TexasTeacherMom

Haunted by the Past

58 posts in this topic

TexasTeacherMom,

It seems like you have come to some conclusions on why you are "haunted by your past." But, I offer that you do not stay in your past any longer than it takes to figure out the why's of your haunting and how to overcome them. Looking back can bring many different memories and emotions, but you cannot get stuck there. After a certain time and point a person has to look at their past mistakes and say, "so what." That is, as long as you have made or are attempting to make the changes required for you to move forward while acknowledging that the choices that haunt you are either the other person's fault or if your own, that you do not intend on making them again. Once this is done it is time to move forward, set new goals and achieve values.

I would also offer that you do not let other people have so much power over your self-esteem as self-esteem does not come from what other people think of you. Self-esteem is defined as holding oneself in high regard and only you have the power to destroy or build your self-esteem. It will not be easy, but you must make yourself into the type of person that you consider virtuous.

Once again, I only offer this as helpful advice.

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A huge trigger for these episodes of depression is when I feel underestimated by those around me. I am very intelligent but my manners are not refined. I am more comfortable with my "country ways". I think if I had been better equiped at the time to handle that rejection and had not blown it completely out of proportion, I would have made different decisions. I may not have had my daughter, and may not have ever married my second husband or had my sons, so I can't say I would do things differently looking back. But I do find it frustrating when I am around people who show by their manner that they think themselves superior to me in intelligence. I find myself wondering if having a doctoral degree or a law practice would garner more respect than being a teacher. I know a lot of people think that public school teachers are the bottom of the barrell and that we can't do anything else, but for me it was the most practical way for me to earn a living as a single mom. I turn around and blame that frustration on the way I handled this man's rejection.

Going by what you write, you come across as a very worthy person, and it is a shame you are so hard on yourself. Whether your church upbringing has made you vulnerable to guilt feelings, is something I can only suspect so far. Your willingness to look inside yourself means you do think you are worth the effort. "Country ways" can be refined. Remember that those who show rudeness are the the real inferiors despite their cloak of sophistication. Your strength will come from your conviction that you are honest. It should let you tower over those who are not. Once you have accepted that you made mistakes, you have got rid of half your guilt. The other half will go when you learn how not to repeat them.

Be kind to yourself, you are worth it.

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I can identify with being intelligent, but not "refined."

In fourth grade I was put into a group of four children that my teacher said did especially well on the IQ test and would be given demanding assignments, special books, etc. Now the other three were undoubtedly smart kids, but me? They read "literature" and I read comic books and magazines. Their fathers and mothers went to college and were professionals. My mother was a housewife who never went to college and my dad was an immigrant to didn't speak English until he was 12 and owned a meat packing plant -- i.e., a slaughterhouse -- in Philadelphia. The other smart kids vacationed in Europe and I went to Atlantic City, New Jersey.

I admired my schoolmates, and aspired to learn from them, but I accepted the fact that I would never be a sophisticated woman of the world. The main reason was that I really didn't want to be. I had other priorities.

Also, I didn't want to end up like my father. He was one of the wisest, happiest, and well-educated men I knew, constantly reading, learning, and using what he knew to make money, understand the world, and enjoy life. With all that going for him, he could still be intimidated by pretentious people with college degrees and often felt bad about his lack of "culture." It was so sad.

After I got a BA, I went out to earn a living rather than a PhD. Along the way, over a period of years, I learned the etiquette and manners I didn't learn at home, how to dress, etc., but I never lost my nasal Philadelphia accent, still haven't read much "literature," and prefer to wear jeans.

My choices have costs. Seeing who I am and what I do, some more "sophisticated" people have rejected me, but that only reveals how superficial they are. It's no real loss to me.

I realize that it was a conscious choice on my part to seek the values I did and forgo others. That was true in the past and is true now. Even if I made a bad choice in the past, I can correct it in the present. If I am not cultured enough, I can learn what I don't know. If I don't like the way I speak, I can go to a vocal coach, practice diction, and lose my accent. Etc.

Choices: that's what it is all about. What kind of friends do you want? What do you admire about people who "outclass" you? What do you have to do to get what they have? Is it worth it? What do you feel you lack when people underestimate you? What can you do to get what you lack? Do you want to?

Look at the issues and problems that bother you and ask: What are my choices and options? What do I really want? Think you way through it and keep at it and you will find your answers.

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I can identify with being intelligent, but not "refined."

