Archive for approval from others
I’ve been thinking a lot about a one of the last comments made on my post “Groomed to Doubt Through Spiritual Abuse.” The writer said in a nutshell that the people who voiced strong disagreement with my posts were people from my real life who really just cared about me. Words like this can be “catch words”, cause us to stop and second guess… especially in the process of recovering from abuse of all kinds which teaches us to doubt ourselves in the first place. It’s not my desire to pick apart readers’ comments, but it’s the idea behind this particular comment that I want to put under the microscope.
I’ve been writing a lot about spiritual abuse, and it strikes me that so much of spiritual and church abuse happens under this confusing umbrella of “we care about you.” We want you to become a Christian because we care about you. We will confront you about sin and reprimand you with Bible verses because we care about you. We will stand you up in front of the church and tell people about your wayward ways because we care about you. We will talk to so and so and so and so and so and so behind your back and ask them to talk to you or send you an email to correct you because… we care about you.
If the person saying they care about you has known you your whole life, there’s an extra layer of confusion. Somehow, it seems like their opinion should hold more weight, as if they know everything about you. A statement like that could easily put me into a self-doubt spin. My deeper thoughts flashed through my head:, “Carla, these people say they care about you, that they are confronting you because they care. It’s pretty gutsy of you to doubt them… They’ve known you your whole life, so surely they know the real you better than you know yourself…” These doubts come from that old mentality that didn’t know my own true value and didn’t know how to define myself, myself. When I tune in to my true heart, legitimate questions put holes in their claim of “care”. Do they know me now? Have they bothered to contact me in person and have a real conversation? Do they know my true state of happiness and fulfillment in my life? Have they walked the path with me to see how far I’ve come? No, they haven’t. So when they throw accusations and corrections at my new way of thinking, it strikes me as a flat out lie that they really care about me.
I used to think like them too. I believed that pleasing the “system”, keeping myself and others within its rigid walls, would lead to my ultimate salvation. It felt easier to gauge myself and determine if I was okay or not if I kept following the rules rather than following the adventure of a free willed heart… But the truth was that living in these rigid walls was squashing me. My soul was dying a slow death because as hard as I tried, I could not find my salvation in the rules and constrictions of the system. The system DID NOT care about me. It only cared about numbers and keeping those who were blindly following, blindly following. It only cared about protecting itself.
There have been other people in my life, close friends, who have challenged me. Their challenges have not always felt comfortable. But when I ask myself the same question about them, my answer is very different. I do feel cared for by them, because I know that their aim in challenging me is to help me become all I am meant to become. They have no ulterior motive to keep me thinking the same as them or to keep me in line with their rigid, controlling system. They aren’t trying to keep me boxed in, shut down, small minded, and pliable. They want me to become more myself, stronger, less pliable, more fulfilled and deeply happy. There is a huge difference… and I can feel that difference. Real caring encourages real life, not slavery. Real caring cares about the individual, not the system that the individual is questioning.
As we grow and change, there will be those who will try to lasso us back to where we have come from. They are afraid. They are still trying to find their salvation in the systems they are trapped in and they are protecting themselves and that system. We don’t have to fall for this claim of “I just care about you!” We can doubt them instead of doubting ourselves. We can trust that our feet are taking us in the right direction, deeper and deeper into the life we were meant to live. No one has the power to stop us from reclaiming life giving freedom and reconnecting with our true hearts. No friend, no parent, no sibling, no pastor, no relative, no organization, no leader, no spouse, no in-law. I want to send big encouragement to all of you as you keep pursuing your wholeness. You are worth it and you have what it takes.
