Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Responsiveness and Security

Part of the human condition is the need to feel responded to or attended to in some way. What makes this difficult is the dependence--at least to some degree--on another person's actions and reactions to make us happy. Arguably, social media and our culture of instant communication and gratification have made this problem (if you can call it that) worse, but it's been around for as long as there were people with feelings. Human beings are social animals, and most of us derive comfort and security from other people. Those bonds can be physical, intellectual, or emotional. But any good relationship involves some combination of those three elements: physical, intellectual, and/or emotional chemistry and security.

I often find it very painful when I don't receive the responses and attention I want, pursue, or feel like I "deserve" from others. I've struggled since childhood with this semi-torturous inner dialogue. It's an inner dialogue I think all of us have with ourselves to some degree, at various points in our lives, and in different contexts and relationships. I've asked myself: Why doesn't someone want to play with me?; Why doesn't someone want to be my friend?; Why doesn't someone want to be my boyfriend?; Why was I not accepted to that school?; Why isn't someone recognizing my work?; Why isn't someone returning--or worse, ignoring--my letter, my e-mail, my phone call, my text message, whatever. Depending on the person, the relationship, and the context, these questions can invoke emotions ranging from neutral, passing annoyance to debilitating sadness.


My feelings tend toward the latter end of this spectrum more often than I'd like. But when they do, I try to remember what my psychiatrist mother told me ever since I was old enough to have the conversation: that at least 90% of how people behave and respond to you is about them, not you. I've tried to develop techniques and strategies for believing this. Not just intellectually, but emotionally. I've tried to abandon the subtle but powerful sort of narcissism that whispers, "it's all your fault"; that some response or lack thereof is all about me; that a particular outcome is because of something I did or didn't do; something I was or wasn't; something I could have done but didn't; or something I said or didn't say. 

To some degree, I struggle each day to really believe that and internalize that belief. But I guess that's what makes me human.

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