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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