Archive for Therapy
Susan Smith from “A Journey” wrote an inspiring guest blog post for me the other day about turning points and emotional healing, and it reminded me of the ways that I learned how to finally get quiet and face the turmoil in my mind so that I could face the turmoil in my life.
Like Susan’s therapist my therapist also taught me to be more aware of what was going on in my mind and in the end this is how I learned to stop dissociating and disconnecting from myself. Instead of examining alter personalities, my therapist concentrated on the behaviors I was presenting with. Recovery from dissociative identity disorder was about learning to stay with myself. I learned to ask myself a series of questions and I learned how to incorporate positive and gentle self talk.
In therapy sessions I would switch subject rapidly and jump all over the place and my therapist picked up on this avoidance technique and pointed it out to me. Much to my horror he wanted to video tape me so that I could see what I do. For some reason the thought of being videotaped while I was spinning out loud and dissociating really scared me and I decided to listen to his directions about how to stop doing it. He taught me to ask myself if the direction I was thinking in was going to help me get where I wanted to go in recovery, OR if it was going to hold me back in recovery. That became a starting place for me.
In asking myself those questions I also became aware of my body reactions. Did I feel tense or anxious and then I turned to my thoughts and considered the following; were there hundreds of thoughts at one time? Was there fear? Was there self judgment? When there was that much noise in there I could never pick out just one thought which is how I came to refer to it as the spin.
After becoming aware of some of this head chatter, I learned to recognize when I was about to dissociate. Often it was so profound that I could “see myself” leaving my body. In my mind’s eye I literally pulled myself back; I reached out my hand and grabbed myself by the back of my shirt and asked myself to “stay with me”… sounds so odd now, but it worked and pretty soon I was staying with myself more and more and becoming more conscious of time, thoughts, and feelings ~ especially fear.
The first step in dealing with fear was in acknowledging that I had them. There were many. I had to admit to myself that yes I had fears. I didn’t identify them all at once, and sometimes just identifying them was cause for dissociating but eventually I was able to acknowledge them; I was afraid that I was going to be molested in the night. I was afraid that I was not lovable, I was afraid that I would be hit. I was afraid that I would never feel good about myself, but I believed it was my own fault. Deep down I was mostly afraid that “they” were right about me, that I was the problem and if I didn’t figure myself out and shape up I would die a lonely and bitter unloved woman. My children would hate me and I had this sense of running out of time… all the time.
One of the problems that I realized I had with this whole train of thought is that I thought the fears were silly; that they were not logical anymore and in regarding them that way, I discounted them. Discounting my fears was the same as discounting myself, and once again, dissociative behavior was the result.
As I became more conscious, I was able to slow myself down, to slow the thoughts down enough that I could actually pay attention to them. This increased my awareness of what the self talk actually was. Instead of telling the “voices” in my head to be quiet, I learned to listen to them for clues. As I became aware of the fears that were some of the root causes that drove me to dissociate as an adult I was able to identify how much control those fears had over my life and as I listened to the head chatter, I realized the depth of the fear.
I learned that those fears were rooted in my childhood. My dissociative behavior was beneficial to my survival because as a child I had no choice. Going back there to those times and realizing where those fears were born and why they existed in the first place, enabled me to understand first, the purpose they served then and purpose of the resulting dissociative behavior. Then I looked at the purpose those fears serve now and began to look at whether or not dissociative identity disorder served me at all anymore. I certainly could comprehend why I needed to dissociate back then, and why the fears served me ~ both were a survival method. The fear was the warning system; dissociating was the coping method. I realized that I was afraid to let go of the fears. They were very closely related to self control and I believed without total control of my life I would be in danger and I would ultimately die.
It was in taking all of this apart from the outside and exploring into the depth of the inside that I found the keys to healing.
How does this post resonate with you? Can you see that dissociative behavior, which once was the only answer, eventually became the problem?
When I began to stand up for myself, the people around me were in shock and they didn’t like it. When I think back on it, why would they like it? In the past I tried to bend over backwards to do whatever they wanted. I agreed with whatever they wanted me to agree with, and if I didn’t agree I kept my mouth shut about it. I cooked what they wanted and I cooked when they wanted. I complied, just like I had learned to do as a child. I believed that my compliancy made me likeable. I believed that it kept me safe. I tried to be all things to all people, but I denied even to myself that I was doing it. I thought that I took care of me too. I assured myself that I liked living that way, that I was a servant of God, that I was selfless and generous with my time. That is my definition of dysfunctional relationship today.
