Has therapy made my life easier?

I am going to try to express here my latest feelings around therapy. So I have been somewhat frustrated lately, because let me tell you the last half a year has really been a challenge. I seem to get to the situations with people that are just conflictual. I seem to finally notice how messed up and insecure life around me is. And well, everything seems….a bit difficult to handle at once right now.

My friend told me about cycling. His point was that the cycling never really gets easier, but instead you become faster and faster. I am starting to think that with therapy and life it is the same way. No, your life will not get easier, magically, after certain amount of therapy. Instead, you start taking on new challenges. But these challenges are as difficult as ever. Unfortunately. Maybe I have still not developed far enough to see the point where life indeed becomes easier.

So what am I currently tackling? Well, I am tackling still my addiction to hot and cold guys. I am tackling my financial issues. I am tackling my habit of drinking wine at least during three evenings a week. I am tackling dealing with insecurities in both my professional and personal life. I am tackling being honest with people. All this at once. And let me tell you – it is not easy. It is actually fucking difficult. I feel like I need tons of therapy to handle everything. And yet, I cannot have tons of therapy so instead, I let myself be overwhelmed and try to forgive myself for not having it all together yet.

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In a relationship with narcissist?

All  – my mother and my two exes show some signs of narcissism. I find that the definition of narcissist as someone who is hiding their true self behind some grandiose false self is quite fitting. It has taken me some time to actually start perceiving these behaviors and narcissistic traits, because I never questioned those.

Lately, with a little bit of distance I am starting to see such behaviors more clearly in my ex. I notice certain manipulative behaviors. For instance, my ex finds it necessary to fill me in, in terms of how many women flirt with him. Hell, he wrote a separate message to tell me. Actually, he was telling me also in the middle of our relationship about some women that flirted with him. This to me seems like a behavior which is catered towards showing ‘how wanted guy he is’.

Another behavior that I have recently noticed is his lack of regard to my feelings. When I actually tried to communicate my feelings in the relationship, my ex repeatedly said that I was overly dramatic and everything circled around my feelings in the relationship and his were never taken into account. Now, I cannot comment on how much I took into account his feelings or not, because obviously I am not an objective judge for that, but what I can say is, if he was really constantly taking into account my feelings over his, then his reactions would not have so often entailed telling me how insignificant those very feelings were. Namely there is a certain discord between him telling me how he never dared to go against my feelings and openly telling me that I was a drama queen. If he really had been so afraid to confront me, he would ha never be able to tell me something like this.

Now another thing, which I have pointed out repeatedly in this blog already was that my ex really did not like when I brought out his negative behaviors or traits. Mostly I thought it was just because he could not accept blame, but now I am coming to see that me pointing to these very weaknesses was actually threatening his false image. I was pointing too much to this vulnerable self that he was trying to cover up. My ex is still pointing out to me that he does not like to analyze himself and he does not like to deal with his feelings. In fact, he hates me doing this as well. I used to think this was some fault of mine – being overly obsessed with these things (ex also openly blamed me for that). Now I see this in a different manner, in fact if you have an open and loving relationship you do open up about these feelings and vulnerabilities. You do not see someone who tries to help you open up as an enemy.

There are multiple other behaviors which I am starting to see, but I will leave these for the next post.

Changing the dependency relationship

I have had one of those epiphanies again where I look back at my longest relationship which lasted for six years and realize how our dynamics were changing along my therapy. Since writing helps me to make sense of everything, I am just going to put it down here.

As I started dating my ex, I was a child. I was carefree, funny and playful, but I was also irresponsible and compliant. My ex was more of a caretaker – wise and comforting, but also at times somewhat dictatorial and inflexible. This dynamic was problematic from the beginning, because my ex did not do responsibility very well, whereas I was never fully compliant. Hence, even in the beginning we had our fights, but the duo worked much better then.

What happened over the years was that I started to slowly become less compliant and develop my independence. I started having my own opinions, instead of first looking at everybody else to find out what I should think and do. I also refused to take the blame for every mishap in the relationship. Suddenly there was very little tradeoff for taking care for me. Even though I have started to develop a bit of rebellion against being submissive, I had not fully developed the ability to be responsible grownup (as also witnessed by the last post). Hence the relationship with me became challenging to say the least.

