I had another interesting therapy session with my counselor and he did remind me of my pattern. I think I know what the problem is but I do have this intense paranoia about upsetting other people. My usual thing to say is “Is she mad at me?” “Does she hate me?” “What am I going to do if she gets mad at me?” And he asked me “what’s the worst thing that can happen if you indeed make the other person angry, I doubt she is angry with you.”
That is right. I have this intense fear of upsetting people because that’s how I’ve lived my childhood. I was fearful of my mother’s mood swings and as a child, I was terrified of upsetting my mom because I had to face severe punishment once she was mad at me. She got mat at me over trivial mistake. For example, my fear starts to spiral out of control if I was running late because my curfew was 5pm sharp. Not 5:05pm..but 5:00pm. Why does it matter?
Sure. If I was a parent, I also want to make sure that my teenage daughter comes home before it gets dark outside and most importantly, I want to make sure that she comes back safely. But I am not going to be waiting at the entrance with chopsticks to beat the crap out of her just because she is late for 5-10 minutes. I might ask her why she was late and might even tell her harshly it is important for her to come home before 5pm.
So as a child, it was a constant fear of upsetting my mom because of the consequences that I had to deal with and it was extremely scary. Now I am an adult and know logically that people cannot harm me physically or even go around to spread lies about me at work, for example and there are things that I can do to protect myself. Besides, people are usually not that black and white and they won’t think I am a bad person for being late for our meeting a few minutes.
So what I discovered about me was that I came up with these filtering system to read my mom’s mind because there was an inconsistent pattern but I thought that I could protect myself that way. But I don’t even know why she would be so angry at me sometimes and in reality, it was scary as hell but my mind reading didn’t help much and I wasn’t controlling my mom nor was I really protecting myself. So it works the same way even as an adult. I am constantly worrying about upsetting the other person and if the person is my boss, teacher..authority figure, I go through intense anxiety. Because if I upset her even a little, she might fire me or write me up and punish me. In reality, it really doesn’t work that way and most people are not so black and white.
My goal is not to go out of my way to please other people so they will be happy with me. I don’t need anybody to be really happy with me if they are not really good for me in the first place. Rather I should just sit with my anxiety of not doing anything about it. If the other person is upset, she is upset but nothing is going to happen to me.
I won’t die from anxiety and stress. I just have to deal with overwhelming fear and anxiety that really remind me of my terror that I experienced as a child.
My terror was real when I was a kid because I needed my parents to take care of me, otherwise I wouldn’t have survived. But right now, as long as I know what my boundaries are and I am a good person, nobody can really harm me unless I give them the power.
So what? if she or he is upset with me? It is too bad..that should be my attitude and I should continue to practice being honest with myself and upset other people. Of course I have to be careful about upsetting my boss (!!) but beside that, it really doesn’t matter if non work related people like me or not. I know that I am a good person and I don’t need anybody’s approval.