I’m Sorry Syndrome

I had a dream in the early hours of morning about a visit to a therapist.  Dr. Carl Jung sat across from me with a giant desk in between us.  I remember asking, “Dr.Carl, this is very impersonal.  Is there a way we can sit next to each other without this desk in the way?”  We moved to the area where I sat on the sofa and he sat on a comfy chair across from me.  I began with apologizing for my brokenness.  It was a long dream.  I was woken by my boyfriend while crying.  The details aren’t important.  What is relevant is my sense of apologizing for my emotions.

I have always had the “I’m Sorry Syndrome.”  And when someone asks me to stop apologizing I apologize for it again.  I know where and how it stems from.  There has to be a barricade to this agonizing need to please others.  As women we tend to do it more frequently than men.  Childhood traumas, abusive relationships and just pure self-esteem issues cause us to immediately sneak in the apology to smooth things over with another person.  But, sitting across from Carl Jung I realized it wasn’t necessary.

We tend to apologize for everything.  I apologize for interrupting, for feeling a certain way, for being early to an appointment, etc.  Heck, I apologize just for laughing or crying while thinking I am making the other person feel uncomfortable.  And, let’s not even discuss the apologies I shell out when the other person has done me wrong and I end up apologizing for them.

The word “sorry” is magical.  It opens hearts and allows for forgiveness.  However, that same word can be a crutch in not allowing self-worth to grow in a positive manner.  We apologize for our parenting skills, professional choices, schooling, loving too deeply or not loving enough.  We apologize for not wearing the right clothes, not having enough money, and having a bad hair day.  We apologize for so many senseless acts based on our emotions.  When do we stop this self-sabotage outrage of losing our self onto another?  Why do we apologize when we find our voice and want to express it?  Each time an apology is dished out we are serving a part of our worth and letting that person hold the key to our emotions.

I remember my ex never apologized…ever.  So, I spent years apologizing every time he did something wrong or hurtful to me.  I would end up apologizing for a fight or disagreement.  The common answer from him was, “If you weren’t the way you are then you wouldn’t push me to act this way.  I accept your apology.”  Typical narcissism personality disorder to the oomph degree!  In these moments an apology is like white-out.  It is covered up but always still underneath it all.  When you’ve wronged or hurt someone an apology is a must!

Some of the questions I asked Dr. Carl (as I kept calling him) were: “What is my purpose here?  What do I do with myself from here on?  What can I bring to this life?”  I believe I had a few more universal questions in regards to my existence.  I can’t remember right now.  What I do remember is the feelings of shame and displacement.  I recall the brokenness of remorse and guilt. In the middle of the conversation I can still feel the sense of self-criticism and judgment while apologizing for the past and the lessons that I’ve learned from such traumas.

As a child I wasn’t heard.  My mother had me at 44 years of age.  She was too busy going through menopause when I was just starting middle school.  Puberty was something you did and never discussed.  I apologized for my mood swings, for wanting to be with friends, and for needing to just be left alone without her around.  I apologize for my ultra sensitivity, my need to be perfect in school, and anything that she could not relate to as a teenager in the 80’s.  I was expected to be seen and not heard.  This was most people of my generation.  Now that I am my mother’s age I see the difference the generation gap created.  The need to apologize is a weakness rather than a healthy characteristic when the resentment is for wanting to honor your feelings.

When do we stop this nonsense of putting everyone else in front of our own needs?  When and how do we break the pattern of justifying what we want with an apology?  When do we start to live authentically…now or the day we are dying?

I believe that a dream with an archetypical world famous psychologist was exactly what I needed to reflect and cease those things I keep struggling to fix.  I cannot continue to be sorry for the person I am or continue to become.  If I happen to ruffle a few feathers along the way I have to accept it is a reflection or projection of that other person.  We must stop apologizing for evolving and wanting to live authentically.  Let’s put the word “sorry” back to its real context once and for all.

“The only correct actions are those that demand no explanation and no apology.”  ~Red Auerbach

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10 thoughts on “I’m Sorry Syndrome

  1. Back when I was in high school, I had a dream where I was talking to Carl Jung. “You know,” he said “that the next thing you must do is always the thing that you fear the most.” I nodded in the dream as though I knew this.
    I have often thought about that message, especially at times when my worst fear did bubble up into my reality and then became less terrifying. Interesting.

  2. For some, this “need” to apologize for things that don’t require an apology (from us at least) goes away with the aging process, a little at a time. For others, it seems to disappear overnight, and for still others it never goes away. With me, it started going away when I was still in high school and gradually disappeared by the time I met Sam. “I am who I am. Take me or leave me, but I’m not changing myself for you or anyone else.” The so-called friendships I lost because of that attitude were not really lost because they were one-sided to begin with. At 60, I’m not about to “watch what I say to who” any more…if they don’t like it, they can get over it or leave. The people who matter won’t care and the people who care won’t matter, as they say. People who truly love us accept us as is and won’t let unintended hurtfulness get in the way. The guy I dated before I met Sam was like A. in many ways except that he absolutely refused to talk about our “issues”. Instead, he clammed up and gave me the silent treatment until I gave up trying to talk about whatever it was. That drove me nuts! While my parents never really argued in front of my brother and me, there were times when we could hear raised voices. And once the argument was over, the air was clear again. So, getting the silent treatment was as foreign to me as trying to learn German.

