July 15, 2019 at 12:45 pm #303453
What I meant by doubting my reality is doubting my view of my childhood/family of origin… maybe I was just too sensitive and it wasn’t really all that bad–I just took it all too personally. And I should have figured out how to let it all bounce off me and keep moving forward in life.
I also sometimes doubt what I understand about life currently. I’d say it happens because I live too much in my head and negative thoughts get stuck and wear me out mentally. What helps is to exercise or go do something like go out to a store and just be around other peoples’ energy… then I slowly come back to reality. Well, at least somewhat.
Re doing stuff… it’s really easy for me to do things like shampoo the carpeting… I know what to do and how to do it, there is a definite start and stop. Although it’s work and can be exhausting, I can do it. What is hard for me is making huge life decisions: where to go, where to live, what to do. Thinking about these things wears me out and makes me feel lost. I feel like I’ve never really belonged anywhere or with anyone and I have no reason for being. I seriously don’t know why my parents ever had me. Their interest in me as a person was non-existent. From even when I was maybe 6 or so, I felt like I was on my own in many ways. Like I was supposed to run on auto-pilot, be a ‘plug-and-play’ kid–like they could give me the inputs (food, clothing, shelter), and I should be able to do all the rest. Yes, they fed, sheltered, and clothed me. But they didn’t bother to understand me, guide me, give me hope and encouragement, or make me feel wanted and valued. So when I get into places in life where I don’t know what to do next or how to even figure it out, I fall apart mentally. This is why I picked the screen name ‘Lost Soul.’ I only am able to keep myself grounded by keeping a routine, doing what needs to be done (chores, exercising, eating well, paying bills), and giving myself some extra tasks to do.
I have no one IRL to talk to about this. My siblings don’t get it. In fact, my sister is someone who has always known what she wants and can’t fathom someone who doesn’t. She has told me I am a mystery to her. And I think, “Where’s the mystery?” All I want is to belong and live a decent life. To know other people care that I exist, and to have people I can confide in, talk things out with when I’m feeling lost/stuck. (I think if I had all of this, it would be as if someone had loaded me up with rocket fuel!) My sister refuses to do these things (be someone I can talk to / help me sort things out / be a consistent, warm, friendly presence in my life) because it would be ‘coddling’ me to do them. In her view, I need to be strong and independent and figure things out for myself, by myself. <– I don’t think this will ever happen. What do I feel like? I feel like I’m on a small life raft floating in the middle of the ocean, hoping that one day a boat will pass by and rescue me.
Wow, I’ve written a lot here. I didn’t even know I could do that, I thought my brain was too fried from stress. Thank you for everything you said. You are right: I should not expect too much of myself, congratulate myself for what I do get done, and take a break. Last night I went to bed at 8 p.m. I wasn’t physically tired and didn’t fall asleep until after 10 p.m. I laid there in the dark and zoned out listening to the noises from outside to try to forget about everything for a while. I think it helped some. Thank you for writing to me. It’s so good to have a response from someone. So often, when I attempt to talk to my sister, I get no response at all and it feels terrible.
July 15, 2019 at 3:10 pm #303477
- This reply was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by Lost soul.
“… too many people deny the reality of their childhood, viewing it from the imagined parents’ point of view, (“my parents did the best they could”), not from the real child’s point of view, (that would read something like: I was mistreated, I suffered a lot).”
Yes, exactly. And I’ve always wondered: why does only the parents’ point of view matter, and not the bewildered child’s? The parents are adults who have the benefit of maturity and experience; the child has no frame of reference for what happens to them: they only know what they have experienced and how they feel subsequently—they can’t even explain their own thinking processes yet.
“I heard a counselor saying: everyone is doing their best at all times, every single person… whatever it is that he or she is doing.”
I’ve also heard this from a therapist, and there is a certain sort of logic to it, but I’m not convinced that logic extends to every situation. Is a person committing the act of murder doing their best? I suppose someone could make an argument this is true, yet it makes no difference to the victim in question.
“A child feels all alone in her distress and so, the suffering is not comparable to another.”
True, I felt very alone in my distress. Plus, my siblings enjoyed seeing my distress, which made the world feel even more hostile.
