The things within ourselves we want to avoid

I think to a degree we all have certain emotions and situations we want to avoid in this life. You know the issues we really do not want to look into the eye. Instead, we do everything to either distract ourselves, forget about these issues or plain creating our life in a way that we never need to face those.

I still after years of therapy have things which really make me uncomfortable. I get extremely uncomfortable in new situations where I need to deliver. I am afraid that I will not manage and my first thought is to imagine myself as helpless. My second thought hence is to find someone stronger that I can rely on or who will take care of the issue on my place. This is a clutch and oh so automatic one. I can also instead just try avoiding the issue through either drinking, dreaming of the next great guy that is going to love me or just plain not looking at the issues in my life that need to be dealt with.

This spring has to a degree been about me looking at the issues in my life which I so strongly tried to avoid for the most part. I blamed my ex for my life not moving forward, but I never really wanted to see that I refused to actually see myself as someone who can actually do something about my own life. I am slowly getting there, but damn the idea is still making me uncomfortable, especially as I see how badly I have handled things so far. So in addition to feeling helpless, I now also feel guilt and shame to a degree. I put myself down for having behaved this way my whole life.

It is easy to fall back on old patterns and this is something I am still fighting. I know I need to start seeing myself as my own person, capable of taking care for myself. I need to start tending my own needs and put my life together in a new way which includes finding my own inner strength. Seeing where I have been wrong so far and addressing it has been one of the most powerful personal development steps I will ever take. But the truth is also at the same time very uncomfortable. I cannot avoid seeing it anymore, because I have already recognized it on a deeper level. But I still struggle both addressing the issue as well as just acknowledging it and forgiving to myself. Sometimes in the middle of this painful process all one just wants to do is to fall back on things which make us feel good. As the pain is increasing it does not seem like we deserve to feel this pain…so we want to escape.

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Handling my emotions and emotional regulation

I have become to understand that I suck at dealing with my emotions. Somehow I have lived my whole life so far without ever fully acknowledging the fact that emotional regulation is something which I never learned. It really is a skill.

Instead my emotions are some odd variety of strong but not deep. As in I have dealt with quite strong emotions my whole life, but they have been exaggerated on a more superficial level. It sounds weird as I am trying to explain it, really…but lets explore further.

I have always had various crutches which I used in order to handle my emotions….Like buying stuff….like dramatic expressions of catastrophe to my friends…..or simply getting drunk. But you know I feel like even as I was expressing my emotions to my friends, I never really expressed the real, deep, underlying emotions…it was always some sort of an upper layer.

I think there are two reasons for that. First, I probably mostly did not even know what I was feeling. It is difficult to communicate if you have no idea what you feel and why and if you have tried to avoid your feelings your whole life. The second reason, I think, is because for a long time I avoided putting myself into situations where I would feel too much. Like I would avoid the real intimate connections because losing them would hurt too much. I subconsciously knew I would not be able to handle the pain. I don’t think I was wrong there.

So I am opening myself up to the dangers of real world and noticing how terrible I am in dealing with my own emotions. Furthermore, noticing it just makes me freak out more as I am now intimately aware of not having full control over my emotions and not being able to deal with them in healthy ways. So yeah the whole emotional self-regulation seems to be a new topic for me and I am guessing that if you have used bad strategies (eating, drinking whatever) your whole life, it really takes time and effort getting it right.

To worry about other people’s feeling or not?

Recent events have made me realize how much time I spend on worrying about how other people feel. I obsess about my communications with them, try to smooth things over if I think I have accidentally hurt them and sometimes down right give free chances to manipulators through my over management.

I have also come to realize that most people are not like me. I somehow rarely questioned my obsession about other people and their emotions because it seemed so natural. Now I worry about other people and how my behaviour influences them to an unhealthy degree. However, I have also come to realize that I very much prefer that to the opposite – Not giving a fuck about how other people might be impacted by your behaviour.

