Intellectual friendships and avoiding intimacy

Today I understood something. I have quite a few intellectual friends. You know, people with whom you can discuss the matters of the world. You can analyze. It is exciting and interesting….. Sometimes I feel I am mentally exhausted however. I feel I would just want to be with someone who does not ask me to intellectualize things. Someone for whom I would not have to constantly be interesting and exciting….

So I was thinking about it and about myself and reached to the conclusion that I have used this same intellectualization in order to protect myself. It is much safer to talk about some random intellectual topics where you do not really have to give much of yourself. I mean, you can even talk about relationships in an intellectual manner. The topic is absolutely irrelevant, the point is that you are scared of revealing too much of the real you, because then people might either reject you, or in my case even worse, hurt you.

I never really understood before how these friendships were there to protect me from really opening myself up and becoming vulnerable. I still have a lot of fear around exposing myself to any kind of harm, because of familial relationships and years and years of bullying. Because of this very intellectual quality of my relationships I have a lot of male friends. I guess males feel safe around me, because I am not trying to invade to their safe zone and force intimacy on them. I allow them to be intellectual if they want and do not necessarily push them to something else.

I think intellectual friendships are fine and necessary. This is not the question. The question is, can you also do something else than intellectual friendships. When people ask you personal questions, do you freeze or become uncomfortable? I know I do. I know I also become uncomfortable when people seem too excited or interested in me. All of this is just pushing on my walls which are there as a result of so many negative experiences from the past.

So I guess I will continue to work on myself and try to overcome the intellectualization and actually be open to other types of friendships as well.

Advertisements

Childhood abuse and social class

So, sometimes I wonder how come, despite having had really really bad childhood, I have somehow managed to stay borderline functional throughout my life. My theory is that class background influences both how people deal with the dysfunctions as well as how deep we will fall as a result of our traumas.

So, I am from middle class background, but because I grew up relatively poor, saw a lot of other kids around me that came from working class. The way I dealt with my loneliness, anxiety and all the other issues was through escaping to schoolwork. I was seeking love and approval through becoming hardworking. I sought to escape bullying by working myself up to go to an elite school where most people were somewhat socially awkward. Achievements, childhood fiction books and imaginary world were my way to handle the big problems around me. On the grand scale of things, these are all societally less destructive ways than for instance drugs and alcohol. So while I was dying in the inside, I still managed to give an impression of a functional person and I managed not to fall down down….

How is this related to social class? Well, my coping mechanisms are partially copied from my mum who used food and workoholism and shopping to relieve her pain. Her workoholism granted her career success and later also allowed us a decent standard of living. The presence of money also made shopping available as a managing mechanism. None of the adults around me had any problems with alcohol nor drugs. I in fact got to try alcohol when I was I think six or seven at the party with my mum. Alcohol never played much of the role in my life until later days of college. And I mean, I have still to witness anyone using any hard drugs in my presence.

The fact that my mother was educated also made books readily available. I could use books to escape my dire reality and dream myself to sleep. Furthermore, education was not only encouraged but practically forced upon me. I was punished for bad grades on a regular basis. However, that made me use achievements and schoolwork as a gratification mechanism.

Overall my claim here is that your class origin influences what kind of coping strategies you use upon abuse. Mine, whereas still dysfunctional, were less dangerous for me as an individual than many others which I could have chosen. I do not only mean drugs and alcohol, I mean also for instance seeking closeness through sex and promiscuity, falling into abusive relationships whatnot. We copy the behaviors of adults around us and since all these things were relatively uncommon in my

From dependent to independent

For most of my life I have been looking for someone that would take care of me. I never trusted myself to take care of my needs nor wellbeing. In my mind I was helpless and in need of some grownup who would take responsibility for my life. I did not really feel I could myself.

If someone was to ask me today if I feel like I can take full responsibility for my life, I would still say no. I avoid taking responsibility at work where I am just too damn scared of messing things up. It is a constant struggle for me to act like a financially responsible adult. In fact this feeling of helplessness and the search for someone who would be able to act as a supervisor shows in all areas of my life. It still does.

This is my big struggle. As I have not yet fully delved into this issue in my therapy, I can only guess why I struggle so much in this area. I think it is because of my mother’s unwillingness to provide me any guidance. Her attempts to curtail my independence just to make me dependent enough so that I would not start complaining over the inappropriate amount of care I received. You know similar to my relationships with commitment phobic men….But I still need to do my work in regards to healing my wounds in this area.

