I have a great fear of doing something wrong. I am literally mortified of making wrong decisions. In my mind there is always one right way to go and god forbid if I do not choose this one.
My fear of decision making or in general disappointing people in my life can be easily explained by the conditional caretaking that I received. Let me explain further. The goal of my life was not to disapprove my mother. As long as I conformed to her desires, I had some little emotional support. However, when my mother was disappointed, she would withdraw her love and support (threats to disown me, silent treatment etc). The knowledge that I was always just a step away from losing all the support made me people pleaser, but it also made me incapable of making my own decisions.
The worst thing that result in such a parenting was constant uncertainty. I could never be sure when I will disappoint my mother again. Furthermore, I could never be sure what the punishment will be. Sometimes my bad grades were just ignored (mother was in a good mood), sometimes they became the reason to kick me out on the street. The worst part about making mistakes was hence not the punishment but not knowing the consequences. Usually when I got a bad mark I was so stressed out the rest of the day that I could hardly focus on anything else. I had to call to my mother immediately once I got home, to just get rid of the feeling of approaching unknown danger.
So today, as well, I am most afraid of not knowing what comes. What if I make the wrong choice, what will it result in? I cannot handle insecurity at all. I am just constantly afraid that something bad is about to happen.
Now at least I can understand better as to why I am so mortally afraid of doing something wrong.
I have been seeing nightmares lately. They are mostly the same – somebody is pushing themselves on me. I am realizing that it has become time to work on my enmeshment issues.
Many people that have had an abusive childhood suffer from both, abandonment fear and enmeshment. The only problem is that abandonment fear is much easier to notice, because well……it somehow makes more sense. It has taken me a while to understand why I cringe when my boyfriend suddenly touches me. Why I enjoy evenings on my own. It is all a consequence of having lived my whole life the way my mother wanted me to.
My childhood was all about meeting my mother’s needs. I did not have needs. Or well, if I did they were not important. In fact I did not have personality either because I was running all my decisions pass my mother. Any kind of act of not complying to her needs was met with either silent treatment, anger or rage. So I learned pretty fast to no take care of myself, but take care of my mother instead.
Unsurprisingly I have done the same in my relationships. I have tried to mold myself to a person my boyfriend wants me to be. Not to anger him. Interestingly, he has been complaining throughout the relationship that I am not in tune with his needs enough. That I am too ignorant of him.
This is probably true and untrue at the same time. I am escaping when his needs are starting to overwhelm me. On the other hand I have spent years trying to be what he wants me to be. So I have had two main strategies to deal with his needs. Unfortunately I have not had the most important strategy – saying no, instituting borders.
This is what I am currently doing and it is met……well, might I say not with the greatest excitement. I am finally becoming more independent and people in my life cannot hold me hostage anymore.
However, part of becoming independent is also working through my fear of anybody coming close. Right now every person who comes close to me is a potential abuser. I suspect that they want to dominate me and that they want to rob me of my own choices. They want to smother my personality and I would dissolve like I dissolved for 25 years with my mother.
My parents planted an idea in me that once you love somebody, this person will have the power to treat you like shit. Loving means being weak and letting yourself take advantage of you. This is why I never liked dogs. Part of me found it disgusting how these animals would run after their master and stay faithful even if the master was the worst asshole ever.
The message in my childhood was clear – if you love someone, they are going to hurt you. SO better not to love someone so fully. You do not want them to have all this power over you, because people…they cannot be trusted.
This message became even clearer in my therapy when I started enforcing borders. In the middle of the process I cut myself loose from my mother. Suddenly this woman who had treated me like a loyal dog my whole life showed me that she has the capacity to take me into account. The magical shift in my mother furthermore strengthened my idea that love is for weak people. I never made the connection that my mother perhaps was not fully capable of loving anyone and perhaps what made a shift in her behavior was not love but fear.
So I learned to keep my distance. Use push and pull to keep men hooked. Flirt and tease. Anything to not to let someone too close. My boyfriend saw me without borders in the beginning of our relationship. The loyal and the dedicated, doormat kind of love. The only one I knew. Long and behold, he also treated me like shit at this point. Once I finally started distancing myself from him, he began working on the relationship. So once again I took the wrong message home – there is no need to love anyone, they are just going to abuse you.
Martha Beck has suggested a strategy for determining what and who is good for you. She calls it shackles on and off. Namely, you should watch your bodies reactions on something that you know is good for you – this is shackles off and then something you know is bad for you – this is your shackles on feeling.
I find this strategy quite appealing, as I have always found decision-making excruciating. As I have gone through the list of people in my life using this strategy, however I have gotten some pretty weird results. Namely, several people, especially those from my old life in my homecountry, made me feel yucky inside. When I started going through this list of people, I discovered that many of them demanded that I take on some kind of role. Several of these people were quick to criticize me and I did not really feel free with them, but rather keen on observing every step of mine.
