Monday, January 14, 2008

origins of over-independence

The other day a friend asked,"Why is it that you insist on being independent? What caused you to be this way to a fault?"

I quickly dismissed the questions, unconsciously filing them away for later consideration. The questions became a pest, popping out unexpectedly, persistently, yet I refused to answer.

Now I'll try.

This week I became aware of an embarrassing truth about the way I see things. In a strange twist of perception, I actually associate intimate relationships, such as the type resulting in marriage, with weakness. Rationally, I know that's nutty, but in whirlingbettyworld it's reality.

It's easy for me to tell where this idea came from: my family of origin. My mother was a smart and beautiful woman who allowed her life to be marginalized by her husband. He cheated on her and controlled her. Even as a very young child, I was appalled. Is it any surprise that she died an early death from pancreatic cancer?

My older sister, also beautiful and intelligent, became pregnant as a teen and married the Catholic father of her fetus. Three years later, she had three out-of-control kids, a rented house worthy of condemnation by the Health Department, and a newly obese body. Her husband left her. I was not yet 10 years old by the time all of this had occurred. Was I influenced? You betcha.

The same sister decided not too long after her divorce that life would be better if she snared another man, so she quickly lost her excess weight (temporarily) and before long, guess what? She had a beau. Within a few months, said beau had absconded with what little bit of money my family had, including my grandmother's life savings. He had convinced my sister (who convinced the family) that he was about to become rich from a South African diamond mining deal. After he fled the country with my family's savings, he was never seen again.

My sister moved on, first to a drug addict, then to a psychopath who sexually molested her daughters and then held them at gunpoint while threatening suicide. Weary of men, my sister gained back all her weight and then some.

As for my big brother, he has been a member of Sex Addicts Anonymous for years. He has had hundreds of "partners". He married one of them, a 16-year-old model, for 6 months when he was 38.

And then there's my hero- my grandmother. By the time I was born she was long divorced, unheard of for an Irish Catholic. According to family legend, the American she married not long after landing on Ellis Island turned out to be lousy at earning a living. She took matters into her own hands and got a good job at Ansco Camera. She was proud of her job, very proud. Her ne'er-do-well husband eventually succumbed to the flirtation of the woman next door, who coveted not only my grandfather but the shiny new car my grandmother had just bought him. I knew my grandmother as a single, independent woman (there was no man/albatross around her neck!), and she was the only happy woman in my family. She was the only one who smiled.

It's easy to see how I came up with a negative view of intimate relationships. But now I'm an adult, unencumbered by the unfortunate escapades of my immediate family members. I'm left with nothing but my self and my idiosyncracies. Every human has a need or desire to be loved and appreciated by another, right?

Sometimes when the going gets rough, I do feel sorry for myself and wish that there was somebody around who could offer me a soft place to fall. A child cannot fill that role.

But most of the time I numbly forge onward, oblivious to basic human social instincts. Before The Child entered my life, I did seek the companionship of a partner- several in succession, actually. But once I had the relationship going, in each case I then sought to abandon it and shop around for a better guy. Paradoxically, I wanted to be available while harboring a boyfriend. I never imagined myself getting married- I wanted to play the field forever.

Once The Child showed up, I was somehow finished with men. I'm not sure why. But it's just as well, considering my inability to form a lasting relationship. Maybe on some level I was aware of how hard that would be on The Child.

Am I unwilling to trust men? (Look at the doozies the women in my family ended up with!) Do I think I don't deserve a longterm committed relationship? (I suffer from self-esteem issues.) How do I get by without intimacy in my life?

12 comments:

Loving Annie said...

Dear Betty,
Intimacy, being able to trust, wanting to connect and showing it by your consistent choices - these are the work of a lifetime for someone who has been emotionally damaged so young.

Independence to a high degree is another word for not letting someone in. Being self-sufficient has its good points. Pushing people away both protects you - and keeps you isolated, so the price tag in the long run is high.

It is painful to carry the wounds of childhood with you. You know that. You feel it. And yet... It has become a habit, and habits are addicting...

What you DESREVE - and what your heart/soul fears inside are two opposites...

You can think on one level that you believe you are worth more than a life without intimacy... Yet I would wager that deep inside when someone comes close, you still think "go away" and fins a reason to not like something about them....

It's so hard, Betty...

I think that THE CHILD in a way is your salvation as a first step. If you can - and do - consistently show him that it is safe to love, that people are kind and stable and honest and can be trusted, you are parenting him the way you should have been parented, giving him the family structure you were denied...

Only in being loving and intimate yourself can you begin to let it in.

You must give every day, every week, every month, in a thousand endless tiny ways (just as you do in your incredible kindness of your thoughtful comments to me) - and as you give, as you are open to bringing warmth to others, then in turn in will be returned to you.

Truly...

