Childhood emotional neglect

Sometimes I wonder how come my mother has not to this point understood that she has done something wrong. It is not that her recognizing her mistakes is necessary for my healing- no I have managed to take our relationship to the level where I have no expectations on her. Hence, surprises can only be positive. She seems to be able to also relax in the environment where she is not supposed to be a parent, but can have a contact me from time to time with no strings attached. The reason why I cannot understand my mother’s denial is that to my mind some things just seem plain wrong and there is no way someone can think it is normal. However, this feeling, of course, is deceiving, as five years ago I did not find anything wrong with my childhood either. Only now have I started to grasp the full effect of my mother’s actions or non-actions for that matter.

So lets start from the obvious- you do not leave a baby alone for hours and hours. OK, I can understand to a degree when you leave baby home while you are going to the store, but my mother was going to doctors alone, going to city administration alone and she was doing all this in a belief that I will sleep 3-4 hours anyway. Lets continue- You probably will not let your four year old use public transport alone or make your 6 year old go shopping for you or demand from your seven year old the kind of cooking skills you never thaught her. The list of age inappropriate activities is just endless and it took first my ex boyfriend to point out to me, that actually these things were not normal. In my mind I was happy for always having been so independent. Little did I know what was the sideeffect of this independence- feeling that there is noone to be trusted in the world. Feeling that people will let you down in crucial moments and you will have to manage alone anyway. I did a lot of projection in my relationships, seeing them to be doomed from the beginning. How would a twenty year old me have known, that it was just my mother’s behavior I was seeing in my boyfriends?

I found an interesting division between children who were victims of emotional abuse and those who were victims of emotional neglect. Apparently those that were neglected become overly compliant, attuned to others needs etc- this is their way of getting the attention and love they never had. These children that were emotionally abused however become attention seekers who try to compensate their inner emptiness with constant achievements and do not mind stepping over some borders. If one were to ask, I probably lean more to the second option- I think I was always a little bit narcissistic. Taking into account other people’s wishes and needs does not come easy to me. To a degree I even envy all these childhood abuse victims that tell stories of being used and being too nice to people, because all I am left with is the knowledge that I brought abandonment to myself by being a bitch. Anyways, the idea behind aforementioned distinction made by Jonice Webb, is that even though both, emotionally neglected and emotionally abused children have to a large degree same problems, they have chosen to react to those differently. So I learned to achieve a lot ever since I was a child, I leared that it was a though world out there and I somehow had to be visible. Apparently it is common for the abused children to mistake attention and admiration for love. I think that truly describes some of relationships (luckily not the current one though). I guess what every emotionally abused child secretly wants is to be seen and accepted separate from her achievements. Can you imagine my surprise then when my current boyfriend confessed me his love just out of nowhere. In my mind I had done nothing to deserve it. I was not even good enough person for it. I had yet to convince him with some achievements that I was actually worthy of his love. His confession was ulitmately what brought me to therapy, because after first person in my life showed me some unconditional love, my walls started falling down. I was shocked as to how alienated from everything I was. However, more about the beginning of my therapy and my emotional abuse in the next post.

Dealing with deep-seated feelings of being unloved

I grew up believing that I am unlovable. Long story short, my mother got me as a way to make my father, who was at this point married to someone else, commit to her. It never happened, and I was left with a father who refused to acknowledge me as his child and a mother who never wanted to become a single mum. Throughout my life I got a lot of shaming from my mother as she kept telling me how I had let her down, how she wishes I had never been born and how her life would have been so much better without me. In fact, she did not even have to tell me all this, I could sense her constant disappointment with me and her silent accusations. It is quite convenient to accuse other people when one is unhappy in her life- takes off the responsibility. In fact, I do not really remember my mother taking responsibility for any of our arguments nor ever admit that she had done something wrong.

If she was not wrong, that must have meant that I was. I clang onto the idea that once I am perfect, I will be finally loved. So I kept improving my appearance, kept striving for better results at school, kept reading a lot of self-development literature in the hopes that at some point I would finally feel that I am lovable. Unfortunately no amount of achievements helps against this inner feeling of unlovability and guilt. I am uncovering the layers that I have built to protect myself from this all-encompassing feeling and it hurts- a lot. It feels almost as if I am trapped in this feeling and will never feel better.

Me feeling unwanted has seriously affected my choice of partners as well. I have always longed for unavailable guys. This longing kept the hope inside of me alive, the hope that maybe once this one guy would come around, I would feel fine about myself. I would be finally happy. Some of these guys did commit, I got at least too unavailable guys to commit to me, but it never change my feelings about myself and the circle continued. There was always another unavailable guy to be chased.

I know now why I have behaved the way I have. For long time I was puzzled by my attraction towards unavailable guys, not anymore. However, it just seems a never ending process. Sometimes it just feels that as I peel off another layer of defense mechanisms, another layer of behaviors and thoughts I have adapted to protect myself against abuse, the pain just gets stronger and stronger. I get more and more messed up. There indeed are places in our psyche which we do not want to go to, which we have avoided all our life, for a reason. I know that once this process is over, I will feel much much better, but it the middle of it, it is just so hard to believe that in one fine day I will be OK.

