I have been experiencing an intense inner battle lately. It is stirring up my system and creating anxiety I haven’t felt for a while. Don’t get me wrong, it was normal for me to feel this in the past. I am grateful my anxiety has dissipated in recent years. But it’s hard to find appreciation for my growth right now because I am inundated with this latest battle. It takes most of my energy. I think it is unusually strong because the controller is fighting for their life. They do this often when new inner parts reveal themselves. But something about this latest freedom fighter is making the controller extra nervous.
I named this new freedom fighter “the passive one” when I first met her. She was relegated to this role because that is what society tells us to do with the feminine. The feminine is weak and vulnerable, even lazy. And so she became that. But she is none of these things. She is compassionate, but she is fed up with this world which takes the masculine too far. She is a creator and a destroyer. She is my Mother Mary, my Quan Yin and my Kali all together. She is the feminine to my controller’s masculine. She is the yin to my controller’s yang. Yes. They are twins and her power is as big (if not bigger). She was suppressed from years of personal and societal attacks. But she is no wilting flower. She will no longer be suppressed. She is the goddess. And she will never be passive.
Her message indicates big changes, the kind of changes that make a controller feel very unsafe. She believes that nothing matters. This started out being an entirely futile message. “It doesn’t matter what I do because nothing will ever get better.” But it is starting to transform. It is starting to shift directions as I express from her. It is still the message that nothing matters. But it is different. It is more grounded now.
“It doesn’t matter if you are five minutes late. Don’t stress about it.”
“It doesn’t matter if some people don’t like you or your message on Facebook. There will be plenty who do.”
“It doesn’t matter if the house is clean when friends come. They will like you anyway.”
Not surprisingly, my controller is not having it. To the controller, things need to be perfect. Approval and acceptance needs to be all encompassing. Details cannot be ignored because things will go wrong. We will be punished for the smallest mistake. And so goes the battle in my head. But this week, the battle is taking a different turn. It is becoming a battle of visibility. With the work I do, this battle is not new. But this is going to new depths.
Through the Detox Program, I have seen an uptick in visibility because of the great response from all of you. You are so dedicated to healing and you really do understand the process of healing. But folks are wandering into my program who have never read my blogs and have never tried to access their inner parts before. And honestly, some don’t get it. They are controller-enmeshed and they want me to stop it! And my own controller is reeling from the disapproval. My own controller wants to be loved by all.
But my goddess says, “So what?” Get the message out there. If they don’t like it, they can move along. People need to know this. People need to read this. People need to understand that healing happens when we go deep. If you keep it a secret, who does that help? Staying small isn’t the answer.
And so the battle goes. It deepens my discomfort, but it keeps me questioning. What is my next step? How big is it? Can I handle it? Can I handle the negativity and disapproval from a controller-enmeshed world? It takes faith on a massive scale to venture into visibility. The reminders of the old world are always knocking at the door. In that world, there was punishment, rejection and abandonment. In that world, the childhood world, those things were synonymous with death.
But I have power now. I have power that the controller-enmeshed don’t have. That power comes from intuition. That power comes from living outside of a fear-based belief system. That power comes from the understanding that I will be supported as I travel my purpose. I don’t have to be afraid of the “nay-sayers”. I don’t have to be afraid of those who claim to be more degreed, more knowledgeable, more practical or more sane. I have lived that life and it was hell. I have lived in the fear that makes me want to tear others down because they scared me. And I was truly miserable.
Somehow I will find a way out of this battle and be the better for it. I will find my way out of the fear-based maze my controller created to keep me “safe”. I know there is a different way to live, even though I am not fully embodied in it. I can sense it right below the surface. Living a life of chains doesn’t end when we leave our childhoods. Freedom isn’t physical in nature. We chain ourselves from the inside out. We become slaves to the fear. We run from that which lives inside us and we are never free. And while I may be scared as hell, I am done with the chains.
Note: If you are a man who reads my blog, thank you for embracing your inner parts. I want to stress that this part exists in all of us. All genders hold the masculine and feminine.
There were many lies in my childhood. My abusers told all sorts of stories for why it was my fault I was treated so poorly and how I would never be able escape. I learned horrible things about myself and none of them were true. But once my intuition was blocked, I had no other truth. I had no choice but to take in the lies. Not surprisingly, one of those lies was that I wasn’t good enough. It came through loud and clear in several different ways.
