Archive for dissociation
Sometimes I get a comment that is bursting with questions that I just HAVE to talk about in more depth than just a comment back. In my last post “coping methods ~ trying to escape myself” I got one of these comments from Susa.
Susa wrote: “Interesting perspective and I really appreciate reading your experiences with dissociation. I suppose I could refer to switching as escaping myself, but the only problem I have, is what part of me is actually me? Who is really “myself”? I have always spontaneously deferred to a part of me who can more easily handle the specific task at hand, and have never had any control of that process. At this late stage of the life game, I am finally starting to almost be co-present with some parts of me… and yet I, Susa, still struggle with the question of who, or which part is the real me, or the original me? I know that I am not the original birth person, and have only been the CEO since 2006. I suppose the real me would be a sum of my parts, but hard to pinpoint any specific part of me.” Susa ( To read the post and the rest of the discussion read “coping methods ~ trying to escape myself“)
As I read this comment from Susa, several things were going through my mind. One of them was that although I am frequently asked to talk about my experience with dissociative identity disorder, (the multiple personality kind) I rarely do talk about it other than to say that I had it and I recovered from it. I tend to stay away from the subject because there are so many different beliefs about what it is, and how it operates. My opinion is that it was one of the ways that I coped; first with the trauma and then with life, and that in the final analysis, it was no more or less important than any of my other coping methods. All of my coping methods were tangled together to form a huge armoured tank around all my issues, protecting me from the outside world, but in the end also shielding me from the freedom and wholeness that I wanted so badly. All of my coping methods served the same purpose; survival.
Switching was an effective escape; it was a necessary coping method that in the past I had come to understand was about escaping the trauma, pain and or emotions that I was experiencing at any given time. As I grew up I learned to switch at any perceived danger. It became automatic. Anything that was even remotely familiar to the feelings surrounding childhood abuse or trauma, caused me to “switch”, becoming the alter I most needed to be in order to handle the situation. This was necessary as a child. It was not so necessary when I became an adult but I had no way of knowing that. Dissociative Identity and switching alters had become the way that I did life. As an adult, the switching personalities seemed to become more about me becoming whoever someone else wanted me to be, but was still a survival method or coping method due to the fears that I carried with me from childhood into adulthood.
When I came face to face with my dissociative identity disorder, I had those same questions. Who is the “real me?; Which one is in charge?; how will I ever know?” Will I ever find out which one of “me” is the original one? And I got really invested in thinking about all of that. So much so that you could say it became yet another escape. The “original me” quest however became very important to me as I began this healing journey.
I found out that all of them were me. Each fragmented self had arrived to protect me or to take the feelings and handle the fears for me. Each one held its own memories and had its own triggers. Each one had the job of protecting me from the memories, pain and trauma so that I could survive. Some alters were male, some were children, one was much older then I was. They took care of me. That was their job. And I had only even had or been glimpses of the original me or the core because the core of me was the sum of all parts.
I had a lot of fears about who I really was and about which alter was going to be the strongest one in the end. I was really afraid of one of them as I had gotten into most of the trouble in my life with her in the front. I tried to shut her down and one time when I was in intensive therapy I dreamed that I tried to kill her. I woke up from that dream with the profound realization that I had tried to kill myself in a dream. Through that dream I realized that I could not ditch one of “them” and that I had projected most of the self hate, blame and shame onto that part of me. My therapist had a less known method of treating dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder) and the method he used was instead of concentrating on which alter had which memories and emotions, we concentrated on the trauma events themselves and we began with the earliest ones that I remembered. I had lots of alters popping out in therapy, and my therapist just let it happen without giving too much attention to the individual alter. It was more like he treated me as though I was only “one” and then I came to realize that all of this trauma actually happened to me and not to the alters whom I believed were separate from me.
Dissociative identity disorder allowed me to separate trauma events and view them as though they happened to someone else. Because more than one alter personality would come out at each trauma event, I was able to detach from the event on many levels. I saw each tiny moment as separate from another moment. That was how I was able to deal with them. But I did the same thing with the lies that I learned. With all the memories fragmented, it may have been easier to cope, but at the same time I accepted the lies, shame and self blame because I separated those memories too. I believed that I must have done something to deserve what happened because I didn’t have one whole memory. So if someone indicated that it was my own fault or that I deserved it or that I was the problem, I remembered that as a single event too.
