I am how you want me to be: when complacency comes too easy
“And you don’t know how much I loved you,
how much wasted love,
silently waiting for you to see me
and to understand what you already know,
that I am how you want me to be,
how you want me to be.
I am the only one you can love,
don’t you see that I am only a few steps away from you?”
“Sono come tu mi vuoi “, I. Grandi
Being complacent is a normal attitude that in small doses everybody uses. As a matter of fact, a little bit of complacency in our daily lives is necessary: we are not always completely free to be who we are, to say what is on our mind or to bring forth what we desire. A bit of complacency and adherence to the rules that society requires us to apply to, are the basis of living in a civilised world.
Sometimes complacency can add up to becoming much more invasive, prying into relationships and hiding our real true self. Herein, we are talking about the “false self”, a psychoanalytic concept formerly theorised by Donald Winnicott.
False self is a defensive barrier that protects us from not being hurt by others; in extreme cases it can completely conceal the true self, making it very difficult to reach.
False self can take the form of complacency in relationships, especially in a couple: acting in order to meet our partner’s expectations can be a strategy to prevent a very feared rejection.
Trying our best to avoid what we fear is a normal behaviour, it is our natural instinct that protects us from being hurt. But when complacency gets too intense, when we try our best to be who we think that our partner wants us to be and by doing so we deny ourselves and our desires … we expose ourselves to risk much more than we could imagine.
What is the long term outcome of such a relationship? Where do our desires and spontaneity end up? Can we be really sure about how our partner would like us to be? Moreover, will our partner be really satisfied by having a faux but apparently perfect partner?
There are not straightforward answers to these questions.
Every relationship is different, it implies two extraordinary and unique human beings, bonding together and creating special dynamics. However, we know that not listening to who we are and what we want can bring us to a long-term dissatisfaction, a feeling of emptiness, of not being alive and in the end to a difficulty in reading ourselves. In addition, we can imagine how those feelings could affect the mood and happiness of a person and consequently put the couple at stake.
The attitude of creating complacent relationships usually finds its roots in our early years and it is a signal of a suffering area, linked to the fear of being rejected, not loved or criticised when we show our real selves.
If this rings a bell, sit back and relax, there’s nothing to worry about! Being aware of this attitude is the first step to change. Moreover, taking care of our suffering areas is the best way to build healthy relationships and, above all, to contribute to our well-being and happiness. As soon as you become aware of any related dynamics like the aforementioned, take some time to think it through and if you feel like you need help seek advice and contact a therapist.
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About Ilaria Tedeschi
Ilaria Tedeschi is a cognitive behavioural psychotherapist in Marylebone, London, with several years' experience working with depressive, anxiety, sleep and relational problems.