Early in life as a completely dependent child who could not take care of him/herself, when something painful or scary happened like a prolonged separation or intense hunger, the naturally self centered child blamed herself. She would think that it was something about her that caused the painful and scary experience, like just not being loveable or even likeable. Often there are assumptions that there is something terribly wrong with oneself. It’s so hard to experience something troubling and not be able to have any control over it. If he makes it about himself then he feels like he has some control. He’ll be different and mother won’t leave. The unfortunate piece of this is that if the child continues to experience scary situations then he establishes a pattern of always blaming himself in accusatory ways. This become oppressive and diminishing of ones good sense of oneself.
Self-hatred sets in and self-esteem plummets or simply is not allowed to develop. Relationships are quite difficult to form and sustain in this devastating state. Primary relationships that are so fundamentally important to humans, become an ongoing source of the old triggers. Separation and disagreements that lead to conflict inevitably evoke the old feelings and the self-loathing intensifies compelling withdrawal that leads to relationship difficulties. Being together becomes too troubling, too difficult, too painful for both people. The other becomes the bad person because it seems like the other is always saying or doing something that triggers hurt and anger. Relationships can feel too difficult, so often dominated by conflict and resentment.
When relationships early in life feel like they’re too painful and difficult, one may seek a primary relationship as a young adult and that too may feel too troublesome because the early ones were that way. Because of early traumatic experiences one becomes very sensitive and vulnerable to hurt/anger and can easily feel slighted or attacked and retaliate or withdraw. After an initial relationship failure some people don’t want to venture into that territory again and remain single and alone. I don’t think it’s because that is what is wanted but because life feels too difficult in relationship. Being alone becomes the way to live to avoid the pain of being in relationship. But being alone is not so easy either. Loneliness can become very painful. Not wanting to do things alone most of the time can lead to not doing very much.
After the first primary relationship failure many people seek a second and unless the early trauma has been addressed along with the poor relationship to self, the second attempt can be almost as difficult. Hypersensitivity to feeling criticized and slighted makes being with a significant other like walking through a minefield. You never know when something may happen that enrages or triggers unbearable shame leading to retreat from any contact. Closeness and intimacy are fraught with danger. Rejection seems to be immanent. Love and generosity are often chased away by this frequent fear of being left or feeling rejected. One’s expression becomes inhibited by the fear of being negatively judged. Conversations about the relationship in an attempt to reconcile conflict can be very difficult because so much of what has been happening exposes pockets of self-hate that can’t be talked about because they are felt to be so bad and shameful.
Depression counseling can help
At the root of relationship trouble is not so much the pain of conflict, although that is certainly painful, but the conflict one gets into with oneself. As happened early in life when there was too much pain in primary relationships, one turns against oneself with unmerciful accusatory self blame, criticism, negative judgement and self hate. This is the source of depression because it is so very oppressive. One loses a good sense of oneself and consequently finds it hard to be with others because there is a constant fear of being rejected. Not liking oneself makes it seem like one is not liked by others.
This is a difficult maze to find a way out of. First off one needs to become aware of what is happening internally because it has always happened even before language was learned. The self hate is insidious, pervasive and mostly unconscious. Bringing it into the light of day is crucial. There it loses much of its power and influence. This has to be done repeatedly with all the ways self hate manifests.
Being paid attention to in an ongoing respectful way is crucial as well. It is important to have a different and better experience in relationship that comes to feel sustainable and reliable. This new experience can take the place of the old experience that was so painful, even traumatic. One learns from an unfolding new experience that relationship can be better, perhaps even enjoyable. A new belief in oneself forms as a result of being related to and understood in a respectful and caring way. This, of course, takes some time but there is really no viable shortcut to lasting change. It took a long time to get to where it is, so it will take some time to change permanently. It went awry in relationship and it is in relationship that it can be set right.