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.
So, for the past days, I have been mulling over my potential issues related to online dating and the guys going into chasing mode. I think I am starting to finally understand what my problem is.
I do not know how to say no. In my childhood saying no was not really something that was acceptable. Me defending my interests or borders was interpreted as aggressive and rebellious and this was to be pushed down the minute it was seen. By the age of seven I had become so docile that when visiting someone I was afraid to ask where the toilet was. I was afraid to say when I had some pain or when I did not want to eat what was offered. Basically, I was afraid of creating any kinds of waves or attracting any kind of attention to myself.
This inability to say no lead me becoming a victim of child molesters. These guys know their game, they know whom to choose as a victim. Even though I was never sexually abused as a child (at least I think I was not), I became a head target for 50 year old guys, simply because they sensed my inability to say no. So all kinds of things happened from these guys touching my knees to dry humping. Luckily since I was never alone with these guys and never agreed to go anywhere with them, the worst never happened. However, I need to thank god that I was not particularly popular among teenage guys, because I swear to god, I would have just plainly done everything they told me to do.
So when I talk to guys in the internet, I suddenly become this little child again. I cannot tell them when they have crossed the borders. I am too scared to make any waves. I am too scared to make myself heard. So I am afraid that as I go on a date with someone, this pattern will just be exaggerated and I will just plainly agree doing whatever these guys want me to do. This has happened plenty in my relationships, why would that be any different on dates?
So I need to somehow take care of my vulnerabilities before I can go any further with my dating.
My mother has lived her life working. She spends her weekends plotting a new project, she spends her evenings thinking about some work tasks and occasionally she likes to complain how everyone is so dependent on her and expects her to work so much. I always want to say – of course they do and you actually like this feeling of importance. It compensates for your inner feelings of unlovability. But instead I listen and try to be emapthic as I was throughout my childhood.
Our society glorifies workoholism. It attaches all kinds of negative connotations to other kinds of addictions such as food addiction, alchoholism etc., but workoholism is glorified. I took over my mother’s habit to use work as an escape mechanism. Only lately have I started to counteract this habit and pay attention on other things in my life. At first this came with an immense guilt. I felt like I should be working instead of taking some time to rest or talk to friends or whatnot. Then it came with great feelings of insecurity, because lets face it, areas where you do not invest, do not develop. At the age of 25 I started to first cook for myself. At the age of 28 I started to first take some better care of my body – not going to work when sick. About the same age I started to put more attention to what I was wearing. All these things….
It is still a process I struggle with. Work feels safe and just about the only area where I can feel competent and in control. Most other areas in my life I feel completely incomptenet, mostly because they were never developed. As a 31 year old, my social skills are still somewhat lacking. My way of coping with emotions is problematic. My handling of finances is wanting. I am still learning about basic tips on how totake care of my appearance. All these things that a lot of people learn from home, I never did. Furthermore, I needed to break some heavy barriers to even get to the point where I could spend some time doing these things.
When someone comes from a family of alchoholics, they get societal sympathy. It is uniformly agreed that what happened at their home was dysfunctional. When someone comes from a family of workoholics, not only is the dysfunctionality aspect never talked about, furthermore they might even get the idea that their family values are something worth celebrating. Noone says to a child of alchoholics – you should really be proud of your parents or you should learn from them. On the other hand workholic is set as an example and noone questions whether this is a good and healthy example to set.
My mother did not teach me basic stuff like brushing my teeth. She did not take care of me when I was ill. She did not bother to be emotionally there for me or hold any kind of significant conversations with me about me (most conversations we had were about her work). She did however teach me that it is OK to let your work frustrations out on a child. It is OK to neglect your needs and just work. It is OK to take extra work even if you do not need it. It is OK to work during vacation, well, actually vacations are overrated anyways. It is OK to not do any sports at all. It is OK to eat random junk food, because you do not bother to pay any attention to this. It is OK not to have any social relations. It is OK to not clean the house. Finally, it is also OK to let people down because of your work.
I therefore think that workholism should be taken much more serious than it currently is.
I have never dated….Here you have it. Dating has never attracted me and with the kind of trust issues which I have, web platforms were the last place where I would look for someone…Seriously.
