Therapy and losing your identity

Sometimes I feel like I have no idea who I am anymore. Why now? Because I was screening my old facebook posts and old me seemed….well happier in a way. More content with her life and well more loved if you wish….In these moments I question my choice to begin therapy. I mean when everything seemed so fine back then, then why, oh why have I invested all these years into therapy?

I might be going through a phase, but I truly can say that I have no idea anymore where I belong and who I am. It seems like everything stable in my life is falling apart. Old friendship and old relationships that worked with who I once was, do not work anymore.

I checked my facebook posts and thought back to the beginning of my relationship. We have been together soon six years. We once got along well. We once had a more loving atmosphere and wanted to talk to each other. What happened?

I can only assume that the kind of person I was back then fitted with my boyfriend and fitted with very many friends around me. Who was I then? Well I was a people-pleaser, essentially. Always worried about other people and their opinion on me, always easygoing and not having to direct and strong opinions. Easy to control, submissive. Lovely and sweet in a way. But I was definitely also more loved.

I look at the comments nowadays and wonder what it might feel like to be loved. But not loved for who I used to be, but loved for who I am now. My boyfriend seems to not value the changes. My old friends seem to not value the changes. At times I wonder, what will happen to me? Where will I fit now?

Who am I becoming?

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Being cherished by someone

It is funny, because I am finally starting to understand the concept of a therapeatic relationship. The idea of therapist is not to point out your flaws, the idea of therapist is to offer you the kind of support and understanding you never received in your life due to your life circumstances. It is this kind of relationship, for many the first supportive relationship, which is going to make a difference.

This deep understanding came with digesting through my experience with Chase and his death. From what I have now found out about him, Chase cherished me. He put me into pjedestal. I am shocked. Nobody has ever done this.

It feels weird, because this kind of relationship and the existance of it seems unreal to me. I am starting to understand that what I have experienced with my current boyfriend and thought was a supportive relationship, was nothing more than my boyfriend pointing out my mistakes and then holding me hostage for those mistakes. All these years, I have been so grateful for him being so accepting and sticking with me despite my various shortcomings. I really thought that well, actually I did not deserve to be loved and cherished.

My shock about Chase shows that, I do not fully believe this yet. However, I am starting to see that my boyfriends behavior is not right. One should not feel in the relationship as if one is just being mercifully tolerated. I have spent years trying to address my various misgivings in therapy with my boyfriend coming up with new and new ones. I was even grateful for him for seeing all my issues and helping me to find those. However, now I see, that a truly supportive partner would have perhaps helped me finding these issues, but also never made me feel as if I was somehow defective and unlovable.

The experience with Chase has shown me how there is a different kind of love. The kind of love that is not merely grudingly accepting, but rather supportive and forgiving. This is the kind of love I want to experience in my life.

Different kinds of loves

This post will be highly personal and me rewriting my life story to a degree. But I think it has been perhaps the most vital discovery I have made throughout these years, so here it comes.

I moved to where I live because of my ex (lets call him Tim). Tim, at this point was the love of my life. I really admired him as a man and a person. However, I could slowly and clearly see that what Tim felt for me was not in an equal level to what I felt for him. It never was. In the end I confronted Tim and he admitted that he had never been in love with me. Even though on some level I knew this, hearing this was still a shock. It to a degree destroyed me and no matter how hard I tried, I was never able to hate Tim. I loved him, to a degree I still do.

At the same time that things were going sour with Tim, I met my current boyfriend (Alex). Alex loved me. This feeling was new to me. Alex was so caring and attentive and I felt genuinely seen. The only problem was that I did not love Alex. I loved Tim. However I understood the problems in loving someone who does not love you back and I thought well, if I work long and hard in therapy, perhaps I can start loving Alex. No, did not happen. I loved Alex for what he did to me.

About half a year ago I met a guy (Chase) with whom I quickly developed emotional connection. We both were involved so it did not develop any further. That did not stop me from hoping. Chase is now dead. But I am happy to say that he showed me the possibility of meeting someone who you love as a person and who loves you as a person. It is possible. This long sought after state is possible.

As I am healing from Chase’s sudden death, I am also seeing the errors of my ways. I am seeing the difference between two kinds of love so strongly – loving someone for what they do for you and loving someone as a person. I think I also owe it to Alex to breakup with him so that we both could find this bliss. Chase showed me the light and even though it hurts like hell to know that he is not here anymore, I am so grateful for him. His life and death have developed me in ways that would have not been possible otherwise.

Looking for a husband vs looking for love

The weirdest idea about my relationship with my ex-boyfriend just struck me. Namely, throughout the whole relationship I felt this sense of duty and responsibility from him, but not really big emotions towards me. After years from our break-up I think I can finally make sense of this feeling.

