Archive for overcoming abuse
Recently someone wrote, telling me that because she stood up to her dysfunctional family and drew a boundary, she is now missing out on ‘the good things in life’. The first question that came to my mind was “what good things are you missing out on because you drew a boundary?” In my coaching practice, the homework would be: Define ‘good things’ ~ what are ‘the good things’? What do you feel that you are missing now, that you had before? Why did you have to draw a boundary in the first place?
And the answers to these types of questions are always very revealing. When I answered these questions for myself I found out some of the lies that I believed and how they were rooted in the shaky foundation of my belief system.
For most people including me, those ‘good things’ that had to do with my dysfunctional family were a fantasy. I ‘wished’ that I had a loving family. The reality of those ‘good things’ was something very different from how I fantasised it was or hoped that it could one day be.
Christmas dinner and family holidays or celebrations were stressful for me and this continued on with when I married into my husband’s family too. Every family thing I went to was a reminder of how insignificant that I was even when at the time I wasn’t able to articulate how those occasions made me feel.
The boundary that I drew with my father was different than the boundaries that I drew when it came to over (more obvious) abuse. A couple of years ago I told my father that seeing him was a reminder of how little he knew about me and how disinterested he was in me as an individual. The way he disregards me is a constant reminder of how little I matter to him. It has always been that way.
My father is passive abusive. His emotional abuse is very covert. Mostly he just doesn’t care, doesn’t listen when I talk to him, doesn’t know anything about me, my life or my kids because he doesn’t care to know and he doesn’t listen to anyone who tries to tell him. To the general public, (and according to my siblings) my father is regarded as this ‘nice’ guy and he is never violent, never mean and never hurtful with his words, but the truth is that his relationship style is dismissive and disinterested all of which is very hurtful. I spent many years in childhood and in adulthood ‘begging’ (in all kinds of ways) my emotionally abusive father to notice me. The fact that he didn’t was and is very hurtful. There is a very loud message that is delivered to me when I am disregarded. The message is that Read More→
It is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada and I have been thinking about gratitude these past few days in relation to the past and the present. I had been in the process of ‘trying’ to heal a lot longer than I have been in the actual process of healing and I have many new insights today that I didn’t have in the past.
Something that sprang to mind this morning while I was doing my gratitude journal* was how much the way that I practice gratitude has changed over the last few years.
I have heard most of my adult like that practicing gratitude is one of the most important aspects in any kind of recovery and I am no newbie to the action of being grateful. What is different today is that I don’t have that little voice in the background reprimanding me for my failure with the concept of gratitude.
For example, my gratitude practice in the past would go something like this:
“I am grateful for the abundance in my life! I have food, shelter, clothing and friends. I have everything I need” and the little reprimanding voice full of self-defeating disgust would respond “jeeze but you still think you are so hard done by; you have no excuse for ever being depressed, you have no excuse for ever being sad, you are pathetic and you SHOULD be grateful. If you were really grateful you would not have any of those ‘problems’ that you have.”
The problem is that I didn’t actually ‘hear’ the voice. It was hidden under the surface of my mind, whispering at me constantly, tearing me down in my subconscious and I didn’t actually ‘hear it’ until Read More→
“I will leave the past alone when it leaves me alone” Commenter on Emerging from Broken
I heard so many things against speaking about the past. Questions which are actually statements and judgements more than they are actual questions such as “why do you want to talk about your problems in public” or “why do you want to air your dirty laundry in front of the whole world?” These judgements always concluded with some version of “you are only making yourself look like a fool.” Statements like that carried with them the all too familiar indication that the speakers (the judges) were concerned for ME; that they truly cared about what was “best for me”.
When I faced the cold hard truth, I began to comprehend the actuality reality; I realized that their concern was never for me. I didn’t need to make myself look like a fool, they did that for me all of my life. I think of the times they delighted in finding ways to embarrass me or humiliate me in front of others. In fact I think that some of their motives were based on discrediting me in case I ever revealed the truth. They were not concerned about MY dirty laundry. They were only concerned about what I was exposing about THEM. They didn’t want me to expose THEIR dirty laundry. And I think this would be a good time to add that if they didn’t KNOW what they were doing was wrong, if they didn’t “know any better” then WHY did they know that they needed to keep me quiet about 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→
The process of learning to love myself is best understood backwards; there are so many layers and levels to it; so much confusion. There was so much deception; deception that I had come to believe was truth, and on top of that deception, there was this thick layer of fog kind of hiding things, making my memories murky. At the core of my belief system were mixed messages and among them a very confusing conflict; I was sexually abused at a young age and at the same time raised to believe that my only value was in my looks and appeal. My parents were very popular and seemed to be well liked, but with me, my mother was controlling, unloving and very sexual; my father was disinterested, un-relational and emotionally unavailable. These things made up my life and formed my identity and resulted in a dissociated mess. I had some serious sorting, revealing and re-organizing to do in order to heal.
