“What is wrong with me?”

19 Feb 2018

There comes a point in every abusive relationship when you constantly ask yourself, “What is wrong with me?”  You know you should get out.  Your abusive partner is making you miserable, the relationship is all wrong and, as far as you can see, your life has stopped dead… But still you stay.

We’ve all done it.  The little voice of intuition told me my marriage was over about 6 weeks in, but that didn’t stop me staying for some 20 years.

We know we should leave, but we don’t.  Instead, we ask ourselves:

What is wrong with me?”

The “what is wrong with me?” question has a number of variants, including,

  • “What is wrong with me that I can’t make the relationship work?”
  • “What’ is wrong with me that my partner behaves like that to me?”
  • “What is wrong with me that I can’t just settle for what I have?”
  • “What is wrong with me that I can’t just walk away?”
  • “What is wrong with me that I feel horribly depressed and can’t just pull myself together?”
  • “What is wrong with me that I can’t be Mrs Superwoman?”

Chances are,  you have been asking yourself “What’s wrong with me?” questions for a very long time.  You were taught to ask yourself that question because loved ones (who were regrettably challenged in the love-sharing department – made a point of telling you that there was “something wrong with you”.

Why did they keep on about there being “something wrong with you“?  Because you declined to see the world from their skewed perspective.  In fact, you let them know that you had no wish to see the world through their eyes.  Despite your your need for love and acceptance.

Obviously, no fault could possibly lie with them.  They could do no wrong.  Therefore there had to be “something wrong with you”.  That left you with little choice but to ask yourself, “What? What is wrong with me?”

Why you arrived at the wrong answers

Once you ask your mind a wrong question – like “What is wrong with me?, your mind has little choice but to come up with wrong answers.  So, it duly supplies a variety of answers about where you fell down as a person/relative/partner etc.  Those answers are based on their criticisms.  You punish yourself harshly for the faults that your critics find in you. In other words,  you accept their propaganda as your truth.

The net result is that all the answers that you come up with are wrong.  They have to be wrong since all of the underlying assumptions are horribly misleading.

Why do the problem have to lie with you?  Why does someone else always have the right to point the Finger of  Absolute Blame at you?  Why do they have to be speak to you the way that they do?

Sadly, we don’t think about any of that.  Instead, we simply ask ourselves, over and over again, “What is wrong with me?”

The full question – if we ever stepped back from the situation for long enough to be remotely objective – would go like this,

What’s wrong –  with me – that someone with an incredibly hurtful tongue, a track record of unpleasantness, and a need to find fault comes up with the same criticisms over and over again?”

What’s wrong with the question?

The time has come to ask yourself, what’s  wrong with the question?   Where does the “with me” bit fit?

Could you not have a perfectly good, accurate question without putting the “with me” in there, at all?  Do you really have to blamize [sic] everything that happens, just because your harshest critic does?

Would it be unfair to say that your emotionally abusive partner has?

a) An incredibly hurtful tongue.
b) A track record for (creating) unpleasantness.
c) A need to rehash the same old criticisms over and over again.

So where do you fit in all of this – apart from being,

  • The butt of his “humor”.
  • The target of his rage.
  • The scapegoat for everything that happiness.
  • Intimate Enemy #1
  • Your very own (closet) misogynist’s token woman.

and much, much more besides.

 Your training

You were brought up to be amenable – or, to use the terminology that you and I grew up with, “nice”. You were taught that your role, on this earth, was to please other people.  As regards your own gratification, you soon learned that that was utterly unimportant.  Your gratification resided in Someday Land.  However, your duty was to service  those who demanded gratification Right Here, Right Now.  Unfortunately, as you found out to your cost, those people were a bottomless pit of dissatisfaction. Nothing you could do would ever be enough.

Diligent as you doubtless were in your efforts to service a Bottomless Pit,once in a while you did need an occasional crumb of reassurance, gratification, or a reality check for yourself. Woe betide you, if you asked for – or even hinted at – what you needed.  You would  swiftly be reminded that there was definitely “something wrong with you”.

