Navajo Proverb: You can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.
In the March Article “The Unheard Invisible Child; Being Seen and Finding my Voice” here in Emerging from Broken, a commenter asked a very popular question. Here is the query;
“Now that I’ve found my voice, I have this strong desire to voice my anger towards my family. To tell them that they are wrong with how they have mistreated me. However, I don’t want to put myself in a position to be hurt again. Based on past experience, they will not hear me and will deny the truth & blame me for misinterpreting them. It’s been that way since childhood.
I’m an adult now and I deserve equal respect but like you said I have to “give up being heard from the people that silenced me in the first place”… I want to assert myself directly to my mom for something hurtful she recently told me, but what will this accomplish?… I will not be heard. Asserting myself and not being heard is insulting! However, if I don’t assert myself, isn’t that sending them the message that they can say whatever they want to me with no regard for my feelings? Please clarify…”
Here are my thoughts expanded from my original reply;
I constantly hurt myself by accepting devaluing treatment from other people. I didn’t realize that it had become normal and acceptable to me. For instance take the phrase in the query; “I’m an adult now, and I deserve equal respect.” The false belief in that statement is when we become adults we deserve equal respect but the truth is that we always did deserve equal respect, even as children. Respect and authority are not the same thing. Adults have more authority over children, but in the true definition of love ~ respect and equal value have nothing to do with age or social status.
When I finally accepted that the fact that they never heard me before was a pretty good indication that they were not going to hear me now, I decided to stick up for me; not so that they MIGHT hear me but because I needed to validate myself. It wasn’t so much about asserting myself. It was more about empowering myself. For the first time in my life I knew that I had a choice in the relationship with them. That brought a new clarity; I realized they had a choice too; they could try to hear me or they would reject me again. They could choose relationship with me which includes mutual respect or no relationship with me which is rejection.
Deep down I was afraid of rejection because I thought rejection would serve as proof of my biggest fear; that they didn’t really care and that I really was “nothing”, just like their actions were pointing to all along. Accepting abusive and disrespectful treatment without question helped me avoid the actual truth about their actions. But the truth set me free. The fear was never as bad as the reality.
On this journey to emotional healing and recovery the boundary is drawn in the heart. (which means that when I got it, they got it) When my family and friends knew that I was no longer going to bow down to them, many of them withdrew. They didn’t want me to change; they didn’t want me to regard myself as equally valuable. I realized that in their view there was really no relationship in the first place unless I was beneath them. That truth stung but it also clarified things for me and it spoke clearly; their actions and attitudes highlighted their disregard for me as equally valuable to themselves.
I was unwilling to live defined as beneath anyone anymore.
Not speaking up for me was sending the message that they could treat me how ever they wanted and I decided that those days were over. I made my new self empowering decision and I decided to take a chance on the outcome of standing up for myself so that I could live in freedom from the bondage they had me in. Taking a chance did not depend on them finally hearing me but I did have to decide to accept the outcome either way.
So much of my recovery and overcoming the past has been about looking at things differently. I knew my mother would not value anything I had to say in standing up for myself so I didn’t speak for her to hear me. When I said that I had to give up being heard by the people that silenced me in the first place I meant that I had to believe that being heard by them was the answer. I had to look at what I wanted to accomplish in a new way. I spoke so I would hear me. I had been focused for so many years on the end goal being for “them” to hear me. I think I started to get a glimmer of understanding that even if they heard me, the damage would not be fixed without doing some personal healing work. When I changed my focus on the end goal to healing and emotional recovery for myself, instead of “being heard by them” I was able to speak after all those years on MY behalf.
Not being heard IS insulting. And by looking at the truth of the whole situation I finally had the self respect to understand that I don’t have to accept that treatment anymore.
In the case of my mom I only got to say about three things on my own behalf and because I was still full of fear I kept it pretty mild but it was enough. It was validating. I took a stand. I said I was done with being treated the way she treated me. She asked if we could just forget about all of it and just start over. I said no. She said that in the past we had always been able to sort out our difficulties. I replied that actually in the past I always conceded. I always gave in to her and let her be right. I always backed down but now I told her that those days were over. I told her that I wanted to have a “real relationship” where each of us had mutual respect and equal value. Much to my surprise, she listened to me. She even suggested that we might try therapy together. I let myself get excited. I felt a new hope.
At the end of the call she told me to think about what we had talked about and let her know what I decided… My heart kind of sunk. I had already let her know what I had decided. This was the same old “power play” where she put the ball back in my court and made it all up to me to carry the responsibility for the outcome of the whole mother daughter relationship between us. I quickly recovered from my shock and reminded her that I had just finished telling her what I had decided and that this time it was up to her to consider if she wanted to work on our relationship WITH ME. A real relationship takes two.
That was the last conversation that I had with my mother. But that is okay. I have grown and flourished since that day. The truth set me free. In the years that followed I have seen the truth about our dysfunctional mother daughter relationship and I have grown stronger in my understanding. My mom had a choice. She chose denial. She chose not to give up her power. She chose to let me go. Perhaps she chose “being right” over being with me, I don’t know, but I have found the sunlight in my own life. I have blossomed into who I was meant to be and I am fulfilled. I have no regrets about standing up for my equal value because now I trust myself with myself. I have no more depression or oppression. I don’t jump when the phone rings. I overcame dissociative identity and multiple personality disorder. I have more confidence and self esteem than I ever thought possible.
Realizing that my own family would rather not bother with me if they had to listen to me or respect me was really hurtful. But the truth that I had to realize is that they had been hurting me for years. The pain was not new; I had been trying to cope with it for over 40 years. My entire life I had been told that I had misunderstood them. They denied all accountability for any problems in our relationship and insisted that the problem was me. The difference now is that I stopped believing it.
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There is freedom on the other side!
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