Q. I am unable to demonstrate vulnerability, and I struggle to have compassion towards others – it just doesn’t come naturally to me. I think the problem lies in the fact that I can’t ‘feel’ anything…and it is affecting my ability to be vulnerable with a man.
I have incredibly high self esteem, am very confident and self assured, about everything…my body, my looks, my capability…nothing really fazes me and as I am very smiley and happy, people warm to me. I put a smile on my face, and get going! I’ve done this for as long as I can remember.
I have no problem in attracting men online. I go for the strong masculine men, and they often fall hard for me before we’ve met, or even sometimes before we’ve spoken on the ‘phone, and then definitely when we meet.
I have no problem in the early days because they love my energy, confidence, audacity, cheekiness, shyness (I am quite shy deep down), so all very feminine energy.
But when I become comfortable with them, I revert to showing my masculine energy, and we then lose the connection almost overnight.
I know I want to change this pattern… but I don’t know how. I do believe it is strongly connected to my inability to feel…so if you could help me with that, I would be very grateful.
A As you’ll see I’ve trimmed down your e-mail to just the main points of your problem.
You clearly have a lot of insight already – but you still seem to lack the connection between your inner and outer world.
I’m intrigued by the two different sides to you.
One side of you is ‘shy and can’t feel anything’ (numb)… and she has also developed an ‘outside’ social face which is ‘constantly positive, incredibly (interesting choice of word) confident, smiley, masculine and unable to ‘demonstrate’ (another interesting word) vulnerability.
I see too that your answers to those particular questions in my (Free PDF from this website) questionnaire relate to control, trust, competitiveness, being perfect and not being seen as a failure, not showing who you really are, and not showing yourself love, compassion and sympathy.
That’s all about being tough and protecting your inner self from harm… which is actually a good thing to do. It’s all about the extent to which we are driven to do it, even when it gets in the way of the life we want to have.
For some reason you’ve had to develop that tough shield to keep you safe – but as is usually the case these ‘survival mechanisms’ from childhood get in our way as an adult.
Your external role is alluring and seductive…then she steps into becoming like the man and loses the femininity that attracted the strong male character to her in the first place.
Interestingly you say that the more detached masculine ‘you’ comes out when you are comfortable with a man. This surprised me as I’d have thought that if you became REALLY comfortable and trusting of a man then the softer more timid, vulnerable, shy and hidden (real) ‘you’ could emerge from the shadows. Has this ‘you’ (sub-personality) ever appeared in a relationship? If so, what happened to make her retreat again?
I’m also curious – have you been influenced by a strong masculine man as you were growing up? If so, was he emotionally available to you or did you have to wear a mask in order for him to accept and notice you?
If there hasn’t been such a man in your childhood then there’s the possibility that you are looking for the strong protector now, whom you didn’t have then. Then when you have him, you ‘push him away’ as if it were a testosterone contest… and you reject him with your male energy – perhaps before he can reject and hurt you?
Those are just a couple of ideas I’ve had from reading your e-mail…I’d need to know a bit more about you to have a clearer idea about why your personality has split off like this.
Don’t worry… we all have several ‘sub-personalities’ inside us who only pop-up when the circumstances are right and their ‘role’ is triggered. They were originally created for a good reason (or so it seemed at the time) and they continue to try and keep us ‘safe’. In some cases they end up by keeping us ‘alone’… yet safe from harm (which is quite a common thing for both genders).
I’m left wondering what trauma you experienced as a little girl. it may be too early for you to remember – but your sub-conscious mind will know. It then shoves your strong ‘masculine’ sub-personality out onto centre stage when it seems it might be needed…sadly with a bad ending to the drama (or maybe not such a sad ending for the shy vulnerable little girl who is scared to expose her deeper longing and needs to a man).
You are right to be cautious and guarded. Building trust takes time and it would be foolish for any of us to rush in…the little girl/boy inside could easily get hurt that way.
You say that you build good solid relationships… but does the other person ever get to know the ‘real you’?
Do YOU know who the real you is any more?
Maybe you need to find and rescue her from the darkness and allow her to shine for real.
You ask me for ‘material’ to help you to feel… when all you need is the courage to have a conversation with the shy hidden little girl inside you and find out what she really wants from you to enable her to be safe enough to ‘feel’, and to be robust enough to cope with the hurt that may come her way.
If you can find an old photograph of yourself as a baby and/or young child this will help. Close your eyes and focus on this image of little ‘you’. Re-connect with what life was really like for her… deep down – not just the ‘smiley’ you that people saw on the surface (aka – The Mask ).
Now take yourself back to a place where she would have felt safe back then; and gradually link into her mind and find out what she needs you to do for her right now, and in the future.
I know that might sound a bit daft… but in a nutshell.. the ‘inner child’ is the place where we became emotionally wounded, from where we made ‘decisions’ about our life, and how to get through it and survive. It’s also the place of the greatest healing.
I hope that helps…in some way.
(If you fancy spending a few hours joining up more of the dots for yourself you’d find my e-course useful. I’m not trying to hit you for a sale – I just think it would help you more than weeks or months of therapy would do. If you do decide to look within yourself and help yourself to heal, feel and be real (I like that.. I may have to use that phrase again!) then and buy this e-course 3 Steps To Sort Yourself Out – without therapy!
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) www.maxineharley.com