On escaping and changes

I have started again quite many times in my life. I have moved to other countries, I have started new relationships. Part of it has been just escaping. I was escaping from continuity. I was escaping from people who knew my faults, hoping that I could wipe out my past. Somehow, in the place and in the new relationship I would become a different person. Who knows, maybe I would even be more fine with myself then. I have let down some people, I have not been a good partner neither a friend. Nor have I been good to myself.

It seems that the only thing constant in my life is change. I feel the familiar urge to start again, to leave everything behind. This time I am not sure it is only my wish to escape familiarity and constraints. It feels more like…well cleansing. I am waking up to the things that I really want in my life. I am waking up to the fact that I am headed to the future I have never wanted for myself.

For last four years I dedicated my life to therapy and changing myself. I knew there was something wrong with me. Meeting my current boyfriend showed me exactly how much. Relationship with him has been such a life changing lesson. I can finally accept love and intimacy. However, there is this weird feeling in me that our paths might just separate soon.

I have played with the idea of breakup for years now. I never knew if it had something to do with my commitment fear or the concrete relationship. Now, it seems to me, that this relationship has allowed me to conveniently stay in my fears and not be pressed to commitment. My boyfriend has been quite ambivalent about commitment himself. I am struggling to still find out what his position is and it seems that he is not quite sure of it himself. His positions seem to be shifting on a monthly basis and I am feeling more and more like letting go. There is a wish inside of me to have something fixed. To have the fucking suburban dream I once loathed. To have financial security, job security- all the security possible. I am just not so sure that this is something my boyfriend wants nor that I can ever have this with him. He seems to be different kind. The kind that does not plan. The kind that gets overwhelmed by too many responsibilities. The kind that would drive best if he gets to do what he likes. The one that would just slowly die in suburban dream environment.

It is nevertheless difficult to let go of someone with whom you have shared so much, but with whom your future visions do not necessarily fit. I am not ready to let go yet, but I know that time is my enemy here.

Commitment fear and parenting

My mother has a commitment fear. Similar to the one that I have been struggling with my whole life. It is like a hereditary disease. I would suggest that it is a rare case when our commitment phobic parents will not pass it on to us kids.

I understand my mother. I understand the wish to escape from expectations and responsibility. I understand that when your kid is sick, the only thing you want to do is to run to your work. This is where you feel safe. No demands of other person can overwhelm you.

I also understand all the strategies you use in order to manage the closeness of other people. You do not want them too close. They are dangerous. You are used to people being dangerous so you assume that it is better to keep them at distance. So when they come too close, you blew up.

The problem is in how it looks to a kid. Every time the kid tries to come close to mommy, she gets pushed away. After having spent some quality time with mommy, mommy gets too anxious to handle the closeness, so she yells at the kid. Mommy protests with little things such as refusing to be available via phone……or insisting that you never go to her room in the morning. Or insisting that you will not have common meals. There are thousands of ways…

For a kid it looks like the world is an unsafe place. It looks like you can never trust anyone, because you can never predict their next action. It looks like you have to be constantly alert.

This is my life.

Making decisions after narcissistic childhood

I have always struggled with making decisions. Do I want a ham or cheese sandwich, which shoes should I buy etc etc. I would pin it down to my commitment fear, but I think the issue is deeper than this. I found a very telling article on narcissism here (thanks to manillascissor) and it got me thinking that great deal of my difficulties in decision making can be explained by the fact that I do not know who I am. Or even if I know who I am I have no confidence in who I am.

Thanks to aforementioned article and some other resources I am aware of how narcissistic parents dominate the household. Their needs get the most attention, their moods define the atmosphere and you…..well, you become in a way a shadow of the parent. You are not your own person and you also get the feeling that being your own person is dangerous. It is not safe to do your own thinking- what if mommy gets angry?

So there you are. Your identity has been beaten down, because it was not useful for narcissistic parent to allow you to develop your own sense of self. Even if this sense of self is there, somewhere deep down, you really do not dare to express it because you are buying into it being dangerous. That probably does not create a good ground for any potential independent thinking, trust in your own abilities or even a knowledge on what you actually desire.

