I believe that, as social beings, we are wired to connect to others. From the moment that we are born, we need other people, rely on them to help meet our needs, and thrive when we have healthy attachments and are loved.
So much of my journey has focused on what I perceive as a lack of connection. When I initially went to therapy, I knew that I was lonely and seeking friendships and connections with other people. As I dug through all of my childhood issues, and addressed issues closer to “now,” I realized that this search for connection has been a theme throughout my entire life.
Honestly, I have been embarrassed and ashamed to admit that I need and want connection from others. To me, it sounds lonely and sad to say those words out loud…my lack of connection with others feels like my problem. Like something was inherently wrong with me–it fit nicely into my underlying negative belief that I am unlovable.
After working through a lot of the issues from my childhood, I suddenly realized just how difficult of a position I was put in as a child. When I grew up my mom and dad(s) were, at best, ambivalent and, at worst, emotionally (and, on a few occasions, physically) abusive. As a little girl, I was put in such a hard place. On the one hand, there were times where I knew that I deserved to be treated differently and that they were hurting me. I am not an unintelligent person–I saw how other children were treated and so badly wanted that love and safety. On the other hand, however, I needed them for support and survival, and desperately desired their approval and love. Desperately. I was wired to love them–and too loyal to ever do anything differently.
I made an interesting connection the other day, and I jotted it down in my journal. I wrote, “Shame triggers desperation and clinginess.”
When I wrote this, I was thinking back to a very traumatic experience in my past where someone I loved more than myself left me, and a more recent experience where my friend got mad at me. In both of these instances, I learned that I do whatever I need to do to maintain a relationship–the pain of losing a connection, losing love (however unfulfilling it actually is), and feeling inferior or not good enough–causes me to unravel. I have had bad moments, terrible, shameful memories, where I have begged someone else to stay, all dignity lost. It doesn’t matter how badly I am being treated–I am not strong enough to leave–I am desperate, desperate not to be left.
(On a side note, I just made a another connection as I was writing this–I admitted only once, to my counselor, that I actually attempted to have a relationship with the jerk who raped me on our first date. I asked the question, “Why would I do that?!” Huh. I think I know why, now.)
My childhood taught me that, in order to be seen, to get that love and that approval, I needed to morph into the person that my parents wanted me to be. They told me that crying was whiny and dramatic. I tried my best not to cry or show emotions. They told me that I was high strung and a nervous wreck–I stopped sharing and turned it in. They told me that I wasn’t really sick to my stomach, I was just a hypochondriac–I tried my best not to ever tell them how sick I was–at times, fearing that I was dying. To this day, stomachaches immediately trigger my anxiety and give me a sense of doom.
I clung to my parents, desperate for some kind of connection. Sometimes, I still do. Now, as an adult, I cling to the relationships I have forged and onto an idea of something more.
I have been searching hard for quality connections with others–in my family, in my marriage, in my friendships–even in my own spirituality (my thought process–maybe a higher power can show me connection?). My friendships, a few of them, have become so precious to me because of the connection they provide. My marriage, at this point, is a work in progress–I can only hope that, with lots of hard work, it will become the connection that I so desire and need.
The biggest thing, though, is that I realized that this need for connection and belonging is not unique to me. It is natural and normal.
Why should that be shameful?