Monday, November 8, 2010

"I'm constantly worrying that everyone thinks I'm paranoid" or "Paging Dr Freud!"

DISCLAIMER: This entry contains some  very personal stuff. Please be nice about it.

Behold! The typical Neurotic Woman:

Notice how she is assuming, from a delay in response to a text message, that her partner is going to leave her; assuming the worst possible reason for the delayed reply.

I try very hard not to be That Woman, but it is something I battle with in most of my relationships. It is getting less difficult with (many years of) practice, but in some situations I still have to put a conscious effort into not assuming that I've Done Something Wrong.

A recent conversation has traced this back to (you guessed it!) my mother. Allow me to illustrate. Please consider the following situation:

That's right, I got my ears pierced at age 21 after wanting it done for over 3 years. Now, here are my mother's possible reactions to this news:

If you guessed (c), you would be right

Of course, the really wacky part is that it could have been any one of these three

Another example was when I lost my graphics calculator. She could have

a) screamed at me
b) burst into tears of disappointment
c) told me off for being forgetful and taken me out to get a new one.

In this case, it was (b). But it could just as easily have been (a) or (c).

When I got to tell her that I wasn't being kicked out of university after failing all of my first year, the options were joy and smiles and love, a continuation of treating me like the scum of the earth (which she'd been doing since finding out I'd failed), or jumping straight into "Lets get you ready for repeating!" mode. The actual reaction wasn't any of these, as she burst into tears of... Something. Probably relief, but one can't be certain.

By the age of 7, I had a minor panic attack every time we left a party because my mother was so damned good at happy farewells that I had no idea whether I'd cop it afterward for some minor indiscretion which I hadn't even known I'd committed (like asking for too many glasses of milk). In fact, the happier and nicer she was as we left, the more I panicked.

The end result of 2.5 decades of this particular variety of mindfuck is, basically, that I tend to assume that I've done something I wrong. That my relationships with people will suffer if I'm not perfect.

Boyfriend din't call me tonight? Something must be wrong.
Friend has gone quiet in a conversation? I must have done or said something to offend.
Friend has cancelled on a party I invited them to? They hate me now because I told them I didn't like their haircut.

This is all stuff which I know is irrational. I know that it's really unlikely to be the worst case scenario. But my brain automatically jumps to that conclusion, because if I have done something wrong and ruined an entire relationship, then I damned well need to be prepared for it!

This was a very good strategy when dealing with someone whose alignment was very clearly Chaotic Neutral, one that has been described as "equally likely to kill it or paint it purple" if they come into contact with a stray dog. Unfortunately, this defense strategy doesn't work so well with people who are reasonably predictable and who do respond to things in more appropriate ways.

I'm working on it. I'm improving. I'm learning to "self-sooth" and not give in to the instincts which tell me I've just ruined everything forever. It's not easy, but I'm glad it's coming along. I like the feeling of gradually becoming more sane :-)


  1. Darling, your mother was Chaotic Evil, as far as I can tell. My brother is closer to Chaotic Neutral. Both dangerous in their own way, but the one is manipulative and cunning, and the other is just out to have fun.

  2. Good for you. Just imagine, one day, you may grow up to become a Normal Person!

    ...Just messing with you. That's not going to happen.

    I have to commend you for being able to recognise the irrational reactions. It takes a lot of a people a lot of therapy to realise they're projecting their fears into other people's heads.

    My dad is generally cool, but he has a habit of assuming I'm a bit stupid. He reminds me to do things I've been doing for a decade, or explains things like how to use a TV remote. Parents are weird. Some more so than others.

  3. I understand TOTALLY!!! Like exactly because I have been treated the same way by not my mum (shes lovely thank goodness) but both my dad Chaotic Neutral and my step-mum Chaotic Evil (and I mean evil!) but the loving kindness of my boyfriend and his non-crazy, normal-ness has helped me to feel much better :) Hope you get there soon! x x ps I still get a bit shaky on all the above when I come across said father and wife...

  4. Miriam: Thank goodness that will never happen! Normal is boring :-p

    RT: Yeah, having a sane extended family is a huge help! Seeing that the way other families function is not the same as how your own does gives you an important perspective on the whole thing and helps you realise when something is Not Ok.