I’ve only recently noticed that when I’m recalling my past with my family of origin, I find myself using the word ‘ridiculous’ a lot. And it is always referring to my needs or preferences. It’s as if the very existence of needs by me is somehow unseemly.
I have a lot of trouble with wants and preferences also, but at least they are optional. When I disavow them, it’s less of a betrayal of myself.
Needs are different.
I’ve been having a lot of trouble sorting out what exactly is a need, and what is ‘just’ a preference.
I was walking in the woods earlier today, thinking about all of this stuff. And even as epiphanies were flying, I thought about a new situation that has just cropped up in my life. I thought to myself, “I just don’t want to deal with it all. I don’t want to open that box, and then deal with everything I will then be obligated to do. I wonder if I could just refuse it?” And then my very next thought was, “Well I’m going to have to open it. So how can I deal with it in a way that’s the least painful?”
It took me 10 minutes to even figure out there was a disconnect!
Why am I so quick to deem my own wishes irrelevant? If I do open the box, nothing joyful or pleasurable is going to be in it. It’s just obligation to people I don’t want to have a relationship with. And yet… the people pleaser in me hesitates. They will be expecting thanks. If I don’t send thanks right away, I’m a bad person. They will think less of me.
If I don’t want a relationship with these people, why should I care whether they think less of me? I don’t owe them anything. I don’t want to owe them anything.
A complication is that other people might be drawn into the situation. And those other people will tell me I’m doing the wrong thing. That I should not ‘make waves’. They will say that the box-givers are old, and set in their ways, and therefore [insert handwaving magic here] we should always give them exactly what they want from us, because … they deserve it? They expect it? Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever been offered a reason why. I have wondered why other people always give in; presumably they are getting something out of doing so that I cannot fathom.
While I was still in the woods, I thought of a separate situation that is problematic: an event long wished for has suddenly been scheduled for shortly. And now I don’t think I want it. But I immediately insisted to myself that we somehow have to make it work.
I’m the only human being in the woods. I’m having a conversation with myself. And yet I’m still losing the argument.
Last weekend Spouse went on a trip without me. He hadn’t even been gone for two hours when I was zipping around, getting things done. I took plenty of time to relax and rejuvenate, but I also experienced a surge of creative energy. Both nights I stayed up very late (3 and 4 a.m.) because I kept having more ideas about things I could do. Things I wanted to do. I didn’t do anything for three entire days that I didn’t want to do. I was more relaxed – happier – than I think I have been in years.
When Spouse is around, somehow I’m all caught up in trying to manage his expectations of me. But this past weekend, I got reacquainted with myself. And it was marvelous! With no one else around, it was remarkably easy to figure out what I did want and what I didn’t want. It seemed revolutionary to only do things I wanted to do. Even though I’m home alone every day — nothing is stopping me, any day of the week, from doing whatever I want. But I don’t. Even when Spouse is at work, I’m prioritizing the things he expects me to do. The stuff I actually want to do — if it’s even on a list — gets relegated to the crumbs of time and attention. And when I can fit them in, I rarely have high quality/creative brain energy, so they’re not satisfying to do either. Or I get started, but quickly get overwhelmed, and have to stop early. And then weeks go by before I pick up the project again, since it felt so icky last time. Ugh.
Spending tons of energy chasing after people I barely know because I feel a compulsion to be social … seems like part of the same obsessive behavior. What if all of this other stuff is just a cloud of distractions to keep me from Spending Quality Time Alone With Me? What if, instead of scouring the planet for people who will accept me (preferably without ‘too many’ agonizing offers), I cut out the middleman and just accept my self?
Not coincidentally, I’ve been reading and working through David Richo’s Shadow Dance: Liberating the Power and Creativity of Your Dark Side.
From the introduction:
“Do you dare to love what you have hated all your life? If you can entertain that paradox, this book is for you, since it attempts to show how everything about us contains creativity and goodness no matter how bad or useless we may think it to be. Our dark side has been called our personal shadow by C. G. Jung. The shadow is everything about ourselves that we do not know or refuse to know, both dark and light. It is the sum total of the positive and negative traits, feelings, beliefs, and potentials we refuse to identify as our own. The shadow is that part of us that is incompatible with who we think we are or are supposed to be. […] To think that what we are conscious of about ourselves is all there is to us puts us in danger of being run by the unconscious forces in our shadow. This is scary, since we are mostly unable to see or even know the full darkness of our shadow side. It is a personality with our name on it, but it was deported long ago. This part of us was banished early in life. To gain and maintain approval, we may have had to exhibit only the personality that was acceptable to our parents. […] At the same time, some of the great assets or talents of our personality might also have been threatening to our parents and others in our life, and then they too had to be sequestered. … Our self doubts about our skills and potential may still be in trunks gathering dust, overlooked and seemingly above our reach.” (pp. 1, 3)
I have the sense that about 80% of my personality is sequestered in my shadow. I’ve spent the last three years diligently coaxing it to show itself, but the process remains terrifying. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m in Maryland, I’m an adult, I have a reasonably good life (that I want to make better). I’m no longer a powerless child, trying to placate adults who don’t care about me, and who keep threatening to throw me in the street. My life is not in danger anymore. I’m safe.
But I still feel like I’m on trial. Like I have to prove my worth, which is, of course, impossible. So I fail, over and over. Which is also terrifying.
I can’t help but think that my fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome-like symptoms may be manifestations of being utterly exhausted from denying myself for all these years. I want to stop holding the terror at bay; I want to work through it, and transcend it. And at this point it feels like my choices are: find and love my selves, in their entirety, or die trying. Because whatever was allowing me to keep the lid on has evaporated, or maybe just been all used up. And I’m really, desperately, tired of hating myself.