GUINEA PIG OF LOVE: THE MIND ARCHITECT
GUINEA PIG OF LOVE EXPERIMENT #4: MIND ARCHITECT
JULY 17, 2012
BY JULIA ALLISON
I’m in a twelve-year-old powder blue strapless floor-length tulle prom dress, screaming out of the sunroof a stretch limo with an enthusiastic but somewhat perplexed man in a gray tuxedo with matching blue cummerbund. It is not your conventional first date, but I’m not your conventional girl.
Why prom? Oh, hell, who knows? Why do some people love bowling, and others enjoy ant farms? Why do some people appreciate opera and others get off on NASCAR? Whatever makes you happy! And prom makes ME happy. I love it. I love everything about it. I love the gowns and the boys in tuxedos and the dancing and the cheesy posed photographs and the limos and the adolescent camaraderie and the Milestone Event-ness of it all.
To me, prom is a moving art installation, rife with opportunities for creative expression. So a prom redux is the perfect setting for my attempt at something new: I’m letting my date see the full force of my personality – immediately. It’s an exercise in authenticity, in just being me, in all my eccentric (you say “crazy,” I say “quirky”) glory. With Annie the Love Coach, I tried restraining myself from these habitual dating eccentricities. Now I’m testing the opposite end of that spectrum, presenting a full-on “I don’t give a s–t, you either love it or you run” tiara’d Julia – and I’m having a damn good time. As for my date, Andrew? I think he might be enjoying the unfettered me, as well.
It all started with Peter Crone – the “mind architect,” as he calls himself, or “happiness expert,” as he is sometimes called by others. His job is to “help people become the best versions of themselves,” as he says. (Note to my dad: a real job is anything that you do for which other people pay you.) A calling is anything you do which changes people’s lives for the better. For Peter, being a mind architect is both a job – and a calling. “I rewire the way you relate to yourself and highlight what’s holding you back,” he explains.
Peter is, in a word, mesmerizing. I greet him at my door, frustrated over an article, angry with myself, pissed that it’s not easier, furious that I can’t get into the flow. My “writer’s anxiety” (which sometimes morphs into the better known “writer’s block”) isn’t exactly a new phenomenon with me, but it’s gotten exponentially more severe in the last few years. It manifests as an almost debilitating concern over how others will perceive my words, leading frequently to procrastination and temporary paralysis over articles that (in theory) I *want* to do.
I’ve published over 400 print articles and columns, not counting my thousands of blog posts, but many of them have been unnecessarily torturous experiences. I find that the more I care about the piece, the harder it is to write. The pieces that weren’t difficult were those I expected no one to read. Let’s put it this way: I don’t have writer’s anxiety in my diary.
It would be bad enough if it only affected my professional life, but I’ve found that the same pattern happens on dates. The more I care about a date, the harder it is for me to chill out and be myself.
Peter takes me through what he calls a “disillusionment.” He explains to me that the issues which paralyze me as I embark upon a column – or a first date - are all in my head. They are a creation of my mind, which means that my mind can also UNcreate them.
“If somebody’s trying to move forward, what stops them?” Peter asks.
“Fear,” I answer quickly, uncomfortably familiar with the phenomenon.
“Fear of what?” he asks.
“Fear of not being good enough,” I respond.
“Well,” he says, pausing. “I hate to be the one to break it to you, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you.”
What? I stare at him in disbelief. Does he need me to write him a list? Where do I begin? More importantly, how long do I have?
Love (and good writing), he explains, only happens when you let go. When you let go of the fear of judgment, the terror that, should you expose yourself for who you really are, should you allow the other person to see your mess, you won’t be good enough. What if they ridicule you? What if they reject you? What if they leave you, bereft, with only your unrequited love and a broken heart?
What if, indeed. What if: the cautionary wet blanket of phrases. At the beginning of a relationship, fleeting thoughts like that are normal. We all dabble in insecurity – and dating is a land rife with achingly personal rejection. But for me that terror had metastasized into something far more virulent – unmitigated perfectionism that sabotaged both my dating and my professional lives.
Let me be clear: perfectionism – the oft-cited “good flaw” – is anything but. It can and will destroy your love life, your career, your health, your happiness. You believe that if you are not perfect, you won’t be loved, appreciated, lauded, promoted. Its roots lie in dangerous, distressingly low self esteem, so if you don’t get it at the roots, it will never leave you. It took me years – and a session with Peter Crone – to understand that.
Are you ready to start being “the real Julia,” he asks me at the end of our session?
“I’m not 100% sure I know who the real Julia is …” I answer. But I know a good way to start.