It seems as though could be moving in a positive direction. Let’s see.

I have, at the moment, a feeling of freedom, as if I have been literally unfettered. If I think about it, I cry. If I don’t, I enjoy it. It’s a perception, I suppose. It could be based on something real. It could be a momentary impression that turns out not to be based on anything real.

Feelings are like that. Sometimes they point to an important truth and sometimes they are just a wave to ride. I’m riding this one.

I was thinking about compliance. A reader points out we have four possible responses to danger: fight, flight, freeze, or connect. And that makes a lot of sense to me. You go into a new situation, it makes you kind of nervous, and what do you usually do? Look around for friendly faces. Look around for the people who like you, who might be like you, for the ones who might make up a good pack to protect you from your nervousness. Get stuck on the subway? You might come home with a few phone numbers. Yeah, we connect when we’re frightened.

Kids connect by complying. They make the adults’ desires their own desires. There is a sense of “us” then. The adult feels it. The child might feel it too.

C is compliant. It is one of the first things I noticed about her. She is too compliant. She used to be very compliant towards me. “May I stand up?” It was sweet. It was also troubling. I knew she was too compliant, but I don’t know if I put it all together.

She is not so compliant with me now. She uses bad language in front of me. She hits doors in a rage (not rage at me, at her sisters). She tells me, directly, “No.” I tell her to do something and she says, “Wait.” I didn’t quite put together what had happened. Or I thought I might be able to, but I wasn’t sure if I was coming to the correct conclusion.

It started to piss me off that she obeys everyone but me. You could say it’s a normal mother/daughter relationship, except it’s not. The first time we had a conversation was less than 8 months ago. I started to think maybe she got what she wanted out of me: she got her parents to let her go to the school of her choice. Now she’s done with me. It didn’t seem true, but it was hard not to wonder.

Well, she feels safer now. This is the real C. She gets angry. She has her own ideas about what she wants to do. She doesn’t always want to things right now.

The thing about being compliant is then no one gets to see who you are. They see the person they hope you are. At least the people who scare you will never see you: not the authority figures in your life. They will only see your compliant façade.

And maybe that’s one reason C feels no one can love her. The “real” C gets rejected, repeatedly. Anyone she has reached out to, made a bond with, started to feel safe with and relaxed in front of has first seen the child they would like her to be and they maybe they started to see someone else. She changed. Maybe they thought what I started to think: there’s really no relationship. Maybe they found they didn’t like her so much anymore, but the message has always been as soon as you show something authentic. As soon as the mask begins to slip, people leave you.

No one can love you for the person you are.

It makes me think what an adult might feel who grew up doing that. I wasn’t a people pleaser, to my memory. That was my sister’s job. I didn’t necessarily think about whether anyone liked me or not, or whether they were happy with what I did. But I would be shocked now if I were to suddenly discover that I wasn’t extremely compliant. Distant, quiet, compliant.

There is the cube steak factor in feeling worthless, and there is also that nagging awareness left over from childhood that every possible role model, every adult—every aunt, every grandparent, every neighbour lady, every teacher—liked my shell of compliance and not me. Whoever “me” was.

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