Everyone was used to that Darlene. Everyone liked that Darlene just the way she was. Why would they want me to change? Most people, from the minute they met me they wanted me to be someone else. They wanted me to adapt to who they wanted me to be. And then it wasn’t good enough anyway. They wanted me to be what they wanted but they didn’t even know what they wanted. More definition of dysfunctional relationship.
For several years I thought about going to therapy, but I didn’t want to spend the money; I viewed it as “taking money away from my family”. I also had a belief that I couldn’t spend the time on myself, that I was raising three kids and that to invest time on working on me and my issues was selfish. But things got bad enough that I felt I had no choice. It was either do some work on myself, (and feel selfish) or lose everything I had anyway.
First person that I stood up for myself with was my husband. It was freaking scary! I told him that I wanted to stay in therapy and he didn’t want me to. He said that we couldn’t afford it but I think it was because he didn’t like that I was changing. He liked things the way they were ~ his way. I told him that I was going to finish the whole process. Period.
Another big thing in the beginning was when he made a reference to something I wanted to do and he said that it had nothing to do with “us”. When asked to clarify he said that it had nothing to do with our goals and dreams. I told him that he had never once asked me what any of my dreams and goals were. He was well into his dream/goal and plan for his business as a beef cattle and hay producer when he met me and he just assumed that I should be part of it with him, so I was, because that is what a good wife does I thought. I thought I should become his support, you know, stand behind him. This was fine for a while, but I gave up everything that I liked in favour for what he liked. I no longer thought about myself as an individual. But I felt like I was suffocating under his life. There was nothing of ME left unless it was what he wanted me to be. So raising the kids and being involved in church groups or teaching Sunday school or activities with our kids met with his approval, but spending time on the computer or visiting a friend out of town was not acceptable.
As I started to grow stronger in therapy I realized that I was really held back by everyone my whole life, including my husband. So in order to live in the change I was trying to achieve, I told him. I remember how the truth of this statement (that he never asked about my dreams) shocked him. I still remember his face when I said it while we were in a joint therapy session. He looked angry, he genuinely did not understand why I would want to do or even be anything separate from him. He expected marriage and a marriage partnership to be just like the one that was modeled for him, the one between his mother and father. That was his belief system. And because I was used to being what others wanted me to be for most of my whole life, it was easy to find myself in this situation in my marriage too. That was my belief system.
Because we were in a joint therapy session, and because we had the help of the therapist to guide the conversation, my husband was willing to listen to me about my feelings and he realized that it was true; he had not considered my dreams, just as his father had not considered his mothers dreams, goals or wishes. He just expected me to join his dream, to be part of his goal, to work towards it with him ~ for him ~ but not to have a separate dream for myself. He thought love was ownership. He treated me like he owned me and he even thought it was his right as a husband. I thought I was happy to live that way, because I thought it was the definition of love and relationship, but I was dying and our marriage was dysfunctional. There was no equality, there was no partnership.
The truth is that I had never even asked myself what my dreams and goals were, because as I described in my last post, I was trying so hard to guess what everyone else wanted me to say, who they wanted me to be, what they wanted me to do. But somehow I realized that I had to start to find out who I was if I was going to break free of the oppression of depression. It I was going to finally wake up and live. And I was going to have to learn to stand up for myself in the true definition of love and relationship.
Eventually my husband and I realized that we had become part of a cycle of psychological abuse and dysfunctional relationship passed down through the generations and that we had to stop it in order to prevent it from being passed on to our own three children. We realized that we had modeled our belief systems to our kids, just as our parents did for us and it was time for us to grow up and learn the real definition of love and model that for them before it was too late.
Real love does that.
Not everyone is willing to change like my husband was though; stay tuned for more reactions.
As always, please share your comments and stories of your own.
Exposing Truth; one snapshot at a time.