Anita, I’m not sure how to continue this thread at this point… I should probably look for a therapist, although I despair of finding a decent one. The last couple I tried wouldn’t even give me a regular appointment time; every week, both the day and time varied. (To anyone reading this—is this how therapy is now in 2019? When I went to therapy years ago, I always had the same hour on the same day of the week.) And that’s in addition to the fact that neither of them was helpful nor empathetic. It’s frustrating putting in a lot of effort to end up not getting help. But not seeking help isn’t an option either, so try I must.
This is what I know for sure: I am good, well-meaning person. I am not perfect, of course: I can get irritable and crabby when things go wrong or I’m under the weather, but I generally mean well, and want to get along with others and live a decent life. I am worth something. I have worth equal to any other human being. I believe I am worthy of being loved by someone, even if that someone never materializes. I have a loving heart and much love and joy to share. I know I’ve been a good friend, a good partner, a good aunt, and a good daughter. When I took care of each of my parents in their final days, I had several people at both the hospital and nursing home tell me they wished their adult children showed up 1/10<sup>th</sup> as often and took care of them as kindly as I did.
I believe I have value, even if my value is never seen, known, appreciated or returned to me in any fashion. But I’m still clueless as to why this is so. Why others have friends, spouses, children, and extended families that care about them and rally around them, yet I am all alone. I’m clueless and hurt.
Lost soulJuly 15, 2019 at 3:18 pm #303479
Dear Lost soul:
I read part of your recent post but am not focused enough to read it thoroughly, and your recent post requires time and focus. Therefore, I will read and reply to you when I return to the computer, in about 14 hours from now.
anitaJuly 16, 2019 at 1:18 am #303533
Hi Lost Soul,
You sound like such a lovely person and I really enjoyed reading your post. I strongly believe that being a sensitive person (as I am) causes us extra angst and, as children, we do not have the skills to withstand the criticisms and, dare I say, bullying of those around us. This is why I said that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others because they are not in your skin. I have several siblings and, whilst we had a good and loving upbringing, we have all responded differently to various elements that were present. I think I had some kind of switching off device where I could go into my own world if I needed to. I have had three children and it was obvious from the moment they were born that they were all entirely different characters.
I came to a point in my life (somewhere around 40) when I chose to extract the positives from situations/people that I had encountered on a personal level. I chose to find a way of turning things around and looking at them in ways that would nurture me. I made a conscious decision to move away from negative thinking and into positive thinking. Maybe my switching device came into play or maybe I was just determined to do this but it was almost an overnight happening. I read a book called “The Power of Positive Thinking” and this inspired me. There’s a sentence in there that says: “Change your thoughts and you change your life”.
Keep counting all the positives from your childhood. Food, clothing and shelter are not to be underestimated. There were times in my adult life when I was glad to be able to do that much for my children. Your basic physical needs were looked after – just not your emotional needs. Yes, our perceptions can become distorted but this is your feeling at the present time and, as such, it is valid in the present. For the time being, you need to emotionally support that little girl who didn’t get what she needed – love. If you have a photograph of yourself as a child, keep it close by you and send your love to that little girl now. Do this over and over again. Keep sending her your love and whilst you look in the mirror every morning send yourself love. “I love me” is a simple statement to make. Make it every day.
I don’t know why your parents had you but I do know that they have given you the gift of life. I believe that every person who has ever been born has been born for a reason. You are serving a purpose here on Earth even if you don’t know what that is. It’s really good that you looked after your parents in their final days. You can draw great comfort from that and from all the positive comments that were made about you at the time.
Mindfulness and meditation are two great ways of “switching your thoughts off”. Listening to the sounds around you before going to sleep is a form of meditation and you become aware of your surroundings which is mindfulness. Perhaps you can explore this in more depth.
With regard to “where to go, what to do, where to live”, I’ve been trying to get to grips with these kinds of questions for a very long time. I can be very indecisive over some things. We haven’t discussed your occupation – does this tie you to a particular location? Are you asking “what to do” in general or is this, again, to do with your occupation. Where to go – daily, entertainment, holiday, social gatherings? Do you want to discuss this in more detail?
