A few things crossed my mind yesterday. I think they could be helpful.
One of them is how connection works for me: that I need it, I sometimes impulsively seek it in ways that don’t give it to me (and sometimes seek it in ways that do give it to me), and then I get scared by it and shut down the connection, including the connection to myself. And it does not matter what kind of connection this is. I could be trading wry comments on Facebook and connecting that way or I could be meditating. I will still feel scared of that connection and shut it down inside me. Then I miss it and want it again.
That put a few things in perspective. One of them was it made it clear that I can do this absolutely all day. Reach, feel fear, pull back. Reach, feel fear, pull back. I cannot maintain the connection within me, and so I keep missing it and wanting it again. It’s not like connecting to myself is easier than connecting to other people. It is less problematic, because I don’t do as many unexpected things as other people do. There are fewer surprises involved. But it triggers me to the same degree as trying to connect to other people. But it is not less frightening.
This is not about a fear that other people will like me or basing my worth on other people’s opinions of me. This is about me feeling afraid of myself and of being myself, and it’s about how to manage that fear so that it can start to get better.
I can do this all day long—go back and forth between wanting connection and shutting down connection—because I need to be connected inside myself, and I can’t do it.
I did couple’s therapy with my ex for some years (I can’t remember for how many years). It was sort of a procession of couples’ therapists, because the two of us were never satisfied with them, but they were mostly kind of the same. It was really quite a disaster for me, and I realize now how you can talk about something to someone else and give a very different impression of what is happening than what really is happening. It’s one of those periods in my life that I still cannot understand.
One of the sources of pain for me was my impression that I wanted too much. I wanted too much connection and too much closeness, and I was expecting the relationship to meet needs I ought to be able to meet myself. There was so much going on, in reality—I am sure we both had attachment issues—and we were both playing out this attachment pain all the time. Of course, I was the one with the acknowledged history of abuse. My ex’s mother is absolutely nuts, but that seemed to not figure in. There was just this assumption that I wanted too much closeness than a relationship can provide and my ex was feeling suffocated by that. It’s neat and tidy, but didn’t account for reality, which was much messier: She was intentionally attacking me, probably following periods of closeness, because of her own implicit rage that was being triggered by our relationship, and I was totally confused by that. It stirred up these childhood memories of not being able to understand why I was suddenly attacked by my parents. I had my thing going on, which had to do with this dance around this pain, and she had her thing going on which had to do with a different dance around the same pain.
However, one of the therapists told me that I needed to connect to myself and encouraged me to keep a journal. Which I do. It strikes me now that the other piece of that—I can’t connect to myself because I am afraid to be myself—never got touched on. By anyone. It never got brought out into the open that I am going to be afraid no matter what I do, and I need to be able to sort out how to cope with that fear, so that I can get my emotional needs met by anyone—myself included.
I still don’t know how to cope with all of that fear, but I guess it helps to have this awareness.