Ask Anne-Marie: I Often Feel Used By Women, Therefore Being Alone Feels Best To Me. Am I Lying To Myself?

This article is in response to a question posted to the Ask Anne-Marie global forum. A place where we co-explore burning questions across multiple topics of leadership, erotic nature, power dynamics and relationships.

You asked:

I often feel used by the women I date. My Mom treated me more like her dog on a leash than her cherished son. I felt bullied by my mom and Sister. their constant criticism made me question love and my own goodness. As an Adult, I attract women who mirror much of this early imprint of worthlessness. I call them snarky bitches. It’s painful. I’ve decided that being alone feels best to me. Am I lying to myself?


Dear Anonymous,

Before I respond to your question, I first feel inspired to start with parts of you story. Pieces you have shared with me over the course of a few back and forth messages earlier this month. I want to invite our readers to join us as we wander through your world, your goodness, your historical pain and your longing to come back home to the loving and heart-centered person you’ve always been. Your journey reminds me so much of parts of my own. Thank you for your courage to look within, feel this pain and ask for a new way of being to emerge. One in which the fullness of your heart can shine with no lids or containment.

Your story is welcome here

“I was taught at an early age that I don’t have feelings or a voice. The adults were too busy with important things. I wasn’t important. I was more like luggage and then a strong work hand for cheap. By the time I grew up and became interesting to the adults, it was too late. I’m the quiet/no feelings guy around them. But I don’t come around anymore. 

I remember certain things that get me angry when my mind wanders in the morning.

  • “Oh, he doesn’t get stressed out.” When folk told my mom to check in with me.

  • “You’re an animal.” When I snuck outside and got dirty.

  • “You’re heartless!” When I was 8 and didn’t cry at grandma’s funeral.

When I was 14 and getting rides home with a friend and his mom, she’d ask me what I thought of the world. Politics and such. It was so exciting! No one ever asked me what I thought of the world before.

Well, this and more taught me to toughen up as a boy. Stay quiet. If I spoke up, most of the family would gang up on me for being too soft and sweet and scary smart. It was all lead by my family’s patriarch: my uncle, Mom’s favorite baby brother that was jealous and scared of me before I even knew what that could mean.

Really didn’t snap out of this until about 3 years ago, when I hit 40 and reassessed putting so much brain power into old family shit that would never resolve. 

My question is, what if all my conditioning as a lonely, shut in kid hiding in front of a tv has built me into a man who finds safety, power, freedom, and validation only when I’m alone? What if I’ve convinced myself I love being alone? Really, I’m quite content finding sex, hugs, cuddles, oxytocin once a month or so and when I get that connection, that release, and then I really want to be alone again.

Am I lying to myself? No one seems to believe me when I say I want to be alone. Maybe they’re right. Maybe I should fall in line. Maybe I’m missing something. But whenever I see couples or I’m in a relationship, I feel trapped, even duped into being a dog on a leash. It’s not that I want to have so much sex with different women. I want freedom to just be in a quiet space whenever I like. I want freedom to wear what I want. I want freedom to not have to take care of someone else’s needs. I want freedom to be me. As a bullied lonely boy, my only wish was to be left alone by my family. They’re all such needy monsters that don’t care who I am. For so long I was so confused getting love only on the condition that I act and look normal for them. I’ll never trust anyone to love me unconditionally. Someone always wants something from me.

My sweetness and kind intuitive power scared them. They all tried their best to beat it out of me with bullying. I’d try to reach out, to express my strong kind warm heart. In return they’d talk about me like I wasn’t even in the room, like I was a strange stray dog they were stuck with. 

“Can you believe what he said? Ha! Why doesn’t he play football? He’s so fat. Why is he so quiet? Is he gay?”

So I stopped talking. I forgot I even had ideas in my head. I waited for someone to tell me what to do. Thoughts bounced around inside my head and I never let them out by voice or writing, they just decayed in there. It was so confusing. My heart wanted to sing and out of fear, stress and abuse my brain stopped listening. 

I feel like in every contact with a woman I wince like a dog that’s been beat too many times that waits for an attack of guilt or anger. I’ve just had it. It’s just too much pain. I just want to be healthy and live in peace.

