I grew up with the feeling that I was doing everything wrong. After all, when something happened at home, I was the first one to point a finger at. If my mother was in a bad mood, I was the first one to be blamed for it. Inside of me, there grew a feeling that I could never get it right.
So this is how I become people pleaser. I wanted to get it right. I really tried hard. When I got negative feedback, I tried harder. I worked longer. I went out of my way to achieve whatever I thought would bring me my mother approval.
It was not only that I grew sad because of constant blaming. No, I also felt afraid. Afraid that again, I might have done something wrong and this would entirely ruin my safety. After all, my mother angry was a horrible view. She did not control her actions at all. For a small child it felt life threatening.
So, in order to avoid dealing with this anger, I internalized her messages. I developed a strong critic that was always able to see potentially pitfalls in my actions. I started to see myself as always wrong. Soon she did not even have to say anything, I already blamed myself to the degree that what she said was completely irrelevant.
So when my inner critic got stronger, I started feeling more and more wrong. Inside of me there has always been this sadness. Feeling of being devalued and unregonized. I, in fact, have devalued myself the most. I have no idea how to solve this yet, but I am trying to move slowly towards banishing this inner critic so that I could stop blaming myself for all the things in my life that I have not achieved.
One of the most fundamental events in my life was no doubt meeting and breaking up with my ex boyfriend, lets call him here Paul. See Paul was this committed, hard-working, responsible, wise etc etc guy. I idealized him. Among other things Paul was however also very perfectionistic and I never felt that I measured up to his standards. Not really. A familiar feeling which had sent me my whole life with my mother.
Breakup with Paul devastated me. In my mind he was someone the kind I would never find in my life. After Paul I met Greg, my current partner. Greg seemingly at least in the beginning appreciated me the way I was. The problem was, I did not like myself very much at this point. I did not respect myself much.
Now all the self-help books tell us about affirmations and all the other bullshit. In my opinion telling to yourself six times a day that you are lovable does not really change much. And I am going to also make a really harsh statement here – sometimes you have some work to do with yourself in order to be at least more lovable. I know everybody keeps telling how one’s partner needs to accepted them for who they are, but frankly, if you partner is obsessive gambler – would you really want to accept them this way. Or furthermore, would it do them any good if you did? In my case I was irresponsible at the point I dated my ex. I did not take responsibility nor for my life nor my feelings. I just kept believing that a man could solve all my problems. I just shifted all the responsibility to Paul. Now mind me, but this is not a very lovable behavior.
During next years Paul’s words kept haunting me in my self-development. He was my staple for male ideal and I guess partially I wanted to become worthy of him. Now on some level it sounds sick and twisted, but on another level I think it is a good idea. It is similar to having role models in life. Paul to me helped to define who I want to be.
So who do I want to be and how has therapy helped me to reach there? Well, I want to be someone who does not complain about her life, but actually does something to improve this. I want to be someone who dares to show other her real colors. I want to have integrity in all parts of my life. I want to be faithful to my commitments.
I think the previous pretty much describes the most important values for me. So with five years in therapy I have lost quite a bit in my easy-goingness and my lust for life. I am also not the center of parties. I am not this cute, smiley and innocent girl. But instead I have become someone who I think if I met today, could respect.
I will never meet up with Paul again, I think. But I suspect that he as well, would be proud of me today.
This is going to be an akward post, because it is going to contain a lot more shameful disclosure than I am used to. However, I think it is needed in order to illustrate how many of us are escaping from our pain.
Throughout the years I have used different things to ‘feel normal’. No my addiction were never the ‘typical addictions’ such as drugs or alcohol, even though I have resorted at times to drinking vine every evening. But as follows I will give examples of my addictions if for no other reasons, than for illustrating the wide variety of things that can become tools for us in avoiding to face our issues.
