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How Do You Know if a Person Likes Themselves?

Male Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse Tells His Story

Copyright © 1999 by John Andrews


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I hated maths and physics at school. All of those complicated formulas with missing numbers that you had to somehow figure out. It frustrated me no end seeing the teacher write up this complicated formula and then apply some standard rules to reduce what seemed complicated to a simple a over b =c! I felt frustrated at my inability to grasp the rules and found myself in the situation where I would memorize all the rules, know them inside out and back to front and yet when it came to exams (having to apply those rules) I would always get it wrong. Even though I knew what to do I somehow tripped up and came out with the wrong answers.

In some way I see connections between this and life. Many people I talk with have read lots of self-help books memorized what to do and still find themselves tripping up. I work as a social welfare officer and I get to have over 1000 client contacts each year. I'm busy. And one of the common themes that keeps coming up, is people who know what to do but for some reason keep getting tripped up. For example women who keep getting into violent relationships. They promise themselves that this relationship will be different to the last one but it turns out that it's not and in most cases it's worse than the previous relationship. Then there are people who seem to have a propensity to attract trouble. They keep getting into relationships where people keep using them and even abusing them. One person came to me and in total frustration said to me, 'John it's like I'm wearing a tea shirt with the words USE ME I'M AVAILABLE' after another person conned there way into her bed.

I knew this person very well and replied "perhaps it should read USE ME I WONT NOTICE"

I see lots of people who for some reason get tangled up in relationships that end up hurting them when they started out seeming good to my clients. With the best intentions in the beginning they end up turning sour. With the result that many people listen to the old message tape, "see it's not worth loving someone (love equals abuse) you only end up getting hurt." Yet most of us crave real love as if our lives depend on it, so what can we do to prevent being attracted to relationships that end up hurting us?

I have used my frustration and hatred of maths to devise a simple question that reduces all the complicated enmeshment that occurs when we meet someone and begin to be involved that hopefully sorts out and provides an answer to help us make wise choices. Before I share this simple question I'd like to discuss the theory behind it.

In my work I get to see a lot of people who are victims of childhood abuse and as a result are victims of continuing abuse. People use them, take advantage of their low self esteem, tell them what to do, control them, have power and domination over them, push them around, become violent, ect. Indeed this is a very normal thing. They attract people who use them. If you think about it what is the common thing about people who use others? What do they all have in common? Ah my memory is working! What's the common denominator? How is it that perpetrators can violate another person? What's going on in them to allow them to hurt another person and either not notice or not be bothered about this at all?

One of my favorite authors is Alice Miller. Her writing is just brilliant. She weeds out the mindset of perpetrators and says that they have one thing that is common to all. That is they don't feel. So what? some might say. I could spend many pages explaining why this is so. Put it to the test start looking closely at the people you know who use you or others. Notice whether they are in touch with their own feelings or whether they are disconnected from themselves.

Now we are getting closer to this simple question. Before we do there is an obvious question we could insert and a very useful one to use. It's, How do you know if someone is in touch with their feelings?

Getting on with my other question. The result of people not being in touch with their true feelings is that they end up being disconnected from their true selves. They are living out of reality; they can hurt others and not feel a thing. They don't even notice. They have another thing about them that comes out of not feeling. It's that they have a very low self-esteem. Very low. So low it hardly registers on the self-esteem table. In other words they simply don't care about themselves or others. This is easier for most people to spot. As opposed to noticing whether a person is in touch with their feelings.

My question is "How do you know if a person likes themselves?"

Imagine meeting a person and wondering will they use me or abuse me. Will this turn out to be just another user? The theory behind this question is that a person who can stand in front of the mirror in the morning a say good morning gorgeous! And really genuinely enjoy their own company isn't the least bit interested in hurting another person. They are the sort of person who enjoys other people's company who spends their energy building up people not tearing them down. They feel good about themselves and cringe inside when they see people being hurt. On the other hand a person who has low self-esteem can make it their life work to tear people down, belittle others in order to feel good inside that they are better than others. Does this ring true for you?

If it does try adopting the 'Does this person like themselves test' and see if they pass it. If you then discover that they don't you have a choice to make. Do I want to attract trouble! Or avoid it? If we notice then we are beginning to sort out how we want to approach others. Another choice we have is to be careful, treat with caution people with low self-esteem. Have appropriate boundaries. This involves treating ourselves with respect and building up our own self-esteem. For me I need people tearing me down like a hole in my head! I've had enough of this and finding people who like themselves and make it their life's work to build up others is a breath of fresh air compared to the sour tasting sickening efforts of people who tear others down in the misguided belief that they are somehow better!

I'd be interested in hearing from people some different answers to 'How do you know if a person likes themselves?

Related stories:


Take Care of Your Mother - Or Else, by Scott Abraham.

Revenge: A Dish Best Served Cold, by Scott Abraham.

Be Gone!, by Scott Abraham.

Climbing Out From Hell, by Jeffrey Miller.

Wounded Boys, Courageous Men, a photo-essay about male survivors of institutional child abuse in a Canadian institution, by E. Jane Mundy.

Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse: Book Reviews, by Scott Abraham.

Yes, Women Do Abuse, by Scott Abraham

"False" Memories, Repressed Memories, by Scott Abraham.

John Lee on Anger, an interview with John Lee

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