It was a big decision to tell my therapist what was going on in my mind. I could tell him what was going on in my life but what was going on inside my head was a different matter.
I lived inside my head for years. I constantly wondered what to say. I constantly wondered what you (or they) wanted me to say, what would make them mad, what would make them like me and accept me. What would keep me safe? Those are a lot of questions going around in my mind that I needed to think about BEFORE I answered anyone. I got quick at it though. This was one of my coping methods.
This was my survival mode. This coping method went so deep that I realized even as an adult, I was always wondering what everyone else was thinking. Always trying to guess what they wanted me to say, who they wanted me to be, what they wanted me to do. I wondered this so long and so deep that I didn’t know what I thought anymore. And worse than that, I didn’t care what I thought most of the time. I don’t think I even thought about what I personally thought; I was too focused on everyone else, believing that understanding and complying with others, would keep me safe. It was one of the ways that I coped, one of the ways that I survived.
I was always afraid that everyone was disapproving of me. I didn’t want to meet with any disapproval. Oh I used to say all the time “I don’t care if “they” like me or not”. But it wasn’t true. I was just saying one more thing that I had heard from someone else. I was lost in a world that was not mine. It was exhausting.
Eventually I fell apart and just could not seem to climb out of the serious depression I kept going back into every time I tried to stop taking the anti-depressant medications. I felt like I was being pulled under water; deep, murky, heavy, mucky, dirty cold and yet comfortable water. Looking back antidepressants really only represented a band-aid and I had come to the point that I needed the cure or I was going to just stay under that water and drown; once and for all.
I went to a therapist again because I was afraid for my life. Not because of others this time, but because I was really aware that I was losing the fight. I was losing my lifelong fight to just be okay and belong somewhere.
So taking into consideration everything that I said above, why would talking to a therapist be any different then talking to someone else? All my approval issues and fear of being hurt came with me to therapy. My “what do you need me to be” mode didn’t go away just because I was paying someone to talk to me. I still worried about what he would think, what he would want me to do and how would I stay safe? I didn’t trust because long ago I had learned to keep my guard up. I’d had a few inappropriate therapists cross my path too. All of this came into the therapy room with me although I didn’t know that. I was operating the exact same way that I always did. Survival and safety, coping and extreme self control came first. I had been groomed that way my whole life.
I was afraid of what he would think of me. I was afraid that I would be in danger if I told him what I had been through and what I was really like, because I was convinced for most of my entire life, that I was the problem. I even told him in that first session that the problem was me. I told him that I had a fantastic life but I just wasn’t happy and I was ungrateful. Something, I told him, is really wrong with me.
I had to break through this wall that stood between me and my recovery before I began to change and the first step was realizing that I although I believed that I all thought about was me, the truth was that I never thought about me.
Stay tuned this post will be continued…… HERE
Exposing Truth ~ One snapshot at a time;
~By Carla Dippel~
The last few posts written by my Mom and I have been focusing on how my Mom’s belief system impacted me and molded our relationship with each other. To wrap up this series, we will each share one more post describing what our relationship had become with each other, what it took to break free from this “enmeshment”, and what our relationship is like today.
My Mom and I grew to be very inter-dependent with each other. For me, it almost felt like I had never left the womb- I was so tangled up between wanting to be free as an individual but not knowing how because my actions/moods/feelings had such a strong impact on my Mom. We were not separate people. My life was my Mom’s life… Even though a part of me was fiercely fighting to be separate, her belief system permeated mine. I tried to live out her dreams for me because I didn’t know how to follow my own. I didn’t date many guys, but in social situations this possibility was always on my mind and caused me great anxiety. I hated myself if I gained too much weight. I went to Bible College (SURELY I would fall in love and marry someone there!) I was very active in my church. Marriage, college, church- these things weren’t “bad” things in themselves. But I pursued them with this unconscious drive, believing that they would make me happy and help my Mom to be happy too. I was so afraid to live my life on my own two feet. Depending on my Mom to help me through my life came to feel uncomfortably safe, but also suffocating and inhibiting. Every step I took was gauged with how it would affect her.
