Saturday, August 07, 2004

letting go of my "specialness"

I've been zipping around the Enneagram book that we bought a few weeks ago for the past week or so. I'm reading more than I'm absorbing, but I have still found some useful insight, although it's not the most welcome kind. I'm a four (4w5, to be more specific), as I said in an earlier post, and in some ways, knowing that is encouraging, and in some ways it is really hard. I don't know if this will make any sense to someone who is *not a four, but I'm going to plug away anyhow.

I'm a near-textbook four. One of the ways fours tend to define themselves is by their individuality or "specialness". In healthy circumstances, this can be a good thing. It can take the form of personal expression that is creative and distinct, but universal. I wish I was more like that, more of the time. In my experience, its unhealthier forms take the shape of a feeling of inherent defectiveness, "no one understands", and feeling threatened by others' ideas and advice- part of me wants to go back and rewrite the second sentence of this paragraph, because it sounds too much like the book. I have an intense need to be self-contained and self-sufficient. I withdraw to get attention. It sounds like a bad idea, and it usually is. I remember the heartbreak of my adolescent relationship with my parents- as my brother acted out for attention, and I acted in. I hid, hoping that my mom or dad would notice that I was hiding and come "find" me. In reality, I think they were a bit relieved that I wasn't a big drain on their attention and time. My brother was difficult- unpredictable, physically and verbally abusive, and often out of control. They gave up after several years of hearing why his problems were all their fault (combined with my dad's unwillingness to participate in family counseling).

I dreamed about being adopted, about my "real" family coming to rescue me (textbook four, once again). I started dating Jeff just before my 15th birthday, and he did his best to rescue me himself. I was living with my godparents at the time (my uncle and aunt). I have a few vivid memories of the first few months there- adjusting to people who had clear expectations of my behavior, but who were in many ways no more helpful than my parents. My dad at the exit interview for the home for runaways that I stayed at for a week before moving in with my godparents, responding emotionlessly to a gentle question from the counselor, "I'm not sure I consider her my daughter". I remember breaking up with the boyfriend that had landed me at their house (not Jeff), and sawing the skin on my ring finger open with a butter knife. I remember sitting in front of a full bottle of Tylenol one night trying to decide if it was worth living another day, and when I broke out of the trance long enough to sob to my aunt that I wanted to die, her reply was "don't be stupid, go to bed." And I did, but once again, I had been misunderstood and my pain invalidated.

I've since forgiven my dad; forgiven both my parents. Both of them tried, but life with my brother was like living with the constant threat of nuclear attack- you hunker down and cover your head and wait for the explosion. But I carried the victimhood and misunderstood-ness into adulthood. When no explosion is imminent, I create one. I create no-win situations for those closest to me and use their failure to perfectly validate me as an excuse to retreat into myself. One of Jeff's most frequent complaints is that I expect him to read my mind- and he's absolutely right. Some voice inside says, "if he really loved you, really loved you, he'd just know." Then that message turns to, "he doesn't understand you and he never will. You are different and will never find someone who understands." And that is a lie. It's the same lie I told myself when my parents took three years to notice my depression and get me treatment in junior high, and countless times since. The truth is, no one can understand me when I am concentrating all my effort into being misunderstood. When I refuse to let anyone in.

God's truth is that I am indeed different- and special. But that it doesn't take the form of being irreparably flawed and in need of rescue. My difference does not have to be defined in negative terms- that I'm not like anyone else, that I can't be (outgoing, strong, capable, etc). I don't know what shape my uniqueness and calling takes, yet- but I'm glad to be setting out anyhow. I'm tired enough of repeating the past that I'm ready to risk letting go. What was it Anais Nin said? Ah, yes..."And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. " Part of me instinctively recoils from such inspirational-poster sentiment, but there is truth in it nonetheless.

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