I'm bitter and resentful and have no trust

How can I overcome this debilitating distrust?

Published November 20, 2009 12:20AM (EST)

Dear Reader,

Yesterday I recounted as clearly as I could what is going on with me.


Glad that's over.

Today I feel a weight has been lifted. I hope I have not simply transferred that weight to you. (I guess that is one of the fears we have in speaking the truth about ourselves -- that the truth will unduly burden others.)

It took a few days to gather the strength to inhabit the truth for even a few minutes -- even though, as you will see, this thing is treatable and survivable.

Nevertheless I did promise you the song. And I did sing it at the house the other night, joined by friends including members of the Backyard Tarzans and the Dark Hollow Band, the latter of whom will be performing at the Riptide out on Taraval Street in San Francisco this Saturday night, Nov. 21, and we plan to attend, because it is our neighborhood and we need some entertainment.

I haven't gotten up the courage or possibly the idiocy to sit down and record this song for you, so I'll just say that the title is "My Chordoma," it is in the key of E major, it is not sung to the tune of "My Sharona," and the first few lines are as follows: "My cancer sounds like a 1970s two-door Chrysler convertible / I know it's bad, I should be scared, I should be more uncomfortable. / But I know / It ain't no big deal / Yes I know / It ain't no big deal / On the big wheel / We all ride / On the big wheel / We all ride."

So the title is your clue for the day. And the other clue is that it's a real pain in the ass.

So here's one more little observation: The side benefit of answering your questions is that it takes the focus off me and my little problems and puts the focus on you and your little problems, which are a whole lot easier to solve, or at least to imagine solving.

One more thing. It is an absolutely glorious mid-November day on the Pacific coast of California.

Dear Cary,

I cannot stop feeling bitter, mean and resentful.

I can't remember when I first started feeling this way, and there have been times when it has lifted, although I do remember being angry and depressed as a teenager. My childhood was quite difficult. I am an only child, and my parents were not that easy to get along with. My father was often angry and sometimes violent. I had a relationship with someone much older than me at the age of 19. He was my teacher at school and an alcoholic. I became pregnant and had an abortion. The relationship ended in my first year at university, but not before he had threatened suicide and broken into and trashed my room. I had always done very well at school and used that as a way of feeling better about myself. I then floundered for a few years after a degree at a "top" university, doing various temp jobs and feeling horrendous about my lack of achievement. I then decided to train as a lawyer, which is what I do now. I remember thinking that if I had professional respect, then I would feel OK about myself. The feeling OK hasn't happened; I can't seem to feel any real sense of satisfaction from what I have "achieved." I am now in my mid-30s, in a fairly serious relationship but no children. My parents live abroad, and I have very little family here in the U.K.

My partner and I have plans to move in together early next year. Although I want the relationship to progress, I am frightened that he is not really committed to me and that is the reason why he wants to cohabit. He knows that marriage is important to me and that I want to be a mother. For some reason that I cannot precisely identify, I am really angry at the thought of moving in with him. I am scared of losing the last few years of my fertile life to someone who doesn't really love me. I am not sure if I love him either. He is a kind man, but very introverted and finds social situations difficult. He seems happy to work all day and spend the evenings and weekends surfing the Web or playing on the Xbox. He is intelligent but doesn't seem particularly interested in life around him. Also, I think he is addicted to porn, something he does not try to hide from me.

No one who knows me would guess that I feel this way. I come across as fun, easygoing and reasonable. Inside I often fantasize about meting out death and destruction, although I never would. I want to step out of my life and start again. I have thought about suicide but am too scared.

I did see a therapist for 18 months, stopping quite recently. She wasn't that much help to me. I did start to believe that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with me, and that I had a lot to deal with as a child which may still be affecting me. I lost my trust in her when she started comparing my progress (good, apparently) to that of some of her other clients, whose sessions she described as sometimes "soul destroying." I have always been the "good student" and hated that I had become this again in my relationship with her. So I quit. Also, I couldn't bring myself to tell her things like the fact that my partner seems to be addicted to porn.

The underlying feeling in all of this is a lack of trust. Of myself, of life, of my partner. I don't know which of my feelings are worth acting on and which are just echoes of an uncomfortable past and will lead me astray. I do appreciate the good things in my life: physical health, useful work, a reasonable standard of living, some good friends -- but I am haunted by a tight sadness I can't seem to shake. I am frightened it will leave me isolated, but in some way isolation is what I crave. I don't understand why.

Please help. Thank you.

Bitter and Resentful

Dear Bitter and Resentful,

As often happens when I write this column, I wrote a first draft at the cafe and then after walking home, wishing I had more time, I read your letter again and felt my response did not address the emotional depth of your condition. It is, I see now, a profound lack of trust brought on by past betrayals and disappointments.

So I am going to stick to the conclusion I initially reached -- that cognitive therapy may help -- but will also try, right here, right now, to say the thing that leaps out at me: the big issue, the issue with great power and magnitude, is this issue of trust. Your therapist blundered into losing your trust by comparing you with her other clients. That is indeed a shame. Perhaps she will realize what happened. But you have to find somebody new. Your reaction makes perfect sense. I have a history similar to yours, so I have no problem seeing why you reacted as you did.

You need to find someone you can trust with your life. You also need to find someone with a good, workable method for combating some of the destructive thoughts you are having.

One method is cognitive therapy of the type found in Dr. David Burns' book "Feeling Good." (May I say, though, that I do not for the life of me understand how a man with any deep understanding of the human condition could allow on his Web site a photographic portrait of himself wearing such a ridiculous-looking turtleneck. It is simply beyond me. Maybe I'm being petty and shallow, but hey. I have cancer! Cut me some slack!

Betrayal by people in positions of authority can be devastating. It is often difficult to accept and understand the full impact of it. The fact that one of these people was a teacher and the other a therapist makes a perfect storm of boundary-crossing, against which of course you had next to no defense.

Also: You do not trust the man you are with. That is another dangerous relationship. I would not suggest moving in with him. You need to find the courage to be alone until you reestablish your trust in the universe. Until you find your own strength, until you find a way of living in the world that gives you the confidence you need, until you can sleep soundly at night, you are safer alone.

This is important. You must find a trained person you can trust with your vulnerable self, and you must explore these undermining events in order to find your strength in them. How will you do this? How can you trust anyone after what has happened?

Here is one idea. Do not look for someone you respect. Do not look for someone who impresses you. Look for a person you can trust with your life.

It might not be someone you admire. Your admiration may be a dangerous, seductive trap. In place of admiration, put trust. It might be someone rough around the edges, seemingly unintelligent and uncompromising. Would you trust this person to watch over you while you sleep, to mind the tiller of a sloop as you sleep below during a storm? Would you trust this person to deliver your baby? That is the kind of trust I mean. Because of these past betrayals, in order to re-encounter your wounds and find trust in the universe, you will have to find a special person. I hope it is possible for you to find this -- trust in someone or something. Trust. Trust, in some form, is the key.

So that's it for today. I'm going to try to enjoy what life offers, I'm going to trust, and meet my commitments, and see what I can do to go through life just for this day like a pretty decent person.

I'll let you know how that goes.

Write Your Truth.

What? You want more advice?

By Cary Tennis

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