December 2017
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defense mechanisms of old: not showing gratitude, blocking emotion, not inviting myself, disclosing


icon: "progressing (a deeply, vividly green forest of thick vines and trees, with a tunnel running through where unused train tracks lay)"

Have any defense mechanisms you have created that seemed good at the time you created them turned inside out with time? (from here)

Most of my defense mechanisms date from childhood and were created subconsciously -- I suppose they must have been needed at the time but they aren't good for me anymore. Some of them are unethical (such as the thing I used to do where I would crush people with my vocabulary if they were trying to put me down) but most just really aren't needed among actually decent people.

For instance, I have a very hard time saying thank you because if I ever thanked my parents or expressed excitement at something, they would then take it away and use it to make me do things. An example: my parent says "let's go to pizza for dinner" and I say "yay! I love pizza!" and my parent would then say "well okay then, do this, this, and this and we will go, otherwise not" (and if they ended up not feeling like it, it wouldn't matter that I had already done the things they demanded). But if I did not respond happily, then it had a good chance of just happening without me having to earn it. So I learned that if I actually wanted the thing, I couldn't express any happiness or gratitude until after it could no longer be taken back. And usually by that time I wasn't feeling grateful anymore because I'd been holding my breath waiting to see if it would actually come true, so it felt like I earned it with the work of anxiety. I still have to push myself quite hard to be able to say thank you at the promise of something rather than after it has happened, but I have gotten better about reducing my anxiety and being able to actually say thank you after.

Another which is a bit more subtle is the difficulty I have in feeling like I belong and am wanted. Not only did my biofamily make me feel unwanted and like I didn't belong, my parent M told me over and over that no one else would ever love me as much. Since I never felt loved, that was the equivalent of telling me that I would never be loved. For a long time I coped with that by blocking out all feelings. I think I have overcome this one for the most part, but strong feelings of any kind usually bring up the fear that I'm not really loved, even if I can logically contradict it now. I just let them come and push through them, relying on logic.

In a way I don't fully understand, M's hangups about intruding in spaces they were not wanted rubbed off on me. So I coped by trying to never be in spaces where I wasn't 100% sure I was wanted -- which is not a helpful coping mechanism because you can never really be that sure and there are a lot of places where you won't get a specific invite. A lot of times you have to be an ambassador on your own behalf if you want to connect with people. That coping mechanism just made me more and more lonely. It still requires a massive effort to get myself to go to social gathers where there are any attendees that dislike me, or any where there isn't a person there who actively wants me there. It's still hard even if there are no dislikers and people who actively want me! I think Kylei was my biggest help breaking this one, but I have gotten out of the habit. I'm pushing myself to connect directly with people and to go to uncertain social gathers.

There's also the habit I have of disclosing everything that might be objectionable about me up front, "Hi nice to meet you by the way you probably won't like me because [reasons 1-25]." I probably scare off people who might be down with everything if I introduced it gradually, but at least this way I don't end up devoting years of my life to someone who thinks that the things that make me who I am are not valuable or even okay. Like I did with my ex-spouse (not by choice but because I hadn't learned myself before we got married). I think that this is sort of a 50/50 coping mechanism, which does the same amount of good and harm. I've started trying to be a LITTLE more gradual about it.

...how do you notice they have and how do you work to put them right again/stop using them?

I notice only when someone else points it out, usually, or when I uncharacteristically don't use them for some reason and then realize how much better things are without it. I work on putting them right by trying to do the opposite often enough that the habit disintegrates: say thank you at the first sign of a thing I would be grateful for, allow all feelings, join gathers where I think I might be unwanted and talk to people without them giving welcome first, hold back after disclosing several things that people might need to process, etc.

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Comments
wantedonvoyage ══╣Curiosity╠══
I related to a lot of these. It sounds like you've worked out the causes and motives pretty well, which I think is a key step to changing behaviors you think are holding you back.

I like a lot of things (music, etc.) that neither my SO or my friends enjoy. I recently made up my mind to go to concerts, etc., by myself rather than miss them. It does feel awkward sometimes but it's better than missing out.
belenen ══╣artless╠══
I agree! working out the whys is the only way I have found to grow.
cielamara ══╣Feels Like Home╠══
I also have a deep, deep fear of Being Unwanted. It's a source of great hurting for me--I was bullied a lot growing up, was frequently in the position of being That Kid No One Wanted Around, and it's still a really touchy subject for me. I...don't really know how to get past this? If people don't seek me out or give me clear vibes that I'm welcome, I just won't try.
belenen ══╣artless╠══
I'm really sorry you have the experience to understand this feeling *empathy* I think I would have defaulted to not trying except then I would be completely lacking, because apparently I'm intimidating? AND people think because I am confident I am not hindered from being the one to reach out. But there is confidence, and then there is confidence with social stuff -- SOOOO different.

