On Own Goals
This week, I came disturbingly close to committing the cardinal sin of an own goal. Within the context of a situation that more or less perfectly fine, I nearly destroyed everything for no reason. Own goals hurt. I have committed too many of them. Why do they happen?
Oftentimes, they are simply mistakes. Aviation’s worst own goals are known by the acronym CFIT, short for “controlled flight into terrain.” That’s somewhat of a euphemistic way to say the pilots accidentally flew a perfectly functioning aircraft into the ground. That is what happened Kobe died in his helicopter crash. The pilot was disoriented flying in low visibility conditions and flew into the ground. RIP. While most own goals aren’t fatal, they are always tragic.
My latest near own goal was caused not by an error of judgment or simple mistake, but by my emotions. My amygdala, tasked with identifying dangerous situations and pumping out the adrenaline needed to induce the ideally useful fight or flight response, badly misfired. I began to have thoughts that my reasoning mind knew were untrue, but felt completely true. My reasoning mind is the only reason is was a near own goal. Even though my reason stepped in with the right answer, I only barely contained the situation, and even that is because this wasn’t my first time. For me, this pattern is related to interpersonal relationships.
Looking back at my past, I can see it so clearly now. When people start to get close to me: own goal. I have long known I have what is known as the fearful, disorganized, or anxious-avoidant attachment style. One generally considers this within the context of romantic relationships and my identification and experience with this is part of why I haven’t made any more than a feeble attempt at a romantic relationship for quite a long time now. But I am only just now realizing how it has affected my other relationships.
It is probably no coincidence that I lost my best friend growing up to adult onset mental illness. He was always emotionally detached and aloof. That’s probably part of why we got along so well. As I type these words, I am recalling how I have so many friends the years.
When people start to get close, my instinct seems to be self-sabotage. I’ve never seen it this way before, because it’s always subtle. My mind is great at coming up with plausible reasons; intelligence has plenty of hazards. For any one case, I could argue it was justified. But taken in sum, the pattern is simply too consistent. Only the most stubborn have stuck by, and I appreciate them all the more for it.
I apologize to all of those I have pushed away. Each own goal is a tragedy. Catching one in the act this week was a wake-up call to awareness over my most subtly detrimental pattern. I could never really explain why I got “Et Tu, Brute?” tattooed on my back.
Nobody had betrayed me and it wasn’t dark humor — that’s not my style. My subconscious ordered this message printed on my body years ago but I am just now seeing how to interpret it. That is my deepest fear, tattooed in the most vulnerable place. My mind; my amygdala, my most primal instincts, so deeply associate closeness and synchronicity with the fear.
I won’t be able to fix this overnight, but awareness is a first step. It’s time to end the own goals. I am the only person holding myself back.