Episode 385: Obsessing Over New Relationships & Recovering from Sexual Assault

Hello, friends!

In today’s episode, we tackle two profound listener questions that may resonate with many of you:

Navigating Romantic Relationships and Self-Esteem: A listener seeks advice on managing the anxiety and self-doubt that accompany new romantic relationships. We discuss the concept of “correct rejections” and explore strategies for nurturing a healthy sense of self-esteem, such as focusing on personal growth and savoring moments of joy.

Overcoming Trauma and Self-Doubt: Another listener shares their struggle with self-doubt stemming from a traumatic experience. We emphasize the importance of self-compassion and challenge the stigma associated with seeking help. We discuss the benefits of therapy and self-help resources, as well as the empowering nature of setting challenges and connecting with others.

As always, you can send me questions to duffthepsych@gmail.com and find the full show notes for this episode at http://duffthepsych.com/episode385

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Question 1:

Hi Duff

Big fan! Thank you for taking the time to discuss such important topics on your podcast.

I’ve recently started talking to someone and I feel like I am constantly thinking about them, waiting on a response, feeling anxious about whether they like me or not. Maybe you could discuss how to navigate these situations and be content with whatever outcome. I hate feeling like I’m relying on someone for my happiness.

Response:

Thank you for reaching out and sharing your experiences, a scenario many listeners will undoubtedly relate to. The exhilaration and anxiety tied to new romantic interests, often referred to as a crush, infatuation, or in nonmonogamous circles as New Relationship Energy (NRE), can indeed make your world seem entirely focused on this new person. This state, characterized by constant thoughts about them, awaiting their messages, and imagining various scenarios, is a testament to the vulnerability that comes with opening up to someone new.

Your self-awareness, as evidenced by recognizing these feelings and behaviors, is commendable. It shows an understanding of your emotional responses and a desire to navigate them healthily. It’s natural to feel a mix of excitement and anxiety when exploring potential relationships, especially when considering the varying expectations, pressures, and values that each individual brings to the table. For some, the urgency may be tied to life goals such as starting a family, while for others, it may stem from the novelty and excitement of new connections.

However, when this preoccupation begins to overshadow other aspects of your life, causing disappointment when imagined scenarios don’t materialize or hindering your ability to maintain existing relationships, it’s a signal to introspect. The crux of your query seems to revolve around how to remain open to whatever outcome this budding relationship may lead to, emphasizing the concept of “correct rejections.” Not every connection is meant to flourish into a relationship, and that’s perfectly okay. Compatibility varies widely, and it’s unrealistic to expect every interaction to lead to a deeper connection.

The notion that one shouldn’t solely rely on others for happiness is significant and reflects a mature perspective on relationships. While it’s natural to derive joy from interactions with others, placing your entire emotional well-being in someone else’s hands can be problematic. Embracing self-reliance, through focusing on personal growth and finding joy in solitude, can be incredibly liberating. It allows you to appreciate your company and find fulfillment outside of romantic engagements.

For those moments of uncertainty and anticipation, shifting focus towards personal interests and self-care can be a powerful tool. Engaging in activities that promote your well-being and happiness not only diverts attention from the anxiety of waiting but also enriches your life independently of your romantic status. Celebrating solitude and learning to find enjoyment in your own company can transform potentially difficult moments into opportunities for growth and happiness.

Your journey is a personal one, and the strategies that resonate with you will be unique. By reflecting on how these tendencies impact your life and well-being, you can develop a plan that aligns with your values and goals. Remember, treating yourself with kindness and understanding is paramount as you navigate the complexities of relationships and personal growth.

Question 2:

Hi duff the psych

I absolutely love your podcast the information is always so thoughtful and well presented
With that in mind I have a question for a future episode of your podcast

My question is: how do I start to navigate and get past horrible self doubt I have suffered with this since I reported being sexually assaulted 8 years ago aged 15  I want to move on with my life without feeling like I’m unworthy or incapable of my life goals I have had therapy in the past which has been helpful so would that maybe help again I’m embarrassed about needing it again as I’ve bounced in and out over the last 8 years

Response:

Navigating the aftermath of sexual assault, especially when it occurs during such a formative period as adolescence, presents profound challenges. The feelings of unworthiness and self-doubt you’re grappling with are unfortunately common among survivors, reflecting the deep impact such an experience can have on one’s sense of self and trust in others. Your courage in seeking help and striving to move beyond these feelings is commendable and shows great strength.

It’s important to remember that healing from sexual assault is a non-linear process, often requiring different approaches as one progresses through various stages of recovery. The fact that therapy has been helpful in the past is a positive sign, indicating that you’ve already begun laying the groundwork for further healing. It’s not uncommon for survivors to return to therapy at different points in their lives, as new layers of their experiences and their impacts come to light. This isn’t a step backward but rather a part of the journey toward understanding and integration.

Your journey of healing may now be calling for a deeper exploration of self-concept and worth, areas that are often profoundly affected by traumatic experiences. As you’ve noted, previous therapy may have addressed more immediate symptoms or coping mechanisms, but deeper issues related to self-esteem, trust, and personal identity may now be surfacing. This is a natural progression in the healing process, indicating readiness to tackle these more entrenched beliefs and feelings.

Seeking a therapist who specializes in sexual trauma can provide you with the targeted support you need at this stage. It’s essential to be open about your history and what you hope to achieve through therapy, as this will help you find a therapist whose expertise and approach align with your needs. Moreover, giving yourself permission to seek help again can be a powerful act of self-compassion, reinforcing the understanding that healing is ongoing and there’s no timeline to follow.

In addition to therapy, challenging yourself through new experiences can also be a valuable way to rebuild confidence and assert your agency. Whether through professional, academic, artistic, or physical endeavors, setting and achieving goals can help counter feelings of incapability and unworthiness. Engaging in activities that promote a sense of mastery and self-love, such as martial arts or other physical disciplines, can be particularly effective in reclaiming your relationship with your body and enhancing self-esteem.

Isolation can exacerbate the impact of trauma, making it crucial to actively seek out and maintain connections with supportive friends and family. Being open about your struggles and asking for company or support can break the cycle of isolation and provide a buffer against the tendency to internalize and hide your pain. Additionally, exploring self-help resources, such as books and memoirs related to overcoming sexual violence, can offer insights and validation that further your understanding and healing.

Your resilience and willingness to confront these challenges head-on are evident, and with continued support and self-care, you can move toward a place of greater self-acceptance and fulfillment. Remember, healing is a personal and unique process, and every step forward, no matter how small it may seem, is a testament to your strength and capacity for growth.

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