Emotional Abuse and Identity Hunger


Carla Dippel Co-Authored this blog with me for the first 6 months of its life.  I am really excited to welcome Carla back again as a guest blogger!  As always please feel free to contribute to this wonderful post by leaving your feedback and comments.  ~ Darlene Ouimet, founder of Emerging from Broken

It is easy for me to understand the concepts of recovery on an intellectual level. What helps the truth in my head become real in my heart is action of some kind, and this is something I find really tough. Almost a year ago, I decided to sign up with a matchmaking service. My conscious reason was to engage in the process of finding a life partner. In the last few months, I’ve discovered a subconscious reason: to overcome some of my greatest fears through real life situations in an area that has been one of my greatest struggles: the realm of romantic relationships with men.

Please know that I’m not recommending everyone should approach their recovery in this way. It has its benefits and definite challenges. But this is one approach that I chose for myself. It’s a way that I have found that I “test” my new truth foundations.

A few months ago I met a guy and fell for him head over heels. He was intelligent, cute, confident, and successful. He drove a Porsche (yes, that was attractive to me too!) He was very polite and kind, considerate, not pretentious. He engaged in his world, knew what he liked and what he wanted. He was ambitious. He had stories to tell and goals and dreams to pursue. We dated for a month and a half. I believed I had found “the one.” As it had been some time since I had felt this way towards a man, I fell pretty hard.

All the while, I was absolutely anxious. I chalked it up to “my own issues” and tried to relax. But it never really went away. It’s difficult to be 100% honest with yourself in the midst of falling in love… It was in hindsight that I realized I had questioned from the beginning whether he was equally as interested in me as I was in him. I had gut feelings that I ignored, hoping I was wrong (because I wanted to be wrong). I over-analyzed and panicked time after time because, as much as I so highly admired him, at the very same time I compared myself to him and believed I came up short. I loved that he was ambitious, but was I equally so? I loved that he engaged with his world, but I couldn’t really talk about worldly things like he could… I loved that he was so kind and considerate, and subsequently put huge amounts of pressure on myself to be just as kind, and in the same way as him. I looked at him and believed he was so much better than me. My heart broke when I finally realized this, but in comparing myself to him, I looked at my own growth and emerging identity and felt it was worthless. My anxiety actually turned into mild arthritis in my right hand… And I could sense that I was turning myself off both in and outside of the relationship.

The relationship ended, and I fell into some deep self-loathing and depression which was really scary. I hadn’t felt that depressed since before I started counseling. All the truth I had learned somehow seemed hollow. My friends told me that I ultimately deserved better and that it wasn’t my fault. In my head I understood what they were saying. But my heart only felt the pain of rejection. And the pain of something else… something even more important for me to pay attention to. I started to realize that I may not have been in love with this guy as much as I was desperate for him to fill a certain hunger in my soul. My admiration for him over-rode my gauge on whether or not he was actually a good relationship match for me. As I was subconsciously hoping to do, I came face to face with a belief still echoing from my childhood- that in and of myself I was not “enough.” Still struggling to turn this belief around, I began functioning in the hope that if I could attach myself to this man I admired, all of the qualities I saw in him that I wanted for myself would somehow rub off on me and I would finally become a person of equal value.

It’s like an identity hunger. Seeking this kind of “self defining” from a man makes a lot of sense to me.  In my last guest post “Emotional Abuse and Anger” (click the title to visit) I described the nature of the emotional abuse from my childhood. I’ve also described the impact of my relationship with my Dad in older posts published here (check out “The Unengaged Gardener”). Ultimately, I would have grown up knowing that I was uniquely and wonderfully made. I would have learned to take pride in my strengths and consider my weaknesses with compassion. I would have been encouraged to pursue avenues, activities and dreams that really made me excited, rather than learning to perform and achieve for affirmation. I would have learned to engage with my world for enjoyment sake and not be entirely afraid or cynical of it. Though I lacked for little in terms of physical needs, this emotional aspect of my life was not cultivated and my Dad’s lack of involvement left the biggest hole. A vacuum was created in my earliest years that I have presented to many men (not always obviously) in an attempt to have it filled with something meaningful.