  3. My daughter in law scolded me for always apologizing me yesterday . I have said I am sorry 2 times since then. We are living in her house to care for our son who has ALS.I feel very unwelcome. I would leave but then no one would be here to care for him.

  4. Eric Gailey

    I don’t know if anyone cares to look at this comment of mine but I wanted to share my experience so far with saying sorry way too much than I should and I know it’s a problem but I still tend to do it almost every conversation but anyway, to start off honestly I don’t know where I acquired the habit, the need, to say sorry all the time, but where I think it might’ve came from is from a lot of things, I guess the first is I know I’ve had a fucked up life but yet I still know that there’s always someone who has had a worse experience than I have so I constantly dismiss my own feelings saying stuff to myself like “you shouldn’t be crying there’s people that are dying all the time and you’re not one of them you should be happy to be alive” and honestly I stop crying soon after like I’m still sad but I just repress it inside of me, and another reason why I feel like I do this is cause when I was younger it seemed like I could never make a friend like a real friend that actually wanted to be with like just me to talk about life and when I was in this time I would be talking to myself in my room like I was actually talking to a person and I would say stuff like I’m sorry I’m not good enough, but then about a year after that I went out of the school for recess and like the door to go out to recess was a little bit away from like the playground and stuff so I could get away with being anti social by secluding myself, but this one day there was this one kid that was hanging around this area he didn’t go to the school and I didn’t recognise him from the neighborhood so we ended up talking cause it was way too awkward for us to be sitting there not knowing who tf each other are so yeah we started talking and he tells me his name is Nate and he tells me he lives in a neighborhood a whiles away and that he was ditching school cause he didn’t want to deal with work because every day at home he got beat by his parents and he just wanted a time where he could get away from everything and he just so happened to want to hide around the school while he passed by it and I said I’m sorry you have to go through that that’s gotta be rough my parents only spank me or have my keep hot hot sauce on my tongue until the think that that’s enough time then he laughed and said your parents are weird and then I laughed and said yeah and then the bell rang to go back inside and I said well I gotta go but it was cool meeting you I hope things turn out better for you see yah then he said see yah. The next day comes and he’s there again so we started talking again and he kept showing up day by day and about two months after talking he tells me he’s actually been planning on running away and there’s a guy that’s gonna come and help him run away in about a week but he said he convinced this guy to stay around here for about a week so I could meet him so around a week passes and he’s there where he usually is with this guy and I expected him to be older but he was just a kid like us so I said hi my name’s Eric what’s yours? And he says Jon and we get talking and he tells me he’s homeless and he lives with this older man that helps him out and he said he was going to let Nate live with him and Nate said it might be a little rough but it’s better than getting beat by your parents day by day so of course I said I’m glad that you’re getting out of that home and going somewhere better but I’m still gonna miss you and I ended up getting the same connection with Jon with what I had with Nate and then the left I never saw of them again after that and then a couple months pass and I go out to the same place that I always did and there was and older man there and after all the kids left to go play he knew it was me he needed to talk to so he asks me if I’m Eric I say yes I am and he said I’ve got some bad news… I say what? What is it? What’s wrong? Who are you? And he said well you know Jon and Nate? I said yeah he told me I have to tell you what happened he said there was a night not too long ago where me Jon and Nate were going to go to sleep but we couldn’t cause it was too cold so we started to split up and gather stuff for a fire and I went with my friend and I had Nate and Jon go together by themselves… Worst decision of my life… I had gotten some stuff with my friend and we got there first so we just decided to start the fire so it’d be good for them when they came back and then just a little after we started the fire we heard a gunshot and around this time we got really worried cause they didn’t show up yet so they rushed towards where the sound of the gunshot came from and after about five minutes we found them… We sure found them… There we saw them both on the ground dead Nate shot Jon stabbed and they weren’t moving one bit… At this point we both were sobbing and he told me we can’t talk about this or the police will think we did it and I never told this to my mom, and I never wanted her to know so If I was crying in my room and my mom came in and saw me I’d just say it was bullying cause she already knew I was picked on at school but every time I was in my room crying was cause of them but every time I thought about it I would tell myself it was my fault, and in other bad experiences even small ones or just doing things in general like expressing my feelings or just accidentally staring at someone and even one worse expirience where my friend was killed right in front of me I always think it’s my fault and I should say sorry just for my existence like there was even this time I went out with this girl and I said sorry I’m so boring and she said it’s ok but anyway I shouldn’t have made this so long, I’m sorry that’s just my experience with it. For whoever even actually sees this my name is Eric and I go by 3ric.
    Thank you, I love you.

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