In fourth grade I was put into a group of four children that my teacher said did especially well on the IQ test and would be given demanding assignments, special books, etc. Now the other three were undoubtedly smart kids, but me? They read "literature" and I read comic books and magazines. Their fathers and mothers went to college and were professionals. My mother was a housewife who never went to college and my dad was an immigrant to didn't speak English until he was 12 and owned a meat packing plant -- i.e., a slaughterhouse -- in Philadelphia. The other smart kids vacationed in Europe and I went to Atlantic City, New Jersey.

I admired my schoolmates, and aspired to learn from them, but I accepted the fact that I would never be a sophisticated woman of the world. The main reason was that I really didn't want to be. I had other priorities.

Also, I didn't want to end up like my father. He was one of the wisest, happiest, and well-educated men I knew, constantly reading, learning, and using what he knew to make money, understand the world, and enjoy life. With all that going for him, he could still be intimidated by pretentious people with college degrees and often felt bad about his lack of "culture." It was so sad.

After I got a BA, I went out to earn a living rather than a PhD. Along the way, over a period of years, I learned the etiquette and manners I didn't learn at home, how to dress, etc., but I never lost my nasal Philadelphia accent, still haven't read much "literature," and prefer to wear jeans.

My choices have costs. Seeing who I am and what I do, some more "sophisticated" people have rejected me, but that only reveals how superficial they are. It's no real loss to me.

I realize that it was a conscious choice on my part to seek the values I did and forgo others. That was true in the past and is true now. Even if I made a bad choice in the past, I can correct it in the present. If I am not cultured enough, I can learn what I don't know. If I don't like the way I speak, I can go to a vocal coach, practice diction, and lose my accent. Etc.

Choices: that's what it is all about. What kind of friends do you want? What do you admire about people who "outclass" you? What do you have to do to get what they have? Is it worth it? What do you feel you lack when people underestimate you? What can you do to get what you lack? Do you want to?

Look at the issues and problems that bother you and ask: What are my choices and options? What do I really want? Think you way through it and keep at it and you will find your answers.

Thank you for this interesting personal anecdote.

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Actually, my entire analysis is based on the fact that she still holds a wrong idea - but that this idea (generalization) was formed in the past and is related to the events with that man...

But in this case I think it's fairly obvious where the problem is: everything is pointing to that event...

The most important thing is to identify the source of the emotion. In this case, it is already known, so there is no point looking at triggers, but at what brings forth the emotion.

I came from a rural, lower income, but hard working family. My mom was a secretary. I never knew my bio. father. My stepdad was a carpenter, and an alcoholic. All of the cousins and siblings from my generation dropped out of high school, but I went to a private university on full academic scholaship. At college I always felt like an outsider surrounded by people of a completely different class. This guy was the first person of that class that I had ever had a relationship with.

A huge trigger for these episodes of depression is when I feel underestimated by those around me. I am very intelligent but my manners are not refined. I am more comfortable with my "country ways"...But I do find it frustrating when I am around people who show by their manner that they think themselves superior to me in intelligence. I find myself wondering if having a doctoral degree or a law practice would garner more respect than being a teacher.

TexasTeacherMom, thanks for sharing this with us. It really helps to illustrate some important things. My comments will sometimes refer to you in the third person, by which I mean no disrespect.

What TexasTeacherMom acknowledges above is that her current situation and the major past event we're discussing is about much more than just one man or relationship. It is about her background, the premises she formed about herself (particularly in relation to others), and her decisions in life. It is about her self-concept.

In a sense, the man himself is incidental; it is what he represented, what he meant to her and about her, not necessarily who or what he was. And what he meant to her was defined in relation to her self-concept. Based on what she wrote, he apparently struck her as something better than what she was used to, a step up (and perhaps away) from a place and people she perhaps didn't respect. Being with him also meant that she was better than perhaps she thought she was. (I don't mean to put words in your mouth, TexasTeacherMom; I'm inferring from what you have written, so correct me if I'm wrong).

The pain of his rejection was not just an issue of losing a high (albeit idealized) value, but of validating her fear that she really didn't belong in a different world with different people, that she would never escape the place from which she came, that she was not as good as others.

Note that the trigger TexasTeacherMom identified is not about the man or even romantic love as such. It is about feeling judged as "less than" in some way. This directly ties into her experiences growing up and, apparently, her self-concept. The event with the man is psychologically poignant because it integrated these core issues concretely (and in the context of romantic love, which involves some of our most intense emotions). It "showed" her what the core issues are, but by itself it wasn't, and hasn't been, the core issue.

