I know I try to avoid certain conversations digging into my past with my therapist.
I’m just going to cry anyway and sometimes I don’t want to cry anymore, you know. Old demons are just that – old demons. Mostly I believe the past should stay in the past.
But in the wake of heartbreak and trying to really get to the bottom of what my drivers are for being so tied to that relationship last summer, we needed to start exploring some of those old demons.
I’m not sure I’m truly believer in Freudian therapy. Going backwards to solve today’s problems seems counter-intuitive to me. I prefer Cognitive Therapy where you are working on acknowledging what is going on with you today. I can see where both therapies have their place, but I believe that CBT suits my personality much better. I don’t like to explore my past. I can clearly articulate what I see as roadblocks from my upbringing. I just need to know how to best to liberate the elements of my unconscious and bring this material into my conscious mind so I can start confronting these distortions and create a more accurate self-image and establish good behaviors.
With that said, I suppose sometimes you have to look backwards to remind yourself why you don’t want to go down those paths again. In my case, it was a recent situation that hit me over the head like a ton of bricks.
My father owns a property that is willed to my brother. My father has decided that he no longer wants to maintain this property and wants to sell it. I took the kids down to the property a few weeks and noticed several things that needed repair. When I called my father to speak to him about it, he got mad at me and told me I don’t know what I am talking about and basically hung up the phone on me.
This has happened multiple times in my life. The men in my life continually tell me “I don’t understand” or “I don’t know what I’m talking about.” My father did it to me, my brother does it to me and so does my x. When I tell you those words make me see red faster than almost anything else, I am not exaggerating.
Compound this by my sister-in-law telling me “we will handle it, we will see what really needs fixing when we get down there.”
I try to take this with a grain of salt. Their behaviors come from the belief that I’m too smart for my own good and they don’t like it so they need to take me down a notch. In addition, they all believe I am reckless with money so I would needlessly spend where it really doesn’t have to be spent (oh, like replacing the air conditioners that are 25 years old, maybe that’s a waste of money in a hot weather state). I already know this is what they think of me because I have lived with it for 40+ years. I don’t need years of therapy to realize this.
Therapy can’t fix what they think of me, but it can help me repair some of my behaviors and reactions each time they treat me like this.
When my father and brother did it to me this time, I really had a good cry about it. Writing this days later, I find myself crying again.
Imagine being a type A personality in a family of B’s and C’s. Imagine trying to impress those people your entire life – through education, career, family or any form of success you may have achieved. Imagine those people patting you on the back with each success and then spending the rest of their lives trying to tear that success out from under you. I tried to impress with success because I really wanted their attention, love and admiration but was continually told I wasn’t “good enough” at something or other.
This is the life I have lived. This is the life I am still living.
Even at work my boss has said I am a know-it-all and I just shouldn’t let people know how much information I have because it makes them feel like they are on the back foot. I should graciously play dumb. Play dumb? Play dumb in my career? What kind of advice is that?
It’s the same advice my father, brother and x all gave to me. Stop demonstrating what you are good at. Be more humble. Be more gracious. Don’t let people know how far you have come.
If you ask my friends, they will tell you I am one of the most humble people they know. I don’t flaunt anything. I don’t judge anyone. I try my best to keep the world at peace around me. I am honest, direct and try my utmost to be considerate.
Yet my own family, the ones I am closest to, tell me to dim my lights. I shine too brightly.
My therapist and I have spoken about this after I explained what happened with my father and selling the property. She said this was good to understand how this will affect my future relationships with men. Of course, this brought us around to my heartbreak, and why it’s so significant.
She identified that I have lived with consistent rejection my entire life. I hadn’t really thought about it this way, but my she feels this is a key driver for many of my behaviors. I want people to like me. I want people to need me. I want to feel valuable and desired.
For once in my life someone admired my achievements, listened to my everyday challenges and offered guidance and advice. A man was actually impressed with how I balanced my life and career and the challenges I have overcome. He wasn’t threatened by me in any way, shape or form. In fact, my courage gave him motivation. How great was that?
So great it was addictive. Intoxicating.
It’s very clear to me that my next relationship needs to emulate this behavior. I need someone to support my achievements and stand beside me. Not someone who will chip away at my foundations – I have enough of those people more than willing to do that in my life already. I have said before that he was good at holding my pedestal and cheering for me. That’s the man I want in my life. The one who will give me the strength I need to be more courageous than I have been, to be more fearless, to be the best me I can be.
To be a superstar without fear that someone may not like me for achieving something they have not, or having something they don’t.
I do not have good role models for male relationships in my life. This is certainly one of the reasons I so desperately want to attract male attention.
Of course we talked a bit about self-love and the ability to take pride in myself.
It’s moments like this that I want to forsake them all. Walk away from my family entirely. I find this so disheartening.
I hear my mother’s voice at times like this. “Your father is only trying to do his best, it’s the only behavior he knows.” It always brings me back to this one story that has stuck in my head for a lifetime: my father washed my new jeans and t-shirt together and not only shrunk them, but dyed the t-shirt pink (they were red jeans – I was so proud of them)! When I cried in complaint, my mother’s answer to me was “be happy your father did your laundry, he was only trying to help.” That’s the double edge sword right there, isn’t it? Since when would I expect my father would do my laundry when my mother always did it and why should I be thankful that he just ruined something I bought with my meager paycheck and had worn only once and could never wear again? It was her answer for everything with him. She had realized long ago what an ogre my father was and her only mode of interaction with him was defeat and submission. I can almost never do this and it causes a problem every time. My brother on the other hand is a master at submission.
I oscillate between wanting to maintain ties with my family and wanting to just run away from them for good. I feel the obligatory pull of responsibility but not truly sure how much love I genuinely feel for the family I was raised with. When people don’t understand you or appreciate you, it’s really hard to find grace and forgiveness. I try to practice this every day, but find myself in flux lately as I try to figure out the next steps in my own life.
Should we surround ourselves with people who don’t understand us just because they are our family? Or can we create new families built on friendship and mutual admiration, love and respect? Perhaps I have granted my family this much grace because I didn’t have the energy to create the right family to surround myself with. It takes a lot of effort and energy to keep good relationships intact.
And I am just starting to wonder why I am expending all that energy and effort on the bad relationships in my life just because I feel a familial obligation.
Does anyone else experience this vast fracture with their families?
Fortunately, one of my life long questions is answered – I am not genetically attached to this family of mine – so the answers are obvious in terms of nature vs nurture. But could I deal with the guilt of walking away from the family that raised me? Have I displaced my sense of childhood deprivation by trying too hard to build relationships that shore up my fragile self-esteem? But have those relationships, in fact, done more harm than good?
My family implanted mutually conflicting totems in my superego and then I married a man who fed the beast. I have lived a life of “we are proud of you, but not really because…..”
I can’t do this to myself anymore.
I am proud of me. I want my children to be proud of me. Someday, I want the man in my life to be proud of me.
I think I need to expend my energy on healthier relationships. I worked up the courage to remove my x from my life and I believe I have to think about the best way to manage my father. Guilt is a tough emotion to navigate here, but I can no longer manage these negative feelings consuming me.