Emotional Abuse and Identity HungerBy
Carla Dippel Co-Authored this blog with me for the first 6 months of its life. I am really excited to welcome Carla back again as a guest blogger! As always please feel free to contribute to this wonderful post by leaving your feedback and comments. ~ Darlene Ouimet, founder of Emerging from Broken
It is easy for me to understand the concepts of recovery on an intellectual level. What helps the truth in my head become real in my heart is action of some kind, and this is something I find really tough. Almost a year ago, I decided to sign up with a matchmaking service. My conscious reason was to engage in the process of finding a life partner. In the last few months, I’ve discovered a subconscious reason: to overcome some of my greatest fears through real life situations in an area that has been one of my greatest struggles: the realm of romantic relationships with men.
Please know that I’m not recommending everyone should approach their recovery in this way. It has its benefits and definite challenges. But this is one approach that I chose for myself. It’s a way that I have found that I “test” my new truth foundations.
A few months ago I met a guy and fell for him head over heels. He was intelligent, cute, confident, and successful. He drove a Porsche (yes, that was attractive to me too!) He was very polite and kind, considerate, not pretentious. He engaged in his world, knew what he liked and what he wanted. He was ambitious. He had stories to tell and goals and dreams to pursue. We dated for a month and a half. I believed I had found “the one.” As it had been some time since I had felt this way towards a man, I fell pretty hard.
All the while, I was absolutely anxious. I chalked it up to “my own issues” and tried to relax. But it never really went away. It’s difficult to be 100% honest with yourself in the midst of falling in love… It was in hindsight that I realized I had questioned from the beginning whether he was equally as interested in me as I was in him. I had gut feelings that I ignored, hoping I was wrong (because I wanted to be wrong). I over-analyzed and panicked time after time because, as much as I so highly admired him, at the very same time I compared myself to him and believed I came up short. I loved that he was ambitious, but was I equally so? I loved that he engaged with his world, but I couldn’t really talk about worldly things like he could… I loved that he was so kind and considerate, and subsequently put huge amounts of pressure on myself to be just as kind, and in the same way as him. I looked at him and believed he was so much better than me. My heart broke when I finally realized this, but in comparing myself to him, I looked at my own growth and emerging identity and felt it was worthless. My anxiety actually turned into mild arthritis in my right hand… And I could sense that I was turning myself off both in and outside of the relationship.
The relationship ended, and I fell into some deep self-loathing and depression which was really scary. I hadn’t felt that depressed since before I started counseling. All the truth I had learned somehow seemed hollow. My friends told me that I ultimately deserved better and that it wasn’t my fault. In my head I understood what they were saying. But my heart only felt the pain of rejection. And the pain of something else… something even more important for me to pay attention to. I started to realize that I may not have been in love with this guy as much as I was desperate for him to fill a certain hunger in my soul. My admiration for him over-rode my gauge on whether or not he was actually a good relationship match for me. As I was subconsciously hoping to do, I came face to face with a belief still echoing from my childhood- that in and of myself I was not “enough.” Still struggling to turn this belief around, I began functioning in the hope that if I could attach myself to this man I admired, all of the qualities I saw in him that I wanted for myself would somehow rub off on me and I would finally become a person of equal value.
It’s like an identity hunger. Seeking this kind of “self defining” from a man makes a lot of sense to me. In my last guest post “Emotional Abuse and Anger” (click the title to visit) I described the nature of the emotional abuse from my childhood. I’ve also described the impact of my relationship with my Dad in older posts published here (check out “The Unengaged Gardener”). Ultimately, I would have grown up knowing that I was uniquely and wonderfully made. I would have learned to take pride in my strengths and consider my weaknesses with compassion. I would have been encouraged to pursue avenues, activities and dreams that really made me excited, rather than learning to perform and achieve for affirmation. I would have learned to engage with my world for enjoyment sake and not be entirely afraid or cynical of it. Though I lacked for little in terms of physical needs, this emotional aspect of my life was not cultivated and my Dad’s lack of involvement left the biggest hole. A vacuum was created in my earliest years that I have presented to many men (not always obviously) in an attempt to have it filled with something meaningful.
I am in the thick of the process of figuring all this out. I have started meeting other men and I am much more aware of this potential pitfall to have them solve any identity hunger. I am feeling excited… interestingly, not only about finding a life partner, but even more so about finding myself… Feeling empowered to do this brought me out of the depression I had sunk into. In facing some of my biggest fears, letting myself struggle with the truth and what I really believe about who I am, I am developing a deeper relationship with myself. I am seeing myself grow to own who I really am, without comparing my unique-ness to other people’s. I am learning to battle the lie of “you aren’t enough” that the emotional abuse/neglect left me floundering in. I am learning to tend to my own identity hunger, to accept exactly who and where I am at this point in my life, apart from what I do, apart from how other people might define me. No matter what the outcome of my dating adventures, I am confident I will emerge with a stronger foundation in the Truth about ME, tried and tested. Bit by bit, I continue on my path of emerging from broken.
With hope that my journey will inspire yours,
Bio: Carla Dippel lives in beautiful Alberta Canada. She loves to cook, dance, write and grow in knowing what is good and true about this life. As Carla has emerged from broken, she delights in being a distinct and adventurous woman, living her life to the full, exploring new possibilities and making her dreams a reality. Carla loves to share reflections of her journey with others and to hear the stories of others in return.
Note from Darlene: If you would like to read more posts written by Carla, please click on her name which is highlighted in blue, under the post title. This will take you to her “author archive” where you can access all the other posts that she has written for Emerging From Broken.