As I look back over the past few weeks, it appears as though my head and heart decided to ring in the new year by declaring a vicious war against one another. This degree of unprecedented inner turmoil has left me out of sorts, at a loss to explain myself. And then I wondered, “Could this be self-sabotage?”
My first instinct is to dismiss that explanation as something only other people deal with, but let’s explore the facts:
In the past year I’ve made some major strides in personal growth…
The old me:
- struggled to voice negative emotions, opting instead for avoidance or resentment
- withheld intimacy because of (circumstantially justified) fear
- avoided conflict in order to “protect” (subtext: manage) other people’s feelings
- didn’t/couldn’t spot a red flag to save her life
The new me:
- talks about negative emotions much more readily, even if they’re irrational
- embraces vulnerability and honesty as an important foundation of any relationship
- assesses the wisdom of confrontation based on priority of relationship and carefully works toward swift conflict resolution
- is a red flag spotter extraordinaire
In light of these changes and the purported priorities I’ve written about in this blog, my falling in love with The Voyeur seems like some left-field shenanigans. The idea of self-sabotage, though? I’m a sane, reasonable person — what do I have to gain from this?
No, that’s not a rhetorical question. But since I didn’t have an answer, I asked the leading psychological minds on the internet, and what I found is this: while there are many reasons that we subconsciously (or sometimes consciously) engineer circumstances that put us at a disadvantage, they are mostly rooted in our fear of failure. When we anticipate that we may/will/deserve to fail, we do things — drastic, foolish, shortsighted things — in a wild grab at control over the situation. If things don’t work out, we can pinpoint a choice we made that caused the failure, as opposed to facing a more insidious inner narrative. Mine likes to tell me: “you’re not cut out for a healthy long term relationship…you don’t know how to do this.”
In my case, I’ve reached a small plateau of personal growth, and I should be feeling good about my progress. It should have me feeling hopeful about my relationship prospects. The trajectory of my emotional health should be a good indicator of my future success. Yet as soon as I reached that place, I allowed myself to indulge feelings I have for someone who I know and value, albeit someone I had already deemed a friend, not a romantic partner. I don’t think that my feelings were inauthentic. They felt, and feel, as real as anything else. Hell, they thew us both into a super fun two-week period of emotional tension, confusion, stress, and frustration. That shit was real. But where did it come from?
I can only point to myself. To the inner voice prophesying failure, to my grasping for control. And, oh how I long for control. I still love The Voyeur, but the intensity of the head-heart battle is dying down as my head (you know, the one that managed all those bullet points under “the new me”) speaks calmly, reassuringly to my heart: “stand back up, quit the self-doubt, remember your past but recognize that it’s a part of your story, not a script for your future.”
What does this mean for my friendship with The Voyeur? I fear that I’ve done some damage, but I also care enough (and have learned enough, I hope) to navigate toward healing and restoration.
There’s a (not so) small part of me that would like to go back to the moment before I published That One Post and slap the computer out of my shaking hands. But without that experience, I don’t know that I’d have found this place so quickly. This place — where I understand myself more deeply, in all my unflattering, embarrasing, dysfunctional glory. Clearly it’s going to take more than forty matches to find myself, but these glimpses of understanding are gifts well worth the struggle.