Loved or Hated?

Sometimes I wonder if the question most of us are asking much of the time is whether or not we are loved or hated. As I reflect on my past, sometimes it’s hard to know. If a person cannot love in a true, honest way, is it love at all? Maybe it’s more important to ask the question of whether or not I love or have loved.

When I was in high school, I performed in a theatre production in which our director gave all of us a specific desire to act out. My part was “I want someone to fall madly in love with me.” At the time, I was shocked she didn’t give me the “I want to be a ballerina” role — that was what I’d expected, as I was a “bunhead” and clearly obsessed with ballet. She was right, though, back then. I loved ballet but on a deeper level I just wanted to be loved. I craved safety and belonging, passion and love.

Growing up, there were times I felt pretty important to my mom. But, because of her tendency to “split” (view people as all good or all bad) my status with her was shaky. I can remember some of the times I did feel loved so vividly: the times she would squeeze my hand while bringing me to work with her, the times we’d laugh as we cleaned out our closet and got rid of things we couldn’t believe we’d ever bought/kept. But then there were other times, times when she would fly into a rage because I didn’t clean the coffee pot (when I was too young to know there was a coffee pot that needed to be cleaned). There were times she resented me for things other people had done to me — times I was seen as a threat instead of a daughter. I believed my mom loved me, but her words and actions did not often reflect deep care and concern for me and my well-being.

I think it’s because of this incongruence that I had difficulty knowing how to distinguish whether others in my life were “for” me or “against” me. It is hard to learn how to accurately view people and assess relationships when you grow up with an unstable single parent — even harder when that parent struggles with borderline and narcissistic personality disorders. It’s our parents who are our first teachers and we learn how to be treated through our interactions with them. Consequently, my own pattern of feeling loved and then hated followed through into my adult life, and led me to be overly trusting at times and then overly withdrawn at others. It’s only recently that I’ve learned some discernment — that people must earn your trust. In my younger years I would just try and try and try, even when people proved to me that they did not like me and that my trying was in vain or when I found that they were never trustworthy to begin with.

Still, there are certain persons with whom I’ve had relationships where it truly was hard to tell if I was loved or hated … maybe they, too, had a tendency to “split” or be extremely fickle in their opinions. I was an easy target for these types of people, who could sense my desire to please and be loved. When I look back, I can see the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of these people who hurt me (I’m an empath). They wanted to be loved and adored, too. I’ve read that narcissists believe they cannot be loved, so instead they choose to be feared. This seems true in my experience. I was a target of mean bosses and manipulative co-workers, but even now I’m not sure if they truly hated me or just needed to feel powerful. The few times I’ve confronted these people, the underlying issue was that they felt slighted. My mom has often felt slighted, too, and her sense of entitlement prevents her from seeing that I must think of others and not only her. This sense of entitlement — to rule my decisions, my schedule, my opinions — coupled with not getting exactly what she thinks she deserves almost always leads to rage. It can be over the most minor detail. I’m not sure my mom truly hates me or if she’s just too angry to show love.

We all want to feel loved, and yet none of us love perfectly. The way we express or don’t express love is often flawed. Because of this, there is no perfectly safe person. In our quests to find love and admiration, we often forget to love ourselves and others. But, we can choose to love throughout this messy journey (even if we don’t know where it might lead). We can love ourselves and others through the messiness. I am working on loving myself and others better.

When I look back at what felt like my most difficult, messiest, ugliest life moments, they were often the times when there was a choice — a fork in the road that could lead to beautiful things. I didn’t always choose those things. Fear often held me back.

When my first boyfriend told me of a health concern right after we broke up…
When I was humiliated and hid from the world…
When I changed my mind about a lover…
When I left my first love (of dance)…
When my mom threw a tantrum and I decided to decide to try and reason with her, over and over again…

The loving things I could have chosen were compassion, honesty, grace, reflection, slowing down, saying nothing, asking for help, letting go of the fight.

When I can honestly assess what is happening, instead of trying to revise it to be what I want it to be as quickly as possible, things can reveal themselves more clearly. The truth isn’t always pretty, and it can be so hard to accept, but I believe that facing it can lead to better things. It is painful when someone you love cannot accept the truth (of their own disorder, of their poor behavior, of reality). I still struggle with this aspect.

Have you experienced difficulty discerning whether someone loves/hates you? Have you been on a quest for love that has left you exhausted, maybe because you are seeking love from one who is just too broken to give it? Please share your experience.