It pains me to look at people around me who obviously never had this struggle. Their lives at this point seem like the lives which are appropriate for their age whereas mine seems to be a standing evidence of my inability to take responsibility. What more, they are living testament of who I would want to become. I want to at some day wake up and say, yes, I trust myself, yes, I have my life in order. Unfortunately this day does not seem to be approaching in at least one years’ time, maybe even longer.

But in the meanwhile I am making baby steps. Like breaking up and living alone for the first time in my life. or making independent decisions. Or starting to calculate my finances. I just often find myself wishing that there was a coach next to me to give me feedback on my development. To give me credit for my successes…. Because lets face it, if I compare my small successes with other people around me and my level of development with them, it seems there is nothing to celebrate.

I guess I just wish that I had a parent that would support and encourage my independence.

It is OK to feel like a loser

A magical transformation happened when I finally accepted and understood why I might feel like a huge disappointment and failure in my life. But lets start with explaining why I spent years feeling like a failure.

Everything can really be described in one word – my mum. Nothing was ever good enough. It took me years to understand how I was constantly feeling like I was a huge walking disappointment. More so, part of me strongly agreed with my mum. I agreed with her, admitting that I was not a talented child. I was not a beautiful child. I was pretty much average or below that throughout my childhood. Since I did not have any redeeming qualities or achievements, there was really no way to gain my mu approval. Not that I would not have tried. However, even though I probably was just an average child, not really remarkable in any way, my mum’s criticism made me feel like I was the worst failure ever. There are certain parents that just have hard time accepting that their children are not the bestest the brightest the smartest and whatnot. It feels like a personal letdown for these parents. They direct their hurt and disappointed feelings towards the kid, because the kid was there to redeem them. To make them feel adequate.

So obviously I failed, because I was nowhere close to remarkable. My mother’s criticism was probably not even very wrong, but the problem is – you do not get kids in order to feel better about yourself. You get kids when you are ready to share your unconditional love. But enough about that…

Anyways, I have fought with this feelings of being inadequate my whole life. I resented myself for feeling that way. I read self development books which sad that everything would be just fine if I only loved myself and I resented myself some more. Actually this is one of the most unhelpful suggestions I have ever heard – you should just love yourself. It is like telling to an unemployed person – have you ever tried…you know…getting a job or something.

But when I stopped fighting this feeling and accepted that I might indeed feel like a failure and that it is completely OK to feel like a failure, this was when magic happened. I suddenly felt more accepted than I have felt over the years. The heavy burden of always needing to prove myself and somehow become better than I am was somewhat lifted. I accepted that I could be a failure. I could have been a failure throughout my childhood, I could still be a failure, but I was OK being a failure. I had nothing to prove anymore. I could just relax into feeling like a failure……

Interestingly enough it was at this very moment I stopped feeling like a failure. Instead I felt this excitement about the future. This knowledge that I will not have to continue screening thousands of beauty products to try to make me look more beautiful or chase unavailable men to try to make me feel better. I can just sit here and accept failing….

Believing that we deserved to be treated badly by our parents

Every therapy starts with the therapist trying to explain to the patient that there is an alternative way of being fostered. That there actually was something wrong with how we were treated. Every therapy ends with the patient finally understanding it on an emotional level…..

It is easy to read books and rationally understand that our parents messed up. I mean, on a rational level we understand that probably our parents beating us were not really right or kicking us out or what not. But I think on an emotional level almost every therapy patient believes we actually deserved to be treated that way.

Take me for instance. As someone who internalized guilt, I have been in the habit of excusing other people’s behavior. When my ex was verbally aggressive, it was because he had his issues. He had his ADHD, his shame whatnot and I was too needy, I should have not been that way. When a guy that I recently had a developing courtship disappeared suddenly, I understood him, because well, he was feeling like a failure in his life and he needed to gain confidence in order to be available for the relationship and I pushed him too hard. Finally, I understood my mother’s violent outbursts, I mean she was working so hard and I was not cleaning up at home, I was lazy, I was not talented enough. She had her own reasons.

I never allowed myself to be sad. I never allowed myself to blame them openly for how they treated me. I never held them accountable. Instead, I directed the blame back to myself, relentlessly searching for all the things I did wrong. The thing is, you can always find things you did wrong. The problem is when you start thinking that because you did things wrong you deserved to be treated that way.

