I’m on a train this morning. I love the train. I have always thought I would take one of those cross-country train trips one day. I feel calm on the train. My parts seem happy on the train. I can write well. Some of my best blog posts have been written on trains. This morning, my over-thinking tendencies have led me to contemplate why. And I have realized that being on a train makes me feel separate from the distracted and rushed life of the collective controller. It is as if the stress is happening out there and I am speeding through it. It feels like I am protected from the chaos because it happens “out there”. On the train, those problems don’t exist.
Of course, that isn’t true. American trains aren’t known for their timeliness and their unreliability can cause me all sorts of anxiety. And no matter what I do while on the train, life is still happening and waiting for me to acknowledge it. But it still feels like a mini-vacation. When we have trauma, we are always looking for a way to disconnect. But the controller is always finding a way to stay hyper-vigilant. Let’s face it. That’s exhausting. Somehow on a train, my controller takes a break for a few minutes. They calm down. And I love it.
It feels especially nice these days as my controller and goddess have been battling it out. My controller has been extra fearful lately. They are terrified of their own annihilation. And they are terrified of what will happen to the system if they cease to exist. No matter how much I tell the controller they aren’t going anywhere, this fear won’t quit. To the controller, life exists because of hyper-vigilance. The minute we step down from Defcon 1, we die. The minute we have faith that life will support us, life is over. The minute we consider the possibility that we can’t control everything, we can’t control anything. We become a sitting duck. Life will swallow us whole. The strong survive because they have found the magic formula that keeps all the bad things at bay.
But I know this isn’t true. I am aware that life doesn’t exist because we control it. Ever since my first yoga class, I have wanted to find the flow around me. I have only been able to feel it intermittently, but certainly more in recent years. I know there is a way to flow with this life. And I know my controller is the one who puts up the dam against the flow. I feel it. It happens in my body. The muscles tense, the body gets cold, bloated and numb, and the mind starts to race manically. I am stopped against the flow. It is like sitting on a rock in the middle of a river refusing to dive in to the water because I don’t know where it will lead me. Of course I don’t know where it will lead me. How could I? But my controller is 99% sure it’s heading straight for a waterfall. It is better to be stuck on the rock.
And maybe that’s why the train is such a great change for me. The train flows to its destination without my help. The train passes the rest of the world by. All the world’s problems seem so distant. The traffic, the rush to work, the hospitals, the shopping malls, the school buses full of kids all seem so far away from the flow. I am moving while the rest of the world stands still in their controller-enmeshed world. Is it an illusion? Of course. There are plenty of people outside the train who know how to “go with the flow”. But it feels how it feels. For those moments, I don’t feel like I am in a fight. I am just moving. I am moving without effort. I am moving without pushing and clawing and fighting like my controller does.
It is the same forward movement I feel in recovery. I have actually had visualizations of trains leaving stations at different points in my own journey. Recovery feels like the flow, like movement in a stagnant world. It feels like I am moving toward something the outside world can’t give me. It feels like something I can only find if I am protected and safe from the distractions and obsessions happening externally. So maybe I have answered my own question. I love the train because it is movement forward. I love the train because it flows. I love the train because it takes me somewhere I need to go. And that feels familiar. It feels right. It feels like home.
Tonight there is an agitation that won’t let go. It takes away my resilience. It makes me unsure of every step I take. The little things become big things. The email from someone who is critical makes me step a little harder. The change in my schedule at the last minute makes me raise my voice a little louder. The kids jumping a little too hard in the living room makes my heart beat a little too much. The muscles are just a bit too tense. The thoughts in my mind are following each other a little too closely.
It comes at a time that is busy, so there is much fodder for my mind to work with. There isn’t enough money in the account. There isn’t enough time to do all the things on the list. I am not doing well enough at this or well enough at that. My kids aren’t getting enough of my attention. My son is sick. My daughter is anxious. I am not a good enough mother. I can’t get it all done. There is too much to do. There is not enough time in the day. It sounds like a broken record running all day. It runs all day long.
So tonight I sit in the peace that comes with my children’s bedtime but with no peace in my mind and body. I sit with the tornadic activity and I try to breathe into my tight chest. What is the truth? Where is the truth? Is there truth in a life with complex trauma? Or do I just need to pick the reality that is right now? What is happening right now?
There is not enough money in the account, but there is enough for right now.
I can’t get through my list today, but I can take it one task at a time.
Some people don’t like what I have to say, but so many people do like it.
The kids are acting out, but they always do that when I am anxious. They will calm down when I do.