I feel that I am currently on the last part of becoming fully independent – namely I am trying to take full responsibility for my actions and my life. I am trying to see and show myself as less of a victim and more of a person who accepts responsibility for whatever happens. Instead of going to become depressed or complaining about how life is so unfair, I am trying to figure out the appropriate cause of actions.

My ex, I think, has started his own little development. My changes have not left him completely untouched. He has noticed the problems with his anger outbursts. He is slowly starting to question his opinion on me just being a person with whom no one can have a proper relationship. However, since he started his route later than me, he is now somewhere in this inconvenient middle step, where he is giving up his caring tendencies, but still wants to control and dominate, making a relationship with him difficult to say the least.

If everything works out great, you will have two people in the world who can now express themselves without the bounds of the roles they once took over. I am still struggling with accepting responsibility and my ex is definitely struggling with listening and accepting other people, but I think we are on a good path.

Learning to be independent

I have spent my life being dependent on someone. First I was dependent on my mum and then later I was dependent on my boyfriends. It does not make me proud to admit, because well, who would want to say out loud – hey for the most part I have no idea how to take responsibility for my own life. Actually, I am pretty good at delegating this responsibility and then blaming the cruel fate if this does not work out.

So, yeah. Part of my growing up was unfortunately my mother making me dependent only to have more control and power over me. In the process she also put me down to the degree that I lost all belief in my personal capabilities and thought that I always need someone else to take care of me. Let me tell you, learning to take care of yourself at the other part of your twenties is tiresome. Especially since you feel like you are competing with people who have 15 years more experience.

Somebody would probably say here that life is not a competition, but lets face it. It kind of is. It is a competition when it comes to finding a job. It is a competition when it comes to finding a partner. I would reframe and say, people who merely see life as a competition are unhappy. However we cannot deny that there are certain age related expectations which I still to a day fail. I am slowly learning, but I often sense people’s surprise when I have no clue about something which for them seems obvious. Take for instance home insurance. I really did not have much clue about that. There are thousands of other grownup things which I suck at. It makes me embarrassed especially since nobody is going to come and say this to you, because everybody expects that you already know this stuff. Too bad if you do not…

I am still living together with my ex, because part of me is still scared that I will not manage independently. I know that I will move away, but I am gathering strength and courage. I know living alone will be a good thing for me, but there are just so many things I am worried about in the process. This is another thing which most people can do when they are 22 to 25. But it is a long process and I am taking it step by step.

Feeling unimportant for people

Something that I have potentially struggled for years is feeling like I invest into relationships more than other people. I guess the investment would not even annoy me that much, but what I feel is that I take those relationships far more serious and care more about the people around me than they do about me. Now, I am not really sure if this is just a result of my twisted thinking or if this is anyhow reflection of the reality.

With my ex I would always get super confused about the fact that he could just disappear in his home country and not feel any need to communicate with me. Furthermore, he even told me how he is having such a great time with his friends that, conversations with me would only be a drag. With the ex before that, I ended up moving to another country whereas he could still make up his mind about his feelings for me. I guess it is safe to say that at least in these two relationships I got more attached to these guys than they to me.

This gets me thinking – have I just been investing into people who have not shown equal amount of care and love towards me and who take me more as an option? Have I somehow magically mirrored my feelings to them, assuming that they must feel the same and ignored all the signals which prove the opposite?

I remember how I once had this affection towards a guy, who I now can safely assume never felt anything towards me. Furthermore, he treated me on several occasions rather impolitely. However, I just kept holding on to my idea that he must have some secret feelings towards me.

I think I am slowly starting to understand that I have perhaps overinvested to several of my relationships. However the more important question is why. This is something I need to further explore.

Acceptance towards your mistakes

I am going to describe the recent quite substantial experience I had. Namely, lately I have been walking around with this intense anxiety about being judged. I literally imagined every person at the street looking at me and coming up with all kinds of criticisms. I could not even attend social events because the anxiety got so bad. All I can say is that I guess the therapy really brought out these feelings which had been buried for years.

