I’ve always had this wish to have that circle of friends. You know that amazing group of friends we see in all the movies and commercials where they eat together, vacation together and are unconditionally supportive of each other even when they make mistakes. I’ll be honest. I am not entirely sure this kind of friend circle is entirely possible based on the current evolution of humanity, but maybe that’s my trauma talking. I can say that it doesn’t seem to be possible for me. I am a bad friend. I don’t know how to navigate a relationship unless the rules are very clearly defined. And let’s be real, they never are.
Relationships bring up the most struggle from my inner parts because relationships are where my trauma happened. So up until now, I have had to keep my desire for that circle of friends as a pipe dream. I have had to give myself distance from people so I can watch my reaction to them and help my parts heal. When my relational patterns have inevitably shown up, I have had to process in isolation so I can keep building my relational skills. Through all my processing, I have learned some of the reasons I am a bad friend. I am not saying that to be hard on myself. It’s not my fault I was plagued with so many relational challenges. But I have learned that honesty about my struggles is my best way to healing.
My controller is controlling. This is not surprising. It doesn’t mean I am always controlling the other person. But it means I am always trying to control the situation. Everyone and everything has to follow rules. If someone wants to spend time with me, I have to schedule them in. I have to figure out how to have time for a person while doing all my other tasks. And I’ll be honest, my controller doesn’t prioritize friendship high on the list of things to get done. Having friends is not life or death. There is no goal to be reached. So they see it as something to do when everything else is done. And everything else is never done. My controller is also trying to figure out where everyone stands. What is my role in this friendship? What is expected of me? Who has the power position here? In friendship, the rules aren’t clear. And if it gets too unclear, the controller wants to move on.
My isolator is distancing. The isolator doesn’t trust. That’s understandable. But it can make vulnerability very challenging. Why should I open up to someone who is just going to leave? Why would I make time for someone who just wants something from me? The isolator sees everyone as a potential threat to my ability to stay authentic and true to self. So distance is best. The more suggestions another person has, the more the isolator will distance. They see “arm’s length” as the best option for relating to others, and they will do whatever it takes to keep people there.
My love seeker is blocked. I do have a part(s) who wants connection. As a matter of a fact, they are screaming for it. They are desperate for it. But they’re blocked. And they aren’t just blocked by one part. They are blocked by almost all the other parts for different reasons. The vulnerability and closeness the love seeker seeks is not acceptable. And the patterns they tend to recreate are not safe. So they get blocked. But when they do get out, they come on strong for a short time, creating confusion for someone who may be used to (and comfortable with) my standoffish tendencies.
My inner rebel is defying. As a freedom fighter, my inner rebel wants to make sure there are no attempts to get in the way of my freedom. If someone is interested in telling me what I should do next, you can bet I won’t be doing it, even if it is a great idea. Don’t get me wrong, it is good to disagree and be open about it. Conflict is fine in friendships. But my inner rebel won’t be so obvious. I might even say that’s a great idea. But when I am on my own, I will never be able to make it happen. There will be a force of monumental proportions stopping me from my attempts to take steps in that direction, even when I am completely on board with it. And that can leave others completely baffled.
My karma kid is preparing. My karma kid knows what the family contracts say. If I am breaking them (and I am), the people close to me will suffer. They will be harmed by my family. So I either have to have secret relationships with others (which is impossible) or I have to stay on my own to avoid anyone else being hurt by my horrible family members. My karma kid knows better than to drag any innocent people into the mess that is my life. I must sacrifice my desire for connection to keep everyone else out of trouble. And unfortunately, the more I like another person, the more this applies. My family was NEVER okay with anyone or anything I really liked.
I will keep working with my inner parts and their survival skills. I will keep trying my best to unravel the relational struggles that seem inherent in those of us with complex trauma. I will slow things down so I can see what is happening with my inner parts. And hopefully, I will build an inner understanding of what friendship is supposed to be. In the process, I will do my best not to be so hard on myself for struggling to figure this out. It isn’t my fault I am a bad friend. But I’ll work to fix it because I deserve my circle of friends.
The futility has been sneaking in over this past week. It has been building just outside of my conscious awareness. This is what futility does. It doesn’t want to be noticed. It reminds me of the frog in the water as it heats up. It doesn’t know what’s happening until it’s too late. Maybe that’s depressing, but isn’t that the point? That’s exactly what futility is. It is depression. It is hopelessness. It tells you that nothing is okay. And while it is a flashback, our parts have some incredible skills. They can take the most intense futility on your best day and give you a convincing story about why it is about this moment. They do it so well.
The futility makes it hard to move. It feels like I am walking through 4 feet of mucky, swampy yuck just to do the most basic tasks. But I don’t need to tell you what it feels like. You know exactly what it feels like. You know what it feels like to be paralyzed. And that’s why we have to move. We have to move just enough to hear its message. We have to write down the real story about what it felt like to be trapped in a world of nasty, abusive people. We have to hear out the parts who think they are obligated to uphold the “contracts” with abusive people from childhood. But to start, it helps to hear what it sounds like now. What is the flashback being translated to right now? Here are some examples of what I am hearing.