As I looked at the memories, and started to connect the fragmented pieces, I realized how many false beliefs that I had accepted about myself in the course of my childhood. As I uncovered those lies and exposed the truth (to myself) I began to come together. As I realized how many lies that I had accepted about myself and corrected them, I began to calm down. As I calmed down, I became more comfortable. I felt like I was growing up. In the calming down, I felt like I was coming together. I was able to become conscious of when I had switched and soon I was conscious even before I switched and found ways of talking to myself that enabled me to stay one.
The trauma happened to me. The memories were all mine. Each personality was me and I was restored, by connecting, facing and accepting the truth about the past.
Please share your thoughts. We always have a wonderful discussion in the comments section!
Note: It is important to understand that it was not the recall of the events that restored me. I do not have all my memories, and I still remember only fragments of certain events, but I remembered enough to realize how my belief system had formed and why. The key was in realizing how I had come to believe so many lies about myself, and was not about remembering all the events.
**This is an example of my personal journey. All processes are different. Many people need to dig really deeply into the personality of each alter; I am not discounting other ways of recovery. I am only sharing how it worked for me.
Related Post ~ D.I.D. and the Essence of who I am by Carla Logan
All abuse, weather it is emotional and psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse or spiritual abuse, is abuse and that these articles that I write on Emerging from Broken apply to ALL kinds of abuse. I intentionally make a connection between depression, dissociation, multiple personality, eating disorders, addictions and other mental health struggles and abuse. It is my experience that my difficulties and struggles were birthed in how I learned my value or rather my lack of it. The following article is not just about mother daughter dysfunctional relationship. It is about ALL dysfunctional relationship. How it starts in childhood, how it goes from there. How it ends up in coping methods that although necessary for survival, become self destructive.
The subject of not wanting the abuser to leave me and wondering why they did is SO complicated! For me, one of the things it has to do with is compliance and how much of my life that I spent trying harder for them. The deeper that I look at the roots of my belief system, the more that I can figure out where things got off the track. First of all there are the tons and tons of mixed and conflicting messages that we get both from right sources and wrong sources. They all kind of go into the same pot and they mesh with each other. Remember the story of how when my mother declared that it was my fault that her boyfriend came in my room in the night to sexually assault me because I had a crush on him. Well because my self esteem was already so damaged that I believed her, I added that self blame to everything that ever happened to me before that event. Then there were a few things in my past where I was not such a perfect child, like the time I faked the nightmare for attention, and when a child is a mere child, it doesn’t take much for things to get really mixed up in the memory, the mind and then in the belief system. The grid that we try to process things through, gets damaged.
I had to look at the “foundational foundation” to start with. That is the belief that we need and depend on whoever our caregivers are for our very lives, protection, security, the things that children need to grow into healthy adults. And when something happens that alters those basic needs, we have a problem. We get this split belief about love somewhere along the way and we start to believe that love is something that it isn’t. My mother taught me my value, she taught me the version of LOVE that she believed, but it isn’t real love. So I think that what she is doing is love, and I used to say “I know she loves me, I know she is doing her best”.. but today I know differently. She doesn’t love me at all. She uses me to make her feel better about herself. But it doesn’t work and it isn’t good enough and it hurts me every time. Where is the love in that? Part of my recovery was realizing what love is and what it is not.
When I told my mother that I was not willing to have a relationship on her terms, she finally asked me what “my terms” were. I told her that from now on she could no longer say that I had a crush on her boyfriend when I was just a kid and that was why he came in my room in the night. AND I told her that I was sick of having to prove to her husband that I liked him. I guess my terms were too high.
She was silent. She did not respond to any of the “terms” I stated. Then she told ME to think about our talk and get back to her and I said no mom, you can think about it and get back to me. I could write a whole other blog post about how everything was always up to me but that particular time I had given her MY terms, what the heck was I supposed to think about? That was the last time that we spoke.
And the message that I got from her withdrawal was that I was not worth her trying for. If I was going to draw boundaries and demand equal value then forget it. She said NO. The message was that I was only good for kicking around. If she had to respect me, then she didn’t want to be bothered with me at all. And that message meant to me that I am NOT worth it. After all the years of loyalty and compliance. After keeping my mouth shut about her boyfriends ~ I wasn’t worth her effort. I had never stood up to her all those years. I didn’t dump HER. I put up with all of the degrading in front of the whole world. I stood silent when she told men they could sleep with me because I was on the pill even though I was only a teenager! I didn’t even tell the family therapist (we had to go because my brother got arrested) what was really going on in our home or how she treated me. I let her take me to bars as a man magnet when I was 17 and I never said a word; I followed HER one sided definition of love and loyalty and I kept thinking that one day it would pay off ~ AND she dumped ME! It was incomprehensible! This was just the most unbelievable “thing” for me to try and comprehend. I was such a GOOD VICTIM and it was all for NOTHING? Because when it came right down to it, I was not worth her effort.
