Have you ever thought that the same thing happens to you over and over again in relationships? I don't necessarily mean with your significant others though this could be the case. I mean generally speaking. Are you the one who feels misunderstood? Do people take you for granted? Do people reject you or exclude you? Do you feel picked on? Any or all of these feelings may apply and if they do have you ever asked yourself what part do I play in this? If not then perhaps you could think about it now?
I know from personal experience how the beliefs we hold about ourselves can get in the way of being happy. I know because I used to feel generally misunderstood. I was continually perplexed as to why people didn't see the vulnerable side of me. The answer I discovered through time and therapy was I didn't show the vulnerable side of me. I showed the competent and confident or the truculent and angry side of me so that's what they saw?
I also felt taken for granted. What made me feel that you may ask? The answer was that I was continually offering my services, my advice etc and then I was surprised that people accepted what ever I was offering. I set up friendships in which I was the supportive one, the one who coped, the one who knew. Why was I surprised that most came to expect it. Not only did they expect it they were upset if I wasn't available in that way. I wasn't supposed to have problems it wasn't in the 'friendship contract'. What made me do that? I guess because I had been coping from a very early age and I was praised for coping with tasks that were far beyond my emotional development. I was my mother's emotional confidant and I got to feel close to her in a supportive role. Thus I learned the lesson that to be valued and loved I needed to help and be supportive.
I've always been good at one to one relationships but I often felt disadvantaged in groups. I usually felt like the outsider. I didn't realise that I took up that position based on my childhood experience. My mother was in her forties when I was born with a family of three boys. She wasn't looking to increase her family in fact she felt it was complete. Then I made an unexpected entrance as, yes you've guessed it, the univited guest at the party. Although my mother was loving she was often absent in an emotional sense and I was regularly reminded through numerous family stories that I was a mistake. When we were together it was if the sun shone on me but in the group I often went unnoticed or felt in the way. I was a nuisance. Is it any wonder I came to believe I was the outsider.
Did I feel picked on? I guess I often did. This started in secondary school when I was bullied by a headmistress who had preconceived ideas about me - though with your permission I'll save that story for another time? It's sufficient to say I carried those feelings into adulthood. The difference was that by that time whoever was picking on me nearly always backed off because I could fire back off signals like there was no tomorrow! I'd had to fight for my place at the table and nobody was going to ride rough shod over me.
OK so what has my story to do with all of this? The answer is I'm showing through personal experience that we bring something to the party of relationship and if we're going to have different experience and relationships we have to change something. So what did I change and how and can you change? The answer to my dilemma I'm going to share with you but whether you change is up to you.
First I did some serious thinking about those feelings of mine and what made me feel them. I asked myself were my feelings about the current situation or did they belong in the past? Then I asked myself if I was going to change those feelings what did I need to do? What I came up with were small changes which had a big impact. One I decided to give up rescuing to make me feel better. Instead I decided to train as a counsellor and put those supportive skills to work in a positive and appropriate way. I stopped bailing out friends and family. This didn't mean I stopped helping I just stopped thinking that had to be a help for them to love me. I also began sharing when I had doubts or felt overwhelmed or had my back to the wall. Then when I was in a group situation I started to consider that maybe other people may not feel confident it wasn't just me. I voiced my concern in the group which helped other people to share theirs. I stopped going on the attack and learned to be assertive not aggressive. I stopped saying the first thing that came into my mind and gave myself time to think about what I wanted to say. Most importantly I stopped blaming other people for how I felt and took responsibility for me.
So after all that how do I feel? To be honest most of the time I feel ok I enjoy life, my family and the company of good friends. However, on the odd occasion those old feelings can come flooding in. If they do I take stock of what's happening and reassure myself. Change can be difficult but if you do what you've always done you get what you've always got. By way of postcript you may find this poem interesting?