When Imagination Is The Enemy

“All acts performed in the world begin in the imagination.” – Barbara Grizutti Harrson

While this may not be true for natural acts or acts of cosmic space science or nature, it’s true for anything made by people. Anything from a building to a machine to a painting to even this post began inside someone’s mind. That is why many self help or confidence gurus always stress things like focusing or visualizing. “Be the ball” was a punchline from one such type in the classic comedy “Caddyshack”. To a degree this is a lot of power for the imagination. It could be said that almost anything that people make is their attempt to make their own thoughts into reality, to transfer it from an intangible medium to a tangible one.

And that may be another one of my problems within the world of dating (as if my previous 45 thousand problems were a warm up). I simply cannot imagine what success with a woman is like. I mean I can on a basic level if I am writing some fiction for a story or a role playing message board or something. I can empathize with someone relating an experience or get some “feels” (as the kids today say) about some stuff in media regarding romance. But if I am trying to visualize or imagine what positive progress in romance would be like, it pops faster than a balloon at a porcupine wrestling match. It’s bad enough when women in real life aren’t into you; it’s even worse when the women in your own head don’t like you or raise suspicion.

This is important because any kind of strategy or planning session for any sort of forward progress usually has to begin between my ears. Like with anything else, it has to begin inside my mind. As a concept, I have to imagine it. I have to be able to imagine myself at least being moderately successful with a woman, or at least to receive positive signals, if only to prepare myself to react. One of the many problems of inexperienced men is missing cues, after all.

Yet my own internal instincts bring my own experiences and cynicism into my own imagination sessions. It’s like poking criticism at a training dummy, but it happens, and it is weird. It is like having my own Great Gazoo in my head, only he’s pointing out from experience that things aren’t as they appear, even if I am the one inventing them. The ironic part of is is that it could be a manifestation of the fear of rejection, yet rejection is the only reaction I know of, and usually what I expect.

For example, if a woman told me, “I think you’re hot,” even an imaginary one, my internal Id would want to debate her. “How many men have you seen?” or “Perhaps our date should begin at Pearl Vision” are my immediate internal replies. Now of course I would never say things like this, but it would be the urges I would repress. In fact I could imagine a comedic skit where even if a date is going well, I assume it’s based on ignorance and then I go about trying to introduce her to better men around me. It doesn’t translate well here, but when I speak in real life, my imagination usually works quickly for humor purposes. No matter the situation or what I am experiencing, I can find a way to make a quick joke or make comedic banter if appropriate. It isn’t difficult for me, and it never has been. It’s sort of like having an invisible ventriloquist’s dummy at all times. But up against women in a romantic context, even an imaginary one,  and it’s fueling doubts.

I don’t believe this is mere anxiety. I’ve had three dates in my life, and for two of them they were hindered to no small degree by my own doubts. I was in absolute disbelief that I was even on them and liked enough by a woman to be on one, even during them. I could not imagine a world where a woman found me desirable romantically. While those examples date to my teens and 20’s, to a degree I still can’t. And I know for many women, this is part of why they dislike dating “Nice Guys”, or inexperienced guys, and/or virgins. Having to endlessly battle his own self doubts becomes a drain and an unfair burden. I wonder if an incident just earlier this year was a manifestation of this. I simply cannot imagine a woman being into me at all. Not even if it is my own imagination and I am the one inventing her. It’s like being a mad scientist who builds the perfect robot mate, and then being suspicious of it.

The very concept of a woman liking me “that way” does not exist in my imagination. My initial reaction is that it is due to ignorance, and as soon as she learns more about me it’ll end badly. My own morality feels it is wrong to take advantage of that ignorance. And that is a problem only I can solve in myself, and I have no idea how. Positive experience would ware that down in theory, but having it makes it hard to actually get it. It is yet another thing about myself I have to keep a lid on around potential dares and hide about myself. Like being a virgin, or so on. And after a while I am hiding so much about myself that I can’t relax at all. And until I can just allow myself to be, I will merely repeat the past. It doesn’t help that I am starting at a severe disadvantage, being years behind the curve for these sorts of fears and romantic growing pains.

It even translates to dreams. I don’t remember all of my dreams (who could), and I don’t dream about women all the time (who does). But when I do, and I do, my own imagination turns against me once I become aware of it. I can’t count how many genuinely fun, positive dreams I have had which came to an abrupt end because I became aware that I was seemingly kissing a woman or having some positive romantic interaction with her and my internal thought was, “This never happened. This is impossible. This is clearly a dream.” On the positive side, I don’t have one set “dream woman”; when I fantasize about women, her details always vary. I don’t have one rigid set type, not even when I am dreaming.

I recall one vivid dream many years ago which was oddly inspired by “Men In Black”. I was enrolled at the agency and was trying to puff myself up to impress a fellow agent who was a woman. Then someone from human resources began to drag out all of my old coats from childhood, which were always more colorful than I would want to wear now because my mother had picked them out for me (or I was younger and taste changes). I found this embarrassing and kept denying I ever owned them, even as each one was more familiar than the last. I remember in the dream saying stuff like, “I never wore that. I never wore that. Oh, wow, you even have that one? Which I…also…never wore.” Obviously, the lengths I go through to deny my own secrets even in my own dreams is pretty drastic.

So, even in my imagination, if a woman liked me, my initial thought is “why?” and a sense of disbelief. On the one hand, this keeps me from being “catished”. Anyone online who thinks I’d fall for someone pretending to like me would find me a very savvy and frustrating opponent. Unfortunately, so would an actual date. In theory, my expectation of every date going poorly should be an advantage; any reaction above a zero is progress, after all. But until I can visualize it from within and truly imagine it as possibility, it will be even more of an uphill struggle than it already is. I am already coming at it from every possible disadvantage, after all. I’ve dealt with bullies, jocks, a lifetime of bad luck and a society of social macho standards working against me. But perhaps the biggest challenge I have to overcome is myself.

But myself is all I have. That’s the rub. If I can’t imagine it, it can’t ever exist. And I don’t know if I have it in me to live the rest of my life where this doesn’t exist for me. A part of me wants to, and I can imagine myself being alone. Unfortunately, that’s less a dream and more of a nightmare as time goes on.

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