Today I spent several hours writing and revising something I eventually decided I couldn’t use. I told Spouse about my frustrations, characterizing my rejected piece as having “sucked”.
It didn’t actually suck. In fact, it uncovered some intriguing insights. The problem with it was that those insights weren’t relevant to the purpose I had in mind.
Before today, if someone had asked me why I characterize writing I won’t use as “sucky” (or something similar), I would have said I do it to show I’m not taking myself too seriously. Which is actually kind of problematic in and of itself: Why would I feel like I have to denigrate my own writing?
There was worse to come. I was writing about attachment styles. I wrote that I grew up with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style, such that I “seek high levels of intimacy, approval, and responsiveness from others, often becoming overly dependent” [Gannon, qtd. in Nelson, pp. 109-110]. That contrasts with Spouse’s dismissive-avoidant attachment style. Spouse dismisses people who don’t like him as “probably jerks anyway” — practically textbook for his style. True to my attachment style, though, when people don’t like me, . . . I turn myself inside out trying to figure out how to change that.
If I had a secure attachment style, instead I would have “positive views of [myself and my] relationships, even new ones”.
There’s no reason why everybody would like me. No one is universally liked.
If I not just realized intellectually, but truly accepted that I don’t have to “earn” my way into people’s good graces, how would I act differently? Well, for one thing, I’d stop writing letters to people who don’t write back (which is what this piece would have been). I’d stop explaining why I have trouble with certain things, when, as far as I can tell, this person is not actually interested.
This person used to write to me. I’ve been trying to figure out what I can do to get them to start up again. Just today I realized, people do things for their own reasons. This person wrote to me because . . . well, who knows why, really, but it probably didn’t have anything to do with stuff I did, or didn’t do. Maybe last year they were less busy at work, or lonelier. Maybe they wrote as often as they did because they didn’t really like my responses, but kept hoping each one would work better. Maybe 101 things.
I could also consider ‘control’ — how trying to get someone to do something specific is an attempt to control their behavior — but that’s actually kind of a distraction from something more important to me right now.
Why am I spending so much energy on someone who isn’t responsive?
And why am I so quick to run down my own work?
(Related: why do I keep second-guessing things I’ve already done, sure they are disasters in the making?)
Who is all this destructive self-talk for?
It’s almost like I’m trying to impress someone else with how much of myself I’m willing to throw under the bus.
Except that, someone who would actually be impressed by me throwing myself under the bus, is someone I emphatically don’t need in my life.
When I’m feeling more confident, I occasionally achieve “(earned) secure” attachment. So, what if I just act that way now, even though I’m not feeling very confident? What if I just accept that no one is universally liked?
What if I reserve my energy for people willing to make an effort with me?
And what if I treat my parts respectfully? They deserve that, as much as I do, as much as others do.
What if I stop seeking responsiveness, while being open to people who are genuinely interested in me? What if I just trust what’s freely available?
And I’m no longer going to say that my writing “sucks”. Because it doesn’t.
[[Dr. Michelle Gannon’s work, referenced in Shasta Nelson’s Friendships Don’t Just Happen.]]