This is a challenge of mine that I have been aware of for some time, and am exploring again anew through this conscious act of habit changing that I have decided to do.
When I'm craving comfort is when I'm more likely to do things like watch TV, eat out of boredom, and seek pleasure in other ways. That's essentially what I'm doing -- whatever I'm feeling is unpleasurable
and I'm seeking activities that feel pleasurable
to soothe my feelings, to soothe the discomfort.
When I'm wanting others to take care of me I'm more likely to:
- feel dependent on them to achieve my goals
- get overly upset with them (in proportion to what the actual circumstances are).
These two usually come hand in hand.
I will give an example I've experienced recently -- I woke up early and was doing my workout. I was not wanting to do my workout, I really would rather have been cuddling in bed with my boyfriend. He was awake and talking with me and just relaxing in bed. I told him he should get up and be active, too, do some active stuff with me, and he didn't want to because he said it was nice under the covers. The day before I had asked him if he would do my workout with me, as I'd been feeling very resistant around doing it and felt some company would be supportive. It didn't end up happening because before we got the point where I was going to do my workout he started thinking about a family member who had died recently, felt sad, and then fell asleep. I didn't have any hard feelings about this, obviously, because he was feeling grief and I wouldn't want to intrude on that or impede it in any way. I did my workout on my own while he was sleeping.
Anyway, this time, I felt very sad. I somehow felt that he wasn't taking care of me. I think what I had really wanted to say to him was it's hard for me to resist my temptation to lie down in bed with you and cuddle rather than do my workout, can you get up and be active with me and help me resist that temptation?
But instead I said it pretty lightly, like it wasn't a big deal, and then felt very hurt by his lack of interest. I felt that he didn't truly understand how hard I was trying, and how much I could have used a helping hand, and how very much I just wished someone would get
that and just help
me without me having to cajole or even having to even ask, honestly.
Things I felt as this was happening:
- "I shouldn't feel so sad about this, he totally has the right to want to stay in bed and relax, I shouldn't try to blackmail him into doing what I want by getting sad."
- "I shouldn't depend on him to be able to do my workout, I should be able to do it on my own and if I can't that means that I don't really want to in the first place, or that I'm not taking the full responsibility of my decisions."
- "This kind of behavior is codependent." (I am codependent.)
But the truth is I didn't really feel those things I was supposed to feel. I felt disappointed and unsupported. I felt that I didn't want to try to convince him. I felt that, I don't know -- I wanted him to get it, to be there with me emotionally. I really, really wanted him to get it. To get how I feel without me having to explain every nuance. I wanted him to understand that there are times I really push to keep going and how very much it would mean to have him at my back, to have him remind me of the course I want to steer.
I felt really, really sad. At that point, he was still watching me work out and I told him I didn't want him to watch me anymore -- we had stopped chatting -- because it made me nervous. But mostly it was that I felt really bad and didn't know what to do with it. I knew I didn't want to immediately react. I took a little while and felt the sadness for some time, and then I talked to him and told him that in all honesty, I would like that support from him. That I was struggling in the mornings to stay on track and I would really appreciate having him wake up with me and getting up and making the bed (we have a bed that sort of folds up, so once it's folded up it reduces the temptation to lie down), and I said that I'd like it if he did something active with me in the mornings. He said that he'd be happy to support me in that way and if I could wake him up and toss him a pair of pants in the mornings he could do that.
Now, ultimately, I feel pretty okay about how I handled it -- I revealed what was going on with me and I think I did well not using my emotions to pressure him to do what I wanted -- but at the same time there's a discomfort I have with the intense sadness I experienced.
It was just such a feeling of not being SEEN, of not having help or support. And it felt that it had an intensity that was definitely outside of those moments. Something that I've been carrying around with me for a long time -- a sense that I'm not understood, that the help I need/want is not available to me, a sense that what I want is TOO MUCH, it's NOT OKAY, it's mentally/emotionally wrong somehow, etc.
I think a big part of it is that I have felt for a long time that people really have very little sense of the weakness I feel at times. There are times when I really wish people would help me make mindful choices -- telling me "Sheera, let's have fruit for dessert" rather than people telling me "come on, Sheera, you can skip out on your diet for today, let's get chocolate for dessert." I wish people would help me out when I'm feeling weak, and instead of I usually feel that people don't even KNOW that I'm feeling weak or conflicted. I usually want to do the right thing, whatever I believe the right thing is in the moment, but I do have a limited store of willpower available to me.
Another example -- I came home early from work one day and wanted to watch TV. My mom was watching TV. I asked her if I'd be able to watch -- I decided I was going to take a few days off from my no TV program. We went back and forth about it a bit and she finally clarified for me that she wanted to watch for 3-4 more hours, she had a disc she wanted to finish.
She asked why I was doing it, and I explained that I was longing for the comfort of it. That coming home, laying on the couch, and catching up on my favorite shows sounded really appealing right now. That I just wanted to take a few days off from being so productive all the time, always on it, always ON period. I wanted to turn on and enjoy my shows for a bit.
And then I felt sad that she still didn't decide to let me watch. She asked why I was sad and I didn't want to explain -- I felt that I would use my sadness to guilt-trip her in that moment and didn't want to. But I felt very unseen, uncared for.
Two scenarios of what I was wanting:
- To decide she could watch her disc the next day (when I'd be working all day and then out of the house that night as well, not that she necessarily knew that) so she could let me enjoy my afternoon of relaxation, I wanted her to be able to sense that I could really use that and be willing to make that space for me
- To stop watching what she was watching for a minute and sit with me and help me investigate WHY I was craving television so strongly, and would there be some other activity I could use to fill up this day, and maybe together we could figure out something I could do to stay on track that would still fulfill my relaxation need. Honestly, this is the option I think I would most prefer and I feel is least likely to happen.
I had a lot of the same shoulds going through my mind with this. I shouldn't be sad at her reaction, I shouldn't expect her to read my mind and know what's going on with me, I shouldn't expect her to sacrifice her time to help me, etc. And of course there's merit in all that, but then simultaneously the fact of the matter is that I'm feeling what I'm feeling.
I think in some ways it boils down to wishing that other people would help me maintain good structure. I wish people would help me make more mindful, positive choices and that people would understand how much I need that help at times.