A Special Note from Carla
These past seven months have been an amazing journey, sharing my truth and getting to know and interact with all of you here. I have been feeling a strong need to take some time to focus on myself and get more clarity on a few foundational things about “me”. In the theme of true caring, I have decided to take an indefinite writing break from Emerging From Broken. I will still be working a bit “behind the scenes” and hope to share a post from time to time and stay connected. I want to thank Darlene for her amazing support in the process of me making this decision, as it really has not been easy! I also want to thank every one of you for engaging with my posts to this point, and for sharing your incredible journeys with me and each other. With much love, Carla
I’ve been working my way through a depression over the last few weeks. Maybe “underneath” is a better word… Sometimes the journey to freedom feels easy and the truth is crystal clear. Risks don’t feel so risky. There is a strong pull forward. It somehow feels simple to make decisions based on what I know is true. Over the last few weeks I’ve felt a pull downward, a pull to just stop where I am and hibernate for awhile. Some relationships in my life have become more distant and I have felt so afraid. I think the fear of being alone, of being rejected, is one of the most powerful fears we face in our lives. I found myself listening to old voices (much clearer this time around) that said, “See, you just can’t do this. You don’t have what it takes. If people abandon you, you will die. If you are rejected, you really MUST be messed up. You can’t survive on your own…”
I’ve learned this fear comes to revisit me in varying degrees along the journey of healing (I used to believe that if I had dealt with it once, I shouldn’t have to face it ever again.) I know this depression has some very real reasons behind it. In becoming whole, some things must fall away and others will grow stronger. In my survival, I was a ship that had attached myself to many many other ships around me. One rope here, another there, spread out like a giant spider web. These ropes felt like my lifelines. I sent out distress calls and survived by interpreting the feedback I got from the other ships. As I become whole, those ropes gradually get cut or fall away. Some just shrivel up and die. Others have to get snipped more intentionally. And I don’t mean that these ropes are only connected to “people”. Some of them were attached to old belief systems that kept me stuck. Some were religious, some were cultural “norms”, some were family belief systems. But one by one, I have freed myself… I became free to focus on my own ship and start listening to what it was all about, where it wanted to go.
Some people love freedom when they first taste it. For myself, freedom has not been an easy experience (yet!) Living so long with my ropes tied to other ships, I had so little sense of my own direction, of where my own sails wanted to take me. Cutting those ropes has sometimes felt absolutely terrifying. How will I know where to go? How will I know that I’m going the right way? What if I cut these ropes and sail off to sea all by myself? Will I ever be close to others again? How can I be close to others if we aren’t tied together?… My depression was a way of coping with these fears. If I could just turn the voices down, or just fall back into the old belief that all of my pain really is my own fault, maybe this would feel easier… Maybe I could go back to coasting alongside someone else… or just hole up in the harbor again, or maybe find some isolated island to call my permanent home…
Deep within my own ship is a lantern, burning with the truth about who I am, with the life and the unique journey that is mine to take. Throughout this depression, I have felt its presence. As loud as those old voices and fears have been, my own presence has been loud too. I know that it is there. But I have felt such angst, running back up to the main deck, peering at the ships I used to be tied to, fearing my “aloneness”, fearing that the lantern with my own light isn’t bright enough to trust, isn’t good enough (now I ask, good enough for who?) It’s the most life squishing lie of all time.
My soul won’t give up. As tempted as I have felt over the last few weeks, the light inside wants to win. To keep walking forward into what feels terrifying is what my whole self wants so much more than to fade away back to the place that feels deceptively safe and familiar (it’s not the same back there anyways). I have always wanted the open sea. Facing old fears is part of learning to sail well, and I am on my way.
~By Carla Dippel~
The last few posts written by my Mom and I have been focusing on how my Mom’s belief system impacted me and molded our relationship with each other. To wrap up this series, we will each share one more post describing what our relationship had become with each other, what it took to break free from this “enmeshment”, and what our relationship is like today.
My Mom and I grew to be very inter-dependent with each other. For me, it almost felt like I had never left the womb- I was so tangled up between wanting to be free as an individual but not knowing how because my actions/moods/feelings had such a strong impact on my Mom. We were not separate people. My life was my Mom’s life… Even though a part of me was fiercely fighting to be separate, her belief system permeated mine. I tried to live out her dreams for me because I didn’t know how to follow my own. I didn’t date many guys, but in social situations this possibility was always on my mind and caused me great anxiety. I hated myself if I gained too much weight. I went to Bible College (SURELY I would fall in love and marry someone there!) I was very active in my church. Marriage, college, church- these things weren’t “bad” things in themselves. But I pursued them with this unconscious drive, believing that they would make me happy and help my Mom to be happy too. I was so afraid to live my life on my own two feet. Depending on my Mom to help me through my life came to feel uncomfortably safe, but also suffocating and inhibiting. Every step I took was gauged with how it would affect her.
