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Struggling to Find Myself

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  • #365363
    Rachel
    Participant

    Also regarding my former therapist: I think the reason she defended abusive people was because she had been abusive herself. She said once about a former girlfriend of hers that they would”trigger each other”. My intuition says that means she abused the girlfriend. I’m usually good at reading between the lines. She inappropriately told me a lot about her personal life, like she was trying to be my friend. No boundaries. She texted me outside of sessions and encouraged me to do the same. And she got angry when I found healing on my own terms. There was a point where I was finding out a lot about emotional abuse and finding myself. She shut all that down. Just like with my mother, I wanted her approval. But she was just another woman who rejected me.

    #365366
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Rachel:

    I will read and reply to your recent posts when I am back to the computer in a few hours from now.

    anita

    #365371
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Rachel:

    You are welcome. Your former therapist shared your identities but enjoyed you “being weak and depending on her.. wanted to feel powerful”- a person being of the same race, ethnic origin, religion, place of birth etc., that does not make the person empathetic toward a person of the same race etc., not at all.

    What often happens when a child grows up with an aggressive parent who abuses his or her power over the child, is that the child identifies with that parent, worships that power.. and as she/he  grows up, she wants to  be in power over her own children, over anyone she can have power over. If she is a therapist, she’ll abuse her power over her clients.

    For an abused child, there are only two perceivable choices: to be on top (the one who has power) or to be at the bottom (the one who  is powerless). There is no third option: to be on equal ground with another. Relationships are Win-Lose prospects:either one Wins or one Loses. The third option of Win-Win does not exist.

    This dynamic exists in all races, all nationalities, all religions. So it does not surprise me that a therapist of the same race mistreated you, and your previous therapist, a white man, treated you with respect.

    He made you feel respected, he was always on your side, he viewed you in an unconditional positive light- that’s love, and you “healed a lot with his help”- love heals.

    On the other hand, you got worse under the care of the therapist who abused her power over you- it was after all, a Win-Lose relationship: she won, you lost.

    “Love is misused all the time”- love is misrepresented, for example, saying things like: I yell at you because I love you, I am hurting you because I love you, etc.

    “Love is respect at all time”- I very much agree, I couldn’t say it better.

    “Love is caring for someone at the same level”- no one is on top, so to  speak, no one is at the bottom. Both win. I like everything else you wrote about love, you express yourself so very well, I am genuinely impressed.

    “People say we shouldn’t judge that we should forgive”- depending on the context. A person in an abusive relationship should judge the abuser and should not forgive while still being abused in any way, shape or form. Staying in an abusive relationship, be it with a parent, a sibling, anyone, does “keep us chained to  suffering”, your words.

    “Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and think, who are you? It’s hard to feel like a ghost”- do you see a person still chained to suffering(?)

    Regarding your most recent post: it is believable to me that your former therapist was abusive to her ex girlfriend. She told you that they “triggered each other”-may mean that they had that Win-Lose relationship, one had to Lose for the other one to Win, no even ground, no win-win. A Win-Lose therapist is a very bad therapist, how unfortunate for you.

    I will be back to the computer in about 15 hours from now.

    anita

    #365373
    Rachel
    Participant

    Hi anita,

    I completely agree with what you wrote about children identifying with an aggressive parent and acting that way towards others. It reminds me of my ex: she identified with her father, who beat her and did other horrible things. So she enjoyed being a hypermasculine and aggressive person. Or my sister who constantly argues and antagonizes people: she identifies with my aggressive mother. That therapist I know was still in contact with her most likely abusive parents. I also know that she felt lost as a child and moved around a lot, and most likely that made her feel angry. So I probably triggered her just like her girlfriend. I think she felt inadequate as a therapist and that’s why she acted the way she did. This is another mark of poor therapy on her part: I shouldn’t know all this. The focus should have been on me.