Before the therapy I had numerous coping tools. One could even say that the whole image and lifestyle that I was trying to sell was a coping tool. I was trying to advertise myself as a successful globetrotter. Then there was my eating disorder. I had a problematic relationship with food, sometimes I would indulge myself and then ended up running ten miles in order to be sure that I was not getting fat. See, my mother had a reverse relationship with food….she was really overweight. In my mind I absolutely did not want to become my mother.
Then there self-development. All these books about how to become a better person, how to become a better catch. Ultimately they served to satisfy my love addiction (my belief that another man would fix my problems). I believed that if I could only get this next man, everything would be fine and the pain would disappear.
Throughout therapy years there have been many other addictions. There was a shopping spree whereby I would end up buying a lot of new clothes. Remaking my style…..Then there was an addiction to online psychics. Then there were still constant guy obsessions. And then there was drama in my current somewhat dysfunctional relationship.
The problem with all these addictions is that they distract you. They make the pain a bit better but soon you are in for another dosage. The effect is never long-term and it can dull the pain for a very limited period. You get addicted to the temporal high….The period where you cannot feel the pain. You want it to last…
Yes, I have decided to give up all my addictions to certain period of time and face my emotions as they come. To deal with them hands on. But, it has taken me five years in therapy to be able to make this decision.
Perhaps for the first time in my life I am not obsessed by someone needing to prove to me that I am lovable. Constant aching feeling in my soul is finally gone. Done.
Interestingly from this position my obsession about certain males and male attention in general seems weird. It seems kind of funny to think how I assumed that a man would solve all my problems. How someone wanting to marry me would turn my world around. I do not believe this anymore. Funnily I am also getting less and less obsessed about males around me. My view on love is getting more and more practical.
The important shift was me connecting with my feelings undeservingness and unlovability. This shift has happened this spring and almost invisibly. I feel like I am finally getting a sense of what it means to actually live normally…..live without constant feelings of emptiness and pain.
This would be a period for rejoicing if I also did not notice how fucked up the rest of life has become due to me focusing so intensely on my unlovabilty. I have been living so far with limited resources. Due to being on constant survival mode, I never really even imagined that the things other people have are possible for me. Now I know they are possible, but I also feel like I am years behind. I think it a similar feeling than for an alchoholic to finally become sober. You notice that you have spent years in this addiction while other people have been busy living their lives.
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.
This post is going to be rather personal. I am dealing currently with my anxieties and issues around the fact that I am soon probably the only one in my close circle that does not have a family. Sometimes I keep asking myself where did I go wrong? Sometimes I also keep asking myself, is it already too late for me?
My commitment issues have pushed me to be together in non-commitmental relationships. Hell, in my first relationships I did not even want to tell to anyone that I was in a relationship. No wonder that the relationships did not take off. My last relationship has had its own non-commitmental quality as my boyfriend has kept telling me that we will discuss family next year. Now that the next year argument does not fly anymore, he conveniently shifted the argument to – we will discuss family if you agree to move to my home country. Note that nothing says that we will actually have a family in this case, it is more that this is a precondition to even start a discussion.
To be honest I am sad and scared. In my heart of hearts I understand that moving to another foreign country for a guy who so far has not made any significant commitment would be another mistake from my side. See this is exactly what happened with my ex. I moved, he did not have to make any significant investment and was even reluctant to promise me anything when I moved. Somehow I keep putting myself to these situations and honestly I am tired of it. It is not always courage that saves the day, some risks are honestly stupid. In hindsight I would say that it was stupid to move to another country for someone who did not make any commitment.
Yes, I keep hanging out in these relationships, even though I also at the same time feel sad. The last phase is to figure out what attracts me to these guys and how to get passed it. One thing I know, I am so exhausted of such non-commitmental relationships that soon I am rather willing to be single than invest my energy into someone who keeps telling me that things will change if only….
