Bad feelings/ tilt/ trauma- how they're all linked and overcoming them.

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Bad feelings/ tilt/ trauma- how they're all linked and overcoming them.

Oh hey people.

Every time I come to writing a blog it's usually about 2 years since the previous one. And every time I find my writing skills have degenerated by another large amount. Like that, 'large amount', what even is that? Thesaurus for Christmas please!

Nevertheless I'm going to keep ploughing on because I want to get down what's in my head.

This is a blog about childhood trauma, feelings in general, how this relates to tilt, and how they are all linked.

First of all, I think the usual approach to poker tilt is to suppress the feelings that cause tilt. Arguably, this is what Mental Game of Poker advocates. It takes an underlying belief that arrives with an emotion, such as 'poker is so unfair to me' and instead of trying to address the true root of that belief, tries to combat it with another belief- 'poker sometimes appearing unfair to me is actually variance which is cool cos it keep fish playing' etc.

I suppressed my feelings when playing poker for years and years. This made me into a semi-robot. Many of you might be familiar with that sensation of finishing a poker session and then trying to interact with family members and feeling just.... sorta dead inside.

Through spirituality and meditation etc I started to treat my feelings in a different way, not as a mortal enemy, but rather just something to be noticed and 'accepted'. I fell into though one of the classic spiritual traps, which was to just 'accept' my bad feelings.

Anyone into spirituality will recognise this- the idea that because there is ultimately 'nothing to do', that this means we should literally do nothing. In life this might mean 'fine, I'll just stay in bed', in this case it meant I allowed tilt to continue but at least didn't fan the flames by getting 'tilted about being tilted'.

I struggle with how to structure the next part of this blog, because I'm not certain about that I want to say or how to make the jump to it. I want to talk about emotions.

Say something upsets you, like a group of friends book a holiday without you or something. Mentally healthy people will, at that point, simply feel the upset. Mentally unhealthy people will try to run away from the pain.

To cut a long story short, I've discovered that un-faced emotions (ie, when we run away from the emotion, or bury it, or try to pretend it hasn't happened) simply sink down somewhere into the body and just sit there causing no end of problems.

These problems include emotional outbursts, physical pains, (possibly physical illnesses, though I'm not a million % sold yet), and outright depression and anxiety attacks. I'd maybe go as far to say that buried emotions are the main (only?) cause of depression and anxiety. Sometimes of course you can point to physical things such as drug abuse, but in those cases it's simply more indirect, as the buried emotions trigger the drug usage, etc.

So........ the next stage after being a poker robot was to 'feel' my emotions as they came in. This did not end well. I was getting upset at beats, mistakes, etc, and telling myself to 'feel' this upset. This can be ok to a point, but if you don't recognise the feeling for what it truly is (an unnamed, physical sensation) and instead assign arbitrary labels to it such as 'anger' then it can quickly spiral.

It's only recently though that I've questioned why those emotions are happening in the first place. Of course emotions naturally occur in life, but the frequency and intensity (and irrationality) of them is a clue that some deep emotion is buried somewhere. Other clues include being often depressed and/ or anxious.

My GF, has always been depressed. This has always manifested as a strong physical feeling in the center of her body, a painful one which she has always tried to suppress by the usual methods, drink, drugs, distractions. Recently she has been practising a spiritual technique, which is to essentially mediate on that feeling. This means to put your full attention on this feeling, keep doing so, and see what happens.

What has happened is massively remarkably- I won't get into the details here, but essentially the feeling is breaking down into all sorts of childhood trauma and suppressed memories. She is 'lighter' already, and getting better all the time.

I realised that I too have always had this painful feeling in my stomach. To be honest, for years I've tried to suppress it through a combination of things: football, caffeine (yo Dan proper hard drug problem you got yaself there) and also poker. I would feel bad, and go play poker to hide from the feeling.

I recently realised though that caffeine seemed to be inhibiting my higher level brain functions when it came to poker, this meant I had fewer places to hide. I always realised that playing poker to hide from a feeling was inadvisable, as I usually failed at both hiding from it and winning money. The football season also recently ended.

This meant I've had nowhere to hide! Depression sank in really bad, and I realised that I had to confront the feeling in my body, even though I REALLY didn't want to. This is why emotions are buried in the first place remember, we don't want to face them as they're too painful- or (spoiler alert) we think they're too painful.

To cut another long story short, when I stayed with the feeling (for an intermittent period of days) it initially sorta grew and grew more painful until exploding into memories, feelings and 'paradigm's for want of a better word (paradigms I took for granted).

I realised that my suffering has always related to guilt and helplessness. I had memories of being a toddler and my Mum scolding me and my feeling guilty (my Mum has always used guilt as a form of.... control I guess? Ie, if I wouldn't eat food would say 'but I made this especially for you' and I'd feel guilty and eat the food.)

This meant that feeling guilty, and also running away from feelings, became a way of life. I think this is likely the case in many middle class, UK households. Not showing emotion is seen as a virtue.

Then I remembered feeling helpless at school because my school was simply one of the worst in history, but being unable to ask to move schools as this would bother my Mum and I would feel guilty, and anyway showing any emotion at all was so discouraged. To take an example I once got set upon, kicked and punched in the head for about 15 minutes by about 9 or 10 people. At this point in my life I got more used to simply disconnecting from my body, hiding and burying all emotion.

Fast forward to my adult life and having a GF- everything from childhood and teenage-hood still completely buried and suppressed. What seems to happen with buried emotion is that those patterns from earlier in your life simply repeat themselves. So now I'm 22, and upsetting my GF is the WORST thing imaginable. I feel SO guilty about any transgression, and still my reaction to it all is just to keep burying the emotion and keep trying to just 'get on with life'. I did this for the next 11 years.

So yeah, the feeling has now burst, and I'm left with the realisation that those feelings I get when I feel I've upset, or may be about to upset my GF are actually just the feelings from when I was a toddler being repeated. And having seen this, I know that as a toddler I'm in no position to even be 'acting badly', and that my mum having me feel guilty as a 2 year old is simply her own pain being 'put on me' as her own way of dealing with it.

This recognition of the reason for the pain means that the pain no longer has any hold. The feeling in my stomach has gone, and the catherine-wheel of tilt when playing poker has subsided.

I could write so infinitely more, but want to keep it shortish. I'd just say that if any of you are struggling with long term anxiety of depression (or tilt) then what I've written may be of some help to you.

Finally, how this relates to poker is that I used to think bad feelings in poker were something to be resisted and avoided. For example, the emotion associated with 'I don't know what to do in this 4bet pot spot', would cause pain and tilt and I would try to put it out of my mind. What I've learned though is that every feeling experienced when playing poker is telling us something and is useful.

All we have to do is move TOWARDS the feeling, feel it in its entirety, and just like the more buired trauma I described above it magically 'pops' into an array of wisdom. In the example above, it would transform into something like 'ok, start considering his range, your range, the PSR, how does each option feel?'. Before this, I'd basically just feel tilted and end up clicking a button.

Similarly with, say, a river call with the 2nd nuts in a big pot. That feeling of dread, don't just click your eyes and call, stay with the feeling and see what it 'disintegrates' into. I've had come crazy experiences where tons of unconscious realisations come together and I know that my opponent's range is 95% the nuts, for example.

Like I said at the start, I can't write any more so I don't know how to properly end this, but essentially:

Feelings are your friend, move towards them, not away from them.

Dan

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