In Part 1 of Why Do Some People Need Us to be SO Needy, we discussed why and how some people convince us to believe we are so needy, so unable to lead our own lives, that we need them to run our lives for us. Here’s how neediness played out in my own life. See if it rings any bells.
“You said THAT!?!”
For me, that’s how it started. Each day when I arrived home from elementary school, eager to tell my mommy about my day and required to narc on myself for anything I’d done wrong, I was often greeted with the response, “You said THAT!?!” The upperward incredulous lilt of her voice at the end implied to my young mind that I definitely should not have said “that.” Doubt was planted. Mommy was right and I was inherently wrong. As a person. There was something wrong with me.
Dad reinforced that message when he angrily told me, “I see 50% more than you ever notice.” Which struck me as odd, because I was wildly aware of just how fucked up the extended family, all their relationships and I was myself, but he never seemed to notice. Nor care.
In my teen years, my parents were adamant that I “not grow up too fast,” putting on the brakes every time I showed any inclination to grow up. They must’ve wondered why I was still playing with stuffed animals in my teens, but I thought it made them happy. When I finally was “allowed” to grow-up, it was on their timetable, their gift, their decision. In little fits and tiny starts. I was the last girl in my class to regularly wear a bra. Nearly the last to finally be allowed to wear make-up. And definitely the last to go on a date (at the ripe old age of twenty-five; Dad declined my first date invite [age 17] without even asking me.)
I arrived in adulthood shattered, broken and terrified with C-PTSD, raging OCD and as delightfully needy as any codependent could wish for. Attaining the magical “adult” milestone of twenty-one changed nothing. Mother still loved to dress her little dolly, suggesting outfits in the morning and laying out jewelry to accompany the outfit. It was easier to just put it all on (and guiltily take all that irritating jewelry off later at work) than see the hurt look in her eyes if I objected. And just before I left the house, I’d always ask her if my make-up was okay and she’d whip a wrinkled tissue out of her sleeve, wipe off some of my eyeliner and sometimes make me blot my lipstick, while reaching into my v-neck blouse, undoing my “modesty safety pin” and re-pinning the neckline so high I felt like I was choking.
All my decisions were made “as a family.” We all sat down at the kitchen table and discussed my decision. What a sham! We all knew I was going to do what they wanted. The ramifications of rebellion were too horrible to contemplate. (Trauma bonding anyone!?!) I lived in fear of their rage, terrified they would bust me back to childhood if I didn’t do exactly what they wanted. Take away my keys. Lock me in the house. It wasn’t an altogether unreasonable fear. They had forced me to quit a job when I was twenty-three, not even allowing me to drive myself to my own exit interview.
Even after they allowed me to move out in my thirties, Mom would still look deeply into my eyes and worriedly inquire, “Are you eating? Are you sleeping enough!?!” Nope. I just sit around here hungry and tired and wondering what the Hell to do about it. Gggrrrrrrr. (In my own home I could actually cook without being interrogated and begrudged the power to cook my food and sleep, nap and relax in frickin’ peace without the inevitable knocks on the door and cries of “Are you OKAY!?!)
I was thirty-four before I discovered that my “irrational” fears were groundless. My parents had no legal power to hold me against my will, force me to sell my house and move back in with them or my greatest fear, take me away from my husband. Stupidly, I thought they could do all of that.
Have you ever been paralyzed, utterly unable to make a decision, act, go-for-it? That’s the result of enforced neediness.
We’ve been taught to utterly doubt our decision making process. We’ve been gaslighted into distrusting the evidence of our own senses. The words we say. The feelings we have. Our memories. Our intuition and gut instincts. We been manipulated into utterly distrusting ourselves and believing there’s something wrong with us. We are inherently the flotsam and jetsam of life. The dregs at the bottom of a bottle of wine. We are, as Emma Lazarus called it, “The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” (And we wonder why we have low self-esteem!?!)
At least, that’s how it feels. And that’s why you find yourself in Aisle 23 of Wal-Mart in an utter mental paralysis unable to choose what kind of floor mop to buy. Whether to buy jumbo, large or extra-large eggs. What % of milk to buy. We don’t know off-hand what we want, only what others want. Our preferences have been buried so long, it takes a shovel to figure out what they are.
And how to do things!?! Your Enforcer probably told you exactly how to do everything. Faced with a situation they didn’t address, we become paralyzed again. It’s taken years for me to figure out how I prefer to clean my house and do my laundry. It took bare-knuckled courage to make my own decisions without the “committee” convening to make my decisions for me.
NEEDY NO MORE!
It may take a few years, but here’s the good news: YOU ARE UTTERLY and COMPLETELY ABLE TO RUN YOUR OWN LIFE…and do a damn good job of it too!
Your intuition is trustworthy. Your observations correct. Your memories spot-on. Your decisions wise and well thought-out.
You were always equal to the job of being you. Your Neediness Enforcer is actually the one with the problem. They buoyed their own shaky self-esteem by “having all the answers” for you. And what a boost it was. But you didn’t need it. And their so-called “answers” were probably dribbling drivel anyways, weren’t they?
You aren’t needy…and you never were. Not really. It was just an act we learned…and now are un-learning! Viva Independence!