The Perception Project

As I was looking through some pictures online last week, I came across an image that said, “Over-thinking ruins relationships. It creates problems that were never there.” That stopped me in my tracks. It causes problems? Makes them? Immediately, my mind went to my last relationship. In the demise of it all, I remember being told that I was looking for negatives and that that was told this was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Surely I’d perceived actual negatives? I had never been told this before, so it was quite the surprise. Especially after I thought I was at a place and stage in my life where I was pretty self-aware and had processed most of my demons, making me feel complete and ready for all that life threw at me.

After being told that I had sought out problems, I was speaking to a friend studying psychology. When mentioning the looking for negatives, she said, “Oh yeah. That’s an anxious type in attachment theory.” An anxious type? I immediately went home and researched all I could about attachment theory. In essence, how we were raised and the attachments we formed with our parents, form the basis of how we act in adult relationships. Great. Given my history, my past, and my fears, all of that made me anxious. I thought I’d already processed and accepted much of my issues from my past, so it was a devastating blow to realise there was still a lasting effect.

In the midst of 2016, this news completely threw me off my axis.

To realise that perhaps all that I had perceived in the past, and particularly in that relationship, had been tainted with an anxiousness that was an intrinsic part of how I was raised and taught to be in relationships with “loved” ones. How did that make sense? I felt sick. I began to unravel at the thought that a) I wasn’t quite the “complete” person I thought I’d made myself, and b) was I going to ruin all future relationships with this anxious perception?

I dwelled in that space for some time. I flipped between thinking that I really had noticed actual negatives, and I was simply addressing them before they became too big. I then wondered if I’d self-sabotaged myself from the beginning by being with someone who was emotionally unavailable. I wondered a great many unhelpful things at the time.

Then time passed. Life went on. I started thinking about writing. I started reading about anxiety, the beautiful beast that it is. I started reading about health, wellbeing, and mindfulness. Events in life happened that made me realise that I really did need to focus on my health. In order to push myself to this space of well-being that I wanted, I needed to keep myself accountable, so I went ahead and created this blog. I began to be more honest with myself. Slowly.

Last week, I saw the picture about over-analysis ruining relationships. It made me think about my overthinking. Yeah, the irony is not lost on me there. It made me think about my last relationship and what the catalysts were that made me begin to overthink. What did I perceive? This is something that I have wondered a few times in the last year. However, this time I thought about it from a place of wanting to be more open and honest with myself. From a place that wanted to analyse these reactive mistakes in order to stop them from compounding.

I believe I started over-thinking as soon as I began to feel something deeper. Rather than accepting these emotions, which is something I embrace now, I resisted them. I resisted them by being fearful of them. They made me scared of being hurt, and anxious attachment kicked in. My deepest fear is to be in love with someone, make a life together, and have them leave. This is what I perceive happened to my parents, and I don’t want it to happen to me. So I was wanting to protect myself from this hurt. I thought if I could work out if he was worth opening up to, if I was sure he felt the same and that we were on the same page, I could be honest about my growing feelings. I wanted to protect myself in the only way I knew how. I started looking for signs, and sure enough, I found them. I thought I was being open by asking about these. Not the case. In the end, I had perceived all these signs that he wasn’t on the same page as me. I brought them up, brought up my fears. He left.

When I see “overthinking ruins relationships”, I see it with new eyes. These new eyes are becoming more accepting of life as it is. Back then, I wasn’t accepting the relationship as it was. I wasn’t looking for signs of love. I was looking for signs of negativity. I was looking for what was wrong in the relationship, so I found a broken relationship. My perception of the relationship was tainted by fear. I began to perceive the relationship as one that couldn’t be trusted. What a way to self-sabotage happiness!

Thinking about self-sabotaging behaviours made me wonder about my perception in relationships. As the lesson learned from my last relationship was one of faulty perceptions and fear, which had caught me off guard, I wondered about my other relationships. It made me wonder about all the times that I had perceived negativity and the resulting actions that I undertook.

That’s when I decided that the best way to be free of fear is to address it. Head on. Rather than over-thinking what I thought were my faults in past relationships, why didn’t I ask the people involved directly. Why didn’t I start by contacting my exes? So I did. That’s how the Perception Project began.

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