It has been many years since I went “no contact” with my family. I have not regretted it. That doesn’t mean I have never felt an urge from my love seeker or karma kid to reengage. There is always a slight feeling that maybe, just maybe, the next time, they will do the right thing. But I am grounded enough to know that won’t happen. If I ever walked back into the lion’s den, I would be engulfed in an overwhelming onslaught of abusive patterns almost instantly. The manipulation would be insane. I have come far enough in my recovery to know that. I won’t ever go back.
In this recovery journey, going “no contact” with abusive family is sometimes sold as an end goal. It is seen as something to achieve which will lead to a better life almost instantaneously. But I have learned that it is a starting point. It takes our inner conversation to a new level. The parts start to feel safe enough to share their experiences and emotions because they are no longer afraid that other parts might “tell on them”. And parts are no longer experiencing the constant invalidation and other abusive patterns that squelch their voice. They can be honest without the intense abusive response of the past.
But there’s another impact to our decision to go “no contact”. This decision starts to break down our contracts. Contracts are deals we made with family members when we were growing up. They weren’t real deals because we never had a choice. They are forced contracts which are not contracts at all. But to our inner parts, these contracts are definitive. Most contracts come with threats to someone’s wellbeing. The threats could be against us, another family member or even the abuser themselves. And our abusers may have done horrible things to prove how serious they were. So our inner parts were trapped in these contracts and they don’t see any way out.
When we start making changes and breaking contracts, there is a backlash. It can be very intense. There can be massive waves of guilt. The karma kid can move us into self-punishment where we have to pay for our choices. While this may just sound like nasty self-abuse (and it is), it has a purpose. It is meant to put us back in line before we (or someone else) is hurt. This punishment can show up in so many ways. Here are some examples of what we might see.
Confusion about what we want. When we start to taste freedom, it can feel disorienting. We aren’t used to receiving guidance from within. There was always so much pressure from family to do things a certain way. And to some of our inner parts, this provided a level of security. We always knew what we were and were not allowed to do. But with freedom from family, we can make new choices. The problem is the contracts. We might feel like we want to move in a certain direction, but we get confused about it. Is it our intuition or an inner part trying to trick us? We don’t always know. Not surprisingly, the most authentic directions will come with the most confusion as we work through the mental blocks our family created to stop our authentic expression.
Blocks to our authentic steps. When we work our way through the confusion and have a sense of our direction, we will often find ourselves blocked from moving forward. We can be blocked in highly physical ways. We might get physically ill when we want to take steps in a new direction. We might be inundated with futility as the karma kid tries to stop us in our tracks. We can make a new decision one day and the next day, we can’t get out of bed. But this also shows up in our beliefs. “We cannot. We are not allowed. We are not good enough.” These messages can ring in our head repeatedly stopping us from moving forward.
Rules that don’t make sense. We might find ourselves living by some rules even though we have no idea why. We will make decisions to move forward, but end up following rules that don’t make sense. What do those rules look like? “I can move forward with this project, but I have to stay in this town. I can work on this new goal, but I have to work on it alone. I have to work harder than everyone else. I am not allowed to rest. I can have one thing I want, but not everything. I am only allowed to be as successful as my family.” But these rules aren’t conscious. We don’t hear them out loud unless we listen closely. We can sense that something isn’t quite right though. Some things seem out of our reach. And that is where we need to start our search for what is holding us back.
Breaking contracts is hard work. Taking action to remove family contact can be an important step forward. But the next steps will require some challenging inner work. We need to find those contracts and remove them from the psyche to stop the self-punishment from standing in the way of our most authentic life. We will struggle with inner messages that we can’t have what we want. But if we pay attention to how we are resisting what we want, we can excavate the remnants of our abuse. We can release the resistance to life. It is possible to stop the self-punishment and have the life we want.