What the heck is my problem? There's dysfunction, yes, and I suspect codependency too - I know I need to seek therapy and as soon as I'm done writing this question I'm going to set up an appointment. However, there's one other element that I've only recently become aware of, and it seems so sick and abnormal to me that I'm afraid of ever mentioning it even in therapy. Does thinking that other people SHOULD treat you horribly put you way off the chart in terms of what therapists are usually equipped to help with?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
My apologies for the length of this, I feel like a little context is needed to explain this because it seems so bizarre even to me. I'm going to describe a little bit about the dynamics of one specific friendship, but please realize I'm doing this because it was in the context of this friendship that I started noticing certain things about myself, and because I think it helps encapsulate a lot of what I'm talking about, not because I'm looking for advice about this friendship - beyond the fact that I'm VERY much short-changing it in terms of only describing negative elements here, I think my problems go far beyond any one friendship and I'm really looking for a little insight into what the heck might be the matter with me.
Anyway, I've got this friend who has issues of his own, lots of them, mostly of the 'low self-esteem' variety just like me. I think I've finally wised up to the fact that I can't be the one to convince them to seek therapy, can't be the one to help them, can't really even say much positive about them that they'll believe (although anything that could be taken negatively inevitably IS heard, believed, and amplified by a factor of ten) – and yet I can't stop feeling this deep, hideous inadequacy about that. I know it isn't fair (to me OR to them) to base my worth on whether or not I can be of any help to anybody I'm close to, but I can't seem to stop doing that and the fact that I don't think I am helping anybody just compounds the negative feelings I have about myself.
I know that this sort of thing, while unhealthy, is at least kind of common as far as dysfunction goes - but! Beyond this general inadequacy (and codependent behavior on my part?) there's also the problem that when we argue over something, the pattern is that I'll give in by the end, usually scrambling backwards madly to take back and apologize for something I've said, but only after I HAVE said something that makes them feel horrible and they've said things that make me feel horrible. While we do step back at that point and do apologize, this pattern seems to arise any time we fight. We're sorry, but we keep doing it. And even worse, I’m beginning to realize that part of me thinks this person - and people in general - SHOULDN'T apologize but rather should get even more outright angry at me ... and THIS is the element that seems just flat-out sick and unacceptable to me.
I think in some part I want to be treated in an ugly way, by this person and by others to whom I'm attached – it's almost sickly reassuring, like this warped confirmation of what I've known all along and that seems to elude most people. Sometimes I'm even unsettled by being apologized to, partly because the cessation of their negative acts means I have nothing more to be upset at them about, but even more so because part of me would rather that they went further in being harsh towards me than they had yet done. The friend I mentioned above is one of those people – some part of me wonders if our fights don't go the way they do so that we both get the chance to "prove" to ourselves what awful people we actually are ('How could I EVER have said that horrible thing to such an undeserving person??'), AND I wonder if I keep trying to help them in part because I know I can't, and thus will once again get proof of how useless a friend I am. And now it occurs to me that even as a kid some element of this was there, maybe even before things started getting particularly bad in my family (typical substance-abusing parent issues) and social life – for one small (but maybe telling? I don't even know anymore) example, I know I was always drawn to episodes of shows where the character I liked or identified with was ill-treated for whatever reason. Ick.
This all seems sick as hell to me and unlike so many other disorders I can't find a name I could research to at least get a sense of how common it is (masochism isn't quite it, at least, as I understand it – this isn't a sexual thing on my part), and that scares me: this weird feeling that people ought to treat me as if I'm despicable seems so alien and sick and wrong that I can't see myself admitting it even to a therapist. I guess this is what I'm really asking, then: I realize you aren't my therapist, but does anybody have any thoughts on what the hell this might be, and how common or unheard-of it is? Again, I AM going to seek therapy but I just think I'd feel more comfortable being honest if I knew that this isn't a completely abnormal, monstrous problem that's inevitably going to cause any therapist I work with to flinch away thinking I'm completely horrible and hopeless. Thanks in advance for any input you have; if you'd like to email me please do so at firstname.lastname@example.org