I started seeing a counselor in the middle of one of my deepest struggles. My counselor introduced me to individual freedom. He didn’t try to control me or lead me in one specific direction. He taught me certain principles that would help me make my own decisions in my own best interest. In the course of my counseling, I came to know that my Mom’s happiness could not depend on me anymore. Our tightly spun web of interdependence was killing me. I needed to know that just because she was my Mom, it didn’t mean that I had to sacrifice my own individuality to help her be “ok”. I had to know that her happiness was not my responsibility. It wasn’t in her best interest to glean her identity from me and vice versa. For the first time, I saw our interdependence as a kind of umbilical cord that was keeping us alive in some ways, but ultimately robbing us of the real life we each deserved to have. It had to go. Hacking away at this umbilical cord was painful and unpredictable. I started drawing stronger lines between my Mom and I. In the past, I would have shared every bit of my life with her. I started giving myself freedom to have my own secrets, to take actions that she might disagree with, to live my life for myself. I told myself, “You don’t have to get married if you don’t want to! You are just as valuable single. You don’t have to go to church or play the piano if you don’t want to either. You are free to make your own choices.” I knew this new way of thinking caused my Mom a lot of angst, but I forged ahead anyways. I learned that it wasn’t all up to me to help my Mom feel better. She was her own individual person, capable of taking care of her own heart and mind. These were new beliefs for me about what love really was all about- I used to believe that if I loved my Mom I would live my life in such a way to make her happy, I would give her access to every part of me so we could be “close”. Now I believe that love means having the freedom to pursue my own individuality. It means sharing when I want to share, not because I have to share. It means valuing my Mom for the person that she is instead of me trying to be the person she wanted me to be so she could feel valuable…
Today there is new respect within our relationship. My Mom respects boundaries I put up when I feel I need to. She is seeking to build her own life and her own identity. This has had a huge impact on the health in our relationship. Because she is open to learning and growing, I have a growing trust that I can be honest with her. There are still remnants of our past enmeshment that show up from time to time, both in her trying to sway me to her way of thinking or in me over-depending on her to solve my own problems. But we are both aware of these tendencies. Many times I have had to correct myself and not call my Mom to “help” me or make a decision for me. Or I have had to reinforce the line between us that says, “Mom, this is my life, not yours.” These are growing pains that always help to make our relationship better, and I am thankful that I can now know my Mom as one of my true friends.
~By Debbie Dippel~
In my first post I mentioned that I didn’t want Carla to struggle with the same fears that I did. As a child I had many fears that I kept hidden inside and carried these into my adulthood. I won’t list them here but will focus on the one that I believe most impacted my relationship with Carla, which was the fear of being single.
Some words/phrases that pop into my mind regarding singleness are: “old maid”, “spinster”, “she never married” (which sounded to me like a tragedy) I once had a family member ask me the question regarding my children who are still unmarried: “What’s wrong with them?” Another comment that stands out in my memory during a family get together is “Life doesn’t begin until you are married!” I remember hearing comments about single women like, “She is being too choosy” and “What is she looking for?” I felt afraid of what people would think about Carla and how she was raised.
I believe that being the youngest in the family contributed to my desire to “keep up” with my siblings. They all married very young, from the age of 17 to 20. I was married just before my 22nd birthday and often said “I was the old maid in the family by the time I got married”. This sounds ridiculous to me now but it was a huge deal to me then. The need for me to “keep up” carried on with our children. As their children dated, married and had children, I felt the anxiety that my daughter keep up with them. We had children close together and so the weddings should also occur close together, followed by grandchildren.
Being slim was also very important to the women in my family. In my mind, this was connected to the possibility of attracting a man. So for Carla, the pressure was on to be slim. I was concerned for her happiness but my fears clouded my ability to see her as an individual person who had every right to live her life as she was created to live. I thought I knew what was best for her and what would make her happy.
I had a different relationship with my son. By the time I had him I had dealt with some of my fears about parenting and was more relaxed. In my mind there was no stigma attached to being a single man, in fact, there was something attractive in being a bachelor. I enjoyed our relationship and was not eager for him to have a girlfriend. When he had a girlfriend, (which he usually did) I didn’t have much time with him and may have felt replaced. I did not dislike his girlfriends, they were nice girls, but when they broke up, I felt relief. I feel ashamed to admit this and want to say that this has changed and I am very happy with the relationship he now has and am excited for their future together.
I am certain that my marriage played a large part in the dynamics that occurred between me and my children. I may expand on this in a later post.
