Monday, August 22, 2011

Healthier from the mind out

Well, hello there!

I apologize if my last post sounded like I was whining about the lack of comments on the previous post. In fact, if that was the message, it was the exact opposite of what I was trying to convey. I really felt fine that there were so few comments on the post in question. I loved that that post was still profound for me even if it didn’t resonate with other people. The fact that I was completely okay with it was a huge aha moment – one that I felt good about acknowledging.

Basically, I’ve just started to realize all of the ways that I’ve been chasing love.

I came to a lot of this realization while doing EMDR in my therapy the past few months. I became aware of all of the ways that I traditionally give (and give...and give...and give) in order to be loved in return. I’ll save you the back story, but there have been many times that I’ve ingratiated myself in order to feel more worthy in someone else’s eyes.

The second way I grew was reading the book “Women Who Love Too Much” by Robin Norwood. Apparently the book came out in the 80s, so it must be read while donning shoulder pads. In the book, she gives several examples of women who pick men that are “exciting” and “daring” and “irresponsible” but give the women the opportunity to recreate the cycle of pain that the woman grew up with.

In my case, my father didn’t want children. He’s awkward and fairly selfish. I learned at a young age that if I wanted him to be around me at all, I had better act in a way that wouldn’t piss him off and make him leave. This meant listening to his problems and his issues – even when they made me feel uncomfortable. This meant controlling my own feelings so that they wouldn’t show. It meant me being only happy around him – but not too happy. That was annoying.

It’s amazing how kids learn to adapt to get love.

Is it any coincidence that I would search for men that I had to do the same things to and around? Familiarity is a wonderful thing.

A book that our couple’s counselor told us to read, “The New Rules of Marriage” by Terry Real had a part of the book where it talked about this. Basically, it stated that every adult romantic relationship gives us the chance to overcome the issues that we had as children. Taking my case as an example, since my father was distant and unloving and I had to strive to “earn” his affection and love, I look for people where I’ll have to do the same striving to get their love and affection. If I get it, I win – and part of me (the part that is still a hurt young girl) heals in the process. If I don’t, it reinforces the idea that I’m intrinsically flawed.*

Unfortunately, this also means that I turn away guys that like me from the get go. I mean, if they like me so much, then they don’t get that I need to earn their love…so they’re not acceptable. I’ve internalized that they must be flawed to like me so much. In short: what is wrong with them that they have liked a screw up like me?

So THAT is what I’ve been working on this summer.

I’ve learned that I’m worth loving just how I am. I’ve learned that there isn’t anything wrong with me. And most importantly, I’ve learned that I don’t need to chase love down – to try to tag it so it will turn around and chase me back.

Probably if I would’ve done this work before I met Joe I wouldn’t have continued to date him much past the two or three month mark. Probably I would’ve picked someone else entirely at the speed dating event.

But the truth is, I’ve felt so much love from Joe in the two years we’ve been dating - and it’s because of that love that I’ve been able to challenge some of my beliefs. He’s reinforced through words and actions that I’m great, beautiful, smart and strong. He has shown me more love than any other man in my life.

It just may not be enough. Or more specifically, it just may be that his issues dovetail so thoroughly with issues with my dad. It may be that I’m especially needy in this area – one that he’s especially weak in. And vice versa.

Can you see why this is a tough decision? So no, I’m not going to make any rash decisions. I owe it to myself to not do that. Because if you’re anything like me, you know that after you end a relationship, it’s easy to second guess all the decisions you’ve ever made. It’s easy to see all the ways you were intolerant of someone else’s flaws. It’s easy to blame yourself for throwing away a perfectly good relationship. What I want to do is explore all the possibilities, try all the ways I can, collect data (hello, I’m an engineer), and understand how I feel. That way I know that in the wee hours of the night when “The Voice” tells me how stupid I was and how much being alone sucks, I can whisper back that I made the right decision and that time heals all wounds.

Thank you for the outpouring of your support. Thank you for the encouragement.

I’ve been a sh!tty blog friend the last few months. I promise to comment more on your blogs – to show you the love and support that I feel for you and your journeys.

* As an aside, THIS is why I’ve struggled so much with religion recently. I was raised in a Christian household, specifically in the Lutheran denomination. Since before I could remember, I was taught that Jesus loved us even though we did bad things. We sinned because we were human; we had something bad in us that only Jesus and God could take away.

The problem with this is that when you pray and pray and pray for the pain to stop and it doesn’t – even from someone who is supposed to be All Knowing and love you more than anything, it’s hard to believe that you are worth saving. If you were worth saving, why wouldn’t you be saved already? Why wouldn’t you be delivered from evil? It’s hard to believe that the black spot of humanity isn’t just a bit bigger in you and that somehow you deserved all the pain and suffering you were currently enduring. After all, if God can move mountains how hard would it have been for him to put some healthy adults in my life so that I could go to them with my burdens?

I’m not trying to get into a philosophical debate – or even challenge your faith. I believe that there is a Higher Power that wants us to be happy and loved. I believe that we are deserving of good things simply because we are human and were created out of love. I believe in God (and Jesus) still. I just don’t believe that man has it right when he says that “everything happens for a reason.” I guess I believe I grew up with some really sh!tty luck. I suppose it had to happen to someone; I just drew the short straw.


Katy said...

You gots a lot of stuff goin' on sis. I know we're not super close friends, but I'd seriously drop what I'm doing and meet you when ever you needed...if you ever just need to talk. I'm here :)

Diana said...

Have you ever taking the Strength's Finder test from Marcus Buckinghams book "Now, Discover Your Strengths"? I'm so sincerely betting that in the top 5 of your strengths that you have "Achiever" in there somewhere.

On the caveat at the end about religion and how it's enmeshed with your familial story. I'm still trying to figure that out for myself. There isn't a quick fix answer. But I do know this: you haven't drawn the short straw. You are worth all the effort in the world - and beyond. Believe in yourself; God & so many others do to.

Auntie Mandy said...

I have missed you! Now I have been really lousy about even going to the blogs, let alone writing on them.

turleybenson said...

I'm so proud of you, doing hard things. I haven't been commenting, but I've been reading, and cheering you on. You go girl. :)