Sunday, November 09, 2003

Emotional Support & Guidance -- Future 

Another exercise from "The Angry Heart: Overcoming Borderline and Addictive Disorders", by Joseph Santoro, Ph.D. and Ronald Cohen, Ph.D.

In this exercise, I am to write about ways in which I have been able to overcome or compensate for the lack of emotional support during childhood, as well as what ways I would like to be able to overcome/compensate for that. I'm also instructed to write about the sources of support or guidance I have in my life now and what additional sources I might have later.

In addition to all that, I am to write about what major life choices I anticipate I will make in the near or long-term future and how I intend to use sound judgement and not past emotions to make these decisions.

When it comes to trying to repair relationships rather than destroy them because of a single mistake, I've taken the opposite extreme of my parents. My current relationship is a great example of this -- I know most people would have given up and decided it wasn't meant to be long, long ago. But here I am, still working and still hopeful.

Overcompensation, perhaps, but compensation just the same.

Splitting, I think, something that I developed because of all that... if someone becomes a horrible person because they say or do something that hurts your feelings... well, that's what I was taught happens, time and time again. So I think this is how I learned to cope with that... rather than feel guilty for putting that person out of my life, I just hate them instead.

I'm very outgoing and friendly, probably because I'm always seeking to fill the "bottomless pit" with more and more friends.

I've chosen a partner who is almost as clingy and needy as I am (well, sometimes), who doesn't mind being supportive and doing a lot of cuddling... no doubt this is a compensation.

As for what ways I'd like to overcome or compensate for my lack of emotional support as a child... I have no clue. Well, I'd like to overcome the emotional volatility bit and the excessive neediness... but how? Fuck if I know! Best answer I can come up with is "with this book".

Adding more people into my life (close friends) would probably be another good way I could compensate... it's got to be hard for one person to try to meet all of the emotional needs I have. I feel like a vampire sometimes... like I'm sucking Steve dry.

Current sources of emotional support and/or guidance... Hmm. Steve provides most of that... well, support anyway. He's good at that. I don't know about guidance... I've never really asked for it, but I bet he'd be able to do a lot if I gave him the opportunity.

I have a few long-distance friends as well, that I know I can lean on. Unfortunately, contact with them is a bit tricky sometimes, because I don't have much opportunity at home, and currently can't use any kind of chat from work... just email. But that's nice, in and of itself, and I know if I want to talk or vent to someone, there are a few people I can write to, who will respond in a supportive manner.

One of these people is a friend I've had for the last few years, although we lose track of each other every now and then. He emailed me recently, though, and we've got a nice exchange going, which makes me feel a lot better. Having a support system is nice, even if most of my friends are hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Future sources... hopefully, Steve will be around for the long run, and I'll stay in contact with the friends I mentioned. But I'd also really like to get some local friendships going... unfortunately, I have very little opportunity to meet people right now, and I've lost contact with everyone I once knew here in town (except Victor, but he's real on and off).

Major life choices... Hmm... whether (additional) children are in my future, I guess. Whether to pursue custody of my daughter at some point. And fuck, I'm 25, I've got to choose an actual career *someday*.

As for how to use good judgement as opposed to past emotions... ugh, I don't know. I do know that decisions of that sort have got to be made without even letting my parents know I'm thinking about them until after I've chosen. Otherwise I might get trapped into doing what they want even though it's not what I want.

Or the opposite, like when I married Mikey. I married him mostly to defy my dad... to prove him wrong, because he told me that Mikey would not marry me... that he'd fuck me and dump me. And my pride would just not let go of that, so I married a man I didn't even LIKE, let alone love.

Not something I want to do again. Still, I feel that influence even now... like I know, even if I decided it was best to break up with Steve, I don't think I could bring myself to do it. I know if I did, I'd get shit from my parents, or at the least get asked a lot of uncomfortable questions. It's just not something I want to deal with. Christ, even if we did break up and do the roommate thing, I'd delay telling my parents for as long as possible.

I have no idea why I'm so afraid of their reaction to that...

Emotional Support & Guidance -- Present 

Another exercise from "The Angry Heart: Overcoming Borderline and Addictive Disorders", by Joseph Santoro, Ph.D. and Ronald Cohen, Ph.D.

In this exercise, I am to write about how I think failures to receive needed emotional support and guidance in childhood may be influencing my current behavior. I am asked to provide a specific example of something I have done within the last week and link it back to my childhood experiences.

I do believe that my failure to receive emotional support and appropriate guidance as a child is influencing my current behavior quite a lot. This is a new idea to me, because until I began the work in this book, I have always thought of my parents as having done the best job raising me possible. I still think they did pretty well, all things considered, but I was too emotionally needy for their approach to work well.