How did I come to this conclusion? I have been hanging out with another guy, exactly hanging out because there is no relationship on the horizon at this point. He is one of these go getters, as in he is successful, he usually achieves his goals and yes, he is spoilt in this respect. I mean how many women run for such guys – successful, handsome, powerful….but in the process I discovered something. He is successful because his first thought is not, oh god how will my behaviours influence other people. No, his first thought is, how can I get what I want. He is not strictly speaking ruthless in getting what he wants, but he is not caring either.

It might seem like a natural combination relationship wise – someone who cares too much about other people’s feelings and someone who cares too little. But it made me realize something, I would rather be with someone who cares about my feelings as well. It is exhausting explaining the concept of needing to take into account other people to someone who frankly speaking is not really used to doing it. It is also shocking for me as I never realized my own behaviour with such clarity because I thought it was so natural upon doing something to automatically think, how will my action influence X or Y.

There is a simple example here. He once needed to visit a sports store after our sporting practice which he had scheduled close to his house. I was exhausted and I had had a difficult week. Yet he invited me along and then spent fifteen minutes choosing only to find out that they did not have what he wanted. Faced with this situation he then suggested that we go to another store at the other end of the town, at least promising to drive me home afterwards. And then I compared how I would have reacted….First, I would have never scheduled sports to some place which is close to my home but at the other side of the town for the other one. I definitely would have not dragged them to the store with me knowing they were tired and had a one hour ride with public transport to home. Finally, I would have not spent 15 minutes at the store…And you know what, it all seemed pretty basic to me….But none of these things ever occurred to him, because he is simply not used to thinking about other people….

I guess this was the moment when I realized that yeah, I need to work on my obsessive worries about how my actions influence other people. But……but it is apparently also a talent. It is a skill to be able to consider other people and the impact of your actions on them….

Helplessness and codependency

I am currently starting to question myself as a person in different kind of relationships. Few days ago I complained to a friend of mine that I feel I am not bringing much to my relationships and that I am mostly taking. One would say – a typical codependent relationship where I am someone who is being taken care of. And yes, I have been in this place several times before. However, at this point I was still under the impression or was trying to somehow please these other people as well. Now, when the masks have fallen I just feel plain selfish. Other people keep telling me that I am not, but I really cannot shake the feeling that somehow they don’t even comprehend the extent to which I am.

My ex, with his many flaws, I think got this evaluation right on me. He complained that he was giving me much more than I returned. I think I need to agree with him, however the reasons behind it are probably more complicated than just me being selfish.

I am realizing that I don’t think I have much valuable to give to people. I have grown so used to seeing myself as helpless and somehow non functional that I really see myself as this tornado causing harm to other people. Yes, I have several good qualities and I am a quite tornado, I am not a needy, demanding, drama causing tornado, but I feel I am the kind of, I am too helpless to take care of myself tornado. Seeing yourself from this perspective is not the most flattering thing.

I think in the end, why I feel that way and why I have adapted such behaviors throughout my life is because my mum felt so afraid that she will be abandoned unless she makes it clear that I am absolutely helpless without her. That involved different strategies. It involved doing some simple things for me and questioning my abilities to do that, like ordering taxi when I would go to the airport. But it also involved telling me that without her help I would have never learned things, for instance take her statement that I would have never learned how to read, had it not been for her. She painted this image of me as completely talentless and helpless struggling person who was in desperate need for someone to be there for her. And then she used this to manipulate me, by counting all the favors she had done for me when she needed me to do something. She threatened to abandon me, knowing fully well that because of the dependency she had created, these threats would be much more effective. Mind me, I doubt that it was fully conscious strategy, but stil….

So to this day I am someone who is used to seeing myself as helpless and prone to mess things up. I have built my life around this idea, being afraid to immerse myself fully in a grownup life and looking for partners that would be willing to take care of me. To be honest I am not sure if this belief is even fully reversable, because it seems to be the bottom layer of my whole personality. See dysfunctions can be the building grounds for most of your personality. In my case, I have developed my social skills, my empathy, my charm, my humor and my cuteness to compensate for this helplessness and to find such caretakers. I have no idea how far I can go with changing my belief in terms of helplessness and how it might affect the rest of my personality.