My son is sick, but he will be healthy in a day or two.
I am not a good enough mother, but maybe I am.
Maybe I can just question the chaos in my head for a minute. Maybe I can give myself a bit of space to know that I will get things done, that I will have the money, that I will be a good mother and that my son will heal. If I can hold the possibility, even for one minute, that my head is not aligning with my current reality, maybe there can be a shift in awareness. If I can write from my controller’s fear that everything will fall apart, maybe I can detach from it for even a minute. Maybe, just maybe, these are the fears of the past.
This is the controller here. Everything is going to fall apart. You aren’t keeping up with what you need to keep up with. This is going to be a disaster. I can’t believe you aren’t listening to me. You need to do things the way I have told you to do them. You need to stop engaging with the other stupid parts. You need to stay the course I have set. You will never manage the life you are creating. You are headed for total disaster and I won’t be strong enough to get you out of it this time. It is impossible for me to clean up the mess you have made. You should never have ignored my suggestions. You have truly made a mess of things. And I hate you for it.
But is this the truth? Is my life about to implode? Is my life about to end in total disaster because my path has differed from the controller’s ideals? No. There is no truth to that. Nothing is really wrong. As I sit here in this peace tonight, there is nothing I can point to and say, “Disaster is coming.” There are some worries. There are some tasks. There are even some projects. But honestly, they are also opportunities. The kids are healthy enough. As a mother, I have learned that viruses happen. The bank accounts have looked worse, believe me. And every once in a while, when my controller takes a break or I am able to detach, I can sense a bit of peace there. I can sense a place of calm. That is the knowing I need to hold on to. My real reality says everything will be okay.
I have been working with my goddess for the last few months and it’s been intense. Throughout this journey, I have noticed the power to take me down is directly proportional to the power of the inner part. And while my defenses have always been a struggle, they have really kicked in lately. My controller is NOT a fan of the goddess. And the longer I work with this part, the more I understand why. She is a powerhouse. She has the ability to stop me in my tracks with her futility and she does. She hasn’t created overwhelming external problems because I am open to the conversation, but if I tried to shut her down, it would be chaos.
The exhaustion caused by the battle between the controller and the goddess is big. My bed has been whispering sweet nothings in my ear and it is very tempting. While I know it is partially driven by futility, it is also true exhaustion from the inner processing. My level of activity has plummeted to levels I haven’t seen in a while. And the timing is not great. But let’s face it, it’s never great. The controller loves to tell us that timing matters. It doesn’t.
But even with all this paralysis, there is movement. The goddess is very interested in movement. She wants action, especially where the body is concerned. She doesn’t live in the mind and she doesn’t care what it has to say. She wants to bring balance to this system and she won’t take no for an answer. Since I have started working with her, there have been some interesting developments. I have become more active. I have planned some trips. I have explored more of what I love. I have joined a gym. And I have changed my diet. These are not controller things. These are body things. These are heart-centered things. These are definitely goddess things.
The messages from the goddess are very diverse. It has taken me some time to gain a conscious understanding of them. They are definitely about balance. Here are some of her teachings.
She’s back. This doesn’t seem earth-shattering at first, but it is. When she says she is back, it means she must have been here at some point. She was around in the very early years. She brings the primal needs of the system. Her need for sustenance, connection and self care would have been front and center when I was a small child. And this also explains her futility. None of these needs were met. So while I may not remember her, she was around.
She owns the body. While the controller runs the mind, she owns the body. She is in charge of making sure the body is well cared for. She ensures I can keep going physically as I meet life in a purposeful way. She wants me to know that the body matters. And she isn’t going to shut up until I get that message.
She is sick and tired of how the body is being treated. While she was being buried in years of manic thinking, freedom fighting and survival strategies, the body was paying the price. The eating and exercise were not what they should have been. The substances kept the emotional pain to a minimum, but did nothing for physical health. There was not enough rest. And she’s pissed. She’s got a lot of work to do. And she is tired of the controller trumping her needs. She has plans and they will happen.
She wants connection, but she has stories. She holds more futility about relationship than any other part. And that is saying something. She has been rejected again and again for the things she loves. And while she wants to connect with others, she wants to be authentic more. I have promised her we will not be compromising authenticity to meet the requirements of others anymore. And she wants to believe me.
She wants to go back to the basics. She feels that life is too complicated. She wants to clear out the muck. She wants to eliminate the static the controller used to distract me. And this goes for everything from extra work to extra furniture. It all needs to go. Simplification is best. If things are simple, there is time for rest and eating and connection and fun. If things are complicated, there is only time for running around. She is done with the controller’s way of life.
