When a person experiences a lack of respect, he or she expresses feelings that range from irritation to rage. By observing the ones who become enraged, I have concluded they carry a deep wound inflicted by others who did not value them by listening and regarding their feelings.
The wound might be a result of abuse. When that wound is touched, these people are flooded with rage; they are unapproachable and unsafe. All reason goes out the window. For many people who become enraged, they expect their partners to make them feel valued, important, and good about themselves. They believe, 'If you loved me, I wouldn't be feeling this hurt.'
Consider asking, What's wrong with me that I let one word, one zinger, one disapproving act, one critical remark crush or enrage me? Why do I give other people so much power over me? Why do I let their opinion of me be more important than my own opinion of me? Why do I explode over such small incidents? Why do I hold onto hurt that I received from others?'
Some of us put our self-worth and self-respect in the hands of others. We are often taught to affirm ourselves externally. 'Be nice so that other people will like you. Be good so that people will think you are nice.' When we do affirm ourselves, sometimes we were call 'selfish' and 'egoistic.'
The truth is while we value how others feel about us, we are the authority on what we believe about ourselves. If we don't respect or accept ourselves, how can we accept that from others?
'No matter what our partner does to show he or she cares, we do not experience the devotion as convincing because we do not feel lovable to ourselves' (Branden). 'Unfortunately, when we don't love ourselves, we behave in a way that makes it harder to love ourselves. It's a vicious circle in which we become less lovable the less we love ourselves' (Healing Life's Hurts).
Where does this lack of self-respect come from? In the book, Quantum Learning, the author reports that children on the average receive 460 negative or critical comments and 75 positive or supportive comments every day. (p. 25) Steve Kissell, a local comedian, shared some disturbing statistics: 'Children laugh over 350 times a day while adults laugh 15.'
Maybe the critical remarks finally stifle the child in all of us, chain the free spirit and make us take everything seriously because it has not been safe to let our inner child out. We are afraid to let the inner child out because we might be criticized or rejected as immature.
How do I begin feeling good about myself ? How do I accept and respect me as I am?
Next month I will finish this thought and move on to the next trigger.
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700