Brainwashing in Dysfunctional Family Systems and that deep down feeling of UnworthinessBy
Every so often I get a comment that I just have to share with everyone because it is so full of the truth that can help so many others. This is one such time! This comment from Doren came in on my article “Survival Mode and an Alternate view of Narcissism.” Doren has given me permission to re-print her comments for the sake of highlighting this very common concern;
Doren wrote: “All my life I’ve been in survival mode, barely able to make eye contact in public (in case people see the ‘real’ bad me I guess), trying always to please them, and if they have a problem with me they are right and I am wrong. It stems from this deep down feeling of badness in me—it’s hard to admit, but this feeling of badness gets to where I think I’m evil or the devil himself and that I will go to hell when I die. This has caused me a lot of distress and I wonder if feeling such a degree of badness is normal?
Here is what I struggle with—that I’m the ‘exception to the rule’, that yes other survivors deserve healing and are essentially good but NOT me. Perhaps this just tells me how ingrained my sense of badness is.
I have no choice but to work to heal or to die. My entire life has been greatly diminished due to childhood. It hurts so much to see the extent of the damage, but inside I feel, to get better I have to face this. Essentially I have been in hibernation since about 15. And I have thought that this was because I am weak, bad, unmotivated, etc.” Doren
I can assure you that this degree of ‘feeling’ is normal and even common. This is how we are brainwashed to become submissive and compliant. We are convinced that we are ‘bad’. We are slowly persuaded that everything would be okay with ‘them’ if only we were not such a problem. Part of the problem is that we have been so convinced of their faultlessness that we forget to examine them or any of their actions. It doesn’t occur to us that they don’t abide by the rules of love and relationship that they demand we abide by. That is what ‘brainwashing’ is.
The definition of Brainwashing: (link from the free dictionary by Farlex)
1. Intensive, forcible indoctrination, usually political or religious, aimed at destroying a person’s basic convictions and attitudes and replacing them with an alternative set of fixed beliefs.
2. The application of a concentrated means of persuasion, such as an advertising campaign or repeated suggestion, in order to develop a specific belief or motivation.
So there we are; children, brainwashed to believe a bunch of false stuff that we have been taught about ourselves. That we are BAD. I believed I was so bad and unlovable that God himself rejected me. ( I was taught that I was a disappointment so what other conclusions is a child to draw?)
Manipulators, perpetrators, controllers and dysfunctional family system members, brainwash us to make sure that we don’t shine the light on them. We are so busy trying harder that it doesn’t occur to us that perhaps our parents are not ‘God’ after all. And furthermore, society does not support this idea of shining the flashlight on the dysfunctional family when it comes to healing the root of the problem, at least not when it comes to overcoming abuse, depression, PTSD, OCD, eating disorders or any other issue people seek help for.
Society would rather that we ‘take responsibility for our own issues starting ‘today’ as in ‘leave the past in the past’. We are advised to ‘see where we ‘made our beds,’ be accountable for ‘choices we made’ and just ‘get over it’. It takes guts and a lot of hard work to bypass those typically accepted directives and work on the root of the problem. Add to this the fact that we have been effectively brainwashed into believing that the problem is us and that by the time we start searching for an out of the box solution we are extremely weak not to mention that many of us have NEVER stood up for ourselves before AND have never been validated in anyway about any of this either!
I realized fairly early in the process of emotional healing that I too believed that freedom and wholeness were meant for others but not for me. I believed that I didn’t deserve it. And that belief was rooted in the same brainwashing. I had to dig deep into the origins of all those beliefs and the actual/traumas/events/messages given to me and the reasons that I believed those messages as the truth about me in order to re-wire them back to the truth. I had to see where the broken began in order to heal.
Like any other repair, it helps to know exactly where the break is.
People write to me all the time saying that the abuse I suffered was way worse than the abuse they have suffered. I always wonder what blog they have been reading! Not because I don’t think what happened to me was ‘that bad’ but because of what the authors of those comments share and that they don’t think the abuse they suffered is as ‘bad or as damaging’ as what I suffered. Most victims don’t realize the extent of the damage and feel that they don’t really have ‘a right’ to sympathy or even have a right to be angry about what happened to them. Many people believe that if the abuse they suffered wasn’t sexual or physical then it isn’t as ‘serious’ but the truth is that ALL abuse has its roots in psychological and emotional abuse. When a person is raised in a dysfunctional family system that teaches that what happens to you is your own fault but what happens to everyone else is a tragedy it’s no wonder we can sympathize with or validate others but can’t apply that validation or sympathy to ourselves. When a child is convinced that ‘they are bad’ it takes some effort to reverse that belief.
It is stunning that 95% of victims believe that they are bad people and undeserving of love because of this deep belief that their parents or other perpetrators of abuse were ‘right’ in the ways they define the child. And there are those little human things we do, like one time I bit a cupcake and tried to cover the bite up with icing but I got caught and punished and that little event served as PROOF to me, that I was a very bad girl and that I deserved the abuse inflicted on me. It seems funny now, but at the time it was devastating to me because I really believed that proved that I was a plain nasty unlovable child. And as I got older and made poor choices I used those things as ‘proof’ that it really was ‘me’ instead of realizing that if I had been raised with love and self-esteem in the first place, I would not have made those poor choices.
I get a lot of email through the comment form and through comments on this blog about these two things that Doren is bringing up expressing the depth of belief about how ‘bad’ victims think they are and the suspicion that healing/wholeness and freedom is meant for everyone but them.
There is a powerful exercise that I suggest to my clients; I suggest they write out their pain story with as many details as possible, without fear of judgement or consequence and without editing it and then read it to themselves as though a child is telling this story to them. Some people invasion their daughter or niece. Others pretend that this is a child they have met in a hospital.
How do you react to this broken hearted child? Do you think the child deserved that treatment? Do you think that child is bad and brought it on themselves or that they must have been ‘such a burden’ to their parents. Do you feel sorry for the parents of this child? Do you believe that child doesn’t really ‘deserve’ healing, wholeness and freedom from the destruction and brainwashing that they have suffered? This is very often a very powerful exercise and results in a turning point for the client. It was a turning point for me in my own healing process.
Please share your thoughts and feelings with Doren and I and the other readers here about suspecting wholeness and freedom is meant for others and that deep down feeling of “being bad”. Everyone is welcome to use any name you wish in the comment form. Only the name you use will be visible to the public.
There is freedom on the other side of broken;
The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing. Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing –
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