I hate, hate, hate, how often I second guess relationships and their importance to the other person all of the time. I hate this intense fear of rejection I have. For once I would like to be confident in a relationship, a friendship, that I strongly value. I want to know that, no matter what, I have a secure base, a secure relationship to fall back on. I just want someone to be there to hold me and take care of me to a degree. I don’t want to be afraid to be exactly who I am or express exactly what I feel. I don’t want to think all of the negative things I think. “Oh she’s just a someone I know. She’s actually rather clingy and it is annoying how she always seeks me out. It is like she thinks we’re close friends or something.” I want someone or something to depend on. I want to be pursued instead of feeling like I am the one latching onto someone who doesn’t feel the same way about me.
What I need is a therapist who can provide me with the validation, the “holding environment,” and the freedom for the time to be just about me. I need that secure base. More than anything I need to feel safe to express the emotions I have suppressed for so long. It is so so so incredibly indescribably lonely not being sure of any important relationship and not feeling emotionally safe to be human.
In my studies for art therapy this week I read a section of one of my textbooks about how important just witnessing another person is, whether that is during an art therapy session or not. Just being there, another person’s presence is validating in its own way. It is still a hard concept for me to grasp sometimes because although I feel its truth, I had a hard time just sitting with my child volunteer during my Art Therapy with Children course this past semester. I felt as though I should be doing something and I was afraid she would feel self-conscious with me just watching her. I think if I were to get emotional during a therapy session I would want comforting, not comforting per se but…a recognition of the pain I was in. And I am not sure that I would necessarily get that unless I was with a friend instead of a therapist. Again on the fear of rejection I would be afraid of the therapist not liking me. I am that in need of external validation.
A friend of mine posted something on Facebook the other day that really struck a cord with me. She’s been suffering from depression for a little while and the other day she posted that she “hates having this.” This morning when I read it it resonated with me because I hadn’t thought of depression as something you have, like a disease, and actual illness before. I mean intellectually I know this is true. But emotionally I never really considered it as something separate from myself. Depression was something in me; it is a part of me. I never saw it as something separate, like a cloak you can (or cannot) take on and off. It is something so melded to or in me, like an alloy. The depression and anxiety has been so much a part of me it is like a part of my character or at least so I had though before.
It reminds me of a story. There is this man walking down a street wrapped up in a coat. The wind turns to the sun and bets the sun that he can make the man take off his coat. The sun takes the bet and the wind beings to blow. The harder the wind blows the tighter the man wraps his coat around him. After a while the wind gives up and the sun takes his turn. The sun beats down on the man, brighter and stronger. Before long the man takes off his coat.
I suppose now that I’ve experienced some “breaks in the clouds” since moving up here I can imagine potentially freeing myself of this…parasite. I probably need the help of an exterminator though or the sun.
You know something I’ve never done? I’ve never called off from work or played hooky from school just because I
fucking felt like it. I am too much of a goody-goody. I practically have to be dying to call off sick and I have never even done that, that I remember. I feel like I’ve missed out on so many opportunities simply because I am so conscientious. It sucks. I like being the dependable one, the one to be counted on, because I seek approval. I have an extremely hard time refusing extra shifts. In one of my last jobs every time a shift needed to be covered my hours would be extended or I would be called upon to fill in on a Saturday.
I have been working a lot lately. It seems ridiculous to complain about a 35 hour work week especially in this day and age but I’m tired. My apartment is a mess. My inner environment is a mess. I’m too wrapped up in the routine of get up, go to work, come home, do homework, eat, sleep, get up, go to work, go to the gym, go home, do homework, eat, sleep… My family, my Mom and Dad especially, would focus on the fact that the number of hours I am working pads my bank account. They discount the amount of energy it takes me to juggle everything. Dad’s reaction especially would make me feel inadequate, childish, immature, for being unable to take on this demanding routine with enthusiasm. He’d say, “That’s life, honey.” Yeah but what if I don’t want it to be!?!?!
I can continue but I won’t be happy about it and I know I will slowly become less and less functional. And from past experience I know I have a tendency to express my dissatisfaction, my unhappiness, my lack of peace, in passive-agressive ways, which is not good. “They” should build in mandatory mental health days for hourly workers like me.
I feel like an overused muscle bordering on being worked to exhaustion.