“I’m never going to get better.” Just when I start feeling better, something happens to remind me that I’m not. There’s a dysfunctional behavior or an intense emotion I can’t stop from impacting my life. The very cyclical nature of recovery makes this inevitable. You feel better and then you feel worse. And every time you start to feel worse, the futility will come with it to tell you it will never get better. What a perfectly orchestrated train wreck! Thank you, universe. You are so clever. Now I have to take twice as long to work through how I feel because there is a layer of “why bother” on top of it. Sometimes I have conversations with the universe when I feel this way. I say they asked too much of me. I say this just isn’t possible. The obstacle course is not possible for a human being. And I’m not going to play the game anymore. Giving up seems like a much better idea. But what if the goal is not some perfectly healed person? What if there is no finish line to emotional development? I don’t know.
“It’s never going to get easier.” Living life as an adult is really hard. But living life as an adult with depression feels impossible. I am trying to figure out how to get the basics done. That long list of tasks like car inspections and census responses just makes it all seem totally pointless. And then add in a few massive crises in the world around me. Why am I trying? My controller has this completely distorted view that one day, all the things will be done. So when that never happens, they bitch and moan about how my futility is the cause of it. If I just pretended my past never happened, I would be able to get all the things done. But guess what! I tried that! I tried that for years and the stuff didn’t get done. Why? The stuff is never EVER going to get done. That’s the point. But the futility loves to tell me that means there is no point. I should just give up because the stuff will never get done. But what if the stuff is never supposed to get done? What if that isn’t the point of life in the first place? I don’t know.
“There’s no place for me here.” When it feels like I am an imposter, it can be so difficult to live in the world without wanting to give up. It is so convincing too. It helps that I talk to people all day long who are fighting this same fight. But some days, it can feel like the zombie apocalypse where 0.0005% of the population is awake. And maybe it’s okay to have surface friendships. It doesn’t feel as bad as it used to. But I have parts who are screaming for authentic conversation, real deep discussions about the human experience. And so many people want to talk about their new car and the floors they just put in their living room. I don’t care. I know that’s mean. But I don’t. And most people run from what I am talking about. And I get why they do it. Emotional healing is the hardest thing on the planet. I hate it. It’s messy and it’s unfair and it sucks. But I can’t live in zombie land. And my futility says to give up on this place. But what if there are enough of us waking up? What if we can tip the scales if we don’t give up? I don’t know.
When we hear these stories start to repeat in our minds, it is time to wonder. We won’t always have the strength to wonder. But if we can let ourselves consider where these messages might be coming from and what might be underneath them, we can hear the real story. It’s not easy. Some days, it feels impossible. But it must be possible. It has to be.
I decided to go no-contact with my family many years ago. It wasn’t a flippant decision. It wasn’t to punish my parents. It wasn’t any of those stereotypes about no-contact decisions. Those come from people who are either jealous of our freedom or have done the kinds of things that warrant no-contact decisions from their kids. I went no-contact because it was the safest thing I could do for my own children. I wanted them to have a chance at a normal life without abuse, trafficking and manipulation from the people who are supposed to love them. I look back on that decision now and see it as one of the best things I did.
But gong no-contact was not the end of the journey. In many cases, it is the beginning. It allows our system of inner parts the safety needed to start unraveling and unpacking the trauma we have carried around for years. And believe me, my system took the opportunity. My inner parts were tired of carrying around years of pain. They were tired of re-creating the patterns from childhood in every relationship. They were tired of not knowing what bad thing would happen next or whether or not I would remember it. They pushed through many defenses to be heard. I’m glad they did.
I have learned over these years that a traumatic childhood gives us a set of blinders. Many times, I don’t know what decisions I am making in the unconscious until I start to recover the memories that are driving those decisions. Each time I uncover a new pattern, it can feel like I have wasted a lifetime in the dysfunction it created. And after so many years of inner work, it feels frustrating to know that I am still getting these horrific people out of my unconscious. I hate that I am carrying them around still. I hate it so much that I go into denial about it sometimes. I don’t want to see it anymore. But to be fair, I have unraveled a ton of trauma so far. My life is much better. And when I am grounded, I know that.
This week, I thought I would share with you the ways my family stayed with me long after I sent them packing. I share these with you because you don’t deserve to carry them around either. And if this brings awareness to those parts of you, that makes it all worth it. So here’s a few bread crumbs to help you search your own unconscious. Here are some beliefs coming from my traumatic experiences with a dysfunctional family.
I’m not sure people are safe. I already get that there are plenty of people who aren’t actually safe. I am not talking about them here. We never want to think they are safe. But I struggle to see safe people as safe sometimes. And that is so frustrating. It is fueled by the years of meddling by my mother. There was no relationship that was untouched by her. So now, when someone says a word or phrase that sounds like my mother or indicates they may have been in a town where my mother has been, my isolator rises up with big questions. “How do I know my mother didn’t send them along?” “How can I be sure these people are safe?” She is still messing with my relationships long after I kicked her to the curb, at least for now.
I’m not convinced this is possible. That might sound a bit ridiculous coming from someone who is so invested in this process, I teach it to others. When I am grounded, I honestly and wholeheartedly believe it is possible to fully heal from our childhood trauma. I don’t just mean to “live with it”. I mean fully heal. But when I am not grounded, the futility seeps in and says there is no way to unravel the web they wove. It is too deep and too entangled in who I was supposed to be. It feels like surgically removing 150,000 pieces of shrapnel from my poor, tired body. And no matter how good my life gets, there is this nagging bit of doubt and futility that stick around, at least for now.