She is tired of focusing on time. She gets that time matters to some degree, but the constant pressure from the controller to get everything done quickly is not working for her. Now when I am doing something, I am aware of the battle in my head. It sounds like this:
“Hurry up. You are running out of time.”
“Stop panicking. There is plenty of time.”
I am getting the impression that the real answer is somewhere in between. It usually is.
I am contemplating how my goddess will change things. Overall I am excited about what she brings. My controller is panicked. And honestly, I just need a bit of rest. But I am past the point of thinking that change is scary. I won’t stagnate in this life anymore. And if it means there will be inner battles along with some exhaustion, I will take it. I would rather move forward. I would rather move anywhere. And the goddess agrees.
I see you working hard every day to make a difference in your life and in the world. I hear you talking about how things can be better, how we don’t have to live in pain. I know you mean well with your optimism and your hopefulness. But I don’t think you are right. I can’t understand how life could be the way you think. How is this possible? My life has never represented the world you believe exists. Nobody cared about me. They only cared when they wanted something. Maybe they wanted to abuse me. Maybe they wanted me to do chores or fix dinner or loan them money. But they never cared.
And the response was always the same. I could do nothing right. Everything I did was wrong. Everything I touched was messed up. Every time I tried to make something better or get any appreciation, it ended in disappointment for me and others. There was nothing good that came from my efforts to make it different. And they didn’t just reject what I did. They rejected me as a person. They rejected all that I represented as a human being. They rejected my creativity, my femininity, my intelligence, my hopes and dreams. They wanted me to know that I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t good enough at anything. I never lived up to their expectations and no matter what I did, I never would.
Why would you want to make your way in a world full of people like this? Why would you want to live in a universe that clearly doesn’t care if you are here? I can’t do it. I had to shut it all down. I had to stop caring or I would have crumpled on the floor in despair. The pain was too great to allow myself to care. I could not keep going with that hanging over my head. I had to detach. There was no other way. And now here you are with your hopefulness telling me that it is okay to care. It is okay to dream. It is okay to believe that something good can happen or that life could be what I always wanted. How am I supposed to jump on board with that?
Look. I am not trying to reject you. You seem nice. I can tell you mean well. You listen to me, to what I have always wanted, to my nightmare experiences from the past. You even let me write your blog. That’s pretty cool. But you are only one person. How can you protect me from the critical “naysayers” of the world? You can’t. They are everywhere. They are the only people I have ever met. While it is tempting to think about my dreams that were squashed as a child, it is dangerous. The disappointment could be too much. I’m not sure I could handle it again. I’m not sure I have another round left in me.
I want to start by telling you how much I honor and respect your decisions after all you have been through. You have heard nothing but negativity. You have had nothing but rejection. It is no wonder you have chosen to give up, to stop caring. I really get it. I get it deeply. I feel your futility and I know it must have been hard to stay alive through all of your experiences.
But what I have to offer you is different. It doesn’t come with a promise of approval and unconditional love from others. Honestly, that is unrealistic. It isn’t possible. You are right about that. What I have to offer doesn’t require their approval. It is a new way of living. Honestly, it is the way you were meant to live. It is how you have always tried to convince me to live, but the approval-seeking got in the way. It only takes our approval now. If we decide we want it, we can have it. Of course, there are time and money to consider. The controller is there to remind us of that. But with the right commitment to what we want, we can create it. And what others think won’t matter.
Why did it matter before? In childhood, it has to matter. That is why life can be so confusing. The rules change in adulthood, but nobody tells us. They don’t tell us we can do things differently. That part gets left out of the “How to Adult” manual. We have freedom now. We are not required to follow those rules anymore. Yes. There are laws. But all those made-up childhood rules don’t apply. We don’t answer to those people.
So please let me show you another way. Please share your hopes and dreams with me. Please trust in me to make them happen. And please be patient with me as I navigate the fears of the other inner parts and figure out the best way to make our dreams happen. Share with me any futility you need to share, but know that I will work best with you by my side. I need you by my side. I hope you will consider what I have said here. I am truly excited about what is to come.
The first to love you unconditionally,
How do I know what I want?
This is the most common question asked by my clients. And it doesn’t surprise me. We grew up in an environment which did not allow us to connect with ourselves. We were not allowed to ask for what we wanted. We were not allowed to feel how we felt. We were not allowed to say no to what we didn’t want. After trying to express ourselves authentically to no avail, we learned to shut it down. It was too painful to listen to the cries from inside when we could not answer them. So we just shut it down.
