Oct
06

Thanksgiving and Gratitude ~ when the little voice rebels

By

overcoming depression

against all odds

It is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada and I have been thinking about gratitude these past few days in relation to the past and the present.  I had been in the process of ‘trying’ to heal a lot longer than I have been in the actual process of healing and I have many new insights today that I didn’t have in the past.

Something that sprang to mind this morning while I was doing my gratitude journal* was how much the way that I practice gratitude has changed over the last few years.

I have heard most of my adult like that practicing gratitude is one of the most important aspects in any kind of recovery and I am no newbie to the action of being grateful. What is different today is that I don’t have that little voice in the background reprimanding me for my failure with the concept of gratitude.

For example, my gratitude practice in the past would go something like this:

“I am grateful for the abundance in my life! I have food, shelter, clothing and friends. I have everything I need” and the little reprimanding voice full of self-defeating disgust would respond “jeeze but you still think you are so hard done by; you have no excuse for ever being depressed, you have no excuse for ever being sad, you are pathetic and you SHOULD be grateful. If you were really grateful you would not have any of those ‘problems’ that you have.”

The problem is that I didn’t actually ‘hear’ the voice. It was hidden under the surface of my mind, whispering at me constantly, tearing me down in my subconscious and I didn’t actually ‘hear it’ until I began to discover and face what my belief system really was. As long as I was not ‘hearing’ that voice, I wasn’t aware of how self-sabotaging and destructive that it was to me. I was working against myself and in many ways practicing gratitude was counter-productive!

I thought I was practicing gratitude but the fact is that I every time I did a gratitude list I quickly put myself through a self-harming reprimanding session immediately afterwards, in my subconscious mind. So practicing gratitude had little if any lasting effect!

It was in learning how to recognize that little voice and where it originated that I was able to silence it. Not by telling that inner voice to shut up but by replacing the self-defeating comments with the truth. I did that by finding out where they came from in the first place and by validating that I was not my biggest problem, my unhappiness and depressions had a root and my self-esteem went missing and was undermined long before I ever had a say in my own life. (I talk about this in depth throughout this entire website)

Every morning I practice gratitude; I am thankful for the wonders and blessings in my life. I am grateful for my kids, my home and my emotional recovery. I am grateful for my persistence, my passion and the love that I have for the message of hope and healing. I am grateful for each of the donations that I receive to help with the costs of maintaining this website. I am grateful for the clients that I work with; for what I learn from them, for the gift of being part of their growth and their emotional healing process and for the fact that because of my clients I am also able to contribute to our family expenses and financial needs. I am grateful to each reader and to each person who is courageous enough to comment here and share in the healing process in that way.  I am grateful for the beauty in the world and for the way that I seem to have a gift for communicating the message of healing and hope for healing. Each day I am grateful for different things but there are some things that dominate the list; I am grateful that I have found ME.

Each of my statements is true and today there is no other little sabotaging voice that tears down what I am building up. I have silenced that voice by doing the healing and self-validating work that I talk about every day in this website.

When I practice gratitude as an action today, it is very effective and for that I am especially grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving! I am happy to be ‘thanksgiving’ every day as part of my self-care and self-love practices. Gratitude builds me up now that I have been able to overide the voice by listening to it and finding the root.

Please share about the little voice in your own life. Does it ever come up when you are practicing gratitude? Are you or have you ever been aware of a little voice? Are you sure it is your voice or is it also the voice of someone else? How do you respond to it?  If you are aware of it and have always just responded to it by telling it to shut up, what do you think about listening to it as a way of getting to the root of it?

With love and in truth;

Darlene Ouimet

*my gratitude journal; I spend at least 10 minutes each morning writing about what I am grateful for. It is amazing how much I have learned from doing this.

Categories : Therapy

41 Comments

1

I was JUST thinking about my ‘background voice’ this morning… and the tearing down it does to me throughout the day! I love how you said that it was ‘beneath the surface’ and it really has taken some paying close attention to even hear it. In the past I would get SO depressed, and ‘randomly’ have such intense anxiety that I’d have attacks at any minute and they’d be so intense I’d find myself curled up in a dark corner on the floor somewhere, sobbing and shaking til it passed. Through therapy, personal work, and reading on EFB – I’ve come to see that it wasn’t all random. This judgmental voice constantly playing in the background is naturally GOING to effect you psychologically and even physically.

