Holden Caulfield Syndrome

I grew up in a house completely controlled by emotional undercurrents. My father, who we've recently decided demonstrates borderline personality behavior, had made us all slaves to his moods. My mother, a people pleaser, taught us to be afraid of other people's disapproval, including hers and my father's.

So, my whole life was spent in learning to read non-verbal signals, to recognize minute changes in tone of voice and facial expression, and to hear the real meaning behind a person's words. That's how I survived childhood, and now I can't shut it off.

Everywhere I am, all the time, I am picking up these signals. I am hyper-aware of the emotional atmosphere of every situation--I am desperately tuned in to every single person's mood. I am constantly analyzing the true nature of relationships between me and every person I interact with, and every person I observe in daily life. Most of the time, I can read a person's personality within three minutes of meeting them, and predict how they would behave in any circumstance. It's almost like being able to see ghosts, and almost as maddening. What other people don't hear rings in my ears all day. Things that are invisible to other people distract me all the time.

When I married my husband and had to spend time with my in-laws, I nearly went crazy. Every family has flaws--every family has issues that they keep under wraps or ignore. Those issues are glaring to me--they are evident in every conversation and interaction. I can't keep myself from cringing whenever I feel them surface, even if no one else is aware of it.

All of this makes me super-intuitive, and I give pretty good relationship advice if I do say so myself, but it's earned at a high cost. My parents turned me into a bundle of nerves, and half the time I feel like Holden Caulfield--isolated, self-involved, paranoid, and lonely.
BookNerd BookNerd
22-25, F
7 Responses Nov 14, 2007

I am 14 years old almost 15, i know exactly what you mean. In high school i was so extremely isolated, very very deeply lonely, i've only ever had one friend that is quite intellectual and i'm sort of friends with his friends a bit. i was also very very paranoid and i felt like i was the only person and person my age that could actually see the way other people were acting as holden calls them 'phonies' i use this term as well, i also felt like people were talking about me behind my back but now i just don't give a damn what others think i just know i'm better than them. when i read The Catcher in the Rye everything was so vividly relative to me, I am just now finding school hard because of idiots in my class and young teenager I just don't want to socialise with them for they are phonies, i have tried to talk to a couple of people my age well i find it really annoying none can bring up a decent subject to talk about. I've recently been diagnosed with asperger's syndrome i believe i have been misdiagnosed, i think i've just got social anxiety or maybe a trait of some sort of personality disorder like my dad has (depersonalization- a very very rare personality disorder) i can relate a lot of things with him that are quite similar. i just hate this stupid labeling that psychologists or therapists come out with. i can definitely read peoples expressions and emotions.

thank you for reading.

Also i find it very interesting that for years my educational psychologist didn't see anything wrong with me but when i went to a place called 'CAMHS' they immediately suggested and labeled me 'aspergers' just in a matter of weeks what are the odds huh? this makes me so so angry.
like is the U.S a hell of a load of americans are so quickly told they have ADHD and gives them a bottle of medication that is very highly like likely they do not need when actually they are more likely are suffering from depression or whatever.

I totally understand what you're going through... I'm not saying I'm the same person as you are, in fact, I'm quite the opposite... I've always been very social and open and stuff so I've got some good friends and people generally seem to like me... What I'm trying to say is that even though I hang out with these people I never feel completely understood, they are all stuck up in this tunnel vision sort of thing. I mean, they're nice and all and really good friends but they don't think enough. So many people in this world are so simple minded and this disgusts me, just as it disgusts Holden Caulfield.
I think about everything. I wonder. I dream. I don't have one passion but I have a million interests. I'm probably wandering off subject now but I just wanted to tell you that maybe you're the normal one and the rest are just blind phonies, and they should be diagnosed with whatever mental illness there is...

I apologize for my lack of English vocabulary, I'm belgian so my english isn't what it should be, thanks for reading !


I sympathize. My upbringing effected me almost the exact opposide, where i would "go under" for long periods of time and to avoid conflict and other scary things i just avoided people. I have a very limited ability to detect social cues, though sometimes peoples moods will wash over me like a rainstorm and ihave no idea what to do about it at all.

it does leave me pretty self involved and lonely.. its hard to trust people when you cant read them well...

Thankyou for sharing.

You have just described my entire life. Thank you for putting into writing something that I couldn't begin to explain. I think you are awesome!

Me too. And the first time I read Catcher in the Rye I didn't even think Holden was depressed. It just sounded all normal and crap. Really. I do pick up a ton of emotional stuff and notice almost everything and can relate to almost anyone and am highly intuitive. Plus I have the extra bonus of knowing that I have a hard time being successful, even though I know a lot about everything. Especially human behavior. I am always surprised when people are surprised by what others do.

It's called "co-dependency". There are therapists how specialize on this. Look it up. Start with the book: "co-dependent no more"

I have the same problem as BookNerd, although my father is the "people pleaser" and my mother is the one we walk on egg shells for. I, too, am hypersensitive to most of my interactions with people.

I found an e-book version of the book you suggested. It seems great so far. I didn't know that there was a name, nevertheless other people who understand, what emotions I go through on a daily basis, especially when it comes to my romantic relationships. My serious relationship just ended because he had learned my sensitivities and would play off of them. :/ It's like having the extreme opposite of Autism...

Wow! I understand and relate to SOO much of what you just wrote here. I am always afraid of disappointing people, especially my mom. I also feel that i am way more sensitive to everything than most people around me. You explained everything so perfectly.

it's a heavy burden, and a thankless one.