It is Ok to want to be loved

I think current self-development literature is often counterproductive towards those with low self-esteem and feelings of unlovability. Namely you can read from everywhere how you need to love yourself first, how other people cannot be solutions to your self-esteem issues and how in general you should just work harder on yourself if you feel that way. Let me tell how these sentiments have impacted me.

First, they have made me feel ashamed for wanting to be loved. You feel as if there is something so deeply wrong with you for not feeling it inside you and for seeking other people to love you. Second, they have me be stuck with guys that were either totally unavailable or ultimately did not love me. I just assumed that me feeling unloved in these relationships was my deep personal problem and maybe, actually these guys did love me, I was just too needy. Furthermore, since I was notoriously broken and had this deep ingrained issue of not being able to provide for myself, what other people did, maybe I did not even deserve a loving man?

It is easy to stress on self-sufficiency and the need to love oneself and not be dependent on someone else’s love if you have had a good loving family. It is clear that if you felt support throughout your childhood, you also developed self-compassion, empathy and healthy self-esteem, so you probably do not need to seek for these feelings in other people. However, coming from that position and telling to people that spent their childhood feeling unloved, that they should not look for other people to feel loved is pretty short sighted. It is almost like telling to a five year old kid that they should just love and provide for themselves and be more independent and not rely on their parents. Usually that was how these kids that felt unloved got treated. They got told that their dependency needs as well as ingrained wish for love from their parents was inappropriate or downright bad.

So here is my suggestion as to what people that have felt unloved their whole life need. Instead of telling them to learn to love themselves, I think we should tell them that they in fact did miss out on something big. It is OK for them to feel unloved and look for love, because they in fact were never coddled and loved. There is nothing and absolutely nothing wrong with how they are feeling, because it is rather an accurate representation of reality. Hence, there should be no shame around feeling unloved. It should be acknowledged that there is a strong reason why someone does feel unloved and there is a strong reason for them to look for love outside. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be loved by other people, because most people that judge you for being needy or feeling unloved had the very same desires, the difference is just that those desires were met.

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The gifts of child abuse

I think one of the signs that you are getting to the final phase of your healing is when you actually start noticing that your early life difficulties have brought you some innate gifts. I am not sure I am completely ready to write about the gifts I have gained through my experiences yet, but let that be my first attempt.

I feel that I can actually see the two worlds. It is difficult to explain this to a person that has not experienced it all. I can see the world of depression, self-hate, anxiety attacks and dysfunctionality. I can relate to all kinds of dysfunctional coping mechanisms starting from alcohol abuse and ending with suicidal thoughts. I can also now after years of therapy experience and see the world on the other side. The lighter being (I am still not finished with my therapy), the feeling of self-love etc.

I think there have been two radical changes of experience during the last year. The first one is moving from feeling incomplete and unlovable into actually feeling whole. This deep feeling of emptiness and sadness and wanting someone to love me so that this sadness would go away (only it never did), it is actually gone. The second change of perspective is moving from being terrified of being alone and being certain that I will never cope alone into being OK with spending time alone. Being OK with living alone and enjoying my evenings in solitude.

Most people that have two aforementioned gifts take it for granted and fail to ever understand other people that suffer from abandonment fear and unlovability. That is how you get stupid advices such as – you should just be yourself or have you thought of exercising more or drinking warm tea. The experience itself is soo alien to the ones that have never gone through it. Not often they also judge and look down on people that lead dysfunctional lives. The compassion is missing and even if it is there, there is a lack of understanding as to what one is compassionate about.

So, I feel I have been given a gift of seeing both worlds. This means that maybe once I have gone through my struggles, I can actually help someone else. I can definitely function as a non judgmental guide already now, but I think I still have a way to go. Not only can I understand and help others that struggle, but I also value the feeling of being complete, the feeling of being able to be alone. I have had to fight so hard for it that it feels nothing but sort of amazing. I doubt that average person gives much meaning to it at all.

Finally, I think that with child abuse and therapy comes a different kind of way of viewing your life. I see my life as a lesson. I am not looking for happiness, I am looking for growth. I am not sure if that is better or worse, it is just different. It is the way I have managed to handle therapy all these years, even when it was very difficult. I just kept comparing myself with myself one year ago and felt proud of my development. I still hold this approach. I think if nothing else, it helps me to make sense of other life difficulties as well. I see a lesson everywhere. I analyze a lot. I think ultimately this is going to make me me. This is who I am going to be and this is maybe how I can be useful for others as well, by helping them to make sense of difficulties as well!

Over-estimating the potential interest of opposite sex

I read about an interesting study on men frequently over-estimating the interest of a woman. It turns out that men that had anxious attachment were more often guilty of guessing that the woman was more interested in them than she actually was.

I have been soo often guilty of this. I have even made up relationships solely in my head. I have also convinced myself that the guy I was into was actually not happy with their girlfriend and harbored secret feelings towards me. All it took was really some flirting from guys side. Today I dare to admit this, even though I still feel that it to a degree shows me as desperate or at least as this girl with some fixation on chasing guys who are not really that into her. More importantly however, why do I do that?

I do not have a clear cut answer, so this will be more of a tentative discussion. So I think one of the reasons is me seeking approval. I want to be liked and appreciated. So if someone gives me even a tint of appreciation, I make this important in my head. I start fantasizing. It becomes a challenge to get more of this appreciation.