I hope you have a lovely day and I look forward to hearing from you again.
PeggyJuly 16, 2019 at 6:39 am #303541
Dear Lost soul:
*Regarding seeking a therapist: interview a potential therapist, hopefully within a first free session, to check a few things:
-ask about her/ his religious and spiritual beliefs if any: if you don’t believe in god, you don’t want a therapist who will suggest you pray to a god or read the bible or whatnot. If you don’t believe in afterlife and karma, you don’t want a therapist that does believe in these things and suggest that what you experience has to do with the life of a person who lived before you were born.
-ask about her beliefs or positions regarding parents and children. Ask her/ him: do you believe that all parents do their best? If she says yes, ask her: what about a parent who hits a child or calls a child names… and how about a parent who tells their child: get-over-it-and-don’t-bother-me. ?
-ask her/ him if she believes that an adult child should end contact with a parent or sibling and if so, in what circumstances that would be okay, in her mind.
There are other questions, but these are good to start with.
*Regarding “doubting my view of my childhood/ family of origin… maybe I was just too sensitive.. I just took it all too personally”- first, <i>a child always takes things personally</i>: the parent’s behavior toward the child (and add to it older or aggressive siblings’ behavior) is like a mirror where the child sees herself. If a parent is angry at the child, the child see herself in the mirror as unacceptable, something bad about her that causes that anger. If the parent looks at the child with a smile of understanding and approval, the child see herself in the mirror as acceptable, okay.
*You wrote: “I seriously don’t know why my parents ever had me”- I know why they had you. Parents everywhere in the animal kingdom have children because they have sexual intercourse. The have sex because they are biologically driven to have sex, a result of chemicals in their brain and bodies that motivate them to perform the sexual act, to reproduce.
In addition to the above, for humans, it is a socially acceptable thing to do. In some cultures, more than in others, a woman is considered a failure in life or deficient, if she doesn’t have children. There are other motivations: a lonely woman who wants someone to love her, a parent with one child who wants that child to have someone to play with (a second child), a father who wants a son to teach fishing to and so on and on.
*You wrote (not necessarily in this order): “My father and one of my siblings were very similar.. harsh, critical, ‘get-over-it’ types. They always focused on my flaws… My other siblings mocked and ridiculed me to no end… my sister is someone who has always known what she wants.. She has told me I am a mystery to her… my mom.. found my emotional problems.. too much for her.. she was almost never there for me emotionally…even today, I am still susceptible to the voice in my head (programmed by my family) that tells me that I am the problem”-
– and you wrote: “I feel like I’ve never really belonged anywhere or with anyone and I have no reason for being”
– Unfortunately, I think that you did belong in your family and had a purpose or a role there, only it worked for the others, not for you. Reads like you were the scapegoat, the one into which others dumped their frustrations, where they relieved pressure. I think that you were used that way. So the mystery you are to your sister, is not a mystery to me. It wouldn’t be convenient for her, I bet, to consider my suggestion here, solving what she suggested is a mystery.
*Question now is how can you live a different life than your role in your family of origin, a role you didn’t choose. Let me know, if you will, what you think of my response so far.
anitaJuly 16, 2019 at 3:31 pm #303631
Choosing to extract the positives from life is something I’ve done… a mindset I have adopted during periods of my adult life… but, due to a number of reasons, I’ve fallen off the wagon of doing this in recent years.
I also try to find things to be grateful for or small things to enjoy… I don’t do it every day as a disciplined practice, but I do it somewhat regularly. Yesterday it was very windy and I was enjoying how my dog’s floppy ears appear to float on the wind (she looks hilarious when this happens).
FWIW, I identify as being a sensitive person as well; the HSP (highly sensitive person) description fits me fairly well. And similarly, it has caused extra angst, both as a child and as an adult. I definitely didn’t have the skills or perspective to withstand the criticism I received. And I received a ton of criticism for who I was not just from my family, but from teachers, other kids, whoever. And bullying too. This lead to several negative core beliefs like that I am defective, unlikeable, not deserving of being treated decently, not deserving of friends, I don’t deserve to have my needs met or my needs are annoying or too much for others.
