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Personality flaw - any thoughts?


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#1 someoneelse

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 10:03 PM

Hello everyone,
I have been realizing something about some behavior of mine and wondered if any of you might have any ideas about it. Any and all thoughts are welcome!

If I meet a new person, particularly if I like that person then I find myself really trying to relate to them but have difficulty (I'll give an example below). It's hard for me to figure out exactly what this is all about partially I think it's because my husband doesn't let me have friends or anything so I don't have a lot of data to go on except that I do notice a definite trend. I dont have this problem with my husbands daughter, the only person i communicate with other than him on a regular basis. I have conversations with her very easily and am able to draw her out talking about her interests. With her I focus on her, since she is a child I know she isn't interested in me and besides its not appropriate to treat a child like she's my best friend. But with adults it's different (I'm not saying i try to treat them like they are my best friend) and I'm really worried that it might mean that I'm self absorbed. But I'm also suspicious of that besause that is what 'HE who must be obeyed' has rammed down my throat for the past eight years.

So here's a very recent example:

I began physical therapy and right away upon meeting the therapist I felt like we really clicked and as the session was going along she was asking me questions about myself, you know like people normally do who are getting to know each other. I asked her questions about herself too but I often felt like I was drawing a blank, like I wanted to come up with questions to ask her about herself and I knew there was potential there for continuing the conversation but it's like I just draw a blank. I can't seem to come up with anything. Then later when I'm not in the situation anymore all sorts of things start occurring to me that I could have asked or said and I feel like I really wouldn't blame her (or whoever it happens to be) for thinkng that I was self absorbed. I want to come up with something, I feel interested in that person but it's like I'm a deer caught in the headlights.

I don't think that I have any problems putting myself into other peoples shoes or in trying to understand differing views or opinions than my own.

If its not self absorption then I'm thinking it's a codependency thing. Like maybe I'm stuck in these conversations due to fear or something.

Any ideas about this? All ideas and thoughts most gratefully welcomed!

#2 thebewilderness

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 11:06 PM

Are asking questions a problem in your relationship? If you ask a question does it start a fight or get an inappropriate response?
I have the same problem you are talking about, and I used to think it was because I am an introvert and I would consider it rude to pry.
After sorting out some of my issues I realized that in my family questions were considered a tactical tool to open hostilities. They could ask me anything but I was a big meany and in deep trouble if I asked a question.
I'm still not very good at small talk, but at least I no longer draw a blank when it is my turn to dance the steps in social interactions.

#3 DawnC

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 11:30 PM

So, to make sure I understand...you're wondering if your not asking questions about the other person's life and interests, or not being able to come up with (in the moment) conversational tactics to draw them out...means you are self-absorbed?

Did making conversation come easily to you BEFORE you were in this 8 year relationship? Many people have to work at making conversation...but a person might particularly have trouble if they are conditioned to expect criticism, argument, or put-downs from the other person because of their experiences with their spouse or partner. If we are trained to believe we are socially awkward, it might take more practice to overcome than if we have always had rewarding experiences in our interactions with others.

If this concerns you, one thing I've started doing is reviewing my previous conversations with people or my disappointing performances or conversations and after I've reviewed, I start imagining a much better interaction NEXT time. I "practice" how I'd like to talk and act with that person next time. Would I be friendlier? Would I encourage them to talk more? Would I reveal fewer details about my personal life? Mentally rehearsing a better outcome doesn't mean my next interaction with that person is insincere at all or too practiced. I think preparing mentally IS sincere...and a compliment to how important I believe that person is...that I make a conscious effort to improve my relationship with them in this way. Many public speaking coaches talk about rehearsing how you'd LIKE for your presentation or speech to go. That's kind of what I am trying to do, to give myself confidence that the next interaction I have with this or that person will be less stressful and more positive.

I haven't worked for many years, so it has been a challenge to return to work and navigate the social realm of "visitors" and "colleagues" and "bosses" who come and go all day. I've made a few faux pas without meaning to, so I've had lots of opportunities to wish for "do overs". The thing is, someoneelse, you're projecting what you think the other person might believe about you, but is it true? Is it even likely? Chances are, they thought you were perfectly nice and proved it by chatting away with you. More practice will provide you with more opportunities to draw other people out in conversation...but keep in mind that the physical therapist might PREFER to talk mostly about you rather than share many personal details about herself upon first meeting.

Don't beat yourself up. The more pressure you put on yourself, the more likely you are to have performance anxiety and freeze up. You're doing fine! Put the ugly critic on your shoulder back in your pocket (you know, the critic that looks and sounds just like He Who Must Be Obeyed)...and put a happy encouraging voice on your shoulder to whisper happy words like "you can do it" and "smile!" into your ear. Relax. Be yourself...because yourself is probably JUST FINE in conversation...