Good is my heart lit up. Good is me offering my gifts without fear of rejection or ridicule my family served me as a young sweet boy.

I don’t think connection is safe. The only way I can be me is to be alone.

If the only way to be healthy and have peace is to be alone the rest of my life and figure out some physical contact every so often, so be it.

Why do I keep giving in to evil, snarky bitches since I was a little boy? I even convince myself they’re right for me. I would even turn on my snarky side to match theirs: it was automatic and yet so strange to me even in the moment. I would like very much to unlearn this. I don’t want to be passive anymore. I want to be proactive. I want to be me and not like them. I want the sweet girl/knowing powerful woman. I want to bring out the good in me that would match her. I want to feel good, not snarky. I want to actually be good, not snarky.”

Conscious relationship

YES to your desires and healing journey

The conditioning you experienced as a child sounds so intensely annihilating and painful. Your bravery to share this vulnerably has moved me to tears. The early imprints that you inherited from your family system laid some deep tracks in your psyche. I can empathize and relate to the trauma imprints of feeling used and unworthy. Based on your experience, you learned to distrust relationships as a nourishing safe harbor and instead experienced them as a war zone of expectations, demands, and criticism. I hear that you long for connection. You need to know you can have space to be you and the person won’t go away or critique you into someone they want you to become.

I say YES, to this courage. YES to you embracing your most authentic life. YES, to deconstructing the emotional abuse from childhood that lives in your tissues, mind, body and heart. YES to revealing the sparkling and radiant heart that lives within you.

You need to be heard. Your voice matters. Your goodness is obvious to me. Your desire to know unconditional love is a universal hunger. Your desire to break the patterns of feeling used by others’ unconscious ego patterns is a worthy endeavor. You get to individuate and experience loving, nourishing, respectful and generative relationships with others.


The journey of integration

Given where you are today, I feel that your life story is the template of a divinely orchestrated Hero’s Journey. You’re 43 years old and you want to transform the way the past lives inside of you. You’re in the unknown wishing for a new reality.

The image that is arising for me as I sit with your story is the Hero’s Journey. Are you familiar with this initiatory journey?

Before I walk you through the steps, I want you to notice that there are two distinct aspects of this journey. The hero/heroine’s journey map explores masculine and feminine energies as forces that live inside of us all, regardless of our sexual gender.

At the top is the known reality in which our masculine energy reigns. The bottom holds a mysterious space where we are tossed into the darkness of the unknown, which represents the feminine side of the journey. We can use this map to look at the entire arc of our lives, but it’s also applicable to specific phases of healing and development such as the heroic process of unwinding a specific trauma imprint in our psyche and body.

Let’s walk through the steps of the Hero’s Journey before I offer my reflections to you.

 
Integrative coach
 
  1. Existing in the ordinary world:

    A hero/heroine’s journey usually begins immersed in “ordinary reality” because it’s all they’ve ever known. They’re operating within the status quo, and the routine of what’s known. An example is when Luke Skywalker, in the first Star Wars film, is shown in the opening scene milling around his small village, adhering to a simple, domesticated life in the sand dunes. This is a ‘chop wood and carry water’ phase.

  2. The call to adventure:

    The hero is presented with problems, challenges, or an adventure that invites them out of the familiar. It can be an impulse to leave a job, go to school, end a relationship, sell a home and travel for a year, etc.

  3. Refusal of the call:

    Fear of the unknown makes the hero/heroine reluctant to move forward towards the call. She/he may refuse the call, even a number of times, until the call comes with a roar through a loss, death, violent act, health issues, etc.

  4. Meeting with the mentor:

    The hero/heroine is introduced to an important mentor, which can take a multiplicity of forms: an elder, the natural world, school, a community, a spiritual being, etc.

  5. Crossing the threshold:

    The hero/heroine commits to the call, no more refusal or turning back. The forces of destiny take the lead and often require a big leap. Since the known is no longer an option, and the future is unpredictable, the ‘choice-less choice’ is a significant surrender into the unknown.

  6. Test, allies, enemies:

    The hero/heroine is tested in a variety of ways that will direct them to the people, places, and internal discoveries that are essential fuel for the process of healing, seeing with more clarity and asking big questions. This is a time of reclaiming one’s superpowers and true authentic self.