Like I said, my father and sister were always pointing out my flaws, all the things I couldn’t do or do well.. these things were really harped on. I developed a sense of learned helplessness about many things… I look back now, and can’t believe what simple, inconsequential things where harped on and should not have been. Either I eventually learned them or they never mattered that much anyhow. And there were many things I was good or better than good at, but these were always downplayed.
If I could meet and make positive, strong friendships with people I care to be with… that would go a long way toward improving my life. But it seems like past a certain point in life, people are too busy for friends or already have all the friends they have time for or only want friends who have similar life circumstances. Or they have issues and are fairly toxic people. And then the few times in recent years others showed interest in being friends with me, I recoiled… partly from being out of practice in being anything more than an acquaintance and partly out of not wanting to reveal myself to only end up experiencing shame and rejection in the end anyhow. I was sorry I did that but couldn’t manage anything else at the time. I’ll have to address the rest of what you said in another message.
Lost soulJuly 16, 2019 at 8:04 pm #303641
Thank you. Again, you make many of my points for me.
The “I don’t know why my parents ever had me” was not meant as a literal question; it’s what I thought as a child around ages 8 – 12 years old. There were entire stretches of days where no one in the family spoke to me civilly or engaged with me in any positive way. (<span style=”display: inline !important; float: none; background-color: #ffffff; color: #333333; cursor: text; font-family: Georgia,’Times New Roman’,’Bitstream Charter’,Times,serif; font-size: 16px; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: 400; letter-spacing: normal; orphans: 2; text-align: left; text-decoration: none; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; white-space: normal; word-spacing: 0px;”>Just to be clear, I have two siblings: a brother and a sister.</span>)
Yes, I pretty much was the family scapegoat as child and served the purposes you described. Later as I got older, I couldn’t handle being the scapegoat anymore, so I stayed in my room a lot and tried to avoid attention as much as possible, and I morphed into being the lost child in terms of dysfunctional family roles. The mystery comment was said in recent times, but what’s ironic is that at about the same time, my sister suggested I look into finding a meetup group for people who are highly sensitive… I have never discussed being HSP with her, so she does understand me on some level to have even come up with that, lol.
Our parents have passed, and I’m not concerned about cutting contact with the siblings because what contact there is is minimal. “<span style=”font-family: ‘Arial’,sans-serif; color: #333333;”>Question now is how can you live a different life than your role in your family of origin, a role you didn’t choose.” Yeah, I guess that’s one way of framing it. I despair of finding a life, a way of living, that I want to live. All I ever wanted for the most part was to find someone to love and be loved by, get married and have my own family, and that has never worked out for me. My longest relationship was only 2.5 years. And now that I’m too old to have kids, I don’t know how hard I want to work to make a relationship work. I tried hard in those relationships, the best I knew how that is, to make them work and they failed, mostly with the guy ending it. In hindsight, I put up with getting very little while giving a lot, which was, after all, what I learned at home. (For the record, I have an anxious attachment style and most of these guys had an avoidant attachment style.) After the last one, I was heartbroken and felt wrecked by the rejection. I said to myself and the few people who would listen, “I don’t want to date anyone for a loooooong time.” And I haven’t. I don’t have a sense that I’m worth very much to anyone. Even though I know, logically, I am one of about 8 billion people on this planet and all types of people with all types of problems—criminal records, mentally illness, history of drug/alcohol abuse—get married, have kids, and find new relationships after previous relationships have failed, I don’t see much possible for me. I can’t see myself as worthy or attractive to anyone other than, say, someone looking for a meal ticket or someone to take advantage of. “She’s okay; I’ll put up with her for now… until someone or something better comes along… or until she gets too annoying.”</span>
<span style=”font-family: ‘Arial’,sans-serif; color: #333333;”>Hopefully no one says to me now, “What, so you think you’re nothing without a man?” No, it’s what I wanted. And what’s wrong with that? (I’m tired of people making me wrong/mocking me for wanting what I want, for wanting a normal life, to be treated well, to have what most people do want—this started with my family.)</span>
Lost soulJuly 16, 2019 at 11:21 pm #303677
Hi Lost Soul,
Thank you for your reply.
