Psychoanalytic Reflections 04

My anx­i­ety is now under con­trol1, so my ther­a­pist and I have moved onto other issues.

It’s funny that I started going to ther­apy for my anx­i­ety attacks, but he keeps dig­ging up issues I never knew that I had.

Not that any of it is as debil­i­tat­ing the way the anx­i­ety attacks were, but it’s made me real­ize that they have affected my qual­ity of life. All of it stems from my par­ents (as opposed to being teased, some kind of inci­dent, etc.). Once again, I say that I don’t like to blame them, but the glar­ing fact is that I can now trace every issue back to my childhood.

The idea of a self-destructive pat­tern whereby we repeat the pain of our child­hoods is called a life­trap. They’re cat­e­go­rized dif­fer­ently, depend­ing on the school of psy­chol­ogy one pre­scribes to, but my most sig­nif­i­cant ones (i.e. rated “very high”) are emo­tional depri­va­tion, depen­dence, unre­lent­ing stan­dards, and puni­tive­ness. When I first started, I also had pes­simism, but this has mostly gone with my anxiety.

I’ll touch on two of them now:

Emotional Deprivation

  • One of the things that sparked the real­iza­tion that I didn’t have a reg­u­lar child­hood was when I was asked to fill out a diag­nos­tic ques­tion­naire. I was told to rate how strongly I felt about the state­ment “I have not had some­one to nur­ture me, share him/herself with me, or care deeply about what hap­pens to me”. I thought to myself, “That’s nor­mal? People have that?”.
    • This is why I feel alone and detached from the world. It’s not quite as clean-cut as this, as there are a bunch of other issues that fac­tor into the issue, but it’s an over­all feeling.
    • Until that point, I never con­sid­ered the idea that such peo­ple exist. I assume the par­ents are sup­posed to fill this role, and even­tu­ally a spouse.
    • In many peo­ple with emo­tional depri­va­tion, the life­trap man­i­fests itself in rela­tion­ships where they remain emo­tion­ally dis­tant. For me, it’s more of a dif­fi­culty com­mu­ni­cat­ing to my girl­friends about my needs, and then feel­ing dis­ap­pointed when my needs aren’t met.
      • This makes me won­der how cer­tain rela­tion­ships would have worked out if I was a dif­fer­ent per­son and didn’t keep break­ing up with my girlfriends
      • Unfortunately, I could write a book on this.

Unrelenting Standards

  • I’ve real­ized that I’m still being too hard on myself. This stems from the expec­ta­tions put on me as a child, or sim­ply the fact that I think being unsat­is­fied with stag­nancy is healthy because self-improvement makes me a bet­ter per­son. Most likely, a bit of both.
    • Sometimes I have to com­pare myself to some­one like Pat to give myself per­spec­tive on this issue. He’s a per­son who hasn’t “achieved” much when eval­u­ated by my stan­dards, but he’s happy and that’s what mat­ters. It makes me ques­tion what I’m try­ing so hard to achieve. I think of an old Calvin and Hobbes strip, where Calvin says, “It’s hard to argue with some­one who looks so happy”
    • I under­stand that it’s the pur­suit of great­ness, not great­ness itself, that should make life worth liv­ing, so when I have this self-destructiveness as a result, it doesn’t quite make sense. I’m work­ing on this. It helps me to keep a quote by Charlotte Cushman in mind: “To try to be bet­ter is to be better”.
    • A side effect is that I’m too hard on other peo­ple because I project my unre­lent­ing stan­dards on them as well.
    • A lot of peo­ple tell me that I wouldn’t have had so much pres­sure to be the best and per­form well if I wasn’t an only child.
  1. I don’t say solved because I don’t think one can com­pletely elim­i­nate anx­i­ety []

3 comments

  1. I’ve always had the idea that anx­i­ety is the result of not being able to clearly iden­tify the cause of a prob­lem. Once the cause is iden­ti­fied, you can either con­tain the pro­lem or know the worst-case sce­nario. And often­times you’ll realise that the worst-case sce­nario is not that bad. That way you’ll have peace of mind. The inter­est­ing thing is, a lot of the times you won’t be able to kill the cause, but that doesn’t mat­ter anymore.

    I get the feel­ing that you’re start­ing to look at your prob­lem from a dis­tance (i.e., a bird’s-eye view) as if you were cri­tiquing a film or a book. That’s a huge progress.

    I have the same prob­lem of expect­ing oth­ers to try to be bet­ter, that’s also my unre­lent­ing stan­dard. But then I think surely every­body tries to be bet­ter, only in aspects that are impor­tant to them, and unim­por­tant to me.

  2. sounds like me, lets see.…

    emo­tional deprevation-check

    unre­lent­ing standards-check

    anxiety-check

    isn’t being human awesome?

  3. @Uncle Joe — You’re exactly right; much of anx­i­ety comes from the unknown, and once you fig­ure out the worst-case, even death per­haps, it’s not that as ter­ri­ble as one would expect. But it’s not just iden­ti­fy­ing a prob­lem, it’s being able to look at it from sev­eral angles to approach it logically.

    It’s never the cause of anx­i­ety that’s the prob­lem. It’s our habit of over-thinking as humans. When we’re chil­dren, we don’t have these prob­lems, even though the same causes are all around us. One of the rea­sons why I try to fol­low the Taoist prac­tice of becom­ing a child.

    I have to dis­agree that every­one tries to be bet­ter. Too many times, I’ve been let down by peo­ple becom­ing com­pla­cent with them­selves. Not only that but, there are many peo­ple who are aware that they can improve them­selves in some way, yet are too lazy to try. That’s what dis­ap­points me the most.

    @Liz — To be hon­est, I’d rather live like this, than as one of the bil­lion mind­less zom­bies. At least this gives us some­thing to work towards. It makes me feel like I’m alive, not like I’m just bid­ing time until I’m dead. The jour­ney and the strug­gle are the impor­tant parts of life.

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