The Crippling Power of the Mean Voice: Self-Sabotage and Flawed Logic

I’m in the kind of relationship that doesn’t really have any major conflict. My partner is supportive and kind, patient and understanding, and we operate on this “we’re a team” paradigm that permeates even our rare arguments. It’s essentially as close to the utopic relationship as I’ve conjured in my imagination in my days of singledom. I’ll stop my gushing now and say simply: I have exactly what I’ve been looking for.

Though my significant other (S.O.) and I don’t really have any problems, there’s certainly a lot of potential for conflict, trust me. My obsessions and abandonment issues alone could tear us apart if two things didn’t happen: 1) I’m as up front and honest and forthright as I can be about my obsessions, including the ones that involve my partner. Including the ones that could potentially hurt his feelings. 2) My partner recognizes that my obsessions are not based in reality – they are a sort of delusional thought process that is there to create conflict.

The only time that conflict arises from my anxiety is when it becomes really overwhelming for both of us at the same time. An understandable circumstance, really. But a fairly rare occurrence, nonetheless.

Ironically, a major problem arises from the lack of conflict itself. For a person, like me, who fears loss so much (“everyone I love is going to leave me”) and has an unbelievably low self-worth (“I don’t deserve happiness”), my mind doesn’t know how to cope with this excellent thing that I have. My mind wants to create conflict, because that’s what makes sense. The world is an unfair, unforgiving place, and I am clearly unworthy of good things, because everything I love either leaves me or hurts me in some way. So, therefore, (in my mind) my great, awesome, healthy, and productive relationship will fail. And then I start preparing myself for it emotionally. Or, I react to things I think are happening that aren’t.

This is called self-sabotage.

The self-sabotage manifests itself in a few ways, most of them seemingly minor incidents. But with me, mountains are made out of molehills. Everything that happens has a pattern or meaning, OBVIOUSLY (this irrational paradigm is a result of the diabolical combination of being an English major and watching nine seasons of How I Met Your Mother). So, that one time at dinner when my S.O. looked away from me when I was speaking, that clearly means that he was A) looking at someone else and therefore is cheating on me, B) is bored because I am uninteresting and therefore will leave me tomorrow, C) is annoyed because I am an annoying person and therefore he is lying about loving me. And so on. And so forth.

These syllogisms are obviously flawed and irrational. None of these conclusions come even close to having any truth value whatsoever. My partner is faithful and loving and very much enjoys my company.

I’ve spent a lot of energy, in recent weeks when this happens, focusing on what is more likely. The likely explanation for this action is: something happened over there and my S.O. probably looked over in that direction for no particular reason. This helps me overcome the irrational syllogism, and it has been fairly successful; I will repeat it to myself over and over (maybe a positive obsession?) until the “more likely” reasonable voice is louder than, as I like to refer to it, the mean voice. That evil bitch that lives in my head and tells me lies. (I had a close friend mention that she has one of these. She calls it “Crazy Girl.”)

These flawed syllogisms don’t happen all the time. When I’m not anxious….when I’m “together” and “reasonable,” I don’t think this way at all. I see my relationship in a realistic way, am understanding and reasonable about certain behaviors or actions that I could misinterpret in the wrong frame of mind, and recognize that those syllogisms are ridiculous and unfounded.

Sometimes, even the stark contrast and dichotomous nature of my mind causes me to get down on myself. If I can manage a reasonable response to shit on a fairly regular basis, why the hell do I have to make all this crap up in my head? Why do I put myself through it? This, occasionally, in and of itself will cause me to get down on myself and start a negative cycle of thinking. But usually already when I’m in that irrational frame of mind. That bad headspace, as they say.

That’s the fucked up part, really. Even when I’m having these irrational moments, I recognize that they are falsifications. That I’m ascribing meaning to something that isn’t meaningful. My boyfriend, who is very forgetful, mixing up an event (like where we were when something happened) is NOT evidence that he is seeing someone else. It is merely a result of his flawed memory. The notion that I know better, even in the moment, frustrates me more than anything else – because even when I’m in it and I know that it’s all wrong and dumb and bad for me and only causing problems where none exist…I still can’t pull out of it. And then I either have escalated anxiety attack (read: panic attack in potentia) or I get depressed.

It’s like one of those nightmares, where you’re running from something terrifying and your legs just won’t move faster. You’re running like you’re in water, and you know you can run faster, you know HOW to do it, but your body just WON’T respond. It should be no surprise that I have these nightmares all the time. That I’ve had them regularly since I was young.

Honestly, these are really the only nightmares I ever have.

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