I regret the time spent in my trauma patterns. I don’t wallow in this place of regret. But there is a grieving process that comes with change. The grief is a requirement to ground into the change. That grief says, “I could have done this sooner.” And it doesn’t feel good. I hate that my early adult years were spent in a trance continuing to play out horrible patterns with my family and partners. I waited for them to do the right thing, but they weren’t capable of it. I want the years they stole from me and I am not going to get them. But I still need to give myself the compassion to express it. And I need to put the blame where it belongs. I won’t get anywhere with “get over it”. That has never been a healing phrase. But “what could’ve been” will show up in my mind on occasion, at least for now.
I do believe it is possible to unravel and untangle the web of complex trauma our families wove as they attempted to trap us in the same miserable life. I truly believe it is possible to feel all the feelings and remember all the memories which are driving our lives. In many cases, this journey starts with no-contact. But it doesn’t end there. When you hear the unconscious beckon you into “the old ways”, use your awareness to let it express. But make another choice. Your life doesn’t have to be dictated by the web. It can and does change with this work. Keep at it. The more you see what was left behind, the less it will impact your life.
There is a story in my family that my grandfather was a member of the KKK. This story is told differently from what you might be thinking. There is an eye roll and a condescending tone when it is told. It is told as if he was a silly little man making silly little decisions. It is told as if he just didn’t know any better. A 40-year-old man didn’t know any better. It is told with that southern manner of “tisk, tisk”, people shouldn’t do things like that. The story doesn’t hold the true intensity associated with a man choosing to commit horrible crimes with his buddies to oppress an entire race and gender. It is told as if there wasn’t terror and torture associated with this organization. It was just another story about our family’s history.
There is a story in my family that my ancestors came to the United States and Canada during the potato famine in Ireland. I am sure that is factual. But it is told as if they got a little hungry and jumped on a boat to cross the Atlantic. It is told as if they just started over after reaching new shores. It was no big deal. They just moved to a new city and got an apartment. There is no mention of the concentration camps the poor Irish were living in before they managed to leave Ireland. There is no mention of the horrific trauma instilled on them by the English who were literally trying to commit Irish genocide. There is no discussion about what they had to do to reunite what was left of their purposefully separated families and get on that ship. And there is no reference to the prejudice they faced from being Irish Catholic in this new world.
There is a story in my family of my mean great-grandparents. When my great-grandmother is mentioned, there is a bit of fear that comes along with her name. There may even be a small shutter in those who knew her. But it is played off. “You didn’t want to cross her.” “Her kids really didn’t want to do anything wrong.” It is almost said with pride. She knew how to control her children. She knew how to run a tight ship. People laugh when they mention how my mother was named for her. “Two peas in a pod. Isn’t that funny?” Hysterical. They say my grandfather would not have had it easy in that house. It would have been like living in a prison. But he made it out of there okay. I am sure he wasn’t too badly scarred from it. I am sure he was fine.
There is a story in my family that my grandfather made it through five amphibious landings in World War 2. It is told with much pride. I don’t know if it’s true. But I also know he is the type who could have done it. He had already lived through hell on Earth. He knew what to do in hell. I don’t doubt he was involved in at least one. There is a story in my family that my grandfather was honorably discharged near the end of the war. But it wasn’t from an injury. This is where the whispers start. He was drunk and disorderly, but when they looked at his record, the judge didn’t have the heart to discharge him dishonorably. I know that’s true too. But this is where the eye rolls come back. The condescension starts. “Poor Grandpat. He could never put down the bottle.” But come on. We all know soldiers were not discharged from the military for getting drunk. We know that the definition of “disorderly” runs a wide spectrum. Whatever his behavior was, it was bad enough for the military to see him as a risk during the chaos of war. And that’s bad.
There is a story in my family that my grandfather didn’t have much respect for the law. He had one of those charming personalities that made everyone like him when they should have hated him. “The gift of the gab!” There was so much pride in that. It was spoken as if living above the law as a privileged white, male veteran was almost heroic. There is a story in my family that he moved around a lot because he didn’t like to stay in one place. But then the whispers start. There may have been a few warrants in different places, but we can’t be sure. There are whispers about babies with other women and how he just could not seem to keep his hands off the women. “You know, like men do.” And there are whispers about the house he might have burned down for the insurance money. “He was so crafty like that.” “He was always getting away with things.” But nobody talks about how living in his immediate family would have been a living hell. Nobody talks about his affiliation with the KKK and how that gave him friends in high places, a way to do bad things without any repercussions, a way to stay out of jail. Nobody talks about that.
There are stories in my family, but they are only part of the truth. They don’t discuss the generations of trauma and how that built an extended family of people who despise themselves. They don’t talk about the massive undercurrent of fear that permeates their choices turning every single day into an episode of the Hunger Games. There is no discussion about what drives the trafficking and rape of their children, the domestic violence in their marriages and the hate-fueled crimes against other people they see as less than them. It is an addiction. It is a fix. For half a second, they feel like they have some power in this life. They feel like they have a way of ending their pain by passing it on to another. It doesn’t work though. It will never work. Trauma has to be healed from the inside out and only the most courageous will make that choice. People would rather stick to their current horrible behavior than face their pain. I have learned that the hard way. But I keep hoping we can bring the true painful context to these family stories. When we get real, we can make real change happen.
