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Hot And Cold Behaviour!

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Hi everyone

I hope you are well and safe.

I come from a dysfunctional background. Growing up around abuse. Sexual abuse. Physical abuse and mental abuse. Surrounded by really unhealthy people. Forming and attaching to some one sided relationships. Whether that was with my family members, friends, partners - any form of connection with people has either been one sided or just toxic abusive connections. These type of relationships despite of making it me feel low valued and non loved. Because I grew up around these connections. I usually form these type of relationships when growing up, it's what I've ever known. It's what I feel safe with.

In the process of it, I am a fearful person. I am scared of close connecting with healthy emotionally avaliable people. Makes me feel uncomfortable. I tend to keep away from two sided things. I usually only feel comfortable toxic two sided things. I have been in love with two men who were highly emotionally unavaliable. I became the pursuer even after the relationships hit a brick wall. Where a secure person would walk away from something or someone who wasn't valuing her - I held on. Couldn't let go.

I am quite reserved. Quite closed off. Highly empathetic towards others. I can care for others but I won't allow anyone to get too close to me to care for me. If I feel someone is about to get close, I feel suffocated. I feel scared. I feel unsafe. I don't show vulnerablity.

When I have a bad day, I usually feel low and unworthy. I tend to reach out to toxic people whom makes me feel unworthy and unloved and that familar feeling soothes those same feelings I am already feeling. It's what I call emotionally self harm.

It's a reason why I refuse to enter a relationship with anyone, I don't want anyone to deal with my toxic crap. I'd rather sort myself out and be emotionally avaliable before entering any relationship.

I have been in therapy since September last year to help to address some of these issues. It's taken a long time to start opening up to my therapist. To feel safe. To feel okay about being vulnerable.

My therapist is a wonderful, kind and caring human being who cares greatly about her work and her clients. Since recieving therapy with her, she has taught me to work on my own self worth and self care. Thanks to her and this forum, I have walked away and let go some of the unhealthy people in my life of whom I have held on too for a very long time.

Every week, she says a lot of powerful and encouraging words. Thanks to her, I've managed to start being kinder to myself and to start feeling worthy. I've worked on healthy relationships at work with my colleagues.

I have opened about my abuse.

Our therapy session this week, I felt I had opened up a lot. Still continue to not look after myself in areas. My therapist quite fondly and pointed out, I am a worthy person. I am important. Those were the first words said at the beginning of our session. That encouraged me to open up and share.

She frankly pointed out, that she feels she can connect to me sometimes and other times, I back off and put up a wall. Then she doesn't feel connected. I thanked her for being open to me. This has hit a nerve greatly. Because this is a huge barrier for me which is why I don't form healthy relationships. This is the killer.

I don't know what a healthy relationship is. I don't know what it feels like. I don't feel safe with it. I feel great when I connect with people at first and then the fear steps in, then I back away. My relationship with my therapist is the first one I feel someone is truly listening. Has good intentions. Caring. Wants to help me. When I come away from our sessions, I feel worthy. That's not what I'm used too. Someone is begining to remove the bricks from my wall.

Can anyone advise on what a healthy relationship is? Looks like? How to trust others and let down your wall?

I don't have a clue!

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Hi BennieEddie,

I really admire you for your desire to self-develop and self-actualize your potentialities.  That is a rare trait as so many of us seem content to run on "autopilot" and shy away from self-development.  So it is really great to find people like you who are working of these things.

I don't really have much insight or wisdom on what a healthy relationship looks like.  A few minutes ago I did an Internet search "characteristics of a healthy relationship" and found many good articles on it.  You might want to check out those articles if you are interested.

It might be helpful to you to understand the philosophical basis of self-worth.  This might provide a grounding for the psychological basis of self-worth for you. 

The philosophical basis of self-worth is this . . . You are an absolutely unique person.  There has never been and there never will be anyone exactly like you in all of time, history or eternity.  This absolute uniqueness is not a quality that you can have or lose.  It is your very being.  Just by existing as who you are, you possess an inalienable dignity and worth that can never be taken from you, for it is your very being.

Since it is in your very being, your self-worth is not something that you can acquire, lose . . . it is not something you have to earn or prove . . . it is not something that is vulnerable to external things.  It is invulnerable.

In a way, it is something like royalty.  A person is born into a royal family and becomes a prince or princess.  This is not a dignity that they have to earn or prove.  As long as they live, no one can strip them of this dignity unless they renounce it.  Whatever they do or don't do in life, they are royalty.  Whatever happens to them or doesn't happen to them, they are royalty.