Today, I was thinking about it as if a literal person was following me everywhere I go. As if that voice was actually someone shadowing you with the constant barrage of criticism – “You left that hand towel looking a mess, straighten it up! I guess you WOULDN’T care how anything looks in your house since you’ve obviously failed on that end.” …and… “Why are you just laying around? You’re just being lazy and not setting a good enough example for your kids! It doesn’t matter if you’re feeling out of it today. Your husband won’t want to keep you around if you don’t get up and get something done! I don’t know why you think you deserve a day off! You’re a housewife – your job NEVER stops, neither should you!” … and on and on and on it goes. If it WAS an actual person standing next to us, it’d be so much easier to identify and deal with. But, because each thought has to be ‘caught in the act’ and then delved into … it’s a lot of work. But, I can truly tell it is making a difference in me. Because, now – when I start feeling low, I can step back and see WHY I’m having a hard time. Knowing that it is possible to learn from that inner critic and then move on in a healthy way is so encouraging! Hopefully that inner critic will be gone someday – til then, I’m just going to have to keep trying to ‘use it’ to understand things better – and then re-teach myself to have a nurturing ‘inner voice’.
KR

2

Yes, I had/have a little voice that tells me things like “you have no reason to be unhappy, look at all the people who are worse off than you next time you want to complain” and also one that told me that I was a horrible girl and that I’d better be careful or I’d show everybody what a horrible person I was. The first voice came first from well-meaning, but still unhelpful people, and the second originated from an uncle of mine (who I now know was just a mean, emotionally abusive human being but I was a child then).

Later a voice was added that told me that because I ‘lost my virginity’ after being sexually abused at the age of 7 I was ‘damaged goods’ and that most likely no man would ever be able to want me so I should be satisfied with being no more than an affair in which I would be used until he found somebody truly worthy of his love.

I probably don’t have to describe the effects of this.

I still hear these internal voices from time to time, but at least I argue with them now. And I’m in the process of learning how to express gratitude without associating it with a feeling that I should dismiss my feelings of depression and the effects of verbal and physical abuse but it’s still hard at times. At least I can honestly say that I’m finally starting to truly heal, and that I can be grateful for that.

3

Hi all!

Kera, you are so right about “catching thoughts in the act”. I now confront my little voice and challenge it. I keep a gratitude journal and the things that I give thanks for are my health, my beautiful daughter, my home and the abundance I have. And I also give thanks for myself, for my strength and fortitude, for my willingness to undertake the quest to heal, to become authentically me, and not who I was told that I was. As a child I constantly had it stuffed down my throat that I should be grateful for having such wonderful parents, and for the fact that they had brought me into the world. From a very early age, I felt unworthy of my parents, as though I didnt really deserve their love or anything they did for me. I felt “less than” them. When you are a kid, you dont realise that it is your parents JOB to love and look after you, and that they are not doing you some kind of favour by ensuring your survival. In my early teens, my mother once told me “You are not fit to lick the soles of my shoes and you never will be”. That feeling of unworthiness followed me through life, making me pathetically grateful when anyone was kind to me, and when they were unkind and abusive, I felt that this was justified. And oh that bloody voice! That critical inner dialogue that turned me into a neurotic, people -pleasing perfectionist, a workaholic, an excercise addict, a bulimic, a secret drinker, etc, ect…… And Elsa, I too, felt like damaged goods after being raped at 13, and I spent years feeling terrified that someone would see the “real me” and be rightfully disgusted. Thats what made me so afraid to be authentic, I felt so unnaceptable. Another aspect of gratitude I used to struggle with was, being grateful for what I had, but feeling it was downright ungrateful to ask for anything more. “The voice” used to tell me I should appreciate the fact that I wasnt living on the streets, as this was what I really deserved. This made me play small, frightened to outshine anyone else. And I tended to attract people who had a huge sense of entitlement, which made me feel even smaller and more undeserving! So yes, the concept of gratitude has often, for me, been a double-edged sword.

Love, Sylvia x

4

Hi Darlene,
This post is so valuable. Of course, I have that little voice too. I don’t know how anyone with mothers like the ones we talk about here, could escape having that internal dialogue. You asked an interesting question about whose voice it really is. For me, sometimes it IS my mother. Sometimes, it’s just my training, it’s embedded in my natural thought processes. I’m grateful for this reminder to stop that voice. It must be an enormous part of healing…. reprogramming our natural thought processes as dictated to us by the almighty mother.

Kera,
I loved how you put that too ~ “catch the thoughts in the act”. It’s so true. It’s also so difficult. Since that’s our natural process as a result of what we’ve heard for so long, it’s very challenging to stop what comes naturally to us/me.

I came across a gratitude journal a few months ago when I was cleaning out some drawers. It was from 2003/4 if I remember right. I remembered that when I kept that journal, I always wrote in it at night. I also remember that if I was too tired, or wanted to skip it for whatever reason, that alone would make me feel ungrateful. It had become a duty. Like if I wasn’t grateful for the events of the day, I was automatically an ungrateful slouch. I did it because I thought I SHOULD do it. Not because of any enjoyment or freedom it could bring.

To this day, I don’t care to journal about anything. I have learned how healing it is for me personally. I still don’t like to do it. If I try to think about WHY I don’t like to do it, I think it’s because I have to face things I’d rather just let slide. Not healthy. I also think it’s because I view it as giving time to myself and somewhere underneath everything, I still think I don’t deserve that.

