If you’ve spent a lot of time in therapy (or maybe just if you pay attention to yourself a lot), you’re familiar with the following phenomenon: the situations, relationships, behaviors, which you tell yourself you most want to avoid, you most fear, dislike, etc., are, seemingly coincidentally, the things toward which you most frequently gravitate. Inexorably. Irresistibly. Maddeningly.
This has always been true of me. As a kid, in high school, in college, after – I had lots of habits, things I hated about myself but kept doing. And my “sex addiction” was this, in spades. There was nothing I wanted to do more than STOP, from the day I started. And yet, it seemed, there was one thing I wanted to do more than to stop, and that was to keep fucking going.
Lots of us do this with boyfriends and girlfriends: we find ourselves repeating patterns that make us miserable. Why does she always date emotionally crippled guys who couldn’t talk about a feeling to save their lives? Why does he always date drama queens who cry at the drop of a hat?
Here’s a thing about me: there’s nothing I (believe I) want less than rejection, judgment, abandonment. And yet, as I noticed the other day, something on the order of 99% of all of my encounters with women end in just that. And I have, as you’ve read, a not-insubstantial quantity of interactions with women.
During my acting-out days, I structured my every relationship such that it had rejection and abandonment embedded in it. Charlie Sheen famously claimed not to pay women for sex, but rather, to pay them to leave. For me, it was exactly the opposite. Or the same. Or both. It’s clear that, on some level, the function that my paying played wasn’t just to get my cock sucked, or rubbed, or whatever, but rather, to ensure that I would (have the opportunity to) feel ultimately rejected: she wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the money. It’s not me she wants, it’s my money. And she would, ultimately, leave, choose not to be with me, communicate an ultimate desire not to be with me – which desire only could be surmounted by the application of money.
And if I look back on all of the relationships I’ve had with women over the years, it’s clear that I am especially gifted at producing precisely that situation I most fear – one in which a woman rejects me, responds to my (overwhelming) desire with revulsion, by running in the opposite direction. Close readers of this blog have seen a few examples of this: not least was that LA woman who rejected me so crushingly. Or the story of Poison, whose rejection of me brought on my “hitting bottom.”
But I am gifted at this – so much so that it begs the question: do I really crave rejection as much as (even more than) I crave uncomplicated desire?
Here’s an approach at answering the question that comes from the opposite direction: on two occasions in the last two years – with L and with Veronique – I’ve found women who provided me with none of the rejection, judgment, abandonment that I often seek out. And you know what happened with both? I found myself feeling disequilibrated, off-balance, unsure of myself. L has commented on this on her blog. V has seen it. I start to get scared when women like me, when they accept me as I am, when they desire me.
I’m writing about this not because, as a reader recently commented, I’m self-absorbed. (Shit – I’m a blogger. Isn’t self-absorption a requirement?) No, I’m writing about it because I think the phenomenon – not just in me, but generally – of having tortured relationships with our neurotic symptoms is fascinating.
In the land of Freud, symptoms often are understood not as problems so much as solutions to unconscious problems. This seems right to me, even as it feels nearly impossible to imagine that not only do I not want the things I think I want, but that I actually seem hell-bent on getting precisely those things I often tell myself I most want to be rid of.
My own behavior would seem to suggest this is true. Somehow, it’s scary to me to allow myself to be desired in a full-throated (no pun…) way. And so, rather than confront that fear, more often than not, I’ve sought – compulsively, endlessly – women who reaffirm my own sense of un-desirability.
“The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes. ”
― Pema Chödrön
A bit of Buddhist wisdom that seems relevant to me…
Thank you – both of you 🙂