Friday, June 20, 2014

From Divine Being to Dear Friend

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a crush as " a strong feeling of romantic love for someone that is usually not expressed and does not last a long time." In my life I have had many text-book crushes, but as I get older I realize the word tends to encompass a feeling not always romantic in nature. For me, a "celebrity crush" is something that happens when the want to become emotionally closer to someone you view as a mentor is so great it begins to exhibit the same symptoms as a romantic crush. The person may be someone you actually know (teacher, therapist, etc) or someone you don't know personally but look up to (religious leader, public speaker, author, etc). While I don't yearn for romantic relationships outside of my marriage, the presence of crushes in my life is still abundant.

 The first non-romantic crush I had was on a high school teacher. After graduating she became both my mentor and friend and I was obsessed with her. I wanted to help her, take care of her, and be the main part of her life. There were no sexual feelings attached, I simply wanted to be a part of her world. Unfortunately this relationship ended abruptly and harshly after I attempted to find autonomy from our enmeshed lives. Looking back, it is no shock to me that my obsession with her began around the same time I began to take my mother off of the childhood pedestal I had kept her own for so many years.

 At the time, I was slowly piecing together that my mother was a human who was not perfect and had let me down. It was a process so upsetting that I even forcefully argued with my therapist over the impact my mother had had in my life. I insisted she hadn't let me down, upset me, or treated me unkindly, ever. As I began to realize that my childhood hadn't been perfect (whose has?!) I looked to find someone to replace my mother on the pedestal that I felt I needed in order to have someone to look up to. Like many before me, I was banking on the idea that whomever I looked up to had to be some sort of fairy-tale goddess, there to save me from myself.

As I watched yet another woman fall off of my pedestal, I struggled to be without a goddess to model myself after. Since then I have had a steady stream of pedestal goddesses and they have never actually saved me from myself. They have helped me to realize who I am and to strive to grow to my full potential, but none of them have been perfect or able to erase all my problems. I like to think I've matured in my taste for the women whom I develop celebrity crushes on, picking individuals who refuse to play into the role of divine being and insist on challenging my perspective on what a mentor is.

I, like many, went through the rite of therapeutic passage that is having a crush on your therapist. Like the obsession with my high school teacher, it was never sexual in nature, but purely a "please adopt me" situation. To clarify, this developed around the time I had ended my friendship with my former teacher and returned to my home state after living cross-country for a year. I was ripe for a new goddess to place on my pedestal and my therapist was the only source of encouragement I had at the time.

I was working on going back to college and my therapist was there, encouraging my change of degree (from English to Psychology) and my decision to pursue my dream of becoming a social worker. She was practically asking to be deified! I became obsessed, talking about my therapist all the time to friends and living therapy session to therapy session. I craved the attention, support, and commitment she gave me. Eventually I realized it for what it was: a deep desire to be included in her life because I didn't believe I could ever live my life in that manner. She was exactly what I wanted to be: a self-assured, independent, forward thinking, social worker living her life and teaching others to do the same. Eventually I was able to take a step back and appreciate the aspects of my therapist that I wanted to emulate. I still look up to her and strive to be able to live my life in such a fulfilling manner, but I've finally begun to see her as a human instead of some goddess whose word is law.

 My most recent crush was taken off of the pedestal when I realized I couldn't befriend her and idolize her at the same time. It started off a social media mutual stalking situation (I'm told the more publically accepted term is "networking") that gave way to me utilizing her services as a retreat leader. This then morphed into a very special friendship that simply had no room for pedestals. In being able to analyze my motives for seeking her out (her opinions on the mental health system, recovery, and life in general both complimented and challenged my own beliefs) I was able to realize I wasn't looking for a goddess anymore. I was looking for a friendship. A deep-seated relationship based on mutual admiration for each other's views and beliefs. And that is exactly what we have.

Do I still find myself emotionally drawn to her, and others, from time to time? Certainly. I think it's perfectly natural to yearn for growth and betterment. But am I still obsessed and crazed like I was with my high school teacher? Certainly not. Reality has kicked in and I know now that I cannot fill the hole that was created when my mother came off of her (imagined) pedestal. Disappointment, fear, and need naturally come out of the realization that our parents are not the perfect beings we once imagined. The pedestal also served a sadder purpose: to keep me believing that I would never be good enough to be accepted. By having someone who was "ideal" on a pedestal, I always had someone to compare myself to in order to see just how "bad" or far from ideal I was. This perpetuation of the core belief that I can never be enough has helped to keep me in a comfortable position: depression and despair. I know that this may not seem comfortable to most, but when you have lived a large percentage of your life in crisis and depression, it becomes the norm. The norm is horribly comfortable.

 Thankfully, I have finally started to overcome these beliefs and grow up emotionally. Growing up means realizing that this need for a goddess on a pedestal is not really a need, per se, it's really a want. I wanted someone to save me, to keep me safe, and to make my life easier. I wanted the safety and security of childhood. All of these wants are okay (and perfectly normal during the stages of emerging adulthood), but in order to continue moving forward with life it was necessary to accept that I cannot have everything I want. This is exactly why the dictionary states that crushes are often undisclosed and pass rather quickly; humans are resilient and able to overcome desire in order to focus on necessity.

 Crushes, no matter the form, teach us something deep about ourselves. They allow us to see what we want in our lives, what we desire from others, and what life can be if we follow our dreams. Acknowledging these "celebrity crushes" and using the information to move forward towards our potential is something that can help make our feelings seem a little less overwhelming. By being able to say "I love that person for who they are, I admire their attributes, and I want to bring those same attributes into my life" I have been able to overcome my need to deify those who I look up to. Instead of beating myself up for such "childish" behaviors, I try to commend myself for being able to recognize my obsession for what it truly is: just a crush.

No comments:

Post a Comment