My therapist paused for a long while and said, "Do you mean that?"
I waited just long enough and said, "Naw, man, I'm totally pulling your leg." He looked relieved.
Anyway, so today I spent a lot of time looking at why people reject me. There's two "schemas" at play here: the worthlessness one and the social exclusion one. Worthlessness makes you expect people to reject you because that's what you deserve; social exclusion ... well, it can be something you imagine, or (key thing from the book) it can be real. I have plenty of examples of hit happening, from Matt from my senior year in high school to the pretty boy who told me to my face while I was in China in college that even though I was smart and cool he'd never hang out with me because the other kids didn't like me to Ivana the Russian girl who just stopped returning my calls and of course Ann who was my best friend for three of my years in Seattle and then shut the door in my face when I came by her house with a present I'd picked up for her in Florida.
The book says when it's NOT your imagination (and obviously this isn't, plus it's not something just from my childhood that still scars me) that you have to look at your behavior - but the book gives no clues as to how to tell what you're doing to drive people away. I try to avoid being clingy or trying to draw attention to myself (though I am naturally exuberant) as those are two things I see as being desperate. The counsellor suggested that perhaps I am "insensitive to other people's inner child" and am unknowingly cruel (not his words) because I'm not aware of people's feelings and don't think about how deeply my words might hurt them or how much impact I might have on them (an easy assumption when you think you're worthless and thus forgettable).
Oddly I try really hard to pay attention to people's feelings but I still just utterly miss things and I don't know that I've said something that's offensive or hurtful or upsetting. And when you know you're bad at this and you really try to pay attention but you still get it wrong, and, brother, I've been working on this for 15 years now, just what are you supposed to do to try to get it right?
I read a Dan Savage column some years back that said that normal people don't want to have big scenes when they don't want to be friends with/date someone any more, they'd rather just say, "Oh, it's me," even though it's clearly not true. This was a revelation to me, that people could figure it out just by you choosing not to hang out with them anymore, and it's true; when you do this, people don't usually ask why you're blowing them off. They get the social signals. I had to be told. But then, there's this part of me that thinks, if I really care about someone and they're doing something so horrible that it's driving me away, don't I owe them the right to change their behavior? Lately I find myself tongue-tied because I want to help them but then I think either I'll damage their self-esteem horribly by saying something negative.
But what's worse is when I think they just won't listen, or that they can't change even if I tell them. And then I realize, well, giving up really is the best option rather than saying anything, as I'd just cause damage and accomplish nothing. So I say nothing.
Anyway, it was a session with a lot of talking on my part. People will probably continue to reject me my entire life. I will continue to say things that are upsetting because I can't figure out the social rules and I just don't seem to have the capacity to learn how to do it - and you can't implant a chip that teaches you what you don't know.
It's four sessions on and I haven't got anywhere. We'll see how it goes. It's all rather expensive, to be honest, and when May comes around if I'm not feeling like I'm accomplishing anything, I'll have to seriously reconsider whether or not it's worth continuing.
Afterwards I zipped back into town and went and saw the Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Donmar for the grand price of ten quid. Now there's some therapy I can really get behind. Does it really fix me? No, but it makes me feel better for tonight, and if the things that are wrong with me can't be fixed, then maybe what I need to do is work harder on being happy and stop worrying so much about what I can't change. For now, I am still trying to figure out what is changeable, so I'll keep going for the three months I've agreed to and see how it all feels.
Tomorrow I'm working up north, and with luck, I'll catch up with my reviews of Frankenstein and Spelling Bee. Ah, writing, my great albatross. But for now, bed.