One of my best friends told me this a few months back. Talk about being eviscerated! Holy shit. While I may be a bit secretive, I’m also exceedingly sensitive, and this statement right here literally crushed me. Emotionally mashed me into paste. I still can’t think about without crying. It hurt, a lot, and it still hurts.
But it also made me think. Seriously. I’ve looked back over my life, at all the great people and my ever shifting sets of friends. I only have a few friends, precious few hardy souls, who still talk to me. I came to realize something even more horribly painful. He was right.
I’m not easy to get to know in any real capacity, unless you read what I write. If you read my stuff, you get to know me, see me, see into my head, my heart. I’ve been journaling since 4th grade, however old kids are in 4th grade. I’ve trained myself to write honestly, baldly. But not to speak that way. Not with real people. I expect people to forget me, so I used to introduce myself again and again to people who’ve known me peripherally for as much as 5 years. I stopped doing that a few years ago when someone stared at me like I was an idiot, and after a few moments they deadpanned “I remember.” Oh. Note to self: stop that.
But this attitude that I expect to be forgotten, looked over, ignored … It means I also don’t know how to accept genuine gestures of friendship. I stammer or stare, dumbfounded, unsure what to do with it. I expect that when they leave my presence, they have forgotten all about me. I have heretofore not actually realized that I have an emotional footprint in someone’s life. That I have genuinely failed to recognize that I actually DO affect other people. The more deeply I get into friendships, the more nervous I get, the more invested in opinions I get. This investiture causes an internal collapse of some kind which leads me to betray everything I started out being which they initially liked — it leads me to abandon myself in favor of someone else’s vision of me, a vision I can’t hold because it’s not honest and then they get disappointed. Let down. Leave.
I am a great person, until I get attached to your vision of me. Then I stop being me.
So this soul searching is in the background, this slow percolating awareness that I’m a great person until you get to know me is eating away at my current sense of identity. I’m listening to Robert Ohotto‘s latest show, and he talks a lot about codependence. Ironically, as he’s talking my internal monolog comes online and I launch into this vitriolic diatribe about how so-and-so is codependent, and so is so-and-so. I’m working myself into a lather, denying that I’m codependent but THEY are.
*record scratch as the music comes to abrupt halt* I am now in the Hall of Mirrors. I’ve been here enough to recognize it.
Hello projection. I’m not something, but they are. Said with vehemence and emotional fire. The waving red flag which announces quite loudly “here is a projection that I need to own”. Yup, that’s mine and I don’t want it to be. Am I codependent? My immediate shout of NO! is followed by a more calm rationality. Let’s just think about this. Imagine it’s true, just for the moment. I’m codependent, so how I am making myself responsible for other people’s moods or actions? *blank stare for a few moments as I ponder* I don’t … think I do this …
Ooooh, no. Flip that statement around. I’m making THEM responsible for my actions, my idea of who I am and what I *should* be like. Then I begin to punish myself with sabotaging actions when I fail to be that foreign vision. Aaaw, fuck. *kicks snow*
The more I think on this, the more I am playing through the exact same information that I played through with that ego crushing pronouncement. I am a great person, until I get attached to your vision of me. Then I stop being me – I attempt badly to become what I think you want of me. An exercise doomed to failure. Guaranteed disappointments, resentments, and other such ugly outcomes.
Another statement Ohotto made at one point in the past had to do with abandonment issues. I’m not afraid that others will abandon me. I EXPECT it. Anticipate even. Why? Finally I dug up that it’s because I abandon myself at the earliest opportunity, so others will too. It’s just a matter of time – and so far, I’ve made damn sure that’s happened. When I get into deeper relationship with someone, when I become invested in their vision of me, I abandon myself. I hightail it right out of my own skin and attempt to become someone that I am not. I can’t hold this, especially for a long period of time. The longer I try to hold onto this false vision, the worse I get. I start gaining weight, I spiral into depression, I drop my hobbies, become isolated, uncommunicative, shut down. Yeah, who wants to hang around THAT?
What I’m starting to really key into with all this is that there is only one relationship which will last me the entirety of my life. No matter what is going on, there is only one relationship that sets the stage for everything else. That’s my relationship with myself. And “myself” includes my body, my mind, my heart, my sense of self, my esteem … Everything. All aspects of me. Right now, I have an adversarial relationship with myself. I bully myself, am hyper critical, negative, scornful, dismissive. Yick. That’s not healthy. No wonder I abandon this at the soonest opportunity. No wonder I’m afraid of being alone. I’m afraid of what I’ll do to myself, I’m afraid that without someone else telling me who I am that I’m not anything at all.
Well I know that’s not true. There’s plenty in here that’s genuinely me. And yes, I AM a great person. I just need to learn how to hold onto me. How to have a great relationship with me, so that I can have honest and real relationships with others. How to actually like who I am. If I can’t even stand to see myself, then I am unable to leave the Hall of Mirrors. Everything is a projection, and I don’t have the discernment to suss out the truth because until very recently I’ve refused to sit down with myself and talk.
In the radio episode I’m thinking about, Ohotto was talking about having the strength to say “I don’t have the strength to hold my center when I’m around X”. Now he was talking about addiction, but it applies to anything. For the past few relationships, I’ve had a serious run-in with the Damsel-in-Distress and the White Knight/Rescuer. You could say it’s been a theme for a while now, and at first I got mad. “I am NOT a damsel-in-distress.” Guess what? Yes, I am. I’m a Damsel, and by owning this I know that when I encounter a Knight, I immediately start to swoon and drape dramatically across the fainting couch, expecting to be saved. *sigh* It just happens. If I don’t own it, it will continue to happen. Indeed, when my Knight found a new Damsel-in-distress to help, my own Damsel went ‘oh yea? I’m TWICE as pathetic as she is, see??” *facepalm*
By knowing this, I can start to say “I don’t have the strength yet to hold my center when I’m around a Knight or a Rescuer or another Damsel-in-distress.” I get attached to their vision of me and I throw all of my strength, all my competency, all of my empowerment right out the window. *chuck* I become something I hate, and this eats me up. But guess what? I chose to do it. That means I can choose to do something else.
Caroline Myss writes of the Damsel: “The shadow side of this archetype mistakenly teaches old patricarchal views that women are weak and teaches them to be helpless and in need of protection.” Remember my post talking about the health issues the women in my family were (unconsciously) taught to embrace? This is EXACTLY what I was talking about. I was taught that to be worthy of a man, I had to be weak and in need of protection, and it is this weakness which gives him purpose and allows him to be a man. … Soooo, let me see if I’ve got this right: a man is only a man when the woman is crippled? *stares*
Do I consciously believe this? Hell no. Do I subconsciously believe this? If I’m brutally honest, that I have to say yes.
So what is a Damsel to do when she doesn’t want to be in-distress anymore? I have to learn to be my own knight, to have a strong enough relationship with myself that I know I won’t abandon myself. Ever. I have to learn to be on my own, and be ok with that.