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.
So, this is the topic that I am still exploring about myself, hence my thoughts might not be completely clear at this point.
Lets start by saying that I find myself disconnected from a lot of my earlier friends. Why? Because I am starting suspect that there was never an authentic connection there. There was a connection built on me playing the role of achiever and successful person and never actually showing everything that was behind this mask. Unfortunately once people who mostly hanged out with an achiever type of personality find out how broken you are, there is very little common left.
I have tried to force relationships based on false grounds my whole life. I never thought my real self (whatever that is) was good enough. I am still exploring where this feeling came from, but it probably had a lot to do with my mother’s constant criticism and bullying. The fact is, I never dared to tell anyone how afraid of social crowds I was, or how I was depressed on a regular basis wondering why no one loved me. I thought – who would like such a person?
I still struggle showing my face to the world. Most of the time I do not. I cover it up, I try to look more successful etc. What would I say? Hey, I feel like I have faked my whole life, but here is the secret truth about how I am really feeling about myself and my life? This is a real challenge for me. See I know I cannot continue pretending and hope that I will bond with people I actually like and who I actually care about me, but I also do not want to degrade myself.
Here comes another unfortunate aspect of my rejection issues. People, who actually do know me and like me seem to not be the kind of people I want to associate myself with. All I can see is their low self-esteem and their issues and my own reflection in them scares me to the core. See the problem, I guess is, I do not want to be me. My long standing rejection from both my parents and the world has led me to want to be someone else. Which I was for many years. But it hardly led anywhere but this feeling of disconnect and misery, as I was not really accepted nor loved for who I was.
So as you can see, I am still struggling.
I am starting to realize how I have spent my life running away from rejection. Yes, I have also pushed myself to ignore my rejection issues by going to social events which really scared me. However, I have also kept myself and invested in self-development as if finally becoming good enough would take away my fear. If only I became more beautiful, more sociable etc., I would not have this incapacitating fear anymore.
I have kid myself many years that me living abroad is a problem. Yes, it is indeed a problem, but this also allowed me to ignore the fact that even when I lived in my home country, I lived in constant fear. I felt constantly pushed to impress everybody and to perform, so that nobody could potentially point a finger to me. I hoped that once my life was perfect or at least once I will land a perfect boyfriend, this fear will go away. The truth is, no boyfriend and no amount of success could ever take the fear away.
As I started peeling off the layers (in therapy), I stopped performing, but the fear was and still is there. So instead of meeting people and performing perfection to them, I am currently at the phase of avoiding them, in the fear of becoming a subject of criticism. I am sincerely hoping that I can soon leave behind my fear of rejection. However it has been shocking to discover how big of a role it has played for me so far.
As I deal with my own commitment issues, I have found the idea of dependency vs independency in relationships to be very useful. Dependency indicates to your need for care-taking, support and wish to rely on someone; whereas independency refers to the wish to define your own being and identity.
In the past I have struggled with my need for independency. Before my therapy and even during the first years of my therapy, I had the idea that I will have to submit myself totally to what other person wants me to be. I was keen on fulfilling their every expectation, but also never understood why the idea of living together with someone made me crawl inside. Now, of course, it is understandable that if living together equals you never being able to say no or having the will of your own it will become captivating pretty quickly.
As I worked through my issues with independency and setting borders, for some time I became the opposite. As much as I had avoided enforcing my borders earlier, I now started saying no to everything. This was a necessary step and I think I am slowly coming out of this phase as well.
Now the other issue is dependency needs. I started of being extremely dependent on my boyfriend. I really struggled with individual emotional management and always relied on him to take care for my emotional needs. Him leaving for trips or whatnot was always extremely hard for me, because suddenly there was no one to take care for me.
