Dear New Shrink,
For years now, I have found myself getting really involved with people, girlfriends and guys alike, and then for little or no reason, pushing them away. I am really good at it so they get hurt and usually want nothing to do with me after that.
At first, I am relieved, but then after that wears off, I find myself missing them and wishing I had never done it. It’s usually too late but I don’t really try and I find myself making a million excuses on why it is for the best.
I think I lie to myself a lot.
Why am I doing this and how can I stop?
The Push Away Queen
Dear Push Away Queen,
We all need to be good at something and it sounds like you have perfected this, but all kidding aside, this does sound like a serious emotional problem.
Obviously, if you don’t get help with this and it continues, you will find yourself very alone.
The good news is that you recognize it and it seems that you have done so early on. Many people do the same exact thing, but they are subtle about it and do not recognize it in themselves.
You may lie to yourself but at least you know that you are doing it. Trust me, lots of people do this very same thing and they lie to themselves but they haven’t a clue.
They ask questions that are more along the lines of: “Why can’t I find a partner that is good for me, or good enough for me?” Or “What’s wrong with people in this town? You can’t find anyone that you would really want to date.”
It is likely that these folks may have a social phobia or a great fear of rejection. Some may entertain narcissistic fantasies that only an imagined perfect partner will do; one that makes them feel good, i.e., as in pumping up self-esteem.
Some of these people reject or push away others without ever giving them a chance.
You, on the other hand, get very close and involved and then push people away. It sounds like you have what I refer to as an attachment problem. It sounds like you need to be close but then get very frightened of being rejected, abandoned or pushed away yourself.
We tend to push others away because we have been and fear being pushed away ourselves. Please think about your history of personal and family relations. Was there a rejection or abandonment that was hurtful to you, probably really hurtful?
If you can identify it, talk to someone about it or write about it, it may go away. However, you may need to consider psychotherapy if this does not resolve it.
There are also numerous other possibilities that generally require a little time with a psychotherapist to get it right and really work it out.
One of these possibilities is feeling like you will become overwhelmed and lose yourself in a close relationship. Another one is a fear of ending up responsible for that person you have become close to. If you cannot tolerate closeness or separation, the problem may be even more serious, definitely requiring treatment.
Having said that, if you can figure it out with the initial questions that I have posed, you may just need to process some feelings and move on to a healthier and happier behavior.
However, if you are someone who does not want to need anyone or if you find that you can’t do it alone, do yourself a big favor and seek professional help. Just make sure the psychotherapist is skilled in attachment issues and a psychodynamic type of therapy. Ask a potential therapist questions like what is your degree, are you licensed and how long have your been practicing? What is your orientation with respect to therapy?
You want someone licensed, in practice for a few years or more, and with a psychodynamic orientation. If they not licensed, make sure that they are under the supervision of someone who has all of the above credentials.
Good luck! This is not something you want to continue and I am glad for you that you wrote in now. I hope you take my advice and please feel free to call me if you have questions.
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Dr. Barge is a specialist in attachment and loss and also in addiction treatment. Visit her at www.drbarge.com. Send your inquires, responses and anonymous questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Got something on your mind? Let us help you with your life matters.