Not long ago, Todd, a client, wowed me with this:
“I want to be the type of person who loves others above myself. I know that’s where life is.”
Todd lives in a self-contained sphere that doesn’t include other people. He’s not a hermit—living an isolated existence. Far from it. He’s a husband, father, and successful businessman. No, Todd’s out there mingling—being part of things. Or so it seems.
Deep down he lives alone in himself. Secluded and cut off. In his words: “I don’t form attachments well.”
His family keeps him reminded of that fact because they tug on him to be more involved . . . more connected. Their pain is something I hear about from his 20-year-old daughter, Jodi. Not long ago, after one of our sessions, she went home and expressed her distress to him—tears and all. He listened. She listened.
Soon after, Todd contacted me to set up an appointment. In essence, he wanted to learn more about himself—why he keeps people at arm’s length, and how he can change that. His long talk with Jodi—her words along with her emotional truth—opened his mind and his heart. That raw conversation had a powerful, “possibly life-transforming impact,” he said.
In our session, I learned that Todd’s detachment is the byproduct of early childhood abandonment. He never met his father and there was virtually no attachment to his mother. He described her as “self-centered” as he recounted incidents of reaching out for her nurturing and understanding. Such attempts yielded empty results. So understandably at some point, he decided to stop needing people.
Isolation and indifference became his friends and his comfort zone. And his job became the arena for proving his worth to himself.
Some people consider him a workaholic. But such a label isn’t fair because it misses the driving need underneath. Todd yearns to feel valued and he obtains that by over-achieving.
If I don’t feel valued for being me, I’ll seek value by what I do—by what I accomplish.
Self-contained people have trouble giving and receiving love, and that’s a very lonely place. So, despite the comfort-zone experience of being disconnected from the world of other people, the yearning and need for love and connection never really go away. They only get covered up.
For Todd to change, he has to dismantle his ancient programming and replace it with the truth about himself. He is love-worthy. And he’s capable of giving and receiving it. He’s already demonstrated that by hearing Jodi and allowing her to impact him.
I go back to his words: “I want to be the type of person who loves others above myself. I know that’s where life is.”
There’s a heart in there . . . and Todd’s going to be sharing it lots more.
Names have been changed to honor confidentiality