After several years of psychotherapy, some individual and some as a couple, I began to observe and discover my patterns and the “movies” playing in my own head.
After years of therapy I understood at last that no therapist or other person was going to fix me or tell me what to do and that essentially I had to take the responsibility for my own actions and eventual changes in my life. Most importantly, that the movie I played in my mind was crucial to whatever decision I was going to make, if any. It took me a very long time to admit that NO choice was a choice!
A story which was presented as a joke when I was an adolescent, back in Romania, started to come to my mind more and more often, almost obsessively. Why? Why was I suddenly remembering this story/joke? Was it a lesson I was supposed to learn and apply to my present situation?
The story was that Ion, a man driving on a highway, had a flat tire but had no jack in his trunk to fix the flat.
He searched the horizon and far away, on a hill, he saw a small white house in the middle of nowhere.
I have no choice, Ion thought, I have to walk to that house and ask the owner to loan me a jack so I could fix the flat!
He started to walk but as he walked he started to imagine what was going to happen once he arrived at the house…
…what kind of person would even live in such a lonely place? Ion thought. I will knock at the door and an old, short, bold man with thick glasses will open the door. A loner! He’d be suspicious of any strangers coming to his house.
“I had a flat tire,” I’d tell him, making sure to point at my car far away on the highway. “I have no jack and can’t fix it, so I am begging you to loan me a jack. I will pay you for using it and will return it immediately!”
“I don’t trust you! How would I know you have a flat? I can’t see it from here!”
“I’ll leave a big deposit, the cost of the jack!.””
“Money ! I have no need for money, I’d need my jack.”
“Sorry, my answer is NO!” The old man concluded in Ion’s imaginary conversation.
Ion continued to walk playing in his mind over and over again, the potential conversation between himself and the owner of the white house on the hill.
By the time he reached the house, Ion was red-faced and out of breath.
He knocked at the door… no answer. He knocked harder and at last the door opened slowly and a short, older man, with thick glasses, exactly as Ion imagined him as he walked to the house, appeared in the doorway:
“How could I help you,” The old man said and smiled.
Ion, stared at him angrily and replied:
“You know what? If you don’t trust me with your jack, so be it! You are a bad, bad person!” Without further discussion, Ion turned around and walked back to the highway to stand by his broken car and wait for potential help.
Yes, the movies we play in our heads…so many times they are so loud, we are so sure of our truth that what happens in reality doesn’t matter. The only reality is our perception!
What was my favorite movie playing in my head? I knew by now there were several but what was it that I constantly played in my head that prevented me from taking the steps I needed to change my life?
Was it fear of rejection like Ion in my story? Who doesn’t have it? What makes some ignore it, and what makes some, me included, stop them in their tracks because of the fear of failing at something so important it would kill the spirit if I failed.
Patterns… what was it that both my marriages had in common…
I was driving from a therapy session, in which again, the therapist asked me a lot of open-ended questions and I was supposed to give my own answers. Only I could give my answers…
There was no resemblance between Cristian and Kevin, the two men I married.
Cristian was an extrovert, a charmer, a womanizer who was doing well no matter the environment. He was liked by all, especially by women and yes, as painful as that was, I had to admit, he was not faithful in our 14 years of togetherness. How did that make me feel ? Humiliated, not good enough, sad, disoriented…
Kevin, on the other hand, was an introvert, he never cheated on me with other women, he prefered to work alone on “deals” which unfortunately never closed. He never betrayed me with other women but at the same time our physical closeness was zero. I had to beg for a kiss, a touch… a sign of love. I was ignored. And how did that made me feel? Sad, rejected, not good enough!
Bingo! The common thread in my intimate relationships was NOT the type of men I chose but the message they gave me: NOT GOOD ENOUGH!
Cristian was demonstrating I wasn’t good enough my sleeping with other women. Kevin, by withdrawing himself emotionally and sexually. In both relationships the message was the same but the tools of accomplishing the devastation of my self-esteem were different!
It was the message I was familiar with, my zone of comfort and I remembered so well the beatings my father gave me as a child, the names he called me when I failed to quickly understand a math question. I was definitely, as my father said over and over again, an “Idiot!” Of course if my own father thought I was not good enough why would any man think differently? That was the message I knew, the only one and subconsciously I sought to hear it over and over again coming in different packaging!
Yes, now I knew, the “star” movie I played over and over in my head was, I wasn’t good enough and worse, I sought confirmation of it with all my might, because it was so familiar and the fear of something I didn’t know paralyzed me, even if perhaps that was what I needed!
Oh, I was eager to tell my therapist of my crucial discovery, but on second thought… now what?
The road to self-discovery was going through a thick forest with too many paths going nowhere, too many dead-ends, too many hopes ending in disappointments. Definitely, reaching too many fake peaks to only look up and discover you were still at the bottom of the mountain, the beginning of the journey, and the real peak was somewhere hidden in the clouds. I could not even imagine it!