My mother was a woman who tried to instill a drive in us to work ourselves to death. Nothing came before work, and a hardcore work ethic. (except for her. These rules didn’t apply to her). I think as a result of that, I’m still holding myself to that standard. I don’t feel comfortable even, if I’m not doing something productive, even CREATING work for myself. I do think, as a result of all that training, it’s just tough for me to sit down and write. Although it is productive, I am stuck in the mindset that it doesn’t produce something tangible when I’m done.

It feels totally different when I write here. I give myself this time and freedom to write here. I can type far faster than I can write. Maybe that’s the hangup. Perhaps I should try typing a journal instead. Other than that, I can’t really put my finger on why I give myself the freedom to type here as much as I want, but writing in a journal is a struggle. I’m going to have to ponder that one.

Peace and Hope,
Mimi
PS ~ Sylvia, I’ve known that pathetically grateful feeling before too. It lays a nice path for people to walk all over us. It also causes people to look at me like I have a third eye at times. UGH!

5

Hi Kera
EXCELLENT comments! This was exactly the way that I realized it was going on for me too. I remember when I considered the voice to BE another person and I confronted it; I said “oh ya??? well what else is bugging you? tell me everything” at first I argued with the voice! But then I went even deeper to see where it originated to see why I was saying / believing those things about myself. That was where the healing began!

I am not sure that my inner critic is totally gone, but I hear it right away now or almost right away. And I know what to look for, so it gets resolved more quickly for me. The practice of doing that kind of self talk and listening to the horrible critical voice was SO helpful in all of this.
Thanks for sharing!
Hugs, Darlene

6

Elsa
Yes, I did that too and for me the thought that “so many people had it worse than me and what the heck was I complaining aobut” was not even under the surface! I said it to myself all the time and realized that I looked for friends that I could believe had it worse than me so I could say this to myself! I also believed that I was a horrible person and that people would ‘find out’ about me if I wasn’t very careful. I call this my “imposter issue”. That has also been resolved.
Thank you for sharing all of this! These are excellent comments!
Hugs, Darlene

7

Hi Sylvia
That is the root of brainwashed about gratitude for me TOO ~ that I should be grateful. What a horrible thing for a PARENT to say to a child; that you are not fit to lick the soles of my shoes! Gosh, what a thing to say! SO demeaning and disgusting. What a message! And think about where we got the message in the first place that we are damaged goods! I had to think about all that.
Thank you so much for sharing!
Hugs, Darlene

8

Mimi
My journals or writing exercises are ALL in typing. I just call it writing. I start a new one each month and I do look back on some of them.
About the voices and ‘who they were’. The way I began to see it is that some voices did originate (most actually) with someone elses message to me about me, but I had learned to ‘take over where they left off’. And that was the key for me in breaking the neg. self talk.
You are making great points about being worth or not being worth the effort. This is a huge thing in the overcoming community.
Thanks for sharing!
Hugs, Darlene

9

Hello everyone:
I have journaled my thoughts for the past 2 years. A new one each month. It has helped me see my progress. I have never heard of a gratitude journal. I guess the subject of gratitude would be considered a trigger for me. Oh the bad thoughts and memories that brings up. I “had to” be very verbally grateful constantly in my childhood or I would be belittled as the worst thing ever… “ungrateful”.

I was told to pick out a special gift one Christmas. Taken to the store to pick it out. I did. At the time I was told one of another color, my Dad’s choice was nicer. That is the one I got. Put together incorrectly but I had to be loudly eturnelly grateful for the damaged gift. I know that sounds petty but in 10 yrs it was the only nice thing I ever got. So gratitude leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
I had to express my gratitude to my parents for the smallest thing or be put down.

I am certainly grateful for all the fine people and things in my life today but I don’t speak of it much because I was forced so often to be falsely grateful for things that should be a normal process in life.

I never had the mean little voice until I had my meltdown after my son’s death. Its like I lost control of my coping methods. (which were self harmful) As I tried to come to terms with my life and emotions the voice sprang to life. Mostly after family put downs. I just couldn’t cope and no one would listen. I coped in very bad ways and began to beat myself up emotionally for the fact that I could not longer suppress my feelings. I am not allowed to have or express feelings in my family. I was so depressed I felt I didn’t deserve anything anymore because I could no longer be in control of myself.

Now I see what is at the root of the voice and now I question..”why do you think that?” It helps.
I learned that here. NC with my abusive family, meds and EFB and I’m getting better.