This is also the reason why I am quite skeptical about standard decision-making tools working for the victims of narcissistic abuse- how can you set any goals or make any plus and minus lists if you do not have a clue who you are as a person? So obviously, for making good decisions, someone with the history of narcissistic abuse, needs to go through lengthy process of self-identification.

Commitment phobia as a way of life

I have been lately analyzing or overanalyzing the role of commitment phobia in my life in general. It should come as a no surprise that one of the main issues in both my last two serious relationships has been reluctance to commit. I think this reluctance has described both sides more or less. Today, I am going to present my side of the commitment phobia.

Over the last four years I have been postponing making any decisions about my personal life. I have explained and rationalized it through having a therapy and being in the middle of big changes or not having enough energy to think about yet another layer in my life etc etc. The truth is, that inability to make decisions is one of the major signs of commitment phobia. Inability to make decisions just about everything. I have been struggling to decide where I want to live, with whom I want to live, what kind of work I want to do….the list probably continues.

The other issue that is indicative of my commitment phobia is my reluctance to answer to emails and keep my phone close. I have always felt that it was somehow inconvenient to be available all the time. Even more troublesome was to have to be the one who was relied upon and who provided my friends services of support. I felt like everybody was constantly bothering me with some kind of demands and wishes which required immediate reaction. I just wanted to disappear and not have to deal with all these demands.

I also have not wanted to take a vacation with my boyfriend. I have rationalized it to myself in different ways and partially there is some truth to be found in all of these statements. The truth is however, that taking a vacation together makes me very very nervous. I feel like I will be stuck with this person in the closed space and have no possibility to escape. I also feel like taking a vacation together is indicative of something very serious. It is a serious commitment. Can I handle this?

This is only a beginning of the list of my commitment phobic behaviors. We can see multiple different fears that are responsible for this. One is fear of rejection (my feeling that if I say no to people’s demands, they will surely resent me, hence I will rather avoid facing their demands). Naturally this dates back to my childhood, where saying no was punished sometimes with kicking me out. So I have long lived with the feeling that I have to fulfill other people’s wishes and demands. The other is the fear of being wrong, doing something wrong. I cannot make decision, because I am so afraid of doing something wrong. This is related to my mother using many different strategies such as gaslighting, denying my issues and externalizing guilt.

I find that most of material about commitment phobia is focusing solely on the behaviours and much less on the psychological reasons for commitment phobia. Hence I will in the future also try to analyze further the underlying mechanisms which drive my commitment phobia.

My core belief- everybody leaves me in the end

When googling, I come across many issues- such as the feeling of being unloved, abandonment fear, fear of rejection etc, but I find it more difficult to find something on the feeling of being all alone. See, it is not exactly fear, it is the mix of hopelessness and pain. As I am getting deeper and deeper to my issues, I am discovering how much pain there is around loss in my life.

I have lost most people who once were in my life. Moving took away some good people, breaking up with my ex took away him and fallout with my best friend took away her. However, this is not really were it starts. It starts from my early childhood. During my first years of my life I lost pretty much everybody who was ever important to me. I lost my grandparents, with whom I was living for a while. I lost my nanny with whom I was also living. I lost my mother when she decided to move away. I lost her again when she was taken away with illness and had to stay in the hospital while I was left with the care of strangers. Finally, I lost my mother’s boyfriend and I lost my dad (whom I never even really had).

Apparently I have not yet processed all this and it is very difficult to push myself through all the pain. It is just the feeling of hopelessness about- no matter how much I fight, nobody in my life seems to be there to stay. Nobody. As I am contemplating over ending my relationship (the only close person in my life right now), all the old pain surfaces. I sometimes feel so powerless and drained of energy that I really do not even have any motivation to create any new relationships. I know I have to push myself through everything, but sometimes I just get the feeling that life is punishing me for something. I am swimming and swimming and all the while I seem to sink deeper and deeper. I really hope that these are my feelings of loss talking here and that this is just part of therapy.

The ‘advice’ from abandoment fear

It is only recently that I have discovered how my fear of abandonment has basically controlled my whole love life. It has always been there like a secret companion giving……well, not so useful advice. SO what is the advice that my abandonment fear has given to me?

