Archive for freedom
I was not always who I am today. I was not strong. I was not independent. I was not an individual. I was not often happy. I was not a voice in the darkness and although I always had a desire to advocate for others, I was not effective.
I had to become effective in my own life before I was effective in the lives of others.
I was a victim. Some would rather I say that I was a survivor but in truth when I started this process I was still a victim. I was still a victim because I was still oppressed. I was still under the law of other people. I was still compliant and obedient. I was still defined by those other people and my true identity was suppressed.
I was lost, withdrawn and depressed. I was owned by many and disrespected by most. I had three kids and when my oldest, who was 12 at the time started to treat me like I was ‘crazy’ and started using my depression as proof that I was crazy ~ just like his father (my husband) did, I knew that I had reached the end of what I could cope with. I was giving up on the fight for my life. The only decision that I had to make was how I was going to end it. I had to decide if I was going to Read More→
I am an advocate for truth. I am an advocate for the truth that leads to freedom, wholeness and healing. I am an advocate for the truth that leads to healthy self esteem, the true definition of love and equal value for adults and children, bosses and employees, teachers and students because in the eyes of the truth, we are ALL people with equal value. Although we may have more authority in some situations, we do not suddenly reach a certain age or status which gives us more value than someone else has.
I will no longer do what “they” have decided is best for me to do or what “they” think I should do. I will do what I believe is right and best for me. When others tell me what to do or what I am doing wrong according to them, my ability to make decisions for myself is insulted and that kind of put down is devaluing.
I am not going to be who others say I am or who others want me to be. I am who I really am. No one else can define me. When I am defined by others I feel judged and unappreciated and it stifles my ability to be who I AM.
Taking my life back means that I am in charge of it now. I am the captain of my own ship. My happiness does not depend on someone else’s happiness anymore. In learning what was best for me and living in that definition, I empower all those around me to Read More→
I was dying my whole life; I just didn’t know it until I started living.
The fog that I grew up with was almost completely transparent. I didn’t know that I didn’t know. I lived in a false normal and growing up like that was the way it was. It was my truth and my “real”. I didn’t know that there was any other way. I didn’t know that I didn’t know there was indeed another way; most of my life, my reality and my truth were dysfunctional. The adults, the reality all malfunctioned.
And therefore so did I.
That is what living in a dysfunctional family was like for me. Those were the effects of psychological abuse emotional abuse and trauma. That is the effect of being groomed and being trained in silence, compliance, obedience and obligation. That is what happens when a child is taught that their value as an individual is not the same as the value of others. There are consequences and negative results when we are raised in a false normal.
Psychological abuse is at the root of all forms of abuse. It is part of the grooming process. Emotional abuse and neglect makes a statement to a child. Abuse in any form makes a statement about human value. It teaches things that to the child that no child should be taught. It teaches the WRONG thing.
Sexual and physical abuse leave a child living in fear every day of their lives. It doesn’t make “sense”; abuse is incomprehensible and as a child I had to try to understand. Trying to understand something that is incomprehensible as a child is impossible. So, I “tried” to understand “them” for the rest of my life and as I was slowly dying I didn’t realize that my life was being extinguished by the very people who Read More→
Official Notice to the oppressors, abusers and perpetrators of emotional and psychological abuse; ~ you were wrong about me. You ARE wrong about me. I don’t need YOU to make me better. I am better than you know. I am stronger than you ever dreamed. I don’t need you to make me anything. I am better without you. Watch me fly and wave good bye to you from my position of freedom high above the clouds.
“Sometimes our teachers teach us more than they themselves have learned” Darlene Ouimet
You smiled at me, nodding and tilting your head as though you really understood what I was telling you. You made it easy for me to talk about my pain. I felt heard. I felt like finally someone understood. No one had ever really understood me. Certainly no one had ever validated my pain. And since validation was what I needed, it was so easy for you to use that knowledge against me. You validated me yes, but in the end it was only so that you could get what YOU wanted. You were a predator but I was so starved for acknowledgement that I didn’t recognize you as one.
All the while you smiled and listened attentively you were thinking about how you could capture me for your own and take me for your own possession. But I didn’t see it.
