I think I had an interesting therapy session last night. I was talking to my therapist about the way my father stole the little illustrated stories I wrote when I was about 7 (which I wrote about in this article). This long ago incident seems to have set the tone for my entire life, because after I’d realized my intensely personal little creations (that were intended for no eyes but my own) were stolen, I felt overcome with shame and I felt as violated as if I’d been raped (and I have been raped so I can vouch for the similar feeling of violation). I remember what I did with those little books after I stole them back: I destroyed them.
This has been a refrain throughout my entire life. It’s like that song you hate that keeps playing in your head until you’re ready to shoot yourself in the head to make it go away. During my session last night, I made this connection: whenever I felt there was a threat of something that came from my true self (usually related to my creativity which meant being vulnerable) being violated or taken away, I sought to destroy it. Sometimes this “destruction” simply meant losing interest in whatever it was or giving it up. When I was 19, I had some expensive camera equipment and loved to take pictures as a hobby. When my 35mm camera (which I’d saved for months for) got stolen one day, I gave up photography. Only recently, have I been taking pictures again (on a crappy Smartphone).
But there are other examples where something wasn’t literally stolen from me as my camera was or my illustrated books were, but where my boundaries were violated (or I perceived them to be violated, or believed they were about to be violated). I’ve never stuck with anything I loved doing for too long, because sooner or later it wasn’t just “mine” anymore and it was either held up for judgment, or criticized (to me, these feel like boundary violations and make me feel too vulnerable). For several months I’ve been struggling with trying to figure out why I’ve been losing interest in blogging, which has been so life-changing for me and has brought me so much happiness. I realized it was because “running naked in public,” while incredibly liberating and having many rewards, also means you’re vulnerable to judgment and criticism. I don’t know how to handle judgment and criticism. I take everything too personally; any sort of criticism is a personal assault–again, like being raped. Even worse is having to deal with trolls and bullies, which feels like gang rape (and reminds me of my childhood at the hands of bullies both at school and at home).
A person with a healthy sense of self and normal self esteem might feel somewhat offended by a hurtful comment, but would be able to move on from that and wouldn’t give up or find themselves losing interest in something they’re passionate about. They might even fight back or take a stand. But when I’m attacked, or even criticized, I get triggered and become the defenseless and helpless child I used to be (and that I rejected a long time ago). I can’t handle reality, which means confronting both the good and the bad. And so to avoid being “raped” again, I’ve turned off my ability to be interested by much of anything at all (and then resent the hell out of whoever I feel violated me). That way, I don’t put myself at risk of being judged, which in my mind always leads to being rejected. Tied in with this is the fear of failure: I was raised to believe I was incompetent, so if I don’t attempt anything, I can’t really fail at it. Right? But the bottom line is, hiding behind my fear of failure is a absolute terror of being found defective, and hence rejected.
I don’t know whether this unfortunate tendency of mine is indicative of BPD, C-PTSD, or Covert NPD or something else (I do not know what my therapist has diagnosed me with and I’m afraid to ask), but I think writing about this is a step in the right direction. I want to explore this further when I see my therapist again and am going to show him this post (he knows I have a blog and write about psychology and NPD, but I haven’t shared the link with him yet).