You know people that make lists with all the character traits that they want from their partner? You know your friend who is just looking for a man for the sake of having a man? Or thousands of women who date a man who they do not quite like, but they hope that they can change him so that he would eventually fit the bill. Let me explain further, by looking someone who would fill a specific spot in your life, you are assuming that the other person should fulfill a certain role. It is like an audition for the lead character in the movie – the script is already written and it is your job to fit to the role.

This is how I felt with my ex. I felt like his future plans and his life had very little to do with me or about who I was. He felt like at a certain stage in his life he could do with a girlfriend so he showed me some kindness and affection in return and there we went. The problem was – I never really felt loved for who I was. I rather felt that there were certain things expected from me and it was my job to somehow mold myself around these expectations.

Interestingly one can make a good connection with my childhood and my mother. I think I spent my childhood as well feeling like who I was did not matter. In fact, what my mother had envisioned for me mattered much more. I was not good in chemistry – well I better work really hard on it so that I become good. My real abilities in chemistry did not matter – my mother had a certain image of how her child should be and there we went. So no wonder that I felt unseen my whole childhood and that I felt what I wanted and who I was, was insignificant.

That being said, I am guilty of the same crime and this is something I will elaborate further on next post.

The types of relationships you have with trust issues

I am currently working through what I believe to be the last part of my therapy – trust issues. As I am going through this, I am also starting to notice an interesting pattern in my past relationships. Largely my relationships can be divided into two. An important note here is that I am talking about the relationships that actually existed and not the one’s I was having in my mind with all these unavailable guys. Anyways the two types can be described as follows: the relationships with somewhat emotionally available guy who was clearly more interested in me than I was in him and the relationships with guys who for some reason were not very emotionally available or interested in getting to know me.

This revelation seems currently big and transforming to me so let me continue by describing those two types of relationships in further detail.

Lets start with relationships with guys who were emotionally available, but not really completely down to my alley. So I have two guys in particular in mind when thinking about this category. Both in a way are sweet guys who showed affection towards me. Approaching them was easy, because I could see that they were interested in me. Naturally I had some anxiety, but still I ended up dominating these relationships big time, because I was the less interested side. I could flat out disrespect these guys, because sometimes their emotional availability seemed like a weakness to me. Furthermore their keen and loving interest towards me made them ‘low’ in my eyes. I always connected it with approval seeking and to a degree, I think it also was. Both guys must have sensed that my interest towards them is somewhat smaller than their interest towards me and tried to compensate it with some forms of approval seeking. Naturally, at the time I had no idea what was going on. Oh no, I went around and lamented about some perceived betrayals that these guys had brought about also describing all the moments that they hurt me. Little did I know that I probably hurt them much more.

So lets now focus on the other group. See these guys were safer, because they actually did not seek for deep emotional connection. Instead, they somehow felt also safe in a more superficial relationship. They were not interested in what I felt or even to some degree who I was. Rather they were negatively surprised that there was more to me than the nice and shiny exterior which I presented to the world. It became to annoy them because it meant work. All the feelings, all the layers of meaning – that was not what they signed up for. I was left confused and frustrated, not acknowledging that this was exactly what I signed up for. Their unwillingness to go and explore made me feel safe. They could never find out about real me, because they did not have skills nor interest to do so. Instead, I would know everything about them and again, dominate the relationship.

In both cases I was in control. In the first example because I did not have equally strong feelings towards the guys and in the second case, because the guys never knew the real me. The topic itself is wide enough so I will probably need to eloborate in further posts about some underlying issues related to those two types of relationships. However, for some reason I suspect that these two types are not only characteristic to me, but also to some other people that struggle with letting go of control.

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.

Attracting people with a fake personality

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.

Escaping from rejection

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.

The positive side of letting go of someone you love

I have had to breakup with a guy for whom I moved to another country. With whom I planned kids together. With whom we talked about which house we could live in. Long story short, we both struggled with certain commitment issues at this time which resulted in me feeling less and less secure about the future and in the end deciding that I could not live in a half relationship anymore. It was too insecure and painful.

There were several years where I questioned my choice. It took me two years to get over of him. His shadow still follows me when I am thinking of a potential life partner. However, if I had to do everything over again, I would do the same. I would let go of someone who is ambivalent and cannot make up their mind about their feelings towards me.

There is a certain positive aspect about letting go of someone you love which I am only starting to understand now, years later. Namely, the knowledge that you can do this. It seems like a stupid one, but once you internalize it, it is actually a very powerful message. See, I was in a foreign country with few if any friends and yet, I let go of my ex. To me that says – no matter how much I love you, I am going to let you go if you cannot decide if you want me or not. If you were to consistently treat me disrespectfully and not work on the relationship, I would let you go. I know I can leave you behind even if you are the love of my life.

Dependency and independency needs

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.