“I don’t understand why life is so hard for me. It seems to me that I have suffered enough. My mother tried to help me but was weak and my father was worthless. Growing up, everything was a struggle. At home, it was like a living in an empty desert; at school, I couldn’t concentrate on my classes because I was so anxious. I didn’t have any friends because it was not safe to take them home. I never knew what would be happening. It isn’t fair that life is still so hard.”
Be honest with yourself for a moment: does any piece of that paragraph sound familiar? Is there something in there you've said to yourself, even if you've never verbalized it aloud? If so, you're far from alone. Life is difficult and we all have experienced limited parents, who at times did not meet our needs and caused us to suffer in one way or another.
We all think that we have been cheated by “nature” because of our limitations. Often, this is an unconscious belief that comes out in ways we are not aware. We find this expressed when siblings ask why their brother or sister is more successful or happier than they are. Jealousy is an expression of the belief that we have been slighted, when we ask “Why does someone have more than I do?”
Life Is Not Fair
This is when we have to pause and acknowledge that life is not fair. If it were, all children would be given what they need. Their needs would be met in an adequate and timely manner. They would learn that life is trustworthy and that waiting, working, and struggling are all parts of a normal life. Hardships come and go for everyone, and it is not a personal affront when you don't get everything you want.
The problem is that we believe we are entitled to reparation for the all the slights and early wounds to our sense of self and self esteem. You may know this feeling as “entitlement”.
This is especially strong in people who have been abuse and/or neglected. They believe they have suffered enough and they are now the exception, that they should not suffer any more in life. This can be seen in many religious people who think God watches over them and protects them from harm, misfortune and suffering, rather than seeing God as a source of strength and comfort.
How it Plays Out
In life, this sense of entitlement plays out in disrespect for authority, inability to meet friends and partners half way, or the belief that anyone who disappoints them is not worth of being a friend. In therapy, it plays out as a resistance to giving up defenses or habitual ways of living that give momentary pleasure in order to create long term change. They refuse to see the truth about entitlement and the impact it has on life. They believe that they do not have to do the hard work necessary to change. May times, this entitlement is hidden under, “I can’t” when in actuality, the correct phrase is, “I won’t”.
Words, knowledge and education will not lead anyone to change. The agents for change are relationships and love. Freud states that love is the great educator. It is by love of those nearest to us that we can move from entitlement to the acceptance of reality. It is as we learn to love ourselves and others that we can heals the wounds inside and move to a life of giving and receiving.
Are you feeling badly about yourself and your life? Does it feel like the deck is stacked against you? Therapy changes lives through having a relationship of mutual care and concern. Call me I can help (919)881-2001.