Please join me by reading the daily meditation from “The Language of Letting Go” by Melody Beattie and share your thoughts in the comment space provided at the end of this post (Click on the Read More button to read the complete thought for the day).
As a child of alcoholic parents I felt a great deal of pain as a result of neglect and abuse. This kind of pain was attached to confusion, feeling helpless and hopeless. Eventually, the pain got so great that my only defense was not to feel the pain anymore. Instead, of showing the pain I felt, I showed anger instead.
Anger became my friend. In point of fact, it appeared to save me from being victimized by many, but unfortunately not all of the perpetrators in my childhood. I learned that if I was angry enough, they left me alone. This ability of protecting myself by showing anger felt empowering in a situation that I truly felt powerless.
This illusion of power and control over my situation felt so good that I made a conscious decision when I was about 8 years old to just stop feeling. I decided that I would not be victim anymore. No, I could not stop the abuse, but I could stop feeling. Or so I thought.
Instead of shedding tears, my mantra was, “that did not hurt”, “is that all you got” and “I don’t care”. I had decided that my only defense against the abuse and loneliness was to stop feeling. I enforced this decision with the thought “You can not make me cry”!
My belief was, they can beat me, but they can not make me cry. Of course, when alone I still cried, but I did not cry the tears of grief that would lead to healing. Instead I cried the tears of helplessness. I was a victim and I could not figure out a way to stop the abuse.
The price I paid for this emotional defense against the abuse was that I had detached myself from my feelings to the point that later in life when I was able to escape the pain of my childhood. I realized that I never quit feeling the pain. What I did not feel was relief. I got so used to feeling the pain that I became indifferent to it.
This indifference resulted in my stunted emotional growth. In my efforts to feel again and get on with my life I went to counseling and I went to college. My counselors tried many different techniques to help me experience the pain from my childhood but I was too well defended against the possibility of being hurt. My counselors and professors noted that I spoke of the abuse from my childhood but I just reported the incidents, I did not allow the memories to impact me.
For years during counseling and my educational journey I struggled to turn the feelings back on. I wanted to feel so that I could heal from the wounds of my childhood and mature emotionally. Thanks to some very loving and trustworthy people in my life I did find the ability to let go of the fear that had become a way of life for me and I surrendered my will long enough to allow myself to feel the sadness, loneliness, fear, abandonment, confusion, betrayal as well as the physical pain. Then came the hard part as I allowed the memories to come back and so that I could feel, grieve and accept the past so that I could forgive and get back to the business of living my life.
Today: When I experience loss, I feel the pain. I allow the grief and then I follow the emotional path toward acceptance and healing. Now I feel not just the periodic pain that comes with living but I also feel the joy and excitement that comes from the love of self and others.
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Diana Smith, PhD, LPC-MH owns and operates Serenity Mental Health Services and is licensed by the National Board of Certified Counselors. License number is LPC-MH2025 and she follows the ethical guidelines described by the NBCC found at their web site www.nbcc.org/webethics2. Diana is a member of the National Board for Certified Counselors, Certification Number 43911. In addition, she is also a member of the American Counseling Association, Member ID# 5140627. Online counseling can help you right now. Research has made it clear that this manner of offering therapy is effective and those who’ve experienced it have said they would seek it out again.