Now that we are adults, we listen to all the mainstream self help experts. They say the same things. “You have the answers inside.” “Trust your intuition.” “Listen to what you want above all others.” Well damn. If that isn’t confusing, nothing is. How are we supposed to connect with the voice we were forced to shut down all those years ago? How do we know what we want? It isn’t that we hear it and ignore it (although that may be happening). We don’t even know what it sounds like.
Why don’t we know what it sounds like? It is buried under years of traumatic emotions and memories we had to shove down with it. And our intuition is only available when we are in a grounded state. In other words, we have to be in the body. But all the pain is in the body. We have spent years mastering the ability to stay out of the body. Now we have to face the fact that our intuition is exactly where we don’t want to go. While it would be nice if the first step was “access our intuition”, it isn’t. The first step is to feel the pain of the past. Who wants to do that?
But if you are reading this, you are already on that journey. And you may be wondering how you can tease out the intuitive messages from all the parts screaming in your head. What’s intuition and what is the inner parts chatter? Here are some rules I have learned as I have accessed my own intuition.
- Intuition sounds insane. If you hear a voice inside your head saying you should stay small and live a comfortable life, you are not hearing your intuition. Your intuition is about living large and fulfilling a purpose. That purpose is never small. It is never safe. Intuition is scary. Intuition says you are meant to do amazing things. It doesn’t mean you are meant to be famous or win the Nobel Peace Prize, but it means you are meant to do something that scares you. Think of the scariest thing you could do. Think of the thing that makes your heart race and stomach do twists and turns. Does that thing make you proud beyond measure? That’s your thing.
- Intuition is a whisper. Your inner parts scream at you. Maybe they don’t scream at you all the time. But they scream at you sometimes. And when you are trying to get in touch with your intuition, your parts scream at you the loudest. They are trying to drown it out. The controller is the biggest enemy of your intuition. They are NOT okay with anything big and risky. That is not their thing. But if you can ground and listen to the whisper, you may get an idea of what your intuition has to say. And if the first response to a thought is a beat-down by your controller, it is probably your intuition.
- Intuition doesn’t sound desperate. Your inner parts are desperate. Why? They are always fighting with another inner part. Even our most prominent parts have an opposing part. You may not be able to hear it, but the opposition is there. So your parts will be in a hurry. Your parts will make you feel like time and energy is running out. Your parts will go to desperate lengths to have their needs met. But intuition is patient. Intuition can wait. Intuition is standing by waiting for you to wake up. Intuition knows you want what they are offering. And any opposition is not concerning.
- Intuition will never give you the entire picture. Following intuition requires faith. I am not talking about religious faith. I am talking about faith in life. And I already know what you are thinking. How can I possibly have faith in life after what I have been through? The controller is the antithesis of faith. But with trauma processing, that faith will build. And one day, you will hear that first step and find it hard not to take it. You won’t know what will come next and that won’t matter as much as it used to. You will take that first step. And after you take that first step, the next step will become clear. And you will take it. That’s how intuition works. Don’t get me wrong, you may have a fuzzy picture of where you are going. But how you are getting there will be a mystery.
Don’t give up on finding your way back to yourself. You do know what you want. It is buried under a ton of muck, but it is there. And as you work through your traumatic emotions and memories, you will start to hear the whisper. As you get to know your inner parts, you will notice how your parts keep you away from the whisper. You will build the ability to hear yourself above the din of society and your inner chatter. You will learn to trust and follow yourself above everything else. But it will take time. For today, trust enough to take one step.
I went to the grocery store this morning. I have never liked grocery stores. I have trauma around food which complicates my shopping experience. But this morning as I walked down the aisles, I quickly noticed more activity than usual. The employees were tearing down shelves and moving labels and food around. It seemed like a full-blown reorganization. My mind immediately went to the place it always goes. Right then, I noticed an elderly woman walking the opposite way down the aisle. As I passed her, she spoke to me. And she said exactly what was going through my head.
“I just learned where everything is and now they are going to change it.”
I wanted to give her a high five. But I thought that might have been a slightly extreme reaction. I did affirm her frustrations though. Change is hard. Change is particularly hard for those of us who lived in chaotic childhoods. It is nice to know our food will be on the same shelf every week. It is nice to know that what we have come to expect won’t change. But in reality, everything is always changing. The old adage that “everything is temporary” is true, no matter how much we don’t want it to be true. But it is frustrating and scary when external stuff changes. And it is absolutely terrifying when the internal stuff changes.