The same goes for human worth and dignity.  It is inalienable.

Many people were taught in childhood that their worth was something external, something they had to earn or prove . . . something that could be lost . . . something that went up or down in value based on circumstances and actions.  But this is not correct.  In a way, it is understandable why children are often raised this way.  It has to do with discipline.  Overworked parents often seek to control their children by having them believe that their "worth" is something that is at the mercy of their parents.  So the idea becomes:  when I am a good girl or boy I have worth and when I am a bad girl or boy I lose my worth.  It is understandable that parents teach this, but strictly speaking it is not correct.  One has worth because one is an absolutely unique human being.

A human being is a bit like a law.  There are certain laws of nature, like gravity for instance.  Gravity is something that exists and is meant to exist.  You are also something that is meant to exist so you are a kind of "law" too.  That is why you have rights.

As far as relationships go, having a good sense of self-esteem is very helpful.  Many people with low self-esteem enter into relationships to boost their self-esteem.  But entering a relationship with this thought causes a lot of misery because sometimes the other people is unable to boost the self-esteem of the other person.  All kinds of unhealthy things happen in these kinds of low self-esteem relationships:  lack of trust, frequent arguments, hurt feelings, loneliness in the relationship, feelings of being trapped, ignored, slighted, co-dependence, unrealistic expectations and so on.

I doubt whether these is such a thing as a perfectly healthy relationship.  All human beings struggle with very issues and so "healthy" is not so much a point on a line as it is a range of values.  Physical and psychological abuse are "very" unhealthy and there are degrees of that too.  Tolerance and mutual respect are often signs of a better relationship and the articles on the Internet that I mentioned give lists of qualities of better relationships.

Sometimes romantic relationships begin with a phase where each person regards the other person almost as a kind of god.  Gradually this kind of thing fades with time as people learn of each others limitations, weaknesses and faults.  Some people want the "look at me as almost a god" kind of thing to go on and on and that is an unrealistic expectation that is destined to lead to misery because no one can treat another person like this all the time.  It is not that the relationship fails but that it was entered into with unrealistic expectations.  Unrealistic expectations are like a "hidden contract" . . ." you must treat me like this or the relationship is doomed".  Often these"hidden contracts" based on unrealistic expectations stem from low self-esteem so they are not based on love as much as on "selfishness for two."  Of course these are not all or nothing things.  They constitute a range of values and degrees.

Sometimes the conditioning one receives in childhood is very deep and powerful.  If one was raised for low self-esteem, whether knowing or unknowingly, whether wittingly or unwittingly, this is a strong influence.  It is somewhat like a virus in a computer.  It causes problems and is hard to root out.  If a child gets the message:  my worth is in jeopardy and gets this message thousands and thousands of times, this cannot be undone by just a few affirmations that one is worthy.  That is why it involves work, effort and persistence to "unlearn" low self-esteem.

Another thing which is very helpful I think is to realize that one can see things from various perspectives.  A lot of people are "stuck" in a single basic perspective which is "Could be better, but isn't better."  A lot of people look at themselves, others, things and events and habitually think:  could be better but isn't better.  This outlook leads to certain feelings and moods:  guilt, aggravation, frustration, anger, sadness.

Of course it is true that one can look at oneself, others or anything from the point of view:  "could be better, but isn't better" because nothing is perfect.  But there is another point of view, the point of view of people who tend to be happier people and that is:  "could be worse, but isn't worse" and that attitude tends to produce feelings and moods of gratitude, appreciation, of being lucky or blessed . . . and joy.  Unhappy people often seem "stuck" in the "could be better but isn't better" attitude.  Often they don't even know they are stuck.  They habitually feel bad, guilty, angry, frustrated and don't know why.  They don't realize that they feel this way because they are locked into a way of looking at things.  If one wears blue tinted sunglasses, everything appears to have a blue tint to it.  Some people are stuck wearing "it could be better, but isn't better" colored glasses.  So it isn't surprising that everything seems defective to them. 

It is a fact that everything could be better but isn't better.  But it is also a fact that there are other facts among which is things could be worse but are not worse.

You are on the right path and that is half the battle.  Your therapist is really helping you and your work is really an inspiration to all of us here who struggle. 

I am sorry that I do not have anything helpful to share about the questions you asked about healthy relationships.  I think the articles I mentioned would be helpful to you.I fear that my words have not been helpful to you today or worse than unhelpful.  If so, I am sorry.   Hopefully others here will have very helpful and have practical ideas for you.  I think those who seek the kinds of things you are seeking are very heroic and I wish you only the very best!

-- Epictetus

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