I kept telling myself that you would never take advantage of me. I must be misunderstanding the tiny red flags coming up for me; I always misunderstood… all my life I had been told that I misunderstood. I thought that I must be Read More→
Sometimes facing the pain seemed so overwhelming that I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to face what I had to face in order to get on with my life. I didn’t want to feel anything. I had survived by shutting down my feelings and by shutting down my needs. I didn’t want to feel or be aware; it was much too frightening.
This was the spin; the vicious cycle.
But I must have wanted to live. There was a tiny spark in me that didn’t go out. There was a tiny flame that belonged to me and a determined little flame it was. That spark was determined to live. The “how to go about doing that” was the problem. I wanted to be free but there were certain chains that had to be broken. Certain things held me back and because those chains formed when I was so young, I didn’t realize they were even there. They were familiar; they were part of me. I thought they helped me, and even thought they were “saving me”. I was afraid to break them and emerge into the sunlight. That was the spin that I was caught in. I had lived in “survivor mode” for so long that it was all I knew.
Survivor mode is the shut down place; not feeling, not needing, not facing the truth. Survivor mode is the only way to get through any kind of childhood trauma. But as an adult it was in my way. It became one of the road blocks to freedom.
Victim mentality believes that being compliant will keep me safe. Being compliant means Read More→
Living in the struggle, trying to overcome depression and abuse I had a lot of questions like “what is the point? What am I doing here? There must be more to life then this so what is it? What is the meaning of life? And there was that ever present feeling of having to “survive” so that I can…… WHAT?….. So that I can do “what” with my life? Raise another generation? WHY? What is the point, what is the purpose? What was I born for?
In the beginning of recovery all I knew was that I wanted something better for my life, I wanted to feel more alive, be more engaged and to know there was some reason for being. I knew that I wanted more out of life way before I found the answer to my longings which were so deep.
I thought I was chasing a rainbow; that recovery, freedom from depression and personal wholeness were not really possible. I thought I was ungrateful and selfish; always wanting something more but I didn’t think about where those doubts and those negative thoughts came from. I didn’t question if they were right or wrong. I didn’t think that maybe those thoughts about wanting something better or wanting something more out of life came from my inner being, my spirit or maybe even from God himself. I didn’t consider that maybe it was my longing for real life or that I really was missing “real life” and that life was meant to be fulfilling. Instead I thought that maybe those thoughts came from my ingratitude towards God.
I thought that I should KNOW by now what “life” is all about and to admit that I did not know would be like admitting failure. When I wasn’t feeling foolish that I didn’t know, I thought that the greatest joy should be about being in service to others, making a difference, being selfless, and showing love to all others but the problem was that I was not doing any of that for myself and had never actually been taught to take emotional care of myself.
Not having a proper foundation for emotional self care means that it is really hard to provide that for someone else. You know the old saying “you can’t give away something you don’t have”.
So ~ the world’s universally known recipe for a happy and fulfilling life, which is something about serving others~ didn’t work for me. So I was stuck. I would not only to serve others, I would try to live for others, and I would fall. Sometimes the ‘falling’ looked like a serious depression. I would give up and give in and go to bed and pull the covers over my head. I would plead with God; “Why can’t I just be happy? What is wrong with me, why can’t I just be normal?” And then I would answer my questions with a stream of mean and unsupportive answers “because you are ungrateful, it is never enough for you, you are selfish, you are self centered and there must be something really wrong with you that you keep on ending up here hiding under the covers”. (metaphorically speaking)
One of the first things that I had to learn was that I did not love myself and that I kept hoping that I would find someone to love me ~ to prove to me that I was lovable or worthy of being loved. In retrospect I realize today that that I believed if I could find someone to love me then I could love me. This is a left over from not being valued as a child and a belief that I carried with me into my adulthood. I thought someone else could provide my worth and provide my worth because it was defined for me as a child. I had to learn to define my worth and value for myself.
It was a shock and a relief to accept the truth that
a) I could learn to love myself
b) People did love me, and it didn’t change anything.
c) No one could ever love me enough to prove to me that I was lovable.