And it feels like rejection, because IT IS REJECTION.
As the months went by I felt more and more shock and disbelief as these truths sunk in. But something else was happening. I realized that I didn’t miss the abuse. I didn’t miss having to constantly do damage control and make sure SHE was okay. I didn’t miss having the joy sucked out of every single exciting moment in my life. I didn’t miss the put downs, the insults, the sexual innuendos or the family problems that she caused with her gossip and trouble making. I didn’t miss the anxiety.
And I started to grow. I started to come out of the fog in a much bigger way; I had so much more clarity about the truth and realized how many lies about myself that I had accepted.
This whole story does not just apply to parents; I had a couple of boyfriends who fit this same pattern. Oh and a few friends too. And employers…………. well you get the picture.
Please share your journey, struggles or victories or whatever you need to share for your recovery.
Exposing Truth one snapshot (or two) at a time
Founder of Emerging from Broken
Related Posts: The little girl who Cried Wolf ~ Belief system development
“If your progress in recovery is thwarted each time you see your family, if you revert to being a subservient or a fearful child, then you may need to stop seeing them for a while. Most importantly, you may need time to develop your own separate “self”, since it may be impossible for you to maintain a sense of individuality when you are around them.” The Right to Innocence – Beverly Engel
Lisa, one of my readers, made the following comment on the post “welcoming a new year of emotional healing” in regards to drawing boundaries with her mother; “What if there is no me without her?” this post is dedicated to that comment and it applies to all relationship where equal value is out of balance.
I was a really good victim to a lot of people. That means that I conformed and complied to many. I did what they wanted. I was who they wanted me to be. It makes me angry to think of how compliant that I was and that it was still never enough.
I lost myself and I got sick. As I got older, the overall dysfunction that was so familiar to me grew, and I got sicker. This was especially true in the dysfunctional mother daughter relationship with my own mother.
Looking back I realize that in most of my relationships, the interest that many people had in me was pretty much only about what I could do for them and about how much they could make me into who they wanted me to be. Sometimes that is about power and control. Sometimes it is about ownership and servant hood. Whatever the motive is, it is not healthy and it is not about love. And when we continue to live in that kind of relational dysfunction, the more we lose ourselves. In my case, the farther I got from my identity, the more depression and dissociation manifested. I lived only to live for others.
In the case of my mother, I think she wanted children because she was looking for a love source of her own. And so she created a love source. And she might have loved those babies to the best of her ability but as we grew older, something happened. She had expectations. She wanted approval and validation and she wanted it from the love source that she created. And when people get love mixed up with ownership, they believe they have a right to get what they need or want from those other people. But love and relationship doesn’t work that way and because she didn’t really know love herself, the whole plan failed.
The foundation of our relationship (overtime) became about my usefulness to her. When I was little my unconditional love and acceptance of HER was all she needed, but as I grew into an individual who had my own individual ideas, I think she felt threatened. And she did things that if I put up with them would prove to her that I still loved her. AND it seemed that she was very mad at me when I could not fill the void in her and make her feel good about herself. She put me down. She reminded me in strange ways that I was nothing. (and somehow I heard that I was nothing “without her”.) She did mean things that when accepted by me seemed to make her feel better because she equated them with love.
I got away from her, but it was never far enough. She sucked the joy out of every accomplishment that I ever had with her sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious put downs and questions designed to devalue me. She mentioned my weight. She put down my husband, my home, and my choices. She made inappropriate sexual comments about me in front of others. I was always on edge around her. And I never thought to confront her about doing it. She even commented that my breasts used to be so nice before I had children. WHY does someone feel the need to say something like that?
When I was small she taught me that I needed her, and I did. But she never taught me that I was capable of being an individual. She never wanted me to stop NEEDING her because it restored her value. I believed that I needed her to survive and even to exist.
And one day about a year after I began to take my life back by doing the foundational work that I write about all the time in this blog, I started to stand up to her, just a bit and just in tiny ways at first. But the more that I grew, the more I realized that my mother and I had a very dysfunctional mother daughter relationship. And eventually I stood up to her in bigger ways. And the tension between us was getting really bad. Then came the day when I said NO MORE. And this time I meant it. My boundary was not in my mouth anymore, it was in my heart now. She knew that I was serious, and she withdrew.
