16 || DEEPLY ROOTED FEARS
Hey monkey butt,
How’s it going? I imagine at this point you’re situated in the deep depths of middle school, so mentally you’re sitting somewhere between pre-pubescent joy and constant emotional despair. The other day I was thinking about how I used to daydream at your age about what our early twenties would be like. All the difficulties we faced would be gone. We would have answers, decent money and a good job. We would love ourselves, someone might even love us. It would be wonderful.
Now I’m here and my visit to the dentist the other day landed me with four cavities, a cracked tooth, a very blunt suggestion for Invisalign and a “startling amount of heavily ground down teeth” that could “really only be attributed to severe emotional distress.” So I hope you’re looking forward to this shit because if you can’t tell it’s fuckin’ lit.
I wish I could assure you things get considerably easier as you get older, but I’ve found the path isn’t so much an incline as it is a severely manic rollercoaster. Maybe in your late twenties, or thirties, or one of those numbers we like to refer to as middle-age so we don’t offend anyone teetering the line, the rollercoaster will become more of a “you must be at least 36 inches tall to ride this ride,” and less of a 10,000-foot monstrosity in Japan designed with the sole purpose of seeing how many people they can make shit their pants.
But I really don’t know because I’m not there yet.
I’m sure you’ve already picked it up from the last letter, but this past month has been cause for a lot of reflection, and not the type of reflection we went through back in April where we worked on fixing the problems to answers we already had. This time around there weren’t a whole lot of answers to start with because the problems that needed fixing were buried, suppressed in many ways. I don’t want to go into details because you’ll understand when you get here, but let’s just say there’s been a lot of gasping, followed by sobs that have evidently been overdue for over a decade. Therapy is a bit like abruptly lighting your brain on fire and then deciding to just never grab the extinguisher.
So here’s the thing – you have some deeply rooted fears. And they affect you strongly. I briefly mentioned them in the last letter, but I want to actually take time to talk about them here because facing them will change everything. They’re simple on the surface. Ready?
They’re fear of abandonment and fear of not being good enough.
Are you fucking floored yet?
Yeah, I’m not surprised. These are a lot of people’s fears. But no matter how similar the fear they exist and take root in ways completely dependent on the person carrying them. Again, I’m not yet comfortable talking about their source, maybe someday I’ll be able to face that demon more publically, but for now I’m still learning to come to terms with it on my own. In the meantime, I can teach you what causes these fears to manifest and how to handle them.
The two fears go hand in hand for you, and they really only rise to the surface in big ways when it comes to your partners. Abandonment because you are not good enough. Because you are not worth the effort. Because you are not worth the time or love. Because someone out there is better than you and more worthwhile.
You very often put yourself in a position of trying to prove that you are better than your partner, whether you give minor undercuts or lose your temper and belittle. You are supportive to a point. You struggle to support opportunities that could take them places where you risk being left behind in the process. Whether it’s career or connections or events or some big adventure you’re not part of. And the ridiculous thing about it is that you do want to support them. You always do and you’re always proud, but your fear gets in the way and the next thing you know you’re being a first class dickhole. Not only is it not pleasant, it’s straight unacceptable.
The bad news is that up until a month ago you always found some other justification for this type of behavior. Whether it was saying taking those opportunities would put the relationship through too much strain, or that going to events would put “quality time” at jeopardy, or yada yada yada. You always had a reason to justify your actions.
BUT the good news is that I figured out that that was some grade A bullshit. All those excuses, all those grounds for causing chaos, were to hide how deeply terrified you were of being left behind. And Coco, seriously, you were terrified. You have always been terrified. The irony in it all this is that in the process of not wanting to be left behind, you unconsciously self-sabotage until your partner leaves you behind. (Remember that letter on pushing others away? Yeah, well, I missed the part about trying to pinpoint your fears and then be like, “Wait, where did this extremely irrational thought come from?” so. My bad.) The short of it all is that I have a lot of apologies to extend.
But listen, I’m proud because I can own it. And when you get here I want you to be proud too. Because it takes a fuckload of courage to not only be honest and admit your true fears out loud, but also recognize that the behavior attributed to them was hurtful to others and just plain wrong. The most relief I’ve felt in our entire life has been in the last month. I said it before, but I’ll say it again – facing your demons is much easier when they have a face.
So here’s what I want you to do – I want you to be conscious. Obviously, that is much easier said than done (you’re not the fuckin’ Dalai Lama, I’m aware). You’re going to have to learn a lot more about yourself before you can really begin to properly do that. Some of it I’ll teach you and some of it you’re just going to have to pick up in time. Not all secrets are meant to be shared. But I want you to make an extra effort to be conscious. I want you to stop hearing, and start listening. I want you to sit with your gut reactions and weigh them before vocalizing them. I want you to remember that your partner chose you and they didn’t do that with the intention of leaving. I want you to remember that you love them and that they love you and THAT is what should be your guide. I want you to remember to communicate honestly and kindly if your fearful, but never EVER forget to give your full support in the process.
I want you to know that that will not always be done for you.
All your partners will have deeply rooted fears whether or not they’ve chosen to recognize them. They will all do exactly what you do, but in different ways. They will claim they support your independence, then hurt when you don’t chose their agenda over yours. They will claim they want to empower you, see you succeed, then fall into a state of constant agitation when you do. They will do a lot of shit that is totally and completely fucking insensitive.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t be the bigger person. That doesn’t mean you can’t change yourself. Rosi (who evidently is now going to be the cameo of every letter) made a decent point when we were talking about fear. She said that fear causes limitations. It puts a box around your life, around your perspective. It narrows your scope. How can you be compassionate and supportive if you’re constantly second guessing your partner’s every move from a place of illogical thought? And even if that thought winds up being logical. Maybe they were going to abandon you for something better. Well, then whatever. They’re a fucking asshole and they’re not worth your time and you can go forward with your life knowing that you didn’t limit your opportunities and your love based on something that happened far back in your history. It was just a shitty coincidence.
If someone had told me a couple months that this is where I would be now I would never have believed them. That in no way means the circumstances that forced me to dig deeper didn’t hurt and weren’t painful, and it doesn’t mean they won’t hurt you. But there is enormous relief in having the answers that I have now about who we are and why we behave the way we do. I’ve been able to step out into the world and handle things in a way I never have before. And because of that I’m incredibly grateful for the barrage of hell that has been life recently. When you get here I hope that you can be too. There will be a calm in everything you are and everything you do and it will change your life.