Including Yourself in the Equation

June 10, 2013

Staff Therapist Wanda Sevey, MDiv, MFT is skilled at helping individuals, couples and families with communication and relationship skill building; LGBT issues; reducing and coping with stress; sex issues for couples and individuals; recovery from affairs; and anxiety and depression. 

When things go well for us at our beginning, we experience ourselves as the most beautiful baby ever born, cute as a button, with the full attention of at least one adult who gazes at us for hours and waits for a sign that we are returning their gaze. But even with this most ideal beginning, there comes the moment when the face of that adoring adult turns from us and all we see is their back as they walk away.

That’s the moment we begin learning to protect ourselves. We can hardly blame our little selves for searching for protection from the picture of that loving, all-powerful adult leaving us. Sure, the grownup comes back later (with a dry diaper, a bottle, or a cuddle) and that helps. But still, they left. Each of us has a story like this and each of us has a way of protecting ourselves against loss and from ever hurting this way again.

Self-sacrifice is one of those ways. I know it’s a little counter intuitive. Putting the needs of others before us is part of being a good person, right?

Well, maybe. Sometimes. Making some sacrifices is essential to being a good parent and to being in a satisfying relationship or friendship. It can be part of creating a life with meaning and purpose. Self-sacrifice is also a way to protect us from some deep fears:

“I’m afraid I’ll lose this relationship so I’ll cancel out my feelings to keep you happy.”
“I’m afraid of rejection so I’ll put myself last.”
“I’m afraid I’m not worth much to others so I’ll work all the time to prove you should keep me around in your life.”
“If you’re angry at me you might leave so I’ll accommodate you instead of saying what I think or want.”
“What I want doesn’t matter as much as what you want, as long as you stay.
“I don’t deserve to ask for what I want. Really, I don’t even know what I want.”

And under these fears are often some damaging self-perceptions such as:

“I’m not lovable so I’ll end up alone.”
“There’s something wrong with me that will lead to my being abandoned.”
“If I make waves you’ll be angry and leave me.”

Sometimes we wake up from years of counting ourselves out of the equation and are filled with resentment at not having expressed or accomplished having any of our own needs and desires met. The feeling then is as if we are sitting down in a room full of people standing. We feel small, unnoticed, unappreciated, angry, and, at the same time, vulnerable to the power of others. It doesn’t occur to us that all we have to do to begin to remedy the situation is stand up.

In your life are there situations and relationships in which you need to rise up and stand? Stand up and know that it’s okay to count yourself in as someone who matters.

Staff Therapist Wanda Sevey, MDiv, MFT is skilled at helping individuals, couples and families with communication and relationship skill building; LGBT issues; reducing and coping with stress; sex issues for couples and individuals; recovery from affairs; and anxiety and depression. Interested in therapy with Wanda? Request an appointment today.

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