Lately, I’ve been thinking about a lot of things, mostly about what makes people tick. Not just other people, what makes ME tick? Am I broken? Or was I raised to be a certain way? Or did I inherit some sort of “needy” genes from my biological parents? What makes me, me?
Yesterday, I finished reading the third book in the Divergent Series, Allegiant, and it discusses a lot about genes, and whether or not our genes pre-dispose us to certain behaviors. The heroine, in fact, has some sort of super-genes that allow her to overcome the variety of injectable simulations and other “serums” that are available in this future, broken America. But she also, throughout the books, tends to veer towards self-sacrifice, and this is a direct result of her upbringing in the faction of Abnegation, which believes in selflessness above all else.
So which is the more important? She chose to leave her faction in the very first book because she didn’t want to be always selfless, but by the end of the stories she has embraced her selfless side as the truest form of herself.
And while Tris, our heroine, is NOT adopted, the selfless nature of Abnegation means she never really got to know her parents until she gets a hold of her mother’s journals in this last book…
It’s the age old question of nature versus nurture, and I would argue that this book makes the argument that Nurture combined with our personal choices is what determines who we become. And I AM adopted, so there is some comfort in knowing what’s in store for me because I can see what kind of person I will become by looking at my mother and grandmother.
Actually, that’s not an entirely comforting thought. While I love my family, and I know that they love me, there are some behavioral things that I try really hard not to embrace. Like I think, sometimes, my mother and grandmother confuse the word “pride” for “love,” so that “I’m proud of you,” means more than “I love you.” The consequence of that is that “I’m disappointed in you,” changes, in my mind, to “you’re not worthy of my love.”
As a result, I need people to be happy with me. When I disappoint someone, it causes me physical discomfort, and often, if I really care about the person, it creates a mind-numbing ache in the center of my being. I crave praise and affirmation verbally stating that I am worthy of other people’s attention and love. When I don’t get it, I am lost. I get confused, disoriented. I try to determine what’s wrong with me.
It means that I form really great bonds with my students, who are at the developmental stage where they also need this reassurance, and I’m sure to give it to them, and in return they draw me pictures or come visit my classroom or sometimes write me letters, letting me know that they care also. We understand each other’s needs in that department.
As long as it doesn’t become inappropriate. I had a student cross the line once, after he had graduated…
That was awkward.
But my need for constant affirmation can sometimes be a really negative thing. Particularly in a blossoming relationship where the person I’m seeing doesn’t feel a need to tell me what he’s thinking. Ever. And only shows his feelings after I’ve asked until he’s frustrated with me…
It means I kill a lot of relationships. Because my need for a sign of affection often makes the other person believe that I’ve gotten more attached than I am.
It means I’ve learned to read people’s body language when I can’t get verbal affirmation. This should be a good thing, but it also, apparently, means that I misinterpret signals sometimes. It’s not often, but when it happens, I REALLY misinterpret the signals. Again, killing a blossoming relationship.
It means I’m probably going to be alone until I find someone who is willing to talk to me, or help me read their personal signals. I need someone patient enough to teach me their “language.” Someone who is willing to learn my language, too. Someone willing to accept me in my broken state, because I think my need for affirmation, or just acknowledgement, is a sign of my brokenness. A “whole” person wouldn’t need these things, right?
A whole person would realize, “I want you in my space,” means “I care about you and trust you and you are worthy of my time and consideration.”
Instead, I got the “trust” part, but couldn’t figure out why anyone would just want another person in their space. It made me question my purpose.
Because I do need a purpose! Because I am not whole. I am broken and need a purpose, a goal to work towards, so that I can make the other person proud. So that the other person can say “good job,” or “thank you for doing/being ______.”
So, Nurture isn’t doing anything good for me at the moment… I’ll look into the Nature thing later. Right now, I have to decide if I can fix what I’ve broken by being broken. I’ve already made the request for more verbal and physical affirmation, but should I have done so? I don’t know. Maybe this relationship that “isn’t a relationship,” will give me the opportunity to fix myself. Make me whole, so I can go into the next relationship not so needy.
Maybe that’s all it’s ever supposed to be… I don’t like that thought, but at least there’s a purpose to it.
*Featured Image is a painting by Anthony Dortch Jr. The source for all other images can be found by clicking on the image.