Thinking back, I think I learnt the “benefit” of compartmentalising my life into boxes in my mind from an early age. I grew up in a family which from the outside looking in would be considered a model family. We were well off, relatively happy and I knew my parents loved me.
My dad was never very open with his emotions, and never really spoke them out – like a lot of guys really – so it’s not like I grew up with him saying “I love you son” all the time or anything. But implicitly I knew that he loved me. I guess my issue was that I saw the way he bonded with my brother over similar interests – sport and music – while I was into different things: computers, academia, reading and the arts. My dad never made me feel bad or ashamed about what I was interested in, but I craved the kind of bonding that he had with my brother.
But of course, I never said anything.
When I think about how I became a people pleaser, or addicted to winning the approval of others, I think part of it must stem back to this – to my desire to bond with my dad.
So I became the son who did well, and achieved lots, and was well behaved (at least on the surface) – all things I thought would help me to win his approval. Looking back, it was unnecessary as I already had his approval – he just wasn’t the kind of person to speak it out all the time.
Throughout high school, I was definitely focused on doing really well at school. I wanted to hear from my parents that they were proud of me, and I wanted to feel my own sense of pride for achieving to a high level.
In my mid teens, I remember a time I definitely began putting things in boxes in my mind. When my dad got sick and my parents went through a huge relationship upheaval, I didn’t deal with this. I didn’t tell any of my friends or teachers what was going on at home, I didn’t talk about my feelings or emotions, and if anyone asked how I was, I would say, “Fine”. I presented a front of “nothing to see here” and carried on as if there wasn’t anything wrong. I knew that my mum and dad could see that my brother was reacting to the situation with rebellion, and I felt like I needed to be the “good kid.” So I just soldiered on and never dealt with any of the anger and hurt that the situation was causing me.
When life settled back down, I thought to myself, “Well that worked well [the compartmentalising]” and thus began my strategy for surviving life.
The problem is, as I said in my first blog post, when you shove a life time of crap into boxes in your mind, at some point it will spill out, and that isn’t pretty.
More about that next time.
Good things about today:
- Being out and about in the sunshine
- Spending time with my wife and daughter
- A successful meeting with a good outcome