At first I was confused. I could not believe that she didn’t care enough to even try to discuss it. But I had lost my “usefulness to her” and what I didn’t realize is that part of my usefulness to her was in how she got to put me down. I felt so sorry for her too; for most of my life I tried to restore her value, but no one can do that for someone else. (I have written about this stuff under the mother and daughter relationship tabs.) The problem is that my purpose in her life wasn’t about love, value and equality. The way that she treated me wasn’t fair to me and it was when I finally put myself first, something we are told we must never do, that I found my healing.
When some time had gone by, my mother called and she wanted to try to mend fences. The problem was that she wanted to start from that day and asked if we could “just put it all behind us” and I said no. That is how we had always done things in the past, with me backing down. With me saying that her treatment of me was okay with me, (what I thought was forgiveness) and with me laying there broken and bleeding on the ground once again doing what she wanted and being who she wanted me to be. Always about her, always taking care of her; never about me, never taking care of me. She asked me what my terms were and I said equal respect. That was the last time I talked to her.
As I said, this time my boundary was drawn in my heart. I finally knew that I was worth equal respect, and that I have real value, equal value and that she doesn’t own me. I finally knew that her life is not my responsibility. She failed me as a mother, but I am not going to fail myself anymore.
I am not afraid anymore to live as me because I found out that the value that they gave me was a lie. I am far more valuable then they ever wanted me to find out about. I found out that I do not need anyone else in order to exist. I am not defined by anyone else today. AND I am not an extension of my mother.
Please share your thoughts. One of the biggest search phrases used to find Emerging from Broken are the key words “dysfunctional mother daughter relationship”. This is a huge issue in our society. We are not alone in this.
Exposing Truth, One snapshot at a time
See Lisa’s comment #19 on Welcoming a new year of Emotional Healing
Related posts: Mother Daughter Relationship Nighmares
As many of you know, I’ve recovered from dissociative identity disorder and I find it to be a strange feeling to be aware of wanting to dissociate, when for so many years, it was habitual ~ I just did it. Continuing with some of the conversation from the last post, see “Dissociative Identity ~ the solution became the problem” ~ sometimes I still get this overwhelming feeling like I want to get out of my own skin. And sometimes when I get that anxious feeling I actually wish I could dissociate the way that I used to. I have come to realize that this “wish” is about the desire to escape.
When I was a child I HAD to dissociate because I had no other way to cope and coping was not just about dealing with trauma or abuse. It was also the only way to escape the feelings of being nothing and being of no value, the fear of what might happen next, the confusion of not being protected, not being understood and not even being listened to. No one helped me to deal with stuff so I had to do something. I was forced to dissociate and disconnect because I had to. It was an effective coping method for me and eventually it became effective as a way of escaping everything. I would dissociate in all situations. I am not sure what I did a lot of the times when I was dissociative, I lost a lot of time and I have some vague memories of a fantasy life and there were alter personalities, but wherever I was, it was how I dealt with things, it was my coping method and it was my escape.
As an adult I had to learn a new way because that old way was keeping me back in my childhood of unresolved fears and emotional damage.
When I talk about re-parenting myself, I am referring to being there for myself emotionally, the way that no one was there for me when I was a kid. When I feel like running, escaping or using a coping method like eating when I am not hungry in order to deal with (which is actually NOT dealing with) the emotions that are coming up in me it is because I want to escape those feelings, and because I never had help to deal with them ~ I learned to check out ~ in a manner of speaking.
Re-parenting is about being there for me when I want to leave me because of the old familiar feeling that I am alone anyway and I am not safe, so I think I need to escape.
Here is what I wrote in my journal about the anxiety I was experiencing a few days ago because I have been working on taking better care of my physical health;
“I feel discouraged that I have the same old struggle going on in me ~ that I am not really making me a priority again. I don’t “feel” like taking care of myself. I am tired, I don’t want to do treadmill, I don’t want to cut veggies, I don’t want to stay active and be responsible for my physical health and I don’t want to write about it here. I just want to pretend that I’m fine and put off thinking about my health and self care. I want to eat junk food if I feel like it. I will take care of myself… tomorrow.”
Sometimes I just can’t, don’t want to, or I just won’t stay present with myself. And I hate this feeling ~ it feels like failure and that is what makes me want to turn away from myself and my thoughts and ignore it but it is always there. The biggest problem is that I tell myself that I deserve to escape.
I deserve escape? To tell myself that I deserve to escape those feelings is like giving myself permission to self harm. Escape is not the really productive or healthy. This is something that I need to be aware of, almost every minute of the day because of the pain that I cause myself when I do choose escape, and because escape causes more pain in the end and it makes me feel bad about myself, actually separate from myself and be angry with myself; which is what living through abuse taught me to do.
