Jul
27

TAUGHT to Think or Taught NOT to Think?

By

facing childhood historyThe last few blog posts have covered how our feelings can get shut down, but what about our thoughts? Have you ever thought about how you were taught to think, or taught not to think?

In recovery and emotional healing, I hear people say all the time that when they are asked the question “what do you think?” they just jam up.  That they don’t know how to respond to that question in the same way that people freeze when asked how they are feeling.

Just as we learn to shut down our own feelings as a result of being told over time that they are “wrong” or that we don’t actually feel them”, learning to doubt our thoughts and opinions and to shut them down also happens in a very similar way. The details are different, but the damage is very comparable.

I have heard children trying to contribute to the conversation with the statement “well I think …” and the adult (or the bully) in the situation will respond by saying;

~ “well no one asked you to think”

~ “Well no one cares what YOU think”

~ “you are not capable of thinking”

~ “If I want to know what YOU think, I will ask you”

There are often subtle rhetorical questions that are designed to tear you down and put you back in “your place”. Although these questions are not necessarily meant to be answered, they have an effect. Even when the person saying these things has no intention to cause harm, these types of statements DO cause harm.  These proclamations might be in response to something you did, or to something you said. Usually they have the desired effect which is to communicate to you that you are wrong.

~ “what in the world are YOU thinking”? or “What in the world were you thinking”

~ “do you have ROCKS in your head instead of a brain”?

~ “How old are you?” inferring either that you are old enough not to say or think such stupid things OR inferring that you are too young to know anything.

These questions or sayings are invalidating and meant to remind you that you are “less than” or less important than they are and that you are LACKING.  They create self doubt and add to low self esteem. And if by any chance you believe what they imply they embed themselves in YOUR belief system.

The underlying message is always that your contribution is not welcome.

If you were not encouraged to share your thoughts as a valid person no matter what age you were, or if you were taught to keep your thoughts to yourself, these types of statements are likely at the root of the problem when it comes to freezing when asked for your thoughts. Being constantly reprimanded and told you were wrong when you did share thoughts will lead to self questioning the validity of your thoughts and ideas. This is equal to having been taught NOT to have thoughts.  No wonder there is fear and or freezing when asked “what do you think”

When someone asks “what do you think” and your whole life you were told (whether inferred or in direct words) that you are stupid and that you “can’t think” then that goes into your belief system and causes the fear of expressing thoughts.  It causes a fear of thinking; what if the thought is “wrong”?  And again, as with feelings, what will the consequences be if you ARE wrong?  Public humiliation? Sarcastic comments?  Rejection or fear of being kicked out of the group?

The risk of being wrong can bring up fears that we had in childhood that are no longer valid fears in adulthood, but we don’t know they are there in the first place.  Fears operate under the surface and we often don’t know what drives them.

If you have a history of being harmed in any way for having thoughts, such as being hit for thinking or for expressing a thought that someone else didn’t approve of, then you have a history of being punished for thinking. If you have been emotionally harmed or humiliated for expressing a thought, that is the same as being punished for thinking and you might still be afraid to think or to express an opinion.

Being ignored is another way that communicates “your thoughts are not important or welcome”. When a child speaks and there is NO response at all the child gets the same message. And think about where all this “communication” leads;  I concluded that if I had nothing of value to contribute to my family, then I had nothing to contribute to my community either and if I had nothing to contribute outside of my family, then I had nothing to contribute to the world. See how it happens?

I had to realize why I would freeze when I was asked what I was “thinking” or asked to contribute my thoughts to a conversation.  The fear of being “wrong” was huge and it stemmed from the fear of the consequences of being wrong and NOT trusting myself to have anything valuable to contribute because it was communicated to me that I HAD nothing to contribute.

Were you encouraged to think? Were you asked to contribute and was your contribution acknowledged, considered or valued? Were you encouraged to contribute your thoughts to a conversation or to a plan? Were you ignored which communicates the exact same message; that you have nothing to contribute.

Please share your thoughts and please feel free to use only your first name or a screen name in the comment form.

Exposing Truth, one snapshot at a time;

Darlene Ouimet

~ Related Posts with Discussions here on Emerging from Broken (click titles to visit)

Why didn’t I know how I felt about anything?

Stop Crying or I will give you something to cry about

The purpose of facing the past and childhood history

Psychological abuse, domestic violence and the belief system

Psychological Abuse ~ if you don’t like it, Leave.

 

Categories : Self Esteem

88 Comments

1

Ugh…I know those phrases. Sometimes they weren’t exactly said outright, just implied. It’s hard learning to share my thoughts with people because they were so belittled growing up. Fortunately I have a safe base for that — my husband — and security in him makes it easier to be confident to share my thoughts with others.

2

Hi Anne
That is exactly what happens ~ we “learn” to doubt our thoughts when we are told they are not ‘right’ or ‘not good enough’. We learn our self esteem and our value in all those ways. When we are discouraged, we learn to feel a lack of value.
Thanks for sharing!
hugs, Darlene

3

Gosh you took me right back, I can hear my mother’s harsh mocking voice and see her mocking belittling stare.

She had many expressions, the two which spring to mind at the moment are – ?”no one asked for your opinion” and “you’ve got nothing useful say so don’t bother saying anything”

I notice that in situations which have no script, such as social occasions or being in groups or contexts where my confident breezy front isn’t enough to cope with the situation – I feel totally ill at ease, I have no confidence, I freeze, my mind goes blank and I struggle to find anything to say, I hear thoughts in my head “people don’t want to hear what you’ve got to say”, “you’ve got nothing useful to add”, “you’ll just sound silly” and many things like that. I know those thoughts affect my confidence and I go silent, awkward, self-confidence vanishes and I look for ways out of the situation. It’s a very horrible feeling which makes me feel like avoiding all those situations as much as possible.

4

Phew…oh wow…this one could be requiring some deep work. But here goes a couple of snap shots 🙂

We were coached, very carefully, to be outspoken only when using carefully prepared and enforced ‘company lines’. It was like being in the Mob or maybe a very strict church or political party where you could say anything to someone on the ‘outside’ as long as it lined up with what you were told to say. Deviation was cause for great shame, pain and humiliation. There was nothing worse when I was young than to be called in for a ‘family meeting’ to expose and humiliate me for saying or doing the wrong thing in public. Ideas you had that didn’t fit had better be kept to your self or else. I think it was books and a wonderful hippie librarian who saved me from being smothered. He encouraged me to read, gave me a safe spot to do so and I could talk to him about ideas and concepts. I had a release so I could foster them in secret, but still I remember one night after feeling totally devalued for arguing a point that I wrote my thoughts down, and sealed them in an envelope hoping that ‘some day’ they could be opened up again and shared. That, of course, was found and torn up.

The ignoring you if you spoke was a tactic of my grandparents. My mother modeled it too. That is a HUGE trigger for me – I carefully speak and wait for a response, and I’ve learned to ask if I was a) heard or b) ignored or c) just not heard. By doing that, risking humiliation, I can get clarity that they may not have understood me or just didn’t give a crap that I was talking at all.

Some family events are best handled by me through silence and non-committal noises. Best for me because they don’t want to hear my thoughts, I don’t want to waste the energy arguing stupid points or being dismissed because I’m ‘weird’.

I’ll be me – quiet or loud. What I do know is that if it matters to me I won’t be shut down or shut up. If it is important I’m going to stand my ground. That took me almost 25 years to figure out…and I’m not going back to the head down and curling up in shame for having a mind and a voice.

Thanks for this post, I think the single biggest reason my family won’t communicate back with me is that I set boundaries and won’t back down to ‘toe the party line’ any more and that is not acceptable to them any more. I’m good with that, keeps things simple! haha

5

DearDarlene:

Constantly I am amazed at how much you say is so much like taking it from the page of my life’s story. I learned that I should not think .. Thinking causes you to question .. Thinking was not allowed Asking questions was not allowed. At least, not for me.

I was told to shut my mouth and do what I am told ..don’t ask questions just do it. If I spoke a word when told to do something I was slapped across the face or thrown across the room.

If we had company and we were asked if we wanted to go out with them .. if I piped in Igot it soon as they left. “who said you can speak, who do you think you are..get me that razor strap so I can remind you about keeping that mouth closed of yours” ..

when i was accused so often by mom for things and I tried to say I didnt do it .. she would beat me mercilessly till I almost would faint and tell me if she wanted my opinion she would ask for it and that if not asked to keep my big mouth shut.