I was never loved for who I was. From the moment I was born, there were problems with who I was. I was too emotional. I was too needy. I ate too much. I was too skinny. I was too fair-skinned. I was ugly. I was too loud. I spent too much time in my room. I was too talkative. I was too argumentative. I told too many “stories”. I was too uncooperative. I wasn’t smart enough. I was too smart for my own good. You get the idea. The barrage was constant. And these statements became the chorus in my head.
I was never praised for what I accomplished. I learned early that I wasn’t going to get love easily. I would see fleeting moments of it. If I cleaned the kitchen well, I could see seconds of approval in my mother’s eyes before she thought better of it. While I didn’t hear direct praise for my report card, it was used to torture my sister with comparisons. And to be honest, I took anything I could get. But in reality, the accomplishments didn’t get me closer to the approval I sought out. There was love of the accomplishments and how it made them look. But there was no love for me.
I was never chosen as a friend or partner unless I was of use. Not surprisingly, the relational patterns of my childhood continued into the teenage years and adulthood. My friends and partners loved to have me around. I was smart so I could help them with their homework. I could help my male friends make their real love interests jealous. I could help them out of a financial bind with my allowance. I could be the only one they could talk to when they were bored. I was useful. But I was quickly dropped when something or someone better came along.
These patterns created an incredibly strong controller focus in my life. I knew that my survival depended on my utility. I knew I must provide a use to the world. On some level, this is true. We all want to get in touch with our purpose, to give back to the world in some unique way. But my trauma took this idea and twisted it around. I believed my purpose was to figure out what people needed and do it for them. I believed that providing what was needed would bring me the approval I wanted.
But there was a problem with that plan. I would not find approval where I was looking. The people in my childhood were never going to be satisfied. They were never going to be happy with the work I had done. I was faced with an endless cycle of working hard to impress others only to be rejected. By the time I was a teenager, I had learned there would never be approval for me.
So the futility took hold. The message became one of hopelessness. There is no point to be of use because nobody will ever be happy with me. And while my controller would power through the futility, the result was never good. There was no way to satiate my need for love and approval with this pattern. But when the futility spoke, I heard the lie. There was no way to be loved at all. And the problem was me.
This is how our trauma sets us up for a life of futility, a life without resilience. The failures become a sign of the futile pattern playing out once again. But the problem is our interpretation of failures. One piece of bad feedback, one minor constructive comment, or one unfortunate event can be interpreted by our inner parts in a devastating way. They are all seen as purveyors of the childhood message. We are not good enough. So we should not bother.
But life is designed to be a series of failures. We are supposed to fail. We are supposed to face disapproval. We are supposed to overcome obstacles that stand in our way. While our childhood has set us up to shrink to the “not good enough child” with every failure, we don’t have to. We can address this pattern. We must see the futility as the trauma message it is. We must remember it is from the past but it isn’t about now. It isn’t about the future. We can succeed without approval from abusive people. We can receive constructive feedback and still believe in our abilities. We don’t have to give up on our journey. We are meant to be more than useful. We are meant to be more than good enough.
Over the past two weeks, I have been sensing a strong theme. It has been showing up in my own life but it has also been coming from my clients. The same questions are coming at me in our consultations. “Why do others get unconditional love and I can’t? It seems that no matter what I do, people won’t love me.” And at the risk of sounding “victim-blamey”, my response has been the same. If they gave it to you, would you accept it? The answers (after a slight pause) have been a resounding no.
It is not that we don’t have a deep innate desire for love. Of course we do. But balanced and unconditional love is not something we have known. Our trauma has led us down roads that won’t bring this love to us. Our inner parts have learned different things about love. Our freedom fighters who prefer isolation, our defenders who see us as unworthy of love and our love seekers who are trying to resolve old patterns will stand in our way of unconditional love. So what does this sound like in our unconscious minds? Let’s explore that.
- We believe the only way to be free from control is physical and emotional isolation. Our freedom fighters have been trying to gain freedom since we were very young. And unfortunately, the people who have shown up in our lives have made one thing very clear. They have no intention of allowing us to have freedom in relationship. We must give up our identity, our authenticity and everything we love to have a relationship with others. So there is only one solution to ensure our freedom in this world. That solution is isolation. If someone expresses any interest in us, the warning bells go off. “They want to control me. They want to use me. They want to take away my autonomy. I must run as fast as I can in the other direction.”