Being aware of dialogue with myself; ~ sometimes I ask myself what is wrong. And in my mind’s eye I see myself shake the question off and forcefully say to myself “just leave me alone ~ haven’t I been through enough? I don’t FEEL like DEALING with this right now”… and when I go a little deeper with those thoughts I hear myself think “I deserve to be able to put it off. I deserve to live in escape and to be able to escape.” What I had to realize is that in escaping, I am separating from myself. I’m doing to myself what was done to me ~I am discounting my needs and my feelings. I am leaving myself ~ emotionally abandoning myself the way that I was emotionally abandoned as a child. It is what I am used to; it is what I was taught to do.
I got stuck there for a long time in adulthood. The answer was logical enough, but I didn’t really see it while I was escaping and dissociating and finding ways to run from the problem. I had to learn how to do something different. I had to learn not to leave myself, to stay present with myself and this is something I strive to do more each day. The more that I am aware of the desire to escape, the easier it is to decide not to escape.
And the truth is that I don’t NEED to escape anymore because I am not in danger anymore. I do not need to disconnect and dissociate by separating from myself, my thoughts and feelings. The leftover fears are not valid anymore. That coping method is no longer necessary for my survival the way that it was when I was a child. I am still in the tweaking and strengthening stages of this part of my self growth, but as I learn to love, value and support myself emotionally, the less I seek any form of escape.
Please share how you relate to or struggle with the concepts of re-parenting, dissociating and the desire to escape.
Still on the journey!
You might also like to read the related guest post by Susan Smith ~ Turning Points and Emotional Healing
Therapist John Wilson from Onine Events presents ~ Emerging From Broken – Interview with Darlene Ouimet on Sunday Nov.03 at 12:00 Noon Pacific, 3:00 pm EST and 1:00 pm mountain time. Please visit the following link in order to reserve your ticket. Click on the first box ~ there is no charge for the live event. Hope to “see” you there. http://emergingfrombroken.eventbrite.com/
I am pleased and excited to have guest blogger Susan Smith sharing a piece of her story with us today. Susan is my friend and fellow truth seeker, as well as the author of her own wonderful blog “A Journey” and I’m also blessed to have her as a frequent commenter here on Emerging from Broken. ~ Darlene
“When I finally was able to make peace with the past I could write a new ending to the story and claim what was rightfully mine – me.” ~Susan Smith August 26, 2010
Like many – or most – of the readers of EFB, I grew up in a less than nurturing environment. Physical, emotional, mental, sexual abuse and neglect was the “normal” for me in my home and the rural community where I was raised. As one person put it, I’d grown up in a “battlefield”, a warzone where there was no “safe place” for a small child to even exist. I’d been taught that sex was where my value lay and that this was where my emotional and physical needs were met – by exchanging sex for physical touch. I came to believe at a very young age that this was how the world accepted me and valued me; this was what my role was.
And I’d spent a lifetime carrying this baggage with me. I’d become an irritable, angry, pessimistic person that tried to control everyone and everything around me. My relationships were unstable and fraught with conflict, confusion and replicated the abuse, neglect and violence that I came from.
Eventually, I lived in complete isolation and had gotten to a point where I was losing more and more time. I couldn’t remember things – not only things from a few minutes before, but memories of my own life and of raising my children. I’d gone from “normal” dissociation to the extreme on the dissociative scale where I realized years and decades were just gone from my memories…and that this wasn’t “normal”.
Depression had plagued me off and on for years. My anxiety was bordering on paranoia and I could easily be triggered into “psychosis” as I reacted to today’s world as though it was my past. PTSd symptoms had turned me into a prisoner in my own home. I was ashamed that I even existed and believed that I was “broken”, “ill” and somehow intrinsically defective.
I found myself stuck in that place where I was “acting in” and my pain was turned inward and expressed as depression, anxiety, dissociation and other emotional and psychological coping skills that were less than helpful. Sometimes my pain was expressed in “acting out” as I engaged in self-harming behaviors and abusive relationships that recreated the trauma I had been raised in.
My body was falling apart and no physical cause could be found for much of my physical pain and complaints. Life had become too difficult a burden to bear any longer. I had shut down mentally, emotionally and physically. I had dissociated to the extreme point and in the fall of 2007 I was told the newest diagnosis was D.I.D. and I was abruptly taken off the numerous psychotropic drugs I had been on for all the previous “diagnosis”.
At first – I listened as the latest psychiatrist told me that this was my “diagnosis” and he handed me a couple of books on the subject one that told the story of one mans journey through MPD and talked about “alters”.