SHe always blamed me for everything . .when her cigarrettes ran out she would say ” you were smoking my cigarettes werent you” She pull out something board or strap and start beating me. and I would say I cannot smoke it makes me bough to smell the smoke. Then she would hit me all the more for complaining that I found it hard to breathe.

Slowly I learned, just like I did for my feelings .. to keep shut. up .. never say a word. I wasn’t allowed to feel , I wasn’t allowed think. to talk .. to cry . I was to keep my self quiet unless i was asked to talk.

I developed a habitual silence. and quiet. I simply closed down all my emotions, my thoughts, my feelings . To this day when I talk. .people have to tell me to “speak up” as I am so afraid…IN the back of my mind some slap, hit, something is waiting to be unleashed if I say anything.

I feel so bad . I just cannot say how I feel, I cannot say what I think .. as soon as I try .there is an automatic siren going on in my mind and I shut down…I am frozen in time ..

6

Yikes – this happened to me all the time. I even – after all these years – have realized that by your message e today – that even if someone paid NICE/GOOD attention to me or complimented me – my mother would have a a fit. I can’t remember exactly, this second, what she did or said but I KNOW it was “WRONG” for me to have ANY attention, at all. If it was BAD ATTENTION or humiliating attention – then THAT was OK But praising me was BAD If I “LOOKED” better than her – that was a huge NO-NO.

Not being able to remember what she did to me – except more put downs – must have been really harsh because to this day – I will start to dissociate when someone makes something nice of me. I start to disappear & I hate that feeling. I become embarrassed & extremely anxious & that will make me dissociate too.

As I’ve mentioned in another post – I dissociate LESS these days but I’m 67 years old & I take meds for depression, which also helps the dissociation in some way that I don’t understand. The few things that will still trigger me off into a BIG dissociation is being complemented or attacked. Two very different things but they BOTH will get me “LEAVING” in my head. Usually I’m in a group – even a very small one -or even sometimes if it’s a compliment one-on-one, I will ll be OFF. If it’s in a large group – dissociation will come on me faster than I can think to try & stop it.

When I worked in large, high-end corporations & we had these big meetings & I was expected to have an interest in whatever was being said – I used to have to sit by the door – so I could run out as fast as I could. Nothing even needed to be addressed to ME – I’d be so anxious w/just the thoughts of being called on – or made to respond – that I was part way ALREADY into a dissociative state. Also, causing people to look at me – IF – I was to open the door & run – made me feel dissociative. This was, as in, people NOTICING me leave. I got so I couldn’t STAND ANY attention at all. It was almost easier to have the BAD attention than to have anyone genuinely say something great about me. At least, with the BAD attention – the attention might revert back to the one giving a nasty remark & then the “spotlight” would be off me for a second or two. I’m sounding confused, I think. I’m really not too sure when or at what time or by whom switches me over into getting really upset about having attention. I wanted/WANT STILL to be invisible. I do know that. No matter where a GATHERING was – I wanted to be INVISIBLE. That’s all I know for sure. These days, I’m still like that but NOT ALWAYS.

I have a Couple’s friend – who I visit almost everyday HERE where I live & they never make me feel dissociative! After many talks but not really knowing each other all that long – we (the wife of the Couple) & I risked spilling our beans. Doesn’t SHE have the same issues of abuse I have – AND – the real funny part about this is – that I really “loved” her from the moment I met her. She has most of the same symptoms I have. Sometimes she can’t speak on the phone! I can usually do that but may not want to speak & I don’t know why. There could be lots of reasons for that.

Now that I am retired – I don’t have to go through THAT Business Meeting Hell anymore but “IT” can happen at church or w/people I have no clue as to WHY THEY are making me anxious enough to dissociate – it will be a mystery because I usually like them to begin with – so it’s not JUST with people I don’t like – it can happen anytime.

Thank you so much, Darlene, because I had a profound revelation in that it was my MOTHER who made me so afraid to have attention & that came from your message of today. I don’t know what to do with this info tho. I guess it will be processed by my mind the way all my revelations have been! : )

My mother passed away a few years ago but before she was too sick – she did apologize to me. She said it in a strange way but she still said it. She said: “IF she had ever done anything to hurt me, she was very sorry.” ! I wish the “IF” had been left out but we who have been abused hardly ever get ANY kind of acknowledgment that THEY were abusive in ways that have handicapped us. But I did get something. I got absolutely nothing from my father. But I believe I’m a step closer to unraveling the mysteries of ALL that happened. Thank you again, Darlene. I do know that I don’t need to have everything in order to progress but it’s nice when I get a BIG chunk. There probably is more to this – we’ll see & I’ll keep reading your messages/notes! : )

7

Hi Fi
I totally relate to everything you said; that is exactly how I felt and often dissociated in order to get through all those situations. Unfortunately, dissociating was not the answer either and it caused problems too! The key for me to recover from this was in realizing those voices were there, kind of whispering to me that I had nothing to contribute AND realizing where those thought were born so that I could RE WIRE them. I DO have something to contribute. It is a lie that I have nothing to contribute. It is a lie that my thoughts are wrong and that my opinion doesn’t count. That was the key for me; I had to keep over riding those old beliefs which are all lies.
Great comments! Thanks for sharing!
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Shanyn,
Again, same things I just wrote to Fi above. Realizing this stuff is a huge part of the key but the real work is in over riding the beliefs that developed from and as a result of those situations. This is hard because part of the brainwashing is that ‘the adults’ were always right and also they held the keys to our survival… so there is a fear of going against them or their opinions. But it is the fear from our childhoods, the fear we had as children that has stayed with us all this time.
These are such great comments! Thank you
Hugs, Darlene

8

Hi Joy
The things that were said to you were so overt, Joy. I am so sorry that was the way it was, but I am so thankful that you are sharing the examples of it here. This was the case for so many children and just like those of us who were discounted in a more covert way, the damage is done exactly the same. I found that in listening to that warning siren that you are talking about, and finding out where it comes from ~ (that it was a warning from childhood, that we were at risk of a beating in childhood, and that we can NOW keep ourselves safe from that) that I was able to dispel the lies and then the fear too. I can speak my thoughts now without care if I am right or not, or if someone doesn’t like it or not… and believe me, a lot of stuff that I talk about (this blog for instance) does not make for the most popular dinner conversation! My truth makes others uncomfortable but that is not my worry anymore.
Thank you for sharing,
Hugs, Darlene

p.s everyone, I have to run into the city and will catch up on answering the rest of the comments when I get back.

9

My family were interested in what I was thinking, but not what I was feeling – I think I never heard my mother ever express an emotion – my dad was way too repressed as well. In many ways I was invisible in my family – from being called by the name of another family member rather than my own, to being ecouraged to occupy myself and not “bother” my parents. Once I learned to read I think my mother felt she was off the hook – as she said “with a book you are never alone”. I was an only child.
It was my teachers who would attack my thinking with sarcasm, humiliation – and even physical violence on occasions – if not to me, to other children.
I think my family environment paved the way for my later abuse at school – I was isolated within my family due their lack of engagement with me, leading me to be less adept socially with my peers at school – and thence easier to pick off for abuse by the predatory adults. And the culture of silence at home meant it was almost impossible for me to disclose my abuse until I was truly in fear of my life. And then they did act to save me – but once that was done, nothing further was done to help me adjust and heal. My parents were both psychiatric nurses. Go figure.
My recovery of memory about my abuse has only come about after both my parents have died – hardly a coincidence, huh? And only because of a serious life-threatening illness finally breaking open the lid on Pandora’s Box. After 50yrs I am just realising how far back my problems go, and I am amazed that I managed to keep things together as well as I did for as long as I did. I guess I am stronger than I thought!

10

Darlene,
Just as I was told that I feel too much, I was also told that I think too much. This is especially true whenever I would try to figure out my past. More than my parents, it was my sister who would constantly tell me to “quit thinking about it” “just accept it”. She practically advised me to black out my childhood as she has. I believe she has dissociative amnesia but in her mind, this is an excellent way to handle a painful, humiliating childhood and one she pridefully recomends. However, I’m a thinker and a questioner and it just wasn’t possible for me to follow her advice. It is my natural instinct to look for answers and in being true to that instinct, I have found many answers and a new freedom in knowing and accepting what is true about my life.

