We all have them.
We have adopted ways to deal with the reality that we are stuck in. Very young we may have realized it was better to keep our emotions to ourself than it was to get hurt by an abusive mother. Some of us had to get angry to get our way. Checking out during sex was a way to endure something we did not enjoy. Maybe you cry and pout until you get your way. Perhaps you believe you should never show weakness. You might use sarcasm and humour to evade being honest or vulnerable. Feeling sorry for yourself has been a way of feeling better about yourself. Passive-aggressive behaviour really does work.
No matter what coping mechanisms you use they have probably worked for you in the past. Checking out during sex or an argument or a compliment really did help keep you from being hurt. Anger really did help you get what you needed, once upon a time.
The problem with coping mechanisms is that they were formed many many years ago, as a response to trauma or terror. You probably developed your fear of confrontation when you were three or four years old. No doubt you formed your skewed version of the opposite sex when you were a child or in puberty. The ways you interact sexually were learned before you really had any idea what sex was all about. Your perception of your father or mother was forming as you were learning to walk. You based your entire belief system, back then, on your immature and basically stupid beliefs about life, love, reality, and the meaning of life that you developed when you were a dumb kid. Twenty years later you can still hear the kids on the school yard calling you fat, or ugly, or stupid, or all of the above. That seven-year old’s hurtful comment about your weight still affects you today. Amazing, isn’t it?
It may be time to look seriously at some of the coping mechanisms you have been using for years. It may be time to come to grips with the fact that you have been feeling bad about yourself for thirty years based on the opinions of a bunch of cruel elementary school brats, or a dad who was an alcoholic and still isn’t a real person. Yelling may have been a necessary skill in your home growing up but it isn’t working for you anymore and it’s time to let it go. Perhaps it’s time to say goodbye to that voice that you know that keeps telling you that you are stupid, or ugly, or worthless. That person’s opinion isn’t worth a damn thing and you know that intellectually. Refusing to let people in has worked in the past but it’s holding you back now. I know you said that you would never trust again but at the time you were very wounded and your emotional tank was tapped.
At the end of the day it often comes down to Einstein and his crazy-haired definition of insanity – doing the same thing and expecting different results. That’s it, isn’t it. Destructive coping mechanisms have long since stopped working but we continue to think that we have to listen to their insipid voices. You can rebuild trust, or confidence, or hope. You can move forward.
It’s just really hard and takes more time than we want. It is, however, incredibly worth it.