A while back, my therapist asked, “Do you think Heather will love you, regardless of whether you’re actively contributing to the relationship?”. I told him I wasn’t sure, cause I was still trying to understand the concept of unconditional love. As a child, my parents told me they wouldn’t love me if I wasn’t a good boy, and a good boy would do exactly what they wanted. The affection they doled out was directly related to how well I did in school, or how much I impressed other parents. They used it as a tool to control me, and this dynamic has influenced my understanding of relationships to the point that it feels like I constantly need to be making efforts in them (or they’ll decay).
So my therapist instead posed the question, “Do you think Heather will love you, no matter what?”. My first reaction was one of confusion; I heard the same question as before. When I realized it had completely different implications — would Heather still love me if I was an axe murderer; if I was racist; if I burned the house down; if I didn’t love her back — it dawned on me that I was projecting this monumental requirement on myself to be constantly making efforts towards the relationship. It wasn’t an expectation Heather was bringing, but my own; one I projected on her due to my childhood trauma.
To realize that I was doing this in such a specific and significant manner was a shock. My mind inadvertently made bounds in logic, and every time Heather said, “I’ll always love you”, I would hear, “I’ll always love you, as long as…“
Continue reading “projector”…
I needed to feel a different pain. I needed to reassert myself. I needed to change my body from the one he knew.
I’ve been killing it. Nights that bleed into morning, pots of coffee, retail therapy, English ales that drink like meals. The blood doesn’t faze me anymore. Instead of slowly slipping down the spiral, I’ve decided to fall all the way so I can climb back up.
Sometimes you have to tear yourself down before you can start rebuilding.
This week I’ve been seeing images when I wake up in the middle of the night. Usually in the form of slow, flesh ripping decapitation, or bullets entering non-vital parts of my body, like my arms. Not of self-mutilation but mutilation of the self. These images, in some form or another, have followed me my whole life, and went away after I started therapy. Now they’re back.
There’s been a new one lately though.
I have a one-inch thick, two meter pole through the heart, sticking out perpendicularly to my body in both directions evenly. My heart and lungs have grown and healed around this pole, and even a gentle impact on either end, due to the mechanical-force multiplying nature of the fulcrum that is my heart, could disrupt my organs and kill me.
So as I’m trying to fall asleep again, I see myself going about any regular day, stumbling around with this unwieldy pole, hoping I don’t trip, and no one bumps into it.
Dying is an art, like everything else. I do it exceptionally well.
I’m in a transition phase. Living in self-destruction. Building tolerances to all the wrong things. Picking my scabs. Shedding skin. Killing a little bit of myself every day.
Trying to get it all out of my system.
My anxiety is now under control, 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:
- 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.
- 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.