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
* * *
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!
11/23/2013 02:52:18 pm
Off the subject a bit so that I shall make a compliment. Your letter was excellently written and very intelligently so. You might consider occupations where you also write or are primarily writing. Much like Papabear is a good writer.
11/24/2013 01:07:29 am
Hey, BruinDad, I would agree with you! I get a lot of letters, and many of them I edit to correct spelling and grammar. Not this one! Hyena is indeed a very good writer.
11/26/2013 06:57:13 am
Thank you both for your kind words. Having my writing skills complimented means quite a lot to me, especially given that English is not actually my native tongue. It's one of the few skills and talents that, even in the midst of one of my emotional crises, I (however begrudgingly) can accept I possess as an objective fact. Although I'm not entirely sure how should I go about starting a career that focuses mostly on writing, I have played with the idea occasionally, and certainly wouldn't mind pursuing this line of opportunities further, if possible. It is always encouraging to hear I may have what it takes to do just that.
11/23/2013 08:12:32 pm
I can, at least a bit, relate to that.
11/24/2013 01:09:18 am
Excellent idea! Find a good hobby to relieve some of your stress (larping?) One thing that really helps a lot is physical activities--jogging, basketball, martial arts--these can really help calm you down. I find that just going to the gym and lifting weights has really improved my mood.
11/24/2013 05:10:50 am
LARP-ing as in, partaking into LARPs (Live Action Role Play) It's basically roleplaying, but in costume, and usually with a lot of other people. It usually take place during two or three consecutive days, but it needs a lot of preparation beforehand, usually ranging from six months to one year, for each player have to provide his character's backstory and create (if he doesn't have one already) his own costume. If the goal is the game in itself, it generate a lot of side activities before that, manual and intellectual. It also can be a good idea to partake in such an event with a few friends.
11/26/2013 07:17:19 am
It may be worth a try. While I've never really taken part in (or felt much attraction to) physical sports, last month I went on my first hiking trip in probably half a decade or so. It was a relatively short one; my mate, two fellow furs and I had a leisurely walk in a forest near the edge of the city where we live, chatted, and picked mushrooms (one of the furs accompanying us is a biologist). Although it was a short trip, it was still lovely and very relaxing; the natural environment had a rather strong calming effect on me. Also, my most regularly practiced hobby right now is Japanese calligraphy, which I've been doing for almost 4 years, and I find that it too can be quite relaxing, and a good outlet for stress sometimes (though practicing calligraphy requires a calm state of mind to start with, so it doesn't always help alleviate existing stress).
11/26/2013 07:45:27 am
Great, Takeshi! That reminds me of something else you might enjoy and that might help: tai chi. Have you tried it?
Hi Hyena, thank you for your post it is very insightful. I am writing to you as I have recently received an irrational outburst whereby a friend said I thought certain things about him, which was not true, he used the very words he would say about himself. It concluded with him saying that he doesn't want to see or speak to me again. I understand the reasons for his frustrations, but was wondering if he would ever apologise and own up to his actions or is this completely self serving?
3/29/2014 12:14:07 am
Hello! Unfortunately, I couldn't tell you for sure, as the situation may vary from person to person; however, I can tell you most people who get these feelings are as baffled by them as everyone around them; I know I always am in retrospect, whenever they happen. These are obviously irrational feelings stemming from some sort of psychological problem, but alas, that knowledge rarely seems to help repel them. These feelings also tend to be very strong and convincig, despite their illogical and often baseless nature. It took me the best part of 3 years to even recognise and admit I had a problem and start trying to deal with it. We don't mean to be hurtful, and I'm sure your friend will regret what he said in hindsight, and might eventually look to restore your friendship. If so, I suggest trying to be as open and patient with them as possible; it can get very hard sometimes, as the process of improving this condition and trying to understand and control these problematic thoughts is a very long and difficult one. I can be thankful I have a very caring and patient mate; I'm really not sure I could do it without her.
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