No matter how much I was beat down on the inside, I couldn’t stop wanting to understand. I am very thankful to be thoughtful despite being told not to think. I am very happy being, Pam who is like no other. I hope my sister will also someday, allow herself to think about “it” and find understanding. I hope she finds the truth of her life and will be happy being herself, fully individiated, and no longer desire to make me a clone of herself. Maybe then she’ll be able to receive the love I have for her and also love me in return.That is my hope but not my requirment for happiness or for resolution of my past.

Pam

11

Dear Darlene:

I don’t know ..but having had the same punishment
repeated over and over and over.. seems it’s so much a part of me
like my skin is part of my body. I have created defenses to fight off
the painful blows that were imposed every time I tried to talk without
permission .

I learned to just shut up .. People in school thought I couldn’t talk and when I did it was in a very light voice.. like talking could be heard all the way at home from school

I was so terrified in my childhood ..the only thing i really learned and knew was surviving one day to the next..

I am glad you share your truth, Darlene.. The only ones who feel uncomfortable are those who are afraid to face their own secret hurts.

I know for me I liked to appear strong. for so long.. I pretended all my life like nothing was wrong..while inside I wept and nursed my scars and wounds.I still find it hard to believe someone actually wants to help me heal and that its
ok to be healed and heard.

I have a long way to go. .till I don’t hear her threats and curses.. till I don’t feel the painful blows in my body .. I know it will happen some day . I just have to be patient and try to do all that is suggested.

Joy

12

Hi Susan
Thanks for sharing the this today. There is also that side of this exactly as you shared. The reaction when someone says something nice. I had to think about what “nice” meant to me and what it triggered too. Lots of clues in all that information.
I wanted to be invisible when I was me… that is why I dissociated in the past. Today I am all me and regardless of your age Susan, you can get through too!
So glad that you are here!
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Libby
I am going to write a series about the damages done specifically by teachers one of these days.
The good thing about realizing how far back this stuff goes is that we are not in the denial of thinking there is something about “today” that is the problem. For me I think it meant that I was on the road to figuring out exactly what actually DID happen with my self esteem etc. and that was the truth that set me free.
Hugs, Darlene

13

Hi Pam
That sounds familiar…(being told that I think too much) I just couldn’t win. That might have been a good thing in the end because I realized that NOTHING I did was right and that didn’t sound totally possible anymore.
I think that your sisters ideas fit with many who also recommend that we just forget it, just get over it, just block it out… but I think I actually DID that for a long time but happiness escaped me back then and like you, I am happy now. I found happiness in resolving the mystery of ME and what happened there! I am finally able to let it go NOW that it is resolved, but it was resolved by ME and not by getting them to finally hear me.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom here!
Hugs, Darlene

14

Yeah, I definitely felt this and it strongly impacted my adult life. I felt as though I had been forbidden to grow up as long as I lived at home. It took me the first eight years I was away to get to where I should have been before I left.
The weird thing is, my parents never said any of those things. I don’t actually recall any words being used to make me feel that way. But it certainly happened even so. I do remember many times being made to feel as though I was too old to think or worry about such silly, childish things. In other words, anything that didn’t fit the program. We were encouraged to think and be vocal – with our parents’ opinions. Or more accurately, with my mother’s domineering friend June’s opinions. Any time we agreed with her, it was a sign of our maturity and growth. If we disagreed, it was disappointing evidence of our childish foolishness and rebellion.
My younger sisters didn’t experience her oppression and have accused me of being blind to my parents’ good points, like the fact that they encouraged us to think for ourselves. They just don’t realize how different things were when June controlled our mom. And I’m discovering that she actually worked against many of my parents’ ideals behind their backs with us older kids. We knew that she was the spiritual leader and never thought that her opinions might differ in any way from theirs.

15

Boy does this hit home Darlene. It was as if I didn’t exist and really reinforced that I was expendable and an object, like a doll, to be taken down when someone wanted to play but when I wanted to play it didn’t matter. It took a long time for me to connect the dots and understand that my “frozen” state was actually my learned state of being. I was waiting for someone to tell me that I was free now and could move on with my life. Then I realized that I was the only one who could do that. Its a challenge to change these things but it really is in hearing how others like yourself have done it that makes the lightbulb go on so we can begin to see it for ourselves and in our own lives. Awesome topic. 🙂

16

Hi Pippi
It is interesting how this all happens ~ the ways that we are told without words. (Most of this stuff (specifically the stuff in this post) was communicated to me without words too.) Even knowing that when you agreed with your mothers friend, you were mature, and when you didn’t agree you were a disappointment, is defining manipulations. This is a very good illustration of just how this is done in a covert way vs. how it is done when the words are actually used. Both ways end up causing the same damage.
Thank you for sharing,
hugs, Darlene

Hi Susan KS
YES. I love your comment. I felt that way too, that life was all about them, and that I was waiting for someone to set me free, to somehow “break me out” of the prison I was in for so long, and I searched and searched and tried and tried, but it was only when I finally realized that I was the only one with the key, I was stuck.
Hugs, Darlene

17

It’s a terrible feeling when someone says “what do you think?” and all I can do is try my hardest not to cry. In my mind I have all the past scenarios playing back every time I am asked my opinion. I really wish I could get past that automatic showing of the past every time I am asked my opinion..

People who horribly beaten for doing a certain thing, learn not to do it. So how does one get away from all that fear.. since so much trauma was attached to it?

joy

18

Joy,
I don’t know what it is like to be horribly beaten. The closest I came to it was when I was sodomized and robbed. I submitted to keep myself from being badly beaten or killed. It was still violent though and it affected me for a very long time. I was afraid to be alone at night for years. I took many baby steps in working to overcome that fear. I also see you taking baby steps. Really, it is a huge step that you are talking about your abuse so openly. You have been terribly hurt but you are very brave. I know that in your own time, you will overcome and many will be blessed when you are able to share your thoughts.

Love,
Pam

19

Hi Pam

Thank you so much: I wish things never happened but they did. Its all so much but I believe in the power of therapy and in my ability to heal. I have very good people helping me and I get so much from this sharing here and from my T who is so so smart and wise.

I find nights very very hard too; for what happened the worst was always at night.

I appreciate your kind words, Pam, I hope I come to be as strong as you some day..

Joy

20

I recognized this inability to think for myself years ago when my husband, of 18 years, who had been doing my thinking for me and telling me my way of thinking was wrong, suddenly left. I froze. I couldn’t make a decision. So I worked on this, I attended counseling and DBT groups and worked on first identifying what I was thinking or feeling, and then sharing it with another person. Therein lies my current challenge. I am in a new relationship, I so want it to be different than what I’ve known in the past, which means I have to be different. Recently I have been withholding my true thoughts and feelings and I see the damage this does, to me and to the relationship. If I am withholding my real thoughts and feelings I am not being truthful, not with myself and not with the other person. When I realize I’m doing this, it’s almost as if I become mute, I know what I want to say or need to say, I just can’t seem to open my mouth. I am making progress, and just 2 days ago, I did open my mouth and voice my concerns with my significant other, what I recieved from him in return was so different and so right. He actually said, “you are right. I value your feelings and will modify my behavior accordingly.” Wow. More experiences like that will help free me to speak. I also realize that because I am aware of this issue, the longer I take to speak, the more I stew with the feeling or thought, the worse I feel. I want to feel as good as possible, I desire to be present with myself and those I am with…What I have to say matters, actually the only opinion that matters to me now is my own. My parents were wrong, my husband was wrong…May way of thinking works for ME!

21

Hi Joy and Everyone;

This is really an important point; when we are beaten as children we do learn not to those “certain things”. And my reactions to all of that was the same as when I was a child. I was sure that the consequences would be the same if I did “certain things” (mostly anything that someone else didn’t like) that the consequences would be the same as back then. (I didn’t think about what those consequences were though.. I just had the fear) What i came to realize in recovery is that I am NOT a child anymore. If someone beats me, I can call the police and charge them with assault. I have choices now that I didn’t have as a child. If someone rejects me, I don’t care. If someone tells me I am wrong and unworthy, I don’t have to believe it anymore. It was the trauma that caused the fear and the fear that caused me to develop my coping methods. BUT it was in realizing that I have choices and human rights today that led me to learn a new way to live and the fears dropped away then.