- We believe we are not worthy of unconditional love. Our defenders have learned that life is not really about freedom. Life is about survival. They want to provide safety at all costs. They don’t care about authenticity or individual expression. They have no time for that. They want to stay alive. And honestly, people are unsafe. The closer the relationship, the more unsafe it is. And the more unconditional love appears to be, the more untrustworthy the source must be. “They must be lying. They must be playing me. They can’t possibly be serious. It is best to push them away before they take advantage of me and break my heart.”
- We believe we must resolve our trauma patterns by loving someone like our abusers until they finally love us back. The more intense and desperate a connection to another person, the more we should run the other way. This may sound wrong or even depressing, but take it from me, you want to run. Our love seekers (which are inner children) are energetically attracted to people who will help them resolve their relational trauma. That might sound like a good thing. Who doesn’t want to resolve their relational trauma? But the problem isn’t the goal. The problem is the approach. They want to resolve the relational trauma by relating to people with similar abusive characteristics. They don’t want to change the type of person they relate to. They want to figure out how we can become good enough to get a different result. And you may have guessed that is not going to happen. So when you meet a person who isn’t like your abusers, who is interested in you, they won’t interest you. The love seeker will not even notice them. “They are boring. They don’t intrigue me. There is no passion.”
The next time you find yourself alone and wondering if there is love for you, ask yourself some important questions.
“How am I rejecting love?”
“How am I isolating?”
“How am I lacking trust?”
“How am I repeating my patterns?”
Allow yourself to consider how you may be rejecting love. Allow yourself to examine the fears that come with the unpredictability and messiness that is relationship. Give yourself permission to be scared, but to step out into something new. It might not work out the first few (or fifty) times. But you are building a new pattern. You are building new pathways in your life and your brain. You a connecting back to love and trust. Deep inside, you have always known it.
I love my inner parts. I would not have survived my childhood without them. And I would not have healed my trauma without a deep love and acceptance for them. Every inner part has brought strength to my whole self which is critical to my success as an adult. Each inner part has a goal which is admirable in so many ways. The defenders bring their goal of protection and safety. The inner children bring their goal of love, peace and purpose. And the freedom fighters bring their goal of pure authenticity and self expression. All the parts bring power to my system through their strengths and goals.
But inner parts carry trauma. And with trauma comes some dysfunctional approaches to life. As I have mentioned before, it is not the goals of our parts that are the problem. It is their methods. Their methods lead to bad experiences in life. They repeat patterns from the past as they attempt to resolve them. They inflict harm on others as they attempt to survive at any cost. And they inflict harm on the self as they attempt to run from the pain of the past. All of this leads to damage. And unfortunately, they don’t care about the damage. They are desperate to meet their goals and the damage they cause is just collateral damage to them. The damage is worth it to reach their goals. And that damage comes in many forms.
Damage to the physical body. Most of our inner parts don’t care about the physical body. In cases of sexual abuse or permanent injury, the inner parts see the physical body as the enemy, the one betraying them. And they know it holds the physical and emotional pain of past. They are not interested in keeping it healthy. They are interested in meeting their goals. The parts who are the hardest on the body are definitely the freedom fighters. These parts are about freedom and that includes the freedom from pain. They will engage in addictive behaviors to avoid the perceived control of pain over the system. They may choose drugs, food (or the lack of it), alcohol, self-harm or sex. That addictive behavior is never good for the body. But their goal is to live a life without pain. And they have no idea how else to do it.
Damage to those we love. I have written in the past about how inner parts drive narcissistic tendencies. I am not making excuses for people who have narcissistic behavior, but knowing where it comes from is important. And it comes from the goals of the inner parts. The love seeker (an inner child) creates heavy collateral damage as they attempt to get love. They have already learned that they’re not lovable from their childhood. So now, they are trying to manipulate the system. Love must be found at any cost. Love seekers can be highly impulsive. They drive all the extra-marital affairs in the world. They can be very controlling. They may go as far as to tell another person exactly what to say to show their love and acceptance. To be fair, they are attempting to find love against all odds. They are fighting against the beliefs that they are not good enough for love. They are fighting against the inner parts who want to run from other people. And when you think about the deep insatiable yet seemingly unattainable desire for love of an abused child, it is mostly sad.