 

How self hate can be good…

It has been a while since my last post and I have mainly been busy with both work as well as with therapy. So today I thought I will write a bit about something which I am currently working on. Namely anger towards oneself.

Self hatered actually makes a lot of sense and is a perfect protection mechanism. If you were a child that was unfairly punished and had to deal with a lot of parental behavior which did not make sense to you (because it was never about you), then learning to hate oneself was probably the only way to gain some control under such circumstances. See, admitting that your parent is unfair and is unleashing their own issues on you would have made you very vulnerable. Suddenly you would be admitting that you are living together with an irresponsible sadist (at the extreme). It is much easier to believe that there is indeed something wrong with you and you have somehow caused your parents anger. I mean then you have at least some hope for change….

There is however a drawback. It is not like hating oneself is easy or nice….It will probably make you relentlessly trying to change yourself. I mean, I have invested my whole life into self development, pushing myself to mainly be someone else. The problem was that whatever change I did achieve, it never really made me feel better about myself. Quite the opoosite. Each change was just a testament to how this feeling of self hatred never left. But, heyyy, at least I felt like I was in control. But with what price…

So now I am starting to accept the fact that I was never in control and this has created some serious anxiety. Admitting that the punishments you received were random and somewhat sadistic must have been one of the most difficult things I have done in this life. In a way, my self hatred protected me till now from this absolute feeling of lacking control.

The bottom line is that I assume that like for me, for a lot of other people, self hatred was very functional under the circumstances they grew up in…

Manipulative people

Lately I feel stressed. I feel stressed because I honestly do not trust people anymore. No, I do not mistrust everyone, but just it has occurred to me how much people are using either subconscious or conscious manipulation with others.

So what is manipulation overall? I would say manipulation is a strategy used for gaining power which is covertly aggressive. This means, certain people attempt to gain either control or footage over you, but they usually do not do this in an obvious manner, rather their strategies are more polished.

So what counts as a manipulation? Well, I can give two examples from my recent past. I have an acquaintance with whom I regularly felt uncomfortable. Recently he pushed me for more information about myself than I was willing to give. Upon my refusal  he told me that if I want to keep our acquaintanship on a superficial level there is no point and I will be wasting both of our times. He furthermore told me that I was like everyone else, just giving snippets of information and that I should choose if I want to talk about something or not. If I choose not to, then I should not even mention this.

So what happened there? I stated a border and instead of accepting that I was not willing to disclose certain information about myself, he first tried to threaten me with abandonment – there is no point in our friendship if I am not honest and vulnerable. When this did not work, he tried to guilt trip me by telling me how I should have not even disclosed any information at all.

Then I have a colleague who I suspect is manipulating everyone as well. One of the more obvious examples I can tell was when she sensed I did not like her and then quickly asked me to help her with something, telling me how much she values my contribution. Why do I think it was a manipulation?

Well, because I do not possess any kind of power to help her and she knows that and therefore she has never really attempted to be in good terms with me. However, she potentially sensed that it is not good to make an enemy or exclude someone in an obvious manner, so she tried to smooth things over with me by trying to push on my vanity and my ego. Unfortunately for her, I do not have much of a vanity.

These are only two people, but to be honest, I really do not like what I am seeing. It makes me feel uncomfortable. At times I suspect that I am too suspicious, whereas other times I think others might not be perceptive enough to see through those people. As someone who has a lot of experience with manipulative people I possess both the weakness of being overly reactive on them and suspicious, but also a potential strength of recognizing their manipulation strategies.

The balance between getting respect and being vulnerable

Recently it has started to occur to me that being vulnerable and respected, at least in my head, have become opposites. They probably should not be opposites, but for me, for many years they really have. So let me tell you a story….

I once was a total people pleaser. I would worry about having insulted some random people. I would spend a lot of my time thinking about how my communications with some people go. I would try my best to make sure everyone was happy. I did this because I wanted people to love and like me. I also consequently carried my heart on my sleeve, being hurt easily and looking for someone to support me. I guess I was overly vulnerable.