So now, interestingly, I think I have moved to the other extreme with my dependency needs as well. Namely, I am trying to cut them down radically, distancing myself from my partner. It suddenly feels unsafe for me to rely on someone else, because they might go away. I am starting to understand how I have always found it troubling to rely on someone else, but previously was just so unable to take care for my own needs that, I felt I had no choice. I am still working on get a grip on my dependency needs and finding a healthy balance there.
I think I am not exaggerating much when I say that women are taught to be obsessed about male approval. I mean, look at the journals – seven ways to cook delicious dinner for your boyfriend, sex tricks to keep him hooked etc etc. I wonder when we will see the day that one male magazine will start talking about how to impress women with seven course dinner or at least recommendations on which kind of restaurant to take the wife. One could argue that men impress women differently, through making money etc etc, but I would still assert that there is so much stress around will he like me and nearly not enough stress on will she like me.
I read relationship blogs for fun. I like to analyze people and forums are the perfect place for this. Once in a while you get a woman asking questions like – my man cheated on me with another woman and now he cannot make up his mind as to with whom he wants to be, what can I do to make him stay? Again, at this point alarm bells should start ringing, because the real question should be, what can and should he do. By rewarding his bad behavior – cheating, you are just going to send out the message, that this is a good strategy to get you working harder.
This all is of course very personal, because I have dedicated my life to being liked by guys. My own relationship has not moved much during the last couple of years and we have had many heated discussions on family and kids. All this time I was trying to figure out how to make him commit, but to be honest, that was the wrong question to begin with. The real question is, do I want to commit to him. Is he measuring up to my standards?
Now this is a question which presumes that you do not have strong abandonment issues. My abandonment issues made it impossible for me to ask this sooner. They also made sure that my boyfriend felt like he was in total control because I would never leave him. I am currently working on my abandonment issues and to be honest as a result I understand how tired I am. I am so tired of guys who cannot make up their mind and drag the relationship on and on. I am so tired of guys who assume that of course it is woman’s dream to have a family and marriage and hence it is the woman who needs to impress him and sell him this idea. I guess I am in general tired of convincing someone of anything. In the end if the commitment is so difficult to make for one side, what is the value or the point?
I am starting to understand that my addiction towards unavailable men has two main causes. One has been my feelings of unlovability which have now finally been addressed. The other one, however, is feeling that I cannot trust anyone. This is all evasive feelings which is now coming up strongly.
Finally I understand how I in fact do not want to let anyone close enough. I am afraid. I am afraid that they either become mean and put me down or that they will leave me. It is somehow safer to be in distance, because then at least nobody can hurt me. Then they will not endager my safety. I am at least somewhat in control. But somebody coming in, trying to torn down my wall of safety……this is so damn scary.
I am also starting to understand why physical contact has always been problematic for me. Why I needed to get drunk in order to enjoy physical contact. It is again the same feeling – I am unsafe. Someone is coming inside my bubble. They cannot be trusted.
It is very difficult to describe this feeling to someone who has never experienced it before. It is partially the feeling that you are all alone and partially the feeling that someone is trying to torn down the walls that you have built. You do not understand that in fact these walls to assure that you will be all alone. But you want to protect yourself against other people, not to show that you are so alone and defenseless. You assume that if they would know, they would automatically use it. If they knew you are so helpless they would abuse you. So this is how you never even give people a chance to prove the opposite. They will never get close enough for you to be convinced that they in fact are safe.
So who are the people who are willing to be in a relationship with someone like this? Other people with intimacy issues. No sane person would like to hang around someone who is mortally afraid of intimacy.
I am realizing that part of my addiction towards unavailable men or men who blow hot and cold is, that I finally want someone to come for me. Instead of chasing my unavailable parents, I want them to chase me. I want to prove to myself that people do care and are willing to go extra mile for me.
Never before have I realized how much it hurt that my mother was willing to threaten me with abandonment during our fights. I felt like I was a commodity that could be easily cast away. Just as long as I am useful and compliant I am worth keeping, but as soon as I am not useful anymore, well – bye bye.