Thanks for sharing!
hugs, Darlene

22

Hi Kim
These are great comments! Excellent!
Thank you so much for sharing!
hugs, Darlene

23

Darlene

In so many situations .. I don’t think ..automatically don’t think because no one cared to hear my thoughts.. or even allowed me to express my thoughts.. WHen I get into violent or scary situations, I freeze so I am not able to function.. the freezing stops me from processing . I don’t know if you understand it? When someone speaks harshly, immediately I freeze up . I know freezing up is a coping thing but what else is there to do if someone is screaming at you or hitting you? IF you try to defend yourself you will get hurt.

joy

24

“Were you encouraged to think? Were you asked to contribute and was your contribution acknowledged, considered or valued? Were you encouraged to contribute your thoughts to a conversation or to a plan?”

I wish! Wouldn’t that have been so wonderful, to have my thoughts valued, or at least weighed on their own merit, rather than being dismissed or ridiculed simply because they were mine. Even as an adult I am constantly surprised that some people have a genuine interest in my opinions and take my answers seriously. I can only image the joy of being raised that way.

Unfortunately I didn’t grow up with that luxury. I was painfully shy, especially around adults as a kid because of this. And I guess I still am. I can’t initiate conversations, I hate informal conversations and small talk, asking anything of anyone sends me into a panic. Even publishing an anonymous opinion on the internet will have me waking up at night in a cold sweat.

When I write an email or any kind of message to publish on the internet, I must go over and over it about a hundred times to make sure there are no glaring mistakes, or nothing that makes me look stupid. (Yep, I’m doing that right now with this message!) When I make a phone call I have to rehearse it and even make notes about what I’m going to say in case my mind goes blank half way through. It’s like every communication is a monumental effort.

I’m getting better though. I went to the doctor the other day and he was asking me about my symptoms and I was more honest with him than I think I have ever been before in my life. I’m actually starting to feel more like an adult, than a helpless child at the mercy of what other people might think.

25

I just read my last message three times after I published it! I must waste so much time obsessing about these things.

26

Joy,
I certainly DO understand, yes. And for me it got better as I got stronger and understood more about where it came from in the first place. Like I said before though, as an adult, I had to learn that NO ONE had a right to hit me (that is assault) and or to yell and scream at me anymore. I don’t have to put up with it anymore. That was something that I didn’t realize for a long time.
That is the goal though ~ to realize that it is wrong and that you don’t have to take it.
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Carolyn,
YES wouldn’t that have been wonderful!!!! I had to learn how to do that for myself. I started to listen to me and it was wonderful. I started to realize that I deserved to have a voice just the same as everyone else. I had HUGE issues with looking stupid; I had been controlled by everyone insinuating that I was stupid all my life, likely in an attempt to make me keep my mouth shut. I constantly wanted to PROVE that I was NOT stupid. Instead of believing myself that I wasn’t. I was terrified to publish my blog posts. I had another blog before this one that I kept a secret! All for those same reasons. All of that got better as I got stronger by seeing the truth about this stuff and my past.

Today when I think about it, no wonder they wanted to keep me quiet! Look at what I do now! LOL

Hugs, and thanks for sharing your BRILLIANT comments. Rest assured that your comments today are an excellent and profound contribution to this blog post! Many will relate to you, I know!
Kudos! Darlene

27

I was severely beaten too and there are many situations in which I freeze, I never thought life could be any different but over the last few months I’ve begun to realise the dynamics of what’s going on in me when that happens, I’ve begun to realise as an adult I have choices and options I never had as a child, I’ve also begun to recognise the roots of those thoughts and reactions and have begun to challenge those ways of thinking and reacting with messages from the adult me about how things are now for me, progress is slow but it is definite progress, it is important to validate the trauma that created those responses in us, I’m not saying I’ve got it all sussed but I have begun to realise healing is possible, I’ve also begun to realise I am the author of my own healing, I am the only one who can tell the child within me that she is safe now etc, it’s kind of like re-parenting, comforting and reassuring her and gradually there is realisation that some of those old coping strategies aren’t helpful or needed any more and gradually I’m reacting less from the child within and more from the adult I am now, if that makes sense

28

Darlene

Intellectually I “get it” but somehow the rest of me the nerves the parts that react are slow to catch up..I don’t think when a situation happens that I am going to freeze. .I just freeze.. I wish I could stop it.. I want to stop it but so far.. the freezing keeps happening..

I am sure I will get there some day . as I want to .. just have to figure a way to stop myself from freezing when the stimuli from yesterdays gone by ..present themselves to me today

I wish i was healed today .wish I could say am all done now. but it’s a slow process..

joy

29

Hello Darlene & Everyone,

Since the pother day I have felt calmer. I’m the one who couldn’t even accept a compliment from my grandmother, anyone really because that set my mother off. There is much more to all of this. She was a tormentor & my dad had this Dr. Jekyll -Mr. Hyde personality. My mother was almost ALWAYS a horror. But my dad had some very nice & kind things about him – but then – he’d switch – usually from drinking.

Anyway, I wanted to ask if anyone here ever became frightened/anxious & dissociated from just hearing their own voice, as in school when called upon to answer a question? Sometimes THAT still happens to me. It need not be a question or w/a group. It can happen when alone w/someone or even alone completely. My voice sounds funny – like it’s not mine – or it’s far away – so whatever I’m saying gets mixed up. I’ll forget my train of thought or what I was saying completely – as if another part of me just popped in & is listening & the original person is thrown off kilter & is lost somehow. I don’t know IF I’m explaining it very well. Also, and this is VERY frightening to me – sometimes when I look in the mirror – I become the same way. Terrified – not quite recognizing myself – or seeing a different version of me that is spooky/scary.

I know this happened when I was 7 yrs. old – (I remember it happening then – maybe before?) & it’s happened throughout my life. Not a lot tho – thank God because I’d never look in a mirror – or speak at all. I’ve been told that I’m “fragmented” – don’t know why it’s starting again. It’s not “bad” tho – not like when I was younger.

I have decided to go back into therapy. I’m kind of dragging my feet about this but I think I need to go back. I haven’t picked anyone yet.

I am so grateful to you all & Darlene THANK YOU for the encouragement about healing – even at my age of 67. I am still keeping in touch w/you all – even when I get back into therapy. I need BOTH things .. . .

30

ps.. like when the mean neighbor lady next door turned the water hose on me. .for trying to protect my cats. .Most “normal” people probably would have grabbed that hose and squirted her back. Or they would have run called police. When she did it to me I froze and only after said not to do that and she did it again..Her actions sent me back to a scary time in my childhood. I wasn’t present to where I was really . but back somewhere else.. do you know what i mean?

Joy

31

Fi
This is an excellent post! This is exactly what I am trying to articulate here too.

Would you mind sharing how long you have been in the process of healing as far as when you started to look at the roots of your reactions and the process of re-parenting, for the readers who feel like they are not catching on or who feel impatient with the process.

Thanks for sharing these victories and again I LOVE these comments!
Hugs, Darlene

Joy,
It wasn’t that I prevented myself or was able to stop myself from freezing, it was that I learned the origins and re wired my belief system and the freezing stopped. NOt all at once, but one situation at a time as I went through this process.

32

I’ve been writing about my childhood abuse in a blog for 3 years now, 16 months ago I went to the police about my abusers [25 years after the abuse ended]

It was about a year ago that I began to connect with Emerging from Broken and Overcoming Sexual Abuse, and started sharing more of my experiences and learning of other people’s healing journeys, through connecting with other survivors I began to have hope that there was a way through all this stuff and that healing was possible

I began therapy last October after the legal case against my abusers was dropped, it has taken me 9-months to realise I am safe with my therapist and am just about to begin working on the actual sexual abuse

I think it was late last year/earlier this year, that I really began to really look at the roots of my reactions and began the process of re-parenting, I realised then that only me could do the work necessary to heal, other people can point the way and support and encourage, without that I’m not sure I’d be where I’m at on my journey.

I realise this kind of work does not happen overnight, it’s a long term job of work but I’ve noticed so much change in myself in just the last 6 months it’s breathtaking, it’s not easy but it’s worth it, I know I’ve a long way to go but I’ve already come a long way too.