  7. Cave:

    This is the phase during which the hero/heroine endures a supreme ordeal, and often goes inward to grapple and inquire. They call upon inner resources that they have harvested through guidance given from allies and mentors. During this time, the hero/heroine goes continuously inward to find answers and build a spiritual container of wisdom and insight. This experience can feel like hitting rock bottom, and a deconstruction of ego and conditioned patterns or a death related to how the hero/heroine has thought himself/herself to be.

  8. Hero/heroine seizes the sword:

    Something awakens inside of the hero/heroine, and he/she finds clarity in the heart. Cycles of suffering are revealed, and the hero/heroine consciously commits to interrupting outdated patterns and frees themselves from forces that previously controlled them. This is a phase of integrating what’s been fragmented. He/she finds the inner elixir, and courageously rises up from cave, marking the start of an intentional journey back into the world. This is where the core transmutation happens, transforming core wounds and suffering into medicine for themselves and the world.

  9. The road back:

    The travel back home will test the hero/heroine’s capacity to stay with the intention and purpose they found in the cave. He/she will be tested with the very same conditioned beliefs, thoughts, and concepts that are meant to be shed.

  10. Resurrection:

    The hero/heroine emerge from the depths of this intense journey, completely transformed by their experience, like a caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly. The chaos on the road back has calmed, and a power of using his/her sword to cut through the conditioned beliefs and heal trauma has taken root.

  11. Return with the elixir:

    The hero/heroine returns to their life with their medicine, teachings, and story to offer to others. He/she now sees through the illusions, and helps others to do the same. In essence, the hero/heroine has become an ally to others who are in earlier stages of a similar cycle around the hero/heroine map.

  12. Integration and unification:

    One of the results of these epic spirals through the hero/heroine journeys (and we often have many within a lifetime) is that with each cycle through, we arrive into a deeper level of embodiment. To recall these wounded and exiled parts of us home into the wholeness of our being is to integrate and unify back into our wholeness.

From what you’ve shared about your life, it seems that you’re standing at the brink of climbing out from the cave about about to seize your sword. You’re in the process of rising up to claim the life you want. You certainly have had many tests, allies, and perceived enemies through the ‘bitchy, snarky and demanding women’ you’ve dated. The pattern of their need to control you, in tandem with your inherited conditioning from your mother and sister, has made a perfect match to play this story out. This story is now taking you into a place of surrender, rock bottom, and unwillingness to continue things as they have been, asking the vulnerable questions:

  1. “What if all my conditioning as a lonely, shut in kid hiding in front of a TV has built me into a man who finds safety, power, freedom, and validation only when I’m alone? What if I’ve convinced myself I love being alone? Really I’m quite content finding sex, hugs, cuddles, oxytocin once a month or so and when I get that connection, that release, I really want to be alone again. Am I lying to myself?”

  2. “Why do I keep giving in to evil, snarky bitches since I was a little boy? I even convince myself they’re right for me. I would like very much to unlearn this. I don’t want to be passive anymore. I want to be proactive. I want to be me and not like them. I want the sweet girl/knowing powerful woman. I want to bring out the good in me that would match her. I want to feel good not snarky. I want to actually be good not snarky.”

Conscious sexuality

Our core wounds become our medicine

Core wounds are a composition of many factors such as our genetic inheritance, life experiences, patterns of trauma, attachment wounds and past lives (if you believe in this). All of these aspects contribute to the formation of our core wounds related to safety, needs, power, independence, worthiness and enough-ness. Core wounds can be a result of chronic looping trauma caused by neglect, bullying and abuse as well as other experiences in which we felt wronged for being ourselves, and wronged for expressing our vulnerability. The content that drives these arrows into our hearts is unique to each of us. Our core wounds will influence our sense of self and provide us with the material needed to transmute trauma, pain, and suffering into our embodiment and integration.

Our body holds our history, including what occurred before we had words to verbalize what we were experiencing, as well as ancient collective memories passed through our DNA and our lineage’s evolution. Epigenetics has validated, through extensive testing and research, that we carry the trauma and history of our ancestors in our DNA. We each are born into circumstances that impact us on a deep level. Whatever we experience as traumatic becomes stored in our bodies, and we begin to create strategies to work around the pain at a subconscious level.  

