Growing pains, should I seek help?
February 16, 2015 9:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm a man and in my mid 20's. I'm currently working on attaining my masters in social work, I've been reading up on research and While I'm no psychiatrist I do feel that I have suffered episodes of abandonment. My Stepfather ( who has raised me since I was two) suffered during his upbringing. He never met his father and his mom neglected a lot of her motherly duties.

In a lot of ways he raised himself. I believe that his upbringing had everything to do with why he could never display signs of affection towards me growing up. I received the material satisfactions from my father but emotionally he was absent. My father never praised me, never hugged me, when we conversed with one another it was mainly about sports. I think the reason I grew into learning so much about sports was I desired of having a relationship with him and this was the only way I could fill a little bit of that void. On top of this my father masked his emotions with badgering others. He would pick on my weight. As a young boy I faced weight issues, it was something that had forced me to lose weight and proudly today I can say I'm not that same chunky kid but I still suffer from low self esteem. I'm always in the mirror and never feel satisfied with what I see. Now I'm running into the issue of my hair thinning and it's something else that he has started to pick on. Concluding this I've found it hard to be in a relationship. It's like we fall madly in love with one another their great women, and I still result to breaking their hearts because I feel empty and feel at times I wish not to be loved. Do you think that my issues are getting in the way of me being a good partner? Should I seek professional help?
posted by imagine_dragon to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Everyone who's working as, or working to become, a mental-health professional should seek help for past issues. It's not fair to any future clients for you to be working out your stuff on them, and getting your own therapy is the best way of avoiding that type of projection.
posted by jaguar at 9:21 PM on February 16, 2015 [12 favorites]

I think there are two sides to this. One of them is that talk therapy and learning the skills of introspection and articulation of your experiences and feelings is incredibly useful in human development. Everyone should learn that stuff, and doing so will give you a leg up in young adulthood that a lot of people - men especially - do not really get the hang of until their 30s or later or never. If you're getting a graduate degree in social work, I'm surprised you are not required to complete therapy hours as a requirement to graduate. You should make it a personal requirement if it is not an academic one.

On the other hand, welcome to being an adult. All of the trauma you describe is a little thing called life, the end result of having parents who were - and this tends to hit you like a wrecking ball in your early to mid 20s - human.

But back on the first hand, the quicker you learn not to scapegoat your upbringing for who you are today, which is entirely under your control whether you want it to be or are ready, the faster you get off the starting block of adulthood.

Go learn some skills. You will be glad you did.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:22 PM on February 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I disagree that what you describe should be thought of as merely a consequence of having imperfect parents, with the trite acknowledgement that we all do, and leave it at that. In other words, yes you should very much seek help for what you've described and the consequences you suspect are the result. Also, nothing that you have said implies you are trying to "scapegoat" your faults or your problems. It sounds to me like the opposite, that you are lucky enough to see some of your problems and therefore desire to change them. However, the desire for change and the possibility of it never means that who you are is or ever will be "entirely under your control". You can only try your best, whatever that very vague term ends up meaning in the context of your very individual life.
posted by Blitz at 9:48 PM on February 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

You'll be Ok, but you should see a therapist before becoming one and your reasoning about career choices might change. A few years ago I was observed playing with my son and relatives told me I was everything my Dad was not. That meant an awful lot to me because I was really trying not to fuck it all up.

I find it intriguing that you never mentioned your mom.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 10:04 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

But back on the first hand, the quicker you learn not to scapegoat your upbringing for who you are today, which is entirely under your control whether you want it to be or are ready, the faster you get off the starting block of adulthood.

On the fourth(?) hand, the OP describes ongoing issues: "Now I'm running into the issue of my hair thinning and it's something else that he has started to pick on."

That's f'd up. Therapy yes, but fundamentally also some claiming of your own life apart from this stupidity (not your stupidity, his)... (also maybe finding a way to tell him to step-off.)

And if something you're not good is boundary setting therapy will help you get better at that. Boundary setting will be key in your career, because otherwise a helping profession has the potential to eat you alive if you don't have good me/them, me/work boundaries and strong self-care as a first priority.

I don't want to make it sound like I'm discouraging you in your career, so I emphasize that you can learn this stuff.
posted by Jahaza at 6:36 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You sound incredibly insightful. I think you'd actually dig therapy if you found a good match. It might be exciting and fun for you, as you seem naturally analytical and introspective. Therapy can be thrilling when you start to discover new insights and links.

"Thinning hair" is all he's got? My parents should be so lucky. That's kind of a compliment, in a way.
posted by Punctual at 8:32 AM on February 17, 2015

Best answer: Agree with Punctual, you sound like you would learn a lot from a helpful hand and yes it can help you get past what is preventing you from connecting with women.

Before you start you could try this book... it really helps unpack exactly these patterns that you describe. For example it describes the emotional deprivation schema which is a pattern of thinking & feeling that can lead a person to cool off and shut down in relationships and not express their needs because deep inside they don't expect the needs to be met so why bother. It stems from early emotional deprivation; when ones physical needs were met but their needs for nurturance, empathy, guidance and protection were not.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:50 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @st.peepsburg Thanks for the suggestion, I just ordered the book and thanks to everyones responses I'm looking into scheduling a meet with a psychiatrist. To touch on the problem just a little more my family and i are very close. Me and my moms relationship is dysfunctional at times but we love one another unconditionally. I also would like to state that I don't like running away from my issues i enjoy coming up with solutions, shows the progression that Ive made in my life. The women situation sucks I do believe that I'm incapable of loving fully do to issues that I have yet to fix. I think that once I respect myself and love myself deeply that I'll be able to mirror that love for my partner. It sucks because i really miss the girl but i don't feel like Im relationship material at this time. I think I'm in the process of finding myself and should focus on that.
posted by imagine_dragon at 6:46 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

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