“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”
– Socrates, philosopher
“She looked down, breaking eye contact with me, …”
Candice was a tall, attractive woman in her thirties. She had long black hair to her shoulders and an olive, Mediterranean completion which enhanced her beauty even more. But, her manner suggested she had little awareness of how attractive others saw her. She projected a quiet, almost shy, presence. Some might have considered her aloof or even arrogant. But once she opened her mouth her true insecurity was revealed.
Candice had a good job in the middle management of a shipping company. She and her partner, Conrad has been together two years and seemed satisfied with their relationship. She said she had several earlier relationships which didn’t work out, her tone and word choice suggesting these were painful memories which still haunted her.
Candice told me her goals were to clean some old emotional baggage and build self confidence. When I asked her to be more specific about her emotional baggage, her demeanour shifted dramatically. She looked down, breaking eye contact with me, and her voice dropped to a soft, almost child like tone.
“…all were verbally abusive and two of them also raped me.”
“I’ve been in some really bad relationships. Relationships that hurt me badly. Looking back now I realize there must be something wrong with me that I would keep picking men who abused me.”
“Candice, how did they abuse you, specifically?”
She looked up briefly at me and then retreated inside her previous communication style and said,
“Well, of the five men I have had a relationship with since high school, all were verbally abusive and two of them also raped me.”
“But, the other half must go to you, Candice!”
“So, my guess is your current relationship with Conrad is quite different. Is that true?”
She lit up immediately both in her voice and manner. She blurted enthusiastically,
“It’s very different and very special! I’ve never been in a relationship like this before. We have our differences, but how we deal with them is more respectful and effective. It is just so different than my other relationships.”
“So, what made this relationship so different, Candice?”
“I have to give all the credit to Conrad. He is just a wonderful person. I guess he must have been raised better than me or something.” she replied, with a hint of doubt in her response.
“I think half the credit can go to Conrad. But, the other half must go to you, Candice!” I said emphatically.
She looked at me with that surprised look some people get when a new idea hits them with pleasure, and an equal measure of skepticism.
“Why me? I haven’t changed at all, Ken!” she said.
“What happens is not as important as how you react to what happens.” – Ellen Glasgow, author
“… so has your taste in men!”
“You’re right Candice, you haven’t changed…people don’t change really. But, in another way, they do evolve constantly! Let me give you an example. Would you wear the same clothes you wore in high school”
She looked at me with a half smile and replied sarcastically, “Not really, I’m way past those styles and colours…even the way they fit. Do you remember ‘bell-bottom jeans’…ugh!”
“Candice, in the same way your taste in clothes has evolved, so has your taste in men!”
“Do you mean that’s how I’ve changed…in my taste in men?” she said raising one of her beautifully manicured eyebrows.
“Exactly! Your level of awareness, your level of self protection and your level of skill in relationships with men have all changed! In fact, if you had met Conrad in high school, you probably wouldn’t have been interested in him!” I said to challenge her thinking and anchor the idea in her mind.
“But, back then I thought he was a geek!”
She sat back with this big grin spread across her face.
“Funny you should say that Ken. I knew Conrad in high school. But, back then I thought he was a geek! I used to see him regularly in our school library picking at a computer.”
“What do you attribute this shift in your perception of Conrad, Candice?”
“I guess it would be time and experience. I was so naive back then. I was chasing the guys who were popular, you know, the hockey players or basketball team…whoever was cool!”
“May I offer you a thought?” I asked.
“So, your Mom was your protector at home.”
“My best guess is back then, in high school, you were looking for a guy to protect you, a guy to help you feel safe from the pain or dangers of the world. The athletic guys were a logical choice back then…strong, tough guys who knew how to get rough when necessary. Does that sound familiar to the high school Candice?”
“How did you know that, Ken? That was so me! My Dad and I didn’t get along back then. And, Mom was forever jumping between us during our arguments. I was afraid of him but just wouldn’t back down and he was a big man.” she replied, her eyes starting to glisten with emotion.
“So, your Mom was your protector at home. And, you were looking for another protector in a boyfriend. This is a common pattern for individuals who get assaulted…a person who doesn’t believe they can protect themselves look for someone else to do it for them.”
“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” – Socrates, philosopher
“…you were attracted to people and events to help you learn to protect yourself.”
“Ken…you’re saying because I didn’t believe I could protect myself I sought out someone else to do it?”
“And, you did it unconsciously…you probably weren’t aware of your survival strategy. Since natural law always challenges us to believe in ourselves and our ability to survive so our species will survive, you were attracted to people and events to help you learn to protect yourself.”
“Do you mean my lack of self confidence was the instigator of me seeking out a protector. And in seeking out a protector, I also sought out an assaulter, so I could learn to protect myself? Am I getting this right, Ken?” she asked with a look of angry disbelief plastered on the minimal makeup she wore.
“You got it right, Candice! For our species to survive, each member comes with total self confidence at birth and then must retain or rediscover that self confidence in face of all future challenges. Otherwise, our species’ viability would be jeopardized.” I said.
“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are. “ – Max de Pree, business man
“…motivated me to seek protectors who motivated me to learn to protect myself?”
“Ken, are you saying our fear pushes us to learn new levels of self confidence?”