You know what happens to people that are people-pleasers. That’s right. People do not respect them. People get the idea that they can get away with everything in your surroundings. So while I had many friends and acquaintances, at some point came the moment of truth and it was that while I had this big circle, I was always really on the outskirts of this circle. You know like this person that everyone keeps around because they are non offensive and fun, but that people also do not have much to say about. Perhaps?? I am now guessing.

So with my therapy, I changed. I stopped with the constant people pleasing. I stopped with the constant worry and constant strive to look for others to like me. I got others to respect me and I think today, people around me generally treat me properly. If they do not, one can be sure I will do something about it. But……somewhere my ability to be vulnerable and to be open has gotten lost.

One could hypnotize that I was never really vulnerable, because people really try to please others when they think they are not enough. So people that please others never really show their real self either. To some degree I think it is true. However, I think there was also a great deal of child like vulnerability in me, together with this people pleasing.

So in a way now I am on the other extreme. I know how to command respect, but I do not trust people anymore to open up to them. I have seen on so many occasions how my weaknesses have been used against me. I have especially seen female competition and to my dismay discovered that some of my close friends secretly took enjoyment out of my failures. I have become awfully skeptical about goodness in people.

So this is where I struggle. I struggle opening up to people. I struggle letting them in. I struggle with being this trusting and naïve child again. Especially because I really do not want to go back to how I was, but my current self seems to be the highway to loneliness. So I guess I can see my next challenge.

Is commitment fear a real thing?

Commitment fear or intimacy issues or however you want to call this is something with which I have a long experience with. I have been in both the receiving end of it and the perpetrator myself. For someone who has never experienced it, it might seem weird that someone would actually escape from love and connection. Since I have the advantage of knowing how the inside of commitment avoidant works, I feel I can perhaps shed some light into it.

Commitment fear usually works like this – people cannot sustain a long period of intimacy with someone. They might be able to enjoy closeness for a short while, but the thought of being intimate with someone over a longer period of time makes them panic. This panic inside is very real, it is a mix of entrapment and abandonment.

The way it worked for me was that I assumed that in order for someone to stick around, I needed to behave exactly the way they wanted. The whole relationship hence became about their wishes and pleasing them. I hardly asked questions on if they are fulfilling my needs. Naturally such focusing on the other person was carried by my deep seated abandonment. I was so afraid that if I do not try to constantly please them, they will walk away.

However, let me tell you, such kind of pleasing and focusing on other people is exhausting. Especially since you are not only dealing with pleasing, you are also trying to control your fear of them walking away. So you need to escape at times, because you get too exhausted. The longer you are together with someone, the more exhausted you get. The more you feel entrapped and the more you need to escape. Your periods of escape become longer and longer. Eventually you zoom out of relationship almost entirely, because you cannot handle the pressure anymore.

This was pretty much how it worked with me. After every relationship I felt defeated and I knew something was wrong with me. There was no grand celebration of having seduced someone and then checked out of relationship, rather there was a strong feeling that there was something wrong with me. Naturally I never demonstrated this feeling to my former partners. I never explicitly apologized. So when it comes to them, they might go around with the idea of me somehow considering this my win.

So, I have this personal experience of being commitment phobic. This experience also makes me say – never get involved with a commitment phobic. Seriously. The more you try to help them, the more exposed they will feel and the more they will try to escape. The whole premise behind their people pleasing is the belief that the way they are is unacceptable. So instead they need to put up a false self which is usually tailored for you. It is easy to fall for this false self. I have never had problems getting guys interested in me, because of my ability to play the role of their perfect girlfriend. The problem is, this role is not sustainable.

Finally however, there is something to be said about people who fall for commitment phobes as well. I might be now slightly too harsh, but I would say that most of my exes actually did not care enough about who I was. They were happy with me playing the role of ideal girlfriend. It did not arise any suspicion in them that I was doing all the right things and that I was so good at pleasing them. I would suggest that a person that falls for such kind of behavior after their twenties, probably has some quite deep issues of their own. I know that I personally want to get to know people I am dating with. That includes me wanting to know their not so popular opinions, their wounds, their not so perfect character traits. Furthermore, I am not getting put off by someone exposing some unfavorable character trait. I should probably mention that none of my exes has a family at this point, which I find interesting………Or well, forget the family, most of them don’t even have a functioning relationship.

