Over the past five or more years, I’ve been doing my best to backtrack the origins of the often debilitating outcomes unfortunate events very early into my life and earlier had on my emotional being. I read John Bradshaw’s Healing the Shame that Binds You on toxic shame – and found myself in it. Next, I found Susan Forward’s Toxic Parents – Overcoming their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life – and found myself in it. I needed to understand, what I was suffering from and why the suffering was so persistent and so deeply ingrained in me. I thought, once I understood where all this pain came from, I had an angle to start working from.
So I slowly moved from analyzing to scouting out solutions and paths to healing. And came across another Bradshaw book: Homecoming – Reclaiming and Championing your Inner Child. I allowed myself to let long suppressed feelings come forth. Grief, most noteably. I allowed myself to mourn those experiences and that part of me that was lost before I ever encountered it. I gave myself permission to cry – in private, where noone would see my emotions. And the pain manifested itsself in meltdowns of a surprising intensity. Pain bottled up for decades would finally find its way out of my system. I even went so far as to almost consciously induce these ‘fits’, similar to when you pop a pimple on purpose. I noticed that some movies more than others had me particularly emotional. I later identified that those movies had a story that I thought to bear some similarities to mine in their spiritual quest. So I used them to access the injured parts of me and evoke feelings of grief and mourning and cleanse my system from bottled up grief and anger.
I also found Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person’s Workbook. While the title may suggest something along the lines of being emotionally sensitive, I was surprised to find that Aron’s understanding of an HSP doesn’t stop there. In fact, higher sensitivity extends into and manifests itsself in the physical realm as well, even in animals. I found myself in that again. (I don’t mean to refer to the animal part, though ;))
But what really drove the message all the way home was Alice Miller’s The Drama of the Gifted Child, which a trusted friend brought to my attention. I guess, this was the first time that I consciously realized I had actually been a victim of child abuse, often following methods that are being described in the Double Bind theory. I must admit that this finding was a setback in what I had believed to become a straight path to healing. It was a blow to the gut and had me fully realize that I was damaged. And would remain damaged to some extent and possibly so for the rest of my life, at least in terms of forming relationships with some form of intimacy to them. To this day, I have a hard time embracing this finding. In fact, I haven’t. I oscillate between being more or less at peace with it by focussing on the parts that have not gotten damaged. And at other times, every fibre of my being wants to rid itsself of this stinging flaw that not only leaves me most vulnerable to manipulation and resulted in about a dozen failed romantic relationships, but also has me feel stigmatized about myself. It has me ashamed of myself all over again, almost as if the damage was visible right away or tattooed to my forehead (in addition to my publicly talking about it… ;)). And, of course, it leaves this deep, deep, never-to-be-satisfied longing for things having gone different. And there’s of course the more substantial longing for needs being met, which where never entirely met the way they should have – and at the proper time, mind you.
Also, on occasion, I felt severe rage with very disturbing ideations of vengeful actions – an impulse, I am glad I have never given in to, for I would have not only immediately regretted it, but felt deep sorrow and pain over it. And I must say I was shocked and appalled at finding I was even able to “produce” such feelings. I consider myself a rather peaceful and peace loving person by nature. I also much favor getting things squared away through honest debate as opposed to getting into a physical argument. I regard it an expression of culture, noble manners and humanity to settle things peacefully. So no acting out on rage for me, thank God! (or whomever…) So rage came and went. And I’m glad it never came back at any noteable degree.
At times, I thought I had forgiven those, whom I largely consider responsible for having inflicted this damage on me. I also entertained the possibly noble, yet very naive notion of taking a shot at addressing things and ideally making room for something new to grow after the past had been put behind us. Although I had taken full notice of Miller saying she had rather seldomly seen perpetrator and victim develop a healthy relationship after her intervention as the helping witness, it did happen a few times. Following my nature – or learned coping behavior? – of being rather over-optimistic, I thought it might work. At least, it was worth giving a try. If I was able to forgive, they might be able to change, right? Naive. Stupid. Idealistic. Maybe slightly narcisstic on my part, too, by automatically inferring my own approach to all involved.
Well, long story short – it never happened. Not really. Not in a way that felt like meeting me half way and then maybe taking things from there. After more than three years – plus another, say, 35-something of me approaching them and trying to meet them halfway and with those attempts never being met with the open, honest, loving, respectful response required for settling a difficult situation on eye’s level, and after a short series of family therapy in 2009 gone awry right into the second session, I think I can finally give myself permission to move on, leave the past behind as chaotic and unorderly unsolved as it presented itsself then and does now and wrap this part up. For good. I have really exhausted every approach, every angle and place to come from, every idea about how this painful past might be transformed into something new and beautiful – and all I got for it in return was getting victimized over and over and over again. No more. Enough is enough. I’ve opened every door and every window over a period of decades, coming from a place of unconditional love and the genuine wish to forgive, forget and move past all this. However – to this day I still find walking half the distance alone – and being left alone there. A perpetrator who is neither willing nor possibly able to see the results of their actions in others is a sociopath, as Kimberly aptly stated (and I’ve quoted her before as her assessment really stuck with me – for reasons of me having stayed in denial over this for so long):
Sociopaths are completely devoid of feelings for others and incapable of developing them. They are never healed, ever.
I think, closing the door for good is what I did today in replying to an email commenting on a preceding action of – again – crossing some boundaries I had previously expressed and established. I don’t think, I’ve said anything that could be taken as burning all bridges, but I expect them to read and take it that way. I have been shying away from putting my foot down for so long now, it was about time I stood up for myself (something, I can’t remember them ever doing for me and which I only found out on my walk earlier tonight. When I found myself in trouble with someone, I was punished twice: For the trouble I was in with whomever and for meaning to share it and seek support).
I think, I have long grown enough to stand up for myself. I also think it’s safe to say, I stood my ground in my previous personal life and career as best as I could. But with this particular situation, this overwhelming sense of being left alone, this sense of utter solitude is still something I haven’t become too good at handling. Maybe I never will. What I can do then is this: Embrace myself for being this way, for feeling deeply and for having a hard time with letting go. Maybe I start thinking about those feelings differently: Not as flaws, but as little imperfections that make the rises and valleys of my heart and soul. They aren’t shortcomings, but qualities that make me into who I truly am… And that’s the silverlining Miller concludes on in her book: After facing the painful, near devastating truth of abuse and mistreatment, a survivor can come home to themselves and develop as much emotional integrity as possible. An understanding, sympathizing partner, friend or otherwise dependable and close relationship in addition to the therapist will certainly foster a quicker and more pronounced recovery. But the bottomline is: All is not lost. I think I am o.k. settling for that. I better be. That’s the one option I have other than ending it all.