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.

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Unhealthy ways of dealing with negative emotions

As I am brooding over my deal with dating, I am coming to understand that I have adapted completely wrong practices in dealing with negative emotions from my childhood. My practices vary from instant gratification to ignoring, but very little of my energy has been directed to actually dealing with these negative emotions. But lets delve on the topic a bit closer.

My habits are quite likely copied from my mother. My mother has versatile ways of dealing with negative emotions, one worse than another- firstly of course diving into work, but then also food and alcohol. Lets not forget shopping – my mother’s apartment is filled with stuff she will never need. She is also good in taking her emotions out on other people, mostly me. Finally, she is also good in denial, you know if I do not acknowledge these emotions exist, maybe they do not exist at all.

I would continue with my unhealthy habits, but the sad truth is that you can pretty much copy paste the last paragraph. In addition, however, I have also taken the approach of seeking emotional nurturing. It is not necessarily bad thing, I think it might even be one step closer to healthy ways of dealing with my emotions. However, the way I do this, is problematic. Namely, I tend to think that if I just replace old love with some new love interest, I do not have to deal with the sad and painful emotions related to the old one – Quite common, actually, and the prime reason why people hop from one relationship to another.

But…I do not want to do this anymore. As I was going through guys who have sent me messages, I realized that I am too emotionally exhausted to date. In fact, what I am looking for is emotional support and not some new date. It is unfair to expect that a new date is somehow going to resolve my issues from a guy who ghosted me. So, instead I am going to do something which I have not done before. I am going to wait with dating and I am going to take care of my emotions, my pain……MYSELF.

“Fighting for love”

When I was fifteen my father reappeared and wanted to establish some kind of contact with me. Mind me he had earlier occasionally shown up and met with me for one evening and then disappeared again. My very skeptical reading as to why he wanted to connect with me at the age of fifteen would be that, he assumed that most of the work of child-raising would be done by this point and he could reap some rewards of having a child.

However connecting with me did not exactly go as planned. Namely I was distant and mistrustful. I had trouble opening up and talking to him which was obviously not something he expected. In his mind he was hoping for a daughter who would embrace him warmly and give him some of the love he was missing in his life. The idea of having to rebuild the trust at this point was not part of his plan.

So it did not take long for him to disappear again. Even if it seems obvious that it was my fault, subconsciously, I think I have always held myself accountable for his disappearances. I mean how else would I explain that when my ex disappeared, somehow I believed him when he explained to me how I had made him disappear. How relationship with me was so draining that he had no choice but to vanish for months. I looked at other happy couples and felt myself like a total failure, because I somehow made my boyfriend want to run away from me and not even keep in contact with me.

Interestingly enough when my ex reappeared, it was not him who had to work with regaining my trust. No, instead it was me who somehow had to fight for not having him abandon me completely. This sounds perverse as I write this here but I think even today there is a part of me that keeps asking – why don’t they want me? Why does no one want me enough for them to invest and fight for their relationship with me? Why do I have to fight for the right to have them in my life instead?

It is apparently these types of men I keep looking for. The kind of men for whose presence I have to fight for. The kind who disappear and reappear or make me work for their attention and love never giving me enough security about the relationship.

It has taken me for years to understand that on some level I have taken responsibility for my father’s assholish behavior. That on some level I thought his disappearances spoke more about me than about him. I also understand that just because I now understand rationally that these disappearances should not speak of me, emotional understanding might take a while, still.

My dysfunctionality

Today I am feeling dysfunctional. Becoming and being dysfunctional has been my darkest and worst secret over the years. Even the feeling of being unlovable does not compare to that one. I have yet no idea how I got into believing that I was dysfunctional and later also to a degree behaving like I was. Or maybe I do.

I look at my mum and for years I did not like to visit her. The place was a mess. She was a mess. There is more to say here, but I am not really going to. And you know there are things which you can easily overcome, like you learn to wash yourself more often. Or you learn to actually comb your hair. Or you learn to cook. But then there are things which you really cannot overcome.

You work until you are so tired you cannot work anymore. You keep irregular hours. You do not follow your spending. You are a slave to your emotions. You get into relationship with people who challenge your functionality further. You ignore your pain, both emotional and physical. You ignore your needs. Where would you have learned that you have needs to begin with?

And all this talk and thinking about dysfunctionality seems rather fuzzy. I do not yet understand why I feel so dysfunctional. Why this has always been my dark painful and ugly secret which I tried to hide from others. But since these feelings are starting to come up, I assume that I will find out soon enough.

Always on the outside looking in

I have frequently wondered why I am so quick to feel like an outsider and why I take the role of a scapegoat in the big group setting. I suspect that my role is not solely in my head, but I am more likely to be rejected by groups as well. So far I thought that it has been my experience with bullying which has impacted my social behavior. However, today I discovered another layer to this feeling of non-belonging.

