereby dissolving them in effect. Furthermore, to help to validate those with similar experiences as a way of encouraging self-growth and reflection.
The greatest frustration that I experienced when I started trying to make sense of this time in my life was the feeling of being handicapped by their negligence, and having to play catch up to the rest of the world. It wasn’t fair. At first I would use coldness and sternness as a way of punishing them for their actions. I’m in a different frame now – they are my birth parents and we’ve shared many experiences, but my growth and life is my number one priority and responsibility. They reach out occasionally, but I’m often too busy creating the life of my dreams to interact on a more intimate level. Which is how it should be. I never want my parents to reach out to me for intimacy again. My covert contract with them was “If I’m a good son (citizen) and validate your problems and love you then maybe you wont hurt me emotionally or physically and actually validate and encourage me”. Nope. They weren’t capable of that kind of role, because no one did that for them! That’s why they were so needy and dependent on me. I’ve always had a big heart and as a loving child I wanted to make things better for them (a common behavior in children). What a responsible self-aware parent would have done would be to, in situations where I wanted to make things better for them, let the child know that what they were going through was ok and that parents experience difficulty sometimes and that they were dealing with it in a healthy and responsible way, instead of looking to a yet-unformed child to provide comfort or validation. I would have liked this kind of reassurance, but I never got it.
So “good citizen” is a mask – a paradigm – that I began to adopt after a while as a way of safe-guarding myself from further pain and cruelty. It is was paradigm in which I would create a covert contract. A covert contract is a way of behaving in which indirect actions and positioning are used as a way of getting needs met, instead of directly asking for what one needs. This can be conscious or unconscious behavior. The more I become aware of my self, my programming, and my conscious behavior, the more I can understand where these covert contracts exist in my life and dissolve them.
A Time-Consuming Lesson: AKA Avoid this trap!
The most time-consuming lessons that I’ve experienced have dealt with dating and intimate relationships. Several years back I became very close with a female friend and spent a ton of my free time with her – which was in short supply because I was in school and playing gigs during the week and on the weekends. My covert contract is essentially this: I spend time with you, validate you, take care of you, and you have to validate me, emotionally and sexually. It’s an indirect way of getting needs met, which often leads to disappointment.
We spent much time together, months and months, until I asked if I could kiss her. She turned me down. I was crushed! My thinking: What? I just invested so much time into you and you won’t even kiss me?
Well, why should she? Firstly, it’s a choice. She made a choice, and it’s totally fine. Secondly, we had been operating on the premise of close friends, and nothing more. Why should she feel obligated to do anything? My covert contract operating system said “I’ve spent all this time for you, you should now validate me”. I can see the insanity of the whole situation now, but at the time I could not and it was incredibly frustrating.
That was then, this is now
Recently I was able to go from trusting friends to cuddle buddies to making out to non-monogamous sex play partners with someone I was attracted to in…about 2 weeks. How did I do this?
It might seem counter-intuitive to someone whose life is riddled with covert contracts: I was direct!
After hanging out and establishing a friendship of trust and communication, I asked Q:”Can I put my arm around you”. A: Yes. (sexy voice:) Q:”Can I kiss you?” A: Yes.
This was after feeling out the vibe and internalizing her body language towards me. Still, it was a risk that I took. I could have been turned down, for any various reasons, but I wasn’t.
After we made out, we talked about what we like sexually, what we want to explore, what we want to try. We arranged a date to do it, and voila! It was a very fun and *ahem* stimulating experience!
I’m really proud of myself for going outside my previous programming and asking for what I want. And LAWD let me tell you that the things we talked about doing are as far off from 10 minutes of vanilla, lights off, missionary sex play as creating a covert contract is from getting the juicy sex that you want.
The Heart Perspective and Sex drive
How does this tie in with my souls mission – with my heart’s song? The song my heart sings is the most important thing in my life. This recent sexual partner is cool, fun, and interesting. I am aware here that there is a subtle cognitive dissonance because my previous programming states that in order to follow my heart I must weed out every experience that is not in direct resonance with my heart. I challenge this assumption! I would put forth, rather, that following my heart is always the most important aspect of my life. The more I do this, the more I my inner being will change. Sex is a valid aspect of my humanity, and I will validate it and acknowledge it as I explore my sexuality with fun and pleasure, but nowhere in my new frame is there a mutual exclusion of love and sex.
The disparate aspect of a shame-based paradigm is that sex is somehow separate from the heart. Sin vs. salvation. I think it can seem that way, but there must be a more unified way of looking at it. If the heart is your center, then any kind of sexual experience can arise if you’re open to it. For me, old guilt and shame can also arise if sex is placed as the center of my life at the expense of following my heart. But following my heart can also include juicy sexual experiences.
The more that this paradigm shapes my reality, the more poly-dating seems functional. Poly dating for me isn’t really the focus here – it’s simply a model or tool that helps facilitate the growth experiences that I really want out of life right now.
Simply, if I operate life from my heart – the core of my being, life becomes fluid, juicy, and infinitely blessed.
How often do we as a society separate heart centered living from juicy sexual experiences? It’s easy to do so because of the prevalence of “sin shaming” in much of western religion. Lol. That’s another topic for another time.
P.S. Hey if you liked what I have to say, let me know in the comments below! I welcome feedback, please be respectful. Peace!