Yesterday I had my Art Therapy Studio class. During the course of the day we had to process with one of the instructors who, by the way, had also gone through the same Master’s program a number of years ago. Part of our processing session was dialoguing with our artwork. It is a standard art therapy technique. Unfortunately I had an extremely difficult time practicing this technique. I just could not suspend my disbelief enough. I am far too logic and rational based. It is much less of a stretch for me to anthropomorphize something like a stuffed animal. It is odd really that something like that hasn’t left me but I cannot assign thoughts and emotions to an artwork. Dialoguing with art work is something I will have to work on.
I also re-realized that I still operate from a low sense of self worth. I have known this but it is something I thought I was getting over/ changing. But it seems that no matter how optimistically or negatively I approach various circumstances I am still devaluing myself. I also have a huge sense of guilt. I discount and devalue my emotions. I often feel as if I do not have a right to feel one way or another. I rarely get angry. Annoyed, yes. I have a pervasive belief or directive to be “reasonable.” I do not want to be accused of being difficult, of causing distress, of causing plans to be rearranged because of my preferences. I find it much easier to acquiess than to cause any kind of disruption. If my preferences were given way to I would worry someone else would be unhappy and might harbor negative feelings against me. I hate to cause inconvenience. It is as if my thoughts, feelings, preferences, etc. aren’t as valuable, aren’t as worthy. All of this isn’t even a conscious thing; it is that fundamental.
How do I change that? It is like trying to change your hair or eye color. You can dye your hair and get colored contacts for your eyes but no matter what your hair and eyes are the color you are born with. I am not saying I was born with this faulty foundation but it is so ingrained in me that it feels like it. Fake it till you make it? I don’t know if that’s possible. Can you really escape fundamental personal beliefs like that?
I hope so.
I received a paper I wrote last semester back from the professor today. The following is a comment she wrote in regards to the content of my paper.
“Laura, on the one hand, it is very interesting the way you are so open with your learning process. ‘You wear your heart on your sleeve’ is something I might say about you. On the other hand, it seems like your focus is entirely in terms of negative evaluations of yourself. Work to think in a more balanced way…
I applaud your level of honesty and you aren’t someone who I think will just write what they think I want to hear.
Work also to notice one or two things that went right. It is not all good or bad.”
I’ve discovered a term that has a lot of meaning for me: Self-differentiation. I have also found a number of descriptions of this term that I feel I can really relate to.
“People with a poorly differentiated sense of self depend so heavily on the acceptance and approval of others that either they quickly adjust what they think, say, and do to please others or they dogmatically proclaim what others should be like and pressure them to conform.” www.thebowencenter.org
Now with my personality I relate to the first way of functioning. I am not one to pressure anyone to conform to my standards. I will more willingly give up my own. But also through growth, this acquiescing and denial of my own wants, needs, and feelings, is becoming more painful because I can recognize the damage it does. But neither do I want to alienate the significant and insignificant others in my life.
“A person with a well differentiated sense of self recognizes his realistic dependence on others, but he can stay calm and clear headed enough in the face of conflict, criticism, and rejection to distinguish thinking rooted in careful assessment of the facts from thinking clouded by emotionality.” www.thebowencenter.org
I don’t know whether my attraction to this description of the well differentiated person comes from a genuine desire to be…a “normal” person with “healthy” relationships or if it comes from my deeply rooted fear of rejection. I strive to be a well differentiated person who isn’t so…afraid and needy all of the time. But I cannot dismiss my deep need for other people. I cannot leave behind the nourishment I get from the others I feel genuine love and support from. I still desperately need that and why do I feel that it is wrong to be needy in this way? Will I ever become the rational person I desire to become? And why do I feel I need to be rational and not let my emotions affect me so much? Is it that they are frequently too painful to address?
And this leads me to another quote that has strongly resonated with me recently:
“Adults with attachment difficulties want to be loved and accepted but don’t have the ‘tools’ to achieve that goal. Their cognitive distortions sabotage what they want and need. This is why traditional therapy usually does not work for these adults. In traditional therapy the adult client with maladaptive upbringing usually functions more from his frontal lobe. This is because talk therapy tends to be more of a cognitive process for them, They never access and deal with their limbic stored emotions, The more intelligent the client the better they are at defending their stored up feelings of inadequacy. As a result they tend to get frustrated by traditional therapy and don’t believe that it helps.” www.instituteforattachment.org
But what to do with this insight? Or am I making too damn much of my issues?