    I still have trouble wrapping my head around the fact that people who share identities aren’t always empathetic towards each other. It confuses me. This idea has gotten me into a lot of trouble: expecting that someone who shares my identities or beliefs would be kind to me, and then that is not the case but I have a hard time accepting the truth. I thought dating a woman would be better than dating a man. It wasn’t. In fact it was worse because I didn’t see the red flags. Or more accurately, I saw the red flags but dismissed them. Another example is this man I knew at my last job: he was white, enjoyed guns, and went on to become a cop. I thought he was a bad person because of those things. But he ended up treating me with kindness and respect. He made me laugh and I enjoyed his company. And he was the reason I was able to leave my ex, because I would feel so happy spending time with him and my other coworkers, laughing and having a great time. Then I would come home to her and feel so depressed, like the air had been sucked out of my lungs. I think now part of the reason I’m having trouble moving on is that I don’t have that social support anymore, like you mentioned in your earlier response.

    Thanks for saying I express myself well. Sometimes I feel I am stupid and can’t express myself well. I always blamed myself during my relationship that I couldn’t articulate properly. But the truth was she just didn’t listen to me. Sometimes I feel my expectations are too high, like I have to accept some disrespect and suffering in a relationship. I used to have high expectations but I lowered them, and because of that I lowered my self respect. It’s madness, isn’t it?

    I agree, we must judge abusers for who and what they are. The reason the world is in disarray, the reason so many of us suffer is because we look the other way and lie to ourselves about abusers. I don’t think abusers who refuse to take responsibility deserve forgiveness. Nor do they deserve punishment per se, but it’s best we get as far away from them as possible. I don’t want to punish people who have hurt me. I just want them and their toxicity away from me and my mind. But people always blame me for wanting this. I agree, having a win-lose therapist was awful for me. I am starting to feel a little compassion for myself in knowing it wasn’t my fault. I wonder what others who have been her clients felt, or maybe she only did it to me.

    I do see myself as someone chained to suffering: mentally. I still ruminate over these things that have happened, and have flashbacks. It’s as if these things are still happening. I am stuck in the past in many ways and would like to be free from it all.

    I look forward to reading your response when you are back. Thanks so much for listening and for providing such great insight.

    #365416
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Rachel:

    “I still have trouble wrapping my head around the fact that people who share identities aren’t always empathetic towards each other. It confuses me.. expecting that someone who shares my identities or beliefs would be kind to me, and then that is not the case, but I have a hard time accepting the truth”-

    – there is a person with whom you, Rachel, share identities perfectly: same race, same gender, same sexual orientation, same nationality, same.. everything, and that person is you. Are you always empathetic towards yourself?

    So many people are often un-empathetic toward themselves, so many people are aggressive toward themselves, thinking things like: I shouldn’t have! How stupid I am! What’s wrong with me?! etc. etc. That’s aggression toward the same-identities self.

    When a person is aggressive toward herself (or himself), too  often, she is also aggressive toward other people who share her identities. If a woman hates being a woman, she is not likely to be aggressive toward men; she is likely to be aggressive toward other women. If a person hates being black, he or she is unlikely to be aggressive toward white people, and likely to be aggressive toward black people. Etc.

    “I thought dating a woman would be better than dating a man. It wasn’t”- women have softer skin than men, but not softer hearts; women have smaller physical features than men, but they are not less aggressive. It is a myth that women are gentler than men. Women are as capable as men to be insensitive, aggressive and cruel.

    “this man I knew.. he was white, enjoyed guns, and went on to become a cop. I thought he was a bad person because of these things. But he ended up treating me with kindness and respect”- we talked about judging people earlier, and I suggested to you that depending on the context, judging people can be the right thing to do, or the wrong thing to do. In the context here, you judged this man based on stereotypes, and that is wrong to do. We should all be careful to not judge people based on stereotypes.

    “Thanks for saying I express myself well… I always blamed myself during my relationship that I couldn’t articulate properly”- you articulation is excellent! If you weren’t able to articulate well in the abusive relationship you had, it must have been for lack  of  air to (“Then I would come home to her and feel so depressed, like the air had been sucked out of my lungs”).

    “I don’t want to punish people who hurt me”- better do what we can so that people who hurt us do not have the opportunity to hurt us anymore. If we can protect vulnerable others in some way, from the people who hurt us, then we should.

