As I began to love myself, I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is Love of Oneself.
― Charlie Chaplin
When I summed up the events that had led me to breaking up with him and explained her how surprised I was about my positive reaction to those events in the following days, my therapist reflected “We can say that he served as a good training ground”. It sounded a bit cynical to me at first blush, but she was right. I had thought I was still too fragile to start that relationship and that I would have crumbled under the weight of its failure, instead I had just managed to bear it all and I was feeling good. Yes, she was right: I had just had a successful training.
Furthermore, I was finally reacting in a healthy way to the events happening to me, she made me notice. “What are your feelings towards him now?” she asked. I was disappointed in him, I was aware about the fact that he – exactly like me – was fighting against his own monsters and therefore he had his own reasons for behaving like a selfish bastard. I could imagine he had his reasons, but I was angry at him nevertheless. “I just can’t figure out whether I’m having protective feelings for him, or I am just crazily mad at him.”
“I think we should reconsider the value of anger here” she reassured me. “Despite what we are often taught as children, anger is not always a completely negative feeling. Anger can give us some meaningful input. It is the feeling that makes us understand what’s hurting us and that therefore protects us from what is impairing our well-being.” She was right again; my being mad at him, my decision to break up with him, they were finally healthy reactions of both my body and my mind towards something that wasn’t good for me any longer.
“Anything else that happened in these last two weeks?” my therapist asked.
“I think I’ve been busy doing both my analysis and his analysis.” She smiled, as I explained myself: “I have been feeling better in this last period, so I spent some of my time, not only trying to understand my actions, reactions, thoughts and feelings, but since I broke up with him, I’ve been also spending time trying to figure out something more about his mind and how it works.”
And that’s when I realized how most of his life had been characterized by a continuous vocation to self-sabotage, way before our relationship. He had been destroying every chance, every opportunity to feel good, to be happy for all his life. His self-destructive attitude unfolded in front of my eyes as I examined his behaviour throughout our friendship and relationship. Something in his guts invariably made him ruin anything he touched, exactly like a darker and even unluckier version of King Midas. I was just the most recent occurrence of his recurrent pattern.
Probably there wasn’t even anything personal in his behaviour towards me; I wasn’t the first one to be treated like that, I wasn’t going to be the last one either. Still, I got pissed off every time I even thought of it.
As a further and conclusive proof of his total absence of self-consciousness, I recalled the most recent considerations he had spit out about people we knew, without even realizing he was simply projecting his own worst flaws into his friends and acquaintances, with the only aim to find an excuse to get mad at them and therefore to feel miserable again.
“T. has never concluded anything in his life and he never will”, not realizing that he’s the one who enrolled university twice without ever passing a single exam; still doesn’t own a home, a car, or a functioning telephone; dreams of becoming a writer but has never completed a single story; dreams of visiting NYC and still doesn’t have a passport; keeps collecting failed relationships; has been planning thousands of projects in his 36 years, without being able to accomplish any of them.
“T. always says one thing then does another”, not realizing that he’s the one who changes mind at the speed of light and who’s well known for the inconsistency of his promises.
“A. is not mentally stable and she’s not reliable either”, when stability and reliability are very far from being his hallmarks.
“When you’re over 35 and still jump from one relationship to another, like C. does, then there must be something wrong in you”; he’s 36 and has lost count of the failed relationships he has collected so far.
“L. should grow a pair of balls and quit his marriage”, while he has never had the balls to quit one of his relationships, not even when he was being stalked by one of his girlfriends.
“E. and T. haven’t had sex for months, that’s a big problem for their relationship”, he said this to me when we were still together but hadn’t had sex in 4 weeks.
“P. should understand he’s too old to keep blaming on his parents for his own flaws”, needless to say, blaming his parents for his current misery is his favourite hobby.
“E. is pissing me off, he committed himself to this job and now he’s not keeping his promise. I can’t stand this kind of disrespectful behaviour”; he’s the one who keeps pushing himself into activities that he invariably fails to carry through.
But the part I prefer is the list of consideration he saved for me:
- “You are not ready for a real relationship”
- “You are stuck in your past”
- “You are not reliable at all; I would have a lot to say about your trustworthiness”
- “You are running away, the way you always do”
- “You can get along with people just temporarily”
- “You’re being negative and destructive, as usual”
- “You’re as unstable as a ping-pong ball”
Without any concern for reality or even for basic logics, he had been accusing everybody around himself of being the person he was. Instead of being like rain on other people’s coats as he thought, he was probably more like fire on other people’s skin: the closer he got, the deeper the burn.
Reflecting about this habit and his self-destructive ability, I had to acknowledge that, without a radical change, he was destined to a perpetual state of unhappiness. And the same fate was booked for anyone in his proximity.
Was I in the position of doing something to help? Not really. I had tried though. I had tried to talk to him about his constant need to ruin all the good stuff that crosses his path. All he could do was eluding the subject, walking away from me and lighting up a new cigarette. In the best case, he wasn’t ready to face his inner world yet. If self-consciousness really is a journey, he was still probably in his very early stages. He was still in the place in which he didn’t want to acknowledge that his own behaviour was causing most of his misery.
Was it my responsibility to guide him through this journey? No, it was not.
Did I have any instrument to really help him out? Not really, since he wasn’t even willing to listen to me.
Was I in the mood to struggle against his mental conundrums, since I was still recovering from my own anxiety and especially after his lame and disrespectful behaviour towards me? Not at all.
I concluded that I had done everything I could for him and for our relationship. For me, it was time for some healthy egoism or – even better – for some love of myself.
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