There is no such thing as the perfect person. We are all a “work in progress”. Some people recognize that and others go through life somewhat blindly. You have clearly given a lot of thought to everything that has happened to you through life.
You suffered a lot of rejection in childhood and every time you get rejected by someone that childhood button is pressed. You are never going to be able to change what happened in those early years but you can change the framework in which you choose to see it. Your parents were “flawed”, your siblings became “flawed” along with any other bully that you came into contact with. We are all victims of victims – it’s passed down through families with each child behaving in some way like the parent that went before. I am in no way excusing what happened to you.
Learning to love yourself, warts and all, is the key to overcoming the negative belief systems that have been installed into you. Send love to that little child and send love to that grown woman. This is a really important part of the healing process.
You have worth and you have value and you are worthy of respect. That’s an outsider’s opinion. I believe it. You need to believe it. The fact that we are communicating with each other gives both of us a value/worth. Everyone who has replied to you is fulfilling a need within themselves.
PeggyJuly 17, 2019 at 6:16 am #303689
Dear Lost soul:
I read your recent two posts and we do have lots in common. Learned Helplessness- it was only a few summers ago (and I imagine I am about your age), it occurred to me, as I was sitting in the sunroom, perspiring because it was hot, it occurred to me that I can open a window and make it better for me. It simply didn’t occur to me before. So I opened a window and the air got cooler, what a relief… and I made it happen.
It is mind boggling, at 50 something, to experience opening a window as an initiative I didn’t consider before. Isn’t it something a five year old initiates.. definitely by ten. What happened in these decades of years… letting life happen to me because making it happen didn’t occur to me as a possibility. I rushed through everything because I figured I was doing them wrong anyway and preferred to not do anything at all.
My mother told me when I was a child, she said it with great emotion, and she sounding convincing: “You are a big zero. You are Nothing”. She then slapped my face hard with her hand and said: “The only thing I like about you is that when I hit you, you look down and you don’t answer back”.
In addition to that clear message she criticized me day in and day out for doing everything wrong, for thinking wrong, for feeling wrong if I blushed or.. wrong, wrong. I tried to do things right but failed, again and again until I stopped trying and found my refuge in daydreaming, a world of imagination where I made wonderful things happen, magically, all good things come true.
You wrote about the criticism you received as a child: “I definitely didn’t have the skills or perspective to withstand the criticism I received”- no child is capable of withstanding the criticism received from one’s parent, after all, the parent that is there in a child’s life is god to her, her words are Truth.
Did you see the movie Awakening? In it a group of older adults wake up from decades of coma, this is sort of.. my experience in this healing process as I call it. Like the characters in the movie, I ask myself once in a while- aren’t I too old for this, for experiencing life from-the-beginning, learning basic initiatives.. why bother.
In the movie they choose to go back to their coma, (I may not remember the movie well, didn’t watch the movie for many years), but I keep going because I have nothing better to do than to keep awakening.
It was three or four years after the beginning of my healing process, (the beginning was 2011, my first quality psychotherapy experience) that it occurred to me on a walk I took outdoor, these words: “There is nothing wrong with me”- I said these words out loud and they sounded so foreign. This didn’t occur to me before.
A few years later, this very day, these words don’t sound foreign to me anymore. I fear less, and believe more that I am adequate, that I was not born defective, inadequate, less than… and I am experiencing life.. as if there is nothing wrong with me, but wait, I just typed “as if”- no, no.. there really is nothing wrong with me.
anitaJuly 19, 2019 at 8:00 pm #304055
my names callum and I’m a biology student. I used to be the exact same person as you and the only thing that got me through this was support of others. Just want you to know you’re not alone and anything is possible, physically and mentally. The brain and body grows new cells everyday and watch this time next year you’ll be a new person, seek medical, social and all forms of help you’re not alone I’m here friend firstname.lastname@example.org is my email to communicate. I went from the deep despair of suicidal thoughts to living a much much more fulfill productive and happy life. But it doesn’t happen in a moment, no one can do it alone, get help first and forget any goals for now and just try a way to live in the moment and appreciate what you have because it’s all we got
all love callumJuly 23, 2019 at 7:22 pm #304597
I laughed a little reading your example about realizing you could open a window for yourself… I haven’t had the same experience per se, but my father was such a domineering, controlling person, I was expected to always ask permission before opening my bedroom window when it was hot, well into my teens. And I also have let life happen to me because it didn’t occur to me I could make things happen. I stayed in lousy jobs, one-sided friendships, and toxic relationships because putting up with bad situations was all I knew.