 
Luckily however, I finally figured out how to release this intense fear. It seems so obvious when I now think of it, but doing it was far from easy. Namely, I understood that there was almost no acceptance and forgiveness in my childhood. All the perceived and actual misgivings and doings were punished harshly. This was how I learned to treat myself as well, never giving any excuses nor understanding towards my issues. I kept mercilessly comparing myself with others and always falling short.

 
I understood that one of the central things I missed when growing up was someone coming and giving me a hug after I had for instance received a bad grade. Not someone telling me that if I do not start excelling at school I might find myself at the street at some point. It was not about denying that I had made mistakes, but rather accepting that I did those mistakes, but still being forgiven.

 
Similarly to my childhood, I myself struggled with forgiveness. I had hard time forgiving to myself for all the things I was not perfect in. I had hard time forgiving myself for the mistakes I did and instead tried to convince myself that those were in fact not mistakes. The point where I was actually able to admit that I have made mistakes, but not scrutinize myself for those, was the moment of release. I could literally feel the anxiety leaving my body and I understood, forgiveness and acceptance are the things I needed for all these years.

Being attracted to inconsistent and (unstable) partners

For years I have been attracted to guys I could never quite figure out. They either sent out conflicting signals or remained unobtainable. I would say that before starting a therapy I was mainly attracted to guys who were never into me, but ever since I started therapy, my attractions have more been towards guys who actually did have some level of interest in me, but they were not quite consistent for various reasons. I think I have finally figured out the reason for this pattern.

See when I was a child, my mother was highly unpredictable. She could be one day in a good mood and be all nice towards me and the other day she could be extremely angry and threaten to kick me out. Such variation is also in fact very characteristic to my ex – Marc. There were days when Marc was the best boyfriend ever, he could give me massages, he would listen to my childhood issues etc. Then there were moment when Marc threatened to leave me or was ranging to the point where I was actually afraid of him. Then there were also period when Marc disappeared as he was visiting his home country.

This all left me very confused. I could never make sense of Marc the same way I could not make sense of my mother. Both had their great moments, so it was unfair to call them evil or what not. In fact during their moments of greatness they were way better human beings than I was. However during their low moments they were also way worse human being than I was.

See the problem with such relationships is that you can never really fully relax. You are constantly alert and unaware of what is coming. When I started dating Marc, I developed a habit, which I never had before with my boyfriends. When he did not call, I would get extremely worried. I thought that maybe it was sign of my neediness and I had just suppressed it with my former boyfriends, but actually it has more to do with me not knowing what was going on. With my consistent partners I could relax even when they did not call, because my first thought was not – oh god maybe they are angry at me, maybe they are going to leave me. However, with Marc I was constantly anxious about having potentially done something that angered him or pushed him to distance himself. It was the exact copy of my childhood environment.

However, it has taken me till now to understand this pattern and fully emphasize with how I have been feeling my whole life. In fact, since this is quite a new discovery, I am sure I will write a bit more about it in the future.

 

 

Rejection fear and social anxiety

I am currently working on something in my therapy which I for a long time refused to admit I have – namely social anxiety. See, my ex Marc pointed this out on regular instances that I have issues with small talk, networking, being social. I did not want to believe this, because before I actually left for my new country of residence, I had plenty of friends and acquaintances. Hell, even today when I can actually force myself to go out, people like me. I am funny and charming. However, every time I need to go out on an event where I do not know people or where I have not met those people for a while, I first need to have huge fights with myself.

So what are these fights about? I am afraid that people will judge me. There is always something which I think is substandard, so I get myself worked out about this perceived misgiving of mine and there we go. When I actually enter the event, all I can think of is how everybody will now be able to see this misgiving and how soon enough they will laugh and I am forced to hide in the toilet. There are just way too many social events from my childhood that ended exactly like this…

On side of this fear is hence me imagining that other people will always find me weird, out of the place; they will find something wrong about me and will relentlessly bully me because of this. The other side is that I am afraid I will have no possibility to leave. I have tried to avoid the events which tie me to the place my whole life. I need to have the idea that I can actually leave.