10

Yes, I do have a background voice, but it seems to be a bit different. It seems to be on my side in some way, but it won’t let me feel grateful, just gives me pain when I try. When I’m trying to practice gratitude, it’s like a part of me comes in and interprets that as me “admitting” that I have been “lucky” – and nothing could be further from the truth. The voice says “Grateful? What do you have to be grateful for? Are you going to let them win? You know that they want to take credit for what little you have. You know *they* want you to be grateful. As if everything you have didn’t come from your/our own hard work. They taught you nothing – yet you learned how to take care of yourself slowly and by yourself. Being grateful is being grateful to them. Don’t be grateful. Be proud.” The story of my family has always been that of people either being born with “talents” or “gifts”, and insanely enough they’ve been treating me as if I’ve “had it easy” because I was born “talented”, to be able to learn things on my own. It is incredibly unfair since I’ve practically haven’t had a home since my early teens because I had to run away. I had to try to sleep on buses or in cellars to get some sleep sometimes because I didn’t have anywhere to go. I had no money for food, nothing. I feel a lot of rage thinking of how they can think of me in that way – that I’m fairly ok now, has taken an enormous amount of struggle and energy, cost me so much health, still does. But whenever I’m blessed with a little bit of luck or good opportunity, they treat me as if I don’t deserve it. And they insinuate that I should be “grateful”. So, I do understand that voice. If I could negotiate with that voice somehow, and say that we’re not going to be grateful to them, but somehow let ourselves enjoy the good things we have today….I don’t know. I’m grateful to all the good people in the world, that stand up to abuse and abusers, and spread light and encouragement to the ones who suffer and are surrounded by darkness. Love!

11

Hi everyone,

I do journal—I have my entire life; I don’t know if I would ever know what I was thinking or feeling, otherwise. I don’t have a specific gratitude journal but I think it would be a big source of feelings of guilt and obligation if I did. Sometimes I think it would be beneficial to me, though, if on a particularly happy, good day when I’m capable of really seeing and feeling all that I’ve accomplished and all the good that has come into my life, that I write it all down, so that on crappy days I can read it and be reminded. That said, in my normal journal, gratitude is definitely there, whenever I’m feeling it, and also I have now managed to create a new “voice” that, when I’m beating myself up or feeling down, will (eventually) kick in and remind me (in a non-reprimanding way) of the good stuff that’s happened. It’s a particular kind of gratitude—it’s not so much about how lucky I am for this, that or the other, but about the positive things that have come back to me because of all the effort I put into it, stuff that I’m grateful for but that also recognizes my hard work. I feel like this makes a big difference because I definitely relate to that “pathetically grateful” thing, too, and that’s not really helpful.

Since coming back from my trip and visiting my family, I’ve started to realize how much my brother’s voice is also a part of the make-up of that critical voice in my head, not just my mom and dad. I guess because I understood the way he treated me growing up wasn’t his “fault,” I’ve tried to push it aside, without really recognizing how much power it’s had. The fact that I believed all the mean things he’d say to me and just took it. I was taught to “ignore him,” the whole “sticks and stones” cliche and that “crying doesn’t do anything, there’s no point” (those were my mom words—she’d had two brothers and I guess she thought that having brothers meant you HAD to put up with this stuff, instead of teaching me that I was worth more, that it was wrong for my brother to do and say mean things, and to show me how to stick up for myself). His voice is a lot a part of the voice that causes me problems in socializing. Unless I know better, and try to negotiate with myself, it’s as though his voice represents all the judgments of my peer group.

I feel like I’m coming down from my trip and visit with my family and have been feeling low lately–I guess because I’ve given up the fight. Which is good. But it hurts. I have good things going in my life, people who appreciate me and see me, people I can have fun with but also with whom I can have meaningful conversations and experiences. I know that my life is going to be so much better. But right now I’m in pain… Before I went on my trip, my parents asked me to let them know if there was anything I was looking to come out of our meeting, and I replied just to have a nice, relaxed catch-up, that I had some things I wanted to address but would do so when I got back. Yesterday I finally replied to a note they’d sent me while I was still travelling around and told them that upon reflection, I had nothing to address, that if they ever wanted to talk to me about the past, I was open to that (via email) but if not, I was fine with things the way they are. Of course I’m not exactly “fine” but I’m at a place where I’ve already done everything I can do—it’s up to them now. I don’t even know that they’ll understand that it’s up to them. I want a relationship with my nephew and as long as I’m being respected and treated well, I can live with the upkeep of an acquaintanceship (when I’m in town or cards sent for birthdays and Xmas, that sort of thing), even if I never get validation or true acknowledgement, even if they never see me for who I am and I have to come to the conclusion that they are just people and not my parents.

12

Alaina,

I was wondering if your brother is the Golden Child in your family? If he did these thing and treated you that way, it may have been programmed into him by the family. My Golden Child brother once said to me as I was struggling with my parents in highschool, “You know Melody, you can have what I have, you need to just learn how to play the game.” Playing the family game was a game I never got good at. He had no rules, never had to clean anything and just did whatever he wanted. To this day as I look at things, even though he’s the favorite, I’m not sure if his relationship with them is based on love either. But he’s lucky, he was never hated like me. You did not deserve to be treated like that by your brother.

