Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pain and Self-Loathing in Vegas (or somewhere)

I'm struggling right now with a ton of self doubt and self loathing. I've been shown recently just how much, throughout my life, I have put my needs aside for others. I don't speak up when I object to something that's said because I don't believe I am worth being heard. I also have a lot of fear that others will think me wrong or stupid. So, I don't tell people what's going on with me and I don't speak up when I am screaming inside. I'm at the point that it feels like life is just too hard and I don't want to have these feelings anymore.

What would Wanda do?


This is something that Wanda has some experience with. You are not alone. They say "misery loves company" but they don't know what that means. It isn't that someone who is miserable wants someone else to feel / be miserable. It is that none of us wants to be alone, and if we can know that another human being has experienced what we are going through, it makes us feel less despicable. Certainly, if someone else has been there (who isn't there now), there might be hope for me.

We all have at least two levels of experience going on at the same time: Being and Doing. "Who I am" is separate from "What I do." People aren't writing to me saying, "Who are you, Wanda?" Instead, they want to know, "What Would Wanda Do?" Who I am certainly affects the responses I give to people; however, what I would do is about behaviors.

Self-loathing is shame. This happens at the Being level. This happens when we don't receive enough positive attention and strokes for just being alive on the planet and being a joy in someone's world. Usually, it starts with our parents who we expect to cherish us and delight in our little being-hood. Just our baby-lumpness is enough for them. If we don't get unconditional positive regard for being alive, we tend to internalize shame: I am not okay. There is something really bad wrong with me. I am despicable. I am the piece of poop that the world revolves around. I don't deserve to live. I am nauseum.

And if you loathe yourself, how are you going to have confidence in what you do? Self-doubt can happen to anyone. We all sometimes question our behaviors and motives. If we are already full of self-loathing, though, how are we going to trust anything about who we are or what we do?

Women especially learn to put themselves aside for others, but it is not exclusively a female state. Anyone who has grown up with an immature or a chronically ill parent can learn to put himself or herself aside to meet the needs of the one who is more needy. Sadly, it becomes a survival technique and the child doesn't get to go through the process of being taken care of and loved and cherished and attended to, because she is so busy trying to make the world be okay by taking care of the parent. Her being isn't given enough positive strokes. Instead, her worth is measured by what she does.

So, of course, it feels like life is too hard. When you have to take care of everyone else and not get your own very basic Beingness stroked, it is too hard.

What I would do is find at least one other person I can talk to. A person who will show up and be present. A person who will not try to fix the problem but will love me as I am. It doesn't mean I will always get what I want when I want it if I start speaking up about my needs and desires. What it means is that when I speak up, that other person can say, "You have a right to ask for what you need. You deserve to be heard. Your needs and wants are valid. You are a good person. I want to hear what you have to say. I want to hear how you feel. You are not stupid. You are not wrong."

I'd find someone who can separate who I am from what I do. Everyone at one time or another will choose a less than stellar behavior. We are not our behaviors. The behavior is the Doing part. We need to receive feedback about what we do, both positive and negative. Yet, even when it is negative feedback (something we did that was hurtful or not on the mark) we are still worthy and worthwhile human beings, and we need someone who can stand by and love us through that. That someone might be a partner, a therapist, a friend, even sometimes a 12-step sponsor. Alanon is a good program for people who have learned to set themselves aside for someone else. If I couldn't figure out what else to do, I'd go to a meeting.

What I say to myself is also important. I'd begin to speak lovingly to myself and distinguish between who I am and what I do. I'd be kind to myself. I'd speak to myself the way I would to someone I cherish. If I didn't know what that looks like, I'd look for models in the world. Do you remember Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live? "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and by golly, people like me." It may be a corny model, but it is better than how many of us treat ourselves.

I'd start speaking up. I would say what is true for me. The first few times, it might feel like the world will stop turning. I would keep taking the risk and even if people didn't agree with me, I'd validate that I'm okay--and when I couldn't do that, I would ask a friend for the support and validation I need.

And last, but certainly not least, I would remind myself that these are feelings. Feelings are not the whole truth. Feelings are energy. They come. They go. (Thank God!) As far as I know, it is not common that people die from feelings. I need to let my feelings inform me, and I need to remember what I know. I need to call on my whole self and not let myself be run by the feelings of my inner wounded five year old. There is indeed more to me than that.

That's what I'd do.

Thanks for asking, and please, stay in touch. There is hope.



graceonline said...

Wanda, your wisdom runs deep.

"I need to call on my whole self and not let myself be run by the feelings of my inner wounded five year old. There is indeed more to me than that."

Empowering words. I wish I'd understood them thirty, twenty, ten years ago.

Wanda said...

I am glad these words are helpful. Thanks for stopping in.

Anonymous said...

Such gentle wisdom! Thanks for being so good at this. I've been thinking about what you said for the past day and it resonates with me. All except the Alanon part :-). I'll have to think about that some more.

Less Loathing than before

Wanda said...

We gotta do what we gotta do. I am glad that some of it resonates with you and "less loathing" is a move in the right direction. Feel free to keep me posted on this front.