The Myth of the Savior Complex

I’ve been thinking a lot since I went to the therapist the last time.  She’s been challenging me to express my emotions, rather than intellectualizing them.  And she’s particularly pushing on why I am blaming myself for my marriage.

I do understand I can’t change the past, that it simply exists as is.  All I can really do is make better choices in the future.

And, like so many people who haven’t been abused or scapegoated or gas-lighted, she’s having trouble wrapping her head around two things:

  1. Why I chose my ex-husband in the first place
  2. Why I was willing to stay with him for over 20 years.

I had a very quick answer for the first.  He needed me, and I needed desperately to be needed.  When your self-worth is wrapped up in the idea of what you can do for other people, it becomes very easy to confuse need for passion, particularly if you’ve run away from passion for most of your life.  And sadly, that’s what my particular form of the savior complex looks like (although, it’s codependency + a superiority complex + an inferiority complex if I’m going to be completely blunt).

Some of those deeper emotions are chaotic, mind-blowing, and include a lack of control that can be terrifying for someone who has been raised to be aware of and in control of how you express your emotions.  Creating that mask of emotionlessness was far easier than to actually deal with the emotions.

Part of the problem comes down to my issues of trust.  In order to allow yourself to lose that emotional control, you have to trust that the person you’re with is trustworthy.  And for most of my life, I was the only person that I could rely upon 100% of the time.

Oh, I have friends I trust.  But there’s a line, a limit to where that trust is fully expected to stop.  There’s still that sense of individuality.  The deeper levels of love and intimacy only really happen when you’re in a romantic relationship.  It’s very easy to lose yourself in a romantic relationship because of how emotionally intimate it can become.

There are really only three men in my life that I have allowed myself to be that emotionally intimate with.  One was/is a person I’ve been able to trust damned near since the moment we met.  There was, and still is at least for me, an instant intimacy.  We shared a lot of our own inner selves with each other.  And if you think that isn’t terrifying to someone with control issues, you had better get your head examined.  We’ve never dated, but that tie is still there.  And I do love him still, and he knows it – and I’m OK knowing that we won’t likely ever date.

Then there was my first real boyfriend after I married my ex.  That trust was much harder.  And a lot of it came from him proving that he was strong enough to hold me if I fell apart.  He was really the first one with whom I was able to completely rely on and need another person.  He was also the first person I ever allowed myself to become submissive to.  I’m a very dominant personality, it’s hard for me to be submissive in any way.  But submissive, in a BDSM context, is actually the one still in control of the situation.  The sub can always say, “no, stop” because it is only by the active consent of the submissive can the dominant do anything.  But in order to allow myself to be in that position, the person I’m with MUST prove themselves capable of being trusted with that power and control – and that is NOT an easy thing to prove.  For example, even in the depths of my abuse, I could NEVER allow myself to be a submissive to my ex, because I could NEVER trust him with that power.  And his abuse of me was not a matter of my consent – it was power stolen, not power freely given.

Sadly, that relationship ended because I wasn’t ready to hear the truth about my ex.  I wasn’t ready to quit defending my ex from any negative attention.  I wasn’t willing to stop excusing my ex’s choices.  I have apologized for ending the relationship so abruptly.  I still love him, but there are some issues that still stand between me and possibly rejoining that relationship.

And then there’s my current boyfriend.  Yes, there are times I’m submissive to him as well.  But, there’s so much more to the relationship than that.  He’s someone I’ve finally been able to entirely lose myself in my passion for him, and as far as I know, he’s been able to do that with me as well.  There’s more to our relationship than just the warm fuzzies of love that was all I ever felt with my ex-husband.  There’s a bone deep understanding that if I need to fall apart, he will always be there to gather up the pieces.  That if I fly high, he’ll happily watch me soar.  There’s so many things that I can’t even describe.

It’s still chaotic, still out of control.  But it’s no longer terrifying, it’s comforting.

Categories: Mental Retraining | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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