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Dr. L
Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1166
Experience:  Psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist
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Hi. Im an adult man, nearly 40, single, no children and self-emp

Resolved Question:

Hi. I'm an adult man, nearly 40, single, no children and self-employed. Here is what's on my mind:

Five years ago I found myself very depressed. I was determined not to use medication. It was a long process of research, self examination and risk taking that gradually expanded my comfort zone and brought me back to enjoying life. I ended a more than 10 year marriage in the process. My reason for the divorce was that I felt "unloved and that my needs where not seen as important". It's has since been three adventurous years and I'm excited about where my life is going. I want to continue to make the most of what life has to offer so, please, help me clear something up:

I have difficulty expressing myself (what I'm feeling). I have difficulty explaining myself (the reason for what I'm feeling). I get flustered in the face of questions about my feelings and how I react to them. I end up overreacting.

I have observed myself overreacting too often. It is an issue that has reached the point where I must deal it. It happens when I feel like I am being brushed off or not given consideration. Whenever I feel insignificant. If I am asked to do more than I can reasonably accomplish I will first react passive aggressively. Rolling my eyes, sighing loudly and maybe even slamming a door. I will then immediately being to catalog all the "evidence" I can imagine to "prove" how this person has no respect for me/my feelings/my time/my health/my needs. If I am approached before I have time to blow off this steam (usually through exercise) then the third phase of my reaction is to begin telling them how uncaring, unreasonable and ungrateful they are. Of course, they are always surprised by this because I never told them that my schedule was full or that I had other commitments or that I was feeling down or that I needed a break or that I needed some attention. The more they try to talk to me, the louder my voice gets — again because I feel like they are not listening/that I am not being heard which reinforces my perception of being "unimportant". It's the same pattern every time I am confronted with a person who seems disappointed. Even if they are not disappointed with me, I tend to think it is a reflection of me and I react the same. There is no fourth phase. I don't swear or become violent for reasons I will explain in the next paragraph.

I would describe my overreactions as childish and they no doubt stem from my childhood. I didn't like my childhood and I especially didn't like the people in charge of me. My teachers disliked me because I did not pay attention and didn't participate (I didn't need to study in order to pass and I didn't like them so I retreated into my own imagination). I felt like my parents were not interested in me and left my siblings to take care of me. My older brother (much older by 9 years) humiliated and beat me. Since my parents did not intervene, I felt that I was not worth protecting. Yet I idolized my brother who took every opportunity to crush my esteem. My brother was the biggest and strongest person I knew (he was also talented like I was) so I tried to be like him even though I would go to bed bruised and hating him. I spent decades fantasizing about becoming bigger and stronger than my brother. I eventually succeeded. I was a bodybuilder through my 20's and 30's and fulfilled my dreams without drugs of any kind. When I was child, my brother drank, smoked pot and beat me up. So I vowed growing up to be healthy, polite and non-violent. I just wanted to look big enough so that I wouldn't be attacked. Sadly, my brother refuses to engage me in any form of adult physical competition so my need to defeat him has never been satisfied. Even as an adult I find myself subtly looking for his approval.

In the last 5 years, I've adopted a different attitude toward my brother. I see him now not as an idol nor as a villain. He was a teenage boy trying to impress his friends while being saddled with baby sitting the young brother who stole his parents attention away from him. I'm not excusing him, I'm just humanizing him. In the last 3 years I've embarked on many adventures around the world and proven my value to myself by helping and even saving the lives of others. And yet, in spite of this, my insecurity and overreaction persists.

So now you have an exhaustive background on the root on my problem. It is embarassing. It is limiting my professional and personal relationships. I want it to be resolved. I have too much to offer to people and too much to gain from satisfying relationships. I do not want this holding me back for even one more day. I think I understand the problem but I haven't resolved it a way that contributes to my daily life. Help me cross the bridge from understanding to living. Help me to stop overreacting. Help me to live with a better sense of security.

Thank you for reading.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. L replied 1 year ago.

Dr. L :

Hello,

Dr. L :

I would like to help you with your question.