Damage to other parts. Unfortunately our inner parts often mimic our external family of origin. And that is never a good thing. They have a tendency to battle with each other. They block each other. They sabotage each other. They certainly don’t trust each other. And none of this helps to calm your anxiety. But there is no part who creates more damage in the system of parts than the controller. The controller’s primary purpose is to maintain the mask to the outside world. When the mask is in place, the controller feels safe. But to the controller’s dismay, trauma cannot be shoved down into the crevices of the body forever. It interferes no matter how hard the controller tries to push it away. The controller will use all the tactics to keep the trauma and inner parts at bay. They will invalidate emotions. They will distract. They will dissociate. They will fill the mind with doubts. And all of these tactics are incredibly re-traumatizing for our inner children who are trying to share their pain. That said I know why the controller does these things. To the controller, remembering and feeling the trauma means annihilation. And the controller is just trying to stay alive. They are terrified and exhausted and they don’t know there is another way.
Take a look at how your parts may be creating collateral damage in their attempts to meet their goals. This isn’t about villainizing our inner parts. This is about understanding their goals and helping them. We need to help them reach their goals, but we want to teach them new methods. We need to teach them that they are operating from lies they learned from abusive people. We need to help them see how they can be safe and loved and free without collateral damage.
Desperation is a familiar feeling for those of us with complex trauma. Our goals can feel impossible and completely out of our control. That feeling of powerlessness has been around a long time and it didn’t disappear in adulthood. But that desperation is telling us something. It is a clue we can use to make life better. It can be used to explore the self on a deeper level and make changes for the better. Desperation is a clue because it is telling us about our dissonance. It is telling us we disagree with ourselves. And when we work out this disagreement with self, life changes for the better.
The problem with this dissonance is the unconscious nature of it. We are not aware of it. That’s why we need to pay attention to the way we are feeling and acting to figure it out. This is where desperation can become a good thing, believe it or not. When we are desperate for something we want, our unconscious holds two sides (at the very least). We have parts who want this thing. And we have parts who believe we can’t have this thing. They may believe we can’t have it because we aren’t good enough. They may believe we can’t have it because we will be thwarted by others, or even the universe. They may believe we can’t have it because we can’t possibly figure out how to get it done without help (and help is dangerous). There are endless reasons. But we are standing in our own way.
There is some great news about this realization though. It means we can take control of the situation and get out of our own way. We are not reliant on some savior to make it happen for us. We don’t have to accept it as impossible. But that also means we have to accept our power. And that is scary. My favorite Marianne Williamson quote sums it up beautifully. “Our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” I have seen this fear show up in my own life as I have made changes to how I manifest. As the world opens up to me, I get scared that I won’t know how to use this power, that I will fail. Of course I will fail. But failure isn’t “life or death” like it was in childhood.
You may be reading this and thinking, “I want to be powerful but I don’t know how to get out of my own way.” So let me give you some examples of how this has manifested in my own life and what I did (or am still doing) about it.
The Desperate Love Seeker. Desperation shows up often in our lives. But there is no place it shows up more than with our love seekers. We are desperate for love. We want love so much, we are prepared to do anything for it. We are willing to lose our authenticity to get it. In my own life, when desperation for attention, approval or love shows up, I know exactly which part I am working with. My love seeker is active and she is going to find love. But the desperate feeling is not grounded. That means it is not likely to be authentic or healthy love. The love seeker is trying to recreate old patterns. And that is always a bad idea. But more importantly, the desperation is indicating how I am blocking my desire for love, real love. I have several parts blocking love. I have a mean kid who thinks all people suck. If someone implies they feel genuine love for me, she dismisses them as liars. She wants “nothin from nobody” and will yell someone right out of the room if they hurt my inner children. I have several freedom fighters (maybe all of them) who believe that people are trying to control me. My freedom fighters will stop at nothing to free themselves from the control of others. And my controller will only put up with love in non-chaotic form. If people create chaos (which they almost always do), they will be controlled or dismissed. It is necessary for me to take all relationships very slowly so I can connect in with my parts when I feel the drive to react without authenticity or to build my walls. I write from both sides and work to make a balanced decision. I set boundaries instead of building walls. And I stay authentic and address the fear of abandonment that always arises.
