Friday, March 2, 2018

The Case of the Self-Saboteur

She’s a great fan of Ask Polly. We might call her a pollyfanatic. As in polyphonic or pollyphony. Or else, we might say that she is pollyannish. It’s sad, I know, that anyone would conduct her life by following bad advice, but, alas, it’s the natural product of our over-therapied age.

She has a problem with her new relationship. It feels too good to be true. She is terrified that she will sabotage it… or some such thing. So, heart in hand,  she writes to Ask Polly.

Here is the letter:

Like so many of us out there, I have been reading your column for years. Your book changed my life so much so that I now give copies of it out to friends. I am a very big fan.

For the first time in a long time, I am in a good, healthy, happy relationship. My sparkly new boyfriend is remarkable. He treats me like I’m worth a million bucks. If I were watching a movie about our relationship, I would probably shout at the screen “This isn’t real!” because I’ve never experienced anything like it before. After a decade of unhappily dating in New York, I finally feel like I’ve met someone I could build a life with. I see a future with him. I want that future. I want him at my side, maybe for the long haul. He’s not perfect, we aren’t perfect, but he is the best I’ve ever had.

If all of that is true, then why is my brain trying to destroy it? I think things like “Yes this is amazing, but do I love him ENOUGH?” and “I haven’t had butterflies in two days, does that mean he isn’t it?” It’s almost as if I have been conditioned to expect the worst, to put up walls, to try to destroy something before it destroys me. Experience has taught me that men lie, men leave, and generally that men are bad. (“Men are bad” has been my mantra for years at a time.) I’ve spent my whole life looking for someone who values me as much as my beau does, and yet my brain is cycling through a long list of reasons to convince me otherwise. I’m happy, I’m scared. I don’t want to be hurt again (who does?).
All this to say, how can I put my best foot forward and keep myself from sabotaging … myself?

Oh, and yes, I am in therapy.

I will not share what Polly says because it’s a mix of psychobabble and pure bullshit. If Polly wants to embarrass herself, it's her prerogative. I refuse to compound the problem.

And yet, how is it possible to say anything about this letter. Like a good Polly reader this woman tells us nothing about herself, nothing about her circumstances, nothing about her paramour, nothing about anything that is relevant. She is a bundle of feelings and wishes and fears… an emotional basket case. She has learned from Polly to feel her feelings, but, so what. We know nothing about her real life, so we are obliged to conclude that her problem, such as it is, does not involve a fear of self-sabotage, but a fundamental disconnect from the reality of her life and her relationship. If you live in a world of emotional goo, you are likely to drown in said emotional goo.

I would add two final points. If this woman thinks there’s a problem, then in all likelihood, there is a problem. A man comes along who is smart enough to let her feel like she is living a dream. This might mean that he is a master seducer and that she is being taken for a ride. I suspect that there is something wrong, but we do not have enough information to say what it is.

Second, the real problem lies in the last line. She’s in therapy. She thinks like a therapy patient. As we know, a good therapist has one single treatment goal—to extend treatment as long as possible. To achieve this goal said therapist must persuade his or her patient that she has a problem. And that she will never find true blooming happiness until she solves her problem by competing her endless therapy.

In fact, the letter writer's problem, besides being gulled by Ask Polly, is that she is in therapy. I recommend that she stop therapy and stop reading Ask Polly. It might not solve her problem, but at least it will get her out of her mind and back into her life. Until then we have very little to say.

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

Sometimes you just have to take that leap of faith...or walk away saying nope, huh uh, no way, just can't do it.