No, do not break up with this guy. Surely no one will want you after that.

Yes, you must start a relationship with this ‘Alex’ even if you do not particularly fancy him, what happens if no one wants you after him?

They let you down once, so there is no reason to trust them after that.

This flirt with this other girl means that they would rather be together with her.

If he does not know from the beginning that he wants to marry with you, then better not to invest to this relationship.

I need to impress him, because well, otherwise he will leave me.

I have made so many mistakes, so by this point he must have realized what a horrible partner I am, so it is better to break up with him myself. He will be doing this in no time anyways.

This hard to get and instable guy seems to be the best choice, because this thrill and insecurity I feel must mean that I love him soooo much.

If I work with myself and become the best, most beautiful etc woman, then there will be somebody who wants me in the end, right?

You just have to work harder in this very challenging relationship. Maybe he will appreciate you in the end.

I am not sure how many people can relate to these pieces of advice, but I am pretty sure, I must not be the only one who has ever experienced such things. The problem is, the advice seems completely sound unless you really analyze your fear. For me, it seemed for years and years that I was ‘doing the right thing’, meaning behaving in a way like everyone else would in similar situations.

Steps towards self-love

I used to love children books, especially the ones that were describing happy families, close knit communities etc. I could get lost in them, imagine myself in a totally different world. Couple of last days I have read some very inspirational stories about people’s childhoods and the love of their mother’s. It is funny, but I think I can finally feel it. I can imagine how it must have felt like and how it could be to be loved and supported at home. Even if I never experienced it. I somehow know.

Maybe it is a sign of development? That I now can imagine what it might feel like to be loved? Maybe because I am starting to love myself? It is funny though, because together with this feeling I have also reached the non blaming mindset concerning my past. It has been a habit of mine to blame myself for all the failed relationships, for all the places I thought I should be, but am not- for everything that has potentially gone wrong in my life. I am naturally very hard on myself.

I am finally starting to realize how in fact, I almost did not have a choice. When I compare my current mentality with the one I had four years ago, I know that I had very little chance to make my previous relationships work. I simply did not believe anyone could love me. I thought that I had to convince everybody to like me and probably even despite my efforts they never would. I felt loveless and unworthy of having supportive relationships.

It is funny, because I am the same person today that I was four years ago (well naturally psychologically I have changed), but the fact is that I can feel so different about myself. I have the same appearance and today I consider myself beautiful, whereas four years ago I could not even look to the mirror without the shame conquering all my being. So in fact, it is possible to love yourself, no matter how you are. I think my example is the prime proof for this.

Even though I feel somewhat sad for all the years that I spent feeling unwated and loathing myself, I can also appreciate way more my growing self-esteem. It feels a little bit like you are learning to walk again after years of being bed-bound due to serious illness. You are not particularly good at this yet, but you can appreciate walking in itself.

The influence of my therapy on the relationship

Something that I really struggle finding is some good articles on how therapy influences relationships. The only good resource I have found is this post- https://faithallen.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/marriage-after-child-abuse-how-much-do-we-owe-our-spouses/ . I am struggling with this issue right now more than ever, because I am protesting against my boyfriend’s treatment of me.

We have been together on and off for five years and four of them I have spent in therapy. My boyfriend has helped me so much along the way and has lent me his supporting shoulder. I am extremely grateful for this. I think he has the kind of depth, understanding and kindness that few people have. Aside these good qualities, there is a certain dynamic which has always dominated the relationship- namely I was the victim, in need of help and advice; and he was the wise councelor, ready to lead me towards the better future. I think over the time we have both grown quite tired of this dynamic for different reasons. He because, well, being always the strong one is not particularly nice and rewarding job and me, well, I will write longer about this in the coming passage.