The Desperate Freedom Fighter. The desperate need to escape is highly prevalent in the life of a trauma survivor. We are running. We are running from ourselves, from others and the world. It can feel like a very intense drive at times. But when acted upon, it can leave us with regret. In my own life, I have often felt that desire to run. If my freedom fighters had their way, I would live out of a suitcase. Even my job now gives me physical location flexibility. But I have children. I am not about to traumatize them with my need to run. So I need to react to my desperation for escape with balance and compromise. My controller wants to stay put to avoid the financial and safety risks of travel. But that feels like torture to my freedom fighters. So I write from both sides and I add a little more travel into our lives in non-dysfunctional ways.
If you are feeling desperation for something, try writing from the resistance to what you want. It might seem like it will take you in the wrong direction, but when you bring the unconscious into the conscious, you remove your inner obstacles. And then you can be powerful beyond measure.
Here are some prompts for you to try.
If you are desperate for love and approval, try writing from:
“I must find love at all costs. I am willing to do anything for it.”
“Nobody will ever love me. I am not good enough.”
“I can’t trust anyone who says they love me or care.”
“People are going to tell me what to do and I am tired of being controlled.”
If you are desperate to escape, try writing from:
“I am trapped. I must escape now.”
“I have no control in my life. I am powerless.”
“I can’t do whatever I want. I don’t get to live that kind of life.”
“It is irresponsible to live life for me.”
If you like working with writing prompts, sign up for my new free challenge starting January 2nd. Through a Facebook group, you will receive 30 daily writing prompts to help you start your inner conversation and break through your obstacles.
When my children were born, I knew that I would dedicate my life to helping them be safe, healthy and happy. I wanted my children to have a very different childhood than mine. I was willing to sacrifice anything for them. At the time, I didn’t realize that meant my connection to my family. I didn’t realize that would mean parenting on my own. I didn’t realize it would mean deep recovery work. And I certainly never saw my own business coming. But honestly, as hard as these steps have been, they were easy decisions when I looked into those two sets of blue eyes. I knew there was no other way. And I am extremely proud of everything I have done to protect them and give them a good life. I have screwed up hundreds of times, but I’ve done amazing things too.
But something jolted me the other day. I was surprised when my daughter told me she didn’t want to be an adult. She said it seemed so hard. She said she liked being a kid and she wanted to be a kid forever. My first response was a positive one. I was so glad to hear her say that. I had worked so hard to give her a great childhood and it was working. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an adult desperately. It was the only way I could escape the tyranny of my abusers. I hated being a child. I hated the powerlessness of it. I hated being treated like I didn’t matter.
Then something occurred to me. Maybe this statement had another side to it. Maybe this statement wasn’t all roses. Kids should want to be kids. But kids shouldn’t want to stay kids forever. Why was she so afraid to be an adult? The answer was easy. She was afraid to be an adult because the main adult in her life is constantly working hard to give her a childhood. Her mother is always balancing trips to school and horse riding lessons and making meals and client calls. Her mother is always running errands and arranging play dates and doctor’s appointments. Her mother is surviving. Her mother is not living. And honestly, the emotions of recovery can’t be hidden all the time. So my daughter sees adulthood as hard work. She doesn’t see it as fun.
Why? I don’t DO fun. I work hard. I love what I do for a living because I created it. I have fun when I work and not many people can say that. I make sure my kids have fun. But I don’t DO fun in the traditional sense. It is hard for me to wrap my head around fun in that way. I never had child-like fun as a child. And honestly, I am not truly embracing fun things in my adulthood. And that is what needs to change. I have to start living. I have to stop surviving. There is a place and a time for getting things done. But as the proverbial saying goes, life is short. And those things are always going to be there to get done. I need to live a little. I need to go salsa dancing. I need to go to Hogwarts (Universal) and not just for the kids. I need to travel because I love it.
As I write this, I can hear my controller screaming about the money and the wasted time and the silliness of it all. I can hear my controller telling me to stay focused on what I have to do. I can hear them tell me I am ruining my life. But I have come far enough in recovery to know that isn’t true. And I am also realizing that parenting isn’t just about ensuring children have a happy, safe childhood. Parenting is about modeling the adults they will become. If I don’t live, my kids won’t know how to live as adults. They will grow up, enmesh with their controllers and robotically get things done for the rest of their lives. And I want my children to love life after childhood. But honestly I am still learning to love it myself. I don’t love it every day. And my controller thinks this is a waste of time.
