I don’t know! Nothing! I’m fine!
Sound familiar? How often do these words actually mean what they say? Why do these phrases seem to be the default answers when we are upset? Come on, I know I’m not the only one who attempts to use them as quick copouts to avoid revealing the answer. Isn’t it just easier to say one of the automatic responses than expose our emotions, our vulnerability, or how needy we really are underneath the facade? Hurry, flip the autopilot switch before you reach the point of no return and fall to pieces!
So, what could be the real answer to “What’s wrong?” or “What’s the matter?”
A possible answer could be something insignificant like I forgot something on the grocery list. OK, so in this instance, I just feel ridiculous for forgetting whatever it was especially if it was on the list and after spending a crazy amount of time in the store. Maybe I just don’t want to admit that I’m embarrassed; however, this could also be the final straw that broke the camel’s back.
Or, it could be that I simply had a rough day at work. My days can vary. One day I could be managing/programming the company’s internal webpage which is not even remotely related to mechanical engineering, but I do enjoy it. The next day I could be working on two quotes and taking care of two jobs (calculations, drawings, paperwork, etc.). Some days just make me feel frazzled because customers are calling in, things are due, and of course everyone else is out of the office! I know I should learn to step back and breathe. Believe me, I used to be a lot worse when it came to work-related stress. Even though I’ve learned how to let some things go, I can still have my rough days.
It could also be more complex like someone saying something and because of a combination of the way it was said and how I took it, now I feel very insecure and hurt. Maybe it’s one scenario or maybe it’s just adding one more thing to the list of things that could be bugging me. Suddenly, all those annoying little things, which might have been manageable individually, are now wrecking havoc in my head.
So, how could this play out in conversation and how could you get passed the brick wall that has been erected in an attempt to save yourself from possible rejection? The dialogue of the automated response conversation can happen any number of ways. Here’s one version that might help me.
At the end of one of those long days…
Me: (you and I make eye contact and I look away quickly, eyes beginning to water) Maybe he won’t notice. After all, I’m fine, right?
Him: (with concern) Honey, what’s wrong?
Me: (on the verge of tears – the dam won’t hold for long) I shake my head as if to say, “Nothing,” but don’t utter a word.
Him: Baby, I can see it all over your face. Now, what’s the matter?
Me: (a tear travels silently down my cheek) He actually cares about me – I can hear it in his voice. I can’t hide because he can see right through me. Breaking down, I reply, “I don’t know!” (insecurities kick in) It doesn’t matter. He’s just going to think I’m being foolish. My heart feels heavy. Why can’t I be strong enough? Why am I so needy? I feel so childish, raw, and vulnerable. What happened to the strong, independent woman? Damn, I guess I left her at work.
Me, cont.: (glancing up at him, mind buzzing with irrational, fear-induced rambling – no, not fear of him or anything he’ll do, but fear of rejection and fear of not being worth the trouble) Please don’t leave me! I need you…to be my rock, to pick up the pieces, to take control for a little while. (He hasn’t moved yet. He’s just patiently watching me.)
Him: (His hand reaches out to caress my face.) Do you need a spanking?
Me: (not looking at him) I nod.
Him: Sweetheart, come here. I’ve got you. Let me take care of you. (He reaches for my hand and gently pulls me facedown over his lap.) It’s OK. I’m here. (His hand caresses my bottom.) This isn’t a punishment – it’s because I love you and I want to help you. We will deal with this together.
Me: (whispered) I love you, too.
With his hand and maybe some implements, he slowly tears down the wall, watches me relax, and whispers sweet encouragement. He is there to pick up the pieces. When it’s over, I’ll feel loved, cared for, protected, and cherished. Maybe now, we can talk about what was bothering me, significant or not. I no longer fear being rejected. For the time being, the weight of the world is no longer resting on my shoulders. Soon, I’ll be able to stand strong and take on the world again.
Q: But wait, did you ever answer? What was such a big deal?
A: (shrugs with a shy smile) I don’t know…maybe I just needed to cry…