However, if it was only about appreciation, I would not dismiss guys who show obvious interest in me. But I think it is ultimately about challenge. I need to feel that it is not an easy appreciation. Otherwise, it looses its value. I imagine that guys whose interest is hard won, somehow are more special. If one really needs to work to be liked by them, then this liking is worth more, right? That means that I have more value???

I am sure that half of the time, if I actually did have a possibility to have a relationship with any of these guys, I would bail out. I would realize that I have grossly over-estimated my interest in them, just because I was so unsure about how they felt about me. So I am left to guess that it is all about winning the love of a distant and judgmental caregiver. Trying to gain the attention of someone who never really gives you enough, but might give you some hope at times.

Of course, people that actually really like you, hardly ever behave like that. But see, my caregivers, who stated that they loved me, did. So this is what I from now on equate with love. My mum would probably to a date not want to admit that her love is more of a selfish – what can I get out of you – attitude than any form of unconditional love. SO essentially there was a gap between her words and actions. As she continued to claim that she loved me, I learned to find really small signs meaningful. Meaning for me it is enough if someone flirts with me or says something nice. I mean, this is more than my mum has ever done anyways.

So my guess here is that people who were trained to accept little and who adapted for pleasing their caregivers in order to get even tiniest amount of appreciation, might end up overestimating the interest of the opposite sex. See, they never knew that their parents did not strictly speaking love them and that this is not by all means how most of the population expresses love. So thinking that the guy who sent you a smile and looked at you longer or a guy that added you to facebook must be into you, does not really seem like over interpreting the signs. After all, they were trained to be the detectives in finding the smallest clues in order to prove to themselves that their parents did not lie to them when they told them that they love them.

Dating ‘normal and healthy people’ after childhood abuse

I dare to say that an average person, by my age, has still not endured a lot of trauma and drama in their lives. I feel that some people are slowly getting there, having their marriages falling apart, dear ones dying etc., but…. Why do I care about the extent of trauma someone has gone through? Why would it even matter?

See there is this guy that is interested in me. He is pure and innocent. I can see that he has had a good childhood. One can see this from how a person behaves. There is certain optimism and idealism to him. Decency. All really nice qualities….but…..

I feel dark compared to him. No, I am not a bitter person, but I feel that my childhood and other traumatic experiences have left me with this darkness. This corner of knowing what bad people are capable of. Knowing what bad I am capable of. I have gone through personal hell and back. I have been extremely dysfunctional and fought my way through it all.

It is not that much that I believe he cannot understand. I believe that as an empathic person, even if one has not gone through it all, one could potentially understand. It is more like I am afraid I will make him corrupt. I will somehow spread the disease of darkness and trauma and rob him of his chance for someone who is as light as he is.

I don’t think he will reject me because of what I have gone through, it is not that. It is more that I am afraid that this darkness in me is looking for a way out and I will end up hurting him. Getting bored of him. Looking for some dysfunctionality. Wanting some strong emotions and wanting some messedupness. Wanting someone who can reflect me my messedupness and my past hurt.

So I really do not know. I think dating after dark experiences in life is tricky. Especially when you have spent so much time trying to overcome those and feel you have succeeded. You consider most of your previous pals to be annoyingly dysfunctional, but the new people are just too untainted.

People for whom “NO” means “MAYBE”

Yesterday, because of some events ,I started thinking about borders again. I finally understood why I feel so unsafe around some people. Namely, there are people for whom “NO” means, I just need to convince her some more.

In the worst case scenario people who cannot take “NO” for an answer threaten to leave you or go into silent treatment, trying to ‘show’ you the consequences of you being so rebellious. In the more moderate case they just try to guilt-trip you by making you responsible for their feelings or convince you that you actually want to say yes.

To be honest, I have mostly encountered the border violations in connection to males that are interested in me. I can give you a standard situation.

A guy is asking me out.

I say, no I cannot, I am busy etc. (polite way to say I am not interested but OK, they do not have to read my mind).

They start convincing me that maybe I am not busy at this date and tell me what I am loosing when I do not come out with them. Or…they say how sad they are and how I should want to make them happy…..

I thought I must have some intimacy issues because I feel so uneasy around so many guys. But yesterday I started to understand that NO, actually there is a reason why I feel uneasy. Naturally I might overreact in such situations, because of my previous experiences. I am still wondering what would be the best way in terms of reacting or how to deal with these people in the future. Mind me, some of these guys I need to meet regularly either through work or hobby groups. So my verdict would be that since I am oversensitive, I need to observe person’s behavior a bit longer, to make sure my own fears do not push me to overreact. However, even a situation as small as the previous one seems to me a serious alarm signal. That because imagine the conversation:

I want to have sex.

No, I am not ready yet.

But I want to, you are making me sad now. We have waited for so long.

I still would not feel convenient….

A guy pushing himself on you…..

I am not making up this situation, this actually happened to me. What more, I continued dating the guy after that situation. Needless to say that the pattern that was visible in this encounter continued. I on the other hand could not understand why I felt so scared with him all the time. I had been just so conditioned trying to obey and please in such situations by my mum. At the time, nothing about this situation felt alarming, I was so used to going against my will. I thought I had issues feeling all anxious around this guy and that I should really work on being convenient with intimacy. Namely, I blamed myself. Like I probably blamed myself for my people-pleasing behavior my whole life, not really understanding that it was the reaction to all these violent acts which my mum threatened me with unless I comply.

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.

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….