Dr. L :

I can understand why you want an end to this vicious cycle of self-defeating behavior. What you have presented is rather complex...and I appreciate the detail you have provided.

Dr. L :

It seems to me that you have a very good grasp on what occurred to you in your childhood and your acceptance of your brother's poor behavior is admirable. You are right...he was a kid himself and handled himself as best he could given his limited maturity and genuine inability to have known how to "parent" another child. Still...you are sitting with unresolved feelings that feed your insecurity and lead you to mishandle some situations.

Dr. L :

You didn't write about your parents...but I imagine that you have also attempted to address your feelings towards them and the feelings of abandonment and insignificance you felt as a result of their parenting choices.

Dr. L :

What stands out to me about your childhood and the behaviors you described (passive aggressive reaction, etc), is that any hint that you are not being "seen" by others takes you swiftly down the path of being indignant. That is, saying to yourself..."how dare they.....(fill in the blank with: take advantage of me, not see I am already pre-occupied, not see that I have needs, etc. etc.).

Dr. L :

This indignant state comes from those years of abuse you suffered at the hands of your brother and parents (likely from your wife as well) and their failure to have seen you as a unique and wonderful person in the world. You have compensated for this in many, many ways...academically, athletically, and so forth. But yet that little boy part of you longs to be recognized, coddled and nurtured.

Dr. L :

Of your marriage you write: I felt "unloved and that my needs were not seen as important"...this is likely the same experience as brother and parents...and it has continued to replay itself in your current work relationships and friendships.

Customer:

I would say you are right on the money. And you have an accurate estimation of my wife and marriage. I want to stress that see was and is a lovely person. I wouldn't have married her otherwise. I don't regret the marriage. I also don't regret the divorce. I do regret hurting people.

Dr. L :

Hi...

Customer:

Hello. I was just working-out (no surprise). I'm ready to chat if you are.

Dr. L :

Hurting people is sometimes an unavoidable consequence of life...we might say the same thing about your brother...he likely did not mean to hurt you...but he did.

Dr. L :

Yes...I'm here and can chat.

Customer:

I don't like hurting people. Partly because I know how it feels to be hurt. More so that I don't like the idea that they are disappointed in me.

Dr. L :

Think about this for a minute:

Dr. L :

we give away what we want most...

Dr. L :

Does that ring a bell with what occurred with your brother...and your parents...

Customer:

It rings a bell loudly... but not with my brother or parents. I'd have to think about that connection.

Dr. L :

Okay...so tell me more about how that statement connected to you...

Customer:

People tend to be attracted to me because I am always pointing out the bright side, encouraging them to reach or try something new, offering genuine compliments and answering with objective critique if I am asked for it. People see me as a positive influence. In other words, I give out all the things I desperately want. That's how is was in my marriage.

Customer:

It's interesting that we are all looking for different things. So what we are giving out might not necessarily be what the other person needs.

Customer:

I know my wife was giving, for example.

Customer:

But not in what I needed.

Customer:

Oh, and I tend to be pretty good at figuring out what it is that people need.

Customer:

I'm just not good at voicing what I want.

Customer:

So should I be chasing these needs all my life? Is it possible or even necessary to out-grow them?

Customer:

Or do I accept them and learn to communicate it better?

Customer:

I really don't know.

Dr. L :

And when you think about this...how encouraging you are to others...how attentive you are to other people's needs...what a positive influence you are...your goal to help other people and give to society...do you see the deficit that you have operated under all these years?

Dr. L :

But...then...we have to ask...if you had not experienced that abuse..that abandonment...would you be the person you are today? I'm not saying to be grateful for how you were treated...but to see your own power and courage to overcome a terrible start.

Customer:

Oh I do see it. But still feel I that I am somehow covering up my selfishness or laziness. It makes no sense. I feel inadequate but I can find no evidence to support it. And I'm very quick to assume that other people see me as inadequate.

Dr. L :

You have childhood wounds...no doubt about it. From where you are standing today...those wounds are still significant. In my viewpoint...it would be beneficial to heal those wounds so that you are free of your past.

