Feelings and the Trigger Connection – No Longer a Powerless ChildBy
Earlier this year my 16 year old daughter hit glare ice, flew off the road and crashed her car. She hit the first tree and took it out which caused her to roll and flip into the air, crashing 5 feet up on the passenger side and wrapped around a second tree. Her face and hands were covered in blood and cuts from the broken glass and she thought her arm was broken. When she was taken to x-rays in the hospital she fainted.
The images of her near death were haunting. I couldn’t stop imagining what she went through, her fear and how much worse it could have been. Even though she walked away, even though I was fairly sure she was going to have a complete recovery, the feelings, emotions and fears that came up for me were overwhelming.
On the third day after her accident my entire body was ‘humming’ with fear, emotion and flashes of the way my mind imagined the accident. I felt nauseous, exhausted and totally stressed out. I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t concentrate on a book, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t even escape with mindless television shows. I found myself reaching for weird food, like potato chips and chocolate and I reached for them as though they were a life preserver. I ate mindlessly and in a frenzied manner and as I shoved things in my mouth I became aware of the thought that I somehow believed eating those foods might block the feelings of fear and anxiety out of my mind. I had this crazy belief that eating those foods would squish the fear and flashbacks of her accident and all my feelings of helplessness, down and away from me.
I felt like I couldn’t cope. I felt like there was ‘nowhere’ to go and nothing I could do about it, that I was powerless over the outcome of her accident, that I was helpless and I had been helpless in that moment. And in the case of my daughters car accident I was powerless and helpless but the problem was that I felt like that ‘powerlessness and helplessness’ defined me as ‘useless’ and as a ‘failure’ as a mother, as a woman and even as a person.
Useless and a failure;
And I had this nagging feeling that this feeling I was trying to get away from was very familiar for me. I had this sense that this feeling was something that I had had for most of my life. And while I was in bed that night, half awake, half asleep, it came to me; this is the feeling that I tried so hard to escape from after I had been invalidated and mistreated. This was the feeling that I had when I didn’t understand the ways I was regarded, discounted, not heard, smacked, hit with a belt or with the hairbrush. This was the feeling that I had when I was being yelled at, reprimanded belittled and ignored, and this was the feeling that I had after I was sexually abused and nobody did anything about it.
Powerless, helpless, useless and a failure;
This same “helpless and powerless feeling” was the feeling that caused me to dissociate and develop all sorts of other coping methods just to survive. This was the feeling ~ powerless, helpless and worthless ~ that caused me to get lost in alcohol and drugs when I was a teenager and into my early twenties. This was the feeling that I binged and purged over in a desperate attempt to block it out and to block out what I was so afraid of.
It was this exact feeling that caused me so much fear and caused me to resist facing the pain of my past. I didn’t want to have the very feeling that I had worked so hard to escape from in the first place. Realizing that THIS was the very feeling that I worked so hard not to feel, helped me to realize another root lie at the bottom of my belief system;
The truth is that I was just as helpless and powerless when I was a child as I was when my daughter had her car accident. I couldn’t MAKE it stop, I couldn’t make the accident disappear as though it had never happened, I was powerless to change that it did happen and there was nothing that I could have done to prevent it, just like I was powerless as a child to prevent getting spanked and beaten with a belt and just like I was as a child powerless to prevent adults from using my body for whatever evil desires they wanted to perpetrate on me.
The lie that I had believed all along was that I WASN’T actually powerless. I believed that I COULD have stopped the abuse if only I could have been different. I falsely believed that if I was more lovable, more lovely, more sweet, more compliant, more worthy, more… just more, that I would never have been treated those ways in the first place. The lie I believed was that it was me… when all along it was them.
Growing up and coping by avoiding those feelings of helplessness and powerlessness for so long, it was second nature for me to avoid feeling that feeling as an adult to0. Avoiding that feeling was how I survived as a child. It was second nature for me to believe, even as an adult, that I was helpless and powerless over abuse because it was how I had always survived.
Healing was about changing that belief in the present. Although I WAS powerless over my daughters accident and I WAS helpless and powerless over the abuse, neglect and discounting actions of adults in my childhood, I am no longer powerless today. Today I am an adult and I have a choice. I can take care of myself now. I have a choice now. If someone hit me I would charge them with assault. If someone molested me, I would charge them with sexual assault. If someone talks down to me or devalues me in any way I can stand up to them. That is my power. I know that I have just as much value as other people do. Today I know that respect is a two way street.
Today I know that over certain things I am NOT powerless and that power can be used for good; even for MY good.
It was getting past the childhood belief that I didn’t have a choice then, (and I truly didn’t, none of us do) and understanding that I had carried that childhood belief and those coping methods into my adult life with me ~ and flipping them over to realize that I DO have a choice now (today and as an adult) that made all the difference in my journey to wholeness and freedom.
Today I am an adult and I know the true definition of love and that respect is ALWAYS mutual in healthy relationships. Since I had never been taught that nor had it ever been modeled for me when I was a child, it is easy to understand why we grow up into adulthood not knowing that we actually have a choice in most situations when as children we never did.
I rarely have that ‘powerless sinking feeling’ anymore except in cases such as my daughters car accident. When I do have it, I see it as a clue about the situation that I find myself in. I ask myself if my feelings of powerlessness are truth based feelings (as in my true powerlessness over Amy’s car accident) or if they are a left over from childhood, but I had to understand where that feeling came from in the first place before I was able to navigate through them in order to be set free.
My daughter Amy made a full recovery; and so did I.
Exposing Truth, one snapshot at a time;
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UPCOMING SHOW on March 20th 2014 ~ I am being interviewed by Mike Domitrz from the Date Safe Project on His Web show The Gift of Respect . The show is Live on Video so you will be able to see me and listen to the interview. The show will also be on Blog Talk Radio