To my black friends as we rise up against structural racism,
I have been struggling this past week. Let’s face it. I have been struggling this whole year. It has been an extremely triggering year where it seems I have been swinging between a numb, manic state and a hopeless state. It hasn’t been easy to find those moments of grounding. And even those moments have been inundated with the trauma memories and grief I have been ignoring the rest of the time. So to be fair, I have been struggling this year. But this week took things to another level. The death of George Floyd is absolutely horrific. The death of every single black person leading up to his death has also been absolutely horrific. And the racist responses have been equally horrific. My own trauma has been triggered in so many ways. And yet, at the same time, I can say that I cannot ever truly understand the trauma that black people have endured in this country. I know what it’s like. And I don’t know what it’s like.
As a trafficking survivor, I know what it is like to be sold. I know what it is like to be valued for the money I can bring in and the “work” I can do. I know what it is like to only be valued for that. I experienced the worst of humanity as they raped me for money and truly did not care about my own pain as a human being. They never saw me as a human being. But I don’t know what it is like to have it be societally acceptable to do this to me. They had to keep up appearances. It had to be hidden. It had to be in the shadows. It had to be undercover. The world would have been horrified if they had known of my experiences. It would not have been justified as acceptable by the greater population.
I know what it is like to be told I am not as good as others. I know what it is like to be called evil and nasty and wrong. I know what it is like to be set up for failure psychologically. I came out of childhood thinking I would never amount to anything. I would never be good enough. I would always have to settle in every aspect of my life because I was damaged goods. But I also don’t know what it is like. I don’t know what it’s like to be set up for failure by an entire society in every system. I don’t know what it is like to be deemed to be less qualified for college, work, housing or loans because of the color of my skin. I cannot know that. I have never known that. And because of that, I had a way out. I had a college education and a job that allowed me to walk away from my family. Of course, it wasn’t that simple. The psychological impact of my trauma cannot be minimized. But my privilege was a huge factor in my recovery.
I know what it is like to be told my anger is the problem. All my life, I was told that the abuse and trafficking was not the problem. I was told I needed to stop being so angry. I was told I was out of line. I was told I was causing more problems for myself by being so difficult. I was not allowed to fight back. I had to be “peaceful”. I was told to calm down. Everybody thought I was crazy because of my anxiety and depression. They could not understand why I had reacted so intensely to my abuse. I just needed to stop reacting. I wasn’t being rational in my response. I know what it’s like to be the problem. But I don’t know what it’s like to fight against that on a global scale. I don’t know what it is like for my entire race to be labeled as angry. I could feign peace with my meditation and spiritual language. People would believe it because of the color of my skin. My physical illnesses were never attributed to anger even though they were caused by it. I could fake it because I was white … at least until they got to know me.
I know what it’s like to be gaslighted. I wasn’t allowed to interpret my reality. I wasn’t allowed to have my truth. I was only allowed to have the truth that was handed to me. I know what it’s like to be told there isn’t a problem while screaming in pain about the very real, huge problem. I even know what’s it’s like to experience this on a global scale. “Repressed memories aren’t real. You must have made that up. Your parents seem so nice. They are upstanding (and white) citizens. They are middle class. They would never do such things.” But I don’t know what it is like to be gaslighted before I open my mouth to speak. I don’t know what it’s like to experience gaslighting just for walking in a room. I don’t know what it is like for people to walk up to me and give me their very uninvited opinions about my race and my life before I have ever said a word. This I don’t know. I am a white middle-aged woman. That makes me invisible. And believe me, I have used my invisibility to grab that bit of distance and safety when I just cannot take another damn word of denial.
I know what it is like to be kept alive only because it would be difficult to explain my death. But you don’t. I am alive today because when a little white girl goes missing, people care. I am alive today because my white middle-class family could never have reported my death without a full investigation and someone going to jail. I am here because my death would have mattered to the system. And so many black children and adults have died because this wasn’t the case. I knew some of them. They were trafficked with me. I don’t know where they are today. But I can say that there would have been accountability for my murder. And there needs to be accountability for every murder. That has to change now.
So be angry. I’ll be angry with you. State your truth. And if someone tries to deny your truth, I’ll tell them they are wrong too. Fight for your rights. And I’ll fight with you. I don’t want my privilege. I don’t want to be able to do things you can’t. Take the time to address how you feel about yourselves and your worth. The idea that you are less worthy is a lie that must end in every one of our conscious and unconscious minds. And I will do my part to move these beliefs out of every mind that comes my way. You matter. Your lives matter. Enough is enough.
* A quote from a friend of mine: “I’m really starting to take in more and more how my experience as a person living in a pretty chaotic home situation with an abusive father, mentally ill brother, etc. was very much ‘colored’ by our race and how the world perceived us. I think it’s high time that we all understand that race and all the societal perceptions connected to that really are an integral part of the story of those struggling with mental illness/trauma, etc. It’s not separate. My father was a black man born in 1931 in Union, South Carolina. Surely, there were racial injustices that shaped him into the wounded person he became that turned his anger and hurt onto his family. It’s undeniable. So I’m working to call these things into focus. I’ve shied away from delving in for so long because of pain, anger, frustration, and other hard feelings that bubble up.”
I often talk about the grounded adult self and the importance of connecting with it for healing. But many survivors don’t believe they have a grounded adult self. It is understandable why they would feel that way. After childhood trauma, it can seem like we live in a constant state of enmeshment with a traumatized part. We will swing between a panicked part and a futile part and an angry part without ever feeling a moment of calm or peace. It can feel ridiculous to believe there is a true self, whole self, empowered self or a self untouched by trauma. But it is there. This self does not live in the mind. It doesn’t grow up (or not grow up) with the psyche. It is who we are. And it wants to help those lost parts come back to team self.
