Note: The "Trooper" in question is not actually in the military. It's a metaphor, people.

May 22, 2008

Are You Listening???

I have a few hangups, but by far the most burdensome one is the deeply rooted belief that I am not being heard, listened to, acknowledged. Wine Guy (who is a trained astrologer believe it or not), says that is a textbook charactistic of my sign (Double Sagittarius). But since he won't give me a real reading (he says it's too weird to do that for your significant other), I can't really say for sure. But I guess it doesn't really matter. The point is that it's there.

I will admit that I have made a lot of progress over the years with this problem through therapy and increasing self-awareness. I remember the first time I articulated this belief to my therapist about ten years ago. I described it like this, "I am convinced that when I walk down the beach, I don't even leave footprints behind me." And I meant it. A sense of total irrelevance. Sad, really.

During college (my lowest point ever) I would be speaking and, convinced no one could possibly be paying attention to me, would just stop mid sentence. It never occurred to me that others might find this odd or wonder, "Is she going to finish that sentence?"

But, like I said, I am MUCH improved. In fact, you can hardly shut me up these days.

But lately I've been noticing that this deep fear has been creeping back and taunting me. It doesn't make me stop what I'm saying, but it certainly has my mind running a mile a minute. "Is he really listening?" "Why does she keep looking around while I'm talking?" "He keeps interrupting me. He must want me to shut up." That kind of stuff.

The difference between now and before is that my conscious mind is well aware that my subconscious mind is full of sh*t. But for some reason that awareness isn't helping. I'm still thinking it. And it's driving me nuts.

For the most part, this doesn't affect my relationships with friends, acquaintances and colleagues. But it is wreaking havoc on my most intimate connections, those I feel comfortable enough to turn to and say, "Are you even paying attention?!" As you can imagine, this does not go over well. As Wine Guy told (yelled) me last night in yet another fight over this very issue, people really don't like to be accused of something they aren't doing.

And why would they be doing it? Wine Guy loves me. He chooses to spend all his free time with me. He's moving in with me. If he really didn't give a crap about what I had to say, why would he be doing any of that?

But let's just suppose that he might be doing what my paranoid subconscious suspects. What about the others? See, there's a pattern here. Everyone I've ever elevated to the closest levels of intimacy (mostly just serious boyfriends and my mom) end up on the same end of this accusation. Could they ALL be guilty of tuning me out? Logic and common sense says of course not.

So I know it's me. I just don't know what to do about it. I don't even know why I'm sharing this here with you. Possibly because writing is the most effective form of therapy for me (I haven't been to my shrink in years at this point). Plus if I put it out there in virtual black and white for you all to read, I suppose that makes me more accountable to STOP doing it.

At this point I've got Wine Guy on edge wondering when I'll accuse him of inattentiveness. And my mom and I are currently "taking a break" from each other, brought on by a similar exchange. Self destructive perhaps? Well I'm here to say I'd like to stop the habit and get back to just assuming that everyone I talk to is hanging on every word I say.

You are still reading, right?



Sonny Amou said...

Yep. Still reading.

Seems like the best solution would be to go to couples counseling. There's a lot of hints that suggest that, from the fact that you haven't gone to see one in a while, plus that several discussions you've had w/ WG aren't providing the answers you want. It may be a matter of opening up the phone book and doing some basic research.

Good luck,

mel said...

I agree with Sonny, we are reading this and thus 'listening' to you. I hope that you feel better about your situation and if you decide to, I hope you find someone to help you through this situation. You will be stronger by finding someone to hear you out :) Believe in yourself.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that you are finding externals to fit what is going on inside, when it is the inside that is running the show. It's like "I'm upset - I must be upset *about* something. Let's go get the thing I am always upset about, it must be that."

So, the emotion is real, the circumstances you are trying to address are not. That means the emotion is coming from inside - from something you are afraid of or not dealing with. The outside people cannot fix this, because they aren't causing it.

Which takes you back to counseling - not long term, but enough to dig out where the emotion is coming from to deal with it.
-certified counselor, but too far away to help

Dating Trooper - Dating is Warfare said...