And while I admittedly recognized that I felt fragmented, I had turned to another psychiatrist that encouraged me to become more attentive to time and what I was doing by using a time log and recording periodically the time and what I had done. This was an exercise in learning to stay present more than one of time management.
I read about “Internal Family Systems” and began to understand that when I was “tuning out” I was avoiding some painful thought or feelings. The therapist I’d chosen to see encouraged me to become intentionally aware of where I was, what I was thinking, feeling and doing.
And while there are many more layers to my journey and how I found “me”….I first had to lay claim on and believe that I was a single person who had had some horrendous experiences and that I had the potential to be and live a whole healthy life.
I came to understand that dissociation was a wonderful tool that protected me from the pain of the past. I also understood that this skill of slipping into a dissociative state was no longer helpful – and was in fact hindering my ability to live beyond the past as I was in a chronic state of avoidance and nurturing the anger and pain connected to it instead of going “through it” to “get out of it”.
By facing dissociation and my other avoidance strategies as learned skills that had helped me to avoid my pain – I became strong enough to face the pain and begin to let it go.
about Susan Smith;
I am a trauma survivor…but I no longer live only to survive. After a lifetime of trauma’s ranging from physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect as a child to two violent marriages, I entered the mental health system seeking help for depression, anxiety, hyper-vigilance and irritability where my lifelong history of trauma was dismissed. For over 15 years I was given a variety of “diagnosis”, numerous mind altering psychotropic drugs and a routine of weekly “talk” therapy. In the fall of 2007 I was abruptly taken off of the drugs I’d been prescribed all those years and began to reclaim both my mind and my life.
I connected with a therapist trained in Trauma Informed therapy and heard a new message of hope – that I could learn to create the life I wanted for myself…in spite of the past I’d had.
Today, I no longer accept any labels for myself and live the life of my choosing, following my dream and passion to share a message of healing and hope as I write and speak about this journey that has been my life.
Please be sure to visit Susan at her Blog “A Journey” http://zebraspolkadotsandplaids.blogspot.com/
A couple of days ago, I was just about to declare that I was having a bad day and as I heard the thought forming in my head, I got thinking about it. I was not actually having a bad day; I was feeling feelings that I don’t like feeling. All my life I was taught that my feelings were wrong. As a result of that, I thought my fear was misplaced and that I misunderstood whatever or whoever I was afraid of. I was told that if I didn’t stop crying that I would be given something to cry about. I was told not to be sad, not to be angry and the eventual result was that I tried not to feel. You could say that I was encouraged not to feel. You could even say that I learned not to feel. ~ I found ways not to feel. I used food, I used alcohol and I used drugs so that I would not have to feel. I used men, and “falling in love” so that I did not feel. I created drama and excitement; I used books and movies so that I could avoid feeling those feelings. When things got really tough, I used dissociation and depression, all so that I could avoid feeling and dealing and all because I did not know the truth in the first place. My moods depended on circumstances. I was emotionally immature because I learned to avoid feeling. There was no peace and no serenity.
And now I am feeling… and sometimes I am not comfortable with it. I have spent a lifetime trying to avoid certain feelings so it is actually understandable that it is still difficult, uncomfortable and unfamiliar to finally allow myself to feel them.
I decided to take a look at the feelings that were coming up and FEEL them. It was horrible. I decided to spend some time on the phone with a friend and TALK about them. I took a close look at what I was thinking and I looked at it from a couple of different angles. I like the view from the bottom of the mountain looking up and I also like to go up to the top of the mountain and look down. Both views are interesting and both reveal different information. I realized some thinking patterns that were left over from the old days. The old days were the days when I believed all the lies and blamed myself for everything that was going wrong in everyone’s life. If someone near to me was not happy, it must be something that I’ve done, and since I caused it, I should try to fix it.
In my victim mentality I had adopted the belief that I was the problem and it was familiar for me to go into a spin about why someone else was in a bad mood, or even just sad. Trying to figure out what was bothering them sent me into a spin trying to figure out all the things that I may have done, or neglected to do that might have set them off. I had to learn to recognize when I was in that spin before I could learn how to head it off. I learned how to head it off by realizing the truth ~ which is that I am NOT the cause of all struggle or strife. Learning to stay out of that spin was not easy for me. For years I said cute little sayings like “I am not powerful enough to wreck your day” or “I am not that important” but it wasn’t that easy to actually understand those kinds of sayings and I really did believe that I was the problem. The belief that I was the problem didn’t come from ego it came from abuse. It came from being told over and over in so many subtle ways, that the problem was me, so the only way that I could accept that I was NOT the problem was to find out where the belief came from, and change it. That process was long and involved.