In order to find the grounded adult self, we have to do two things. First, we have to believe there is a grounded adult self. Our defenders will try to convince us it isn’t there. They will tell us we have made it up. They will tell us we are tricking ourselves to believe in such a thing. When the grounded adult self communicates to us through intuition, the defenders will discount every word of it as a figment of our imagination. So we must be strong in our understanding that a grounded adult self is present. Second, we must recognize the grounded adult self when they are stepping forward. If we recognize them, we can build our ability to get back to them. Over time, we can strengthen our access to the adult self to the point we can call on them in the worst of moments. This is incredibly powerful for our healing because the grounded adult self can hold space for the emotions of our traumatized parts. This creates a much higher tolerance for our traumatic emotions as we heal.
To help build your awareness of the grounded adult self, I will give you some personal examples of what it feels like to embody them. To be honest, there are many degrees of that embodiment. It runs on a continuum. It is not a switch we flip. But the more we work at it, the stronger our connection can become. Let’s take a look at what the grounded adult self brings to our lives.
New Realizations. Sometimes I will have an epiphany, an A-HA moment. In this moment, it will become clear to me that I have an unconscious belief driving a particularly frustrating pattern in my life. I will suddenly see a connection I have never seen before. I will figure out where a belief started. Sometimes this understanding stays conscious. Sometimes it disappears into the unconscious for a while longer. But in that moment of epiphany, I am with my grounded adult self.
Emotional Tolerance. I feel lots of emotions on this recovery journey. But there are moments when I can recognize that these emotions are about the past and coming from an inner part. In these moments, I am embodying the adult self. The recognition that my current emotional state has nothing to do with this moment can only be facilitated by the grounded adult self. And it reduces the fear of that emotion dramatically. In those moments, I am able to hold space and heal my inner parts with empowerment.
Intuitive Wisdom. When I say or write things that did NOT come from my mind, I am embodying the grounded adult self. My blogs and programs come from this place. When we are grounded, we have a much more direct and unfettered channel to our intuition and higher-self wisdom. In these moments, we will often find new solutions to old problems. We will potentially uncover ideas that go against conventional wisdom. But we will feel highly confident in the accuracy of the information. If someone challenges it, we won’t feel the normal defensiveness coming from the controller.
Patience. When I suddenly have patience, I am accessing my grounded adult self. None of my unhealed parts (or anyone’s parts) have real patience. They may be able to fake it for a while, but they can’t sustain it. I mostly see this in my parenting. I will have amazing moments of patience and clarity with my children that will shock me. These are the moments my grounded adult self is present. Unfortunately, they don’t happen enough. But when they do, I am impressed with my ability to “go with the flow”, something that I have never excelled at.
Creativity. When I am accessing my creativity, I am embodying the grounded adult self. This comes from the same place as the intuitive wisdom. They usually come together. We can come up with a brilliant new idea for how to solve a problem and the details will start to flow forward. This can last a few minutes or an entire afternoon. But the results are generally not conventional. The most brilliant artists and creators in the world are accessing this place.
Connection. My recovery has been a lonely journey (until I found all of you). But when I am embodying my grounded adult self, I feel a bit different about that aloneness. It feels more superficial. I get a sense of a connectedness with those who are not directly with me in the moment. The tolerance to being alone is something the grounded adult self helps us with. The ability to cope with the lack of approval from external people is strengthened when we are embodying the grounded adult self.
Inner Calm. Over the course of my recovery work, I have had moments of peace that have swept over my entire system. In those moments, my body feels relaxed and lacks tension. There is a sense that everything will be okay and that external events and obstacles matter much less than I think. In general, these moments have lasted for minutes before they vanish. Sometimes, they can last a bit longer before the defenders take over with their fears. But those moments are a connection with the grounded adult self.
While the grounded adult self might not be present often, the moments they are present are powerful. These moments bring the inspiration to keep driving forward in recovery or to try something new and brave. They are the times when we feel less alone or tolerant of the aloneness. They are moments when our perspective changes and we can bring ourselves through the darkest emotions. It is what we were meant to embody and it has lived within us all these years. So take the time to look for the grounded adult self in your life. It is always waiting to help you through your trauma.
Join us in June in Survivor’s Guide for Life as we explore our connection with the grounded adult self.
To the Adult Self,
We are coming to you as a committee of defenders with a plea to turn this ship around while there is any hope of a reasonable life. You are a naïve adult self. Maybe you have done too much reading from people who are more skilled at life than you. They have put too many ideas in your head about what might be possible. Maybe you have listened too much to the “higher self” who really doesn’t exist, but we will play along with that fairy tale for now. Maybe you have surrounded yourself with a few too many brave souls who seem to believe they can change their lives too. But we are here to tell you it cannot be done. The direction you are taking is too dangerous. It will only lead to heartache, loss and utter devastation. You must abandon these delusional steps before there is nothing left of us. There is an iceberg straight ahead and your foggy brain can’t see it yet. Stop this now.
As typical defenders led by an extremely well-organized controller, we have come to you with a list of the dire consequences of your actions. We are absolutely sure horrible things are inevitable if you do not cease and desist this crazy plan to have some kind of better life. You are imagining things. You will be deeply hurt in this process. And so will we.
