(for the inspiration for this post see JIP's blog and comments)
JIP's post on emotional starvation and the comments posted there really made me think.
One commenter said, "One thing, for me anyway, is when things enter my life that have been absent, things I never got before, even when they are good things, it can hurt a little. Just someone saying :I'm proud of you" can be painful, because it reminds me that it was the first time I was ever acknowledged that way. So it is the absence of good things, like hugs, and affirmation, and someone rubbing your hair to comfort you, that you need, you deserve. But is also reminds you of the grief you have that you had to wait SO long to ever get that."
Another said, "When people pay me compliments IRL, I don't even hear them or respond. It's like they didn't say it. Then when the conversation is over and the person has gone, it hits me what they have said and I wonder why I couldn't respond."
Still another, "When we grow up in abusive situations we learn that apparent kindness means getting hurt so we distance ourselves as adults."
All of those ring so true to me. A part of me loves to hang out with "normal" people. To be a fly on the wall and just watch. I people watch all the time. Observe what normal, loving families look like. I listen to normal people talk about things they do with and for their kids. They don't realize what they are saying sometimes or how much of an impact it makes on me. One time in session my T took a call from her child. No big deal to her, but it really impacted me. To think of a mother taking time out from her work to speak to a daughter who needed her? Totally foreign to me. A church member called to cancel on me because her grown child was having a small outpatient surgery and she needed to go be there. My mom dumped me at the hospital and left me alone overnight when I was 7. No way she'd cancel anything to be with me as an adult. So while these seemingly small comments/actions are routine with some families, they touch me deeply. I'm determined that my daughter will grow up thinking it is perfectly normal for me to interupt whatever I am doing to take her call when she needs me, to cancel whatever plans I have to be there when she is ill, and to put her needs as a very high priority in my life. These experiences also make me sad as I realize just how abnormal my life is/was, and all that I missed out upon.
I wrote in an earlier post about my Happy Mask. I keep that on so people won't see my true feelings. I keep up a wall to avoid letting people in. When people are kind to me, I express appreciation, but I don't tell them exactly how much it means to me and how much I need it. One online pal took time out of her busy day yesterday to IM me because she knew that I had a tough experience on another board. Just a 3 minute "how are you" conversation, but it made my day. I have another friend who is free with hugs and casual touches. Just a hand on the shoulder, a hug hello and goodbye. Normal to her - makes my entire day. She called to catch up last night after I'd been on vacation all week, and to verify plans for this weekend. Just a 10 minute call. But meant the world to me. A hug from my T as I leave her office can make my day. My sister's sending me a funny joke that only she and I would find humorous. All these things mean so much to me. I don't let them know though. I'm afraid too. I'm afraid then they'll use that knowledge to hurt me. So I risk being rude and unappreciative and cold. I pull back first. Get off the phone or IM conversation first. Pull back from a hug first. Be the first to break away.
JIP said on her post that she needed a hug. And she got them, albeit virtual ones. Commenters told her to just ask for one. If only it were that simple. Someday, maybe I can go up to someone and say "I could really use a hug" - for now I just relish the ones that are freely offered.