Who your family members ended up with is NOT who you have to choose... It is all about choices...

There is a WONDERFUL healing of family issues 10 day workshop (where you might be able to get a scholarship) called THE HOFFMAN PROCESS. It addresses so much of what you've brought up here, and really transforms your ability to see it and heal it, making you stronger and more able to be loving than you ever thought possible...

The website is a bit obscure, but the seminar it is THE BEST thing I've ever found/gone to, EVER in terms of healing the massive damage your parents/siblings have left in your psyche and ability to connect long-term....

Affirmations, therapy, workshops, books, joining activities outside of your house where you are interacting with people regularly, - all have something to offer.

It is a long process, maybe the work of a lifetime... It took years to get where you are, it doesn't heal overnight... BUT IT DOES HEAL bit by bit, piece by piece, and gradually get better...

I have seen your kindness here, and generosity of spirit... I wish for you the love and imtimacy you have not been able to let yourself have YET...

((hugs))
Loving Annie

Betty said...

Dear Annie,

It's taken along time for me to see that independence can be negative in a case like mine, but I'm getting there. Carrying the wounds is all I know- I appear to be fairly functional except for lacking a partner, so I've "gotten away with it".

Thank you for your hopeful message. I will look into the Hoffman Process.

May you find the intimacy which eludes me.

Hugs,
Betty

Priyamvada_K said...

qDear Betty,
That was a very self-aware and honest post. Loving annie said it all in her beautifully articulate comment.

Me - I'm just listening. Your son needs care and consistency from someone you can trust - and right now, you trust yourself. And that's perfectly ok. Not all men have the patience to deal with children, and your choice is probably what you feel deep down is the safest for your son.

Priya.

Loving Annie said...

Betty,
We definitely get away with things on the surface, and can be highly functional in mnay ways (you and me both and I suspect others who also have the same initmacy/independence thing) -- and yet it eats at us inside long term...

I'm thrilled you will look into Hoffman. I think the website is www.hoffmaninstitute.org

Again, your honesty here in your post was huge. It takes guts to open up like that.

*smiles*
Loving Annie

Kacey said...

You can get past the need for a man in your life. My oldest daughter threw her husband out after ten years and three pre-school aged boys. because he was a cheat and she was tired of being the major support for a family of five and teaching full time while pregnant three times. She hasn't even dated, but has filled her life with the three boys (now 21, 24 and 26). I am still with my husband that I ran off with at seventeen. I let him think that he is the boss around here, but I pretty much decide how things are going to be and make him think he is in charge. The difference between your family's lives and mine is--- I'm would die without him. When you find a genuinely kind and loving man, you will know it and your life will be different. Meanwhile, you have The Child and his love and the responsibility to make him into the kind of man you can pass onto another woman.

Betty said...

Dear Priya,

How nice to see you! Thank you for your comment. I'm not always comfortable writing this type of post.

I hope you are well!

Hugs,
Betty

Betty said...

Dear Annie,

It sure is a lot easier to just keep on acting as if everything's just fine, isn't it? But people like you who write such wonderful and helpful comments make me glad I admitted how things are....

hugs,
betty

Betty said...

Kacey, I think you're on to something. The man in question can make all the difference. Who knows? Maybe someday I'll meet a man like yours, and maybe I'll be ready. What a pleasant dream that is.

Hugs,
Betty

Dust-bunny said...

Dear Betty,

Nothing wrong with the "dream." Sometimes the prince does exist, even though he is sitting in the middle of a sea-full of frogs. Or perhaps it's the other way around...Maybe the "frog" is really the one you need and he's in a sea-full of supposed "princes." They may look like they're "all that", but they're empty inside. Maybe the frog has a few warts, but he probably knows how to treat people better!

The Thinking Man's Babe said...

Oh Betty,

This is so incredibly complex and I hear and feel every word you say!!! I am S0 much like you, except without child. I want to help...

For the past year, I have been on a journey ever since I saw The Secret and learned about law of attraction (the movie is kind of like showing a blind man an elephant - there's a lot more to the concept.) Anyway, I have been actively trying to change my thought patterns, from doing breathworking to neurolinguistic programming and lots of prayer and meditation. I follow the teachings of Abraham Hicks as well and more straightforward education such as Michael Losier and Elyse Hope Killoran. This has transformed my life on so many levels. I now even have a guy in my life - which is nothing less than a miracle. However, it is not the end all and be all and it is very, very hard to trust - these issues go way, way back.

The first five years of our lives are so powerful they set the stage for the rest of our lives. But I know it can be done. We have to work on our "blocks" what's holding us back first, before we can transform ourselves...

Okay, this was a really long post but I hope it helps somehow.

Betty said...

Dear Thinking Man's Babe,

Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I am also interested in LOA and may talk about it in my next post.

Thanks for visiting!

Hugs,
Betty

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