It's been a long way uphill since my fall but it looks like I'm finally managing to find my feet again and starting to climb up. Looking back, I think the biggest mistake I made was putting all of my problems aside and letting them build and build until, well, the inevitable overload and collapse. The last few days, I've spent thoroughly looking inwards, the dynamics of my family and life in general, accompanied with a good dose of psychology articles and books. A lot of members have told me of the integral need of therapy. I think I can really understand that sentiment now, although my circumstances don't quite allow me to get into therapy; for the moment, books and articles will do, and they really are necessary for me. I've been discovering new things, and also getting back in touch with essential thoughts and concepts that have slipped my mind lately and in so doing contributed to my breakdown. As much as I'd like to spend days, weeks, months...even years just forgetting about everything and simply focusing on the present, to me, it looks like it's much better to deal with things continuously, everyday, a little at a time - like a top position in sports or one's health, it seems like it's something that needs to be maintained, not something that becomes and remains, not something to be taken for granted.
As of late, I've been taking a good look at the issue of narcissism and (re-)discovering how it defines/defined much of my mother's behavior towards me. I've come to realize that, if anything, for me, my biggest and most powerful coping mechanism was to be able to understand why things happen - past and ongoing abuse - to the point where I'm at least cognitively satisfied, if not emotionally. Perhaps it gives me that little elusive sense of control I'm after - control over something largely beyond my control. Over the last few days, I also realized that beneath everything, I was still holding in a lot of lingering, damaging feelings that stemmed from the abuse - (I'm listing them, and though a part of me knows they are untrue, I still *feel* them) feelings of being unloved, unwanted, unworthy, inferior, non-existent, dirty, ashamed. That's the core issue, really - the raw, true feelings - and they'll be what I hope to prioritize and be working on from now.
To get back to your responses (and I've read them over and over; there were so many good things I'm bound to miss some here):
But please don't beat yourself up. None of us are perfect!
*Big nod* That grandiose illusion of perfection is what I tend to gravitate towards often, but like you pointed out, nobody is perfect. And the biggest thing: it's OK not to be perfect. It's OK! Even monkeys fall off trees. I have to tell that to myself again and again because there is a hypercritical internal demon that destroys me every time I make a mistake, particularly if I end up hurting someone else because of it, and that all-too-familiar, all-encompassing shame engulfs me. That transition from perfection/shame to human/guilt is one I'll be working on.
I wonder perhaps if you might want to think about what your actually feeling as opposed to what your doing
Now this gave me some good food for thought. What am I feeling when people disclose their issues to me? Often, admittedly, I feel dead empty and incompetent inside, especially if it's to do with something I haven't gone through personally myself. My empathy is still a work-in-progress in many respects, and often I have a burning urge to want things to get better for the other person but not knowing what to say or do to make it happen, and I hate that. To follow up on other things you mentioned, Luke - I'm still not sure if validation is the only thing motivating me to 'help' others. I will have to think about this more carefully; for the time being though, I do think that basing one's esteem and sense of worth on how helpful one can be to others is somewhat of a risky act, as it evades the underlying reality that every one of us has *intrinsic value* that shouldn't need any validation in relation to others. The 'saint' you mentioned make me chuckle somewhat as I believe to have dated a girl who fits your description well. Having enough things in common is something I will be prioritizing the next time I find myself in a relationship, if ever.
I have some people in my life I am supposed to love by the role they have biologically in my life.
That is precisely what I'm wrestling with, I think. It sure is a can of worms. I do think it is an idealization, this concept of unconditional love, simply owing to biological ties. Those ties aren't to be taken for granted, and they can be easily severed and cut off, not least of which because of abuse. I think that 'empty spot' you allude to is much like the set of feelings I listed above; I can also see how trying to, as you put it neatly, "shove him in the Father Box he never wanted to be in," can offset a series of people-pleasing behaviors that will have you simply as a "doormat with the smiley face on it." Your words serve as a good reminder to me to not fall under this trap.
Your ability to admit your own faults and analyze them like this alone shows me that you're probably light years ahead of your parents in all of the respects in which you've stated you're afraid you may be like them. I think you should be proud of that.
I really appreciate that, Ken, thanks. It kind of brings me to a tangent, another one of my issues - accepting compliments. It actually seems paradoxical, how one can sometimes hold grandiose illusions of oneself and yet fail to accept and internalize a genuine compliment. It probably goes back to that hypercritical internalized persecutor in me stemming from my upbringing - at the moment, for me, there seems to be a fine line between tipping from a good, stable self-esteem and vanity/arrogance; another issue to write on my 'checklist', I guess.
But in reality the majority of it is just human stuff, human feelings, human mistakes.
This gave me another "aha!" moment, thanks Benny. Abuse seems to filter into so many of my thoughts, often unfounded - and it really was beyond my scope of imagination until now to think that I can make mistakes, not because I'm an inferior being, but simply because I'm human. That's an insanely liberating thought! Upon reflecting I know that at the time I wrote my original post I was in a highly emotional state; it's only days after when I'm starting to see things more clearly and rationally. Another member PMed me telling me to simply step back and take a few deep breaths before thinking things over again - that has really helped.
That may also be a legacy of a message from our parents, that we don't know how to do anything "right".
This has been a relatively new issue for me that's finally made its way up into my consciousness. It seems whatever I do, it's never good enough. Ever. My first reaction to this was the inevitable "well f*@# them then, I don't give a s@#$ anymore"...and then I kind of sat down to ponder how this never-being-good-enough attitude really affects my life - I've realized that I downplay/minimize, and to a large extent, even dismiss or deny any real accomplishments or progress that I have made. It's had a detrimental effect on me, and for the first time I can really verbalize how it's felt - it was as if I had been running and running and running, burning energy and sweating...on a treadmill. When really, I *have* been going from point A to point B. I also liked how you said, "I suspect what you mean by 'naturally' is a sense of flow, a sense of another person." I think that's exactly it - in other words, being able to establish others as separate entities outside of myself. To put it together with the previous point, compared to a few years ago, I do think I have made progress in this aspect - but also, like you said, this probably takes work for everyone because at the end of the day we really cannot directly experience what another person is feeling; we need to draw on our own experiences and empathy to be able to get a glimpse of the other person.
Phew. I think that's all the energy I have at the moment to post. It's been a trough few days but your responses have been a tremendous help in lifting me up and re-conceptualizing things; thanks guys, truly appreciate it.