I also can identify with the letdown after seeing the family. It eats away at your soul to be near people who are abusive to you. I often wondered why I would feel so emotionally drained after every holiday or family get together. I did journal for many years during highschool, way before I even entertained the thought that my family situation was abusive. It’s really depressing to go back and look at the journals because it reminds me how long this has been going on. (And will obviously never change.) But, having said that I am glad to be here,on this website and in a new place where there the truth is known. It doesn’t change those who love or don’t love me in this life, but I know I wasn’t ever unworthy of love. Peace all…Thanks for listening…

13

Hi Karen
I don’t think that sounds petty at all. That was the message you got from somewhere but it isn’t the truth. It was in validating my right to feel discounted that I moved past what trying to deny those feelings had me stuck in. I think gratitude left a bad taste in my mouth too! That is why I had to re-define it and what it really means and see the ways that I was manipulated with it for what they were. Great comments!
Hugs, Darlene

14

Hi Miralina
I had to find a way to get ‘their voices’ out and mine in. I started off just being grateful for my ability and persistence with sorting through ‘the fog’ and my willingness to see the truth. Today my gratitude has nothing to do with my childhood at all. I switched my thoughts of grateful meant being grateful to them to I am grateful that I learned how to overcome what they taught me!
I like how you look at it in your last couple of sentences! yes!
Hugs, Darlene

15

Hi Alaina
I can relate to the brother stuff! I realized my older brothers voice was at the root of some of my critical voices too. He was pretty mean and communicated some really devaluing things to me.
About coming down from your trip ~ I went through a big period of ‘mourning’ and I have come to see it as many things one of them being that I mourned letting go of the fantasy of the family and love from family that I longed for. That mourning was part of accepting (or became part of accepting) that it wasn’t going to happen for me. And in reality, that was another truth that set me free, but it was a process to get to the other side of it where the freedom actually was!
Thanks for sharing!
hugs, Darlene

16

Hi Melody
I can relate in a huge way to feeling let down after family gatherings. I spent so much energy trying to be what they wanted instead of seeing how dysfunctional it all was. I spent so much energy trying to survive (not causing any problems and doing what was expected of me) and was not really allowed to just be me or have needs or desires in those relationships. Having to fit in with everyone’s expectations is exhausting!
Thanks for sharing,
Hugs, Darlene

17

Thanks Melody and Darlene for your thoughts!

Perhaps my brother is now the golden child, after I had the misfortune and inconvenience of having a breakdown eight years ago and the audacity to try to speak up for myself and take back my life. I don’t know. I don’t know about labels, especially about the past anymore. No one was getting their needs met, but we were all to greater and lesser extent marching to my mom’s drum (before my breakdown, it was probably me more than anyone else—I was pretty exemplary, which is why I had a breakdown—because it was way more responsibility than I could bear when I also wanted to have my own life). My brother definitely has qualities that remind me of my mom, though.

Yes, I think I am in mourning, Darlene. I’m very skeptical. Appearances and surface level stuff hold huge sway in my family, so as long as we’re getting along, it’s easy for them to pretend like that’s all there is to it, and if I’ve given up fighting for the acknowledgment but they’re willing to respect my boundaries because they don’t want to lose me, then it’s kind of an impasse, where we’ll all just skate along the surface. I’ve been wondering WHY lately. There’s my nephew, yes, but I was asking myself beyond that, why do this? Is it, not for “holding out” for the hope that the truth might one day be recognized, but for keeping things open for the possibility that it might? If you understand that under the surface of having a decent time as acquaintances (small-talk stuff) and having boundaries respected, your mother still doesn’t take accountability for the very real damage and pain she has caused in your life because she did not take responsibility for being a mother, has yet to, and believes that it’s YOU who are wrong (but just keeps her opinion to herself), WHY would you go out of your way to spend time with that woman? The only answer I can come up with is that despite everything, under the surface you still love your mother, you still care about her, even if quite possibly she doesn’t actually love you, maybe because she can’t because she can’t deal with her own damage, I don’t know—but all she can do at best is respect your boundaries and try to be pleasant because she knows she’ll lose you otherwise and she “needs” you—that that’s the closest thing to real love you’re ever going to get from her (which is extremely far from real love). And that is a sad, sad answer, in my opinion. Simply having my boundaries respected and being able to get along on a surface level, without the truth being acknowledged, are not particularly enticing reasons to have a relationship. I certainly won’t put a lot into it if that’s how it goes. I guess just enough to keep it breathing for whatever possibility (particularly with my dad, if there’s hope, I’m not sure) and so that I can have a relationship with my nephew. Even if there’s a possibility that I’ll be acknowledged in the future, I think it’s best that I just consider it “over.” That’s how I feel and I think it’s best to go with it. I want to grieve it and move on, even if I’m still keeping some measure of relationship, though I don’t know how long you can really keep up a relationship like that—it’s kind of like keeping it on life-support. You know that it would otherwise be dead.

