During the past few weeks, I have experienced several instances of “social commitments gone wrong”. Plans I made with others fell through (or almost did) and it wasn’t because of me. And based on my reaction, I can sense that at least one inner part isn’t handling it well. I have been unusually upset. I can hear the angry rants bubbling up to the surface. And of course to some extent, it’s valid. People should honor their commitments. But I also know this comes from my past experiences.
- I was not a priority in my family. I felt that in every way. Nobody cared how I felt or what my experiences were. If something more important came up (and almost everything was more important), it took the top spot. It rarely mattered what I had going on. I learned to fend for myself. I learned that if something mattered to me, I better ensure it would happen on my own. To this day, that belief affects my isolator part and it manifests as rigid independence.
- My childhood was chaos. Things were always changing. My very dissociative parents would make plans and forget they made them. Their addictive behaviors would send them in unhealthy directions at the drop of a hat. And this kind of change was not the “flow with the universe” kind of change. It was dangerous change that generally has some kind of new trauma associated with it.
- I didn’t feel worthy of friends. This message was reinforced everyday by abusers inside and outside my family. I was sure that friends were only around for a short time or were only trying to get what they needed. It didn’t help that my parents were always thwarting any close relationships that concerned them. If it looked like I might confide in someone, they would make sure that someone was out of the picture.
To this day, I try to protect my external children from these disappointments. Among other strategies, I have waited until the last minute to tell them about play dates in case they are canceled. But lately, I have been telling them in advance, and I can see how my parts believe this to be backfiring. There have been some disappointments. And I can hear my isolator saying, “I told you so. Don’t trust people. They all suck.” And of course, I want to protect my children, but that isn’t realistic and it doesn’t create resiliency. Children are meant to experience an array of emotions so they can learn to process them in healthy ways. Disappointment is one such emotion. Since I don’t want them to learn they aren’t a priority, I can make sure they know they are one to me.
And this brings me to the inevitable mirroring of parenthood. If I am not committed to me, I cannot be committed to my children. My inner children will be projected on to them. And if I ignore their needs, I will ignore those of my external children. If I invalidate self, I will invalidate my external children. If I refuse to make my inner children a priority, I will inevitably fail to make my external children a priority. It will happen no matter how much I try to stop it.
So I have to commit to self. I have to show my inner parts that I care about them unconditionally. When I say I will do something for them, I have to mean it. When they are feeling emotions, I have to validate those emotions. When they need a break, I have to give them a break. When they want to play, I have to let them play. It is through these actions that I create a balance within my system that helps me become the best external parent I can be. And my kids deserve that. They are going to be disappointed by others. They will be disappointed by me too at times. But if they see me as someone who lives up to her promises and prioritizes them at the top of her list, they will be able to withstand some disappointment. They will know who they are and how important they are. And that is a great foundation to build their life upon.