The patterns associated with our core wounds are deeply painful, and create states of isolation and suffering.

I believe that our greatest challenges are the medicine we are here to transmute from bitter into sweet healing for ourselves and others.

Core wounds influence how we perceive ourselves, and the level of security and safety we feel in relationships to others.

I believe that our wounds are the pathways to our integration and the remembering of our wholeness. Whether the core wounds are repeating thought patterns of, “I’m not enough” or “I’m too much”? Or, memories of previous trauma. It’s all there to call us home. We repeat our history, subconsciously, because we want to repair and come into a more integrated way of being.

Studying our wounds is an invitation to integrate and find resolution. Often presenting as the bitter medicine we need to grow and heal. They are most obvious in the areas in which we we collapse into shame, bite others with blame, or disassociate to check out of extreme states of emotion.

Repetition compulsion is a psychological phenomenon in which a person repeats or reenacts a familiar event and circumstances over and over again. This "re-living" can also take the form of dreams in which memories and feelings of historical experiences and the associated emotions are repeated.

The repetition compulsion is an attempt to rewrite history. We repeat to seek a new outcome and to resolve the underlying pain caused by our unresolved experiences.

You entered this life with certain conditions that included your family, race, geographic location, cultural norms, gender and so on. The inherited beliefs and experiences that each of these realms of your life have presented are an integral part of your Hero’s Journey. When I responded to you message I said, “You deserve to have your tender and soft heart recognized and celebrated. Your history can be rewritten with repeated new experiences that are counter to your conditioned learning.” You responded with, “How can I get repeated new experiences?”

I love this question. There isn’t a silver bullet answer but there are gateways and maps that are helpful companions to attract new people, experiences and opportunities to say no to the old, and learn to take in and receive the new. Repetition of a new way of being creates new neuropathways that over time, will allow the outdated beliefs to prune and fall away. These neuropathways are located in the brain and represent the subconscious patterns of thinking, emotions and beliefs we operate from both consciously and unconsciously.

Intimacy+coach.jpeg

Maps for healing and integration

The following are some of the maps that I find helpful in normalizing the intensity of being a human who seeks loving, non-agenda driven relationships, where genuine love and connection can thrive. These maps are intended to create perspective, self-inquiry and compassion. They are diagnostic maps to helps us to hone in on where to rewire and rewrite how our history.

Attachment Templates:

Attachment theory is an ever-evolving and cutting edge discovery of our universal need to feel safe to connect and bond.

Our templates of bonding are encoded in our system before we can speak and continually built upon as we develop, based on our attachment figures, our cultural environment, school, friends and religious influences. Our early attachment figures are the ones who teach us about relationship. They also contribute to the development of our internal maps of how much we feel can rely on connection, and whether it feels safe, loving, nurturing and consistent, or unreliable, scary, and overwhelming.

This early template is built upon from our time in utero until eighteen years old. As an adult, it becomes the basis for what we expect to receive from relationships based on our past experiences.

I want to be in conversation about this topic because it’s vulnerable and touches the core of our human wounds. Being educated about why we do what we do to bond builds awareness and compassion. Studying attachment is rich terrain for healing and integrating personal and collective experiences of separation, which drive feelings of self-hatred, jealousy, control, withdrawal, blame and judgment.

My desire is to normalize and bring awareness to the human need to attach and experience secure connection. For some, the word ‘attachment’ can be loaded with shame, denial, and even spiritual bypassing. I’ve seen my own ego co-opt spiritual teachings about non-attachment as a way to avoid feeling the vulnerability of having needs and needing others. This type of response is often an unconscious defense strategy that keeps us from receiving the fullness of connection and support we actually long for.

If you’re not familiar with attachment theory, I encourage you to read my article, How does attachment theory relate to sex and intimacy? I hope it helps you to normalize the dilemma you feel and to create a greater context for your questions.

Wired to connect and protect

Did you know that your brain and nervous system are constantly looking for protection and connection?