Interestingly my social anxiety has really skyrocketed during last years. I am not quite sure why that is, there could be numerous reasons, starting with the fact that I have had very few social events during the last years and ending with the fact that my ex has done quite a bit to increase my social anxiety by pointing out all the ways I misbehave. The explanation that I secretly hope could be used is however that this fear is now finally swimming to the surface and I am able to deal with it. It was not like it was not there before, it was just that I was constantly pressing it down. What I am hoping is that with some work I can finally say in half a year or so, feel that I can enter to the random social occasion and just feel good and not have to worry about what other people think of me.

Attachment types and the bumpy road towards secure attachment

If anyone is wondering what I am talking about here, then you can find a better description of these types here (https://jebkinnison.com/bad-boyfriends-the-book/type-anxious-preoccupied/). Anyways, I started my therapy by being fearful-avoidant type. These types often crave intimacy, but find it difficult to accept when offered. This is the most disturbed type out of all the attachment types and is developed as a result of childhood abuse (mostly). There is little written on how one can change their attachment type or how difficult it may be. So I am going to contribute to this obvious lack of literature here.

So throughout my therapy I have peeled off the protective layers in my psyche so that I could finally face my issue without the intense walls. These walls served a good purpose during my childhood and helped me to deal with my life, but nowadays prove to be problematic. At this point I have reached the ‘level’ where I could categorize myself as anxious preoccupied type. The difference is that now I have lost the protective layers, defending me against abuse and just have a high need for intimacy and love. I have somehow managed to resolve the part of my childhood which made me extremely distrusting of others and forced me to carry a mask and have begun to trust others more and more.

Where I however still struggle quite a bit is in trusting myself. Trusting my ability to manage alone. Trusting myself to be attractive enough for others so that they would stick around. I am still anticipating abandonment and I do not trust that others are there for me after I have not communicated with them for a while. I dare to be more of myself around them than ever before, but I still think that they could walk away any moment. Furthermore, I still think that a lot of their behavior is about me and not about them. Someone being a bad mood – surely it is because of something I did and not something to do with some outside hinder. Someone not responding to my facebook message – surely it is because they do not like me.

Theoretically it is interesting how transforming from fearful-avoidant towards secure for me includes first becoming anxious-preoccupied type. I still have some way to go, unlike I thought couple of months ago. In fact there are still some quite big challenges ahead of me, but I believe I am somehow moving to the right direction.

Lack of borders and yearning for unavailable men

I am currently working on discovering why I have always been turned off by available guys. It might sound funny for some, but I am sure there are people that can relate to the feeling of wanting to run if someone comes on too strong. Suddenly you feel the urge to run for the hills to only later complain to your friends how everyone is so unavailable and how your relationships never go anywhere. Exactly….

So here is the thing, probably, relationships that go nowhere feel safe for some people, including me. But why? Well, I am starting to realize that in my case, because I have a need to be in control. I like to be in total command of my surroundings.

This is funny, because I never considered myself a controlling person. To be fair, my wish to control hardly ever includes other people. My wish is to control myself and to not let anyone else control me.

The reasons behind this wish to stay in control are to be found in my childhood. My childhood can be described very well with one of the most recent events concerning my mother. Namely, I was busy having a work call and I warned my mother that I will need about an hour of peace and quiet for that (I am on a vacation visiting her and my homecountry). What happened was that first my mother needed to storm in to water the flowers. I was annoyed and voiced my opinion. However, that did not really stop her. Next she needed to come in to vacuum the floor the very moment I was talking. Finally she needed to interrupt me to ask me something. When I then refused to stop talking to my colleagues and answer to her question, she stormed off angry and slamming the door and now she refuses to communicate with me.

It is clear that my mother is someone who does not accept no for an answer. Furthermore, she cannot stand someone not tending to her needs whenever she feels like it. Finally, your needs, for her, are something to be stepped over without any concern.

It is pretty easy to see how this lack of concern towards my needs and the demand that her needs are to be taken into account every waking moment might motivate me to avoid closeness. Closeness with other people in my mind has equaled to me needing to abandon my needs in order to please the other.

Now this has lead to me longing for romance and love, but still being somewhat hesitant to let anyone close enough so that they could recreate the situation I had to suffer throughout my childhood. Unavailable guys hence seem to be perfect for giving a hint of relationship, but never really coming close enough to seriously scare me.