It was in finding out why I did not value myself that I realized the lies I believed from the past. It was in discovering the lies about my past that I was able to find the actual truth. The lies, once I really looked at them, were obviously lies that I had been raised, fed and nurtured on and then I had to set those lies right.
But I had to do the work.
I had to dig through all that information. I had to face the pain. And each blog post is filled with stories about why and how I came to the false conclusion that I came to and processes of how those discoveries helped me to dispel the lies. I can tell you how I did this, but I can’t do it for you.
I already doubted my memories were accurate because I was told that I made up stories and was punished for it. My mother told me that I needed too much attention. My father told me that I talked to hear myself talk.
The truth is that I didn’t have enough attention. I made up stories to get someone to notice me. I was ignored when I told the truth and there were some big things that happened to me that I should have been protected from, but I wasn’t. Continued… Read More→
I needed someone to validate my existence. I wanted someone who could tell me that I was worth the air that I breathed. But because I didn’t believe that I had value, I didn’t believe anyone who attempted to tell me that I did. If I met someone who liked me, I wondered what they wanted from me. I wondered if they were sincere; I was sure that they must have a hidden motive. If a waiter in a restaurant treated me like my business didn’t matter I was hurt and my mind would start spinning about why he was treating me that way. I would examine every single sentence that we exchanged, looking inward for something that I must have done to cause this attitude in him. By the same token if a waiter was really nice and attentive to me, I wondered if he was only doing it for the tip.
If friends invited me over, it wasn’t long before I questioned if it was because they wanted my company, or because they wanted me bring cooking or baking. Did they need an extra girl? Did they want to play a joke on me? I was always second guessing everyone and everything because of my history with abuse, but I also second guessed everyone, because I was always second guessing me. That was the way that my mind operated because that was the way my mind was trained to operate. If my mother told me that I looked nice, I wondered what she wanted; subconsciously I braced myself for what was coming next…. continued Read More→
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
In my process of Emerging from Broken, I came to realize that I had a lot of emotions mixed up and defined the wrong way. Emotions had been modeled to me by others all mixed up with other emotions and then labelled wrong so I had learned emotion in a twisted way. Because of various forms of abuse, fear was associated with love. Love was associated with danger. Compliments were associated with a warning signal. I learned to trust the untrustworthy.
About a week ago, my husband Jimmy found the exact snowmobile that he had been searching for and we decided to head up to Radium Hot Springs and pick it up. We live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Southern Alberta Canada. We have about a three hour drive through the mountains to get to Radium Hot Springs which is in British Columbia. We set out around noon and we figured that we would have about an 8 or 9 hour round trip with stops.
Jim’s parents live in Radium Hot Springs. I have not been there for at least 6 years and as we set off I became aware of some feelings that felt familiar. It felt like excitement. It felt like an adventure. We stopped at a gas station and I was thinking that it would be great to get some junk food for the trip. (I didn’t act on that thought but I did note that I often crave food as a solution for feelings of stress and anxiety) As we proceeded through all the familiar sights and landmarks, I started to have memories from all the other trips years ago that we had made to Radium.
I remembered getting ready for those trips ~ yelling at the kids, feeling like I couldn’t cope and that I couldn’t possibly get all the things done that needed to be done and have the kids and myself ready in time to leave the house. I remember being impatient with the kids because they were excited and being loud and silly. I remembered walking on egg shells around my husband and not really knowing why. I remembered that he always seemed to be in a dark mood, but I thought that he was just overburdened with trying to get his work done on our farm before we left for a holiday.
I remembered finally getting started on the journey and the kids would be laughing and goofing off in the back seat and it got on my nerves and I was afraid that it was going to get on their fathers nerves and so I reprimanded them constantly. “Shush!! Settle down, be quiet, behave, be good” and all those others types of expressions.
On this recent trip, as Jim and I got closer to Radium and approaching the Radium Hot Springs pool, I remembered rounding this same corner in the past and getting this extreme feeling of excitement in the pit of my stomach… knowing that we were almost there. The kids would be barely able to contain themselves.