A good example of those influences is that fact I feel terribly ashamed, weak, and pathetic whenever I cry, which I do a lot of these days. I hate feeling weak or vulnerable. I hate revealing my flaws to other people -- I am ashamed and embarassed.

I'm also certain that my current needy and clinging behavior has a lot to do with my childhood and early adult life -- I guess I'm making up for lost time, and driving Steve insane in the process.

This exercise asks for a specific, recent example, so I'll cite something that happened this very evening. I was pissed off and hurt because of something Steve did (specifically, wanting to play on the computer when we could only have a total of an hour and a half together tonight). Steve kept asking me to take a time-out and use "The List" but I kept resisting. I insisted that I was perfectly calm, even while tears were running down my face.

It was very much a scene that could have been copied from my past. I felt so humiliated when Steve turned my face towards him and said, "So you're calm, huh?"

I'm sure the reason I was so resistant tonight is because I did not want to feel vulnerable and exposed around him. This is because we had been bickering over a computer I was fixing for a co-worker. He just seemed way too hostile to open up to, while that was fresh in my mind.

He was right that I needed to take a time-out and go through "The List", though. I just couldn't bring myself to do it and didn't see the point.

Emotional Support & Guidance -- Past 

Another exercise from "The Angry Heart: Overcoming Borderline and Addictive Disorders", by Joseph Santoro, Ph.D. and Ronald Cohen, Ph.D.

In this exercise, I am to write about who was available or not as a child when I needed emotional support/guidance, and how I adjusted to that.

As a child, I had little emotional support from my parents. My brother was a little better, in the sense that he at least tried, until he moved out at the age of seventeen. My relationship with my brother deteriorated after that.

It was quite clear to me that there were only two acceptable emotions to display around my parents -- happiness, and anger. To show any other emotion was to be weak and pathetic.

I was taught, by example, that if someone treated me badly, the correct response was to talk shit about them, mock them, or get back at them. There was no other response because in the view of my parents (especially my dad), a relationship with problems (any relationship -- with a friend, relative, SO, co-worker, you name it) should never be repaired. It should be destroyed, and promptly, before you get hurt again.

The best example of this I can think of took place when I was 10 or 11 years old. My best friend (and neighbor) Laura, and I, had been hanging out together and staying the night at each other's houses for two years. We were also in the GT program together.

Anyway, I got on the school bus one day and went to sit down beside Laura. She said to me, "I'm sorry but I promised [another girl] I'd sit by her today."

I was a little miffed at this because I was an emotionally sensitive child, and besides, she was my best friend. So when I got home, I related the story to my mom, and my dad overheard it.

Dad said that I should stop being friends with her, and tried to cheer me up by talking about how she was a shitty person and I could do a lot better anyway. So I did -- I stopped talking to her completely, in fact.

The next day, my dad asked if I had stopped talking to her and I said that I had. Then he said in a very derisive tone of voice that he figured I'd go back to her just like my brother went back to his (now ex) wife. This was intended to shame me into continuing to avoid Laura, and it worked.

My parents still sometimes talk about her in mocking tones, referring to her as "Large Laura" (she was overweight). It doesn't sit well with me, even now, because I think dumping her as my friend was mean and uncalled for. But even now, I laugh along with them and pretend to find her revolting.

My dad was terribly intimidating and difficult to please, but I tried as hard as I could because I loved him dearly.

I quickly learned when I was very young the value of emotional control. My dad did not tolerate crying. In fact, no one around me seemed to tolerate it... I have a strong belief to this day, that everyone, unless proven otherwise, is hostile. If someone is kind to me for no apparent reason, I always wonder what's in it for them.

One time when I was in first grade, my parents had let me skip school to go to Springfield (a larger nearby town) to go shopping with them. On the way back, we were near the school I attended and my mom asked if I wanted to go back to school for the rest of the day. I saw my friends outside for recess and said that yes, I did.

So they dropped me off and I went out to the playground. Out of nowhere, I was hit with this rush of guilt, because I had chosen to spend time with my friends instead of my parents. I started crying.

My first grade teacher, Mrs. Harris, came up and asked me why I was crying. Unable to vocalize my feelings at that age, I merely responded, "I don't know."

Mrs. Harris then proceeded to berate me loudly in front of the other children, calling me a "stupid crybaby" and pointing out that Kristi (another girl in my class) knew why SHE was crying -- because she had a run in her tights.

Mrs. Harris was a bitch. She spanked me on my first day of Kindergarten, but that's another story for another day.

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