Although I feel somewhat awkward penning this little letter, I've got to the point where I really think I could benefit from an outside perspective. First off, allow me to give you a bit of personal background which I feel may be important. I'm currently 21 years old, just about to graduate university with a Japanese major, and looking for a job. Fairly standard stuff.
My problem, in a nutshell, lies in irrational emotional responses to certain rather specific triggers. This problem has been with me since at least the start of secondary school, although probably longer, before I learned to recognize it for what it is. The triggers I mentioned pretty much all seem to be connected to interpersonal relationships, how I relate to other people, and how I compare myself to them.
More specifically, the most serious issue seems to be placing myself on a sort of “intellectual ladder,” if you will. I harbor a chronic feeling that I am somehow of little value, or beneath others, so to speak. In other words, I feel that I lack special talents, skills, and intelligence. Moreover, I often get a creeping suspicion that other people view me the same way, even if it is completely irrational.
Now the trouble is, my relationships with other people often get off to a completely innocent and good start. However, eventually I start getting ideas that the other person actually sees very little in me, just barely tolerates me, or looks down on me. Of course, I don't think about this stuff constantly, but I still get the nagging feeling that I'm just not good enough, and I get hypersensitive to it. Now eventually the other person, completely accidentally and unintentionally, says something that somehow, even if it is completely illogical, seems to verify this belief, and that makes me explode at them, and get into pointless, hour-long arguments where I will twist well nigh every word being said like a demonic lawyer, to turn whatever the other person had to say into grave insults to my intellect, or unjust assertions of his/her superiority. The real nasty part here is that these feelings of inadequacy are most often triggered by the person in question trying to teach me something new, or tell me something I don't know; i.e., trying to help me, or give me something that they think will be of value and use to me. In other words, I end up attacking and hurting the ones closest to me, the ones who love me the most, and the ones I love and/or value the most in turn.
Even though I'm fully aware of this horrible deficiency on my part, that awareness doesn't seem to help much when it comes to quelling it; it's almost like an evil reflex, much like when the doctor hits your knee with that certain hammer; I know I shouldn't say and do these things, I know I will feel horribly guilty just a couple of minutes after saying them, there is some terrible, self-destructive part in me that would rather destroy a relationship than have its imaginary fears proven true.
I'm fairly new to the furry community; even though I've known much about it for quite a few years, I've only joined the community proper about a year ago. However, this one year has been a wonderful experience in many ways; I've found a community with like-minded people, where I really feel I belong, and I've learned a lot about myself; in fact, I'd say any improvements on my psychological problems I've achieved are thanks to my experience with the furry community, and certain philosophies that resonated with me within it. Only two years ago I couldn't have even admitted I had a problem at all; I wouldn't have accepted something in myself needs improvement. Ever since discovering my, shall we say, animal side, I've acquired a bit of a different perspective within myself, which made me more self-aware and therefore better equipped to deal with my problems. However, it still hasn't made them go away, and even though I feel I am improving, although slowly and with gritted teeth (I couldn't agree more that your worst enemy and greatest opponent can be yourself, or certain parts of yourself, at the least), these problems still show up quite often, and I still risk losing people I've come to feel close to, and I don't want that. Doubly so since more than like-minded individuals, I have found love in the furry community; I have been with my mate for almost half a year now, and I love her dearly. She means the world to me, but even so, I fear these problems could come between us. I want and try my best to change, both for her sake and mine, but it is doubtless the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Do you believe there is any useful insight you could give me on this matter?
Sincerely, a troubled hyena
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What you’re experiencing is quite common for people suffering from low self-esteem. What you are doing is repressing your feelings of hurt and anger because you feel your opinions don’t matter and that you are not a worthwhile person. You can repress these feelings over time, but eventually they have to come out, and they come out when something triggers your repressed anger. In your case, that occurs when you feel someone is trying to correct you or teach you something. Even though you are aware they are trying to help you, you are so hypersensitized to criticism that all the bottled-up anger comes exploding out of you in one ugly outburst. Unfortunately for the person near you, they get the full-force of that explosion.
There are two strategies you need to take to fix this problem: 1) build your self-esteem, and 2) learn how to control your outbursts.
Let’s work on #2 first because building self-esteem takes a lot of time and you probably want to work on controlling your outbursts ASAP. Here are some strategies to work on:
As for improving self-esteem, that’s something you’ll need to work on over time. There is really not enough room in this column to guide you in this. Depending on your budget and how you feel about such things, you could try hiring a counselor or, to begin, you might try doing some reading, such as Melanie Fennell’s Overcoming Low Self-Esteem. You can also try joining a support group. There are several listed in the MeetUp site at http://self-esteem.meetup.com/ and you can do some searching on the Internet for a group nearest to you.
Many people, including yours truly, suffer from depression and low self-esteem, and it’s not something you get over in a day; it is a lifetime struggle that you improve on slowly.
Good luck! Bear Hugs!
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