33

Darlene
How did you rewire your system??
I feel like I am a kindergartener amongst high schoolers in the healing process.I just think am not catching on. it’s discouraging to me.
I wish I could get there

joy

34

Fi,
THANKS so much for sharing this part of your journey Fi.
This will give so much hope to others, knowing that this isn’t just about me and my journey or that it only happens this way for me, and that it really is a process and that it happens in stages and can happen for anyone. It takes time to undo a life time of harm and to then replace the things we have come to believe as truth, with the real truth. I have seen huge progress and growth in you since you first started to share both here in EFB and on OSA.
Hugs, Darlene

Joy,
This whole entire website is about how I did that.
It isn’t that you are not catching on, it is that it takes time to settle in. (read Fi’s comments above) It isn’t that everyone is ahead of you at all. Some have just been at it longer then you and a lot of newer to the process people don’t share as much as you either. I know because I get tons of private email from people not ready to share with everyone yet, and because I have been doing this work with others for about 5 years now. You are right on track!
Hugs, Darlene

35

Hi Susan,
(just a note, you have replied to a few comments by hitting the reply button, and they only come to me that way, not to the whole readership. I have sent them back to you through email so you can copy them into the blog)

Oh that used to happen to me too.. I had forgotten about that. I think for me it had to do with being dissociated at the time and surprised to hear myself talking. I know just what you mean. That went away with all the rest of the stuff that used to happen.
Sometimes this stuff starts up again when we are ready to face all of it. Sometimes these things for me were just reminders that helped me remember other things.
Thanks for sharing and for being part of this!
Hugs, Darlene

36

Joy,
You are very strong and someday,you will fully realise your strength. It takes time to grow into ourselves.I see you growing almost every day.

37

Hi Pam:

Guess am bit impatient with myself..it’s in me to want to do better
and when I can’t I get discouraged but I must tell myself we all have
our own pace.

Thank you for your kindly words..

Hugs: if ok:

Joy

38

Darlene

I read Fi’s and yes I see it takes time
It isn’t anything anyone is saying here it’s the tape
recorder playing back inside .. lots of old tapes keep
playing in my mind and I wish I could find the battery source
and disable it completely.

THank you for your kindly words.. I know all takes time and
everyone has their own pace and comfort zone to work in .

Hugs:

Joy

39

We all have that tape recorder.

It takes time to find stuff to challenge the old stuff, my therapist puts it this way – “you are allowed to turn the volume down on all that old bad stuff”

Eventually you’ll get stuff to play against those old tapes, it’ll be a tiny voice for a while which will get stronger and stronger till eventually it’s louder than all that old bad stuff being played. It’s a process, small steps by small steps.

Yes, everyone has their own pace but actually healing means stepping out of your comfort zones into stuff that feels strange, disorientating, sometimes contradictory. All the old patterns of thinking and behaving are comfortable like a pair of old slippers. It takes stepping out of those comfortable places which actually are not helping you but hindering you to step into newer and more helpful ways of relating, responding, etc.

40

I hate those old tapes but when I finally realized that I didn’t need my family to understand in order for me to resolve my past, many of them have stopped playing. The relief is amazing!

41

LOVE these comments!! ~

Fi wrote: “Yes, everyone has their own pace but actually healing means stepping out of your comfort zones into stuff that feels strange, disorientating, sometimes contradictory. All the old patterns of thinking and behaving are comfortable like a pair of old slippers. It takes stepping out of those comfortable places which actually are not helping you but hindering you to step into newer and more helpful ways of relating, responding, etc.”

Pam wrote: “I hate those old tapes but when I finally realized that I didn’t need my family to understand in order for me to resolve my past, many of them have stopped playing. The relief is amazing!”

Hugs, Darlene

42

My ex-husband loved to know what I was thinking, as long as he could get comfortable first with popcorn and/or a pillow. He remembered carerully nad used it all AGAINST me, ASAP. It was amazing, but no more.

My mother told me in junior high that:

1) I couldn’t think
2) I didn’t have a brain
3) I couldn’t learn

NOT a good time, I hated her by age 13.

My dad told me repeatedly, from his church’s point of view, that we should never say the words “I think” because our hearts are deceitful and wicked, etc., ad nauseum, and he NEVER said how that also applied to our pastors, guess it didn’t,…

43

Kate,
Thanks for highlighting another type of abuse; I am talking about when people control and direct other people using GOD and the Bible as a back up. In my case I was lucky; this type of abuse along with ny addiction to having proof that I might have just one right thought in my head, led me to do extensive bible study, but for most this kind of spiritual abuse just completely tears a person down leaving them in such a spin, believing that they are SO WRONG that even GOD can’t love them. And if God can’t even love me, then the conclusion is that there is NO HOPE! This is a disgusting and debilitating method of abuse and misuse of power and authority over a kid!
Thank you for sharing!
Hugs, Darlene

44

Darlene

The biggest damage done to my mind was by the “church” The day I was told as a 6 years old girl that I should never speak of the things done at home despite the terrible things that were done me.. was the day I believed God was behind all the bad done to me.

I thought for sure. .but my thoughts were wrong.. that people of God would stop the painful things being done to me. but instead all they did was tell me that God was displeased with me.. that I should ask his forgiveness for trying to make my mom and brother look bad..

I remember walking home in tears .. and not being able to talk ..I think that the minister had spoken to my mom afterwards for I got a very bad beating when we got home . . If not wrong that was a sunday that is why we were there.

Anyway . i started believing i had absolutely no value that mom was right i was the worst mistake and deserved all the hurtful things. I was terrified of God.. since he was obviously given mom permission to abuse me in so many ways..

The only thing I learned was I was to keep quiet and not speak and not cry and suffer.

This is what the minister told me and that is what I believe God put his approval on.

I believe I was traumatized to think God wanted me to suffer all that..

joy

45

Joy
You are right, you WERE terribly traumatized by these events and by what was taught to you by that minister. His lies validated your biggest fears, as you have expressed here in your comments. But he lied, and he has no clue what God approves of. Do you think that God approves of that minister telling a little innocent girl that she was displeasing GOD by telling about being seriously abused at home? I read the bible (in depth study for 8 years greek and hebrew word origins) and I KNOW for a fact that what that “man” told you and taught you not any kind of biblical teaching. No wonder you were terrified of God, you were taught that he was terrifying! But the teachings that you learned were the teachings of men.
Love, Darlene

46

Darlene,

I don’t know if God approves what that man said but God did let it happen. .for some reason ..along with all the terrible, horrible, scary things that continued to happened there..

It’s hard for me to understand things but I can’t imaging God who is loving agreeing with evil being done. yet God still let it happen.

joy

47

Joy,
It is not my belief that God “let” it happen. God gave man free will, and the sadness is that innocent people get hurt because of evil choices that some people make, but I don’t believe that God “Lets” this stuff happen. I believe that God is broken hearted and devastated by the horrors that go on in our world.
Hugs, Darlene

48

Joy it’s not “God letting it happen”. It’s a case of men doing and saying terribly evil things. God gave men and women free will to act and speak either as God would have them or not as the case may be, otherwise we’d just be robots with no independent thinking/acting. If God intervened every time people said and did terrible things He would be removing people’s free will and turning them into robots.

God did not and does not want you to suffer, that is not His nature. But there were people who chose to do that to you and they will have to account to God for that and He will not allow any excuses. Evil exists and is not due to God but due to people choosing to live and behave in ways that God does not like, approve of or want.

So often God gets blamed for things which are nothing to do with Him. God does not approve of or agree with such terrible things being said or done in His name. I had the same sort of rubbish told me. It is rubbish, plain and simple and does not reflect the heart or character of God at all.

49

Darlene:

I understand that.. I would imagine God is crying daily since all over the world people are being hurt unjustly .. children are hurt with no one to help.. people who have no one to help are broken down .. with no one to care.. I would say God is very sad.. Yet .. sometimes I wonder.. with all the power God has.. It would suffice to stay “stop all evil” and it would stop.. .why not stop the evil.. I wish people would stop hurting me .. but God won’t stop them. so I must stay away from them.
Hugs .. love.
Joy

50

Great comments Fi,
thank you for jumping in here. This is a huge problem in our hurting world.