That’s where I am now. There is internal change on the horizon and it is big. I can feel it in my body. There is muscle tension in my back and neck (more than usual) which is making it hard to function at normal capacity. My heart feels like it is in a constant state of contraction, like there is a war inside it. My anxiety and fear are certainly high. I can feel my immune system working overtime. And my inner conversation has reached a high-pitch intensity I haven’t seen in a while. There is change coming. And my parts are sure this will be a bad thing.
I have been writing my inner conversation with a bit more commitment than usual. I am usually committed but when the war inside has the potential to take me down physically, I get extra committed. So today, I thought I would share my inner battle between my goddess and my controller. These two inner parts have a way of mirroring the feminine and masculine struggles which seem to be manifesting globally these days. The futility of the feminine and the oppressiveness of the masculine are in full effect. And something tells me that if we don’t work this out on the inside, we can’t work this out on the outside.
Nothing ever works out. Don’t you see there is no hope for me in this world? I don’t belong here. There is nothing I can take from this world that will help me. There is nothing here for me at all. I am an alien. This world is filled with evil and nastiness and there is no point in continuing the battle to survive, to fit in, to be someone who is respected. I am not welcome here. I didn’t create this circus. I am not a part of this circus. I can never be a part of this circus. There is something about me that is different and I cannot belong here. So stop trying. It is best to wait until I can go home where I belong. Don’t you understand? This is not my place. I have been told that over and over and over again. This is not my place.
Did you just hear that? How can you let her loose knowing that? Can’t you see that it will do no good at all to have her with us? She will drag us down with her talk of not belonging, of being different. She will bury us in her futility (as you call it). She will leave us with no practical way to survive because she doesn’t care about those things. Can’t you see how she is a problem? She is right. She doesn’t fit here. So leave her where she is. Leave her buried deep inside where she belongs. She has no place here. Even she knows she has no place here. Stop trying to rescue every part of yourself. Maybe some parts need to stay tucked away. Maybe her place is in the dark. Society certainly thinks so. They can’t all be wrong, can they? Why would they all be wrong?
The Adult Self
I don’t agree with either of you. I don’t believe that she belongs in the dark. I don’t believe she doesn’t belong here. Society needs her. Society needs more of her. She must come out and show others they can come out too. We must show society a different way, a balanced way. There has to be a balanced way or our human race will die just like the Earth is dying. She must come out or there will be nothing left to come out to. She must come out in mass. It is time for her to live whether or not she “belongs”. Honestly, this world is messed up right now. She isn’t supposed to belong. She is supposed to lift it up. She needs to lift it up. And she must start now.
There may be nothing more horrible than the isolation that comes with a childhood of complex trauma. It isn’t that we are alone. We are probably surrounded by people, but we are alone on the inside. Life is happening around us. It may even be happening to us. But we aren’t really involved. We are watching. We are watching others have fun in life. We are watching others meet milestones. We are watching life happen to others. But this life is not for us. This life is not ours to live.
Sometimes I feel like I was dropped off on Earth from another planet. It feels like my actual family and community asked me to visit this planet and learn the ways of Earthlings. But on the way, I accidentally hit my head and became an amnesiac. Now I am wandering around Earth trying to act like a human while my real family desperately tries to find me. It might seem far-fetched, but there isn’t anything more far-fetched than my actual story.
Feeling out of place is so normal that feeling anything else feels out of place. I have always wanted to belong somewhere. I have searched for a place or a community that felt good to me, that felt like home. In the end, I was always left feeling like an outcast. Is that because I didn’t belong? Maybe. Maybe not. But I had inner parts who were convinced I would never belong. They knew I was never going to be like the others. They knew I would be rejected and abandoned by them. And because they knew it, they made it happen.
So I search for home. It might fuel my love of travel. Maybe I believe if I see enough places in the world, I will find my home. It probably fuels my extroversion despite my relational trauma. If I can finally meet the right group of people, everything will be okay. I will finally be home. And this is how we live after trauma. We search. We search for that family, community and feeling of home. We search for something that will make us feel like we belong somewhere, anywhere. We want something more than isolation. We know we are supposed to belong.
But we don’t know it’s an inside job. It isn’t about others. It is about our own beliefs and messages. We are telling ourselves the reasons for our isolation but they aren’t real. Let’s look at the most common beliefs keeping us isolated.
