Let me preface this by saying that I am probably not a very good person. Oh, on the outside I can seem charming, benevolent … perhaps even kind. But deep down I’m a bitter, spiteful and vindictive little troll who manipulates and abuses those around him when he doesn’t get his way.
Or at least, that’s the rhetoric I feel like I’m told, day in and day out. I don’t really know what to believe anymore.
One of the things I’m working on in therapy is trusting my own thoughts and feelings. Trusting my own sense of right and wrong. For decades I’ve been told what’s important, what should be put first, what’s right and what’s wrong, and it’s gone on for so long that I truly, truly don’t know what my own opinion on anything is anymore. I don’t know how to raise a teenager; I don’t know how to clean dishes. I don’t know how to set up a phone, apparently, despite my career in consumer electronics.
Part of the problem is my own variability in mood; what I feel one day may not necessarily be what I feel the next. This leads me to doubt my very emotions; what I’m told I said or felt yesterday often doesn’t align with what I remember, and moreover doesn’t align with how I feel today. Not only can I not remember how I felt ten or fifteen years ago about major life events, but I don’t remember how I felt this morning about breakfast.
My memory is also an issue in this; I have a terrible memory for things, people or events, and forget everything from garbage night to what I ate for dinner last night. I may say something with confidence, vehemence and clarity today, and tomorrow I won’t remember why I felt so strongly about it in the first place.
But my therapist says that I do know myself, and I do know right from wrong; I just don’t trust myself that I do. And apart from my whacked-out mood swings and inability to remember things, I think the other piece to this dilemma is that I have never, in my entire life, been given the space to think through my own thoughts, come to terms with the world around me, and form my own opinion on the things that affect and influence my life. I went from a child, growing up with exceptionally opinionated parents who behaved as though their worldview was reality, to living with my now-wife – another very opinionated individual who, I think, finds it difficult to see things through other people’s eyes.
This has led to me simply going along with other people’s ideas and thoughts, and never truly forming my own. There are today extremely few things that matter to me to the point where I would step up and say something. One of these is when I sense someone – myself or someone else – being treated unfairly. This is something that still incenses and outrages me, and I will often get very agitated – angry, even – when I see something that feels unfair happening in the world around me.
Another is when I feel dismissed and not listened to. And I specifically choose the phrase “not listened to” as opposed to unheard, because if someone doesn’t hear me, it isn’t their fault; but if they hear me and choose no to listen, it really, really upsets me.
Another problem that comes up when I do actually sense something as worth standing up for is that I don’t do it in a constructive way. I get defensive, vindictive, and hurt, and lash out rather than try to focus on a useful way of showing how I feel. I shout, slam my fist, curse and demean others, because god damn it, it’s so unfair! In this, I’m told that I’m being abusive, and that leads to a sense that the original problem – the one that made me so angry in the first place – is all my fault, my doing, and has nothing to do with the person who treated me unfairly in the first place.
To this end, I feel like I am never allowed to be a victim. Because I lash out when I’m upset, I become the abuser, and someone else becomes the victim. This in turn continues to demean my feelings and thoughts, until I end up believing that I’m worth absolutely nothing whatsoever.
But should I be a victim? Is it right to sometimes want to be a victim? I’m so tired of being a perpetrator, of being told I’m the violent one, that I’m the one who makes others feel bad. Deep in my heart, I know that I am treated just as unfairly as I treat anyone else, it’s just that my reaction is so egregious and violent that it towers above anyone else’s wrongdoing to the point where they essentially get away with mistreating me because I’m so much worse by comparison.
I’ll admit – I’ve never learned to control my emotions. I think that I’ve ended up dismissing my own feelings so often and for so long that I don’t know how to deal with the ones that remain.
How do I move forward from here? How do I learn to not only trust my own feelings, but speak them to others in a way that allows them to actually listen to what I have to say? If I try to say how I feel, I get shut down because it doesn’t fit with someone else’s worldview. If I react to being shut down, I’m told I’m an abuser. At what point do I actually get to just … be myself? When do I get to be heard? When, if ever, do I get to be understood?
It’s just so incredibly frustrating, and I see no way out of it. I can’t speak to the people who make me feel this way because they don’t listen. And come tomorrow, I’ll probably just think it all doesn’t even matter anymore, because I’ll have forgotten why I felt this way in the first place.
What would you do, if you were in my place? How would you handle being constantly pounded into submission to the point where you don’t even trust your own thoughts?
How do I move forward?