I started seeing a counselor in the middle of one of my deepest struggles. My counselor introduced me to individual freedom. He didn’t try to control me or lead me in one specific direction. He taught me certain principles that would help me make my own decisions in my own best interest. In the course of my counseling, I came to know that my Mom’s happiness could not depend on me anymore. Our tightly spun web of interdependence was killing me. I needed to know that just because she was my Mom, it didn’t mean that I had to sacrifice my own individuality to help her be “ok”. I had to know that her happiness was not my responsibility. It wasn’t in her best interest to glean her identity from me and vice versa. For the first time, I saw our interdependence as a kind of umbilical cord that was keeping us alive in some ways, but ultimately robbing us of the real life we each deserved to have. It had to go. Hacking away at this umbilical cord was painful and unpredictable. I started drawing stronger lines between my Mom and I. In the past, I would have shared every bit of my life with her. I started giving myself freedom to have my own secrets, to take actions that she might disagree with, to live my life for myself. I told myself, “You don’t have to get married if you don’t want to! You are just as valuable single. You don’t have to go to church or play the piano if you don’t want to either. You are free to make your own choices.” I knew this new way of thinking caused my Mom a lot of angst, but I forged ahead anyways. I learned that it wasn’t all up to me to help my Mom feel better. She was her own individual person, capable of taking care of her own heart and mind. These were new beliefs for me about what love really was all about- I used to believe that if I loved my Mom I would live my life in such a way to make her happy, I would give her access to every part of me so we could be “close”. Now I believe that love means having the freedom to pursue my own individuality. It means sharing when I want to share, not because I have to share. It means valuing my Mom for the person that she is instead of me trying to be the person she wanted me to be so she could feel valuable…
Today there is new respect within our relationship. My Mom respects boundaries I put up when I feel I need to. She is seeking to build her own life and her own identity. This has had a huge impact on the health in our relationship. Because she is open to learning and growing, I have a growing trust that I can be honest with her. There are still remnants of our past enmeshment that show up from time to time, both in her trying to sway me to her way of thinking or in me over-depending on her to solve my own problems. But we are both aware of these tendencies. Many times I have had to correct myself and not call my Mom to “help” me or make a decision for me. Or I have had to reinforce the line between us that says, “Mom, this is my life, not yours.” These are growing pains that always help to make our relationship better, and I am thankful that I can now know my Mom as one of my true friends.
(Darlene) I remember meeting Carla that first time. She was really shy and she didn’t actually talk to me until I met her when I was speaking in another seminar several months later. I was drawn to her determination to get over the struggles that she was having with depression. I gave her my phone number and encouraged her to call me if she ever wanted to talk.
She did call me and over the next 2 years we would meet for lunch or dinner about once every three or four months. Due to the circumstances of how I met Carla, my role in her life was one of support as she was a client of the counselling firm that I worked for. Having said that, even after the first three or four times we met, I really wasn’t sure why Carla was in therapy.
(Carla) When Darlene and I started meeting for lunch or dinner, I always felt excited to get to know her more. Honestly, I was hungry to learn how she had recovered from her depression and was now living so fully alive. At that point, I was still struggling to understand my own story. I felt afraid to tell her too much about own struggles because my story didn’t seem to have much to it. It felt vague. And I was afraid that to just tell Darlene about my depression with no big events to back it up would expose me as a fake. Nevertheless, I always left our visits feeling encouraged and inspired. The more Darlene told me about the reasons for her depression, the more I was able to piece together the reasons for my own.
(Darlene) In the second year of our friendship, I started to realize that although Carla had none of the traumatic events in her life that I had had in mine we had some very similar damage. At the same time in speaking with other clients through the seminars, I noticed that it didn’t seem to matter what the diagnosis was. I realized it didn’t matter what age differences there were, (Carla and I are 19 years apart), whether male or female, married or single, religious or not- there was a commonality that we all shared. In each of us something was missing. The roots seemed to be formed in childhood, and we all seemed to have a skewed understanding of the truth.
(Carla) What motivated my healing and recovery more than anything else was to know that my depression had real causes and to be validated that my struggles were real and could be figured out. As Darlene shared more and more of her story with me, and as I continued in my own therapy, I put the new truths I was learning into practice. Today, even though our lives still have dramatic differences and our life purposes are unique, I am walking in the same kind of freedom as Darlene.
