Feeling unlovable is painful. For example, when some man begins to show in interest in Julia, she will, sooner or later, remember that she is unlovable and behave accordingly. She cannot believe he can love her. He must be lying. His lie makes her angry. She tests him to break him down, trying to get at the truth. She may make unreasonable demands, display unreasonable jealousy, manifest unreasonable criticism and anger until he gets the hint. When he leaves her, she can say to herself, “I knew it. I knew no one could love me. If he really loved me he would have passed the tests I set for him. But he didn’t; he failed. And so did I.”
It is not terribly difficult to arrange to be unlovable. It is hardly worth doing, but Julia does it anyway. She does not deserve otherwise. Her private logic is as follows:
1.”I am unlovable.
2.”Any man who would love me is obviously ignorant of that fact.
3.”I cannot love or respect anyone that stupid.
4.”Therefore, I have to get rid of him so I can be free to find someone worthy of me.”
And in the end, she confirms her original hypothesis that she:
• is unloved.
• is unlovable.
• is at fault.
• is justified in her ongoing anger at men, at life and at herself.
• can not trust the people who are supposed to love her because they can hurt her the most!
• is out of control and cannot make things happen in the real world.
• has no hope of happiness in this life.
She still doesn’t know how to solve the problem. In addition to being a prescription for depression and anxiety, this constellation of attitudes is a prescription for self-contempt, which is more than just the absence of self-respect. Julia can not respect anyone who is as unlovable as she seems to be. She can not love herself or allow anyone to love her until she identifies and removes her self-anger and her self-contempt. Her discouragement has rubbed off on those self-respecting candidates who might have made her happy. In their absence, she must content herself with men who are unworthy of her and also unable to love her because they do not love (respect) themselves. She finds herself trapped in an impasse: The men she wants she doesn’t get; the men she gets she doesn’t want!” She marries someone because he asks her. Their relationship cannot be happy because two such unself-respecting people are negatively compatible. They can only fulfill each other’s negative expectations.
A person like Julia, given her attitude that she is “unlovable,” must find her own special way of moving through life:
1.In her discouragement, she may withdraw into meanness and isolation.
2.She may marry an unloving man who will see to it that she doesn’t get any “undeserved” love.
3.She will take out her unhappiness on her daughter, thus insuring an unbroken cycle of misery leading to misery.
4.She may spend her life giving selflessly to others, never seeking (or getting) any love in return.
These “choices” represent her solutions to the problem of her unlovability. They will form the backbone of her lifestyle. But they are not conscious choices, at all. They are the mindless derivatives of her negative attitudes from the past.
The antidote to this syndrome is not to “rescue” such persons and shower them with tons of catch-up love. Love is very nice but it is not enough. It is also inconsistent with their expectations of life. They cannot trust it. That is why, in many cases, love is not the answer. These badly wounded individuals need more basic restorative procedures before they can tolerate the shock of positive affection. Some of them resigned themselves to a loveless existence long ago. They have put their human need for love and affection on the back burner. They have sealed it off as unfulfillable so it won’t hurt so much every day of their lives. But the pain of it is still down there.
Sufferers from this syndrome must be rebuilt from the ground up. First, they must be given an identity as a person in their own right, which is what they had before some mindless, unloving grown-up took it away from them. Second, the individual must be helped to feel that, as a worthwhile person with an identity of her very own, she “deserves” to be loved after all. Her resistance to such a notion: must be overcome. She has felt “guilty,” worthless, and inferior all her life. These negative attributes preclude the feeling that she is lovable or deserves to be loved. If these attributes are taken from her too abruptly, she won’t know who she is.
Third, the individual must be helped on the long, painful journey towards loving (respecting) herself, a concept that has, so far, been entirely foreign to her experience and her lifestyle. How can she love someone a mother couldn’t even love? It would be an act of disloyalty to do so. It would defile her mother’s memory! It would be a crime and she would feel guilty. Until she replaces these mistaken attitudes in the right way, she will not be able to relieve her painful, joy-killing guilt. There are many such impediments on the road to positive self-regard.
Woman sitting alone image available from Shutterstock.