18

I agree with what you just said Alaina. I have felt the “mourning” feeling but also a feeling of lightness, as if a terrible weight has been lifted from me. Its that fake relationship that we have had for the past 9 years.
Very superficial. On the surface it looks OK, but underneath its as aweful as it ever was. Since its OK for them and awful for me thats OK with the family. They will never see me or accept me for myself. They have had 9 years since my controlling Dad’s death to show real feelings but both my mother and golden child brother have held to the old patterns of treatment.
After 50 years of treating me that way, there is no benefit to them to treat me fairly. They always look at how something benefits them before they do anything.
I guess I am lucky in that they do not hold sway over any other family members because they don’t approve of any one so have never had contact. They consider themselves above the rest of the family. .In manners, behavior, marriage partners, education, livelihood, you name it.
I hope it works out for you. I am happy to just be NC. Karen

19

Alaina
I totally relate to your newest comment; Looking back on my process, it all happened/happens in stages or layers. And each layer comes before the next layer (logical I know but sometimes I tried to skip layers which didn’t work) and the only way to see the deeper truth is to see the layer on top of it and peel it back. Just as each exposed layer and accepting the truth of that layer was painful, it also led me closer the freedom because I SAW the truth and made a new decision about my reaction and action with each level.
Your life support analogy is excellent!
Hugs, Darlene

20

Thanks for your words, Karen. I’m sorry your (our) family treats us this way. I know what you mean about the feeling of lightness; I’ve had this and I know more is on its way. It is complicated managing things with the different family members, also between my mom and dad. I know in my bones that my mom, for example, is completely capable of hating me; my dad I think would have a heart attack before a speck of him could even approach hating me. I’m not even sure he could hold anger for me for very long. He is a completely gentle spirit, who gets torn up because he can’t stand up. But knowing that doesn’t help me. I can’t help that he is and was too afraid to be my dad. What you said about even after your Dad’s death, things didn’t change makes me wonder. It rings true. I could see even if my mom died, he’d still retain his loyalty to her. His parents died when he was 30 and 30 years later I think he is still controlled by them. I thought about the one thing that could happen where I could have things addressed; it’s if they recognized that it was only surface-level and ever asked me what they could do to make the relationship better. Then I would be free to say: “I’d like you to acknowledge your part in what happened to me. I’d like you to recognize the damage and pain you caused in my life. I’d like you to show me that you understand what the impact your actions (or inactions) had on my life in the short term and the longterm. I’d like to know that you understand the kind of belief system that instilled in me and what kind of future that set me up for. I’d like to know that you know that I deserved better and what that would’ve looked like and what that would’ve meant for me and my life.” I realize that there’s a very slim chance that this will happen, and even if the question got asked, another slim chance it would be answered (from what I know of my dad, he could probably answer but not ask). Anyway, I decided that since I can’t know this will ever happen in real life, I will write it to myself as if I am them. I wrote out that letter about what I wanted them to acknowledge specifically, telling them what they did to me, reaching out for validation, etc. (a letter which, because of my circumstances, I realized I could not give them), so now I’m going to write out the reply to it, that they will likely never give me, but that I can give to myself. Thanks again for writing, for your support and well wishes! I think you are really, really strong and I’m grateful for you and everyone else here on this site.

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Thanks, Darlene. I totally know what you mean about the layers (and trying to skip them, too!) I also tried to do this entire process on an intellectual level only for quite a few years (that was probably necessary, too, though).

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Oh, gosh, it’s me again! You know, I was thinking I’ve been writing that letter to myself in my journal for years now, zillions of times over. It isn’t good enough to show myself validation, value, respect, etc. in writing, in private, but not in the way I live my life among others. So if what I’m doing, keeping things only on the surface for fear of repercussions, isn’t valuing myself (and I get that it isn’t—it’s living by the surface level that nearly killed me in the first place), then it isn’t right. I’m just not sure yet how to deal with the different dynamics at play. For now, we’re living in different provinces and I just got back from my trip and there’s no pressing need.

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Darlene,

For me, I can’t be grateful for what I have today because I had and still have to struggle each day which is not fair. I should have normal parents.

I can’t be grateful, because my non father always told me to be grateful to have a roof, parents, food. I had to earn all of this things and I had to work hard to earn his “love”.

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“I had to earn all of this things and I had to work hard to earn his “love”.

That’s just hit me right between the eyes, how very true.

It’s crazy just how hard the vast majority of posters on this site have had to work for the very basic things in life when growing up.

Lazy? I don’t think so!!

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There is a voice in my head praising me today because THIS year I didn’t cave to peers at at annual event. I am here on my own agenda and that feels wonderful! If someone wanted to spend time with me one-on-one I would not necessarily turn them down, but to do group events just because we are expected to do them, NO, I am doing what is good for me including eating gluten free meals.

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Hi R,

Yes, we were not lazy at all even if my parents loved to label me like that and I’m sure, I’m not the only one.