The people that made me feel good inside, had something in common as well. I felt accepted by them. Yes, they had several flaws and annoying qualities, but I felt that I did not need to hide things from them. Somehow they were willing to see me the way I was and did not need to control the aspects of my personality that they did not like. Surprisingly, some people in the ‘good’ list were people I really looked up to and found in much better place with their life than I was. However, still I felt that these people accepted me and even liked me. This, at least as a first reaction, seems weird because successful and self-confident people are the one’s I have always imagined to look down on me. However, it seems that it is more likely that someone who does not feel good about themselves in fact puts you down, tries to control you and in general finds you flawed.
So from now on, I am going to put this quality to the forefront in my relationships. People should value and accept me the way I am. I should not feel as if I need pursue them or be a certain way in order to be accepted. This might seem like a no-brainer for a lot of people, but for me, I have always assumed that I am inferior. I have always felt that I have to ‘pay’ to people for them to like and want to communicate with me. I am finally moving to the phase where I am starting to decide whether I want to communicate with them.
I am working deeper with my abandonment fear and it has brought up quite a contradiction – namely you can think that someone is not particularly good and still be scared to death of losing them. I still harbor all the negative feelings towards my mother for putting me through emotional abuse and neglect, but I also have to acknowledge that I was constantly scared of losing her.
I was not only scared when she threatened to leave me, but also when she went for her work trips. I was scared when she came home really late. I had lost three other people – my dad, my grandfather and my grandmother. I spent my childhood worrying that I would also lose my mother.
This fear of loss is something which is extremely difficult for me to acknowledge. For the reasons I brought out earlier. How can you potentially miss and yearn for someone who is not treating you nicely? Does this make you a doormat? Are you still a valuable person or should you be ashamed of this feeling?
Surely, it is easy to answer to these questions when we are talking about a child. For a child loosing their parent is always scary. No matter how abusive this parent is. But what if you carry those feelings to adulthood? What if you are constantly scared of losing people who are not treating you particularly nicely?
Being an adult who is afraid of letting go is somewhat shameful. We have all these concepts like codependent or pushover etc. In my case, feeling like I was a pushover for my whole childhood and finally getting angry at my mother for what she had done, made it impossible for me to explore all the fear that was still related to losing her. Somehow I thought that acknowledging this part would make me weak. It would be the most shameful aspect of my growing-up. The part that I still missed and also loved my mother.
Fearful avoidant attachment pattern was the latest addition to the attachment theory and apparently describes only about 4% of people. I can quite confidently say that I have fearful avoidant attachment pattern. As I go deeper into my psyche, I am discovering more and more distortions from my childhood. My boyfriend often functions as a sounding board for that.
So the latest discovery for me was that I never believe that people can be consistently there for me. According to my boyfriend, my mother shows very little motherly instinct. Growing up with her, I got used to the fact that she can totally forget about my existence for weeks. When other parents go away for trips and miss their small children (we are talking about 4-5 year olds), then my mother does not. No, I am not exaggerating, she really does not or well, she has buried these feelings so deep that it does not even occur to her that she might. She avoided building emotional closeness with me so that she could have this freedom of not being tied to anyone else.
Avoiding this emotional closeness also meant that my mother could throw me out to the street and wait for my apology. She could go away from home and sleep somewhere else just to frighten me. So I got used to the fact that she could disappear any moment now. There was no warrantee. She did not have any strong ties with me which could not have been replaced by someone else. I was replacable as a child.
So, my habit of running after emotionally unavailable guys is completely understandable. They do avoid building this bond. These guys can disappear for months and for me this is all part of normality. This is how I imagine love. I never questioned that these unavailable guys must really love me, because questioning that would have also meant that perhaps my mother did not love me.
SO there it is, my idea of love is completely twisted.
I have spent last years feeling that I am not good enough for my boyfriend. Oddly enough this feeling is so ingrained in me that it usually takes a third person to point out fallacies in my thinking. Before I get into why and how exactly I have felt like I am not good enough, let me explain the background of this feeling.
The conflicts in my family were usually solved in one way – me apologizing for being wrong. Actually, come to think of it, I do not remember a single instance where my mother has ever admitted to being wrong. So it got ingrained in me – I was fallible. So fallible that in fact, I should first and foremost always look for mistakes in myself. Furthermore, I should not have any expectations on how other people should behave with me, but rather I should take care of fulfilling their expectations. This is the pattern I have continued in my relationships. I have been mighty concerned about satisfying my boyfriend’s expectations.
Few days ago a friend asked me introduced me to a mind blowing perspective – in all situations your partner should take into account who you are. It is not fair for him to expect that you become a social butterfly when you are not. This somehow challenged something deep in me. I have spent so much time thinking how I am behaving in imperfect ways that I have totally neglected that my partner in fact has very little consideration and respect towards who I am. If I do not behave according to his expectations in certain situations, I am made to take a blame for my ‘inappropriate behavior’. These situations hardly ever take into account who I am and his interpretation of these is always that I am in fact wrong.
I have yet no idea what to do with this information, but I shall continue my reframing process.