Being criticized, day in and day out, was a huge part of my childhood. I like to say, “Most people usually have two parents criticizing and correcting them. But I had four people on my case ALL the time.”
I’m sorry your mother slapped you; I hope this was a rare thing for her to do, although words hurt just as much as (and typically last longer I than) physical abuse.
I did see the movie Awakenings, though quite a long time ago. I wouldn’t say I’ve been in a coma like those people, but I do feel like I am not very far from the starting line of adult life, whereas so many people my age are far ahead of me…
The best therapist I ever went to would tell me all the time, “There is nothing wrong with you.” The first time she said this, I said to her, “But how do you know that? You barely know me.” She said nothing in response, but gave me one of the kindest smiles I have ever seen.
July 24, 2019 at 10:52 am #304703
- This reply was modified 2 months, 4 weeks ago by Lost soul.
Dear Lost soul:
That kindest smile that therapist gave you, I wish you received that kind of smile from your mother, your father, your siblings, when you were a child. If you received that kind of smile and no interruptions of criticism and aggression, there would be no Lost in your username.
Words do hurt, thank you for expressing empathy for me.
You wrote earlier and yesterday: “I still doubt my reality. Everyone else (my siblings) function just fine; I’m the one who can never get things together… Most people usually have two parents criticizing and correcting them. But I has four people on my case ALL the time”-
– I suppose they owe their functional lives to you, receiving criticism and aggression from their parents, they passed those on to you, freeing themselves from the distress that led you (not having had an outlet yourself, someone to pass it on to) to learned helplessness.
You wrote earlier about your parents: “they fed, sheltered, and clothed me. But they didn’t bother to understand me, guide me, give me hope and encouragement, or make me feel wanted and valued“.
I have a question to you, one to which I have my own answer, but would like to know yours, not only a yes or a no, but if you would like, elaborate on it:
When parents feed, shelter and clothe their child and take away the child the following: hope, courage, the feeling of being wanted and valued, are they doing the child any favors, meaning, is it worth it, for the child?
July 25, 2019 at 5:58 pm #304931
- This reply was modified 2 months, 4 weeks ago by anita.
“When parents feed, shelter and clothe their child and take away the child the following: hope, courage, the feeling of being wanted and valued, are they doing the child any favors, meaning, is it worth it, for the child?”
No. (Sad smile.) Of course not. How could it be? The only imaginable case where it could be okay would be if the child got those things, on a consistent basis, from another person or group of people in their life… that does sometimes happen for some children.
I’m having a less than great day today due to a health issue I won’t name here. (It’s chronic yet mostly manageable but also a bit rare and not well-known.) Though not brain-related, it affects neuro-transmitter levels, and puts me in an irritable mood in which negative memories surface and my thoughts tend to repeat. In this mood, I often end up thinking of what I would like to say to my sister, or other family member. I don’t bother/have never bothered to say these things IRL because she would only talk over me or deny the things she has said and done. (But when I’m in this mood, I would happily punch her in the face. And I feel like that would be the least of what she deserves for how she treated me growing up.) She thinks all/any of my problems are either my own fault or perhaps caused by our father. As an adult, she has told me that I’m my own problem, that she deserved to have children and implied that I didn’t deserve them or a husband, etc. When were children, she was always telling me that no one liked me, that no one could like me, that I was stupid, fat and ugly, that I was driving mom and dad crazy with all my problems and needed to shut up and stop bothering them. Every day it was some nasty, hurtful comment or other. What floors me is the parents seldom called her on what she said and didn’t acknowledge the impact of it. Sometimes they told her to shut up, but this was typically at times like when they were driving and needed to focus on traffic. I always wondered why they never thought, “Whoa, what is wrong with this kid? Why is she always saying nasty stuff to her little sister? We need to take a good look at her, figure where this is coming from, and put a stop to her behavior.” Especially since, as the older we got, kids who knew both of us would say, “Jeez ‘Mary’, you’re really mean to your sister.”