Joy,
Yes, you “must stay away from them”. God gave us free will, and abusers took our free will from us, brainwashing us that we didn’t really have it after all. When we begin to realize the truth and come out of that fog, we take our choice and our free will back and like you said, we can stay away from those people.
Hugs, Darlene

51

I never associated freezing when asked to speak with my abuse. I am deliberate in my thinking, but horribly inept during verbal communications.

52

Hi Renee
I didn’t associate a ton of my adulthood reactions to my childhood abuse. Realizing that most of that stuff was connected to my childhood was a big part of how I overcame so many of my issues.
Thanks for sharing,
Hugs, Darlene

53

And beware that the ones claiming to speak for how “God” works, are the ones controlling you!! The “sovereignty of God” was the favorite live used in my circles, but it was really the sovereignty of the church controlling our minds with more talk, it didn’t really even matter what the words were…just quit listening.

54

Kate

It’s good to be free from that and now am seeing how much beauty there is in every faith and religion .. I like to just stay inside my heart for now in my communication with God..I think God ..understands.

55

Kate,
You’re right, the words don’t matter. If it were as easy as identifying certain words to know when someone was trying to be God in your life it would be a lot easier. Spiritual abusers use words that have very good meanings for evil. They twist everything to gain control.

Joy, I believe that God not only understands but is pleased when you talk one on one with Him. He knows you better than anyone and He knows just what you need now.

56

Tormented

I having such a hard time
my mind is challenging me
Am having feelings of guilt
for seeking therapy
I am feeling like a traitor
like i am committing sin
I am captive to my soul
being accused within

I am shaking all over
I am so afraid inside
Who do i think i am,
am i acting in pride?
What am i really doing?
why am i even speaking?
is selfishness the cause
of this healing i am seeking?

joy

57

Hi Joy
Thank you for sharing your poem. I hard time shaking the brainwashing. I was “told” that I was selfish and I beleived it. I had to dig down to the truth. What is selfish about healing? Healing benefits the entire world. Look at what I am doing as a result of MY healing. Do you think that my healing was selfish? If I had not done it, I would not be here writing this blog.
Hugs, Darlene

58

HI my dear Friend: Darlene

That poem was before I fought with the Demons!! I resolved i wouldnt listen to them. they are the voices of the past.. How can good things be bad.. Lies .. I agree with you Darlene. but you see what state my soul was in last night. I have no one here. just the bad thoughts were harassing me. . I sought everywhere but had to fight them myself . and luckily . i had the tools to fight with but boy am I so tired.. It took me till 3:00 am to fight those bad bad thoughts. But I agree .it’s not selfish..rather its the most unselfish..since brokenness keeps one from doing as much as one can. But the demons are children of the Devil and the Devil is the father of lies. and they will lie… lies are not from God but from the evil one. .and how can a God of love want me to hurt. .. this is what I come to see last night . I thank you Darlene that you share and for not judging me to be hopeless.. I appreciate your encouragement. Thank you !!

joy

59

[…] I didn’t need anyone else to validate me!  I had always been defined and invalidated by others ~ I was who they said I was… which was NOT good enough, unworthy and all that devaluing and discounting other stuff. When […]

60

[…] of the way that I had been raised, my belief system was all wrong. I had love mixed up with obligation. I had respect mixed up with ownership and compliance and the […]

61

[…] 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 […]

62

I don’t know if I can do this I defended myself 2 times today to two people “close to me and now they r not talking to me” I feel like crap but it’s not fair — one is my sister who gives me the silent treatment for no reason n I respective her respect .. But her son does whatever he plzs in my sons room but my son can’t even go in his, no more I don’t want my son not speaking up bcux he is afraid. She was turning it on my son n I told her we don’t disrespect her house but she said we do. The point is her son is a bully and she is too I told her you don’t have to give me the silent treatment I had enough of that growing up but I’m going to stick up for me from now on ,so be it.
Omg she had a fit. N denied what she does to me.
— the other was my cousin she wanted me to go somewhere with her n I said no becuz my son didn’t want to go n I had no babysitter but I knew what was coming next:;; she texted me back ” u are the parent u know, I don’t let mine control me!” I said to her ” you are so right , that works for your family but I am me”
I say it very nicely I don’t know why they get upset LOLLLLL. They don’t say it to me nicely n I have said yeah ok—
Wow it’s hard … 🙁
She is always putting me down but this time I said ” ur so right

63

Hi Joan
I hear you.
I had to decide what was more important to me. Being free of the sick system and being healthy, or staying in the sick system and being very unhealthy. (depressed etc.)
I finally chose me. Nobody liked the “new me”. Many walked away, family included. At the time it was agony, but today my life is thousands of times better. I LIKE me now and I respect me. This was part of my self value. When ever I think I may have made a mistake standing up for myself, I ask myself “what is the alternative?” and I am not willing to accpet that alternative!
It takes a long time to sort it all out; hang in there!
Hugs, Darlene

64

I was not allowed opinions or feelings. I had to follow many rules of
polite behavior. Always to speak certain words, a script. Add nothing
extra of my own. Always the perfect polite child. No noise or childish
playful behavior. Seen but not heard. Punishment if you behave
wrong or say too much. I had to ask permission to do everything.
Permission to use the bathroom, leave the table, there were so
many rules. No I was not allowed to think, feel, hurt, not without
permission. I was obedient and compliant. No one in my family
has ever heard me.

65

Karen
Yes and all that caused huge amounts of damage to the self esteem! This is what we are dealing with and overcoming!
Thanks for sharing!
Hugs, Darlene

66

Yep, this plagues me to this day. This could be one of the worst of all the neglect. I fear opening my mouth. I beat myself up for being such a wimp. I end up suffering the consequences because I didn’t speak up. I feel invalid, stupid and angry…and we’re off into depression because I deny myself. I realize it is the cause for people thinking I don’t have a brain. I realize that it holds me back in personal and professional situations and that until I get enough courage to open my yap this ugly cycle will continue. This very subject is one of the drivers for my recovery. I can no longer tolerate the consequences and I feel I need to grow up here and be an adult like everybody else. I absolutely do freeze up. I find if very difficult to ask a question in a group for fear I will look stupid. If I do manage to get something out, I’m usually tongue-tied…and my fears have been self-filled. I look like an idiot. I can trace this crap back to sitting at the kitchen table and adding some innocent comment to the conversation my father was having with my grandparents. My father, a big man, bellowed in rage at me to go stick my nose in the corner until he told me I could come out. Something about if I want your opinion I’ll ask for it. That idea that children should be seen and not heard were the order of the day. Anyway, I was publically humilited and that was the end of my confidence in speaking out. As I never wanted that to happen again, I zipped my lip as much as possible. Today, however, I hate myself for it. I hate that it still has a reign over me and that it effects my life in a big way. And with that…I’m off to see my therapist! Thanks for the topic.

67

Wow! Can I relate to this! One of my issues I started exploring after my NM died was my lack of ability to “feel”. After hearing my whole life, “NO YOU’RE NOT!”,(the answer to any statement I would make) I couldn’t tell you if I was hot, cold, sick, in pain, or even in love. I could sit in a hot car in the middle of summer until I passed out. The upside to this? I got through menopause pretty easy. Now I concentrate on myself – it seems like so many others have said, you can’t go NC without replacing another voice in your head – and that voice needs to be my own, and I need to trust and listen to what it tells me.

68

Hi Barbara Joy
Welcome to EFB ~ Great to have you here!
I had to find my voice. I had to validate that I even had one. Listening to myself has been the best thing that I have ever done and has led me back to me!
Yay for concentrating on YOU.
Hugs, Darlene

69

Hi Joey
What helped me the most was finding out the root causes of all these things you are talking about. I searched for the origins; where did this happen to me, how did it start, where did my self esteem get broken and through looking at those events I looked at the messages that I got about myself and looked at where they were still operating in my life. It sounds like your father was a bully and that you were totally discounted. I had to overcome those false messages and empower myself by sort of “reparenting” myself. I write a lot about it in this website.
Thank you for sharing,
Hugs, Darlene

70

Darlene, a big amen from the peanut gallery on your last comment. We must replace all the negative messages in our lifetime with positive ones! Cheers and kudos to you for passing on the power of positive thinking.