#4 someoneelse

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 06:28 AM

Thanks!

I know my family was really dysfunctional but I think I've pretty much blanked out most memories about my childhood. I'm 29 and don't remember very much at all. It's very possible that it stems back to that. In terms of before my marriage, I can't even remember much about myself from that time either. Something's really happened to my memory.

DawnC,
Thanks for sharing your own experience with feeling akward in conversations. I really thought I must be the only person who has this sort of problem, interacting just seems to come so easy for everyone.

Your advice makes perfect sense. I have read about people role playing in therapy to gain some experience in interaction that way. It makes perfect sense to practice a conversation in private. And I know your right about about the performance anxiety and the ugly critic. After reading your post and thebewilderness' post I think I have become really afraid about being a bad person because of him constantly making me out to be a monster.

I'll try to just relax and let things come naturally.


Thanks!

#5 someoneelse

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 06:39 AM

The point you made about projection was a really good one too. There is no way for me to know what anyone else thinks unless they actually tell me.

#6 myohmy

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 06:12 PM

Maybe you are looking too deep into it. Some people just aren't good at small talk. I myself hate it and avoid it where possible.

#7 DawnC

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 06:28 PM

Also, an abusive person telling his partner she is self-absorbed is possibly abuser-speak for "not paying complete attention to meeeeee!" I swear some abusive people are frozen in time to when mommy getting on the telephone was a signal to act like an idiot, punch little sister, or burn the house down, because her putting her attention elsewhere is unacceptable.

So our going to work or having a hobby or children = neglecting THEM and ignoring THEIR needs...which is totally NOT true. In Abuserland, THEIR needs, opinions, whims, etc matter...and yours, quite frankly, do not. The mere fact that you're a living human being and not a Teddy makes you "self-absorbed". Teddy, after all, is only concerned with All Things Abuser.

So, no, I seriously doubt you have a personality disorder or are flawed in the way he says you are. Other evidence? The fact that you wondered this in the first place. A truly self-absorbed person would probably not take the trouble to wonder...

#8 someoneelse

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 08:01 PM

DawnC,
Yes, you said it! Since I have been coming to the realization that our relationship is abusive I have been spending every moment I can he isn't around reading about abusive relationships and thinking, I have been doing so much thinkng about it all. I'm probably working to hard at trying to figure things out, figure me out but no one else will do this for me and I'm shocked and appalled that I attracted this and let it happen! Anyway, since all this started for me HE has told me several times that I've been really self obsessed lately. I actually saw this for what it was! I was so proud of myself that I can actually see what is going on now! I felt like, Yippee, I CAN do this!
Anyway, all that was just to say that yes, you are so right about the Teddy thing!

I see your point that a true self absorbed person wouldn't stop to wonder, wouldn't care to wonder. Maybe myohmy is right, maybe I'm reading into it way too much? On the other hand I was just reading this page on Dr. Irene's website (http://www.drirene.com/codepend1.php) about codependency. Here are some things that stood out to me that seem like they could relate to this issue (14, and 15 seem to me to be what's really going on here but I see the others in me too).

4. Pick on themselves for everything, including the way they think, feel, look, act, and behave.
15. Tell themselves they can't do anything right.
16. Be afraid of making mistakes.
1. Feel terribly anxious about problems and people.
2. Worry about the silliest things.
15. Worry whether other people love or like them.
17. Try to say what they think will please people.


#9 Caitlin

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 12:05 AM

I can be a bit socially awkward naturally, too. Sometimes I forget or don't think of things to ask the other person about themselves, especially if I am nervous. I have had times where I left an interaction and thought, "Darn, I should have asked that person more about themselves" and I try to do better next time. Like others ahve said, not everyone is great at small talk and thinking of things to say can be really nerve-wracking.

You have lost your identity inside this relationship, as you are well aware. You will have some work to do in order to recall who you once were and who you feel you are now, once you leave. All you know about yourself now is what he tells you about yourself. I think it says a lot about you as a person that you are concerned with being self-absorbed and want to do better in social situations. That sincere concern shows you are not self-absorbed. Maybe a bit nervous :)

#10 someoneelse

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 01:57 PM

Thanks Caitlin! :D

It's nice to know others sometimes have this sort of thing happen to them too. All this time I just thought everyone else was so good at communication except for me. I'm learning now! It feels good even if I am nervous. :)

Sorry about all the happy faces... I'm just feeling good today. Haven't been around him very much today and then theres all of you guys saying such nice things.. so heres another one :)

Edited by someoneelse, 02 July 2012 - 01:59 PM.





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