I wrote in an earlier post that identifying the current trigger(s) of her episodes of obsessed dwelling would likely yield one or two common, more fundamental, issues. I think her response validates this idea in that she realized the core issue was not about the man per se, but her self-concept as it has existed over time. The relationship was just one context in which this issue arose, but it was obviously an extremely important context.

Ifat, you weren't wrong to identify the specific event with the man as very important. But based on your comments, which I quoted above, you seemed to think that was the only thing that was important. I hope I have clarified why I saw it as important to go beyond that.

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Scott A., our expert, can add to or correct this, but a trigger is some presently-held premise that makes contemplating the past painful.

This is true, but there is another aspect to the trigger: an external event. Usually something happens outside the person that "activates" the premise. The form of the trigger will relate to the problem.

For example, many combat veterans can be triggered by loud noises (e.g., a car backfiring, fireworks, the sound of helicopters), which activates the premises that they are in a dangerous world and must do something. What they do depends on the person, but can include debilitating anxiety or panic attacks, aggression, withdrawal, depression, substance abuse, and so on.

For TexasTeacherMom, the external event is someone acting superior to or degrading her. From what she writes, it sounds like negative premises about her background, her past and current position in the world, her achievements--all things related to her self-concept--get activated.

So, I think a trigger involves an event (usually external) and the premise(s).

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I also feel compelled to identify a particular boundary I draw in situations like this. The situation is that someone has chosen to discuss personal information in a public domain and invited comment on it. However, the amount of information provided, while somewhat detailed, is completely insufficient to warrant any conclusions about what is actually going on.

Also, I personally feel uncomfortable discussing the particulars of TexasTeacherMom's situation or the possible contents of her mind. She is the best person to speak on those things, and only if she so chooses.

My responses will focus on issues and principles of psychological assessment, not TexasTeacherMom's situation per se.

With the additional information TexasTeacherMom posted, I obviously veered from focusing on psychological assessment as such and did focus on particulars of her situation. I was uncomfortable with this prior to the additional information for the reasons indicated above. But the new information opened this up a bit.

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This is turning out to be a very nice and helpful topic. I look forward to reading it in full. I had a somewhat similar experience and it haunted me for so many years. Most recently the whole fiasco has turned into an awesome laughter: look what my old friend missed out on. These years hurt so much, and yet I achieved what I set out to in the beginning, though the details are different from what I had predicted. There is so much to be achieved and my primary joy is my act of achieviing. My friend didn't seem to believe in Ayn Rand's promise, for example, and yet I am certain it is realizable in any individual who chooses to endure the struggle to achieve it. Take this in the light of what the next ten years promise: my twenties will never compare and can never compare to my attainment during a time when I am smarter and wiser and more skillfull (my thirties).

So I simply have two things to draw your attentiont to: 1, is to accept, if it is the case, that you loved the time you had with him, and you received genuine values from it, no one can ever take THAT away from you. 2, in my experience, the stage I am at now, is that besides the fact the he looks like Brad Pitt, is that I want to see him simply because I want to share my stuff with him, I'm like a child again who wants to invite a new friend to his house to show him his cool toys and how he amuses himself; there's a part of me that needs him to know it without any aim of turning him over to my side, simply the fact needs to be real in his mind.

But I believe that this too is a stage of healing, and eventually, if it has to come to that, he will not matter.

That's it.

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Ifat, you weren't wrong to identify the specific event with the man as very important. But based on your comments, which I quoted above, you seemed to think that was the only thing that was important. I hope I have clarified why I saw it as important to go beyond that.

I like your analysis, I think it's brilliant. From what she described and from your analysis of it, I only saw confirmations of everything I was talking about before (I even correctly predicted that the triggers will be instances of feeling low self esteem. The triggers by themselves did not provide meaningful information this time).

I was not suggesting that nothing else mattered but the event, but that the first place to dig to find the wrong generalization would be in that event, which turned out to be right. I also think that if someone feels low self esteem after being dumped the only explanation is that they idealize the person in some way. They could idealize him as the gate-keeper of the upper-class world, or idealize him in relation to their more personal values, but I do not consider the explanation to their low self esteem an unknowable. In any case, I don't think it's important to discuss my past evaluations any more. A far more interesting discussion will be to continue based on the new information TexasTeacherMom gave and based on your analysis, from which I have learned a lot. I read your essay about self concept and I'm glad to see the ideas you were discussing there applied to a real person (it gives me a chance to understand them better).