    “I do  see myself as someone chained to suffering: mentally. I still ruminate over these things that have happened, and have flashbacks. It’s as if these things are still happening. I am stuck in the past in many ways and would like to be free from it all”-

    – You must have had times when your thinking was clear about things that confused you before, when you had an aha moment, and you felt unchained, free…?

    But then time happened, and the thoughts returned, and you were disappointed, thinking something like: I thought I had it, I thought I got it, I thought I was free! (?)

    This is what I experienced over and over again on what I refer to as my healing path, or my healing process. Healing, freeing oneself mentally from those chains, takes months or years of an ongoing, intentional effort and work throughout the day, every day. The effort requires having  a set of tools, such as taking breaks from thinking and trying (breaks that don’t harm, ex.: taking a long walk when stressed), problem solving skills, assertiveness skills, increasing Mindfulness (plenty of literature and exercises available on that, in books, magazines and online), and more.

    anita

     

    #365419
    Rachel
    Participant

    Hi anita,

    That’s a very good point about self judgement. You’re right, I am not very empathetic towards myself. Or I am empathetic towards other people at the expense of myself. Sometimes I revert to my child self, waiting for someone to save me. But that person never comes. When I am healthy and strong, it’s because I am focused on saving myself. I often am very very hard on myself.

    You’re right, I did judge this man unfairly. I got caught up in stereotypes, not fully understanding at the time that stereotypes work both ways. Sometimes I can be critical and judgmental, and I am trying to learn how to catch myself and redirect those thoughts. I try to remember that I am just acting the way my parents taught me and not to act that way, or else I might hurt someone like how they hurt me. I am glad I amended my behavior. I realized that if I was closed off and mean to him, then he would be closed off and mean to me. So I tried to be kind to him and understand him better. I learned that we had a lot in common! For example, we liked the same movies and bonded over things we liked as kids. I know this is something that I have to keep a lookout for: not to judge and to allow people to be themselves. It’s hard unlearning things we’ve learned as children.

    Yes, my inability to articulate in that relationship was because of a “lack of air”. It’s amazing how you are so right about everything. The lack of air was her not listening, or twisting what I said, or throwing what I said back in my face to punish me. Or calling me crazy. So I choked up and couldn’t communicate. Then she blamed me and said I was abusive for ignoring her. This got so bad that I got physically ill. I had to go to urgent care because I literally could not breathe. Much like George Floyd: I can’t breathe.

    What you wrote in your last paragraphs is so very true for me. I have had these exact thoughts. For a while I thought very clearly, was connected to myself and my feelings. But then I went backwards, and I got angry at myself. I kept blaming and blaming myself, and got more confused the more I blamed myself. I mistakenly thought healing was a “one and done deal”. I also mistakenly thought going to therapy would “fix me”. Then when it didn’t I felt more lost and disassociated, thinking I was broken. I didn’t realize the momentous task healing is. I also mistakenly thought I was the only broken person, that other people knew more and were better than me. If I saw more clearly, I would see that all of us are broken in one way or another. And I would not take it so personally when people hurt me, knowing it’s coming from a place of brokenness. I wouldn’t give other people so much power.

    I guess the theme here is learning to be kind: to ourselves and to others no matter who they are. I know when I am kind to myself I naturally am kinder to others. And I hope to always remain a kind person as much as I can. But it can be difficult!

    #365421
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Rachel:

    I copied most of your post for myself, so I can read it again in the future- because I agree with what you wrote and you articulated yourself so well, better than I could myself.

    Your ex girlfriend choked you, basically, she sucked the air out of your lungs, just like you said she did, and you got physically ill as a result. She choked you physically, without putting her hands around your neck, or her knee over your neck.

    Please make sure that she has no more access to you, not in any way. Close the door to her completely and permanently.

    “I guess the theme here is learning to be kind: to ourselves and to others no matter who they are”- being kind to your ex girlfriend = not seeking revenge (while in no contact with her, no matter what). That’s as kind as you can be to her, and still heal.

    anita

    #365423
    Rachel
    Participant

    Hi anita,

    That made me smile that you would copy my post for yourself. I greatly respect you and it makes me happy that you think what I say has value.

