So I know I mentioned that I learned to isolate myself at a very young age. Reading “The Path to Love” by Deepak Chopra helped me understand some of this.
“The worst imprint you can have from childhood is that your models for love were also models of betrayal. This happens in cases of abuse— physical, sexual, or emotional. With any sort of abuse in your background, you will secretly regard every lover as an enemy. The gentlest caress contains the possibility of being struck; the softest endearment resonates with potential degradation.
Ironically, it is just these children who grow up to crave love the most, but being insecure, feeling the need for defense beyond what is reasonable, they also pull away from commitment the fastest. Such people are not even certain deep down that they can feel love, despite their craving for it.”
And that pretty much explains exactly what I did during my entire life. I pulled away. Even as I allowed myself to get close to someone, I would hold a part of me apart from myself and from everyone around me.
And it got so much worse when my world shattered. I wanted nothing but to die, go insane, or sleep all the time. Insanity scared me, those few brushes with an actual mental break were some of the most terrifying of my life. Death was out of reach, so sleep became my escape. Sleep and the one addiction I’ve had my entire life.
Here’s a nifty snapshot into my thought process around this time of almost complete isolation. You know, when my brain actually worked. I would go to work where I had to interact with only a handful of people. I would go to church for maybe 10 min to an hour and hide in the back then leave before anyone could accost me. The rest of the time I was holed up in my room. Food became optional.
Note: This is past thought process. This is no longer how I think, though I do have to make an effort at times to stay away from this type of thinking.
“People are selfish. I despise people. They never care about anyone but themselves. And why are they complaining? They have a family who cares about them. Who cares if their boyfriend or whatever just broke up with them. They still have that core family to fall back on.
They say they want to get to ‘know’ me. I don’t want them to get to ‘know’ me. So easy to get them thinking about themselves. Ask them questions about themselves and inevitably they’ll stop asking about me. Every single time. And no one cares. Everyone thinks I’m so happy and so nice. They wouldn’t even notice if I died, would they?
If only I could stop breathing. Make the pain go away. Why doesn’t anyone love or care about me? Oh yeah, I’m worthless. I’m worth less than shit, or dirt or whale piss.”
Of course all of this victimization was partly because I was defensive beyond what is reasonable. Through a series of trial and error, which took less time than it did to write this sentence, I learned to keep people from learning anything about me. If you start off asking people about ‘safe’ topics, and responding to those same ‘safe’ topics, eventually you can lead someone into vulnerability. And because people are inherently selfish, it is easy to keep them talking about themselves if you remain silent and nonjudgmental.
Some people would realize how little they knew about me and feel bad about it. These few people were listeners in their own right, and had similar skills, but I was better. Remember that I grew up verbally abused. So I learned how to manipulate. Manipulation is a tool. It has a lot of negative connotations in our society, but honestly, we’re always manipulating each other, either for bad or for good. Like all tools, manipulation just is. It’s what you do with it that counts.
Anyway, the few people who managed to get more than a simple answer out of me might get a tid bit here and there of the real me, and then they’d be off talking about themselves. Either because I directed the conversation back to them, which I’m very good at, or because they really didn’t care to listen to me, or, and this one just plain hurt, because they had no clue how to respond and stopped talking to me altogether.
This happened all the time at Church. It drove me crazy. These people touting love and compassion would just give me a blank look and walk away. My horrible past became a defense mechanism in its own right. I remember one older woman, after telling her I don’t talk to my parents, trying to tell me that sometimes daughters and mothers have difficulties in their relationship when the daughter first moves out about age 18-21.
Firstly, it was like the fourth time I’d moved away from them, and secondly I was well into my mid 20’s. So I looked at her and flatly said, “My parents were abusive.” That was all it took. She was forever awkward around me after that. There was no baseline for understanding or maybe it just triggered something for her. I don’t know and frankly don’t care. Her reaction, and similar reactions by people who claimed to be friends and family outside of family, just drove me deeper into my isolation.