I had to dig down to the roots of how I came to believe that everything was my fault and my problem to solve, before I could see that everything was not my fault and that I was not the cause of someone’s bad mood or difficult day. When I was telling myself that believing I was the problem came out of my ego, I concentrated on being less important, which actually was the cause of the whole problem in the first place! I was so busy being all things to all people that I never considered my own needs or feelings! It was only when I got all the garbage out of the way, and looked at one root at a time, that I was able to sort this stuff out and learn the truth about my value and how much power I do or don’t have in other people’s lives.
Because I was willing to feel these feelings, and work through this process, I was able to realize that once again had been willing to take ownership and responsibility for the feelings of an unhappy person in my life and I was able work through how much (if any) I had actually contributed to the distress. Once I sorted that out, the feelings that I was trying to escape from were no longer an issue.
In my next post I am going to expand on how all of this had such a big hand in letting other people define me.
Exposing truth one snapshot at a time,
My last post “The Twisted Accountability Tactic & How it Works” caused a few comments using the phrase “old enough to know better” or “I should have known better”. This is an interesting expression; one that I beat myself up with for a very long time. I didn’t understand my choices or why I made them. I did things that were destructive to myself, my self esteem; often they were dangerous and even life threatening. It wasn’t until my therapist explained to me several times what happens to a child who is taught that their value is not as high as the value of the adult that is devaluing them. This is what had happened to me.
My beliefs about myself and my self-worth and the lack of value that I felt about myself actually left me with limited choices as an adult. I didn’t really understand what it meant that I had a choice. I beat myself up for things that happened and choices that I made because I knew that some of those things were wrong, and yet… why the heck was I doing them? What was I thinking? These were questions that I asked myself regularly from the age of 15 or 16 and well into my adulthood.
How the heck did it happen to me? How did I get myself into the situation? I know this is very complicated to understand, but that is why I write what I write. ~ I believe that one of the keys to freedom and wholeness is in realizing why we “didn’t know better” when we “should have known better”. Why we seemed to do things even as an adult that made us feel so bad about ourselves and why we chose to do them even when we knew deep down that we would likely come to regret it.
I could not stop blaming myself until I understood the whole progression from childhood and how my belief system formed and how I came to place such little value on myself.
In therapy I started to reveal my history and talk about the things that had happened to me; things that that I had taken the blame for and believed that I had brought on myself. Since a big part of my coping method was dissociating, I spoke about my past as though it wasn’t me anyway, however somewhere deep down I knew that these things were about me and I started to have to connect to myself. This was very painful but it enabled me to almost look at myself through new eyes. Not the disconnected eyes of the alter personalities, but as though I was hearing my story for the first time, realizing that if it were not MY story, I would have been really horrified by it. So why wasn’t I horrified by it when it was my story?
My therapist really helped me to see that when a child is devalued and squished down to a level of non importance due to lack of attention, the wrong kind of attention or abuse, then that child will automatically place that little value on himself or herself. I was defined with little value as a child, therefore where was I going to learn my value as I grew up if not in the wrong places, wrong situations, which once again lead to wrong beliefs? (So the value that I placed on myself was actually not the true value!) This is learned behavior, as well as a coping method. How could a child blame the adults? We don’t have the frame of reference for that when we are young. So it is then very easy to grow up believing that we get what we deserve, and remember, we have been groomed to grow up believing that we deserve to be treated less valuable and even to believe that we are bad.
Because I came to understand that there is a direct connection to our childhoods and how we act in adulthood I was able to re wire my childhood beliefs. I realized why I had not been old enough to know better when I was an adult because my emotional growth had been seriously stunted. I had been defined by the actions of others.
I had to dig deep into that whole system, set the lies straight for myself, and then redefine myself this time with the truth. I had to own my value; my original value. It is a process, but it is amazing!
What say you? I would love your comments and feedback about this concept.
In Truth and Recovery!
Everywhere I go I have the privilege of meeting people and impacting their lives. Usually I can plant a few seeds that take root and grow the desire for wholeness and freedom from things that hold people back from being all they can be and all of who they are.
While I was in Mexico last month, I met an interesting man in his late twenties, who by his own admission, was not quite ready to let go. He reminded me so much of myself when I was younger that my heart was touched. Even though I found myself intently listening to his story, on another level I found myself reminded of things I had not thought of for a long time. He triggered intense memories about my resistance to recovery and how frightening it was to think of giving up my coping methods. I recalled the fear that I had of living in freedom and even where I still struggle in a few areas. I was reminded of the absolute terror of learning to trust myself, the fear I had of finding out who I really am and what it took for me to learn to live in that wholeness.
