For the past two years, I have been in therapy. Alongside this, I have been learning how to operate a recording studio for recording, mixing, and mastering my music.
In the studio, I discovered the function of a tool called a “Limiter.”
In therapy, I discovered the limiting beliefs I have about myself.
A limiter is a tool that flattens stuff out. It limits the volume of loud sounds, and it increases the volume of quiet sounds. The reason for doing this is so that whenever a record comes on the radio, it will always be at the same basic volume or loudness. You wouldn’t want to reach for the volume control between songs or tweak it when you can't hear those gentle sounds over the car engine. It standardises the level of sound.
In music, a pretty useful tool — In life, not so.
How I Have Been Limiting Myself
One line from Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem sums it up.
“We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace.”
I am a calm and gentle man with a big smile. This is one massive cover-up job. I am that person, but I am much more than that. I have learnt to cover up and hide all manner of aspects of myself. The quiet demeanour covers up all manner of turmoil. I have not just been fooling others. I have been fooling myself.
It all stems from a core belief that there is something wrong with me. I cannot pin the creation of that belief on one incident or person. It built up over the years of my childhood, and I have identified some key moments.
The baby that cried the most — being put on powerful medication for anxiety at age 11 — Homophobic bullying — Young family friend being murdered — some messed up underage sexual experiences.
The story doesn’t matter. No one is to blame or at fault. What matters is that I slowly built up a core belief about myself.
Something is Wrong With Me. I Mustn’t Let Anybody Find Out.
A year ago, I started to uncover this around a simple memory regarding my sexuality. Read the full story below if you wish. Briefly, I was in a pub listening to a young male singer-songwriter with a bunch of male friends. I was on my third pint when his set ended.
I said, “Wow, he is gorgeous!”
I then stopped talking, withdrew from the conversation, left early, and vowed never to drink more than two pints ever again. Unpicking this later, I realised nobody had reacted to my comment. They probably didn't notice. It was all in my own head.
“Oh my god! Now everyone will think I am gay! Am I gay?”
“I Always Knew You Were Gay”
Thanks, dad. Exploring my gender and sexual identity has given me energy and freedom.
I had applied the limiter to my life. Digging deeper, I found an underlying belief that being attracted to anyone of either gender was bad and something to be ashamed of. An idea that having sexual needs of any kind was a sin or aberration, something I had to deny and cover-up at all costs.
I then began looking for other unconscious reactive processes I went through regularly, based on the belief that there was something wrong with me, and I needed to conceal that.
I found many. In my unconscious, I am afraid I am a sexual predator, so I must never express any sexual interest in anyone, even my wife! There is not a bone in my body that would force myself on another, but that fear is there as part of my belief that something is wrong with me.
I must never blow my own trumpet because this will make others feel inadequate around me. All my achievements are just a con — luck — a flook — not the result of any hard work or talent on my part.
You get the gist. I am fucked up so it's best if I turn the volume down on everything and then I won’t get discovered as a fraud and a freak. Keep it bland; keep it beige; blend in.
There is Nothing Wrong With Me
There has never been.
The truth crept up on me over several years, and I finally started believing it—no blinding light revelation.
I have talked the talk for many years, but still, the unconscious processes were there. No amount of positive affirmations or mindfulness moments made any difference. Unconsciously I applied the limiter, and it happens in everything.
Playing the piano, I start going into the zone — oops make a joke of it and move on.
Writing, get fantastic feedback from my editor on my first novel — oh shit, stick it back in the drawer for another five years.
In my amazing Counselling group, I begin to access some emotion — Oh sorry guys, I am taking up too much time in the group.
The limiter is applied.
How it Feels When I Switch Off the Limiter
Now I notice when I am applying the limiter, and I can choose to use it or not.
I was in a practical observed session working as a counsellor. The idea of the limiter was fresh in my mind. I noticed it trying to kick in during the session, and I kept switching it off again, letting myself be there with the client, not allowing the mind to take over or hijack the session.
The feedback I got was overwhelming. These words sum it up:
“remarkable, a masterclass in just ‘being’.”
So now I know there is nothing wrong with me and there has never been. I can be authentic, and I can be real. Sometimes I may still mess up, but I can deal with that.
Making mistakes and then learning from them is so much better than holding back for fear of making mistakes. I have been talking that talk for many years. Now I can honestly say that I am walking the talk. It feels great.