So I want to reverse the pattern. I want someone to care about whether they are losing me or not, instead of me constantly fighting for their love and care. I want for the first time in my life feel that I am in control, instead of constantly worrying about others abandoning me.
Quite ridiculously though, I am seeking this feeling of control, appreciation and loyalty from all the wrong sources. I am seeking this for people who are unavailable or used to being in command themselves. I am repeating the old patterns of chasing someone’s love and loyalty. No, not only in love relationships, but also in friendships. My desire to have someone fighting for me has lead me to people similar to my parents (yes also my unavailable father who kept showing up once in a while, wanting me to convince him to visit me more often). Somewhere there is a hope that once I get these people to chase me, all the evils of my childhood will be undone.
I have been in quite a bit of pain lately. Mostly because my feelings of unlovability and all the cases of rejection have resurfaced. I am assuming that it is part of my therapy work, because anything else would be dad depressing. So I literally woke up with the feeling of needing something to dull the pain and went to sleep with the same feeling. I needed something or someone to take the pain away. Just as I have always needed it. The only difference was that in the past I did engage with activities that would seemingly dull this pain – shopping, comfort eating, chasing unavailable guys, reading horoscopes, dreaming – you know all this stuff. But my main drug was still my love addiction which I carried with me in the hopes that this perfect guy will solve all my problems. The problem was that in order to sustain this idea, this perfect guy and meeting him had to always be in the future. No current boyfriend should do.
So now, I have just stayed with the pain. It hurt a lot to relive all the cases of rejection and to experience again how badly I have been treated by so many people. It made me hopeless and the world seemed like a cruel and judgmental place. People and the world looked exactly like my mother. Until….
Yesterday I felt a tweak of hope. I am not sure how lasting it is, but I could spend today without constantly needing to dream of getting drunk. A certain shift seemed to have happened. When I think back to the most depressing situation of my life – the point where my ex told me that he is not sure what he feels for me, but he has never been in love with me, it stopped being about me. Finally! His unavailability has nothing to do with me, but with him (poor guy, how confused and pressured he must have felt). This is funny, because once this shift has happened, it seems almost impossible to imagine that you once thought of it differently. That you once thought that in fact no one can love you.
I would not go as far as to say that I now can think of all the situations of rejection the same way. But overnight I seem to have developed a somewhat more relaxed attitude towards love. It is slow moving process, I assume, but nevertheless, something that will most likely turn my world around.
I find enforcing borders still somewhat an alien concept. It is as if I have read somewhere that I need to enforce borders in order to make other people respect me, but something inside of me still wants to say “yeah, but what if they abandon me”. As a result I feel as an impostor most of the time – it is like telling yourself that you really love veggies, because you know that they are good for you, but on the inside you would just want fries.
This ambivalence sometimes creates contradictory situations where I have enforced a border and then start acting the ways which shows that I would want to take it back. This is not made easier by the fact that the price I pay for my borders is sometimes losing the people who have been in my life for a long time. These are some really difficult choices to make.
Lets take one example from my work. I am leading a group and yesterday was a deadline for one task. However, naturally the task was not delivered. I really had to convince myself to send out the email today which asks people to send their contribution at least by Thursday. I noticed similar self-doubt lurking in – am I doing the right thing, what if this messes up my relationship with my colleagues once and for all. What if what if….
So I keep reading the literature on borders and try to test around with those. However, I am afraid that I leave a rather wishy-washy impression for the outsider as my borders appear in random places and sometimes rather strongly. I suspect that it will take years for me to get right as it took years of bad treatment to lose all the borders to begin with. It sucks and makes for a lot of confusion for both you and others, unfortunately. Furthermore, I feel that in some relationships the disrespect has become so big, that it will be impossible for me to claim respect now. That probably means giving up some more relationships in the future. This unfortunately does not make one feel as if one is improving their life, but rather as if things are only getting more difficult.
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.