We long for relationship, bonding, and intimacy, yet our limbic and reptilian brains scan for threat and safety 24/7. They track for perceived threats for our physical safety, but also for threats to our sense of belonging, self-image, or emotional integrity. The most innocuous instances, like someone vocalizing an opinion opposite to ours, can threaten our sense of stability, security, or worth. To prevent pain and psychological collapse, subconscious defense mechanisms ignite in our mind-body.

As primal creatures, we are bound to be reactive. So how can we develop presence, leadership, and deeply fulfilling intimate relationships when we’re innately equipped with animalistic wiring? It starts by understanding this:

One of the ultimate human paradoxes is that we long for connection and yet we automatically protect ourselves for fear of being hurt, abandoned, betrayed, or rejected.

This means that within us, at all times, two primary programs of survival co-exist:

  • Connection/Nurturing: Our need to feel loved, nurtured, supported, and emotionally regulated.

  • Protection/Safety: Our need to track potential threats so we can maintain safety, both physically and emotionally.

When we feel threatened, our reptilian and limbic brains ignite a fight, flight, or freeze survival response.

This perpetual inner conflict can leave us with intense emotional swings, physical tension, and unconscious reactive tendencies.

I expand upon this in my article, Wired to connect and protect.

Five Phases of Early Developmental Needs

During the first seven years of our lives, we traverse our most influential and complex developmental process. It’s a time in which our subconscious mind maps the architecture of our belief systems through our somatic experience and conditioned learning. This all occurs through the course of five developmental needs.

 

Five Early Developmental Phases:

1) Seek safety & security (0-6 months)

2) Seek connection and having needs met (6 months -2 years old)

3) Seek to feel our power & influence (2-3 years old)

4) Seek our independence while still feeling loved and accepted (3-4 years old)

5) Seek to feel confident in our worthiness and enoughness (4-7 years old)

 

What we learn in each phase about ourselves and the world lays down the tracks of our subconscious operating system and adaptive strategies that help protect our vulnerability and heart when it’s not safe to let it shine. When we consistently experience neglect or traumatic experiences during any of these phases they root into our psyche and adaptive coping behaviors and beliefs. These forming views of reality can carry into adulthood as developmental trauma, which is distinct from acute trauma suffered by a one time incident, like a car accident.

Protection mechanisms are wise choices that we make, most often without knowing it. They build invisible barriers that eventually prevent us from receiving more than our system has wired us to expect, hope for and feel worthy of depending on our conditioned learning. A more detailed article on this is coming in August. Meanwhile, you can learn a bit more in my article, Wired to connect and protect.

Conscious relationship

Discussing your questions

  1. “What if all my conditioning as a lonely, shut in kid hiding in front of a tv has built me into a man who finds safety, power, freedom, and validation only when I’m alone? What if I’ve convinced myself I love being alone? Really I’m quite content finding sex, hugs, cuddles, oxytocin once a month or so and when I get that connection, that release, I really want to be alone again. Am I lying to myself?”

    Only you can find the true answer to this question. My sense is that it’s safer and less threatening to be alone. And your soft and loving heart longs to feel connection that is safe, generous, and a form of supportive intimacy in your life.

  2. “Why do I keep giving in to evil, snarky bitches since I was a little boy? I even convince myself they’re right for me. I would like very much to unlearn this. I don’t want to be passive anymore. I want to be proactive. I want to be me and not like them. I want the sweet girl/knowing powerful woman. I want to bring out the good in me that would match her. I want to feel good not snarky. I want to actually be good not snarky.”

    Your trauma and emotional wounding have created a template of belief and orientation that your mind-body has been operating from. Your heart knows that there is another way, that’s why you ask these questions. As you receive new experiences in safe and loving environments you will be able to rewire your operating system and no longer attract the energy that matches your core wounds.


My response: “Hit your conditioning head on, with a big side of loving support”

Here is what I have to offer. I see you at a crossroads. One that, in a way, you’ve been preparing for your whole life. A point in your Hero’s Journey in which you are holding two needs without a clear sense of whether they can co-exist or not.

  1. A need for connection: You deeply long for unconditional and nourishing connection that feels safe, provides freedom for you to be your most authentic self, and to remember the goodness that lives in your heart and feel matched by others who mirror and express this kind of soft and openhearted love too.

