Column For Relaunch of Shape Magazine Spring 2008

I’m 32 and still feel like I haven’t found my direction in life. I constantly feel dissatisfied and can’t recall the last time I was truly, deeply happy. I’m currently in a relationship with a lovely man but I’m increasingly at risk of sabotaging it as familiar patterns emerge: lack of trust, resentment and doubt, leading to blazing rows and days of misery and tears. At least I now know these things have nothing to do with the relationship per se and everything to do with the fact I’m not settled within myself. I spend a lot of time listening to my beloved music and thinking (and thinking), and tend to romanticise things. I find it very hard to accept and negotiate the tough spots in life, like some of my more ‘sorted’ friends can. I’ve also got a terrible temper that can well up rapidly up over the smallest things, and I’m always regretful about it. I’ve seen several different therapists over the years but they just make things more confusing for me. Am I weird?

Well let’s examine the evidence. Although 32, you sound like someone who is much younger. You haven’t settled on a career nor established a sense of adult identity. The model of happiness you follow comes from childhood and is childlike. Adult happiness consists of absence of pain and enjoying steady, reasonable rewards whereas you seek ecstasy!

I think it’s a huge clue that you would choose to wonder if you are weird. It shows me that you have been sent into this world before you were furnished with the essential skills for dealing with it. In other words, your ‘weirdness’ is nothing you did and there is nothing wrong with your personality.

My guess is that in your family there was a divorce, serious illness, perhaps episodes of depression or a drink problem that dominated your early life as a child. Instead of being able to develop your self-confidence, you had to waste time literally trying to avoid becoming a target. Even so, I’ve a hunch you were often verbally demolished by family members under pressure – and THAT’S where you first got your sense of being the odd one out.

So – to come off the fence – I emphatically do NOT think you are ‘weird’. I think the way you feel is normal for all who have experienced these sorts of early distress. I also think your complaints about not being looked after today are ALSO about not being looked after when you were younger.

How to change? Start small, with simple day-to-day events. When you have to make a judgement call, weigh up the pros and cons, come down on a side that you favour and never, ever give yourself a hard time if it doesn’t work out completely. It doesn’t matter – there’s no right or wrong in most personal decisions – what counts is that you start to become your own loyal supporter! If nothing else, by the time you have finished reading this answer, I want you to be ready to say: “I am not weird, I simply face one or two difficulties that can be managed”.

Come clean with your partner. Explain how on edge you get much of the time and ask him to help you contain and refocus your anger on issues where you can make a difference. The very fact that he bothers to listen at all may help you to trust him. Even so, this will be a difficult conversation to hold because you could question whether you two want to go the full distance together. But directionless anger is futile (as well as bad for the heart). It’s the direct opposite of righteous anger that nails a lie. So discuss the lot – where to live, what job to do, whether to stay in the same relationship, what goals you will pursue and – because you are worth it – if you do remain a couple, whether he has any bad habits he might need to change.

You must be logged in to post a comment