This blog has been an excellent platform for the truth to be told, and along with the truth, freedom. I am in the process of learning to live free and allowing my children to live in freedom as well. I am getting to know Carla as a beautiful woman inside and out and I love spending time with her. It is a work in progress and backslides occur, but we are moving forward in the right direction.
How I had been devalued, the root causes of my struggle with depression and anxiety, was hard to see for the longest time. It was like trying to see through a window with shimmery curtains waving back and forth. There were good things in my childhood too. Those things would wisp across my vision and confuse the painful feelings that I had at the same time. I would change my stance to see from a different view but the curtains were still there, still rippling across the window. I had to focus my vision closer and look at the curtains, see them for what they truly were, before I could pull them back and see through the window to freedom.
My Mom had very clear visions of how she thought my life should look (she talks about these in Part Two of this series). She had specific ideas about what would make me happy. I described my Dad as being the Unengaged Gardener in an earlier post. His belief system about himself held him back from cultivating my individuality, from emotional involvement and interaction with me. My Mom was a much more active gardener. In many ways, I am thankful for the work that she did in trying to help me be a happy member of our family and of society. She took the risk of getting her hands dirty in the soil and because of that I had a lot more material to work with as I sorted through her belief system’s impact on me. But my Dad still had a huge role in how my own belief system developed, whether he meant to or not. Together, my parent’s belief systems merged to create what I believe is a very common and often misunderstood inner “tornado” effect: My Dad’s passivity left a huge hungry hole that I was desperate to fill. My Mom’s belief system taught me to try and fill that hole with the wrong soil, soil that couldn’t sustain deep and fulfilling life. The problem was that her ideas of what would make me happy were too shallow and skewed. They weren’t bad things in and of themselves, but they were not the things that would really help me thrive. She planted a false belief system.
My Mom never told me that I had to get married to be happy. She never told me to be thin so I could attract a man. She didn’t actually say that I would only be valuable if I was married and had children. But I saw her belief system lived out in her own life. I saw how she served my Dad, how she made it a priority to teach me how to clean and cook and sew, how she watched her own weight, how she didn’t find her own happiness outside of these enclosing borders. I knew very well the look of concern that would cross her face when I would take a second helping at dinner. I knew that she was very pleased whenever I had a boyfriend or did something good at church or performed well at my piano recitals. I knew she was proud of me, in a sense… But here’s the twist: she was proud of me when I fulfilled her own visions. She was pleased when I lived out her dreams for me. No attention was paid to whether or not Carla herself was really happy in doing these things. And the things that I did enjoy doing were not investigated. In my play, my parents didn’t join in to find out about me. When I would wake up in the early hours of a Saturday morning to prepare a huge spread of food for my family (food is one of my passions) their subtle response was that I had wasted food and made a mess. The things that really made me tick were overlooked. So I learned to overlook them too.
The roots of my own happiness, the deep underpinnings that made me me were not nurtured. The voices that I was born with, deep in my heart, that held the key to what would create a truly fulfilling life for Carla were not given a chance. They were overpowered by the voices from my Mom’s belief system (and eventually, they would come under direct fire within the religious system I became immersed in).
This was the heart of the devaluing that happened to me. The pain of this devaluing was very real and set me up as an easy candidate for depression, anxiety, fear, and abuse of other kinds. My own pleasure, my ability to listen to my own heart, was disconnected from within myself (where it belonged) and implanted into someone else. I was maniuplated to survive by pleasing someone else, by fulfilling someone else’s dreams. Until now, I didn’t know how to live any other way.
Working to part the curtains!….
“And a woman spoke, saying, ‘Tell us of Pain.’ And he said: Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain….” ~ Kahlil Gibran
We are learning to struggle well. Our desire speaks to us of a new place, a place we have belonged all along but for so long believed we didn’t… Wholeness. A place of validity, entirety, freedom, fulfillment, excitement, promise, purpose.