Just in case it needs to be said - I think very highly of you and I appreciate your knowledge and thinking in psychology. I happened to disagree about something - which, for me, has no connection at all with respect or appreciation for/toward you.

Betsy - thanks for the clarification.

This guy was the first person of that class that I had ever had a relationship with. I felt like when it didn't work it sealed my fate.

My reaction to the rejection was to become very desperate and feel like I could never make it in that world, so why try.

Why is it so important to make it in that world?

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Just in case it needs to be said - I think very highly of you and I appreciate your knowledge and thinking in psychology. I happened to disagree about something - which, for me, has no connection at all with respect or appreciation for/toward you.

I truly took no offense to anything you wrote, Ifat, and everyone is free to disagree on something. So, you didn't need to write the above, but I thank you very much for it, and for the compliments on my posts. :)

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TexasTeacherMom,

I would also offer that you do not let other people have so much power over your self-esteem as self-esteem does not come from what other people think of you. Self-esteem is defined as holding oneself in high regard and only you have the power to destroy or build your self-esteem. It will not be easy, but you must make yourself into the type of person that you consider virtuous.

Once again, I only offer this as helpful advice.

The highlighted portion of your message represents something that has been a lifelong struggle for me. Reading "Atlas Shrugged" has given me so much insight into this truth. I can identify with Dagny in terms of how I feel about myself on the inside, but for some reason I am a huge "people pleaser" and I even find myself hiding my strengths at times. When Dagny took over the managing of the train in the early scene in Atlas, I thought, "Okay, now I'd like to be more like that." There are so many times when I see the perfect solution to a problem, but don't speak up because I'm afraid to be seen as "bossy". I don't know why I can't get past that feeling of self consciousness, but I hope I learn some day.

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I also feel compelled to identify a particular boundary I draw in situations like this. The situation is that someone has chosen to discuss personal information in a public domain and invited comment on it. However, the amount of information provided, while somewhat detailed, is completely insufficient to warrant any conclusions about what is actually going on.

Also, I personally feel uncomfortable discussing the particulars of TexasTeacherMom's situation or the possible contents of her mind. She is the best person to speak on those things, and only if she so chooses.

My responses will focus on issues and principles of psychological assessment, not TexasTeacherMom's situation per se.

With the additional information TexasTeacherMom posted, I obviously veered from focusing on psychological assessment as such and did focus on particulars of her situation. I was uncomfortable with this prior to the additional information for the reasons indicated above. But the new information opened this up a bit.

You were so spot on. I feel indebted to you for asking the questions that helped me direct my thinking. Thank you for the insight, and I wouldn't have posted something so personal if I didn't feel like talking about it out in the open, so don't worry about presuming. The truth is I want to get past these painful ideas, so I guess putting them out in the open is part of trying to release their hold on me. It was therapeutic to release all this and to get responses that led me somewhere new. It's funny how hearing/reading someone say what you have known in your heart but didn't have the words to express can make such a difference. I think I may look for a therapist during my Christmas holidays. It's so hard for my to find time for that sort of thing, but I have to make time. I don't have time for debilitating episodes of depression, either, ya know?

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Why is it so important to make it in that world?

Wow, now that's a whole 'nother can of worms, so to speak. I suppose part of it is that the desire of my heart was to be a suitable wife and mother, but all around me growing up were men of my family, including my abandoning father, whom I did not judge as worthy of me. I didn't know there were any decent men from my own background. Luckily I met one, my current husband.

I suppose another part of the answer to your question lies in my sense of abandonment by my father. I have spent a lot of my life feeling like I did not belong here, because I was not really intended by anyone. Add to this that I was born just a few short months before Roe V. Wade, and my mom had an abortion when I was two. I have, in the past, come to a conclustion that I probably should not have been born, because my mother would probably have gotten an abortion in today's age. Growing up I turned to religion to quell the pain of that idea. I could assert that God intended me to be born. But religion influenced my ideals, and the ideals of the Catholic denomination conflicted with those of my heart.

I have learned that I cannot be truly honest and be Catholic, or even Christian for that matter. I haven't completely abandoned my sense of faith, but have gotten so far as to realize that if there is a God, that God gave me a brain and intended for me to use it to the highest capacity. It's hard to give up things you've just taken for granted since you could talk, listen and learn. My first memories of school are of my teachers reading the bible, so a lot of my ideals are still very mixed up with the concpet of sin and redemption. I unwittingly try to find reasons for my emotions in my actions. Bad emotions must mean I've done something wrong, etc.