The idea – of you ever deserving to receive anything good from those around  you – was programmed out of you.  You were taught what you had to do for others.  But you weren’t taught that other people had a duty to reciprocate.  Still less were you taught to select your friends, and partner, only from those people who did meet your kindness with kindness, your thoughtfulness with thoughtfulness, your selflessness with selflessness.

I’ve noticed that whenever I talk with emotionally abused women about selflessness in a partner, it raises a wry smile of disbelief.

“Could selflessness possibly be a two-way street?”  

Aren’t you meant to pour all the selflessness you can muster into a Bottomless Pit until you it finally overflows – and you receive the overflow as your recompense?

Don’t believe what toxic people tell you

Toxic people, as you already know, are amazingly self-serving.  Everything you ever learned about selflessness and its rewards is all part of the mythology propagated by,

  • Bottomless Pits.
  • Emotional abusers.
  • Narcissists.
  • Control freaks.
  • Unloving jerks.
  • AD* sufferers.

So, let’s do a quick reality check,

Just because someone tells you that there’s “something wrong with you”, that doesn’t make it true.  

Because you have experienced a load of selfish, hurtful, destructive behavior, that doesn’t make selfish, hurtful, destructive behavior acceptable.  Nor does it make such behavior the social norm.  It’s been normal for your abusive husband. It may well have been normal in his family of origin.  It may, equally, have been normal in your family of origin.   However, a part of you already knows that there is something decidedly NOT normal about  people who behave that way.

If you do a little bit of exploration inside your own head, you will notice that you believe that there has to be another, better way – even if you don’t know how that better way can ever apply to you.

Usual does not mean normal

You see, being on the receiving end of abusive treatment may well have become usual – and therefore “normal” – for you.

When you stick around toxic people, toxicity gets to feel normal.  Seeing yourself as having “something wrong” with you, gets to feel normal. Being vilified by your ‘nearest and dearest’ gets to feel… What would you call it? Normal? Usual? Predictable?

All the toxic accusations that your ‘nearest and dearest’ emotional abuser or Narcissist has leveled against you end up shaping your perception of yourself.  If a person can spend so much time ranting and raving about what’s wrong with you, it must be true, Mustn’t it?

That is how you end up identifying withe the abused persona that AD sufferers (a.k.a your ‘nearest and dearest’) project onto you.

However, that persona is not who you truly are.

Sheep or lion?

It puts me in mind of the story of the lion who thought he was a sheep.  If you don’t know already know that story, you can read it here:

You’re not a sheep.  You are actually a lioness. In the nicest possible sense.

Maybe it’s not time for you to leave the grassy valley, yet.  Maybe, you don’t feel you have the strength to climb the mountain, yet.  Although, if you realized who you truly are, that mountain would draw you to it. 

Still, there is one thing you can do right now. You can find better answers to that toxic, misleading question: “What’s wrong with me?”

Your programming is wrong Period.   Once you make the decision to dispense with that damaging programming, you’ll be amazed to see yourself grow into your true stature.

That programming is the ONLY THING that is ‘wrong’ with you.(That and the fact that the question is a poor one.)

So, you don’t feel like heading off the mountain just now. So, you don’t feel like changing your name to Leona.  That’s okay.But please, please, change the question.

Don’t ask yourself “what is wrong with me”?

Ask yourself not what is wrong with you – you know the answer to that now – your programming is out, at the moment.  The normal process with programming – or software – that needs updating, is simple; you just get it sorted out.  You don’t just give up on the hardware just because it needs an update to fix a glitch, do you?

So, here are a couple of questions to help you start updating the software:

  • What is wrong with him, that he always finds fault?
  • What is wrong with the situation that needs to change?
  • What is actually wrong, here?

If you  feel profoundly unhappy in your relationship with your partner then, no question about it, “something is wrong”. But that ‘something’ is not you. Don’t let anyone with a negative agenda tell you otherwise.

*AD has, I believe, yet to make DSM-5 but it certainly should before long.  Otherwise known as Asshole’s Disease, it is chiefly identifiable by its symptoms.  AD sufferers truly believe that the world revolves around them and they have an inalienable right to cause as much havoc and misery as they please to the people to whom they owe the most.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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