(Darlene) I knew about 3 years ago that I wanted to share this message with the world, and as I thought about how I would do that, and thought about starting a new blog, Carla approached me about writing a book about my life and recovery. This blog evolved naturally out of that meeting. And here we are!
The photo was taken in the 5th wheel that we used as an office on Darlene’s farmland. We hope that you have enjoyed our first joint post!
Hugs, Darlene and Carla
These past few years I have realized a commonality between almost all of us who struggle with any or all issues, whether those issues have to do with the causes ~ such as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or if they have to do with conditions ~ meaning symptoms or diagnosis such as depression of any kind, dissociative identity disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, bi polar, borderline personality disorder or mild or serious low self esteem. I am not discounting or stressing the importance of any one type of struggle here because I’ve realized this common bond we all seem to share. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am talking about the belief system that develops in our lives when we have been abused, neglected or devalued. That belief system seems to have something to do with the resulting problems that interfere with the individual having a life filled with joy and freedom.
I started this blog to write about the healing journey and the difficulties with it; a place to talk about our common bond and to stay away from emphasizing the differences or highlighting the diagnosis. I had been diagnosed with a few different things, and the diagnosis was not what helped me to recover. I found a way out of the brokenness that I lived in for so long and want to share my journey because I realized that the road so many of us travel on the journey to freedom is similar. It is noteworthy to mention that we also have a lot of commonality in the places that we get stuck.
I talk a lot about how I got broken in the first place; Other people got to decide what I was worth or not worth, what I could be used for or what I was good for and even what I was good at. With sexual and physical abuse, someone took control of my body and did things to me that I did not want done to me and I had no choice, although I was told and even convinced that I did have a choice. With neglect or with a parent who never noticed or took interest, I learned that I was not valuable, not important enough to be cared for. I was groomed and trained in guilt and shame, convinced that all of this was my fault; I was influenced and I convinced myself that I could do better or try harder and then it would stop. As I grew older, those childhood beliefs became even more skewed because now I am told that I have a choice about how I view it, and that I should just accept it and get over it or not talk about it because it was a long time ago, and because I still have the deep rooted belief that I was not really loveable due to something I might have done or something that was missing in me and I became even more distressed. I was so sure for so long that it was my fault that I struggled. On top of all that, as an adult there were a lot more voices and influences telling me what was wrong with me, what I was doing wrong and what was in my way. These are the well meaning people, books and leaders that told me I didn’t have enough faith; that I needed to be more grateful, that the past belongs in the past, that I needed to forgive and forget….. Well I’m sure you get the picture.
I spent years practicing positive thinking, telling myself that I loved myself, telling myself that “God don’t make junk”; never speaking of the past, never acknowledging depression, resentment or anger. I practiced gratitude, prayed for people that were my enemies, went to extremes with my physical health and joined self help programs. For 8 years I studied Greek and Hebrew word origins so I could study the original meaning of the bible, I confessed all my sins, and practiced accountability. I submitted to my husband, which in my case meant that I gave up my identity and individuality and became a servant to my family. If I had any dreams I gave them up in favor of his dreams. My struggle only increased.
I learned to cover my real feelings up. I smiled to the world and dissociated much of the time and I beat myself up whenever I was discouraged or ungrateful. I was unhappy and I felt guilty about it because I could not see past all the things I was told and believed that I brought on myself. Consequently I never got over it until I really took a good look at all of it. I took a look at the whole picture. There was no way that I could just get over it or put it behind me, especially with all the mixed up beliefs in there.
There was something missing between the events of my childhood and the “getting over it” and “letting it go” part. The bridge was broken and the keys were on the bridge. There was no real acceptance, no real freedom, no real forgiveness and no real life, until I got the bridge repaired and found those keys. I am grateful every day that I did.
Stay Tuned for part 2 ~ “Mental Health Recovery ~ Ten Necessary Changes“
As always I love to have your comments!
Unless you are new to this blog, you have realized by now that my life has not always been happy joyous and free. I prayed to die for many years. I tried hard to change my life, to change my heart and to just “get over it”. I didn’t know what the heck was wrong with me, but I knew something was. I did everything that I was told might work, and I can honestly say that I was sincere in my desire to live without the baggage of my past dragging me down forever. I just never felt happy or good for very long.
