Monday, March 06, 2017

Desperately seeking reassurance.....

We are an anxious society, as is fairly well documented. Excessive reassurance-seeking, I realise, is a manifestation of anxiety - repeatedly seeking the same reassurances from the same people about the same stuff.

No doubt everybody does this. Most of us are insecure. In my case, my husband absorbs it. ("Do you really like my blog post? It doesn't make me sound stupid / arrogant / unkind does it? Are you sure? What about this sentence?" Every time! Ha ha! Long-suffering chap!)

In most other relationships, I am quite objective about my strengths and weaknesses. But people don't expect it. When I do share a weakness, it's assumed that I want reassurance. The statement: "I always get unreasonably angry with my son in xyz scenario", is met with: "None of us is perfect, you're a great mum, I'm sure you're behaving brilliantly."

There is a lot of reassurance-seeking on Facebook, of course. In face-to-face interactions, too, I notice it more and more. I suspect I don't deal with it very well. I tend to pursue rather than pass over comments I disagree with, I fail to pooh-pooh a fretful apology, I miss the unspoken request for a compliment.

And yet, it seems reassuring people too readily is to collude with their anxiety, enable it to prosper and therefore hold them back. So maybe there's something to be said for being a bit awkward? Even being brave enough to deny your child reassurance......

Reassurance-seeking can be confused for an apology but is in fact a a barrier to genuine contrition, change and freedom from our fears and anxieties. In Season 3, episode 9 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow waits anxiously by Oz's locker to apologise for cheating on him. He refuses to engage - her guilt isn't his problem. If she's genuinely repentant, he says, she will go away and wait, refraining from further bothering him with her need for reassurance.

It seems harsh because we've all stood in Willow's shoes. But he's right: if our 'sorry' is only an attempt to be reassured and feel better, it isn't real and can only add to our burdens.

We all need reassurance ....but I guess we also need to be aware of how that need can limit us and compromise honest relationships.

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