“The truest marker of an unhealthy dynamic is when the emotionally mature person starts thinking they’re the asshole every time they choose to prioritize their wellbeing”.
If you have never once asked yourself, “wait…am I the asshole?”, then ok, maybe you are the asshole. After all, it takes a LOT of self-denial to not notice when we have screwed up or caused harm.
If you’re reading this, then chances are you’re not the asshole (*phew*). But you probably have had significant experiences with the core people in your life making you feel guilty for existing.
If you receive pushback when you impose a boundary, or your emotions are denied, or you are given love and gifts only with pretty hefty strings attached, or you’re constantly told you don’t “appreciate” them enough, or told you’re too sensitive when you have any reasonable reaction to someone mistreating you, then congrats! You have won the attachment wound lottery.
It doesn’t pay out well.
It leads to the development of relational blueprints of shame and self-blame.
These blueprints tell you things like:
“I’m not good enough”
“I need to work harder than other people to ‘earn’ love”
“I need to be perfect and spectacular in every way to be accepted and safe”
“I’m not special enough”
“My needs don’t matter as much as others”
“I deserve to suffer and be punished. Even if it means punishing myself”
All of these limiting beliefs are lies that we developed in order to protect ourselves and survive.
A child who is not safe with those responsible for their safety is a child whose survival is directly threatened. Therefore, it is psychologically necessary for that child to believe they are at fault. In doing so, they can hold on to the belief that if they work harder, things will get better. Developmentally speaking, a child who doesn’t hold this self-protective narrative, can’t psychologically cope with the knowledge of having neglectful or abusive parents. They just don’t have the mental and emotional capacity to do so, nor do they have direct access to protective resources.
You may also have been told these things directly by the core people in your life, including partners. This is because they required you to stay small. If they at any point perceived you to have a spirit, boldness, truth, independence or autonomy that could threaten their stability, then they were motivated to squash you back down. Keep you in line. Keep you playing by their rules. Their rules were constructed in order for them to cope with emotional experiences that they did not know how to handle. The rules didn’t actually have anything to do with you.
If you developed any of these limiting beliefs, know that they are completely understandable and made sense for you given what you experienced at the time. But just because they were fed to you at a very impressionable time, doesn’t mean they are truthful or accurately reflect who you are or your value in this world.
So why do the core people in our life hurt, abandon, or reject us simply for taking up our rightful space?
Emotionally immature people don’t know the difference between their discomfort and your behaviour. As such, they blame you, shame you, reject you, or bully you whenever your totally reasonable existence/needs/reactions cause them any sort of emotional experience that they don’t know how to handle.
This is pretty key: They are uncomfortable. That does not mean you caused them harm.
So why do they do this? Are they bad malicious people that enjoy your suffering?
No. This is typically an unconscious process with two main origins: One, emotionally immature people never developed emotional processing skills (likely from their own experiences of emotional neglect or gaslighting). Therefore when they experience a strong feeling, they literally do not know what to do with it. It causes a lot of internal stress and mental confusion and pain. By finding a cause for the discomfort (aka you) they are able to contain the confusion. By blaming you, the expectation is that you will make them feel better. They do not have to actually do the work to process the emotion. You did it for them! They can bypass the need for emotional skills they do not have (and further, avoid feeling bad about themselves in the process).
Another reason is that, culturally, we have infected everyone with a toxic positivity mindset! If you are not always happy and searching for the silver lining, then what is wrong with you? The idea that negative emotions are inherently bad denies people the full spectrum of their lived experience.
When you turn off the switch to sadness, anger, regret, and discomfort, you shut down the whole emotional circuit. That means you shut off growth, and joy!
So where do you go from here?
You design your own life metrics and rewrite your relational blueprints! Who gets to determine your life’s values? How do you measure success for yourself? What rules do you want to live by? And how do you decide on – and enforce – those rules in a world where you have been habitually denying your needs and people-pleasing just to survive?
Building a genuine connection with yourself, your own life, and the people in it is not comfortable or easy. It is, in fact, very scary to stop settling for scraps (after all, you are very hungry and you don’t want to starve by turning away the emotional crumbs that you rely on to nurture yourself)!
Let me reassure you: You don’t have to go hungry, but you do have to start preparing some meals for yourself so that when you are ready to take the leap, you’re doing so on a full belly. Think of it, what do you shop for when you go grocery shopping on an empty stomach?
If you keep reading this blog, you will be given a framework for choosing more nourishing options.
With hope and healing,