I am a little angry with the news media and how they portray tragedies like this shooting in Isla Vista. They, some more than others, are making the shooter out to be so abhorrent with aberrant behaviors, mostly to salve the general population’s consciousness. “This cannot be me or my community because this guy or this girl was nuts.” This young man’s reality was obviously distorted but experiencing isolation like he did gave him very little opportunity to change or alter his way of viewing the world. The only or primary source of feedback he was getting was from himself.
He seemed to have felt persecuted socially and by women especially. I won’t go into what views he may or may not have held in regards to objectifying women and status symbols such as money. I have no idea what kind of relationship he had with his therapist either. I cannot judge and neither should society attempt to do so.
His attack was a day of revenge on a world he felt did him wrong or owed him something. I’m trying to understand his reality. He was apparently odd from a young age and was greatly effected by the divorce of his parents, something many many of us have sadly experienced. He was made fun of by classmates or at the very least excluded from or avoided in social activities. I can understand the extreme amount of anger this young man might have. So much hurt and anger. Again, I am reminded of how groups ostracize, make fun of, torment, any individuals who don’t quite conform to everyone else’s standards. Again, I am brought back to the demonizing and distorting of this young man. He was a young man, like any other. He was somebody’s son; somebody’s baby. Instead of outrage at his horrifying and tragic acts all I can feel is sadness. Where did we go wrong in this poor young man’s life that he felt so alienated, so disconnected, from this blessed life? I grieve for this young man along with his victims.
I am reminded of a discussion I’ve had with my therapist. We have talked about how the things or people or ideas we are attracted to, love, or idolize, are all, in some essence, a part of ourselves. They are a reflection of ourselves. In this same sense the things that we hate or annoy us are also a part of us. And so in this confusion of love, hate, and rejection, that fed only on itself, this young man lived in ultimately intolerable conditions. He saw or believed in all of these positive qualities in himself and those he idolized and yet he was rejected by and hated these idolized others. There were then competing drives of attraction and repulsion within himself and outside of himself. He could not see or feel his way clear of this.
What I cannot stand is the righteous indignation evident in the aftermath of tragedies such as this. We failed this young man. Yes, of course he had his own role to play and there is a lot to be said for personal responsibility but I cannot help but think of the connections, the human connections, that might have prevented this.
This is something I have been struggling with for a while. Social attachment. Romantic attachment.
The first guy I asked out was to prom in high school. He was already going with someone else and he was gay besides. He was smart though and I admired him. The second guy I asked out in a rather round about way. He was older than I am by 13 years and I gave him a holiday card with my phone number in it. I liked and admired him and we “went out” off and on for close to two years. We were really more like “friends with benefits.” I took pleasure in the fact that he was older than I am and I had the privilege of being part of his private life. I really wanted him to like me and since this was my first ever relationship or “boyfriend” or date, I was honest in everything I told him. I knew instinctively I didn’t want to be one of those girls who “played games” and left their partners confused, frustrated, or upset. Looking back on it now, even though he is a really nice and caring guy, I feel like I know he had no “real” feelings for me.
I make this point because I am struggling with a situation right now where there are a couple of guys attracted to me, one of whom pursues me even though he is aware of my nonexistent feelings towards him. I like him as a person and a friend but there is no emotional connection there. I like talking to him. He wants there to be an emotional connection and I feel like something is wrong with me because I don’t have “those feelings” and have never had “those feelings.” By “those feelings” I mean the feelings that come as part of a normal healthy relationship. I feel emotionally disconnected. As I told this particular guy, if he just suddenly stopped talking to me I wouldn’t feel anything. It would be a shoulder shrug. “Oh well.”
Through his description of his feelings, I know what it is like to be on that end of things. To like someone so much but at the same time know they don’t feel the same way about you, or feel that you can’t feel that way about them. Attachment in social relationships as well as the therapeutic relationship, is a difficult thing.
So I am left to wonder, will I ever be in a place where I am healthy enough to make connections, real connections, with anyone, romantic or otherwise? What keeps me from making those attachments? How do I learn to give up a little part of my emotional self to share with someone? To forget myself while at the same time being utterly and wholly myself? Or is it perfectly okay that I don’t feel anything for these guys? As I have put it before, will I ever be in a place where I feel a part of the whole instead of apart from the whole?
The therapeutic relationship is different. I feel like I can be there for people, empathize, and support them, ache with them, ( I think that is what is attracting these guys to me) but there is always that little bit of professional detachment. That is what I feel in most social relationships. How do I separate myself from it so that I can connect emotionally in social settings?
Later this afternoon I have a meeting with my professors and I am nervous (surprise, surprise). One professor I know. She’s been my professor for three plus years. The other professor is new and is the new program director. We are meeting to discuss my plans for the fall. Since I’ve been “away” from the program for a semester I need to get back into the swing of things. I know
some of what I need to do to set up an internship for the fall but I want to check in with them. I want to know more of what to expect. But over the past week or more I have been anxious about preparing and doing what I need to do for this meeting. But what is that? It has been like studying for a test when you don’t know what the test is going to be on. I want to pass. I want to make sure I have done everything I need to do and they won’t just sit there and look at me. “Well?”
I told someone that I want to make a good impression on them, the new professor especially, and was told that it is just as important for them to make a good impression on me as it is that I make a good impression on them. Thinking of that, it does empower me a little bit to ask for what I need, clarifications, directions, and feedback. And it does take a little bit of the weight of responsibility…not sure if this is the right word…for making sure this meeting goes well. It’s not all on me.
I’ve done a lot of work during my semester off. I just hope it has been enough for me to really take advantage of my internship experience this fall.
More than anything I am afraid of being told, “Nope. I’m sorry but you just don’t have what this profession needs. You still need to do a lot of personal work.” It hurts to be told you do not belong to a group of people you admire and know or hope you are right for. “Sorry. Not good enough.” But I can take comfort in the fact that it was unusual for a student to be “dismissed” from their internship and I can take comfort in that every now and then I have this “Let’s do this!” confidence about internship. At other times I just want to find a place where I can learn and practice easily, without all of the anxiety I carry. I know what I know. I know I am smart and creative and I just have this problem with trusting myself. And I am afraid of others.