Lately, I have pushed myself. What surprises me about online men (mind the term) is the quickness people want to do their business. No, I do not mean some random guys wanting to hook up with me (although even there I am amazed by their lack of flirting skills) but guys who allegedly look for serious partner. After one conversation, somehow guys start sending me good morning messages. They start writing to me after they have returned from a party on Friday night. To me it seems weird.
However, where I am seriously lost is, do only I think it is weird? Is it my distance and trust issues lashing up again? I am sure that part of it is true. However, I think this is not only it. There seems to be some desperation for creating some false intimacy. People seem to long for closeness, but they do not really want to do things that would lead to that closeness. It is like you want to go to the store and say – I would take this package of intimacy, please.
I feel uncomfortable with that. My relationships have always taken some time to develop. I think relationships need time to develop. You cannot just strike a conversation online with someone one evening and then the next day act like this was your partner. I mean where does this come from? Are people not really themselves aware of the problems with that behavior?
It is kind of like one night stand, but for intimacy. One night love, perhaps? You have clear needs that need to be satisfied, but you do not really have the patience to take time to ensure the long-term satisfaction. Instead, you go for something that seems to be more like an instant gratification. But, unlike with one night stand, where people understand that this is temporary and that this is not an OK behavior for relationship, one night lovers seem to be of the idea that this is it. This is how love is supposed to function. You can actually skip perhaps even meeting the other one face to face and just go to the phase of the relationship where you have someone who would emotionally support you and be interested in you and everything you do.
This is just the beginning of my musing on that topic. I will reflect longer about my own emotional issues behind these occurrences.
I am going to express feelings which I assume do not only characterize my own position, but that of many people who have undergone therapy. So let me say this straight – therapy is a lot of ungratifying work for which you pay a lot. Essentially there is nothing enjoyable or gratifying about therapy. You are going to experience bunch of emotions which you have tried to avoid so far and you are going to feel bad with slight variations of less bad. Depending on how deep your trauma is, this feeling of badness may prevail for years as it has in my case.
The whole problem with therapy is that there is little instant gratification. Gratification comes with seeing yourself slowly getting better and better. However, this process is sometimes painfully slow. Furthermore, as therapy costs a lot, you are less likely to be able to afford other kinds of gratifications such as vacation trips, extensive shopping etc.
I have cut down my entertainment costs for years. I have not been able to save any money for buying an apartment either. Sometimes I question my choices, but then I remember exactly how messed up I was when I started therapy. That however does not mean that there are not times when I think – oh god, other people seem to go and enjoy their lives and I am just stuck in therapy.
If you go for psychotherapy as is the case with me, you are going to be rather dysfunctional for a long time. In my case this period could have been about four years. You are basically picking yourself to pieces and then trying to reassemble yourself. Questions which are in the center of other people’s lives such as – having kids, taking a mortgage whatever, do not really belong to your every day.
Currently I feel exhausted. I feel like I have worked really hard for a lot of years and there is still some work to do. I assume it is like with a marathon, these last miles….You have gone through all this distance and you know you cannot give up, because otherwise the result will be – you did not finish. It kind of does not matter if you stopped in the first mile or thirtieth mile. So you have no choice but to continue unless you want your years of work to be for nothing. However, sometimes I just wish I could crawl into some nice warm soft place and not have to work so hard with my emotions anymore.
I know the results are probably worth it, but still that does not take away the feeling of wanting to have some gratification now and not in the future.
My default mode is to give responsibility for my life to someone else….Anyone else that agrees to take it. I mean, anyone else would be better qualified to take this responsibility than me, myself. I wonder why?
Of course, add to the equation also the fact that I do not really trust other people to stick around and you get a funny combination. I want someone to prove to me that they can take this responsibility and that I can count on them, but I am never convinced that I actually can.
So I can see two issues here. One is that I keep hoping that someone else will help me with things which any responsible adult should be able to handle themselves. The other problem is though my trust issues. And guess what, as much as I wanted to meet this person who would take responsibility for my life, I ran into two interlinked problems.
The first issue was that no one really wants to be responsible for another adult. I mean this is too much responsibility. I mean, whoever wants to be responsible, you should be suspicious off, because likely there is a significant tradeoff somewhere. The other issue was of course that I also tended to choose guys that were either instable or too immature to stick around once I had serious problems.
I am trying to take the responsibility for my life nowadays, but it is long and difficult process. It has its relapses.