Sometimes you just want things to change. You want them to change quicker than they do. I want my life to change. I want to change the kind of relationships I engage in. But I seem to be psychologically tailored towards wishy-washy guys and seem to be struggling to make these changes. To be honest, my belief in my capability to recognize a decent guy has gone down a lot. I am struggling with my dark foresight that the next relationship will just be much the same. The problem is also that it is not like these guys outright tell you that they have commitment issues (or maybe they have those with me). No, they keep telling you something about the nice future. I do know it has worked for some girls. The nice future aspect has never worked for me. SO you never know when to give up. I have been postponing giving up for so long that I am starting to question my ability to move on at all.
A lot is written on how we attract similar kind of romantic relationships, but much less about friendships. So I will dedicate this post to friendships.
I have noticed that I seem to have one predominant friendship pattern. I seek out these wise and strong women that would help me with my issues. Basically I seek a surrogate mother, I guess. The problem with these friendships is that well, you cannot have a mother when you are grownup, it always has its negative sides.
Here is how these friendships develop – first we are both content. They, because they feel admired and have control in this relationship and me, because I have finally found someone who will support me. As the relationship continues, I start to feel more and more inferior as my acute feelings of unworthiness progress. My friends on the other hand start to either withdraw (because my neediness is too much for them) or indulge in a sense of control and put me down further.
Obviously relationships are not one sided and I have to take full responsibility for my relationship troubles. The problem is, as much as I try, I cannot seem to shake off two major contributing feelings – that I am worse than everyone else and that I am helpless. These are the two very strong feelings still left in me. I am afraid that as long as I harbor those feelings, I will continue to attract similar kind of relationships further down the road.
The interesting part of analysing same-sex relationships, in this case friendships, is the fact that you notice how they represent your relationship with your same-sex parent. So it is not only the opposite sex parent whose role in our life is defining in terms of relationships, but also same sex parent. So my relationships with my friends are a good representation of my relationship with mom.
I have a habit in my life. I am chasing these guys that need to be convinced about committing to me. Granted this pattern has gone better over the years. I began by chasing a guy who was clearly not interested in me. Somehow I could read meaning into smallest sentences of his and convince myself that in fact he was so into me, he just did not know this. After him came another guy who was clearly into my friend and just wanted me as a friend. Oh well, he was at least friendly towards me, which is more than I can say about the first guy. Right after this came my ex who I never completely figured out. He told me that he was never in love with me, so I guess I need to believe his version of things. The obvious development was that at least this time I could convince the ‘unavailable guy’ to have a relationship with me. After him came my current boyfriend, who, clearly was and is in love with me, but struggles giving away his independence (as in including me in his plans, believing that I should somehow convince him to return home earlier than nine etc etc). In the middle have been some crushes who at least show interest in me, but are unavailable for other reasons.
I guess I can at least say that well, current unavailable guys are into me. This can be seen as a positive development in a sense that I will not develop feelings towards someone who totally disregards or ignores me. One could motivate that it is part of maturing, but in my case I think addressing the problem has had some real consequences. However, the truth is that the pattern is still there, even though not as strong as it used to be.
I am starting to realize however that the problem is in my whole thinking. I have always been obsessed about finding out how to make guys love you. I have read millions of guidebooks as to how to attract guys. The simple idea that you have to however convince someone to be into you, that you have to change and market yourself so that they would first develop and then not loose interest in you, might be behind the whole problem.
I have never considered what those guys did to attract me. I have never assumed that they should somehow market and transform themselves in order to be liked by me. I have never considered myself an award, but rather thought that these guys are an award. I have accepted a behavior towards me which has been questionable to say the least. While accepting this behavior my main concern has been – does he still like me. Did I do everything right? My attention has been totally on what these guys think of me and not what I think of them.
I am not going to say that with this post my whole life will suddenly be transformed. Transformation is long and hard process, this is something five years of therapy have definitely shown me. But what I hope is that there is a positive development happening which will ultimately lead me not being so attracted to guys who need to be convinced to want me. Of course what I also secretly hope is that this will lead me to instead attract guys who are convinced that I am what they want.