And suddenly, it hit me. That feeling wasn’t excitement. That feeling was anxiety. That feeling was fear and intuition. That feeling that I had always thought was excitement over getting away to visit my husband’s parents at their beautiful mountain home, was apprehension. And what I thought was the kids excitement was actually the anxiety that Jimmy and I were causing them by our feelings of fear and apprehension. We were driving to the source of most of our relationship difficulties. Without realizing it back then, we were apprehensive and nervous about being back in the home of people who we were not good enough for, who always reminded us that we “did life the wrong way,” that our decisions were not great, that our parenting skills were lacking. Both Jimmy and I were so used to this feeling that we actually thought it was “excitement”.
And being with people that define me that way and make me feel like a failure isn’t exciting at all. It is devaluing. It can become debilitating. But I didn’t know those words yet. Psychological abuse is very hard to comprehend or articulate when you have lived with it all your life.
I remember the “excitement” that my mother exhibited when my father was coming home from a business trip. I thought it was excitement, but in reality it was her anxiety. She acted the same way when he was on his way home from his regular work day. I thought that was normal. I associated it with love and marriage. I often got hit and punished when my mother was “excited” so seeing her that way was a warning and was accompanied with feelings of impending doom for me. But I thought the whole thing was just about excitement. I remember those same feelings when we were going on holidays when I was a kid. I knew the beach was at the other end of the journey and that was exciting, but I also knew that I was going to get whacked, disapproved of and yelled at, all throughout that same journey. And I learned to call all the anxiety, fear and apprehension ~ excitement.
We always have great discussions here through the comments section. These discussions contribute to the emotional healing of many. Please share your thoughts about mistaken emotions.
Exposing Truth, One Snapshot at a Time
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I thought that my present could be resolved by talking about what was wrong with the present… but it turned out it was resolved by sorting out what went wrong in the past. And I had been told all my life to live for today so …… you can imagine the conflict!
This is one of the most foundational messages that I have to deliver. It is one of those things I just didn’t realize. Living in the present sounded so right and so perfect, I strived for that ideal, never realizing that what was in my way was the unresolved past. We hear things that can back up our belief in these sayings, such as “you can’t change the past” and “live one day at a time” and “live for today” and my favourite of all ~ “If you have one foot in yesterday and one foot in tomorrow, you are peeing on today”. When I look back over the years when I tried so hard to live by these sayings, I realize that they did me no good. I thought that acceptance was the answer, but I really didn’t know what I was trying to accept and so I accepted the blame and responsibility for abuse and for relationship difficulties that were there far before I was ever old enough to be a problem or even a factor in the demise of any one of them.
I got living for today and accepting the past mixed up with the realization that I can’t change the past, forgetting that the goal in healing from the past is not to change the past, it is to resolve it. The goal was to be ABLE to put it behind me in order for me to be able to live in freedom; to be able to LIVE in the present moment.
And I got so used to running from today that I didn’t know I was running. I got so used to thinking that I WAS living in this day, and so accustomed to avoiding those feelings by using any number of coping mechanisms and escape tools, that my coping mechanisms rode piggyback on each other and every time I resolved or exposed and untangled one escape route, my cleaver surviving mind switched and adopted another one. The survival instinct is very strong and I got so messed up that I didn’t KNOW that I was even in survivor mode. I didn’t know that my coping methods were because my brain was so badly wired that it thought the escape tools WERE better and safer for me. I thought the problems WERE the answers.
In order to live in the present I had to be willing to actually LOOK at what I was running from. I had to ask myself ~ why did I disconnect and dissociate. Why did I use food for comfort? Why did I go to bed for days on end? I had to ask myself what I was afraid of feeling. I had to become aware of my survival methods and look at where they came from; what they developed as a result of ~ and guess what??? All those questions led me back to the past.
But when I answered those questions one by one, month after month, over time I was able to stop using all those coping methods. Little by little, as I understood the past and where my desire to run was born they just seemed to fall away and the more that they fell away, the more that I was able to live in today. And not just live in today, but LIVE. THRIVE. Really live with the new energy that I found I had when I didn’t have to use all my energy to COPE so dang much.
For the most part, I live in the moment today. The work that I do with Emerging from Broken is my chosen purpose and in order to shed light on how I found my own freedom, I write about my past almost every day in one way or another, however I do not live in the past any longer because my past is resolved. Today, the past is in the past and I can actually appreciate all those lovely quotes, understanding the true intention behind the sayings now.
Keep going, keep growing and please share with me and the other readers!
Related posts ~ “the problem with living one day at a time”
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Related posts ~ “the problem with living one day at a time”