Note: this is a continuation of the story begun in Face Yourself First – Part 1. If you haven’d read that post yet, go do that before reading this one.
When I was young, I found my refuge in books. I read between the lines of Snow White, Cinderella and later Harlequin: I do not feel good enough, but ‘someday my Prince will come’. I will find ‘the one’, my ‘soulmate’. When I find ‘the one’, and that ‘one’ loves me, I will finally be loveable.
This equation, this attachment to getting something outside of self to make up for what we fear we are missing, is made in the emotional realm, in the basement. It may or may not match what we believe intellectually. If you had asked me 20 years ago when I was beginning my counselling career, I would clearly have told you that a person cannot find a sense of self-worth in a relationship, in achievements, or in anything outside of self. I knew that intellectually, but it took me much longer to make that knowledge felt in my basement. From my basement, my anxiety and fear drove my actions and decisions.
The first young man I fell in love with, at the age of 17, said to me very clearly: ‘Cathy’—I was Cathy then—‘I will not love you. I am going away to University next year, I have plans for my life, and I have no intention of getting into a relationship.’ From my basement, I made an unconscious, anxiety-based decision. I said, “I AM IN. You clearly see that I am not good enough. If I can get you to change your mind about me, and love me, then maybe I will be enough!” Needless to say, the story of my first relationship was not a happy one. I applied all of my clever strategies: I performed, I pleased, I adjusted, and I managed to make a miserable situation last until I turned 25.
I found the resolve to finally leave that relationship in part because I had a new ‘soulmate’ in my sights. In retrospect, I think I also left when he was finally starting to love me, legitimately, and that didn’t make sense in my basement! I met my first husband while studying Psychology at university. On the weekend of my 25th birthday, we took a personal growth workshop together. That workshop was a revelation to me: I knew, then, that facilitating that kind of workshop was what I wanted to do with my life.
Shortly afterward, my first husband said ‘you know Catherine,’—I became Catherine at that workshop—‘I don’t actually believe all that stuff they talked about in that workshop, particularly the spiritual stuff. I only went because I thought you were cute.’ From my basement, I made an anxiety-based decision. I said “I AM IN. You clearly see that I don’t belong, and if I can change your mind and get you on the same page with me, then maybe I will belong!” Needless to say, the story of my marriage was also a difficult one.
I met Duane in 1996. I was feeling alone in my marriage, in part because I had experienced what I would call a spiritual revelation during the birth of my daughter; due to our very different worldviews, I couldn’t talk and be understood my husband at a time in my life when I really needed to talk and be understood. I saw a lecture Duane gave, in which he discussed many of the principles that had inspired me in the workshop that had been a turning point in my life years earlier. I had a new ‘soulmate’ in my sights.
I fell in love with Duane while I was still married, which was a horrible, painful process. I didn’t lie or cheat, but falling in love with someone other my spouse was a betrayal of him and something I had not thought myself capable of, and so in a way it was a betrayal of myself as well. We separated in early 1998.
Six months later I moved in with Duane. We got into an argument, and Duane said, ‘you know Catherine, I don’t know if this relationship is working out.’ From my basement, I made an anxiety-based decision. I said “I AM IN. You clearly see that I am not good enough and don’t belong, and if I can change your mind then maybe I will finally have both!’. I kicked my overfunctioning strategies into high gear, and very quickly made myself necessary in as many aspects of his personal and professional life as I could work my way in to.
How did it all work out? Part 3 awaits you.
Catherine O’Kane is a Registered Clinical Counsellor, teacher, workshop facilitator and a gifted and entertaining public speaker with Clearmind International. She has a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, and has been a practicing therapist since 1992, helping people evolve out of personal pain into purpose. She firmly believes that what we put out in all our relationships has the power to ripple out and effect positive change in our families, communities and beyond.