Relationships with entitled people

Do you have people whose every phone call makes you shiver and want to run miles away? Well, I realized that for me such a person has been my mum. And then my ex best friend and perhaps one of my exes and a few other people… What joins all these people together however is a sense entitlement and the very demanding attitude they have taken towards me. The underlying idea seems to me the following – they assume I owe them my love and well lets face it submission since they provide me certain other services. It really is a contract where as a gratitude for some protection or what not I become the person satisfying their needs. When these needs are not satisfied, logically I get an angry reaction.

My ex best friend contacted me recently after two years of total silence. This was a big one. I was just there in shock, trying to figure out what to do. Finally I did something which I am still so proud of.  Namely asked if anything in her attitude towards relationships and friendships had changed over the years and if she thought that there was some evidence which confirmed that we could get along today.

I assume that it was a shock for her. People like my mum and my ex best friend do not think that way. They think you owe them something and that it is just a matter of time till you come back to them because you are so dependent. It surprises them if you choose not to return. It surprises them even more if you actually start setting boundaries and also setting demands on them. Somehow control is lost.

For years I was an errandboy for my mums needs. Whenever she would call with another demand, I was there to run and please. Being in her proximity made me nervous because there was always some hidden expectation which I never realized and which would make her explode. Through my reaction to my ex best friends contact I realized the pattern was the same with her. I felt like I needed to conform and realize her needs and demands without words being expressed.

I am not saying these were one sided relationships, not at all. After all I got my protection, I got some caring and whatever else that I wanted. However, I am realizing that I do not need the benefits anymore. Not if the cost is having to be constantly alert to someone else’s needs and having to be ready for an anger outburst if I have not attended to their needs.

So essentially I feel I have made great progress because I am actively choosing to say no to demanding and entitled people in my life. After so many years, I do not really think I will end up in another relationship or friendship with such a person.

What confidence can and cannot do?

In the world of self-help literature, I often stumble upon these cookie-cutter suggestions which lead you to think that all it takes is to be confident. As if there is this magic quality that successful people embody – confidence, and once you get there, you will be successful as well. I am not going to discuss here the fact that confident people usually embody other qualities which have made them feel confident in this particular sphere, rather I am going to give couple of examples from my life which illustrate how merely confidence does not cut it. Examples could apply to many areas of my life, but I chose to use dating in this particular post.

I am a rather sarcastic person and often use teasing in my communication with guys. Unfortunately in my particular country of residence, sarcasm and teasing tend to scare guys. Now over the years I have become more confident about myself and my humor which leads me to use it not more frequently, but perhaps more assertively. What do you think is the effect on my dating life and on the numbers of guys I can score?

When the first example was cultural, then lets also give a personal case. I have always been somewhat dreamy, inattentive and walking in the clouds. The difference is that these days I do not feel the necessity to constantly apologize for my inattentiveness. However, there are plenty of guys that cannot tolerate such characteristics in a woman. No, these guys have not started to like me any better after I stopped apologizing for my inattentiveness. They will still be judgmental about me. I also doubt that they will respect me more only because I these days feel better about myself.

My point here is that confidence can only get you so far. In certain contexts confidence can be counterproductive. You must all know someone who is crossly over evaluating their abilities in a certain area. What confidence can do, is make you feel more relaxed and less obsessed about other people’s opinion, however, in the context of dating, it will not automatically make you attract more dates. Often times there are certain other qualities which are extremely valued by the majority of men (frequently depending on a particular culture). So the lack of these qualities will probably make you the minority taste. If you are confident, it probably will not matter to you.

The problem is, a lot of unconfident people view confidence as something that allows them to compensate for their lack of confidence. This is a very confusing sentence, so let me try to clarify it further. If you lack confidence, you are immensely invested into how other people perceive you. You think that if they only liked you, you would feel better about yourself. My point here is that, confidence will not automatically make other people like you. What confidence can do, however, is making you invest less meaning to other people’s opinions. So there might not be a huge impact on your social life, but there might be a vast impact on how you feel internally.