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Hi Alaina
Stick with this train of thought. I see this as a breakthrough and not all of them come with clarity right away!
Hugs, Darlene

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Hi R and Aurele
Yes being forced to ‘work for love’ and to ‘earn love’ IS NOT LOVE. I had to get really angry about some of this stuff before I was able to really face the depth of the damage that it did. (or perhaps the anger went hand in hand with the facing!)
Thanks for sharing,
Hugs, Darlene

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Good Article, Darlene. However, I actually, enjoy telling my inner critique to shut-up! I took her crap for too long!lol! I don’t here from her as much these days because she knows she will only get so far and then I go back to listening to myself. I do a much better job of making decisions and guiding my life than my inner critique did. Now, I really believe, deep down in my heart, that God loves me, and made me to be only me, and that’s a very wonderful things. The critisizing, heartless, schrew who’s aim was to drive me to destruction has been replaced. Self-acceptance is a new trait that I’m very grateful to have fought for and won! I’m also, very grateful for EFB where I found courage to win the final battles. I fought the war for decades and it took a surge to finally, win. Victory is sweet! I too have much to be thankful for.

Love,
Pam

30

Hi Everyone
Remember last January when Kylie Devi guest posted about the difficulties that she had when she tried to get help from so called “mental health professionals” for the abuse she suffered in childhood? Well there were some unexpected results from her writing about her abuse in public; her abusers found out about it. Today I have published the follow up post from Kylie where she shares how this contact from her aubsers caused her to shut down and how she overcame that. I am really lookin forward to the conversation on this new post!
You can read it here “Breaking through the Fear of Speaking about Child Abuse” by Kylie Devi
Hugs, Darlene

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Thanks Darlene,
I’m thinking of sending an addendum to the email I sent my parents, just stating that “while I am fine with where things are at presently” [because honestly my meeting with them did go as well as I hoped for and it was a good beginning but…], “I am hoping that we will eventually have a common understanding of the past and that at some point in the future, when I am ready, and if you are willing and able, you could come out here for a visit and to go to a counselling session with me.”

This way, I figure I can feel at peace with where things are at—the acquaintance level—without feeling like I’m falling back into that old pattern of having the issues swept under the carpet because I will know that we’re working toward something. I did ask them to go to counselling for themselves, and if I am to believe them and they are now going, there’s no harm to give them more time as well to hopefully work their own process, so we’ll all be further along and there’s more hope of things working out… the other part that I like about this is that when I decided to cut off contact, my mom was pretty irate and she was wondering why I never took her up on her suggestion to go to counselling with her (though she knew why—I told her that I wasn’t ready, that at that point I knew I’d shut down even before entering the door, I was nowhere near strong enough–I could barely even read her email, I was scared shitless). Or why I didn’t go over to their place (on the island) to spend a few months with them to work things out (apparently she wanted me to quit working and leave my apartment on the mainland) and she kept saying, “Why is that, Alaina? Why is that?” all through her email. So I like that it’s a request that they come out here to visit—and when I’m ready, not like last summer, when everyone was pushing to see my therapist even when I said I wasn’t ready to reconnect with them yet. My experience of my family was always of being pressured and invaded and rushed and never, ever having enough time and space (particularly internal space), and then my reaction to that is to want to push hard against it, and so a lot of my internal experiences are like that with my internal parents, but the pushing back is very rarely a smart move and makes me feel incredibly topsy-turvy. Stepping back, giving myself the time and space I need so that I’m not stressed out and reactive is much, much better… I do need to be acknowledged, to be seen. I won’t put up with a relationship where we pretend nothing happened–that isn’t self-respecting. But I don’t need it to happen right this second. I just need them to know that that’s where I would like us to be heading toward.

Something I am grateful for is my job. I’m a baker and I have to say making bread is an incredibly good job to have while working this process. The hours are admittedly weird, starting at 3AM or earlier but it’s incredibly satisfying. In another post someone talked about quitting their job or schooling to go work in a diner. That’s basically what I did—and I’m so glad that I did it!

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I wish I could say I practice gratitude, but I don’t think about it. I am reminded at how far I’ve come by my therapist, before then it was my grandma but she has passed. My story is long and I have not ever repeated it in a public forum before. I have been in therapy using EMDR to overcome my ptsd, depression and anxiety for two years now. I have estranged myself from my entire family since Dec. 2011, a permanent decision that has helped restore some of my self.
Am I aware of that little voice? Yes and no. It used to be very loud before I started recovery, but now it is quiet and I wasn’t aware at how vicious and abusive it is. I can’t understand why it stays with me, but I can tell you it says the same things my mom would. While I’ve made major strides in my recovery, one area I struggle with is when that voice comes along, I want to call someone, anyone to tell me this isn’t the truth. When I tell myself that truth, why can’t I believe it? Why does it mean more coming from someone else? My self-esteem will not stay consistent, and my therapist says I need to learn how to be my own best friend. I feel like I do work at it more than I used to, but how does someone become these things when they never had it? I do not have a healthy reference.
I respond to this voice by telling myself it isn’t true and I tell myself positive affirmations but I am not convinced.
I know why the voice starts, and who it is. My mother will never think I am good enough and I have yet to believe this whole heartedly. I have been working on my recovery since 2007, but this area feels hopeless. Darlene, how did you become your own best friend? How did you build your self-esteem without relying on the words others?
And when I am ready to share my story, how do we do it on here?