I am learning, through reading Atlas Shrugged and the commentary on various web forums on the works of Ms. Rand, that the reason/cause for my existence is not as important as the reality of it and what I choose to do with it and take from it. At least I think that's part of the Objectivist philosophy. I plan to read more of Rand's publishings, but have to wait for my holiday break.

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I can identify with being intelligent, but not "refined."

In fourth grade I was put into a group of four children that my teacher said did especially well on the IQ test and would be given demanding assignments, special books, etc. Now the other three were undoubtedly smart kids, but me? They read "literature" and I read comic books and magazines. Their fathers and mothers went to college and were professionals. My mother was a housewife who never went to college and my dad was an immigrant to didn't speak English until he was 12 and owned a meat packing plant -- i.e., a slaughterhouse -- in Philadelphia. The other smart kids vacationed in Europe and I went to Atlantic City, New Jersey.

I admired my schoolmates, and aspired to learn from them, but I accepted the fact that I would never be a sophisticated woman of the world. The main reason was that I really didn't want to be. I had other priorities.

Also, I didn't want to end up like my father. He was one of the wisest, happiest, and well-educated men I knew, constantly reading, learning, and using what he knew to make money, understand the world, and enjoy life. With all that going for him, he could still be intimidated by pretentious people with college degrees and often felt bad about his lack of "culture." It was so sad.

After I got a BA, I went out to earn a living rather than a PhD. Along the way, over a period of years, I learned the etiquette and manners I didn't learn at home, how to dress, etc., but I never lost my nasal Philadelphia accent, still haven't read much "literature," and prefer to wear jeans.

My choices have costs. Seeing who I am and what I do, some more "sophisticated" people have rejected me, but that only reveals how superficial they are. It's no real loss to me.

I realize that it was a conscious choice on my part to seek the values I did and forgo others. That was true in the past and is true now. Even if I made a bad choice in the past, I can correct it in the present. If I am not cultured enough, I can learn what I don't know. If I don't like the way I speak, I can go to a vocal coach, practice diction, and lose my accent. Etc.

Choices: that's what it is all about. What kind of friends do you want? What do you admire about people who "outclass" you? What do you have to do to get what they have? Is it worth it? What do you feel you lack when people underestimate you? What can you do to get what you lack? Do you want to?

Look at the issues and problems that bother you and ask: What are my choices and options? What do I really want? Think you way through it and keep at it and you will find your answers.

Wow, I could have written parts of this. I remember my mother telling me that my teachers always told her that I underperformed my potential and they couldn't understand why. I identify with what you said about not wanting to be "sophisticated." I don't think I did back then. I guess that was part of a value system that I adopted later in life that was not my own.

I have been thinking about what you said about choosing the kind of friends I want. I think the most wonderful thing about Objectivism, as much as I know of it, which is little I admit, is that I get to detemine what I value and do not have to look to anyone else for direction. There are some ladies that I work with that are seen as "quirky" by most of the other teachers, but that I really like a lot. It's one of those things where other people roll their eyes when they talk about them, and I think, "Hey what was that for? I really like her." I sense that they get that title because they think for themselves. I spent my conference period with one such person today. We shared a lot of cool ideas for teaching geometry using some new "brain based" techniques. I love learning to hone my craft and I enjoyed that time so much more than with the gossipers. I've always felt that the droning gossip was something I had to endure just to have some adult interaction during the day, but I am planning to steer clear of that, in favor of seeking out those with whom I can share and learn together.

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I think I may look for a therapist during my Christmas holidays. It's so hard for my to find time for that sort of thing, but I have to make time. I don't have time for debilitating episodes of depression, either, ya know?

If you do that make sure it someone who understands the nature of true self-esteem. Maybe you could PM Scott -- who understands your problem very well -- about how to find the right kind of person to talk to in detail about these matters.

In your 2nd major post you added quite a lot that seems to indicate that you haven't felt "jilted" by just one person, but by a whole "class", and that you will have to deal with that whole context and not just the one rejection in isolation.

...At college I always felt like an outsider surrounded by people of a completely different class. This guy was the first person of that class that I had ever had a relationship with. I felt like when it didn't work it sealed my fate.

My reaction to the rejection was to become very desperate and feel like I could never make it in that world, so why try. I jumped into a bad marriage with, guess what, and alcoholic, and finished my master's thesis while nursing my first child. Instead of fulfilling my dreams of law school, I decided I would avoid having to be around elitist types of people. It was a like a strage twist on a Cinderella story.

