Intellectualism as a Defense Mechanism

My new therapist pointed out that I use intellectualism to avoid feeling and existing within my emotions.  And did it in such a way that she was able to refocus me on the emotion rather than on the logic.  Yes, I’m back in therapy, because frankly, I have a lot of shit to go through, and there’s only so far I can go by myself, because part of healing is facing those issues about yourself that your own mind wants to gloss over or lie to you about. And if I’m perfectly honest, there’s a lot of shit I hide from myself or lie to myself about or refuse to believe about myself.

My previous therapist repeatedly asked me why I choose men who are in some way emotionally unavailable.  It came up particularly when we discussed the long distance relationship I had at the time with a gentleman in Milwaukee.  It came up before that, particularly in relationship to my father and my husband (I was still married to him at the time), but it was particularly a subject of discussion when I had that long distance relationship.

It’s obvious, at least to me, why I have repeatedly chosen emotionally unavailable men.  My role model for a man in my life was my father – a man who has particularly been uncomfortable dealing with the emotional aspects of life.  This is the man who taught me to retreat into intellectualism, because during my teen years (you know, those years when hormones are running rampant, and EVERYTHING is an emotional crisis) he would refuse to speak to me about emotional issues unless I was rational as possible.

I doubt I was ready with my earlier therapist to confront the fact that the reason I find it easy to have relationships with “emotionally unavailable men” is because I too, in a lot of ways, am an emotionally unavailable person.

I have been repeatedly called cold, unfeeling, robotic.  I haven’t liked being embarrassed (though, I have learned to take it in stride).  I don’t like being vulnerable, weak, or needy. I have a deeply innate need to be seen as strong, even at times unassailable.  Even as a child, I have been more likely to push away help than to accept it.  I have always seemed overly focused on doing things “my way.”

I’ve always insisted that one needs to step back from emotion when making a decision, that a truly good decision can only be made from a position of objectivity.

And while I still believe that objectivity is a necessary aspect of life, I can see – thanks to the new therapist – that sometimes that seeming objectivity is simply refusing to deal with the chaos of emotion.  Hell, I should have learned that lesson a while ago, when I realized I had to break down those barriers imprisoning me into the “Ice Queen” persona.  I had created those barriers, those walls, to protect myself from the chaos of love and rejection.

While I have needed to learn the lesson that rejection isn’t really about me, but about the other person – there is still that part I’m finally seeing where it is a matter of rejecting them before they can reject me.

I have to admit, I don’t think I would have ever been ready to see this if I hadn’t gotten into the relationship with my current boyfriend, or if I hadn’t had that long distance relationship earlier.  Both of those men have really been the only ones in my life who have pushed those limits, those barriers I’ve put up around myself.  I ended that previous relationship (the long distance one) because I wasn’t ready to see many of the things he was pointing out to me.  I have since apologized to him for it.

But my current boyfriend is pretty much just as stubborn as I am, and has the persistence to keep pushing.  He knows when to hold back or to not push so much, just as much as he knows when I need that extra push.  He never gives up on me.  I need those times when he holds up a mirror to my psyche, showing me exactly what I’m doing.  He never forces any particular solution on me, but does figuratively stand there with his hand held out no matter what solution I eventually choose.  He’s a steadfast support, even when I try to be overly independent.

It’s truly those two men who have shown me that needing someone isn’t being weak.  They both showed me that I can be vulnerable to someone, and not be destroyed by that person.

That’s the crux of the matter.

My trust issues, at their base, come down to being – from my point of view – punished for being vulnerable.  And that’s not any one person’s fault in my life. It’s a combination of so many damned things.  It’s the harsh authoritarianism of my father, it’s the plethora of men who repeatedly assaulted and attempted to take advantage of me just for being a woman, it’s the boyfriends who used me, it’s the ex-husband who attacked any vulnerability I showed him, and it’s every female role model in society (whether good ones or ones who showed me who NOT to be) that taught me I needed to be invincible in order to live. And it is also my own fault.  Our perspective is the only real basis of our decisions, and my underlying perspective has been far too long that of the victim/survivor.

I don’t know where I’m going to take this.  I don’t know what changes are going to happen. But I know I can’t continue to live this way.

Categories: Mental Retraining | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Intellectualism as a Defense Mechanism

  1. I also have the problem attracting emotionally unavailable men. This is a pattern but I dont know what to do about it.

    • From personal experience, I would say that you need to open your options up a bit. Look at some of the men who may be attracted to you, but are less able to step up and say something. Often, it becomes obvious to others that we are attracted to someone who can’t or won’t be emotionally open to us, and they realize they have little chance because of your unwillingness to see different kinds of men.

      If there is the addition of being attracted to the “bad boy,” try looking for the “nice guy” instead.

      And focus on your OWN ability to communicate your needs, and your boundaries. Emotionally unavailable people don’t always care about your boundaries – so working on making those clear and strong should help you attract a better quality of person.

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