We all make mistakes, but the victims of childhood abuse are punished for their mistakes and for things that were not even their mistakes in a gruesome manner. Over the years they start believing that this is actually what they deserve. The cycle goes on as we expect the same kind of behavior from our partners. Furthermore, we do not even allow ourselves to feel pain for our partners treating us badly, because in the end we brought this bad treatment upon ourselves, did we not?

Well, I am slowly trying to change the court. I am trying to actually start holding others accountable for at least half of the standards I have held myself accountable for over the years. I am trying to not assume that when other people treat me badly it is because I deserve this. Well, I am speaking in present, but actually it is a future plan….

Controlling through depriving

For the past weeks I have been working with my trust issues regarding other people. Namely, I had the type of controlling mother that used ‘the take away’ tactic a lot, meaning she just threatened to take away her support, my home whatever that there was to take away when I did not do as she pleased.

I can use a good recent example of this as I am currently visiting. So my mum wanted me to clean the attic which for her is a bit more uncomfortable for various reasons. However she asked me five days before me leaving. Since she still needs to be next to me and supervise, I did my best to find a common time. I then quickly realized that my mum had four days of my staying already reserved and in fact there was only one particular day she could have done the cleaning. When I told her that no can do, I have plans for this day already, she threw a hissy fit and then promised to cancel one trip which we have planned together for the summer.

Each time she does these things I am thinking whether I should stop the contact altogether. I have mixed feelings in relation to that, partially because stopping all contact seems quite extreme and I think I would miss the occasional keeping in touch, on the other hand also because she being in my home country and offering me a place to stay comes in handy. But I understand that she has always been manipulating me with taking away these very benefits like the accommodation, but also her presence and connection. It somehow feels a bit like keeping in touch with her makes me weak and vulnerable and still susceptible to such threats.

It is exactly the same pattern which existed with my ex as well. My ex would give me his support until he thought I had done something that displeased him and then resorted to threats – threats of leaving me, verbal assaults, silent treatment etc. I was constantly being punished for disobeying.

There is a lot to discuss on this matter still and I am in the process of ruminating over the matter.

Why I am uncomfortable with dating – inability to say no

So, for the past days, I have been mulling over my potential issues related to online dating and the guys going into chasing mode. I think I am starting to finally understand what my problem is.

I do not know how to say no. In my childhood saying no was not really something that was acceptable. Me defending my interests or borders was interpreted as aggressive and rebellious and this was to be pushed down the minute it was seen. By the age of seven I had become so docile that when visiting someone I was afraid to ask where the toilet was. I was afraid to say when I had some pain or when I did not want to eat what was offered. Basically, I was afraid of creating any kinds of waves or attracting any kind of attention to myself.

This inability to say no lead me becoming a victim of child molesters. These guys know their game, they know whom to choose as a victim. Even though I was never sexually abused as a child (at least I think I was not), I became a head target for 50 year old guys, simply because they sensed my inability to say no. So all kinds of things happened from these guys touching my knees to dry humping. Luckily since I was never alone with these guys and never agreed to go anywhere with them, the worst never happened. However, I need to thank god that I was not particularly popular among teenage guys, because I swear to god, I would have just plainly done everything they told me to do.

So when I talk to guys in the internet, I suddenly become this little child again. I cannot tell them when they have crossed the borders. I am too scared to make any waves. I am too scared to make myself heard. So I am afraid that as I go on a date with someone, this pattern will just be exaggerated and I will just plainly agree doing whatever these guys want me to do. This has happened plenty in my relationships, why would that be any different on dates?

So I need to somehow take care of my vulnerabilities before I can go any further with my dating.

Tired of therapy

I am going to express feelings which I assume do not only characterize my own position, but that of many people who have undergone therapy. So let me say this straight – therapy is a lot of ungratifying work for which you pay a lot. Essentially there is nothing enjoyable or gratifying about therapy. You are going to experience bunch of emotions which you have tried to avoid so far and you are going to feel bad with slight variations of less bad. Depending on how deep your trauma is, this feeling of badness may prevail for years as it has in my case.

The whole problem with therapy is that there is little instant gratification. Gratification comes with seeing yourself slowly getting better and better. However, this process is sometimes painfully slow. Furthermore, as therapy costs a lot, you are less likely to be able to afford other kinds of gratifications such as vacation trips, extensive shopping etc.