I recently heard a sentence – “I do not deserve you, you are worth someone better than me”. It is actually quite painful for me to elaborate on this sentence, but since this blog has as its main purpose to be as honest as possible and perhaps motivate others with my honesty, I am going to go ahead.
See this sentence is not a compliment. Whenever you hear this sentence, instead of convincing the other person that they are great, what you should do is to analyze it further. What they are telling you is that you deserve someone better. That means, they have noticed that they are not treating you the way you should be treated. If you start convincing them at this point that they do deserve you, what you are telling them is – actually I do not really respect myself enough to ask for what I deserve.
My reaction to that sentence was a bit of both. I did agree on the underlying message and told the guy that I think he is a bit of a work in progress. I also tried to communicate that I do believe in him. However, what is so attractive about a guy who you consider to be work in progress? I mean if you now think that after hearing this sentence I told him, well OK, feel free to seek me out when you feel you are ready for anything substantial, you are wrong. Even though I agreed with him in terms of me deserving something better, my subconscious obviously was too afraid to let go of this guy who I thought had so much potential. So instead, I got myself into a situation…..
So what is it about getting attached to someone who is nothing but a vague promise of commitment? Does it still reflect my commitment issues? Does it reflect the problem with self-esteem? Honestly, at this point I do not know the answer. I do know however that when I hear the following sentence again, I should not ignore this.
Today I want to talk about some illogical connections which my childhood has created in my head. There is really not a better word I can currently find for that as I am still exploring the issue myself.
So the thing is, my childhood was about somehow finding out a way how to control my mother’s reactions to me. The whole childhood I entertained the idea that if I only tried hard enough, I would find a way to control these reactions and her dysfunctional emotions. So that was one and most primary purpose behind why I did things and also largely defined where I chose to put my efforts to. Mostly my efforts went to studying well and well, not making myself too visible. Just being low key and not driving any attention to myself. Of course I also suffered on constant anxiety – a feeling I could never really make sense of when I was a child. Anyways, I invested to something which my mother held dear – namely schoolwork. The rest, well….obviously was not of much importance or well did not give any significant effect as to whether my mother would be happy or not.
The problem here is that somehow such a focus came to define my life. During the university I focused on my school work. As other people explored social life and other things, I hanged along to a degree, but in my mind this was not important. I had internalized the idea that as long as I do well in school, everything will be fine. Labor market was scary for me, because school provided the safe haven. The only place where I knew how things function.
Such exaggerated focus to schoolwork during my growing up years and treating the success in school as some kind of key to success to all other areas of life has had a termendous effect on how I live my life. I have continuously ignored other areas thinking that if only work hard enough, somehow other areas would fall into place. Somehow I would feel more safe and somehow I would not experience problems in my finances etc. It is kind of magical thinking really – and the kind of thinking which does not help one in life. I have focused so much on my work because that was the only thing where I felt I could excercize some kind of control. School – the only thing that allowed me to somewhat control my mother’s reactions and feel like I am less dependent on her moods.
That is not how life works though…..
I am doing a lot of rethinking about my life these days, hence so many posts.
I have been anxious lately. Perhaps it is about my ex moving out soon. Perhaps it is my work stress. Perhaps it is my financial struggles. Perhaps it is some of my addictions. Perhaps it is my love interest blocking me. However, as I zoomed in to the anxiety, something really different started to uncover.
Namely, I am used to living my life, being controlled by someone unstable. Being dependent on someone who was not really dependable. I am used to feeling at least some level of anxiety all the time. I mean I had to constantly watch my steps. I developed a certain self-regulation mechanism where even when my mother was not a round, I was mortally afraid of her judgement. I still am. Only these days I rationalize it as me objectively screwing up.
So what do I do? I recreate this early childhood feeling of being dependent on someone non reliable. I choose either guys who constantly judge me. Or guys who are unreliable and unpredictable. Or maybe both in one person. Anything to recreate this early feeling of not being safe in the world. Hell, I even chose an unstable career which is based on me constantly getting scrutinized. Little did I know about how many of my choice in this life were defined by this constant feeling of insecurity and constant feeling of being unsafe.
Obviously it is not really something you fix with one day, but I think me understanding this already takes me closer to perhaps solving it. Perhaps being able to create a more secure life for myself. I feel that so far I have sabotaged all the kind of security there potentially was in my life. I feel that me realizing that I have been sabotaging it is a breakthrough. I am looking forward to being able to create a more secure future for myself.
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.