It's easier for me with people I know because I have a lot of practice with straight-up asking people what they want, and people who have been around me long enough know that I prefer them to be like "okay I'm done interacting" than just hope I'll be done. I also kind of train people by being very blunt when I am done interacting or they're doing something that bothers me.
ragnarok_08 ══╣Trinity Blood ★ can I be me╠══
I relate to a lot of these, especially about feeling wanted - I had a lot of self-esteem issues, and I still struggle with them, but I had to get past wanting to be liked by every single person that I met and being appreciated by my own family.
belenen ══╣garrulous╠══
*nods* yeah my biofamily, pah, if I waited to feel loved and accepted by them I'd end up alone and dead.
lady_leia_solo ══╣╠══
One of my fears is being rejected. I guess that leads back to being unwanted since I feel like my father doesn't want me sometimes. I honest to god think a lot of my problems started with that rejection.
belenen ══╣healing╠══
*nods* I totally get that. *empathy*
bobby1933 ══╣╠══
What some (many?) parents do to their children can most accurately be described as torture. My family was about as dysfunctional as they come. but, they never really tried to drive me nuts.
belenen ══╣antagonistic╠══
I agree, I have come across so many instances of parents torturing their children. Usually in the name of 'what will the neighbors think?' or 'I didn't live my life the way I wanted so I will take over yours and play you like a Sim'.
volamonster ══╣rakshas╠══
I am constantly inspired by your self-awareness and growth over time, and how clearly and thoroughly(!) you can articulate pieces of yourself like this. Thank you.

For the longest time, I did the "spaces where I'm not sure I'm wanted" thing too. I'm not even entirely sure if I still do that to a degree--I need to think about it a bit. It's the not-knowing that's the worst, though. I think I've always been fearful of looking foolish for being somewhere? Which (for me) doesn't seem like a worthwhile thing to spend my mental energy worrying about, but it likes to lurk in the same dark spaces as the childhood abuse stuff, so to that end, I can certainly relate.
belenen ══╣analytical╠══
*love!*

I always feel foolish too, especially if I am carrying something (as is usually the case). I think it's about being prepared for something. I feel constantly unready when in public.
crippled_witch ══╣╠══
I very much relate to this. It took me a long time to learn that it was okay to be excited about things because when i was a kid if i showed excitement in front of my unparents they would take away/stop whatever I was excited about as a punishment for the smallest infractions.

I also have a hard time feeling that I belong and that I'm wanted because my unparents told me all the time that no one actually liked me they just felt sorry for me.

I think unlearning these things is an ongoing process

belenen ══╣snarling╠══
oh Godde, I feel you so much about having things taken away after excitement *deeply sad face* and the thing your unparents told you?? what awful awful people.

Yes indeed, ongoing.
darklight90 ══╣╠══
Self-deprecation is frighteningly easy to develop, especially at a time when image is everything. When you described listing things about yourself that people wouldn't like, I found myself nodding because that's become such a familiar habit with me. Again, I only notice when someone corrects me or if I really examine my interactions with people. Not an easy one to break, but it'd be quite a feat to do so.
belenen ══╣queer╠══
Well for me they aren't deprecating, I like the things I am listing. But it is not most people's cup of tea! I'm confusing, frightening, threatening with my difference.
lusimeles ══╣╠══
This was such an interesting post to read, and I really admire your introspection on the topic. I have a similar insecurity about being in spaces where I'm not sure I'm wanted - I dislike having to put on my "face" to impress people, and being in those kinds of spaces (big parties; networking; etc.) is usually all about that. So, I sympathize. Still, I think knowing that you have to be your own ambassador about it is really wise, and something I'm personally still working on.
belenen ══╣eccentric╠══
thank you!

Yeah, I did the first step of realizing that I have to do it -- now I have to learn how! *rueful grin*
theselivingarms ══╣╠══
It is unfortunate that we cannot choose our parents. I spent a good portion of my youth trying to get my father to love me, for instance, so I feel like I can identify with what you've written here.

However, I think the more you allow others to see you, the more susceptible you become to being well and truly loved.

Just my two cents.

<3
belenen ══╣beautiful╠══
I think the more you allow others to see you, the more susceptible you become to being well and truly loved.

I absolutely agree! One can only love what one knows.
meri_sielu ══╣magpie/crow friends╠══
I relate very much to these feelings of feeling unwanted... I've battled with those feelings myself most of my life. :(
belenen ══╣healing╠══
*sends love* I am sorry that you know this feeling. *empathy*
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.