“Yes! Many people think of fear as a bad thing. But, it is what motivates us to learn what we need right away. It is what motivates us to regain the self confidence we had at our birth. It is what motivates us to be prepared for our future.”
“Are you suggesting my lack of self confidence motivated me to seek protectors who motivated me to learn to protect myself?” Candice asked with an air of disbelief to her voice.
“We all do this in unique ways to grow as individuals, and we are one of the most successful species on the planet. You remember hearing, ‘survival of the fittest…Darwin, etc?” I replied.
“So then, that would mean my assaults have helped me learn to survive?” she asked, getting at the implications of her past experiences.
“But, he was also a jerk. He cheated on me the whole year. “
“Let’s find out, Candice. As you review your past relationships, tell me what you learned from the first one that served you in some important way?” I asked.
“Bradley was my first significant relationship… in my senior year, grade 12. He was the captain of the hockey team and quite handsome. But, he was also a jerk. He cheated on me the whole year. Looking back now, I see I was looking for someone who I could trust…and he wasn’t it!” she said, an angry edge on her face, aging her for a moment the way anger stiffens a person.
“Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.” – Sigmund Freud, psychologist
“…if you can’t handle your booze, you can’t handle your life!”
“That would be Paul. It was during my sophomore year at university. He was loyal to me but focused on his studies and made no time for us. And, when I challenged him one night after a heavy drinking party, he sexually assaulted me in the apartment we shared,” she replied, the hurt resurfacing in her eyes with a squint and a hint of the pain.
“What did you learn from Paul?” I asked gently, suspecting it was a question she had not asked herself consciously before.
“I learned if you can’t handle your booze, you can’t handle your life!” she replied.
“And, after Paul?” I said.
“I learned what were the essentials for all my future relationships with men.”
“That was when I first started working. His name was Shawn, an up and coming, ambitious, self starter. Shawn was both friendly and caring. He had big plans and will probably make them happen. But, he had one glaring flaw. He was an M.C.P.” she said.
“An M.C.P.?” I asked with a dumbfounded look on my face.
“A Male Chauvinistic Pig! He still believed women were somehow limited by their biology…that they were less than men…that they were primarily there to serve men both sexually and otherwise. And, I don’t think he even realized it.” she replied with a sarcastic, half smile.
“What did you learn from Shawn that evolved you, Candice?”
“Ken, I learned what respect really means to me. I learned how I needed respect to be demonstrated in a relationship. I learned what were the essentials for all my future relationships with men,” Candice replied with a new, assertive tenor in her voice.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” – Carl Jung, psychologist
“It kind of makes it OK…my past I mean!”
“Can you see how each of these relationships have been preparing you for your future relationship with Conrad?”
“I never viewed it that way before. But, as I look back it is starting to fit together. So, my past relationships educated me for the one I have today with Conrad…prepared me for the healthier one I have now!”
“And, so without those earlier relationships, including your assaults, you could not be who you are today, doing what you do today and having the relationships you have today, not just with Conrad, but other people as well?”
“It sure puts a different spin on my past, Ken! It kind of makes it OK…my past I mean!” she said hesitantly, tripping over her last four words.
“Candice, not just OK…what about perfect for you to be Candice?” I offered cautiously.
She paused for a moment, looking to her left as if into her past with a careful scrutiny, like looking over new, post surgery, scars. Then she nodded, really to herself more than to me, and looked over saying,
“Ken, I really can’t change my past and when I look at it this way and realize how it has served me, I can let it go…I guess really…honour it, cause it did get me to here and now.”
“I am stronger and wiser because of my past…all of it!”
“Candice, can you see how your self worth and self esteem have grown as you moved through each relationship? And, how all your relationships, including your assaults, carefully built your self confidence to be able to enter your latest relationship with Conrad?”
“You’re saying my sexual assaults actually help me three different way: raising my self worth, building my self esteem and creating more self confidence!”
“Exactly! One in four women in industrialized countries has experienced a sexual assault, yet you can’t pick them out of a crowd because they use it to grow their sense of self.” I added.
“Ken, I’m certainly not that naive teenager anymore. And, I’m certainly much more picky in who I share my time with now. And, I certainly know much more clearly what I demand in a partner now. So, I get it! I am stronger and wiser because of my past…all of it!” she said with a mellow, soft smile.
“Candice, I think that is the foundation of all wisdom, and what we are all seeking in some way. So, congratulations! Welcome to your future! And, I think Conrad is a fortunate man to have a relationship with such a wise woman.” I added.
“Thank you, Ken!”
“My privilege, Candice!”
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau, author
Until Next time…
Now you know, even your traumas have a value in growing you by raising your self worth, your self esteem and your self confidence.…which is ultimately your full time job in life! So, if you’re alive, you cannot be a victim of anything…you are victor over every event in your past. Go find out how it made you stronger and wiser. Then you can get on with your life.
Our next seminar is entitled, “How to Bring balance to Life and Purpose to Work!” It will be on Saturday, October 22nd, 2016. Details are available at ww.kenpiercepsychologist.com
Send us your feedback and topic suggestions…we love to hear from you! If you have a specific question or wish to schedule a consultation, feel free to contact me.
Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
Further information: www.kenpiercepsychologist.com