    Yes, she did choke me, in so many ways. Another thing I got wrong was thinking to be kind, you have to give someone access to you at all times. She demanded that we remain friends after the breakup. And I felt so bad, and confused: not wanting her in my life, but feeling I was mean to block her. I didn’t understand that not seeking revenge was enough. Honestly, I sort of sought revenge: She left the apartment trashed when she left, and left a ton of her stuff. She wanted to come back to get it, I said no. When  I was going through it I found a diary entry saying how she wanted to have sex with men and I wasn’t doing it for her. The whole relationship she blamed and shamed be for being attracted to men, saying it was “disgusting”. I was so mad I threw a lot of her stuff away, including some comics she had drawn in high school. She wanted me to mail her the comics, and when I admitted I threw most of them away she freaked out at me. I felt so so so bad and horrible. I had forgotten this happened. I wish I understood that I can choose who I allow to be in my life. I feel that if someone shows any sort of kindness I owe them or something. I guess it goes back to what we were talking about, parents saying to their kids that they owe them. And then carrying that false belief. You’re helping me to feel a lot better I feel so much calmer talking with you. I am very grateful.

    I’m noticing my thoughts are slowing down, I feel less “crazy” for lack of a better word just by communicating with you. Maybe because you are sane and before I was confiding in people who were not sane, meaning still connected to insanity. Now that I am remembering how bad my ex really was, I can’t believe I even considered speaking to her! I used to still check her social media. I don’t know what I was looking for: proof of what happened maybe? Trying to keep in contact? I am not sure. But I know I must be sure not to allow her any access to me and not to torture myself by checking her social media. I feel if I can move on from this relationship and truly learn the lessons I was meant to learn I can have a great and healthy relationship in the future. I have not dated since, it’s been three years. I did have a one night stand when I visited Amsterdam a couple years back, but that was it and I felt guilty after the one night stand. That kind of thing isn’t for me. I have not trusted myself to be able to discern a good relationship from a bad one. I tell myself sometimes I don’t want a relationship but it isn’t true. Another former friend tried to rush me into dating again and made me feel badly for being single. But honestly I am okay being alone. I enjoy my own company, and I am learning more about who I am outside of a partnership. I also hope that if I can be strong on my own I can attract a healthy partner. I am not completely sure at this time what I would want in a partner but I hope to find out.

    Contrary to what people have said to me I have not lost hope in love, I just want to be sure I am ready for it. I would never want to date someone and possibly hurt them because I have not healed from my wounds. It isn’t fair to use people this way, yet so many people do it! Just as you mentioned, relationships should be win-win. I am not looking for someone to take all of my pain away. This former friend got divorced around the same time my relationship ended, then quickly started sleeping around with people, even people at our place of work (we used to be coworkers). I don’t necessarily disagree with casual sex but I feel it’s not healthy to try and heal through casual sex. She was also of the belief that women can do no wrong which wasn’t good for me. Not only do I want to find a healthy partner I also want to find healthy friends too. I didn’t realize just how much your environment affects your mental health even when you are not fully aware of it. I hope to be more mindful and conscious in the future.

    #365427
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Rachel:

    Thank you for your kindness and for expressing your appreciation of me. I do value what you say and I appreciate you too.

    Interesting, but not surprising to me, that she shamed you for being attracted to men while she wrote in her diary that she wanted to have sex with men.

    “I feel that if someone shows any sort of kindness I owe them”- you owe yourself to not accept a person’s cruelty because that person is kind from time to time. (Imagine the cruelest person in history/ the cruelest person in recent events- sometimes that person is kind to someone).

    “I must be sure not to allow her any access to me and not to torture myself by checking her social media”- I agree.

    “I also hope that if I can be strong on my own I can attract a healthy partner”- we find ourselves with unhealthy people not necessarily because we attract them, but because there are so many unhealthy people around. We need to heal ourselves best we can and adequately evaluate others’ health before we get significantly involved with them.

    “I would never want to date someone and possibly hurt them because I have not healed from my wounds”- I don’t think there are people who are completely healthy or completely healed. There are always wounds. Key in a relationship is to help each other heal instead of opening old wounds and creating new ones.