Customer:

I work hard. I'm very sincere. I'm fun to be with. Why is that not enough for me?

Customer:

I agree.

Dr. L :

Hmmm to your posting about selfishness or laziness....

Customer:

Yes, those are the words I attack myself with.

Dr. L :

Your musings about inadequate are a voice from the past....

Dr. L :

You attack yourself because that's how your brother, parents, teachers, and others attacked you! Because of what you heard from them you built this view of yourself...and you've stuck with that view.

Dr. L :

Think about this....

Customer:

Yes. Those are the words from childhood. It so amusing to me how I will bring them out every time when in fact, no one has accused me of those things in 25 years.

Dr. L :

You were a little kid when your brother attacked you and spoke ill to you. Correct?

Customer:

Yes

Dr. L :

As that little kid you did not fully understand why he was saying and doing those things.

Customer:

the worst was around 8 years old for me.

Customer:

I did not.

Dr. L :

All you knew was that he was big...big person, big voice, big everything.

Dr. L :

You also knew that your parents put him in charge of you.

Customer:

And I knew he could TEACH me things. He showed me how to develop my talents.

Dr. L :

You understood this as: mom and dad have no problem with how he is hurting me...they let him be in charge.

Customer:

So I really looked up to him.

Customer:

Yes (about my parents)

Dr. L :

Yes...he was larger than life itself!

Customer:

He taught me everything I expected from my dad.

Customer:

Everything.

Dr. L :

So...let's review...you are a little kid. Your BIG brother is BIG, STRONG, TOUGH, MEAN. He hurts you. Your parents endorse this because they put him in charge and leave him in charge. Therefore, mom and dad think I should be treated badly.

Customer:

Right

Dr. L :

Brother is pseudo-father....

Dr. L :

In your immature mind you come to believe that you DESERVE to be treated the way your brother/parents treat you.

Dr. L :

You come to expect to be treated like this.

Customer:

My brother taught me to ride a bike, throw a ball, swim in deep water, create art, build things, drive a car, ski, get a job....

Dr. L :

Your translation: my role in life is to be beat and mistreated by my all powerful, big brother who is pseudo-father to me.

Customer:

I did believe that. Still do (kind of)

Dr. L :

YES!!!

Dr. L :

OKay.

Customer:

Oh no

Customer:

you are correct

Customer:

I still believe it

Customer:

I even invent reasons to believe it.

Dr. L :

Now...today you can - with your mature mind and life experience - look back on that childhood and put logic, compassion, and understanding on that picture. You can see that your brother - left to his own devices - mistreated you not because you deserved it but because he was a kid himself. You can see your parents as having made a regretable mistake in putting your brother in charge of you when they shouldn't have. None of this was about anybody wanting to hurt you purposefully...rather it was an unfortunate parenting choice.

Dr. L :

So...if you can see this clearly now as an adult and realize that the impressions you formed as a child...impressions that became "the truth" in your child state - were the thoughts of a young child who had no ability to understand what was going on...you can let go of that past and change your interpretation of that past.

Dr. L :

Is this making sense?

Dr. L :

What you today as an adult can do is to say:

Dr. L :

Wow. What I saw, heard, experienced, believed as a child looks different as an adult. As an adult I see that I believed something that was not true. I did not deserve to be treated like that. I am significant. I am lovable. I matter. People do not see you as selfish, lazy, insignificant...YOU SEE YOU that way. Others don't. And why you see yourself in that way...why you have those voices in your head...is because you have not made the shift from 8 year old to adult.

Customer:

This is very clear

Customer:

I do see it. There is still a long habit to break of repeating these thoughts. But I feel that it's very helpful that you pointed out the FALSE belief. I'm not going to believe something I KNOW is false.

Dr. L :

Yahoo!

Customer:

Yeah :)

Customer:

So that has to be my answer to those voices.

Dr. L :

Exactly...stick with the truth...dump the falsehoods.