I am in the thick of the process of figuring all this out. I have started meeting other men and I am much more aware of this potential pitfall to have them solve any identity hunger. I am feeling excited… interestingly, not only about finding a life partner, but even more so about finding myself… Feeling empowered to do this brought me out of the depression I had sunk into. In facing some of my biggest fears, letting myself struggle with the truth and what I really believe about who I am, I am developing a deeper relationship with myself. I am seeing myself grow to own who I really am, without comparing my unique-ness to other people’s. I am learning to battle the lie of “you aren’t enough” that the emotional abuse/neglect left me floundering in. I am learning to tend to my own identity hunger, to accept exactly who and where I am at this point in my life, apart from what I do, apart from how other people might define me. No matter what the outcome of my dating adventures, I am confident I will emerge with a stronger foundation in the Truth about ME, tried and tested. Bit by bit, I continue on my path of emerging from broken.

With hope that my journey will inspire yours,


Bio: Carla Dippel lives in beautiful Alberta Canada. She loves to cook, dance, write and grow in knowing what is good and true about this life.  As Carla has emerged from broken, she delights in being a distinct and adventurous woman, living her life to the full, exploring new possibilities and making her dreams a reality.  Carla loves to share reflections of her journey with others and to hear the stories of others in return.

Note from Darlene: If you would like to read more posts written by Carla, please click on her name which is highlighted in blue, under the post title. This will take you to her “author archive” where you can access all the other posts that she has written for Emerging From Broken.


36 response to "Emotional Abuse and Identity Hunger"

  1. By: DXS Posted: 5th February

    Amber, good for you! I’m still working on it. I think my mom just repeats all the cliches she hears to throw it back on me because she can’t “own up” to it.

  2. By: Amber Posted: 4th February

    Hi DXS, I find that even though my mother passed on almost three years ago, her dysfunctional thoughts and her grooming of me still invade my life. The good thing is that I am much more aware, through EFB and other reading I’ve done, that her way of thinking and living life was dysfunctional and that so much of what she said was for manipulative purposes and untrue. Recognition of this is where my freedom is starting to come from. Recognition makes it easier to reject these intrusive dysfunctional invasions when they come up.
    Tonight my husband asked me to tell him when the dog needed to be walked. When I told him, he ended up snapping at me because walking the dog was interrupting something he was doing. At that moment I felt the old guilt feelings starting to rise up. I upset him, I caused him to have to drop what he was doing….etc. Then Isaid to myself hold on! That’s the old pattern I had developed from my mothers grooming to feel guilty any time something I did or said inconvenienced her. That he got in a bad mood because the dog had to be walked ( which he had volunteered to do earlier) was his problem to own, not mine. I did nothing wrong, I simply told him the dog was ready to go. He got annoyed because the dogs schedule didn’t end up to be at a convenient time for him. I let go of the false guilt and told him I didn’t appreciate being snapped at and reminded him that HE had asked me to tell him when the dog was ready. When he came back in from the walk he apologized for snapping and admitted that it had just come at the wrong time abd he shouldn’t have taken it out on me. In the old days it probably would have been ME apologizing for inconveniencing him by reminding him of something he had promised to do. Just like I would have done with my mother in the old days due to her training.

  3. By: DXS Posted: 4th February

    Things always seem to be better when I reject my mothers dysfunctional thinking patterns.

    I’m on my second round of N/C to my mom, been four months. I find I am more positive about my life and I trust my feelings!

