Dear Dr. Norquist:
I have a problem that I can’t seem to solve myself. I’m OK when I’m not in a relationship, but as soon as I get involved with someone, I totally lose who I am and try to become who I think the person I’m dating wants me to be. I gradually (and sometimes very quickly) come to need this person’s approval more and more. If he thinks I’m great, then I feel great. If he is mad at me, or pulls away, I become desperate – as if I couldn’t live without him. My whole life starts to revolve around him in a way that I don’t like and that I know isn’t healthy. I get so focused on trying to get him to like me that I can’t focus on anything else I need to do in my life, like my job or my friends or family. I notice I do the same thing in friendships. How can I change this?
Dr. Norquist responds:
Your behavior speaks of an underlying feeling of "I am not enough." When we feel we are not enough, we assume that someone else can give us what we need so that we are good enough. It seems to be human nature to look outside ourselves to try to get something we need or want from others. We perfect our own set of specific skills that assist in getting what we need from others. We never stop to ask ourselves whether this basic assumption that others have what we need is actually true. Instead, we pursue our habit of being nice, doing favors and being loving towards others as a means to an end – to have our love or friendship returned. Loving someone so that they will love you back is not love; it is business. In relating to others in this way, we lose ourselves.
The problem that needs to be addressed is your self-esteem. You need to experience, without questioning it, that you are enough, just as you are. It’s time to shift your focus from outward to inward. Spend time getting to know and appreciate yourself. Listen to your inner feelings, joys and dreams. Focus on what you would like to do with this life you have been given. Experience your own center. Then you can be kind because you enjoy being kind, and love because the love bubbles up from within you, not because you need love or kindness from others in order to fee worthy and loveable. I cannot give you any magic formula for getting yourself to this place, but I can point you in the correct direction. You must find your own path, listening to and honoring your own inner wisdom. Know that you are enough, just as you are. The only thing that has to change is your experiential knowledge of this truth.
Dear Dr. Norquist:
My husband and I had our first child 4 months ago. I’m finding that our baby smiles at him more and talks to him more than she does me. She seems so much more responsive to him. I feel she is too used to me, being home all day with her, and when daddy comes home, he’s the star.
I feel alone a lot since he works and we have been moving around a lot. We have moved three times in the last year. I have tried to talk about this to him, but he says my baby loves me and so does he and I shouldn’t worry so much. He says I need confidence. I agree. But I also need empathy, understanding, and sensitivity. I feel that my baby doesn’t like me; and, lately I’ve been feeling my husband doesn’t understand me. I’m sure there are other mothers who feel this way. I could use some perspective.
Dr. Norquist responds:
Chances are, you are unintentionally closing yourself off from others. Perhaps you are feeling lonely, needy, and unhappy in yourself, and this is reflected in others’ responses to you. It’s hard to feel close to others when you are lonely and unhappy. If you can open up to your love for your baby, you will feel happy at her happiness, whether or not she is smiling at you in particular. Of course this is much easier to do when you are happy in your own life. Take a serious look at your life and your needs and see what you can do to make positive changes in your life that address your needs. Perhaps you need to make a concerted effort to make friends, to connect with other new mothers, to have time alone with your husband, to have time off periodically from childcare, or to pursue activities that bring you enjoyment. Mothers of young babies need extra support because they are constantly on call; giving, forgoing their own needs for the needs of the child. This can lead to feeling drained and resentful, especially if you feel your baby doesn’t like you. You need to find ways of replenishing yourself. When you are happy in yourself, you will recognize your baby’s love for you.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)
Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding and treating physical symptoms and health-related concerns. Practitioners of the following techniques are available to answer your questions: psychology, acupuncture, therapeutic and neuromuscular massage, yoga, meditation, spiritual & transpersonal psychology, reflexology, Reiki, Cranial Sacral Therapy, and Alexander Technique Ó 2001 Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center