People and events told us we didn’t belong in this place, we didn’t deserve to go there, we weren’t good enough for it, we had to work harder to earn the right to be there. We got broken. And then we got tangled up in trying so hard to make ourselves “righter”, make ourselves more worthy so we could get there. We got sidetracked on our way in all kinds of other places that promised peace but only delivered disappointment and anxiety. We doubted ourselves. We questioned if we should keep trying to get there…But continually burning deep deep down inside, we knew that we belonged there; we wanted to belong there… Even if at first all we heard was a whisper, a longing, a puzzled feeling, the “click” of a moment when we realized, “hey, this and this and this that I’ve believed all along about myself doesn’t really make sense…”
A dawning starts to happen. And the light draws us toward it. The warmth we feel says, “Yes, this is the right direction. You do belong here. You are stepping in the right tracks.”
The tracks are not always easy. Some feel very painful.
Pain feels like something is wrong, and if something feels wrong our old belief system tells us that we are wrong. We try to avoid the pain because of this misconception, one we have suffered under for so long. We avoid the pain because we are afraid that it will tell us that we really are mistakes after all… But now we see the misconception for what it is. We connect with the new truth about ourselves that is gaining life deep down inside. We see the lies woven into the misconception that fuels our fear and we decide that we don’t want to agree with those lies anymore.
Pain invites us to look deeper, to look through. It is not telling us that we are wrong, just that something is wrong. It draws our hands to feel around us, to feel at what confines us. It draws us to open more windows, to let in more light here, then more light there, so we can see more clearly, bit by bit. It says to us with matter-of-fact assurance, “I can’t leave until you really pay attention to me.” It wasn’t our brokenness that was the problem; the real problem was what caused the brokenness. And what caused the brokenness was not of our making.
We work to understand this. We peel back the layers of our past, we uncover the lies that were whispered or shouted to us. We learn the truth. We realize that all the work we have done to earn our worthiness, the crawling and striving we have done towards feigned acceptance, was not required of us. It was work done for other people’s benefit, not our own. We feel the pain of being deceived, of being discounted, being taken advantage of. We feel the pain of disbelief, of sorrow and grief. And sometimes after we have gotten to this new place of wholeness, we feel the pain of learning. We feel uncomfortable because it is so new. We sometimes still slip into those redeemable ruts. And we are invited into one journey after another of rebirth.
Our pain is a corridor. A place of deep movement towards where we truly belong. It is the breaking with the past, the hope of new growth and new life, the acceptance of reality all rolled into one. It is part of the process that helps us to keep moving forward.
Courage and love to you on your journey…
What was it that I needed to know? What was the “it” that I had been seeking for, hungering for, all those years? What was it that I was born desiring, born fully open to and able to receive but left wanting?
Deep inside me, every second of every day of my life, there dwells a beauty. A real person, a human being. She is sensitive but determined. She is curious, investigative, and thorough. She is creative, deep, resourceful. She goes through fears, questions, doubts. She finds the answers she wants. She has dreams! She has goals. She has desires that are good. She loves to cook and serve delicious food to her friends. She loves to make music. She loves to sun soak and walk and go crazy on the dance floor. She cares about people and loves to write because she wants her story to help others. She loves, and she is loved. She has stopped off to one side of her path many times but has always gotten back to her feet and followed her heart, a heart that tugs her forward, forward, forward. She loves adventure and having fun. She is passionate to live out her full potential. She is willing to learn. She is generous. She is a valiant truth seeker. She is classy…
This is me. Please substitute your own words for yourself if you would like… Deep inside each of us is one unique expression of what it is to be human. This expression is complete within every person, whether it is uncovered or not.
First, I needed to know that my hungry heart was okay. I needed to know that what I felt was lacking really was lacking. It was not my imagination. My hungry heart was not selfish or self-centered. It was hungry. Hungry happens for a reason. I needed to know that the circumstances in my childhood that created that hunger were wrong. I needed to know that it was not okay to be emotionally neglected by my Dad. I needed to know that it was good for me to be angry about that (Darlene explores this topic further in her post “Anger at Parents~ A Pathway on the Journey to Freedom“). I needed to know that a person who is hungry will try to satisfy or stop their hunger with lots of different things- accomplishments, boyfriends, addictions, depression, the approval of others. I needed to know that it was okay that I tried to fix my hunger with these things, that it made sense. I needed to know that I was so much more than my ways of coping. I was not simply possessive, jealous, depressed, needy, angry or insecure. I used these things to try and solve my problem- they just didn’t work.