    “I didn’t realize just how much your environment affects your mental health”- yes it does. Evaluating people, places and situations is necessary for health and healing.

    anita

     

    #365655
    Rachel
    Participant

    Hi anita,

    Yes, that’s something that’s hard to wrap my head around – that even cruel people are kind from time to time. It creates a lot of confusion because you never know if it’s you. I’ve always struggled with getting angry at someone for mistreating me then feeling like I need to be kinder or more understanding. This reminds me of another memory from my teenage years: my dad used to always rant at me about his life, his problems, how my mom was terrible to him, so on and so forth. I didn’t want to be around him. I remember the summer after my freshman year of college I told him so. My mom shamed me and said I was making him feel bad. It’s like you said before about how mothers train their children in toxic ways. But now I don’t know how to untrain myself. I feel like I need to reconnect with my own inner guidance: I feel that when I can trust myself, things usually work out pretty well. I think I have good instincts but it’s hard not to have social support to back you up. It’s like the frog dying in hot water. I feel my intuition has died, or quieted. In my head I hear the things other people have told me, but I cannot “hear” myself because no one on my life has really heard me.

    I have always felt I attract toxic people. It’s interesting to hear you say that might not be the case. Another toxic thing that therapist told me is that most people are good, only a few are bad. I thought that was wrong and maybe you agree. And I think assessing people as good or bad is unhelpful. Maybe someone isn’t a bad person but they can still be toxic to my wellbeing. I feel it’s more important to think about how people make us feel, how they treat us and whether or not the relationship is a win-win. This stuff is very confusing, I still don’t know how I can unlearn all of these lies, especially ones that have come from a so-called mental health professional!

    You’re right, no one is completely healed. I guess deep down I still feel I am a messed up person, and for that reason I close myself from the possibility of getting close to someone who I actually want to be close to. Maybe that’s why I have these toxic relationships: I know they are toxic, but I feel I am toxic too and don’t deserve any better. I always wonder, am I good person? What does good even mean? It’s hard going through life without parents to guide us…how can we know right from wrong without anyone to teach us? I feel values are often distorted and it’s still so hard to see clearly. But once upon a time I did see clearly…I wonder how to get back to that point, or to go forward to an even better place. I know I can’t be perfect but I still want to be for some reason. I wish I could cut myself some slack.

    On another note, today is my birthday! I am 28 today. Even with all of this confusion this is a better birthday than in the past. For most of my life I didn’t want to be alive, didn’t care whether or not I was dead or alive. Even when COVID hit, I was not afraid because I didn’t care if I caught it and died. But now I am looking forward to the future and I feel a little happier to be on this planet. Maybe because I am trying to untangle myself from abuse and lies. Love heals and truth does also.

    #365659
    anita
    Participant

    H     A      P      P     Y                               B     I     R    T    H     D    A     Y             D  E  A  R       R   A   C   H   E   L   !!!

    – good to read that your 28 birthday is a better birthday than the ones before, that you have hope that “Love heals and truth does also”!

    You shared that your father “used to always rant at me about his life, his problems, how my mom was terrible to him”, you finally told him that you didn’t want to be around him, and your mother shamed you for “making him feel bad”.

    You then wrote: “I feel my intuition has died, or quieted”-

    – Your mother shamed your healthy intuition to get away from your ranting father. Shamed (declared wrong), your healthy intuition quieted, or died somewhat.

    “most people are good”- all people are born good. Then life happens and that goodness is compromised. Some people harm millions, others break the heart of their loving, trusting children, over and over again, there are so many kinds of compromise.

    “Maybe someone isn’t a bad person but they can still be toxic to my wellbeing”- if a person is toxic to your wellbeing, then he or she is a bad person in your life. I read that lots of Nazi SS guards who killed Jewish and Gypsy children every day, were good family people at home, good to their own children.

