Identifying the cause of the way we behave is sometimes a mystery, even to those that are in touch with their emotions it still takes a lot of reflection and thought to get to the issue. For me today whilst talking to my therapist a reoccurring issues I have with my husband can be answered by the following – I feel stupid and inadequate all the time.
Let me explain this in more detail …
My husband and I have this reoccurring argument about the way he phrases things. Instead of making an observation about a situation, he asks a question like “why is that person doing that?”
Which is extremely confusing … because I don’t know what is expected of me. At this point do I answer the question?
I used to just be calm and polite and say “I don’t know?” but as a result of it happening again and again and again I would meet the question with so much anger it scared even myself.
The more it continued the more confused I became and I must admit it has got to the point where I can not even imagine another way of interpreting the point of the question.
But why did it cause me so much anger?
I had asked him to change the way he starts this kind of conversation – when he makes an observation to not ask a question that I feel this overwhelming need to find an answer to but to be direct with what it is he is wanting from me.
But this intense anger I am feeling has a cause, it has to come from somewhere as not everyone would react this way … and then I had a light bulb moment… As a result of the question and the subsequent response which would be anger due to not being able to find an answer. This cause me to tell myself that I am stupid.
I am stupid, I am stupid, I am stupid – it is ingrained in everything I do and my inability in this situation to provide an adequate response makes me feel stupid. Reducing the situation to the facts clearly show that the response that I provide is justified. I am not the other person and I don’t know why they are doing what they are doing, how would I know what they are thinking.
But yet there is a huge great big booming voice telling me that I AM STUPID.
So that got me thinking as to why this feeling of inadequacy is such an innate response for me.
Something that I had not realised was such a big thing in the past may be the cause of some of my behaviour now as an adult. I really don’t remember clearly all the detail and I use what my mum has told me as a prompt for it, but I think it is because of the way I was treated at school by a teacher when I was only 7 years old.
Mrs Burgess made me feel like I was stupid. I had issues reading and writing and all through primary school I had to do homework to help me catch up – other kids my age did not have to do this … SO I WAS STUPID. I also had major issues with coordination, which impacted my writing skills.
One day I spent so much time writing something in my exercise book that I was proud of. But Mrs Burgess decided that it was not good enough, she told me I had not tried hard enough, took her red pen, drew a great big red line through it, made me move to a table on my own away from the other children and made me start again. Which devastated me.
Teachers – who are meant to be there to support and help children grow, to encourage their learning and to help them become human beings due such a vulnerable time in a child’s life has caused so many problems for me as an adult because she made me feel stupid, useless and not worthy of education.
My mum told me years later that for that entire year I tried to make myself sick by sticking my fingers down my throat to make myself physically sick so I did not have to go to school – but I have to admit I don’t remember it at all.
So I have spent my whole life trying to convince the world that I am not stupid and more importantly prove it to myself.
I have 11 GCSE’s, 3 A levels, 3 AS levels, a BSc Hons and a PhD, and yet why am I still trying to prove to everyone that I am not stupid?
I need to break the cycle, so my first step is to change the way I handle that annoying question from my husband – lets try a DEAR MAN (describe, express, assert and reinforce in a way that is mindful, appearing confident and has the ability to negotiate) that is GIVE (gentle, interested, validating and uses an easy manner) and FAST (fair, not apologetic, sticking to my values and truthful) in nature to meet my objective, maintain the relationship and retain some of the limited self-resect that I may have.