... But I do find it frustrating when I am around people who show by their manner that they think themselves superior to me in intelligence. I find myself wondering if having a doctoral degree or a law practice would garner more respect than being a teacher. I know a lot of people think that public school teachers are the bottom of the barrell and that we can't do anything else, but for me it was the most practical way for me to earn a living as a single mom...

and this elaboration later:

I would also offer that you do not let other people have so much power over your self-esteem as self-esteem does not come from what other people think of you. Self-esteem is defined as holding oneself in high regard and only you have the power to destroy or build your self-esteem. It will not be easy, but you must make yourself into the type of person that you consider virtuous.

The highlighted portion of your message represents something that has been a lifelong struggle for me. Reading "Atlas Shrugged" has given me so much insight into this truth. I can identify with Dagny in terms of how I feel about myself on the inside, but for some reason I am a huge "people pleaser" and I even find myself hiding my strengths at times. When Dagny took over the managing of the train in the early scene in Atlas, I thought, "Okay, now I'd like to be more like that." There are so many times when I see the perfect solution to a problem, but don't speak up because I'm afraid to be seen as "bossy". I don't know why I can't get past that feeling of self consciousness, but I hope I learn some day.

All of this raises the issue of a concept of self-esteem based on what others think about you ("social metaphysics") versus what you know to be your competence to deal with reality as the individual you are. Have you read Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, with a focus on the character Roark (not Dominique)?

Did you want to go to law school or consider getting a PhD because you wanted to be a legal or some other kind of expert or because of the status of a law degree or PhD? Do you think there is anything inherently inferior about being a teacher? Is teaching what you want to do in the long term future?

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[

All of this raises the issue of a concept of self-esteem based on what others think about you ("social metaphysics") versus what you know to be your competence to deal with reality as the individual you are. Have you read Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, with a focus on the character Roark (not Dominique)?

Did you want to go to law school or consider getting a PhD because you wanted to be a legal or some other kind of expert or because of the status of a law degree or PhD? Do you think there is anything inherently inferior about being a teacher? Is teaching what you want to do in the long term future?

I am looking forward to reading The Fountainhead, and thanks for the tip on where to focus. It is on my Christmas list.

With regard to wanting to go to law school, I admit that part of it is how it would "prove" something to the world. I also sometimes feel like I have an obligation to myself to go as far as I can educationally, just for the fact that I can and I don't like the idea of not doing all that I can in that arena. On the other hand, I love teaching and have a true passion for it. Sometimes I say I will teach right past the retirement age and then just keep right on doing it until I die. At any rate, if it happens it won't be for a long while. My husband is self employed and because of an early heart attack he has to pay an armload for private health insurance. My teaching provides for that for all of us. Then there is the cost of childcare for two toddlers. when they are in school the funds will be there and it might be possible. I will most assuredly pursue some new directions for my life when more of my time is free (read: when the nest is a little emptier). I like the LSAT practice book, LOL, but I don't know if I really see myself in a courtroom.

I've always wanted to pursue acting and ceramics, too. (Not just decorating them, but actually using clay and glaze to express beauty.) Those were some of the "impractical" things that I could not afford to pursue in college due to my scholarship situation.

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I would like to offer my congratulations to TexasTeacherMom for making such an enormous effort to begin overcoming what's troubling her. The fact that she is willing to take the time to seek out answers means that she is capable of conquering her fears and depression, on the one hand, but also achieving her goals in life.

Here is my own story that I'd like to tell as an example of how many of us struggle with similar problems:

As a young boy, I had two dominant "factions" vying for control in me: the shy, meek faction and the independent, self-assured faction. Because I was physically small and skinny, the shy side was an easy default position because EVERYONE felt sorry for little Jason. If something didn't go my way, or I was afraid to try something new, I would start crying and suddenly people would rush to console me.

On the other hand, I was not a blind follower. I was always inquisitive and excited about learning, to the extent that I made the proper effort. In 3rd grade, my teacher saw that I was gifted in mathematics and encouraged me to work ahead and at my own pace. As I learned more, my self esteem improved, giving my independent side a boost. In my first year of high school, I discovered I was able to mimic perfectly the Spanish language. My teacher then encouraged me to enter the Spanish Pronunciation contest held statewide in Wisconsin, where I grew up. In the three years I entered the contest, I easily took first prize each time. I won out over kids raised in Spanish-speaking households even. In my third year of high school, I added French, knowing that I had an uncanny skill with languages. There, too, I excelled, finishing the first two years of high school French in one year and getting a perfect score on my year end exam. My French teacher predicted (correctly) that I would eventually become perfectly fluent in the language.

