Over the past few years, I have come to realize that I have a deeply entrenched fear of abandonment, and this has lead me to adopt certain “anti-intimacy” behavior patterns, purely as a coping mechanism.
These tendencies have formed as a result of this persistent, somewhat irrational trepidation I have that highly-esteemed people in my life will suddenly leave me, get over me, disregard me, stop caring about me or just forget about me. On top of this, there is the anxiety of feeling unworthy, the pressure of always needing to be perfect, never make mistakes, and ensure I keep everyone around me pleased and happy, even if it comes at the cost of my own personal well-being.
I believe that one of the main contributing factors to these complexes of mine - aside from my own genetic predispositions - is that in late 2006, when I was 14 years old, my dad, for a number of reasons, had to return to Tanzania - his home country - while the rest of the family remained in Swaziland, the country we had been based in for 16 years at the time. Yes, my dad, the father figure that I looked up to, the person I loved, adored, and idolized, departed from my life. The most prized relationship of a teenage boy’s entire existence. One day he was there - the next day he was gone.
From that moment onwards - for the next 9 years leading up to his untimely passing in December 2015 - our relationship was reduced to brief sporadic phone calls, occasional text messages, and just 2 short visits that I made to Tanzania, in December 2008 and July 2015.
I know he didn’t wake up one day and say “yes, today I shall abandon my young, fragile son and riddle him with emotional trauma for years to come”. It's obviously a lot more complicated than that. Too complicated for me to ever completely comprehend. And I have since accepted that I might never fully understand the why behind it all.
However, I don't think the intentions should be the focus. Sure, understanding the intentions behind any action is important, but a lot of the long-term emotional damage is caused by the overall outcome itself, regardless of the reasoning and rationale behind it. And in my mind, the naive, subconscious interpretation of the outcome of this particular situation was: I loved my dad and my dad left me.
Naturally, this situation fucked me up emotionally. I still struggle with intimacy to this very day and I’m convinced that a part of my psyche - in an attempt at self-preservation - has been blocked off from feeling certain levels of emotion and attachment because both my heart and mind have closely associated rejection, pain, confusion and anger with love, dependency and vulnerability. And it clearly goes without saying that a number of my relationships and social interactions have been impacted by this situation one way or the other, that’s a fact.
Despite the deep-seated trauma this may have caused, what I have since learned, thanks to the understanding and experience that comes with existing on planet Earth for almost 3 decades, is that: sometimes in life, we get caught up in the cross-fire of battles that have nothing to do with us. It's often battles that people are having with themselves. And if we misinterpret situations or view things from too narrow a perspective, the damage we sustain can negatively affect us for the rest of our life.
If we want to free ourselves from this psychological prison, we need to understand that there are some things that we should not take personally or internalize, for our own benefit. We were hit with stray bullets. Yes, it might have directly affected us but it wasn’t a targeted attack directed at us and it shouldn't diminish our sense of self-worth. We need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, patch ourselves up and move forward.
Obviously, this is a lot easier said than done. And you can - depending on the narrative you have created and the story you have been repeating to yourself - gradually end up in an extremely deep, self-justified rabbit hole that you can’t easily dig your way out of.
But you don’t need to dig yourself out on your own, you don’t need to fight these mental battles alone, there’s therapy for that. Sometimes you just need an impartial, objective perspective to help you see things more clearly.
Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them - Albert Einstein
Life is suffering. Eventually, you will encounter situations that will have a negative impact on your life. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. But you shouldn’t automatically allow these situations to prevent you from living the rest of your life to it’s fullest.
You will get injured, you will feel pain, and you will get wounded. But you should try your best to ensure that you don’t allow the tragedies of your past relationships to negatively impact the potential of your future ones.
To do this, you need to heal, and in order to heal, you need to figure out what hurt you.
If you don’t heal what hurt you, you will bleed on people who didn’t cut you. - Unknown