We will lose everything. We will be starting over. And we can’t take anything with us. We will no longer have a connection to other human beings at all. Everything we have worked for in this life so far will be taken away. If we let go, we have to let it all go. We will lose our friends, we will have to say goodbye to those few relatives we have managed to stay connected with, and the biggest tragedy of all, we will have to give up the children. We cannot keep anything of the past. It is the rule. We must start anew with nothing of the past. Otherwise, we are being selfish in not honoring all that was done for us. This is a tragic nightmare. We cannot allow it.
We will not know the rules. We have lived by rules for all these years. These rules have been paramount to understanding life. We have been able to operate well within the constructs of these rules. If we leave these rules behind, we will be left with no direction. We won’t know what to do next. This intuition you talk about is not real. It is some kind of trick. It will not lead us to the right place. We will be lost in a maze of a world with no map, no navigational tools and no guidance systems. This will not be okay. We will drown in uncertainty.
We will be engulfed by our freedom. We don’t have the skills. We don’t have the bravery. We don’t have what it takes to be free. There are some people in the world who have the ability to be free. But they were born that way. They learned how to be free from the beginning. They developed the skills to live free in this world. They learned courage. They learned how to live with options. We never learned such things. You talk of some innate ability to live free. There is no such thing. It must be learned. And it is too late for us. We cannot have it now. In a different life with a different family, things might have been different. But you cannot open that cage after all this time. We are like those prisoners who were freed after 50 years and had no idea how to live. We cannot change.
We will drown in our emotions. This emotional life you want to live is the extremely dangerous. The body is dangerous. The body does not provide us with anything useful in navigating this world. Emotions are dangerous. They make us vulnerable to abuse. They endanger our societal acceptance. They keep us from a safe life where we fit in with the masses. We must fit in and we cannot do that by releasing these emotions willy-nilly just because they show up. They are best left in the dark crevices and shadows. Leave this well enough alone or we will be taken out by the tidal wave waiting just offshore.
This is not a playground. This is not a fairytale world where people get to explore without harm. Don’t be naïve. There are dangers in this place. And we have faced most of them. This is about survival. This is a game that must be played. Keep your game face strictly in place and avoid any significant connection with others. They will chew you up and spit you out. Keep the inner children tucked away in their special little spaces. They aren’t in that much pain. We can suppress it. Keep the freedom fighters in their prisons before they destroy everything we have worked so hard to create. Do your job as the adult self by keeping the system safe. Otherwise, you are irresponsible and you certainly do not need to be leading this effort. Hear us out before the time runs out. Lead us back to safety before all is lost.
The Inner Defenders
You turned me into a lot of things when I was a child. You projected all your horrible trauma on to me and made me your enemy. In reality, I was simply a child who wanted to be loved. I was your child and I wanted your protection. I wanted to feel safe. I was a little kid with no ability to stop the horrific experiences happening to me. I was doing what I had to do to survive. But to you, I was a lot of things. And all those things were wrong. It left me with a deep sense of shame. It left me with a belief that nobody would ever understand me or see me for who I was. Deep down inside, I knew I wasn’t those things. But you kept showing me repeatedly that you disagreed. So I have had to spend years finding the truth. I have wasted years on these lies. And honestly, I am furious. What were those lies?
I was the other woman. Yes mother. You were sick enough to make an 8-year-old into your competition. I get that you were horribly sexually abused, and you were operating from your parts who were also 8 years old. But it was your responsibility to straighten that shit out. You were not supposed to turn me into the other woman who was ruining a full-grown woman’s relationship with a full-grown man. There was nothing about this situation I wanted. I wanted parents. I did not want a love triangle. I did not want to compete over a sexual relationship I never consented to. And I certainly did not want this mindset. I don’t want to live a life where I always believe I am only good enough for a side-chick role. No thanks. I want to value myself more than that. You can have the pedophiles. I don’t want them.
I was a financial contributor. I am a financial contributor now. I am an adult and I am supposed to be one. Actually, I am the only one because my unconscious crappy thoughts (from you) won’t let me attract a reasonable partner yet. But as a child, I was never meant to pay your fucking bills. I wasn’t supposed to be “working” at 10 years old. I was not supposed to be sold to make ends meet. I know my dad did a good job of ruining your life and your financial situation. You married an asshole so that’s on you. But you also seemed to have plenty of space on the credit cards for all those clothes for your dates. It was not my job to make you financially solvent. You pimped me out to “make ends meet” and told me it was my job. And you filled my head with beliefs about the evil side of money and working for a living. But I won’t let that nonsense stop me from financial success now. And my kids won’t know what it’s like to be sold.
I was in the way of your social life. There is nobody who knows more about what it is like to have a social life stopped by their children. I have been a single mother for 11 years and it is hard to get out into the world. You were a single mother for a short time because you were desperate to find that next loser. And boy did you find some losers. But it was the ultimate cruelty to treat me like I was in the way of your life and a symbol of your failed marriage. Selling me served two purposes, didn’t it? You made money and I was out of the picture. I was gone. You were putting me in harm’s way to get back at my pedophile of a father! You are so sick. You taught me that I was nothing more than a pawn in your life. You filled my mind with unworthiness because the only person who is supposed to love me would rather send me away to horrific situations. I have had to admit to myself that you would have been okay with my death. That’s a horrible thing to have to admit. But I refuse to let that mean I was unworthy. You are a horrible person. I am not.