    “I know they are toxic, but I feel I am toxic too and don’t deserve any better. I always wonder, am I good person? What does good even mean?… I know I can’t be perfect but I still want to be for some reason”-

    – Here is an exercise I suggest: make two lists, one of good behaviors, another of bad (toxic) behaviors. You can share them with me if you want, and we’ll take it from there.

    anita

    #365664
    Rachel
    Participant

    Hi anita,

    Thank you for the birthday wishes! I haven’t heard anything from my family yet. Interestingly, my mom complains at me when I don’t wish her happy birthday or happy mother’s day but has forgotten my birthday for years now. Double standards are not great to deal with. Here are my lists:

    Good behaviors:

    Being respectful and polite to other people, even people we disagree with

    Listening to listen and not just to respond

    Following through with what you say you’re going to do

    Apologizing for wrongdoing and not doing it again

    Honesty, saying what we mean and meaning what we say. Not lying intentionally

    Seeing all people on equal footing: not thinking we’re better than someone because of social status or political beliefs or other superficial things

    Taking responsibility for ourselves

    Caring for and loving our children unconditionally

    Helping others in need to the best of our ability

    Caring for ourselves so we don’t become an unfair burden on others

    Respecting the boundaries of others

    Caring for and loving the Earth and animals, meaning do as little harm as possible.

     

    Bad Behaviors:

    Acting in a self interested manner at all times

    Lying to people to get something from them

    Manipulating people to get something from them

    Disrespecting other’s physical, emotional, or energetic boundaries

    Doing something kind or nice just to get something in return or gain power over someone.

    Dumping problems and bad energy on people, using people as an emotional “trash can”

    Sexual irresponsibility (cheating, not using birth control and/or protection, having multiple partners without being tested for STDs)

    Stealing, taking what doesn’t belong to us

    Gossiping about people

    Parentifying children

    Gaslighting people, denying their reality and making them confused

    Trying to gain power over people

    Looking down on someone because you perceive them to be lesser than you

    Talking at people instead of to them

    Unhealthy competition

    Downplaying someone’s achievements or good qualities to make ourselves feel superior

     

     

    #365680
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Rachel:

    You are welcome. In your post before the most recent you wrote: “It’s hard going through life without parents to guide us.. how can we know right from wrong without anyone to teach us?”-

    Your parents did guide you (more accurately, misguided you) and they taught you. when your mother shamed you for telling your ranting father that you don’t want to be around him, she taught you to not get away from people who rant/  otherwise harm you, and indeed, as an adult, you didn’t get away from the abusive partner who harmed you.

    “I always wonder, am I good person? What does good even mean?”- your mother taught you that being a good person means to not get away from abusive people. She taught you something that is very untrue, and now you have to unlearn what she taught you and teach yourself what it truly means to  be a good person. This is why I asked you to make the lists.

    The items on your list need clarifications, context to be inserted, be made specific:

    “Listening to listen and not just to respond”- you definitely don’t want to listen to a person on a monologue of ranting, similar to your father’s ranting.

    “Following through with what you say you’re going to do”- if in a moment of un-wellness, you said that you will submit to  another person’s disrespect, you shouldn’t follow through with it just because you said it.

    “Apologizing for wrongdoing and not doing it again”- if you don’t know yet what it means specifically what behaviors are bad behaviors, and someone says you did something wrong/ bad, how will you be able to evaluate if indeed it was a wrongdoing (some people thrive on pointing others’ alleged wrongdoings).

    “Honestly, saying what you mean and meaning what we say”- with some people, and in some contexts (such as in the workplace), we should not say all that we mean.

    “Helping others in need to the best of our ability”- often people aiming at helping others are really hurting them, and we should definitely not help those who are taking advantage of us, people who are already helping  themselves to us.

    “Taking responsibility for ourselves”- this is very general: what specific behaviors constitute being responsible?

    Bad behaviors, “Manipulating people to get something from them”- not all manipulations are bad: when teaching children well, we do manipulative them: showing approval for good behaviors and disapproval for bad behaviors (ex. hitting other kids). When we are polite to strangers is a social manipulation, and not a bad one.

    “Disrespecting other’s physical, emotional, or energetic boundaries”- way too general.

    “Sexual irresponsibility (cheating, not using birth control and/ or protection” etc., this is more specific, although this too can be made more specific, for example: what constitutes cheating.

    If you want to, take your time and make a list of very specific behaviors that are good and/ or bad (you can choose one or the other). It doesn’t need to be a complete list.

    anita

     

     

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