But I can try. For the first time, I think I can take on a recovery task and be happy about it. I think I can embrace life a bit more. I will still be feeling the anxiety and writing from the resistance, but I can allow myself to enjoy life. My kids are watching. My kids are watching me deal with the hard stuff. My kids are watching my resilience and my anxiety. But my kids are also watching me live the good stuff. And it is time to do that … really do that.
** If you are looking for guidance about how to shift your parenting, take a look at my parenting offerings and let me guide you.
Powerlessness is one of the most damaging emotions coming from a childhood of complex trauma. It is the foundation of depression. It keeps us paralyzed. And if we don’t recognize it for what it is, it can lead to suicidal ideation and even suicide attempts. The message behind powerlessness is simple. “What’s the point? The world is against me. Nothing I could ever do will make a difference.” And while the message is simple, the effect is not. It is a complex web of challenges which most people never fully unravel.
There is no place in life where powerlessness can affect us more than parenting. Why? Traumatic powerlessness is triggered when bad things happen. And bad things happen all the time in life. But in parenting, bad things happen ALL the time. What do I mean by bad things? To a parent with complex trauma, that can be almost anything. A child gets sick. You get sick. You both get sick simultaneously. They bring home a bad grade. They have a fight with their best friend. They hate what you made for dinner. When we are grounded, we can agree these are just things that happen. Almost all parents experience these bad things. But to our traumatized inner parts, it triggers the following conversation:
“These things must be happening because I am not good enough. These things are my fault. I should have tried harder. I didn’t do enough to stop it. I am failing as a parent. No matter what I do, I won’t be able to stop the bad things. I am being victimized by the universe. My kids are doomed to live a horrible life. I might as well not be here.”
Does this sound familiar? I am writing this after a trip to KidMed (emergency room for kids) for my son’s hurt foot (not broken) and a night wondering when the first of my two kids was going to throw up (finally happened in the morning). And during the night, I spent at least an hour blaming myself for my children falling behind in violin class. So honestly, the conversation above is very fresh. It is exactly what ran through my mind at various points throughout the night.
But we don’t have to live in this place of powerlessness as parents. As a matter of a fact, we can’t. Our children are looking to us to show resilience in the face of bad things. That is how they learn to cope with them. So we have to counter the conversation with a different perspective. Let me give you some examples.
- It’s my fault. My first thought when my son hurt his foot was self-blame. My son has a tendency to put shoes on the wrong feet. He does it very infrequently now, but he did it all the time as a toddler. He would fight me on it. He would tell me it felt better that way. I decided a long time ago I wouldn’t fight him on it. It was one of the first battles I stopped fighting. He needed to control something, anything, and I could give it to him. But it isn’t okay when he is playing sports. And he almost never does it at this point. I could still hear myself blaming the injury on my leniency. But I know something else. If I had pushed him on the shoe thing when he was younger, he would have done it more. This was a fairly isolated incident, but if I had pushed, it would still be his norm.
- I am being punished. I have a trip planned for Universal in less than two weeks. I had many inner battles when planning this trip, but one of the broken record messages was about how I am not allowed to do fun things, especially when they cost money. While I was sitting at KidMed, I could not help but think of us trying to walk through Universal with a kid on crutches. I heard that message from within. “This is because I tried to do something fun.” But I know something else. I am allowed to have fun. My kids are allowed to have fun. It doesn’t matter what the abusers told me. I can live a full life. His foot is not broken and will be fine in two weeks. But even if it wasn’t, it would not be punishment.
- My kids are going to be messed up like me. The violin situation has really spurred this one. They are falling behind because I am not paying attention. They are falling behind because I can’t read music. They are falling behind because they have some anxiety and don’t always focus. And that anxiety came from me. “No matter how hard I work to get well and parent well, they are going to be messed up.” But I know something else. Being a kid is hard and all kids aren’t good at all things. That said, I can increase my attention to their practice and they will cut less corners as all kids do when parents are listening. And every kid on the planet is anxious to some degree. Let’s face it. Being a kid is hard and scary even with good parents. And they all show it differently. I know my kids are fine.