I did make some progress over the years through some of the people that I met and the places that I went for help. Some books gave me hope; some seminars lifted my spirits for a while. I am not discounting any of the methods that I tried; it is just that none of them were the total answer. The improvement never felt finished. I still had this emptiness, this hole in me that would not fill. I had this restlessness and desire for something better, to find and know myself, to find my purpose in life. I longed to be free of the depression that came unexpectedly and yet regularly into my life. I just wanted to be okay instead of lost, broken, exhausted and disconnected.
I found fresh hope one day when sitting across from a new therapist talking about the hopelessness that was me; In my intake session I told him that I had the best life, the most wonderful husband, 3 great kids and was living my dream on a big farm/ranch riding my horse, but for some reason I had no reason to live. I thought that my family would be better off without me. I was tired, frustrated and heading for my third serious depression in 5 years. The last two depressions had lasted for almost 2 years each. I was terrified of antidepressants since I’d had a terrible withdrawal experience the last time I had taken them. The only stone left unturned that I knew of was that I had not followed through on the therapy for the dissociated identity disorder that I had been diagnosed with when I was in my mid twenties. I had decided to make one last attempt at dealing with that.
I caught just a glimmer of something different in the methods this therapist was using. He didn’t just listen to me, he reacted to me. He winced when I asked if it “was normal for a mother to put her tongue in her 9 year old daughter’s mouth?” He assured me that this was not “normal” and it was in that moment that I knew this therapy would be different. Not because of what he said though, because he winced. Other therapists had never reacted to that question. It was what I later realized was my “test question” and I was not going to tell absolutely everything if I wasn’t going to get an idea if this stuff was just run of the mill no big deal stuff or if something really wrong had happened to me. I had been raised to believe after all, that my life and my upbringing was better than most.
That glimmer of hope is what kept me going week after week, dumping some of the most difficult stories, and being validated by my therapist who was sometimes moved to tears. He showed his disgust for the things that happened to me. He assured me that it was not my fault, but more importantly than that, he showed me why I thought it was my fault, and then he helped me to see why it was not my fault. This was the beginning of my emerging from broken and into to a life of wholeness and splendid mental health beyond anything I had ever hoped for.
Living life to the fullest,
My husband usually says that he was not physically abused but once in a while in the past few years he has admitted that there were a few occasions when he actually was physically abused by his father. He is willing to call what happened “abusive”. I have always found it fascinating that he didn’t consider what happened to him as abuse prior to these last few years. The events didn’t fit with his definition of the word abuse before.
This one particular time, he “pulled a case of beer” which means that he bought a case of beer when he was underage. He went to the school dance and he drank too much and his Uncle kicked him out of the dance. When his father found out, he literally kicked the stuffing out of him. My husband thought he deserved it. Now, depending on your own background some people can almost see why my husband thinks he deserved it, but did the punishment fit the crime? Does anyone have the right to do that to someone else? Today, we have laws about that kind of thing. I can almost guarantee that in my father in law’s mind, he thinks that it was his right as a father, to beat up his son in this way; to just hit him like that and put the boots to him. If my husband had come round the corner of the barn, and saw his father kicking his sister that way, he certainly would have considered that to be physical abuse, but in his own case he didn’t think it was really abuse.
Where the heck does this belief come from, that we actually might deserve this kind of treatment? Even more of a mystery is that when other people tell us these stories, we are outraged. We try to convince others that what happened to them was or is abuse, and yet we don’t think what happened to us was. We so often don’t validate ourselves the way that we validate other people. We don’t react to our own stories the same way we react to other peoples stories.
How did we get convinced that it was our fault, or that we deserved it? I have come to realize that this kind belief does not develop overnight, but over time. Like many of us, I was conditioned over time to accept different definitions of certain words as the truth. My husband believed that getting a beating as severe as the one he got was his deserved punishment. That was his truth.
As children we might believe that it is our always our shortcoming when our parents are disappointed in us and that becomes our truth. Along with one false definition, we develop other false definitions. It is like lying, one lie needs to be covered up with another lie and eventually we develop a definition of love that isn’t accurate, our definition of respect is the wrong, and therefore it shouldn’t surprise us when our definition of abuse gets skewed too, but these definitions become our truth. I encourage you to think about what your truth is and where it came from. My motivation for writing this post is due to how often I hear people defending abusive parents.