I have cut down my entertainment costs for years. I have not been able to save any money for buying an apartment either. Sometimes I question my choices, but then I remember exactly how messed up I was when I started therapy. That however does not mean that there are not times when I think – oh god, other people seem to go and enjoy their lives and I am just stuck in therapy.

If you go for psychotherapy as is the case with me, you are going to be rather dysfunctional for a long time. In my case this period could have been about four years. You are basically picking yourself to pieces and then trying to reassemble yourself. Questions which are in the center of other people’s lives such as – having kids, taking a mortgage whatever, do not really belong to your every day.

Currently I feel exhausted. I feel like I have worked really hard for a lot of years and there is still some work to do. I assume it is like with a marathon, these last miles….You have gone through all this distance and you know you cannot give up, because otherwise the result will be – you did not finish. It kind of does not matter if you stopped in the first mile or thirtieth mile. So you have no choice but to continue unless you want your years of work to be for nothing. However, sometimes I just wish I could crawl into some nice warm soft place and not have to work so hard with my emotions anymore.

I know the results are probably worth it, but still that does not take away the feeling of wanting to have some gratification now and not in the future.

But if I work hard enough everything will be OK……

Today I want to talk about some illogical connections which my childhood has created in my head. There is really not a better word I can currently find for that as I am still exploring the issue myself.

So the thing is, my childhood was about somehow finding out a way how to control my mother’s reactions to me. The whole childhood I entertained the idea that if I only tried hard enough, I would find a way to control these reactions and her dysfunctional emotions. So that was one and most primary purpose behind why I did things and also largely defined where I chose to put my efforts to. Mostly my efforts went to studying well and well, not making myself too visible. Just being low key and not driving any attention to myself. Of course I also suffered on constant anxiety – a feeling I could never really make sense of when I was a child. Anyways, I invested to something which my mother held dear – namely schoolwork. The rest, well….obviously was not of much importance or well did not give any significant effect as to whether my mother would be happy or not.

The problem here is that somehow such a focus came to define my life. During the university I focused on my school work. As other people explored social life and other things, I hanged along to a degree, but in my mind this was not important. I had internalized the idea that as long as I do well in school, everything will be fine. Labor market was scary for me, because school provided the safe haven. The only place where I knew how things function.

Such exaggerated focus to schoolwork during my growing up years and treating the success in school as some kind of key to success to all other areas of life has had a termendous effect on how I live my life. I have continuously ignored other areas thinking that if only work hard enough, somehow other areas would fall into place. Somehow I would feel more safe and somehow I would not experience problems in my finances etc. It is kind of magical thinking really – and the kind of thinking which does not help one in life. I have focused so much on my work because that was the only thing where I felt I could excercize some kind of control. School – the only thing that allowed me to somewhat control my mother’s reactions and feel like I am less dependent on her moods.

That is not how life works though…..

recreating my early feelings of instability and unsafety

I am doing a lot of rethinking about my life these days, hence so many posts.

I have been anxious lately. Perhaps it is about my ex moving out soon. Perhaps it is my work stress. Perhaps it is my financial struggles. Perhaps it is some of my addictions. Perhaps it is my love interest blocking me. However, as I zoomed in to the anxiety, something really different started to uncover.

Namely, I am used to living my life, being controlled by someone unstable. Being dependent on someone who was not really dependable. I am used to feeling at least some level of anxiety all the time. I mean I had to constantly watch my steps. I developed a certain self-regulation mechanism where even when my mother was not a round, I was mortally afraid of her judgement. I still am. Only these days I rationalize it as me objectively screwing up.

So what do I do? I recreate this early childhood feeling of being dependent on someone non reliable. I choose either guys who constantly judge me. Or guys who are unreliable and unpredictable. Or maybe both in one person. Anything to recreate this early feeling of not being safe in the world. Hell, I even chose an unstable career which is based on me constantly getting scrutinized. Little did I know about how many of my choice in this life were defined by this constant feeling of insecurity and constant feeling of being unsafe.

Obviously it is not really something you fix with one day, but I think me understanding this already takes me closer to perhaps solving it. Perhaps being able to create a more secure life for myself. I feel that so far I have sabotaged all the kind of security there potentially was in my life. I feel that me realizing that I have been sabotaging it is a breakthrough. I am looking forward to being able to create a more secure future for myself.