I was the guarantor in your relationships. Things sure did backfire on you, didn’t they? You treated me like a piece of meat and all of a sudden, there was a man in the picture. He looked great on paper. He made good money. He was a military man and they always look good to the rest of the world. He was willing to pay off all your debt. What an incredible business deal you had found! A savior at last! And I was a part of the package. You needed my cooperation because let’s face it, he wasn’t really that into you. He was into me. And I was pissed because you basically tried to kill me off. But you hadn’t told him that, had you? You pretended to be the perfect little mother. And you needed me to play along. You needed me to make him happy. He would have never stayed for you. You knew it. And you hated me for it. But you also couldn’t hate me because you needed him. What a conundrum you were in! You lost your power. You were now reliant on me, a furious pre-teen who wanted to kill you. You sure know how to make a mess of things. But that’s what you do. You make a mess of everything. You always have. I cooperated long enough for you to hook the pedophile into marriage. He threatened me with homelessness up until that point. But I got older and I fought back. Now you are both stuck with each other and I am OUT! I hope you are as miserable as I know you are. You are sneaking behind his back spending all his money and he is sitting around watching child porn. You hate each other and I know it. But you must hate him less than me since you chose him when I told the truth. And I am fine with that. I am building a real life with no pedophiles in it: a life you never had.
I was never meant to be a convenience for you. I was not meant to be a pawn in your game. I was not meant to be a way for you to gain financial security. I was a child. But you were not a mother. You were a pimp. You were a torturer. You were a massive obstacle for a child who had big plans for her life. You brainwashed me for a while. But I said NO! I will not be taught that I am unworthy of a good life. You do NOT win! You don’t get the upper hand in this life. You chose wrong. And now, you have to live with that. I made different choices. I get to have kids that love me. I get to have kids that give me hugs even when they are 13 (it really does happen). I get to have a peaceful house where nobody is beaten or threatened or raped or screamed at. I will get a real partnership with a real man. These are the dreams I had when I would dissociate into my fantasy land (although there were also unicorns). And I get to have that (maybe not the unicorns). You didn’t stop that. And you never will.
Another American Mother’s Day is approaching and I am still unraveling the web of contracts you spent my entire life trying to weave. I can’t even imagine how much energy and time you spent attempting to limit my life. Seriously, people have used that same energy and time to create amazing things in the world. People have worked that hard to break records, win Olympic gold medals or become nominated for Nobel peace prizes. But you can say you have used your skills to manipulate others on a grand scale. Congratulations on your momentous feat! You have wasted your life trying to keep others small. You have wasted your life swimming in your own fear and attempting to make everyone else do it too. What a HUGE waste of a life!
But I have some very important information for you here. You aren’t going to succeed in my case. It might be taking me years of hard work to undo the unconscious traps you set up in my system. But I am going to do it. I am going to release all these contracts and live the life I was supposed to live. It will be a bigger life than yours. It won’t be mired in darkness anymore. There will be beauty and love and compassion. I will have all the things you tried to steal from me with your brainwashing and programming. I won’t let my inner parts stay in this way of thinking. You don’t get to tell me how to live anymore. You don’t get to be in charge of my life now. My life belongs to me.
With each step I take into my unconscious, I discover another layer of your evil. I started this journey believing you were somewhat innocent. I had myself convinced you didn’t know what was happening to me. I wanted to believe that was true. As time went on, I realized I had to give up that story. I knew you knew. There were memories of you facilitating my abuse. And then, I discovered how you had trafficked me. But I still made excuses for you. I convinced myself you were a victim who was scared of these men and needing money to survive. I still somehow made you a victim. You weren’t in my life anymore, but I still wanted to give you space to be that victim. But this past month, I have been uncovering another layer of your hateful practices. And I am realizing you spent my childhood trying to set me up for an awful life, a life just like yours. While I may have already remembered some of these things, I now see it was all a plan from the start. So now I am calling you out and writing you off on a deeper level. While I didn’t think it was possible, the ties are severed even more. What have I discovered?
You tried to tell me that I would never be able to have a home of my own. Every time I did a household chore, you were there to tell me I did it wrong. You insulted my efforts and told me I would never succeed at anything in adulthood. You gave me impossible tasks so you could tell me I was a failure at anything I did. If I did them right, you would find a way to sabotage it. You teased me for being bad at things you never taught me to do. You said I could not cook or clean or take care of kids. Of course not. I was 10. And nobody taught me any of these things. But now it was stuck in my unconscious. Now I was filled with hopelessness that I would never be able to have my own household.
You sabotaged my friendships and intimate relationships so that I would know I had no other choice but to stay with you. You involved yourself in all my relationships and drove a wedge between me and every person I thought I could become close to. You ended relationships by suggesting I was a whore. My own mother called me a whore. I guess that made sense since you were selling me. But seriously. Do you realize how horrible that makes you look? They probably left my life more because they didn’t want to get involved in my ridiculous family. In some cases, you convinced some of my “friends” to spy on me and give you information. There were even some situations where you paid people to do this for you. That is seriously sick. And you created a hopelessness in me saying there was no point in relating to others anymore. Honestly, I started to believe it was safer for others if I stayed away from them.
