One story in a series questioning if We Make Ourselves Unlovable.
A client of mine, Strife, college age male, came in because of depression. We soon learned that his depression had to do with his relationship. He had cheated on his girlfriend and it was destroying him.
“I have good days and bad days over it. Mostly bad days.”
It was early in his relationship with Ana. They were away from each other for the summer due to summer break from classes and was out of contact with Ana. He felt blown off by her. She wasn’t talking with him or texting him back and after a few weeks of that he met someone where he was. He felt understood by this new girl he met on vacation. They spent a lot of time together talking and learning about each other.
“It was so seductive. I felt unbelievably understood and cared for. Drugs ain’t shit compared to those feeling I had over those weeks. But, I felt this part of myself that was telling me this wasn’t me. I’m with someone and I’m not a cheater, no matter what is happening. I was telling myself that down to the second we slept together.”
Strife eventually went back to campus and he and his girlfriend were back in communication and he didn’t say a thing to her about it. Strife has repeatedly told me that he’s not worthy of her. He cheated, he’s a liar, he’s not who he thinks he is. Everyone sees him as a good guy, but he’s a fraud. We explored these feelings over the analysis, connecting some events from childhood, finding the source of some of these feelings. When we found the source, there seemed to be this energy to find the mechanics of what was happening today because of then.
It was discovered that we repeat some destructive pattern of early days in the present which confirms our unconscious and conscious negative thoughts about ourselves. The self-attacking thoughts had been with Strife long before his relationship. Strife was ridiculed as not being good enough by his parents in all areas of his life since he could remember.
“I’ve had their fucking voices in my head the whole time. Not like crazy hearing or anything, but I can feel that message in me. I’m no good, I’m a burden, I’m not worthy. It feels so permanent. What do I do with this?”
Strife let out his tortured feelings about cheating, mostly questioning why he did it. He went through understanding how he wants to feel good, worthy of someone’s affection and how he had found that in this girl on summer break. He kept letting me know that this wasn’t the whole story though, he felt more was in here.
“Does my girlfriend have to know?”
“What’s going to happen if she’s told?”
“It’ll break her.”
“If she’s not told?”
“She won’t break and I’ll be suspended between guild and not guilt.”
“Why break her then?”
Through further exploration of the question of telling her or not, Strife realized that telling her would be him repeating the repetition of wanting to hurt his girlfriend since he wants to hurt her because she took away the feelings of being good and loved when they hadn’t talked for weeks over the summer.
“It’s the same relationship I had with my mom. She would be really good to me and suddenly just ignore me and I would do everything to hurt her just so she would pay some type of attention to me.”
Through analysis and the exploration of his free associations, Strife discovered his core wants and needs. He wants to feel worthy of love. That was a big part of the meaning of Love for him. Strife also discovered that when the person who holds him as worthy takes that away, he acts in a way that is meant to hurt them. He wants to be loved so badly, starving for it, but finds a way to sabotage the love that he has.
Currently, Strife has decided to not say anything to his girlfriend about it. He’s still trying to learn more about his need to hurt her because of her ignoring him for weeks back then. He’s convinced he will destroy everything by telling her and that if he doesn’t say anything he won’t hurt her.
“Why should I hurt her by telling her? What’s the point of that? So I can punish myself and feel that my parents were right again? That I’m not worthy, that I’m useless, a shit of a burden? Then what? I can feel the confirmation that I’m garbage, destroy the love I have, destroy my lover and create chaos all around me and be this black hole of hurt? I know that supposedly telling her would be the “right” thing, but I’ve learned there is no black and white. I’ll never do this again. I don’t want to do this again. I messed up and shattered myself. I’ll use the stupidity of my youth to make our lives exceptional. I’m scared of this guilt though. Is this going to come in and out of my life? That’s my next battle.”