Since high school I've lived in several countries and even taught English in the former Czechoslovakia. Today I call Sydney, Australia my home and work as a pre-sales engineer for a large multi-national software company. What I realized starting at a fairly young age was I didn't HAVE to be meek. I could carve out my own kind of life regardless of what others thought of me. Now, I was fortunate to have excellent parents, but despite that I had my own difficulties that I eventually worked out on my own. I do occasionally have shy moments today, but over time and with effort, I have achieved my goals and ultimately, enjoy a profoundly happy life.

TexasTeacherMom is now taking those steps to live the life she's worthy of. I for one would like to raise my glass to her and say: forge ahead!

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I have learned that I cannot be truly honest and be Catholic, or even Christian for that matter. I haven't completely abandoned my sense of faith, but have gotten so far as to realize that if there is a God, that God gave me a brain and intended for me to use it to the highest capacity. It's hard to give up things you've just taken for granted since you could talk, listen and learn. My first memories of school are of my teachers reading the bible, so a lot of my ideals are still very mixed up with the concpet of sin and redemption. I unwittingly try to find reasons for my emotions in my actions. Bad emotions must mean I've done something wrong, etc.

I am learning, through reading Atlas Shrugged and the commentary on various web forums on the works of Ms. Rand, that the reason/cause for my existence is not as important as the reality of it and what I choose to do with it and take from it. At least I think that's part of the Objectivist philosophy. I plan to read more of Rand's publishings, but have to wait for my holiday break.

You've identified an essential part of Objectivism, which is its focus on reality and on the individual's life. Contrast this with religion's focus on the supernatural and what happens after death. This is why Ayn Rand's philosophy is selfish and why selfishness is a good thing, because it is what keeps your values here in life where they belong. If an action does not benefit your life it is at best a nonvalue, but if it harms your life it is evil. But according to religion, the sacrifice of life is the highest virtue one can aspire to.

The point I'm making is that by posting this thread and wanting to improve your life, wanting to rid yourself of depression and those ideas that are holding you back from the enjoyment of your personal values, whatever errors still need to be worked out the core of your morality is selfish and healthy. As soon as you realize that God and "faith" are not merely crutches of dependence but deadly diseases infesting the soul, you'll be able to throw them off and experience a freedom from guilt that you never before thought possible.

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I am learning, through reading Atlas Shrugged and the commentary on various web forums on the works of Ms. Rand, that the reason/cause for my existence is not as important as the reality of it and what I choose to do with it and take from it.

Yes! You bullseyed it.

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I unwittingly try to find reasons for my emotions in my actions. Bad emotions must mean I've done something wrong, etc.

(Bold my emphasis)

I would recommend to be careful with what you mean by this, because if you think you should feel bad or guilty about having bad emotions then you are putting yourself through unnecessary and unfair mental torture. Though with effort we can change our own ingrained subconscious premises over time, it is impossible to command or dictate what emotions we should feel other than to simply blank them out through repression. There should never be any moral guilt associated with feeling certain emotions.

Also (like others have said) bad emotions can have many different causes, only some of which are the actions that you yourself do. Often it isn't anything you do, but rather some external event that triggers a subconscious belief which makes you feel bad; so if you are only examining your actions you could be ignoring an entire area where the real problem may be hiding.

Best of luck with your personal work on this (but from reading the different achievements in you life story, I don't think you will need any :) )

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...it is impossible to command or dictate what emotions we should feel other than to simply blank them out through repression.

To be more precise, I should have mentioned repression and suppression. To temporarily suppress what we are feeling certainly isn't bad because we may be in a situation that does not permit us to examine or fully experience our emotions (a soldier in a horrible battle comes to mind), but this is provided that afterwards we do go back and let ourselves feel and deal with what we couldn't before.

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TexasTeacherMom: To continue from my understanding of Scott's analysis... The next step, is to change the criterion or standard you use to judge your own worth to the right one - to a reality based standard (which you have recognized as correct) instead of a social one.

I think, like Scott said, that the real problem here is the standard you use to judge yourself (sometimes), and that the event with that guy was only so powerful because it concretized your conflict in a powerful way.

Now, by this time, you have already absorbed that standard of judging (social standard) on a subconscious level - meaning you do it automatically. So the way to change it, is to rewrite your subconscious standard.

