Oh, the instructiveness of CBT.
I keep wanting to ask [boyfriend] if he hates me, or is mad at me. Seriously, given a day of us in the apartment, if I let myself I could ask him once an hour. Maybe more. "Are you mad at me?" "Do you hate me?" I feel the question is ridiculous. I feel it's compulsive. But the question is often there, right on the tip of my tongue.
Over the last few months, I started paying attention to this behavior. Clearly, he doesn't hate me, he's rarely mad at me, on the few occasions where he is, I know. So...who do I think is mad at me? Why do I think the person I'm living with hates me?
And the answer is, pretty obviously, that my mother behaved nearly all the time like she hated me, or was mad at me. Frankly, I can't think of a time when it felt like she liked me, and I can't think of a time when she seemed to feel liked by/comfortable around her own female relatives (mother, sister), so, I have reason to see that that's not something she picked up. Also, reason to see what *she* was reacting to when dealing with me.
This last week we (boyfriend and I) went to Ikea, and had a fight before going in. It was very upsetting and frightening for me. What was the big striking thing, though, what was news, was how his face changed from being angry (at me!) and disgusted (with me!) to being hurt. I could see that he wanted connection. He was expressing hurt because he wanted something else.
It's wacky, it's even ridiculous, that this was new, or news. But at once it let me see (since I've been asking myself habitually, lately, "when are you?" "what's the context you're thinking of, here? Is it the one you're in now, or something else?") what happened with my mother. The thing is, I know intellectually what happened, but not emotionally/viscerally. In those ways, I forget. So I forget what it *felt* like to have my mother get into rages that didn't stop. When she was screaming at me, she was screaming. What she wanted was my annihilation. Even if just emotionally. The problem wasn't what I was doing, the problem was I was. There was no after to her rages, no connection to me or to something going on between us. She'd rage, and then it would be *bink*, something else, like she had forgotten it had happened. If I couldn't just hop to a different state with her, she'd be mad (and I can see her mother behaving that way. You know, a good child feels how s/he's instructed to feel, the standard parenting mode of the first half of the century.)
Sitting there with my boyfriend in the parking lot, I was kind of shocked to feel that what he wanted was...us to be sitting there. Relating. To be connected, but with different emotional content (for him to feel recognized, and treated respectfully). And I was able to do it, because that turns out to be a fairly easy demand to meet (to treat kindly someone who isn't threatening you). I also realized the demand I had been perceiving before, in these situations. I had been perceiving a demand to capitulate, and to offer myself up for annihilation, while saying that I felt love. Because that's what hadn't happened growing up. I knew that the demand had been weird/too much. But that's a label. I hadn't remembered why, and I had distrusted myself about it. Going through it again, seeing the difference, I see why it was weird. It's weird to claim you love someone while telling them they destroyed your life, and then ask them to agree, and say they love you, and that the relationship is great and you're all happy.
It's obviously not going to work, but I think it's a fairly common family demand.