I have been feeling guilty about wanting to stop seeing my therapist. While discussing this, she asked me if I am very concerned with how I affect other people. Strangely, this innocuous little question sent me reeling.
My first reaction was ,“No, that doesn’t resonate with me at all.”
We both paused, waiting for me to continue.
Magically, in the best way therapy can, this opened up a new avenue into my psyche, one I would not have discovered on my own. I proceeded slowly at first.
“I think…that I…am more concerned with how others affect me.” But that didn’t sound right. Did that mean I am completely self-absorbed? Goddess forbid! I wanted to find a shred of evidence that I did care how I affect others.
When I couldn’t immediately find any, I defensively declared that it is useless to be concerned about that because it would just guessing. “If someone doesn’t tell me how I have affected him, how could I know? How could I be concerned?” I felt better, almost smugly proud, after making this retort. But then it happened…a door opened, opened into a place I probably did not want to go.
Memories of worrying about my negative effect on people started trickling into my awareness. And once I admitted that I have cared, and do care, about my negative impact on other people, I realized that I really don’t let myself consider how I positively affect people. Uh oh…that might be a problem. Do I believe I can only be a negative influence??!!
Friends, mostly women, have told me how wonderful I am, how happy they are to know me, but I don’t believe them. I don’t accept the compliment, and that means I don’t take it personally. I tell myself that they are just saying that, because they think they should. I remind myself that I called them, I needed to talk, and they are just trying to cheer me up, but they would rather be elsewhere, with elseone. My inner self never receives their message, because it is drowned out by the flood of negative justifications I am launching at myself.
In my philosophy class at The School for Practical Philosophy, my teacher had explained that we participate actively when we become offended. If someone says some words to us, we choose whether to be affected by them or to just accept them as things that came out of the other person’s mind and mouth. If we, effectively, stab ourselves with those words and believe them, we feel offended. I remember nodding along to this, saying, yes I have a tough skin…I can keep out other people’s opinions just fine, but that seems to go for both their negative and positive opinions.
Why does it seem so ridiculous to believe I have positively affected anyone?
I continued to talk out loud in general about this, even though I was thinking in specifics, namely, about my ex-boyfriends. I was getting choked up, realizing I have no clue if any of them were positively affected by me. How do they even remember me, if they do at all?! Something close to panic began to grow inside me. I kept talking to keep it at bay.
My therapist and I are both Scorpios, so I easily segued into a discussion of astrology, hoping to avoid panic. “In all the love horoscopes I have read for fun, Scorpio women are highly praised,” I told her. “I have read countless times that you will never forget a Scorpio woman, you should hold onto her if you are lucky enough to find one, she is passionate, loyal and worth the ride!” This used to bring me pride and confidence, but after a few “failed” relationships, I find myself saying, “If I am a Scorpio, then I do not understand why no one has stayed with me!”
I am not proud of this thought. It seems too whining, and “poor me,” but this was therapy, so I said it, knowing it is as safe a place as there is for a little whine. But I am scared to be vulnerable with people, even my therapist, because I am confident- I know that they don’t want to see that part of me. I have had so many people abandon me when I was vulnerable. I have learned it is best to cry alone. I still save all my tears for after therapy. I do not want to know this anymore.
If I cannot hear the praise of my friends, cannot take a compliment, it seems more than probable that I do not know what I mean to myself. I may be familiar with self-blame, but I am a stranger to self-praise. So I may appear to be strong, unaffected by what other people say about me or do to me, but on the inside, I am telling myself I cannot expect anything from anyone, that no one thinks I am worth it. How can I ever hope to get what I deserve if I start out believing I deserve nothing?
I told my therapist I didn’t believe I deserved anything…that I could not even use that term comfortably. But I am starting to learn that to be worthy, I have to believe I am worthy. There may not be some power outside of me that dictates what I deserve, but I have to tell myself what I deserve. I have told myself that I expect too much from other people. I have chastised myself for wanting them to treat me differently. But that is all over now. Today, I say that I know how I want to be treated, how I want to be loved…and I deserve it. I do not have to settle in friendship, in love; I do not have to settle in anything.
I still cannot articulate everything I do deserve, but I can say with confidence that I do not deserve to be unhappy. For now, let me just say I know I mean something to myself.
So let me try this again, because I am proud to be a Scorpio woman…you will never forget me…you should hold onto me if you are lucky enough to find me…I am passionate, loyal and totally worth the ride!