When I knew all these truths, I became free to know my real self . Underneath all the things I used to cope was the real me, the Carla who I had all my life been so hungry to know and so hungry to share with others. In affirming that she was real and that she was good, I became confident to meet her and embrace her fully as myself. I could stop striving to “manage” or fix all these different parts of her, hiding parts from certain people or embellishing other parts for other people. In knowing that ALL of Carla was okay and that all parts were necessary, I could start on the kind of journey I had dreamed of my whole life, with my whole self on board. All of me is now in one place. I know now that I am worth knowing, worth exploring. With this new belief at my foundations, I can now give myself what was lacking before. I have the freedom and the power to celebrate now what was not fully celebrated in my past. I take up the task of protecting, accepting, nourishing and teaching my whole self to thrive and flourish as I was meant to all along. All these things are what I needed to know, all parts of one big truth, one big vibrant picture.
A belief system that says, “I am a nobody, I can’t do anything right, I’m just stupid” wreaks havoc in a few different ways. I believe we were born with an unconscious sense of our own value; deep down, in each of us, there “dwells a beauty”, a person who is loved and can love. But trying to function with a totally opposite belief system creates a swirling, anxious situation inside, as if two rivers are colliding head on into one another and the water is all confused. In my last three posts (1, 2, 3), I’ve been describing my Dad’s belief system and how it was passively handed down to me as a child. His belief system also created havoc in my family, just not the really obvious easy-to-see kind.
Someone with a “I’m a nobody” belief system still wants to be valued, because they are human. Because my Dad didn’t value himself he sought to find his value in other ways. One of these ways was to put a lot of responsibility on his family to do the work of his own failing self-esteem. He believed that he was loved if his wife cooked and cleaned and took good care of him. He believed he was loved if we didn’t say a mean word towards him or be upset with him in any way whatsoever. If he put himself down, we would disagree with him and try to tell him that the opposite was true. Because he didn’t communicate his thoughts and feelings, my Mom, brother and I were forced to try and read his mind. If he was in a bad mood we ALL could tell- we became so skilled at reading his subtle signs and passive communications at the expense of learning to communicate for ourselves. If we sensed he was upset, we would do the work to try and make things better. Though my Mom would try and encourage better communication, he was so extremely uncomfortable and uptight about trying that things would end up more anxious than before. He was the passive King in our home and we learned to treat him with kid gloves. In living this way, my brother and I learned that love was all these things. Love meant compensating for someone else’s poor self esteem. Love meant not making the other person upset. As children who did not know this was so backwards, it also meant sacrificing our own needs to be built up and paid attention to in order to build up our parent. So the cycle continued. My brother and I grew up with this huge sense of lacking and low self-esteem of our own. We naturally lived to please other people. And all the while, the pain was brewing deep inside.
The last five years have been a process of seeing these things as the truth of my story. In learning the truth that all these subtle “leeching” dynamics between a parent and his children can have just as much damage as more physical or obvious kinds of abuse, I was exposed to a whole new world. I learned that these things were not my fault. I learned that my depression and anxiety has definite reasons and weren’t just symptoms of a messed up person.
Of my two parents, my Dad’s belief system had the most impact on me. Deep down I believed I was a “nobody” as well and I relied on other people to tell me that this wasn’t true. This wreaked havoc in its own kind of way, testing relationships and causing me to miss out on great opportunities that I felt I just wasn’t worthy of. As an adult, the responsibility to live differently is now in my own hands. Now that I know that this belief system is not my real inheritance, not the one I was meant to have, I can choose to embrace a new one. I can choose which river to follow. Today I am working to change my belief system. Today I take on the primary responsibility of nourishing my own self-esteem. Today I am taking another step into freedom and living in the truth.
We are born valuable but vulnerable. We have this inherent sense of value for ourselves. As babies, when we were in pain, we cried. When we were hungry, we cried. When we were uncomfortable, we cried. We cried because there was no thought or experience that disconnected us from the truth of our value. We knew what we needed and had no reason to fear asking for it. We also laughed when we thought something was funny or stimulating. Pleasure, happiness, didn’t require a labyrinth of justification. Our value wasn’t something we knew in our heads. It was something we just knew.
A wise friend once told me that our home life does not define our value, but models it. God has already defined my value for me (no one on earth can actually do this) but the purpose of a home, a family, is to treat each other as the valuable people that we are. It’s a valuing that respects the value that already exists. It models respect for my unique abilities, passions, dreams, and obstacles.
