Trauma from abuse suffered at the hands of someone in our lives, either as a child or an adult, can create a dislike of ourselves and even self-hatred. For years we were put down and kept down, humiliated or worse. This creates a deep, negative rut that our minds get stuck in. “Why don’t people like me? Why would they? There’s not much to like. I really don’t like me either.” These obsessive thoughts can haunt us mercilessly. When there is no real evidence to support the perception that other people dislike us, we find ourselves doing things that we know are terribly wrong so there is something real to back up the imagined dislike. Or we just create perceptions, in our minds, of other people’s dislike of us to support our own dislike. So, in our minds, we feel that if other people dislike us the way we dislike ourselves, things feel in sync. Things like career successes, love from others and even just compliments make us want to push people away and isolate, because it creates an internal battle. It goes completely against the grain of the dislike of ourselves.
I was the great pretender, acting as if I had complete confidence. Nobody ever knew. But inside? Complete and utter turmoil. All of this created not only general anxiety, but intense social anxiety. Then along came alcohol and drugs. Suddenly, there was a magic euphoric escape from all this. But not just an escape. Alcohol/drugs either supplied false confidence, or if I was a drunken/drugged out fool, people would either love me as the life of the party, or they would dislike me as much as I disliked myself. So I had everything covered. The dislike of myself became a self-fulfilling prophecy as my life, of course, crashed and burned because of the alcoholism and drug abuse, as it is virtually guaranteed to do. When that happened, I was swimming in an ocean of self-hatred, disdain and complete isolation and devastation.
The happy ending to all this is that sobriety and therapy (in that order) finally allowed me to untwist that giant tangled knot of messed up neural pathways and get out of the prison of the mind ruts I was stuck in. I was able to learn the origins of the dislike of myself and what had created it (much of it from the trauma of being a foster child and abused physically and mentally throughout childhood by a narcissistic parent). I gained the power to examine these thoughts as they come in, easily and quickly brush them away like flies, or let them float past like scenery on a train. But every once in awhile, I can feel my thoughts slipping into those old mind ruts of self-dislike and worrying that other people dislike me. Those thoughts try to stick to me like a barnacle. But I immediately stop and pull my thoughts up onto the high ground of reality and win that battle between what I know and what I feel and between created perceptions and reality. Knowledge rocks! For any of you that can relate to any of this, I am absolutely nothing special – if I can do this, literally ANYBODY can and that’s the great news. But none of this would have happened without sobriety first.