Self esteem had to come from me and for me; recovery began when I decided that there was more to life then the depression I constantly struggled with and there was more than always trying harder, and I was determined that I was going to find out what that “more to life” was….. and I did find out.
Living in the Truth means knowing that I am worthy, loveable and equally valuable!
I welcome everyone to share a piece of your journey, victory or struggle; please comment.
Jimmy’s post “valued for my ability to work hard” was a big hit and so many could relate to being valued by the work they produced and by the results of their performance. This post is about the siblings who are often NOT recognized or valued for accomplishments.
As a child growing up I had a brother who was valued for his accomplishments. I always thought that he was the most important child in our home. He excelled at the sports he played and with the teams he was on and he got really high marks in school. My brother got all my fathers attention which left me feeling unimportant. My father seemed to love my brother for reasons that I could not seem to compete with. I was jealous of the attention that my brother got and my father never seemed interested in the things that I was good at other then when I cooked or made him a snack.
All my life I have heard all sorts of comments about how every child feels that they are the one who has life the hardest. My suspicion is that how our value is defined for us, is what makes us all feel that way.
There is another layer of confusion with this whole concept for those of us who were NOT valued for achievements or lived in the shadow of another child’s accomplishments.
I was trying to measure up to my parents expectations AND I was also trying to be more like my brother to win the approval that I thought he got. (In reality my brother was likely feeling under similar pressure to what Jimmy described in his guest post for us.) I realized more about this child value belief system by watching and listening to my own children as our family emerged from living in an abusive and dysfunctional family system within our own home.
Everyone had great expectations for our first born child who happened to be a boy. When he showed signs of being a great athlete, everyone pushed him. Much to the delight of Daddy, Grandma and Grandpa, he showed interest in farm work before he could even walk. We pushed him in both those areas, but we called it encouragement. My husband also pressured my son to do farm work in a similar way to how he himself was raised but he only had one example of parenting, and it wasn’t a good one.
As our children got older, my mental health was getting worse and worse. When I finally fell apart and I felt that I couldn’t go on anymore, I decided that I was either going to leave my family or I was going to die so I sought help one last time. In the beginning I wanted help only for my mental health issues. I was sure that everything was my fault and that I just could not BE good enough or do it right and I didn’t recognize any of the dysfunction in our family. I believed that I had done much better than my own parents had done but still it wasn’t enough and I was extremely unhappy. In learning what my belief system was and how it had formed full of lies and pressure and other people’s expectations, many other issues were brought to light. It was apparent that my husband and I needed to make some changes in our relationship too. I had been in a position of “background” and not “partner” and was beginning to realize that I wanted to have equal value as a person, as a co owner of our farm and as a partner in marriage. As my husband and I both began to learn how to have a functioning relationship in the true definition of love, eventually the truth about how our children felt about the expectations that we had of them, their own perceived value, what each of them felt about us and each other and what was “fair and not fair” started to come out.
My son felt that the system was extremely unfair to him, that the girls got off easy and didn’t have to perform a certain way in sports; they were not expected to do the farm chores (exactly right) either. He felt that all the pressure was on him and that he took all the heat especially from his father. Our eldest daughter, then a young teenager, confessed that she felt she never measured up to her brother, and that he was the only one that was cared about by her father. She said that everything was about her brother and he got all the attention and only his activities and accomplishments mattered. Everything that he felt pressured by, she felt he was praised, loved and valued for. And what she felt was neglect and disinterest towards her, our son felt that she was more loved and valued then he was because she didn’t have to perform and didn’t have the responsibility or pressure that he had. What he saw as being picked on, she saw as being loved and what she felt was neglect he saw as more accepted.
So at the risk of sounding repetitive; both of our daughters believed that their brother had more value than they did because in their view he was getting all the interest. Even though they heard all the pressure that he was under, they viewed it as attention, and they recognized his value (the value placed on him verbally) for his sports ability and farm work ability. Society sometimes calls this “sibling rivalry” but you can see there is a valid basis to it. None of our children felt valued or acknowledged for who they were. All 3 of them felt pressured to live up to what we wanted them to be.