In the two weeks since I have been home, I’ve realized a deeper understanding of how scared that I was to get healthy; to face and deal with my issues and live a whole life in freedom from the chronic depression and dissociation that I lived with for so long. My dissociative identity, constant depressions and my obsession with my weight and body image had become like a blanket of comfort for me. They were the spin that I lived in. They were me; my identity. They were my survival mode and they made me feel safe. I believed that that these coping methods were the solution; how could they ever be the problem? Every time I tried to let go of the cozy blanket of survival, even to let go of one small piece of it, I felt naked, exposed, freezing, scared and way too vulnerable. I felt out of control. Control was essential if I was to feel safe. Deep down inside in my subconscious, I felt sure that I would die without the security blanket of coping methods that I had developed over the years.
It is necessary to develop these coping methods especially when we are children however a huge part of my recovery process was about realizing that I was no longer a child, and that so many of my coping methods were developed to protect myself as a child. They did evolve into adult coping methods, but the problem was that they were based in childlike thinking. I had to recognize that these problems were indeed coping methods, recognize the lies I believed which gave them their basis, replace those lies with the truth, and then realize so much of the protection I developed was no longer necessary. Then I had to re-parent myself with my new grid of understanding.
It wasn’t that the abuse or that I was so devalued was a lie; it was that I thought I had some control over it or that I should have been able to have some control over it; that I thought I deserved it and that I brought it on myself ~ that was the lie. I developed my survival methods for protection in two ways. The first one was to be able to deal with and live with the abuse itself. The second was to protect myself from further abuse.
In my process through therapy, on my journey to wholeness, I threw off the security blanket of coping methods one layer at a time and learned a new way to live. Some days I do feel exposed and sometimes I still get scared, but I find that as time goes by, I get more and more comfortable with my new life.
What is that longing for family and love? Is that real love? Is it a longing for something that is missing or for a belief in something that doesn’t exist?
All my life, in my mind’s eye, I saw a small child, looking through the curtains of a huge picture window at a family of happy people who all loved each other and longed to be together. She could see how happy they were to be with each other. They were laughing as they gathered around the dining room table, smiling at each other and paying attention to each other. The mother always looked at the children when they talked to her, and she smiled and listened intently and with interest. They mattered to each other.
But the little girl was on the outside looking in. She was not welcome to be part of that warmth and love and total acceptance that they had with each other. Would her mother ever look at her like that? Would her family ever be interested in her? Would her father ever want to know who she is, what her gifts and interests are, who her friends are?
Who was that child standing in the cold and rain, shivering cold, hungry and in need of a bath, all alone outside at the age of around four? Why have I had this image in my mind for as long as I can remember? This child longs for love. This child longs for acceptance from the people that don’t even know she is out there in the cold. She might as well not exist. She didn’t feel loved, accepted, valued or even valid. She felt invalid, devalued, insignificant, and lonely.
I remember when I was in my early forties and realized that child was me and those were the feelings that I had about myself, growing up and well into my adult hood. I truly believed that I might as well not exist and that I didn’t matter and that I didn’t deserve to be part of a wonderful life of any sort. (Especially not the image of life that I saw in my imagination inside that house.) I believed that it (my life and unhappiness) was my fault; I was not good enough, and I grew exhausted from my efforts to be good enough.
Growing up with such negative beliefs about myself led me to relationships with others who also treated me with little significance. My value was mostly in how well I could serve others. My approval came from doing the cooking and things like that. No one really noticed me as a person. No one really cared about my dreams or desires and I didn’t care about them either because I had lived so long without being encouraged, and without being noticed. I lived so long without being loved in the true definition of love ~ how on earth was I to love myself?
I had a tough week and was visited by my old belief system. Suddenly I saw the little girl standing in the rain, on the outside looking in, in need of a bath and shivering cold, so utterly alone. I realized that I was feeling those old feelings; that longing for something that I think is missing some days. In the past, I think that this longing was to be seen as valid and significant and to be regarded as though I could contribute to my world. The mistake I made is that I thought that this feeling of affirmation would come through others. I thought that others had to validate me. I believed that if others finally noticed my gifts, and acknowledged them, that I would finally BE. This is the lie that held me back for a long time. It is nothing more than the false belief that if others see me as valuable then I am good enough; then I am loved.
My family of origin does not know who I am and it is their loss. It is not my handicap anymore. When I saw the little girl in the rain on the outside looking in, I knew that my old belief system was visiting; that is all it is.
It is hard to sort the truth from the false, but it is worth every effort. Today I define my worth and I love myself.
May you love and celebrate yourself today!