71

I remember my feelings and thoughts being repeatedly invalidated. Once when I was about 7, I was sitting in the back seat of the car reading a newspaper (smart kid :)) and came across a story involving a dog’s death. I started to cry and Mom turned around angry and asked me what I was crying about. I was being a pain to her by showing distress. Anything could have been wrong with me, but she was being “inconvenienced”. I don’t think I mentioned the dog…reactions like that were a familiar pattern by then. Her message was that my feelings were burdensome and inconsiderate…in other words I “should” have been considering THEM more and something was wrong with me. Now I can see that according to her something was ‘wrong’ with me cause I was actually asking something of HER/THEM or expecting to be comforted, expecting them to come out of themselves and do their jobs as parents.
But this was twisted and pathologized by self-centred people who believed kids were to be of service to THEM. My distress was asking of something they thought was not in the job description. I was being presumptuous and inconsiderate, and had no choice but to internalize that, when now I can plainly see THEY were inconsiderate and demanding.

They were intent on teaching me that I could not depend on them emotionally, and that my distress was wrong because it took attention from theirs. They taught me I was selfish for being “needy”. So, I became ever more shy and withdrawn and living in books and tv. It became very hard for me by age 10 to make friends because by then I felt wrong and undeserving. I couldn’t speak up to people, they were always right, even though many times I felt so wronged and hurt. By that age I was trying to be really good, really nice so other kids would like me. I’d take their change at recess and go alone to the store nearby to buy their treats. Returning, I’d give their change and candy back and see them all leave and play elsewhere together.
Just like at home I guess, always having to pick up something for the house when I went out, never being allowed to just go out for myself. Being good and hoping this will win me favour. It never did in either case, I was just handy. But I guess I was trying to prove myself as good/worthy, and have all my life.

Repeated invalidation of my feelings because they exposed the deficiencies of my parents, and they weren’t going to have that at all, so I was wrong. My anger and speaking up as a teenager said, “What is going on here is not right or normal”, but they weren’t going to have that, so I was called sick and weak. This truth was beyond my grasp as a child. Their feelings were all that mattered, and they sacrificed their children to live as they chose. Our feelings were only supposed to be their feelings….this never wavered. We were never individuals to them.

When you teach your child to think you see them as individuals. My mother gave the silent treatment at times, when she wanted to forget we existed. When she wanted to play victim when we were the victims. We were supposed to be their examples when they themselves were too lazy ass to follow them themselves. “Why aren’t you going to church?” Mom would say glowering, sitting in her chair when she wasn’t going either. If I said, “Well you’re not going”, she’d say, “I am the mother!”

It was around this time that I noticed that whenever I got mad at Mom, Dad would say nothing. My sister usually said nothing. I took the load. And all the sick labels on me came out in force during that time, and stuck. I never stopped thinking differently, or being angry…but I gradually swallowed that anger more and believed in my ‘badness’. It’s been so difficult to be alone in that family with my perspective.

Today, as for most of life, I am soft spoken and very other oriented. I can speak well one on one but get much quieter as soon as one or more people are included in the conversation. I have a thing about other people overhearing me, what do they think of me, do I sound stupid or odd or whatever negative? This acute self-consciousness is rooted in all those times being told I was wrong and bad and sick, and when my feelings were reacted to inappropriately, like when Mom laughed and thought my anger was entertaining.

More and more I get stronger in my self-conviction though. Last week on a crowded bus I talked to a stranger about the record he bought, I had to speak up cause of the noise. I turned my head and this old fart of a man was watching me intently, glowering, but I carried on. I recognized being self-conscious but continued out of my comfort zone. I realize now how very deeply ingrained childhood messages are in me.

My parents were very ill and disturbed people who made the easiest choices for themselves they could, and refused to change or accomodate difference. I see now I was being a very healthy kid and that was alien to them. Unfortunately their years of negativity were like a brain implant in my head, and I have to work very hard now to take that implant out. I’ve found it’s not only a matter of intellectually understanding what happened, but changing my behaviour, being my own good loving parent, and , over time a new implant will be in place.

{{{{HUgs}}}}

72

Hey man, thanks a lot for writing that article! Reading it actually made me realize a lot of things about myself.
I used to think I did not really have any opinions about anything, and that I could not like anything such as a simple pair of pants. And that I did not have any kind of specific taste when it comes to style or music. And I did not now the reason for it. I thought I had a stupid superficial blank personality.
And although it has improved since leaving high school and starting university, (I actually have some hobbies and a music preference now) it still wasn’t clear to me what was holding me back from expressing myself. I still doubt myself every time I try something new, and still wonder what other people think about it.

But now I realize that the bullies at primary school and high school just thought me not to have opinions about anything, not to like any particular kind of music or styles, and that my feelings of being hurt are not legit, cause words don’t hurt right? And now I’m apparently still subconsciously scared that I will be humiliated or laughed at when I try to express my taste for anything.
I even seem to be scared to visit a psychologist about it, just because I’m afraid that he will tell me that my issues are no issues and that I’m actually just a blank superficial person and should not be a crybaby about it.

Before I just couldn’t figure out the reasons behind me holding back, but now seem to start to understand where it is all coming from, and that there actually are definable reasons for it too.
I still find it hard to overcome these fears, but at least i’m starting to understand them. So thanks again! It helps a lot!

73

Still though, I have a question.

The thing about me holding back my actions that bothers me most, is the things that actually interfere with my daily life. And those are usually things that are done indiviually and do not involve other people judging me, like paying taxes, , buying new clothes, sending important e-mails etc.

I seem to be holding back from doing those taks too, postponing them to such an extend that it is sometimes even to late. And the frustrating thing is that I cannot seem to pinpoint any reason for it. Similarly to that I could not find the reasons for the issues described in my previous post before I read your article.
Again here I’m scared that I’m just lazy and should not be crying about it… but then again it can’t be just lazyness, as it sometimes even is about an important e-mail I postpone to write, when I’m already looking at my mailbox on my computer… and it seems impossible to overcome this issue, especially as I don’t know what I’m so afraid of.

As I said, with the actions that involve other people and their opinions about me, it makes sense that I’ve been taught not to have opinions about anything. But in these other tasks it doesn’t seem to make sense at all..

74

W, through being squelched by parents and through being bullied by classmates, I became very withdrawn. I didn’t express opinions or wants or needs at home because I feared being ridiculed or punishment. I didn’t express opinions or show preferences for things around my classmates because I feared I would be laughed at. And I also held back on other things too, some individual tasks too. I believe it came from the same fear. After being criticized by parents and peers, I thought I had to do things perfectly yo be approved if. So, if I didn’t think I could write the perfect report or letter, or hostess the perfect dinner I would become fearful and put it off. I eventually did these things but if I had put them off for too long ( example would be when I was in college and had towrite a term paper) I did end up doing a not so good job, but the reason was that I hadn’t left myself enough time to do it well because I was worried about perfection. had I not been worried about perfection, I would have started earlier, and would have gone a better ( but probably not perfect) job.

The reason I wanted to do a perfect job was not for me. It was because I was seeking approval. I was trying hard. I was caught up in the dance that Darlene talks about a lot, trying harder and thinking that if I finally got it right I would finally win the love and approval I longed for. But I. Learning that that was not the answer. I’ve stopped the dance. Because if I need to try that hard then I never had their love and acceptance to begin with, and never would. So, no more dancing down the futile road to perfection, and I’m beginning to accept that it’s okay to be less than perfect, and that someone who truly loves me, loves me for who I am, imperfections and all.

75

Fortunately, my family didn’t do this, but I have observed other families who did this to their children. I always felt bad for those children. Plus, it was always machismo fathers who did this.

For some reason, I hate the phrase “shut your pie hole.” It grates me when I hear that phrase.

However, when I’m asked, “How do you feel” I, too freeze. I’m usually thinking, “what do they want to hear” because my mom constantly told me, “no you don’t no you don’t, you feel X way.” Thus, I’m wondering, “what do they want to hear?”

76

I started to cry and Mom turned around angry and asked me what I was crying about. I was being a pain to her by showing distress. Anything could have been wrong with me, but she was being “inconvenienced”.