Dr. L :

It is unfortunate that your brother was left to parent you at a time in his life when that was truly not possible. And it's unfortunate that the result of his inadequacy was that you began to see yourself in such a negative light. Your chasing after his approval and wanting to "beat" him in life put you on a difficult path. We would all hope to be raised in families where love was unconditional and no one had to fight to be well treated..and where unconditional love flowed uninhibited. But that's not what most of us experience.

Dr. L :

I'm glad that your brother did teach you so many wonderful things...that helps...but it didn't overshadow the terrible messages you internalized and that threatened your self-worth.

Dr. L :

Those terrible messages need to be extinguished once and for all. You need to look at your childhood with mature eyes and to create new messages about those years.

Customer:

Yes! That's what I'm looking for. I do see the facts as you've illuminated them But I was still searching for what to DO with them. I want to create new messages.

Dr. L :

I encourage you to get out a notebook and make a list of the negative messages you have running around in your head...then next to each message re-write it using positive words. Then post the sheet of paper somewhere you look often - fridge, mirror - and read over the list routinely, letting it sink in deep...

Dr. L :

Revise the list if you need to...

Customer:

I like that!

Customer:

I've never done that before. I use visualization a lot. I post notes and drawing up of what I want to create. But I've never done the list as you've suggested. I've never applied this to my self-worth.

Dr. L :

This is not something that is going to happen over night...but by writing it down..you get it out of your head and out into the world. This is turning something abstract (your thoughts) into something concrete (the piece of paper).

Dr. L :

Think of this as another drawing...you want to create new messages...

Dr. L :

How you will do that is by drawing a new map...

Dr. L :

That old map you had - the one that you formed as a kid - was a kid's rudimentary drawing...now you are capable of a sophisticated, grown-up map...

Customer:

YES!

Dr. L :

Great!

Customer:

Oh I am really looking forward to this

Customer:

I'm going to right to work on it.

Dr. L :

Very good....

Customer:

I will revisit and rewrite

Customer:

the list

Customer:

Thank you for the clear homework

Dr. L :

Yes...you need some time to think this through and get on paper all the details of that kid map...

Customer:

The facts, as powerful as they are, still needed some kind of direction for me

Dr. L :

LOL to the homework

Customer:

I know it's not going to change the world for me tonight

Customer:

But I don't rule that out

Customer:

the point is that this is a very good tool for me

Customer:

because these voices have been so muddled and murky

Customer:

I couldn't keep track of them

Customer:

writing it down doesn't let them escape

Customer:

and I can point to them - identify them as false.

Customer:

and REWRITE them

Dr. L :

Yes...now you are on the road to healing...rather than being stuck with an old, inadequate map that just kept the tires spinning.

Dr. L :

Take a deep breath...

Dr. L :

You have done a tremendous amount of work in this chat...

Dr. L :

I agree that the homework won't instantaneously clean up your negative voices ... but it will give you a darn good start on seeing yourself differently and being able to formulate a new map...one that is healthier, more functional, and REAL.

Dr. L :

Take a deep breath..

Dr. L :

You have done a tremendous amount of work in this chat..

Customer:

OK

Dr. L :

Well done!

Dr. L :

Is there any last thing I can do for you this evening?

Customer:

No. I think you've given me quite a bit. Thank you!

Dr. L :

You are very welcome.

Dr. L :

It was my privilege to work with you tonight.

Dr. L :

If you should ever want to chat again...just ask for me by name.

Dr. L :

Good night.

Customer:

I very much appreciate your time and your insight

Customer:

and especially your clear instuctions

Customer:

You have a good night as well

Customer:

I will remember you name

Customer:

Thanks again

Customer:

good night

Dr. L :

If you should want to print a copy of our chat...you can do that.Otherwise, it is stored with your account.

Customer:

Oh thank you for telling me

Dr. L :

Many thanks for your willingness to be open to my help.

Dr. L :

Goodnight!

Customer:

Likewise!

Customer:

Goodnight!

Customer:

:)

Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1166
Experience: Psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist
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