My home life was very predictable, very “secure”, very normal. My parents tried to do everything the right way. We went to church, did family devotions, did chores, got allowance, were disciplined for misbehaving. But… something was missing. My whole life I have questioned my value, never felt like my own feelings and thoughts were really good enough, have struggled to even know what my own thoughts and feelings were!
I was not taken advantage of sexually or physically, but I was valued for the wrong things. The real Carla was not valued or engaged with, not asked “do you like this? Do you not like this? What do you think about this? How did that make you feel?” She was told to be good and was valued for being good. She was applauded for being right more than she was for being herself. So, I was a very good child and decided to continue being very good throughout my life so that I would continue to be treated as valuable. The church loved a good girl, as did the private school I graduated from. I sweat blood and tears to be good and right in order to be valued.
Today it is my quest to be the real Carla, the Carla not boxed in or confined by the labels of “good and right.” Somedays it still feels like a very wobbly path because I get my value mixed up with these old skewed definitions. It sometimes feels foreign and uncertain to know and trust my own real feelings because for so long I have tempered them with what is intellectually “good and right.” But our souls can be nurtured back to life. The seeds that have been dormant for years are still there inside of us. With some loving work and nurturing, they will grow. It is happening day by day, re-bridging the gap between what is really true and what I deeply know to be true about me.
(Part Two from my post The Guilty Way)
Imagine that as you journey along, a destination, a place you would like to be, flashes like a picture into your mind. You can see it. You can see it so clearly… You have this strong sense deep down of what this place is like. You naturally have this urge of wanting to be there, wanting to reach it, this desire coming from the uniqueness of you. You picture this place and feel the desire to be there all in one flash, one spontaneous moment. This is an aim of your heart.
You contemplate moving towards your destination but suddenly you also have this doubt… this strong palpable doubt that what you have pictured is really, well, okay. Is really… good enough. You’ve heard other people describe their picture and suddenly yours seems a little dull. Maybe the vision cast in your mind is faulty. You start to feel anxiety and a sad kind of disappointment all at the same time (you really liked your own picture… in that flash of a moment it was really yours, it was a worthy destination…) Or, you start to doubt if you can make real what you see in your head, if you can actually go from here to there. You’ve never bridged that gap before, never spanned the distance. Maybe you should ask everyone else around you how to get there because they definitely would know better than you do. Oh, YIKES- everyone has a different suggestion! Everyone has a different experience to offer you with different advice! You try to take steps towards your picture but you get pulled this way, that way, updside-down, downside up. Maybe without you even asking, the Guilt Guards say, “But your aim isn’t the right one!! It’s not valiant, virtuous, perfect enough!!” They slam their spears into the ground and block your way.
Voices all cry out at once and the more you listen to them the more they cloud your picture, that picture that at one time was so clear and desirable, just a moment away. Eventually you decide that the mine field between you and your destination is just far too treacherous. The Guilty Way has befuddled your desire to live out what is on the true inside of you (this analogy could relate to many other things besides guilt, but it’s all in the same pot).
Feels like something died.
As I continue to work through my recovery, the difference between that scenario and the next all hinges on the work I’m doing at the foundations of what I know to be true about who I am. Living from these new foundations, my interactions with life (big and small) are growing more and more infused with freedom…
Re-imagine your picture… And this time there’s a clear path straight to it. In sorting through the lies and the truth, you have this growing sense within you, this sense that knows “I have what it takes to live my life. I have that good heart. I can trust it!” You still know you’re not perfect but you accept that as part of the journey and not as a means to discount yourself. So, you see your picture and nothing holds you back anymore. You don’t need to give in to the Guilt Guards to protect you because you now know that the freedom beyond your current borders is a place you can thrive in, and a place you are worthy to thrive in! The Guilt Guards and the Guilty Way just disappear. You bridge the gap and make it to your destination. You feel… alive. You have manifested what was inside of you, outside. You didn’t deaden yourself with pretensions and conventions. You acted out of your own unique spontaneity and were relieved from being pulled in all the directions of the other voices and extra-terrestrial rules. You make it to your picture and breathe in the satisfaction of being there… You did it. And you do it again, and again and again, striding forward towards the aims of your true, good heart. You are free to fly, free to learn, free to grow. This transcends the Guilty Way. This is the Freedom Way!
Big encouragement to everyone as we continue on in our journeys.