Thankful for your website and reading since December 2011.
Summer

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Hi Coffee 79 ~ Summer
You are IN the process. 🙂 Your questions are excellent and I am going to address them in a new blog post. I will put a comment here when the post is published. It is about time I revisited this subject all in one place so thank you for the idea.
As far as sharing your story, you are welcome to post in in a comment or in the freedom rocks category, but as of right now I don’t have a special section for personal stories.
Great to hear from you!
hugs, Darlene

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Well, I’m going to continue my train of thought here on this thread. I think I’ve got it. I now know what gestures I am looking for from each of my parents and that there is nothing I can do to get them to take these actions. All I can do is be myself. And more importantly, after much anguish last night, today I realized this: my nephew does not need a dysfunctional aunt. If doing what it takes to heal means risking losing my nephew, it is still better odds than if I don’t do what it takes and remain in the system—-because then in the long run we are almost guaranteed to both lose out. I have to do what I have to do. I also now have a pretty good idea of the timeline for the “life-support” I’m giving this situation. It may change of course, but it feels right. Whatever happens, I truly feel like I am/will be at peace with it because I know I am following my heart and my truth. Thanks so much, Darlene, for guiding me through so much of this process.

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Hi Alaina
This is really healthy. I went through all this too and sometimes when I feel sad for some of the loses I have had, I have to weigh it out this was again. Living in the definition of “best” didn’t come easy for me nor did my understanding of what love really is. (especially ‘self love and best’ together) You are doing really awesome and I value all that you share here with the other readers and with me!
Hugs, Darlene

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[…] Become Your Own Best Friend By Darlene Ouimet Earlier this week I received a comment on the post “Thanksgiving and Gratitude ~ When the little voice rebels” and a commenter asked some excellent questions. Since I get questions like these frequently, I […]

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Hi Everyone and Coffee 79!
I have answered the questions about “how did I become my own best friend” in a new post! I have also answered the questions “why do I look for validation outside of myself”?
You can read it here:

“On How to Become Your Own Best Friend”

Looking forward to the discussion on this one
Hugs, Darlene

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Gratitude for all the good things! I’d like to celebrate these good things as it does outweigh the pain of my life and we all need to make these goodness, these blessings, these nice things be more important that the broken parts of our lives. I am not there yet, but I am working towards it. The glass is indeed half full and I need to be fully conscious and determined to see my life positively. I know it will be so much better than being bitter 🙂 Thanks again for this site Darlene!!! Its another one to be thankful for!!

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“jeeze but you still think you are so hard done by; you have no excuse for ever being depressed, you have no excuse for ever being sad, you are pathetic and you SHOULD be grateful. If you were really grateful you would not have any of those ‘problems’ that you have.”

I used to get speeches exactly like this from my mother. Not about gratitude, but because I expressed sadness.

When I have hard days, days that I’m afraid or angry or sad, feeling vulnerable and weak, those judgments come in and make it worse. Not once has the voice of judgment soothed my pain. It’s only driven me to run away or fight. And the things I run from or fight have nothing to do with the pain.

I am artistic. I can create beauty. My mom did not like that (because I had talents she did not) and I found myself hiding my creativity more and more until one day I just stopped and my creative self was gone. So I thought.

I can finally draw again. I can draw things I never would have considered before.

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I am grateful for:

the still small voice in me that would not allow me to stay in the dysfunctional family system that branded me as the scapegoat and incessantly told me that I was not good enough.

my inner voice has spurred me on to seek out blogs, groups, pages, counselors, and resources to confirm my reality and lead me toward a healthier life.

the process of healing, which is a slow but deeply meaningful process.

the ability to be conscious of my own afflictions so that I can pursue healing instead of remaining stuck in them.

the ability to recognize that nagging critical voice that persist in tearing me down and the ability to deal with it without suppression, rejection, or fear.

And, along with other things… you blog which has provided me with a lot of understanding of the healing process.

Beth

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I have that critical inner voice inside me as well. I discovered that it was the voice of my jealous, narcissistic mother. When I was growing up, if I expressed any joy or pride in an accomplishment, there she was waiting to cut me down. As an adult, whenever I did something good, I would lessen its importance, especially if someone else gave me compliments about it. Now, I realize that I continued my mother’s abuse with that inner critical voice. Thank goodness I am moving out of her house in two weeks! I’d rather starve than take any more of her jabs!
Also, I am thankful for Darlene’s blog. Without her, I would never have been able to get out of the victim mode. I am also thankful for everyone here who validated my feelings and made me realize that I was not the one who was at fault and that I was not alone. I think I better go buy that grateful journal before I fill up this page! 🙂

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