My son was resentful because under the guise of encouragement, he was being praised as a form of pressure to perform, achieve and produce. It was so bad that our son had serious performance anxiety to the point that he got sick before tests in school. We didn’t realize this was our fault and we thought that it was just his personality.
In truth, each of our children was right. Our daughters were not being recognized in the same way that our son was recognized and even depended on especially with the farm. They felt neglected, unloved and that they were not as valued because of it. Our son was right too, he was being pushed and getting a lot of negative attention and he was over burdened with chores and the pressure to perform at hockey.
This family dysfunction was exactly how my husband and I were raised, and it had become our definition of love and value. Therefore according to the definition of love and value that my husband and I had been taught we had taught our own children the same definitions of love and value. We were passing this false information on to them and in doing so, forming in them a belief system not based on the truth about love, value or equality. You can see how the cycle continues if we don’t stop it. As we all learn about truth, love, value and equal value, our family continues to recover.
I look forward to your comments,
In “Cutting Ropes and Sailing Free” I described the roots of my recent depression and the process I was going through to break free. I wouldn’t have had the strength to cut ropes unless I let myself feel what it was I truly desired.
I was born with sails. The ropes that I attached to other ships happened out of necessity, out of a need to stay safe, to stay afloat, to not be abandoned. The belief systems I inherited from my parents, from the church I grew up in, from other survivors notched so many conflicting beliefs into those ropes stretched out to one ship and another. I believed I shouldn’t shine too bright. I believed I had to be happy or successful so other people wouldn’t be disappointed in me. I believed my ship was inferior to others. I believed I needed others to make decisions for me because I couldn’t make my own (good enough). I believed it was selfish to set sail and go after what it was I really wanted…
As I got older, another coping method formed. I chose certain ships to follow. I knew that I wanted to sail and leave the harbor. But I didn’t know how to do it on my own. So I set my sights on one ship than another, trying to live my life just the same as them. I even did this with characters in books I read, people on TV, in movies, as well as the real people in my life. The open seas were too terrifying to sail all on my own. I believed if I could step in the exact steps of others, I could get a piece of the same fulfillment that they had. If I couldn’t feast for myself, I would settle for crumbs from their feast… But, this isn’t how it works for us. The fulfillment I enjoyed was superficial and the crumbs only bore frustration.
I have that unique lantern burning deep within me that holds all the stuff I need to sail my own ship. My desire dwells here. My Mom recently contributed her very honest story of how she wanted to “get into my skin” when I was younger and live my life for me better than she thought I was living it myself. Her belief system about happiness was skewed. In a way, she truthfully saw my capabilities and my gifts and she wanted me to take full advantage of them. But her plan of helping me become truly happy was coming at the process from the wrong angle. The roots of the process of happiness start with validating that burning lantern deep within us. It doesn’t begin with the appearance of our ship, how it is better than other people’s, how fast it is or how pretty. It doesn’t begin with having perfect destinations in place to sail to in a certain time-line (church, accomplishments, early marriage and plenty of children…) The belief system my Mom was trapped in neglected that burning lantern. My Mom bought me dolls to play with, taught me home-maker duties. When I was little, I loved to pretend that I was a business woman coming home from a busy day at work. I pretended I was serving coffee up and down our driveway, pouring water from a watering pot! I loved playing store, counting the money, adding things up on the adding machine. These things that I loved to do spontaneously were coming from that unique burning lantern deep within. These things reflected my true desires. Even deeper beneath these activities was the fundamental desire to love and be loved for who I uniquely was.
After a lifetime of not trusting these desires or paying attention to them, it felt very difficult at first to see them and believe in them. It’s like trying to see the vibrant life and colorful rocks at the bottom of a murky, muddy lagoon. It takes time. But learning to pay attention, to focus my eyes differently, to keep asking myself “what is it you truly desire?” is the process that has connected me to that burning lantern and fuels my own amazing journey. It was the process that gave me confidence to pursue counseling in the first place. In that process is the key to my true happiness. Harnessing its power frees me to furl those sails and gives me the courage and hope to cut away the ropes that I no longer need.
We have what it takes to sail our unique journeys!
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.
“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…