Powerlessness in parenting can lead us down some dark roads in the mind. There is nothing like children to trigger these thoughts. But we can bring awareness to these thoughts. We can allow ourselves to consider other realities. We can remind ourselves that we aren’t powerless like we were as children in traumatic environments. We can make changes that make a difference. It might not be the huge immediate difference we want, but it will make a difference. Every child on the planet is here to overcome something. They will feel pain on their journey. They will experience bad things. And they are generally not your fault. But if they see you handle bad things in an empowered way, they will learn from your example and they will flourish.
** If you are looking for guidance about how to shift your parenting out of powerlessness, take a look at my parenting offerings and let me guide you.
I usually don’t write about current events. I do that on purpose. I want to keep the focus on recovery. Too much focus on current events can be triggering. Triggers can be helpful in recovery by giving us access to our emotions, but they can also shut us down if they come too fast and furious. That said, I have been feeling a strong urge to ask a question about the reactions to the sexual harassment allegations in recent months. And I can’t avoid it any longer. Why is everyone so shocked?
I have noticed many posts on social media and announcements in mainstream media themed with shock and dismay. They don’t understand how there could be so much of this going on. How could so many people be unaware of it? How could it have been missed for so long? The abuser seemed like such a nice person. How did they get so successful and powerful when they were such a bad person? But all of these questions seem incredibly naïve to me. I just don’t get how the denial has run this deep for so long. Actually I do get it. It is convenient to deny it. It is convenient to ignore it. It is convenient to victim blame.
So today, I am going to clear up some of this shock with my own explanations. For those who read my blog regularly, you probably know this already. But this post may be something you can share with your shocked friends.
- Most people who knew the abuser and the victims were aware of this. Some were aware of it for a long time. But they chose to look the other way. Why? Self preservation. It is easier to ignore it. It is less risky. There is less chance of retaliation. They won’t have to initiate a fight with this powerful person (which they are likely to lose). They need this powerful person in their life. They are even potentially reliant upon them for their success. They don’t want to get a reputation among other abusers as a whistle-blower. And what if it’s not true? What if they were imaging it? They will look crazy. The abuser might make them look crazy anyway. Society doesn’t like crazy people.
- The abuser is powerful and successful for a reason. Bad people are often powerful and successful. We have a crazy belief in society which is perpetuated by abusers. That belief states that successful and powerful people are that way because they deserve it. They worked hard for it. They are golden children who are smiled upon by a higher power. They are better than others. Successful and powerful people want us to believe this. If we believe this, we will see them as deserving of their elevated role in society, even see them as a higher caliber of human being. This facilitates further accumulation of power on their part which is the goal. Sexual harassment is not about an addiction to sex. It is about an addiction to power. So of course powerful people would do this. (I do understand there are successful people in the world who are truly helping others. We need many more of them.)
- The abuser appears nice for a reason. Abusive people are desperately trying to look like everyone else. Their mask is extremely strong. It needs to be to cover up their indiscretions and bad behavior. Often they will appear nicer than others who don’t need the same mask. When those abusers are famous, it is even more important to wear their mask when they are in public. If everyone believes them to be nice, they will look the other way when the behavior doesn’t support that reputation. If everyone believes them to be nice, they will be less likely to believe the victim. This is the strategy and it works.
But over the past few months, there is something that is shocking me. I am shocked that people are listening to the victims and taking action. Don’t get me wrong, I see that it is highly selective. The victims are rich, famous, white adults. Society does love privilege. And while companies are firing media personalities to safeguard their profits, politicians seem to be sticking around. But it is still different. It is a starting point. Maybe some abusers are thinking it might not be so easy in the future. Maybe some abusers are considering whether they can still be safe behind their power and their “nice mask”. Maybe society is just a tiny bit less accepting of the denial. More importantly, maybe victims are giving more thought to speaking out about their experiences. And while we have a long way to go, particularly when powerful people are sexually abusing children, maybe this is a start.
So when you hear the shock and dismay reaction, take a few minutes to educate. If people can understand that it works like this, if they can see this is normal, they might notice things they haven’t before. They won’t be so quick to look the other way or dismiss the claims of a victim. Let’s use this as a foundation for a new normal where denial is not acceptable and victims are not blamed and the powerful are not invincible. It is time for change. And we will be the change-makers.