  2. A need for authenticity and freedom: You feel safest and most secure being alone, most of the time because your life experiences have mirrored back the shadow of un-integrated hearts and minds in which you feel like a servant to an insatiable need to change you, fix you, shame you and shut you down.

Both are true. For you, for me, and for most of us who are on a journey of self-love and embodiment. Regardless of our past we need safe and nonjudgmental connection and we also need time to feel ourselves from the inside out without the influences of other people’s needs and agenda to make us into who they want us to be for them.

You want connection and you want to freedom to be you. I celebrate you knowing and claiming this!

Finally, back to your question, “How can I get repeated new experiences?”

The way to heal abusive cycles born from our past is to find safe, loving, and attuned support to help unravel the trauma of misunderstanding ourselves as bad or wrong because of other people’s projections, fears, and defended hearts. We need new and more accurate mirrors.

For me, initially this was hard to find in my friendships for some time, because I was naturally attracting people who replicated my core wounds of being invisible and a vehicle to fulfill other people’s agenda.I have peeled, torn, chewed and shred many fucked up patterns and beliefs about myself by finding allies who gave me an embodied experience of another way. I found a handful of people who saw me beyond my conditioning when I was deconstructing my trauma. Many of which were professional coaches, bodyworkers, shamans and so on. They held my hand as I squirmed, resisted and defended against their love. Not because I didn’t want it, but because my system had no reference for this kind of attention, generosity and space to discover my authentic self without feeling criticized and judged. In the beginning, their love had no place to land because I was protected and scared. Over time, as my system was reflected back from each of them with more accuracy. I began to reframe my interpretations of my brokenness as the pain, fear and suffering of others that I had taken on and made personal, which is almost the only option we have as a child.

It’s possible to rewire with support. With allies who will stay when we want to push them away. And who push us to remember our basic goodness when we collapse into self-hatred and doubt.

I know many amazing coaches and therapists in the Bay Area and I’d be happy to offer you some names. I’m also available for this type of journey as a coach.

We need others to accurately reflect ourselves back to us and help us to interrupt the destructive templates woven into our psyche so that we can feel our radiance and goodness shine through.

Final questions for you to contemplate:

If you’re finding the mythical map of the hero’s journey a helpful perspective, then you may want to explore Carl Jung’s work on the journey into the masculine psyche, which is relevant for all of us since it’s not gender-specific. From his view, the hero’s journey into the masculine psyche takes us deep down in the abyss in the bottom half of the map, the unknown. We go here to face the destructive side of our anima (internal feminine) that seeks to control, overpower and annihilate us. This is a journey we all must take to reclaim our power. I suspect you’re in the space where this ultimate alchemy and transmutation is underway. This is the story of you reclaiming your masculine power by healing the feminine wound within.

As you review the hero’s journey map, if my reflection resonates that you’re in the phase between the cave and seizing your sword, then what does that mean for you?

The definition of the phase for seizing the sword is as follows:

Something awakens inside of the hero/heroine, and he/she finds clarity in the heart. Cycles of suffering are revealed, and the hero/heroine consciously commits to interrupting outdated patterns and frees themselves from forces that previously controlled them. This is a phase of integrating what’s been fragmented. He/she finds the inner elixir, and courageously rises up from cave, marking the start of an intentional journey back into the world. This is where the core transmutation happens, transforming core wounds and suffering into medicine for ourselves and the world.

Questions for you to PONDER:

  1. What is the inner elixir that you’re brewing in your cave and heart, that will be revealed as you seize your sword?

  2. What choices do you want to make about how to unwind your inherited trauma? What about this feminine wound within?

  3. What steps can you take to embody this empowered rising up in your relationship to yourself? In relationship to the type of women you want to meet? From an empowered place, what would be a new relationship outcome with women that you desire? Can you imagine and visual this new reality?

In closing, I want to repeat, from my heart to yours, this simple love note:

You need to be heard.

Your voice matters.

Your goodness is obvious to me.

Your desire to know unconditional love is a universal hunger.

Let yourself roam to find this inside of yourself and through those who can see you with no filter.

Integrative coach
Anne-Marie Marron