Loneliness in Recovery and Emotional HealingBy
As a child I was aware of a feeling of longing for something and of not being sure what I was longing for. It was as though something was missing but I didn’t know what. I naturally concluded that whatever was missing was in me and my fault. As an eight year old child, I remember watching the musical movie “Oliver” and “knowing” deep in my soul that I understood that orphan boy, even though I was not an orphan myself. When Oliver sang the song “Where is Love” I thought that he was reading my mind. I didn’t even question why I felt such an affinity with the character in that movie who was a very young and unwanted orphan, kicked out of the orphanage because he admitted that he was hungry. I took that as a warning that I better not do or say anything in my own unhappy home least I also be banished.
As an adult I could relate those same feelings and I labelled them the feeling of extreme loneliness. I felt guilty and ashamed that I felt that way. I thought that by feeling that way I was letting down my friends and family. I could feel alone in a crowd; I could feel alone with my best friends. As I looked back on my life I realize that I had felt alone all my life. I felt different. I felt like something was missing in me. I felt like something was wrong with me. I was alone.
As I began to recover, I was acutely aware of those feelings. At first I thought that it is because ultimately, we are all alone on the healing journey. But as I got stronger and sorted out so much of my past and my pain, the loneliness began to feel different. It began to dissipate.
I talk about re-parenting myself, and what that really means is that I went back and looked at certain events that were mishandled by the adults in my life. It wasn’t that I “changed the memory of the event”, but I looked at how I had been discounted through the event. I looked at how I had not been taken care of and how my emotional pain had been dismissed. First by them and then by me.
This includes times when emotional pain was ignored and when any kind of abuse was ignored or invalidated. This also includes psychological abuse such as neglect and or verbal abuse; physical abuse, sexual abuse, spiritual abuse or any other kind of devaluing treatment. And looking at the roots of all this stuff was not about what “they did” or what I was taught they had a “right” to do either. This was not about blame, this was about MY FEELINGS. Realizing now I felt about certain events, validating and owning those feelings and emotions where they had not been validated in the past.
From there, I looked at what I believed about myself because of those events. For example, My father never paid attention to me, he barely noticed me, and I never once considered that HE was wrong or that it had to do with something missing in him. I assumed that it had something to do with me and something wrong or missing in me.
If I was blamed for my mother’s bad mood (if you were not so naughty, I would not be in this bad mood) or for her depression (because if she was really sad, it must be because I was so naughty) then over time I believed that I actually caused her bad mood or depression. I believed that I was a failure ~ that I had failed her and let her down and that I was a disappointment. I believed that I was not good enough. I concluded and believed therefore that I was not lovable or valuable.
The longing that I felt, which I thought was loneliness was the longing to have some sort of real relationship with another person. A relationship based on equal value instead of what I had become so accustomed to; that the other person in the relationship was much more valuable then I was. Deep down I believed that everyone else had more value than I did. Worse than that was that I didn’t even realize I believed it. I had a very false view of myself. I noticed that I accepted treatment from many people that I would NEVER dish out to anyone else, and that showed me that I didn’t even regard myself as though I was just as valuable as everyone else.
I wanted to be heard, understood and I wanted my opinion to be accepted as a valid opinion and not dismissed as “oh, what do you know? But I didn’t know how to stand up for ME with all those false beliefs in the way. No wonder my self esteem was in the gutter. Not only was my personhood invalidated, BUT I was going along with it. No wonder I was so alone; I had no voice, I had no self love, I had no personal rights. I had no self esteem which means that I didn’t even like myself. I didn’t even want to hang out with me! Not valid. Not worthy. No wonder I felt as though I was different and that I didn’t fit in.
No wonder I was lonely.
As I validated myself and re-parented myself by looking at the origins of my low self esteem, I began to grow in the ways that I had not grown as a child and teenager. I grew up. Things got sorted out. Sometimes quickly and sometimes painfully slowly but I kept going forward.
And those loneliness feelings began to dissipate. It wasn’t because I had more people in my life or because my family finally saw the truth. My family of origin has not changed their minds about how they feel about me. It was because I was finally heard. BY ME. I finally had to guts to say ~ like Oliver said “I am hungry” because I finally knew that the consequences would not kill me anymore like they could have killed me when I was a child. I heard myself. I embraced the statement; “I am worthy” I faced the roots of the problem, the roots of where I got broken in the first place and I realized that I AM VALID. I rarely feel lonely anymore.
Sharing another benefit of the process of emotional healing;
Tomorrow, July 21st 2011, I will be joining Susan Kingsley Smith on our new monthly radio show “Breaking Free from Broken with Susan and Darlene” The show will be broadcast live at 2:00 pm EST and you can listen on the internet, OR by phone. There will be a replay available afterwards. Hope you can make it!