Of course they had plenty of their own reasons why they never thought these things. They were both fairly estranged from their own families. My dad was bullied by an older sibling and this factored heavily into his having a poor self-image, a huge chip on his shoulder, and a hair-trigger temper. Neither of my parents were at peace with their estrangements but instead greatly absorbed with resentment to the point where it occupied their thoughts. (And sadly, I’m now repeating their behavior. Sigh!)
One day, I was feeling a lot of self-hatred but had a moment of detachment from my thoughts and decided to google ‘self-hatred’ in an attempt to figure out where it comes from. I found an interesting blog on it written by a therapist.July 25, 2019 at 6:04 pm #304933
I have pasted the entire blog post below and have put what I consider the most relevant parts in bold:
Recently, a number of clients have communicated to me some version of “I hate myself” or “I’ve always hated myself”, while discussing symptoms such as depression, compulsive or addictive behaviors, or self-esteem issues. Often, this powerful self-hatred is accompanied by feelings of being toxic, evil, and inherently prone to “bad things happening”. This “hatred turned against the self” seems to have a much more angry, powerful energy than typical expressions of shame seem to have.
When I try to explore what is “bad” about the person, I often discover that hating oneself is actually a response to feeling helpless in relationships, especially when it comes to preventing other people from hurting them (for example, not being able to get an abusive partner to show love, or feeling constantly rejected in relationships). So, essentially, when a person says “I hate myself” in such situations, they are actually saying something like “I hate not being able to feel effective about getting others to treat me nicely, to love me, or to stop hurting me”. It might also be a way of saying, “People are hurting me but I cannot be angry at them, so I will be angry at myself instead”. In such cases, self hatred seems to be a defense against other feelings, such as helplessness or anger towards others.
A defense is an attempt to protect ourselves. Defenses help us prevent painful experiences from overwhelming us. Defenses help us avoid feelings that we don’t want to feel. For example, denial helps us avoid feelings of pain by pretending that the source of the pain isn’t there or that the feelings of pain don’t exist. Anger may be a defense against feelings of weakness or humiliation because anger is a feeling that fills one up with a sense of power. Other defense mechanisms seem to make sense in some way too. But how does self-hatred help? How does self-hatred protect a person from something even more painful or scary?
I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to this question; certainly there are different theories about this. But it does seem clear to me that self-hatred does often serve as a defense against feelings of powerlessness, or anger towards attachment figures- people who we feel dependent on for help. Self-hatred might be an example of Fairbairn’s “moral defense” (see the book “The Illusion of Love” for more on this), in which a person would rather believe that his own badness caused his caregivers/attachment figures to mistreat or neglect him, rather than believing that the caregivers he needs for protection are weak, uncaring, or hurtful. In this case, feeling bad about the self (“it’s because I am bad that they are treating me badly; they are good and only responding to my badness…if I were better, this abuse/neglect wouldn’t be happening”) is less painful than feeling good about oneself, but unprotected by failing caregivers. Anger turned against the self may also feel safer than acknowledging anger toward people who we need.
This dynamic is often hard to treat because we focus on the wrong problem. For example, when someone comes in saying “I hate myself”, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to help them become more loving towards themselves; trying to build their self esteem by pointing out their strengths, teaching them to validate themselves, helping them develop more self-loving behaviors. However, this often doesn’t work, because the real issue is not the self-hatred, but the other emotions buried underneath it: feelings of helplessness, hopelessness about getting needs met, or anger toward attachment or authority figures. It then becomes important to help this person process those unconscious experiences, before we can help such a person let go of the need for self-hatred to defend against acknowledging those deeper feelings.
Lost SoulJuly 25, 2019 at 6:42 pm #304935
Dear Lost soul:
I read just a bit of your first recent post and am sorry you are having less than a great day today. I hope you feel somewhat better soon enough. I will thoroughly read your two posts (and anything you may add to them) and reply when I am back to the computer in about 11 hours from now.