And you were desperate to convince me I would never have or raise kids. You used to tease me about my body and the problems I had with it (all due to my horrific sexual abuse of course). You told me it would never work right. You let me know I would never be a real woman. And you signed me up for impossible child care jobs at young ages so you could show me how bad I was at it. Not surprisingly, I needed some fertility assistance to get pregnant which felt like a stab in the heart. When my twins were born small, you let me know that was all my fault too. I was desperate for them to grow and you knew it. How did you help? You started watering down their formula when I was sleeping (until I caught you). You are a disgusting human being who endangered the health of your grandchildren to further “prove your point” and control your daughter. I was left with the futility of not having the capacity to bring children into this world. And I have had to fight through it every day to be a good mother.
So I’ll see you never. I am done living a life where I am constantly trying to get past your contracts. I am removing myself from your control and your limits. I am going to live the life I want to live. I am going to have beautiful relationships. I am going to raise my kids and their most basic needs. They will feel safe. I am going to have a beautiful household with plenty of imperfections but nobody yelling at me about them. And you are going to sit and stew in your darkness. And that’s okay with me. See you never.
As you already know, this is a weird time. In some ways, this pandemic has paralyzed me. It has been difficult to get my normal tasks done. And it has been borderline impossible to get new things done. Unfortunately, it has coincided with the need to get some new things done. These new things have directly resulted from the other side of the Coronavirus struggle. That other side has been a deep, somewhat involuntary dive into my relationship with my mother. It makes some sense. The Coronavirus pandemic is a call to grieve on a global scale. And grieving is a letting go, a call to change. If we don’t fight it too much, this is a time for intense and powerful internal change, making external change inevitable, whether we have the energy or not.
So I am letting go of my mother on a deeper level. And I am letting go of the mother energy still surrounding me. Unfortunately, that has meant letting go of some people who were carrying that mother energy. That means finding new ways to do things I have been doing for years. And that also means fighting the deep sense within me that I cannot do things in a new way because I must continue my allegiance to my mother. But this is an allegiance I am deeply opposed to. I have been battling this allegiance for many years. I haven’t spoken to her in 10 years. I have worked hard to process contract after contract I have held with her. And now, there is another one. This one is not surprising. The fact that it is still here is probably the most surprising. But it does highlight the insidious and evil approach she took to controlling me. While this is my personal story, I also know that it is not.
This is much more than a personal story. It is the story of so many others. And it doesn’t help that we are constantly fighting (internally and externally) against a “mother story”. This story tells us that mothers are saints. They give so much. They are naturally nurturing and loving. They would do anything to protect us. We see these examples all over the movies, television, social media and Mother’s Day cards. Even our own mothers used this story to confuse us and leave us questioning our truth about what was really happening. But no mother lives up to the mother story, not even the good mothers. The mothers who are trying to live up to it are another story for another blog about societal victimization of women. But for today, let’s talk about the mothers who never intended to live up to it. Let’s discuss the mothers who use this story as a mask to hide their real intentions or a tool to gaslight their own children. Mothers can be just as nasty, controlling, manipulative and oppressive as any father can. Here are some examples of how toxic mothers control their children as exemplified by my own further discoveries this past month.
They compete with you. This starts at an incredibly young age. And that makes it impossible for you to win that competition. As a child, you will never be more talented, smart, financially savvy or manipulative than a grown adult. So you will learn early that you have no chance in life. You will never be able to truly succeed. You will never win. You will always be second-best. You learn you are unworthy of this life because you cannot figure out how to play the game better than the adults who were supposed to teach it to you. So you walk into adulthood carrying the heaviness of years of hopelessness.
They hold you to contracts. The concept of contracts might not make sense to you at first. Basically, they are deals. And you can probably guess they aren’t fair deals. They are often one-sided deals. Or if there is another side, it is often reneged or a total lie in the first place. And these contracts are lifelong. They might involve your future partners or children. They are meant to stop you from getting more out of life or having more success than your mother. Sometimes they are incredibly specific. They may tell you how much you are allowed to weigh or earn as a salary. And sometimes they are nebulous in ways that make it hard to know if you are keeping it. They may tell you that you have to play a specific role in relationships. There can even be contracts that contradict each other. In the end, you are likely to enter adulthood with a huge pile of rules you must follow, all of which will hold you back.
They sabotage you. Even with all the cards stacked against you, you will have moments of success. You will have times when you get close to happiness or feeling fulfilled. But those toxic mothers are watching closely. They can spot confidence a mile away. And they will come running. They will drive wedges in your relationships. They will convince you of your unworthiness when you start to feel good at something. They will remind you of your contracts over and over and over again. They will find ways to put you back in your place. And their methods are brutal. You would not consider doing these things to your worst enemies. They will break you with sabotage and convince you to give up. And you will grow up with no hope for the happiness you once thought was possible.
There is only one way out of this trap set by a toxic mother. We have to fight hard against the web of hopelessness they have created in us. We need to find these contracts. We need to feel this hopelessness. We need to help our inner parts see that their beliefs came from a toxic person and they don’t represent what our lives can be. We don’t owe our toxic mothers one little thing. We owe it to ourselves to live an amazing life. We owe it to future generations to stop this toxicity now. No matter what we may have heard from our toxic mothers, we can change our future.
Come join us in Survivor’s Guide in May as we get to know the karma kid, the primary inner part holding contracts with abusers. The more you know, the more you can release the hold of the past.