I’ve mentioned this in another part of the blog. Age 12, I had to have an OB/GYN exam. Mom did NOT prepare me for this. She said, “oh, they will just check you over…” She KNEW exactly what was to happen, but failed to tell me. I was traumatized. After all was said and done, all she cared about what that I had been “rude” to HER doctor. She was embarrassed. the male doctor did not do anything wrong, but I still felt violated. And all mom could do was criticize me for being “rude.”

77

DXS, that doctor visit must have been traumatic! I have a developmentally delayed daughter, yet I explained to her exactly what the doctor was going to be doing at her OB/GYN appointment, and my daughter did amazingly well and was not upset. Some people would rather save themselves the discomfort of talking about this topic, and end up causing someone else damage as a result. And it must have been a double whammy for you when your mothers concern was that you were “rude” to the doctor. I’m sorry you had to how through the trauma of the unexplained exam, and then be further invalidated by having your feelings ignored and the focus placed on something superficial like how you reacted to the doctor.

I too was treated like I was being a pain or an inconvenience any time I expressed feelings so I shut down. I got slapped across the face by my mother at a fair in front of lots of people because I was getting tired and made a comment about not wanting yo walk around anymore. I was about 13 or 14. I was also ignored if I was upset about something. I was NEVER asked what was bothering me. My mother did not want yo be inconvenienced with helping me through anything. I got yelled at for needing things for school so I stopped telling her and used to erase my math papers and reuse them rather than inconvenience my mother by asking her to buy more. One time I needed money because our class was hoping yo be buying the daily newspaper. I froze up when I tried to ask her for the money. Instead of telling me it’s okay, just relax and tell me what you need, she chased me around the kitchen table with a belt whipping me with it. She couldn’t see that I was paralyzed with fear over asking for money for a newspaper! That made me shut down even more when I needed things. I was 11 at the time.

78

DXS, message 75, it sounds like you freeze when you feel because your feelings were invalidated. If you express your feelings and someone tells you that you don’t feel that way, you feel some other way, you start doubting how you really feel. I’ve had this happen to me too.

79

Amber (#77) I remember you telling us about erasing your papers! I’d like to know how in the heck you erased the teachers red marks. Red Pencil is hard to erase! Holy cow! And to even have to do that…. I’m just saying, wow, wow, wow…..

And yeah, you hit it why I freeze when asked how I “feel.” My reaction to “how do you feel” question is to say, “what’s motivating the question so that I can address what the real issue is?”

Sometimes people back away when I do that, because they don’t like being put on the “held accountable” spot.

80

Yay DXS for holding them accountable! It’s always supposed to be us doing the accountable dance, so they’re very uncomfortable if it’s reversed!

I don’t remember red marks on those math papers. But I guess I did the best I could erasing them. It wasn’t good enough to fool the teacher because SHE yelled at me for handing in sloppy work, but somehow I preferred her anger to my mothers.

As far as freezing goes, I was always afraid of reading the script wrong and not giving the “right ” answer which is translated. As what mother dearest wants to hear. So it was better to say nothing.

81

Hey Amber, thanx for your reaction. But I don’t think aiming for perfection is the problem in my case. There is no perfection in paying taxes, doing laundry etc. It is just doing or not doing it. And no one that will judge me for doing laundry or paying my taxes.
So it is very frustrating to see that I keep procrastinating these things, without being able to find any rational reason for it. When I should pay my taxes, I always tell myself that there is no reason for not doing so, nor for procrastinating it. I have enough money, time, etc. But nonetheless there is something in my mind that is stopping me from doing so.
Sometimes I find the strength to do it in time; other times I’m waiting several reminders untill the pressure is very high, before I finally pay my taxes (and the fines for paying late). And afterwards I blame myself for unnecessarily procrastinating it, ending up paying more than double… and frustratingly not knowing the reason for doing so.

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W @ 73 and 81-

I have this problem also. I quickly do small things like laundry, repairs and errands but often delay important things for years.

I once “ran” from filing taxes because I was afraid I’d owe a ton of money on a house I sold (as if that would solve anything). Ultimately the IRS garnished my wages which motivated me to file my back taxes. My accountant then determined that I wouldn’t have owed taxes in the first place!

I’ve been putting off resolving for about 9 years a matter where I believe I’m owed about $15,000. I have every single piece of paper connected to the matter, but just won’t sit down, write it up and pursue it.

I’m currently procrastinating on a couple of other issues like that. I’ve been wondering what’s at the bottom of this and wonder if it’s my way of living up to (rather, down to) the bashes that my dad/mom made to my self esteem. I’m actually unusually accurate and competent but I think of doing these things my heart starts to pound and I feel panicky, then get busy taking care of minutiae.

There’s a book called “Eat that Frog” that discusses this problem. Maybe it’s just human nature or maybe it’s a side effect of abuse?

83

Hey Davina,

I kind of had a break trough last new years eve. (or rather the week after). I had a particularly bad new years eve. I was confronted with a lot of my issues, and in combination with alcohol my thoughts became increasingly depressive and irrational. The next day, when sobered up, I was shocked by the thoughts I had that night. But these thoughts also magnified the issue, and in the coming days I realized what these issues and feelings originated from. These feelings originated from a past being bullied at school. And particularly I realized that my life is currently completely different, making these feelings completely irrational and not applicable to the situation. This realization turned a switch in my head.
I decided that my new years resolution would be to turn around my life, and actually do the things I want to do. Persue my dreams, and stop worrying about what other people would think about me.

This did not have a direct connection to the procrastination issues I talked about before, but had a lot to do with other issues regarding more social situations.
I completely changed my attitude towards life, and towards my ambitions. And I became much more motivated to do the things to accomplish these ambitions.
It is this attitude and motivation that I lacked before, which was causing me to postpone all these things like taxes and important e-mails and even laundry. It were not the fears related to my past that caused the procrastination, but rather my general attitude towards life resulting from this past.

I wouldn’t say that these procrastination issues are now solved over night, but I am at least motivated to work on it. I used to think that I somehow lacked the discipline and that this was just my nature. I now realize that discipline is not related to your nature, but to your general attitude and motivation towards life.

So you will need to work out what is actually bothering you. Then look at your current life: are the reasons for your fears still present in your current life? If your issues result from your past, then you will probably notice that your fears are actually completely irrelevant an applicable to your daily life as it is right now.
Now this sounds a bit easier than it is. Before new years eve, I thought I knew all this already. But like every thing in life, you do not realize the actual reasons unitl something happens. It can be someone saying something on the right moment, or it can be something extraordinary. But usually it is an event, unpleasantly confronting you with yourself. In my case a very depressing new years eve…

If your issues are persisting, these kind of events will undoubtedly manifest themselves in your life. But only if you keep trying to become aware of the origins of your issues, you will learn from these events.

84

I recall one occasion where my narc dad asked me some political type question and wanted to know which side I was on. I was a kid and knew nothing about the issue and had no opinion and said so. He demanded an answer from me. Since I knew he’d hit me if I didn’t, I picked a side. He then proceeded to berate my choice. I can’t even tell you what the topic was. Crazy.

85

My father used to say you twit or you dill if I tried to talk at the dinner table. My mother used to tell my father and us kids to shut up. The conversation at dinner revolved around our mother either telling dad to shut up because he made to much noise eating or mum telling us children off. Not pleasant

86

Welcome Lorraine
Yes ~ NOT pleasant at all!
Thanks for sharing!
Hugs, Darlene

Julie,
Welcome to EFB ~ sounds like you were set up to get told off. That is really common with abusive controllers. They want to ‘yell and berate’.
Yuck! Thanks for sharing,
Hugs, Darlene

87

Ah! And let’s face it: your ability to think may have led to your thinking they are not who and what they say they are. It may have led you to put two and two together. Far far too dangerous – for you and them. I really do believe my ability to think clearly on a consistent basis was so muddied it was very much compromised then and still profoundly affects me to this day. We know the brain changes in radical ways with toxic stress. The scans are in as evidence.
So, it led to a belief I held unconsciously, of course, for a long time: thinking is indeed dangerous. There may be conclusions you may not want to reach. Best not to!! I’ve been vigilantly reevaluating such a premise lately.

88

PS With mixed results I may add. I just know I was an intelligent young child who could’ve done so much ‘better’ than I have, given less dire circumstances. This is not about pitying myself, this is trying to make a reasonably objective reflection…!
I wonder if anyone else thinks similarly?

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