So that is how acknowledging one’s abandonment issues feels like

I am breaking down. In the past weeks, I have been having flashbacks to my previous relationship which ended with me being devastated as I saw that he really could not give me the kind of closeness that I needed. I subconsciously chose a guy that was distant, because it was safe. I thought that being with him would allow me to feel strong and I would not have to be exposed to all the pain I experienced in my childhood. We had one very good year with this guy. However, we both were afraid of further commitment. So we dragged our relationship through next year, but it already started disintegrating. I felt enormous shame and sense of failure as it was happening. Here was somebody who I thought was the love of my life- was I not good enough for him, was I in general unlovable, what was I doing wrong?

It is not so much about my previous relationship as it is about me getting finally in touch with all the pain and hurt from childhood abandonment and betrayal. I have been on one hand blocking all these feelings away, engaging in imaginary relationships, dreaming of unavailable guys and on the other hand, constantly getting exposed to it in most mundane everyday situations. I used to hate when my friends brought their friends along- I felt that this was a sign that they did not really want to be with me. I hated when they found boyfriends, because as the contact suffered, I immediately concluded that they too could not be trusted. Naturally my behavior towards them changed, bringing even more of what I was afraid.

Abandonment- without meacknowledging it, has been a major issue in my life. One could even say, the main lens, which helped me to interpret all the situations. I was secretly always convinced that people did not want to be with me. That they pitied me, that they felt superior to me. At the same time I was in constant hunt for more people, driven by the idea that once I have enough people, I will never be alone. The last few years have been extremely though, as so many people have disappeared, so many people have gone through my life. It has been a period of flux. Now I am finally feeling that I am, thanks to therapy, getting into contact with my child like part again. I remember all the things that I have been trying to forget. All the things about my ex, about my life in my home country- everything I have been trying to leave behind. Life does not happen like this, sometimes you got to go back in order to go forward. Somehow I feel like a child again- vulnerable and found. Somehow, I feel I am not hidden anymore, I can finally let other people find me again, I am almost ready to face life outside home again.

Therapy and disintegration of friendships

I have to say that I am currently in a quite confusing place in my life. My friendships and my relationship are changing, but I have no idea as to how, yet. I have noticed that it has been a real struggle for me to form lasting friendships during last years. It is true that we all enter to relationships with certain expectations, we get something out of there. Well, the things I have noticed about my relationships- I have often functioned to my male friends as a replacement girlfriend, you know, at the phase when they do not have one. When they however find someone, they almost as quickly disappear. I will have to take a long and hard look in myself, because probably I was using these relationships also as a way to avoid intimacy and commitment in my relationships. I do understand that such relationships however, are not real friendships. In fact I struggle forming real friendships with males, even though I almost always get better along with them. There just seems to be so much of a stereotype and stigma around these relationships, not the least because opposite sex friendships seem to be much less common here than in my country of origin. So this is one of my patterns which has led me to quite a bit of suffering, since I maintained these friendships while I was in a relationships, fully fooling myself that these were the real deal.

The other thing is my relationships with my female friends. I am known to get more invested in relationships and also ultimately to be more needy. My boyfriend calls me an intense person. I am step by step trying to decrease my neediness, but nevertheless I have had to revise several of my relationships in the last half a year. My closest friend here now barely communicates with me, why, I am not so sure, I assume that it has something to do with her finding a potential love interested and me being kicked out of our common friends network (jelaous girlfriend). Interestingly, during my early twenties I struggled to get men to see me as something more than just a friend and their girlfriends never seemed to be endangered by me, so with therapy and with experience something has changed, which obviously makes several women feel that it is unsafe to leave me around their boyfriends. My boyfriend is of opinion that I am not flirting with any of these guys, but I am just open and smiling a lot, something which can seem to be a serious danger for some girls. I am equally smiley with my female friends, but no one has as of this point suspected that I am flirting with them.

So surprisingly, in my early twenties I never struggled with finding friends, especially female friends. Granted some of my friends ended up not contributing too much, but I always held the thing going. It was my fear of loneliness, which was especially powerful motor. Now it seems, that I only have one female friend left. I cannot explain why this keeps happening, is it that people get older and have more responsibilities, is it that therapy has hindered my chances of making contact with other people, is it that I am in a foreign country or is it that my old relationships are not functioning anymore, but I am not quite ready for new ones? Anyhow, it just seems as a very painful process to go through and I am now refusing to be the one who invests more to my relationships. I have made it a point of not being the only one seeking contact and not being the one who is constantly available. Strangely I think doing those things really makes other people value you less. It is tough to change the patterns that one has had whole life, but through pain I am succeeding. I just wish that I could find another good friend locally.