Please Love Me, I Can't
Please Love Me, I Can't
Please Love Me, I Can't
Few writers touch on the great troubler of relationships, the one that many therapists spend much of their careers trying to help clients clear up-- self-hate.
Hate or disgust can ricochet inward, in perfectionistic or self-critical ways--thighs that are too big, lips that are too thin, some trait or tendency that is slightly off, and for that person becomes a focus that spoils everything beautiful about them. Or it can be directed outward in alienating behaviors--reactivity, jealousy, pre-emptive attacks, judgmental attitudes, and various forms of what therapists call undoing. Undoing occurs when a person reverses or spoils anything good--from compliments to great opportunities. It is as if they strongly disagree that anything good could be said about them or come their way.
Self-hate usually comes from earlier interactions. Destructive family messages or roles might assign a child to be the dumb one, the not pretty enough one, the disappointment, or simply the one to be the scapegoat for someone else's self-hate. Or a child might get the message that they are conditionally loved--they are only worthy if their behavior conforms to another's expectations or dreams. Sometimes neglect will instill the message one wasn't worth having or being taken care of. The brain of a child can track the feel and meaning of these interactions even before being able to use language. For these reasons self-hate can go very deep and show up as a strongly held belief about identity. A single word that sums up all previous interactions--"ugly", "fat", "stupid", "not good enough". Sometimes there are no words, just an incredible inner pain.
Folks will show up as self-defeating and even self-destructive in relationships, causing others great frustration. It is usually at this point people will conclude that some persons are just their own worst enemies. Even therapists will parrot this horrifically hurtful cultural hogwash. There is nothing conscious or purposeful about self-hate. People don't choose suffering of this magnitude. And it is wrongheaded to think there is something deep within us that is directed to our own destruction. But the mind does get stuck. The belief in a negative or unloveable self cant get stuck far below the part of the brain that can be reasoned with. The cure has to come in the same form as that which placed the wound in the first place--an interaction. An interaction that is repeated over and over which conveys a different and corrective message--"Your identity is NOT limited to how people have treated you."
You could think of it this way. Imagine you had a friend who went up to an attractive guy or gal and said hi and other things to break the ice, but got back in return, "Buzz off, jerk." You wouldn't say in that moment we learned a great deal about your friend, other than he or she is an outgoing person. We may have learned tons about the other person who issued the hurtful response. But rationally, we would separate the two. We as yet know little about the identity of your friend. Whether his mind cooperates with this negativity or not, identity still exists in all its potential and beauty. It is not limited to how well or poorly the person was treated. Identity or essence is bigger than that. But we seldom see it this clearly from inside the movie. Our minds, unfortunately, usually cooperate with the pattern of the interaction, and then it takes over the show on its own, repeating the message even when we are not intending it. How many times have you found yourself ruminating about hurtful comments or reviewing hurtful interactions inside your head? As anyone who has ever taken a music lesson or learned a sport knows, the unconscious takes over what is repeated. To make matters worse, mind doesn't get the good news that this past event is completed, in fact doesn't exist anymore. Two things are needed. One is an interaction that instills a new message, "My identity is not how I was treated. I'm somehow much more than that. The brokenness in others doesn't say much about me." The second is a radical re-orientation to the present. "Who I really am is still being expressed right here, right now, like every other living thing." Even a tree will get it right despite odd knurls or scars on their bark. The branches go up, the roots go down, everything can still unfold as it was meant to, to its fullest potential. Translating that into daily interactions with a person who self-hates is really tricky but, from a certain viewpoint, can be the creative and exciting part. It can be like a light going on.
If you're struggling with a relationship, think about how it would be to show up in a way that invites a radical attention to what is going on right now and the freedom that comes in realizing we are not how we were treated. If you feel loving you can express that. If you want to share your unfolding potential--the light, creativity, and wisdom within--with someone else, you can do that too. The interaction just may rub off.