Jason, was obviously concerned and anxious. So much so that his voice trembled when he said, “Dr. Ed, I think I’m a little crazy, but I don’t know what to do about it. It affects every aspect of my life. It’s with me almost all the time. Even when I think I’ve got my craziness in time-out, it’s still there, waiting to jump out at any opportunity and cause me stress.”
“Can you can explain it to me a little more specifically?”, I asked.
“It’s like this. When there’s nobody around, I can’t tell how important I am. I can be lying in bed after Linda and I have had a fight, and she can snuggle up close to me, put her head on my chest and her arm around me, and a voice inside says, ‘She’s only doing this because she doesn’t want me mad at her’, or “She’s trying to say she’s sorry and that she loves you, but don’t believe it.’ At the same time, my head knows better. It’s odd, but if someone told me that their wife nuzzled up to them, kissed them on the shoulder and put her arm around them, I’d say she definitely loved him. But, when it comes to me, I can’t believe or accept it. Even worse, sometimes I want to stay angry. I want to push her away, or act indifferent. The only time I really know she loves me is when she has a choice between going out with a friend or going with me to a baseball game and she chooses me, because I know she hates baseball. Inside, I can accept that she loves me. But, if she says, “I love you a bunch, but the gals are getting together tonight, so why don’t you get a friend to use the other baseball ticket?’, I’m positive she doesn’t care. What is wrong with me? I think I’m really a little crazy.”
My answer: “If you are, then you’ve got a disease that almost everyone else probably shares with you. The only difference is, most individuals wouldn’t question themselves about their behavior. Your awareness of the duplicity involved doesn’t say you’re crazy, it indicates that you’re an insightful, sensitive human being, who I perceive as honestly introspective. Additionally, I believe the scenario you described goes on, in varying degrees, with almost every one of us. For example:
A husband comes home and his wife says, ‘You know, I am absolutely exhausted. I’ve had a hectic day. Everything at my job went terrible and after I got home, I couldn’t begin to think about what to make for dinner. Why don’t we go out for Chinese food?’ His immediate response is, “Good minds must work in the same way, because, all day long I’ve been thinking I’d love to have some Chinese food. I’m all for it.’ Now, let’s ask her, ‘Does that mean he loves you?’ Do you know what her answer is likely to be? “Yeah, he loves me, but it has nothing to do with Chinese food. He wanted it, too, so we wound up going after what we both wanted.’
Scenario two. The husband comes home to the same conversation and his response is, ‘Honey, you know I really don’t like Chinese food, so I’d be glad to go out with you, but not for Chinese.’ Does he love her? It’s hard to say. Her thoughts might be, ‘He may love me, but not enough to cause himself any discomfort or to indulge me my craving.’
Scenario three. This time, the husband says, ‘Hon, you know I dislike Chinese food, but if that’s what you want, let’s go get it. I’m sure I can find something there that will suit me.’ Ask her now, ‘Does he love you?’ ‘Without a doubt.’ Anyone that’s willing to recognize your desires and, despite their own feelings, is willing to sacrifice in order to please you, loves you a great deal. In fact, the equation might be, The degree to which someone else is willing to experience discomfort, or to sacrifice their own position desires or wishes to accommodate you, is equal to the degree to which they care or love you.
For most people, this generally appears to be the case, pragmatically. But, when you think about it a bit, over time the price for proving your love might come to be seen as too expensive. One incident might be an example of your love. Conversely, a constant pattern of prostituting your own identity in order to convince a partner, friend or family member of your devotion might constitute a sickness. Which brings you to another equation: The degree to which an individual feels insecure regarding their own sense of worth or lovability, is equal to the degree of sacrifice, and discomfort he/she is willing to experience in order to satisfy their partner’s excessive need for emotional reassurance. Most of you would probably say “I wouldn’t be part of that equation.” To which I’d ask, “Have you ever had someone say ‘I love you’ and responded with ‘Why?’ if so, wasn’t that response indicative of your inability to accept, believe or trust you’re loved unless you have additional reassurance or evidence, such as their willingness to sacrifice and/or prostitute themselves to satisfy your insecurity. In these examples that means they have to specify, out loud, all your virtues and attributes in order to make you feel good. Basically, there isn’t anything terribly wrong about it, but it certainly serves as a testimony to your neediness. That’s not withstanding the fact that they’re filling the need because of their own diminished sense of appreciation for self. All of which not only suggests that you always marry someone emotionally similar to yourself, but also says you are a part of that equation.”
I truly wish I could say that these axioms only come into play in rare instances, but I see people on a daily basis who are similar to you and me, who are willing to pay that price, or exact that toll from the individual they love. Thus, if the truth be known, all of us are a little crazy. However, you need to remember that several instances only constitute a neurosis. Numerous occurrences may suggest pathology. Nevertheless, if ever you are going to be able to experience healthy, loving relationships with your spouse, parents, children, family and friends, you first need to develop a sufficient sense of self-value and self-esteem that neither you nor your partner need require someone to suffer or sacrifice in order for either of you to be willing to prostitute yourself to obtain love.