I wrote a song, it’s called “LoveTrap.” You sing it to the tune of “LoveShack,” and once it’s in your head you can never get it out.
Love is a trap. Deep down I have a belief that I won’t reach my full potential if people are too close to me. Being loved, to me, feels like living a half life — being a compromised version of myself. To remedy this with friends and dudes (anyone really: bosses, landlords, parents, the list goes on…), I’ve attempted to put permanent mechanisms in place to keep people from getting too close to me. Like, sure, we can hang out, but only three times a year for 90 minutes at a time and you can’t contact me in between hang outs. It hasn’t helped that historically when I have dated someone, the result has been me abandoning myself so, of course, my core belief was then confirmed. The stories in my head have kept me living in a perpetual state of flux, swinging between loneliness and the sensation of being smothered. It’s hard to know the truth, but what I have come up with is that I have a fear of not being enough. So to prevent people from seeing this (my not enoughness), I show up within relationships as a version of myself, a better Pam, if you will. Not a lie but not the whole truth, either. Then, because I feel the need to maintain a half truth, fluctuating anywhere between 40-80% of my whole self, I feel more and more restricted and like there is a vice around my chest getting tighter and tighter until I can’t breathe, can’t communicate appropriately, can’t explain myself, just have to R.U.N. To me, leaving intimate relationships feels like the moment in The Little Mermaid when Ariel breaks through the ocean’s surface with her legs for the first time. She’s a mess, can’t swim, but her one goal is survival. The pretty princess could care less about maintaining her coif with the dinglehopper, and instead her singular point of focus is getting away from the place that was once her home.
I have a lot of minor health issues — gastrointestinal, joint and muscular, emotional and mental — that I am constantly experiencing the effects of and attempting to resolve. I was at an osteopath appointment once trying to figure out the root of a problem I’d been having for years, when he said with his hands on me: I think you’re really good at coping, hey? And all of a sudden I had the deepest desire to cry. Because, yea. I suppose I am. I am quite good at staying in situations I’ve committed to being in regardless of their impacts on my health. I wouldn’t say that my relationships have stifled me, I would say that I have stifled myself whilst in relationships. Familial, childhood, and social conditioning have made it incredibly easy for me to disconnect my head from my body and follow my head. I have been told from every possible medium that my body, emotions and intuitions cannot be trusted. So it would seem that as I get further and further away from the knowing that is my original self and more and more committed to following and applying weight to the thoughts in my head, my emotional, physical and spiritual health suffers and deteriorates.
Obviously (surely this must be obvious by now?) I want another way. I don’t want unexamined stories keeping me in a place of discontent my whole life. A place where I sabotage relationships, run from safety and experience continuous physical and mental discomfort, I want a whole life. One that includes excellence, success, intimacy, trust, faith, companionship, vulnerability, courage, etc. I have to remind myself I’m not more fucked up than anyone else, I’m just talking about my stuff more than most. Reading Martha Beck and Byron Katie and asking myself the questions Katie recommends — is this belief true, are you absolutely sure it’s true, are there any ways you can think of that suggest this might not be true–I get to a point of seeing how despite my beliefs that other people in my adult life need me to be a certain way, I can’t actually find any evidence of that being the case when I examine my closest relationships, the ones I’ve chosen for myself. If anything, I can see those intimacies and those attachments as a source of security. I can see myself as the tent and my nearest and dearest — the ones I have met in adulthood and put my heart into my relationships with — as the posts allowing me to weather storms of instability and changing landscapes (how’s that for a metaphor?). When reading the book Attached (Levine and Heller) about attachment styles, the authors make the point that for most, a secure and solid source of intimacy allows people to feel safe and take greater risks — making it more likely that someone would reach their potential. And yet this is not an anomalous story: a woman losing herself in her intimate relationships.
For me, it just becomes easier to focus on the other person, make them the source of my happiness (or unhappiness, as the case may be, depending on where we are in the dance), smother the part of me trying to breathe and tell her she’ll just make waves and ruin a good thing if she does. Obviously it’s not conscious, all this insidious bullshit never is, and there’s multiple pop-psychology points of note in this post that can be pointed to and named: people pleasing, internalizing shame, patriarchy, anxious attachment style, what have you, but I (and we, I’m guessing) don’t need more words, more diagnoses, more labels to point to. The Not Enoughness thing is clearly the core wound here. I write essays that often suggest I’ve solved a problem, stepped out from behind the curtain and cured myself–aha moments often feel that way. But in reality, it’s always a slow burn, a gentle climb, a two steps forward and 1-9 steps back type progression. What I am attempting to address in instances like this is a blockade on my route to peace. In fact, that’s the sole/soul purpose of my writing, my workshops, and my life. It’s easy to see that I’ve got more work to do, but that will never not be the case (double negative, deal with it). I’m not striving for perfection, I’m hoping for illumination. Slowly, slowly shining light on the areas keeping me in the dark. I may not quite have gotten to the heart of the deepest issue here, but slowly deconstructing the protection mechanisms I’ve adopted as a result of shitty belief systems is my process and is The Way.