  4. By: Amber Posted: 4th February

    I can relate to the expectations that a relationship would be the answer to what was wrong with my self esteem, and also latching on to an identity. The reason was that I was taught several things by my mother. One, that women are inferior ( except for her but that is a whole other story). Two, that a woman’s worth was based on only two things : if she was pretty, and if she could catch a man. Intelligence, a sense of humor, accomplishments and talents meant nothing. The kind of person a woman was meant nothing. Only ” pretty” and ” catching a man ” mattered. Three, she taught me that I was ugly. So there you go, I already lacked one of those two only traits that mattered. But she went further. Because I was defined as ugly by her, she let me know I would have a heck of a time catching a man. So, by the age of nine or ten I felt like a total failure as a female.
    In my teens I was disparate to have a boyfriend…to PRZoVE yo everyone, especially my mother that I could catch a guy and therefore was worth something. But not just any guy would do. Not the kind, intelligent, fun guy who wanted to date me at 15. He wasn’t good looking enough to count, in the eyes of my mother so he wouldn’t bring me much status. When I did date a guy, who would be considered handsome in my mothers eyes, I was so desperate to hold on to him. I acted needy and was a complete doormat. I also gave up any identity of my own by trying to be whatever I determined that he wanted me to be. I thought if I complied ( just like with mother) that somehow I could hold on to him. I was completely wrong. All I got was disrespect and then I got dumped by several guys. When I didn’t have a boyfriend I felt worthless and when I did I was desperate to hold on. Neither made me happy. It never occurred to me that I could find self worth within myself and that I didn’t have to have a boyfriend at all.
    My way if thinking was so mixed up but in retrospect, it was completely a function of how I was groomed by my mother. I also believe that it was a ploy to make herself, as she was aging, feel that she was prettier and superior to her daughter. Looking back, it was so sick and dysfunctional.
    Fortunately, I met someone who I was very compatible with and I decided to hell with whatever my mother thinks about him. We have been happily married ( with a few minor issues that are being worked on) for many years.
    Things always seem to be better when I reject my mothers dysfunctional thinking patterns.

  5. By: Carla Dippel Posted: 22nd February

    Wow Lynda… What a hope-filled story. Thanks so much for sharing with everyone. You have definitely inspired me today. 🙂 ~Carla

  6. By: Lynda ~ Coming Out of the cRaZy Closet Posted: 20th February

    I completely relate to what you wrote in your last post here, about the “emotional blackmail barrage.” I’ve been feeling that way too lately; some people seem determined to wallow and drown in their own misery, stubbornly refusing any life-ring of hope we try to throw them… but more than that, they seem to want to take those of us who are FINALLY finding some LONG OVERDUE Healing, Peace, and Happiness, right back down into the pit with them! And if we don’t go there, or if we don’t agree that they are hopeless and worse off than we ever were, then we “don’t care.”

    I don’t get that, either. Even when I am at my MOST miserable and broken and hopeless, I try very hard NOT to drag anyone else down with me. I prefer to isolate, than risk contaminating others with my misery.

    NOW, I am happier than I have ever been in my life. NOW, after a lifetime of hating me, and looking for a White Knight/Prince Charming to give me worth and value, today I LIKE ME. I even LOVE me. I enjoy my life today, and I look forward to the future. TODAY, when I share terrible stories from my past trauma and abuse, I do it NOT to drag others down, but to say, “THIS is how bad I was… THIS is how bad my life was… if I can now be happy and healthy today, NOBODY is too far gone, or too hopeless!”

    It also helps my continued healing process, as I share these old ancient wounds here on this safe and supportive forum. But even then, I still sometimes feel guilty, wondering if I have gone too far… I don’t want to bring anyone down, with my old tales of woe. Please forgive me if I have done that. Please let me know if I do that, and I will stop.

    After 4….. count ’em: ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR divorces, from men I married in the mistaken belief that they would complete me, give me worth and value, love me to wholeness, and give me an identity… after my last divorce, at the age of 50 I got some really GOOD therapy finally, I found my own identity and my own self-worth at long last, and I learned to enjoy life, all by myself… THEN I met my best-friend-husband, he fell madly in love with me and pursued me, and we adore each other more every day. This July we’ll have been married 7 years, and these have been the best 7 years of my life.


  7. By: Lynda ~ Coming Out of the cRaZy Closet Posted: 20th February

    Elizabeth, you wrote:

    “Where the pain is, is where the injury occurred and where the healing needs to start.”

    Wow. So profound. Thank you for that.


  8. By: Carla Dippel Posted: 9th February

    Hi Vicki. Thank you so much for reading and for your comment, and I apologize that it took me this long to respond. I agree with you, that forgiveness is not necessary for freedom. My freedom comes from knowing the truth about myself and my past. Becoming more and more free to live in this truth is a something I fully deserve, whether I find the desire to forgive the people who hurt me or not. Forgiveness is not the top priority, in my mind. Seeking my own healing is. Thanks again for sharing, and I truly hope you will keep finding your truth and freedom, amidst the daunting confusion. You have what it takes. ~Carla

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