I'm a little torn whether or not I should delete this entry. I guess after reading the first few comments I feel a little more "exposed" than I had anticipated after first writing it. But I hope you guys understand (whether you know me in person or not) that I'm not a big ball of quivering nerves and anxieties. I promise I can actually be a pretty fun and even "normal" most of the time. It's just that here I vent and agonize a bit.That's what "writers" do, right? Thanks for the suggestions. We'll see....

mimi of 'sexagenarian and the city' said...

oh DT!! i feel such sympathy for you. yes dear DT i really am listening and reading with enormous interest. i think that as you're taking the momentous step of moving in w. WG you ought to go back to yr shrink just to have someone to talk with about All the attendant issues . they're too many to put on WG. how can it not help yr relationship w. him? although my rel'ship [hate that cumbersome word] with plan c is going well, there are lots of things i want to talk about but don't want to burden the r'ship with. so i go to my shrink, rolly's former shrink, whom i blogged about in january. you shld go to someone too. love and listening from mimi.

Kelly said...

I haven't commented for a year but I want you to know that I've been listening attentively & I appreciate you. Your posts are the first things I read when they pop up on my RSS feed. Your blog helped me get through a painful breakup last April, and now it's even sweeter to read since we got back together in November, and so I get to be happy right along with you. (& of course alternately obsessive about stupid shit!)

I so identify with wanting to feel listened to & understood. Keep blogging about it. If it helps you to do this, know that it definitely, definitely helps me to read it. And women just make better listeners anyway!

btw, I'm so glad you & Wine Guy met because I get to read the amazing story of your relationship as it unfolds. You'll be fine. The two of you will be fine. You show up for each other & you're both a couple of smartypants. You deserve this happy ending and I'm rooting for you all the way!

Melissa said...

I really like this post. I personally need to be heard because it validates me. But of course that's because I'm insecure and need "validating". But one thing I've noticed is that sometimes people ARE listening, but they don't appear to be listening in the way I want them to. It sometimes seems like they're not paying attention, but then I later see that they reacted to what I said in some way -- perhaps they repeat it to someone else, follow through on an idea I had -- something.

Perhaps try to examine the big picture. Look at past conversations and then think back to how people (eventually) responded. Perhaps we expect them to react instantly to our words, be "rapt" with attention. But it could be that we'd feel better if we expanded our definition of "listening".

Of course, then there are times when it's quite obvious that someone is not listening. They interrupt, fail to follow up with questions relevant to what you're saying, etc. Then I suppose you can only either tell them how you want them to respond, or find whatever inner strength you have to not "need" their listening. Because some people just won't listen. In that case, find those people in your life who WILL listen and talk to them and let that feed your spirit in some way.

Now I'm reminded of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. All she wanted was to go home and it wasn't until the end of the movie that she realized she could go home whenever she wanted. All you want is to be heard, and what do I see? A lot of people listening to you!


Anonymous said...

I'm reading! I'm a counseling school drop out, and going through simillar things with my guy I started cohabitating with last fall. I started reading "Getting the Love You Want" and feel like it's helping me look at our relationship and what I'm senstitive about differently... like most of our senstivities stem from childhood difficulties and unmet needs... Interesting that you're having the same issues with your mom and boyfriend, totally fits into the imago concept. Anyway, I'm not affiliated with it, just a fan who recommends it.

Loverville said...

Still reading! And I often go back and read your old entries, kind of a way to remind myself, what's it like through the different stages of a relationship?

Your fear is not being heard... mine is that I'll sound stupid to other people. Deep down I know that I'm somewhat intelligent... but I worry that my words don't convey that!

As the others have said, can't hurt to start seeing a therapist again.

Anonymous said...

I know you personally, my dear, and I can say that your opinions are valued a great deal by those who know you. But I can definitely relate to your post.

I often don't feel that I am being heard or that others put much value on my feelings or opinions, especially when it comes to my husband and other close family members. But over the years I have come to realize that when I speak with another person I am competing with all the other voices in that person's head. Sometimes my voice comes through the loudest...sometimes it doesn't.

A fair fairy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A fair fairy said...

I am reading, and understanding. My Dad (who is a sagittarius - don't know if he is double or not, and I usually don't pay much attention to astrology but similarities here just strike me) is just like you, always questioning whether we are paying attention to him, and visibly suffering from terrible feelings of anxiety about being not heard. I myself have different problems but relate to the - I can reason that what ever i am obsessing about is obviously no logical source of anxiety but I still can't help it. It's an incredibly resilient mechanism. I keep working though. I keep working. and I'll keep reading.