Being a victim has its own specific drawbacks. Namely, you are willing to put up with all kinds of treatment, just because you feel helpless. You feel as if never ever would you manage without this other person, so better to keep him satisfied. Even though I still feel I need my partner, my dependence has definitely decreased. I have also started developing my own protest and rebellion against my boyfriend, mostly concerning his lack of respect towards me. To be more exact, I find it very difficult to accept how he assumes that all his wishes (which are more often presented as demands) are to be fulfilled no matter how he communicates them. To give an example- I am a messy person and my partner is very clean. In the past he has found it completely justifiable to yell at me to change my habits. Such things as a dirty cup on the table could totally set him off and cause an anger outburst. Furthermore, at the same time he was extremely allergic to me asking him (in a much more polite manner) to change something in his behavior. So our life together was organized in a manner that I was to give in and constantly apologize for making him angry. I did this, because, well, I thought that everybody would be annoyed by my behavior and my partner’s behavior was completely justified- I, in fact, was responsible for his anger. Partially, I also did this, because I was so dependent on his support and approval.

These days I am not putting up with this behavior anymore and this has created a deep crisis in my partner. Add to this the fact that some more people in his life have complained about his anger outbursts and rude behavior, and he seems to be completely devastated that he is perceived in such a manner. It pains me to see, how this kind of feedback instantly makes him think that he is a bad person (whereas I would rather perceive him as an unpolished diamond), but I also feel that it is vital for me to step up every time he is trying to make me responsible for his anger. I find myself in a difficult position, because I have absolutely no idea, how this issue could be addressed without him entering to therapy as well. He, however seems to be quite opposed to the idea and thinks that the main problem is that he has trouble controlling his angry response and not the fact that he is so easily irritated.

This is just one example as to how my changes are challenging status quo in our relationship and it is possible that I will continue posting about the influence of therapy on my relationship.

My mother was a bully

And so are several other people in my life. It makes me extremely sad to say this, but I am now noticing how critical several close people of mine are to others. They put others down, talk behind their back and in general make demeaning comments. Naturally they also make demeaning comments towards people they interact with. It makes me so sad that I have kept myself in company of such people for so long.

I was blind. Perhaps I was a bully myself. Perhaps I too wanted to compensate for my low self-esteem by trash talking about other people. Avoid intimacy by make crude jokes on them. Just to, you know, appear in control. Stop feeling vulnerable and not in any case show this. After all, what goes around us is usually a reflection of us.

There are several reasons why I am so sad. First I am sad, because I have to cut out some more people from my life and this is never an easy task. Second, I am sad, because I have let myself been treated shitty for so many years. I have allowed people to step on me, put me down, make mean jokes all of it. Now that I am waking up to this, I just feel this emptiness- it is as if you are suddenly waking up to truth which just hurts. It hurts thinking how people have treated me. It hurts thinking about how my parents have treated me. In general, I can just in all its wholeness sense the pain that has always been there- the pain of being disregarded and unvalued. Third, this realization hurts because I always assumed that somehow I made my parents and others treat me like this. Like I was at fault. Maybe my father had a reason to never acknowledge me and maybe my mother had a reason to kick me out regularly. Now I am understanding that actually I did nothing wrong. Nothing that a small child does can cause her to be kicked out and disowned. So funnily in the process of freeing myself from excess responsibility I am mourning the image I had of several people in my life. As I notice that their behavior is in fact not my fault, it really hurts me to see that they choose such a behavior. Rather than working on themselves, they choose to treat people badly.

What do you want to get out of communication with other people?

I have recently been thinking about the reasons why people communicate to others. I have to admit hereby that I have always been a needy communicator. What is a needy communicator?- well I would define it as someone who is not actually concerned about other person sitting next to them, but rather on what this other person can give to them.

My deal has always been love and appreciation. I wanted to communicate with people either because- they could give me some information as to how to improve myself in order to be loved by more people; they could make me feel loved with their compliments; they could offer an idea of a relationship. All these purposes can be summed up as seeking for some kind of love.

Needless to say that as a result, closest people in my life are also needy communicators. My partner communicates in order to be admired. His style is to make sharp comments or put other people down, in order to validate his feeling of being respected. My ex best friend seeks the feeling that she is important and needed, by trying to make people dependent on her.

I am not condoning communication for the purposes of fulfilling one’s needs. Obviously each of us has some unmet needs which we get met through other people. Nothing wrong about this. I guess the question is just about the extent. Are your needs dominating most of the communication in such a way that you hardly ever can focus on the needs of your partner? Mine still do. But I am also getting more aware of them.