I am not good enough for others. This was drilled into our heads by abusers and bullies in our traumatic childhoods. It doesn’t even matter if these things were said out loud. The behavior of our abusers was often meant to be interpreted in this way. And since our child brains are wired toward self-blame, we get the message loud and clear. We take that message into adulthood and watch it manifest over and over again. So we isolate.
I can’t connect with others. In childhood, we didn’t do what other kids did. We didn’t have time to play. We were too busy trying to stay alive. And there is no more energy available after the obligatory survival tasks. In adulthood, we can feel awkward in situations that seem “surfacey” or all about fun. We live in a very deep place focused on hyper-vigilance and trauma recovery. We can’t connect with others who are doing normal life stuff. We just don’t get it. So we isolate.
I can’t trust anyone. Let’s face it. In childhood, we could not trust almost everyone around us. Even people who appeared to care really didn’t stand up for us the way we needed. And sometimes, people developed trust to manipulate or betray us. In adulthood, we have this expectation of humanity and it is not helping us to meet great people. We can’t. If we meet a great person, we don’t believe them. We are sure they are lying. And after many attempts to meet someone trustworthy to no avail, we give up. So we isolate.
The irony is there are so many of us isolating from the world for these reasons. And if we knew about each other, we would build networks to support us in our journey home. But first, we must look inward and recognize the lies we were told and the lies we keep telling ourselves. We are not meant to be isolated. We are meant to connect and belong somewhere. But we will have to come out from behind the curtain of isolation we have created. Only then can we come home.
I have always been a hard worker. The compliments about my productivity have been endless. People are always amazed at how much I can get done. “I wish I had your energy.” “How do you stay so organized?” “It is amazing how much you fit into one day.” They say it like it is a choice. They say it like I have chosen this as my life’s dream, as though productivity was an Olympic sport and I have always aspired to the gold medal. And while I always take the compliment, I find the entire conversation very confusing. It was never a choice. And it has never been for fun.
I learned a long time ago that I had one acceptable path in life. If I wanted to be loved, translated to “stay alive”, I had to be perfect. I had to pay attention to every detail. I had to stay as hyper-vigilant as possible. And there was no time for relaxation or enjoyment. Life was about survival. Life was about working hard. Life was about getting through the day without any major messes. My life involved walking on egg shells and hoping nothing drastic went wrong while staying on my toes.
I wasn’t the kind of person who got to relax. If I didn’t earn it, I didn’t get to keep it. And by earn it, I mean work twice as hard as everyone else. In childhood, if I took a break, I was quickly accused of being lazy and useless. There was no downtime for me. There was no enjoyment.
In adulthood, this translated well in the workplace. Corporations love the hard workers. They love the employee who is willing to stay late every day, even pull an all-nighter if the project required. They love the employee who defines herself by her work and is always trying to get that next promotion. And when I wasn’t working at the office, I was volunteering. I was constantly working at something. I knew the secret was in the work. There was some point when it would all make sense. There was a destination. There had to be.
So when the energy started to wane, which it always does, the panic set in. I am going to miss a detail. I am going to be accused of imperfection. I am going to get in trouble for my laziness. They are going to know the truth about me. But as I look back on my early years, I realize the hard work wasn’t the answer. Working hard to impress others never actually met my goal. Don’t get me wrong, I got promotions and raises and things like that. Everyone loves a hard worker. But nobody ever gave me what I was looking for.
I wanted to rest. I wanted to rest securely in the understanding that I was going to be okay. I wanted someone to tell me I was going to be okay. I wanted to feel peace. I wanted just one person to thank me for all I had done and let me know I didn’t have to keep running, working, chasing the red dot. I was so exhausted. But nobody ever said I could stop. I just wanted to stop.
But my inner drill sergeant would have never let it happen. It was too scary to stop. Life might end if I stopped because I would have no more identity. But recently, it has occurred to me that I can stop whenever I want. Don’t get me wrong, I still have to pay the bills and raise the kids. But I don’t have to run the hamster wheel any longer. I never had to. In adulthood, the hyper-vigilance has never gained me a thing. Planning is helpful. Working is helpful within reason. But nonstop running is not helpful.
So I have started to question the message from my controller. The message that tells me I must run, run, run is not a friendly message. It is a survival message. It comes from my trauma. I don’t have to listen to that message to be safe anymore. I can live a calmer life and there will be no punishment for it. I can live a peaceful life and nothing bad will happen. Life isn’t meant to be what the abusers taught me. There is no destination. I am there now. And I am okay.
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.