“The world will be saved by the Western woman.” Dalai Lama
When it comes to parts work, there are some critical steps to healing ourselves. First, we must build awareness of our parts and their unconscious beliefs. Second, we must accept those parts for who they are today. Third, we must allow those parts to express themselves as much as they need. They must be heard and validated by us. Of course, this is much easier said than done. We have been taught there is something wrong with our parts. We have even been taught that our parts are dangerous. We have come to understand that what our parts have to offer the world is not acceptable. Getting started with the relationship-building is so difficult to do.
But this work comes with benefits. Maybe that goes without saying. Otherwise why would we do it? The most obvious benefit is the relief we get from expressing our painful story and the emotions that come with it. It is also beneficial for us to understand our true narrative. Everything makes so much more sense when we do. But the most significant benefit comes from who we become. We become our true selves. We become who we were always meant to be. We become the powerful self we were blocked from accessing through the trauma of childhood. How does that happen? As we express from our inner parts, they learn their true value, their true strengths. How do they learn that? We teach them.
In many ways, this is the re-parenting concept that can be so triggering for us. But hear me out. Don’t shut down the page yet. Good enough parents are supposed to help their children find their way in the world. Good enough parents are supposed to help their children access their strengths and use them to pursue their purpose. Good enough parents are supposed to help them become an individual in a world that prefers lemmings. And I will go out on a limb and guess that you didn’t have good enough parents. If you did, you would not be reading this. So here comes the triggering part. This is exactly what we have to do with our parts. I get that your parents were supposed to do it and didn’t do it. And that is NOT fair. But now you have the option to help your parts and yourself.
Recently, I was reminded of the power of this work through my own acceptance of parts. I have been working with a part who is not easy to accept. They are a freedom fighter which makes them not particularly friendly to others. They have made it clear they prefer to be alone. I call them the Prima Donna and their methods are somewhat questionable. They like to push people away with superiority. They like to tell others they don’t need them. It isn’t pleasant to retrieve the memories of this part in action. As I have mentioned before, the list of people I must avoid forever is long (and apparently getting longer).
I get what she is trying to do. She doesn’t want to be controlled. She doesn’t want to be abused. She doesn’t want to be told what to do by others. I know this. I have been working with the freedom fighters for a while now. But as I have always discovered in my parts, there is a strength in her. And no, it is not superiority. Over this past year, I have uncovered many ways I have fought for my freedom. I have struggled to gain freedom from my pain, contracts, oppression and even inner controller. But today, I have learned that my freedom fighting goes further. Today I have discovered that my Prima Donna is fighting for the freedom of others.
She didn’t push people away because they were holding her back or down (although some were). She didn’t push people away because they were bad people necessarily (although some were). She pushed people away to protect them from the abusers around her. She pushed them away to keep them safe. She put on a show to make them leave. This ensured her loneliness. In some ways it ensured her further abuse. But it also was a valiant attempt at freeing those around her.
And for that, I am grateful. I am grateful to her for the beauty of her heart. I am grateful that she was willing to ensure her own loneliness to save others. Did it work? Probably not. Not much we did as kids worked. That’s why we are so inundated with futility. But she didn’t give up. And she was willing to sacrifice everything for others. Now I know how strong she was. Now I know how strong I am.
Protecting my children has been one of my most important goals over the past 11 years. I have made it clear to my family and all other abusers that my children are not available to them. I have eliminated all contact with abusers in our lives. This required me to give up the only family I had ever known, a financial safety net, and all assistance with raising my children. But I gave it up to protect my children and it was the best decision I ever made.
There are a few reasons for my dedication to their protection. First, I am their mother. Of course I will protect them. I know what you’re thinking though. Not all parents protect their children. And I get that. My blog would not exist if parents did the right thing all the time. But there is an instinct underneath that trauma-based drive for personal safety. It is buried, but it is there. It whispers to protect them.
Second, my higher self has been talking to me. She can be hard to hear over the loud trumpeters that are my traumatized inner parts. But she is there. And she says I have a purpose. I have a purpose to break the cycle, to start a new generation within my family with new perspectives and beliefs. I sense it in my bones. I always have (even though I may not have always known what I was sensing).
Third, I have some really pissed off parts who are protecting some very traumatized inner children. They project that protection to my outer children. They wrap all their warped methods of protection around my children by default. But some of these methods have needed adjusting to truly break the cycle. The hovering has mellowed substantially. I don’t do everything for my kids anymore. It has certainly been a journey to find balance. Despite those struggles, my parts mean well. And they aren’t backing down no matter what. read more…