The way to do that is gradual. First, you create a detective in your own mind, a detective whose role is to notice such instances in which you judge yourself by some social standard which is not your own, or which is not rational. To take a while to consider the rational standard to judge yourself in that particular case, and just think about the two ideas for a while (one is judging with a social standard and the other with your own standard, or a rational standard).

Repeating this process over many cases will eventually lead to replacement of the wrong standard with a rational one, and then your emotion will also change for the better.

The reason it takes a while is because unlike our conscious mind which can quickly learn and correct a mistake, our subconscious mind is an 'old bank' and needs longer to "clean" thoroughly. So just seeing how you are wrong about something is not enough to change your subconscious ideas right away.

Another problem I saw from what you describe (though I am not sure if I concluded correctly so please correct me if I'm wrong), is that you equate a certain economical status with potential for certain attributes. What I mean is that you seem to think that only people from upper class can be any good (or at least it seems that you thought so until you met your current husband).

You said: "I suppose part of it is that the desire of my heart was to be a suitable wife and mother, but all around me growing up were men of my family, including my abandoning father, whom I did not judge as worthy of me."

It looks like you concluded about your potential (of what you can be) from the class you belonged to. Everyone around you were from a certain "class" and were also "no-good", and so as long as you belonged in that class, you could not become good either ("suitable wife and mother"). Correct me if I'm wrong here...

So to continue this idea:

When you were rejected by someone from that "upper class" you concluded the door to that world was shut for you, but because you made a wrong conclusion about what that means for your own potential as a person, it was like "sealing your fate".

Now, if this is wrong, I might be stretching this analysis far past what it should, but if this is right, then you can correct this view the same way as with the first case of having a wrong standard to judge yourself. Just be your own "detective" for cases when you perform such judgement, then think of the right way to judge it (right way being the conclusion you came to after logical analysis). Over time, it will replace the wrong idea in your subconscious.

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All of this raises the issue of a concept of self-esteem based on what others think about you ("social metaphysics") versus what you know to be your competence to deal with reality as the individual you are. Have you read Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, with a focus on the character Roark (not Dominique)?

Did you want to go to law school or consider getting a PhD because you wanted to be a legal or some other kind of expert or because of the status of a law degree or PhD? Do you think there is anything inherently inferior about being a teacher? Is teaching what you want to do in the long term future?

I am looking forward to reading The Fountainhead, and thanks for the tip on where to focus. It is on my Christmas list.

With regard to wanting to go to law school, I admit that part of it is how it would "prove" something to the world. I also sometimes feel like I have an obligation to myself to go as far as I can educationally, just for the fact that I can and I don't like the idea of not doing all that I can in that arena. On the other hand, I love teaching and have a true passion for it. Sometimes I say I will teach right past the retirement age and then just keep right on doing it until I die. At any rate, if it happens it won't be for a long while. My husband is self employed and because of an early heart attack he has to pay an armload for private health insurance. My teaching provides for that for all of us. Then there is the cost of childcare for two toddlers. when they are in school the funds will be there and it might be possible. I will most assuredly pursue some new directions for my life when more of my time is free (read: when the nest is a little emptier). I like the LSAT practice book, LOL, but I don't know if I really see myself in a courtroom.

I've always wanted to pursue acting and ceramics, too. (Not just decorating them, but actually using clay and glaze to express beauty.) Those were some of the "impractical" things that I could not afford to pursue in college due to my scholarship situation.

You should 'go as far as you can', but in a direction required for a specific goal for yourself, whether that be a career you want or a kind of knowledge you want to have. Formal education is not an end in itself, and neither is a law degree. You don't want to be in a courtroom, and apparently have no other particular interest in the law as a career so why should a law degree mean anything to you? You have a good job that you like and which is rewarding enough financially for what you need. What difference does it make what anyone else thinks about it? You could take more courses in education if you can find any worth taking, but so far your descriptions don't indicate any reason for you to be concerned that you aren't pursuing a more advanced degree.

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TexasTeacherMom:

Another problem I saw from what you describe (though I am not sure if I concluded correctly so please correct me if I'm wrong), is that you equate a certain economical status with potential for certain attributes. What I mean is that you seem to think that only people from upper class can be any good (or at least it seems that you thought so until you met your current husband).

I wouldn't say that it was based on economic status. More like educational status and social status, with is usually closely tied to money, but that wasn't what I saw in it. I saw it through the lens of religion which seems to suggest that God blesses people who are "good".

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