In my process of recovery, I had to learn the true truth, the real truth about myself; with help, I had to re-wire my brain as well as change my definitions of words like abuse, love and respect and I had to re-parent myself so that I could thrive in wholeness and freedom.
~At the heart of my message there is a sincere desire to somehow explain how the broken begins and where the healing starts. ~Darlene Ouimet
Once upon a time in the 1930’s there was a small sweet and innocent little blue eyed blond child who was born into a quickly growing family. Even before she was born, there were some obvious family dynamics. Her mother had lost her own mother at a young age and had become like a wife to her own father and the little girl’s father was often not around and liked to visit other women. And those weren’t the only problems.
This delicate young girl grew up never knowing that she was loved. She had no way of learning that she was a wonderful addition to the family. Her mother had not known she was loved either, and I’d imagine that the grandmother before that had the same story. Maybe her mother didn’t know how to show love since she had no example of it? The little girl had no sense of her own worth. No one had introduced her to her value. No one knew how to love. But she was cute, tiny, and innocent. Maybe that was her value? When the marriage between her mother and father ended, her beautiful mother was pursued by men. The little girl wondered if being pursued by men meant the same as ‘valued’, or if being beautiful was the source of value. The little girl had some problems with these new men in her mother’s life. They drank too much alcohol and were creepy and tried to touch her. She was often afraid. She may have wondered if being sexually attractive had something to do with being valuable.
This young girl worked very hard for very little attention and the attention she did get was often from strangers, neighbours and teachers. She was constantly criticized, never validated, never loved and not fed properly. She had to quit school very young because the family needed her to make money. One day her father disappeared and she never saw him again. I wonder what that did to her self esteem.
As she grew up and into her teens, the boys became interested in this sweet young blond haired and blue eyed beauty and of course that made her feel good, special, maybe even loved and valued. There were nasty men who were also interested in her, and that made her feel dirty, guilty and full of shame.
When she was 21 she married a handsome young man. She thought maybe her life would begin now. Maybe he would be the one that would rescue her. But very soon it wasn’t enough, something was still missing. She did not find her value as his wife; he did not fill her restless hunger for value or love. He was more interested in his work. Oh if only she had a child to love her. Then she would have value. She would be needed, loved and depended upon by another human being. Then maybe her life would have meaning. If just one person could love her, she was sure that would mean that she was lovable and she could begin to love herself.
The children came one by one. But children are a lot of work, and sometimes she was prone to depression and feeling that children are too much work and that the children should understand how tired their mother is, how much she has to do for them, how hard this is for her, and they should recognize her value. Children are so ungrateful. Children can be noisy, messy and cause accidents. They seemed to need a lot of attention, and she herself had always longed for a little attention. But she didn’t get it. She demanded her children obey her. She demanded them to respect her, but she didn’t teach them mutuality. She didn’t lead by example. She had an idea about how they should act towards her to prove their love, but she didn’t live by that same definition of love, just as she was never taught love. As in her own life growing up, relationship was barely present, and relationship was a one way street.
She began to have difficulty coping with life, and she needed to take medication in order to get through a day. She didn’t realize that she was repeating the same cycle with her own children that she had lived in as a child. She told her children stories of her difficult childhood, and as they grew up, they felt sorry for her, and tried to help her and assure her of her value, but because of the messages that she had accepted all her life, she could not accept value from an outside source and much to the distress of the children, their efforts failed. When the children grew into adults themselves, she still tried to make them restore her value.
Her children developed very low self esteem and self worth issues. Some of them started to use drugs, some of them got into trouble with the law. They all modeled self destructive behaviour. They went on to have their own issues, having little self worth, failed relationships, depressions, marriages and children all the while trying to find a sense of value in themselves; the same sense of value that their mother had never found; the same sense of self worth that their grandmother had never found. And I have only mentioned half of the family tree.
As I went through the process of emerging from broken, the single biggest key was in finding and restoring my own value. ~ Darlene Ouimet
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!