When it went back to my happiest memories, memories where I really felt the warmth of home and love, I discovered moments which I had spent at my childhood friend’s home. She has a full family with mother father and a sister. Her mother was this warm and welcoming creature, being able to really create a sense of home. My mum as opposed to that was a workaholic who used work to run away from her emotional problems and came home to unload work stress (well at least mostly). So there was a stark contrast between those two homes.

However, I never really really belonged to my friend’s home. I mean I did belong but in the end of the day I was not at home in this space. I was not at the liberty of deciding when to play or what to wear etc. I was a guest. Interestingly in my coziest memories related to home I am a guest. Hence home was meant for someone else. Someone else got to enjoy the welcoming atmosphere and the only way I could join in was by stealing some rare moments and invading someone else’s home space.

I think this really has been the defining experience of my life. Other people had homes and families. Other people felt welcomed and supported. I did not have a family. I did not have support. Hence when going to visit someone’s family, I feel inconvenient. I have no idea what it feels. I feel like a stranger, like I have no business there.

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.

Imaginary relationships

I have a habit – getting stuck on dreaming of a guy who seems reluctant to have anything with me. Maybe it is not specific to me, maybe many women do this, but nevertheless I will first describe you the habit and then the underlying reasons for it.

See when I like a guy I have met, I start obsessing about him. I go into a dreamland where I imagine how and if we would fit together. Then a week goes by and the guy has not contacted me. Instead I will turn towards my friends and ask about their opinions on the guy. I will indulge in daydreaming. Anything but to let go of the poor guy who obviously has not been interested enough to contact me. Then I obsess around whether I should contact him myself. Low and behold, this can go on for months.

This is not really normal, but this was the pattern I got into when I was small. Back then, instead of daydreaming about guys, I daydreamt about having a perfect family, with father mother and a little house. Perhaps also a brother. This dream kept me alive during the darkest hours and I kept reading children’s books in order to keep that alive. At a certain point the dream of a perfect family got replaced by the dream of this one guy that will save me.

My dream was geared towards making me feel safe, supported and loved. Since the real environment around me was lacking in all of these aspects, I created an imaginary world. I guess the parallel is appropriate, my real world is currently lacking family and even a close knit friends circle, so I am keeping alive these dreams of guys I meet and have connection with.

I have yet to work on these feelings of absence on a more thorough manner. It is obvious that this kind of dreaming is a habit which I indulged in for years and it will take a bit to let it go. It has functioned so long as something that kept me alive, so I image there will be resistance about letting it go.

 

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.

The feeling that I do not matter

I have been exploring a little bit more on my recent demotivation. Nothing seemed to be quite worthwhile pursuing. I have not been disinterested or low on motivation for quite a while, ever since basic school I would say, so there was a definite need to explore further these feelings.

So what I have discovered is that my core issue (because I believe everyone has one core trauma) might be that I felt I never mattered. I was not important. My thoughts were not important, my feelings were not important. I am still exploring this, so I cannot provide very elaborate discussions on as to why I felt that way.

However I can talk about compensation strategies which I have used over the years in order to escape this feeling. Mostly I have tried to compensate through achievements and through making myself socially more acceptable, more desirable. I have sought attention and desiring eyes. I have sought after people who would care about me, extensively. At the level which is probably over the top for any grownup relationship.

My feelings of insignificance have on the other hand also led other people to disregard me. To abuse and use me both in private and work situations. Let me tell you, if you do not believe you matter, others pick up on that pretty quickly as well. So this will be one of my major challenges still ahead.

Realizing and negotiating your needs in the relationship

My partner has a high need for alone time. Most of our evenings are spent with him staying at his computer and us barely saying a word to eachother. This has not always been the case, but went worse when he started telling me how emotionally needy I was and how conversations in our relationship were his favor to me. So for a while I just swallowed my needs and felt bad about being emotionally needy. Not only this, but he also pathologized my needs, by telling me how everything was caused by my childhood traumas and how no person in this world could potentially fulfill my emotional needs.

I took and victimized myself. I felt rejected and left alone. I also felt ashamed and took it as my mission to become super independent in therapy so that no one could ever tell me again how they are doing me favors in the relationship. This until……

I realized that the relationship cannot function based on one person’s needs only. Even though he has high need to withdraw, he cannot run this relationship based solely on his need. His need for emotional detachment is no healthier or more natural than my need for emotional closeness. When I finally realized this and stopped judging myself for what he called my emotional neediness, it was easier for me to negotiate the terms of the relationship. I suddenly realized that my needs are important and are not pathological, just different.

To be honest, being able to negotiate my needs was freeing for me. I have spent so much time feeling victimized and feeling as if the relationship runs solely on his terms that the whole idea that I can ask for what I need and it is also important feels like a totally new level of empowerment. It feels as if I do not need to spend my whole life trying to conform to someone else’s standards and go an extra mile to be liked by them, but that I can also have my own demands and needs.

I know that for many people that might seem simple and logical, but for me that is a real game changer.