I thought about writing Jim instead. That is your name. It has been a while since I have thought of you as more than the person who spread his seed. That certainly doesn’t make you a father. You were never a father. Sure. You spent some of your precious money on me. You used my successes to brag. You were even a little proud when I blew up at your parents. But you were never a father. I know that now and I have stopped expecting to have a father in this lifetime. This may sadden you to know (or maybe not) that I rarely ever think about it anymore. It feels like many lifetimes ago when we shared the same space. I don’t really feel like anything is missing at this point. But that’s not true.
Something is missing. I am not concerned about the lack of positive memories as a father and daughter. I don’t really need those now. I am not concerned with the loss of your entire extended family who rejected me the minute I confronted you. I don’t miss those incredibly awkward family gatherings with a bunch of pedophiles and their victims. I am not concerned with the heritage or the name sake or other crap that society tells me I should care about. I can be Irish without your help. And I long since parted with your last name and have not considered it a loss.
But something is missing. Something is missing from my current life and it is mostly because of you. It is not that I don’t take responsibility for my healing, but you are the reason I have to heal. And on the really bad days, I hate you for it. I hate that I can’t have the life I want after living in hell with you for all those years. And while I don’t miss you one iota, I do miss what is missing. You took it from me. And while I work hard every single day to get it back, it is a slow process for which I don’t always have the patience. I want a new life and I want it now.
Don’t get me wrong, I know you weren’t trying to take them from me. You were trying to find a release for your pain at my expense. You were trying to feel okay by having power over me for a few minutes. And I understand where it came from. Your mother sexually abused you horribly. Your father disappeared. I know he was still at home, but he was gone emotionally and he was working all the time. You went through hell at the hands of that horrific woman while your father looked the other way. I get it. But you never made an effort to stop that cycle with you. You rained your pain down upon everyone else. You unleashed your hatred of your mother on to all the women in your life. And I was at the forefront.
What did you take from me?
You took love from me. I don’t mean that I loved you. I actually never really felt that for you. I know. I know. I was your daughter. I must have felt it. But you were so incredibly nasty that even my most loving inner child likened you to a dragon in my unconscious … and not the friendly kind. You were the devil to even my youngest inner parts. There was no love there. There was only fear. There was terror. But there was no love. Maybe that is why I never grieved your loss. I grieved mother (and she was no saint). I grieved others who I had to leave behind. But it has never been there for you. I mean something different when I say you took love from me. I mean you took away my ability to access my own love. I had to shut it all down. Love was too dangerous. Love wasn’t vigilant enough. Love was rest. And I could not risk that.
You took connection from me. My isolator exists because you are a human being who walks this earth (unfortunately still). I struggle to allow anyone close. I connect on some level and then my isolator starts to scream. Don’t get me wrong, this is getting better all the time. But the resistance to connecting with others is incredibly strong. And this is 100 times worse when that other is a potential intimate partner. How can I trust another man in that way? How can I see other men as reasonable after all the betrayal, the pain, the violence, the rape, the trafficking, the suffocation, the head injuries, the lies, the intimidation from the man who biologically created me? I’ll tell you what. It’s really freaking hard. I work at it. But you have made it hard.
You took away my peace. I remember that day you sat down at the restaurant table, looked me straight in the eye without one ounce of shame, and had the nerve to tell me I was too anxious. You actually told me I needed to calm down. I may have repressed all memory of our time together, but I still knew that was the most hypocritical thing you could say. I needed to calm down after years of questioning if I would survive the night. Seriously? Even now, I am not sure if you will hire someone to intimidate me like you did when I was a child … twice. Worse, I do not know if you will hire someone to kill me. Even worse, I am not sure you will stay away from my kids. But so far, you have. You have disappeared off the face of the earth because you know I speak the truth. But can I ever really know you will stay gone? No. I can’t know that. But I do check the obits every few months.
So as Father’s Day approaches, I have nothing to give you. I have no gifts, no love, no grief, no apologies, no nothing. You proved there are monsters in the world. You showed me this world was not safe. You taught me not to trust. You taught me I wasn’t worth anything to the person who was supposed to be the most important man in my childhood. And now I work hard to put those missing pieces back into my heart so I can live a real life without you. I will have the things you took. I am determined. But in the end, it will be no thanks to you.
I was watching a movie last night and the actors had a conversation that stuck with me. They were talking about the external milestones of life. They were discussing buying houses and having babies.
She said, “When is our life going to start?”
He said, “This is our life. We are living it.”
This may seem like an obvious concept. And while I have been aware for quite some time that I am living my life, some of my inner parts were really affected by these statements. I have taken many empowered steps to change my life patterns, but I realized I have been waiting for something. I realized I have always been waiting to officially start my life. This is not a new concept, but it seems to have hit me at a deeper level. So I asked myself what I am waiting for. What is it we are all waiting for? And honestly, there are quite a few things.
- We are waiting for an apology. I know. I know. This is completely futile. But while our adult selves can understand this intellectually, it is an entirely different matter for our inner children. They want our abusers to say they are sorry. They want our original relationships to become something they will never be. They want the love and attention they never received from our abusers or from someone just like our abusers. They want resolution. They want their relationship patterns to be resolved without having to let it all go. And it isn’t coming.
- We are waiting to be released. We have parts who hold contracts. And while I originally thought these parts only held contracts with our abusers in a trauma-bonded way, I now realize that our abuser contracts primed us to take on other contracts. These contracts are disturbingly random. Anyone who ever told us we owe them something is likely to be sitting in our unconscious holding us back. Wow! What a realization that is! I have discovered I am holding contracts with people and I don’t even remember their name. I am waiting for resolution from strangers who don’t remember me. And I know I am not alone.
- We are waiting for permission. We have parts who believe we cannot live life without others. We have parts who don’t understand we are empowered adults who can take whatever action necessary to move our lives forward, to stop our traumatic patterns. We have parts who are waiting for somebody to come along and tell us we can start living. We want another person to give us their approval, to give us the green light. But there is no such person. They aren’t there. Our lives start when we give ourselves permission to start it, to take those empowered steps forward.
- We are waiting for perfection. We have parts who are waiting to be good enough. By good enough, I mean perfect. We have spent our lives being told we are worthless and the people who succeed in life are perfect. Even our abusers were perfect. We were always the problem. We can never have a good life because we are the problem. And so many of our experiences have confirmed this. We have consistently brought people and situations into our lives who continue our childhood patterns. But we have never been the problem. Our abusers were the problem. And now our unconscious beliefs are manifesting and we have to break that pattern. Until we can begin to see ourselves as worthy of a good life, we can’t get started.
- We are waiting for peace. Peace means a lot of things to a lot of parts. It could mean isolation. It could mean internal calm. It could be meeting our goals, finding our calling or seeing our purpose manifest in our lives. It could mean winning a million dollars in the lottery or not having a care in the world. It could be going off grid or living on an island. But when we consider these things to be a predecessor to starting life, it will become another reason we are waiting to take the next step. We might be stuck waiting for that miraculous manifestation to bring peace to our world. But life doesn’t work like that. We have to seek it out. We have to take steps toward it. And it will take time to get there.
We are all getting older as we wait to start life. But on the other side of the two-way mirror, our life is waiting for us to join. We have to take the time to examine what we are waiting for. We have to explore how our unconscious patterns are keeping us stuck through old beliefs and understandings of the world. So ask yourself what you are waiting for. What must happen before you will take an empowered step toward what you want? And why are you giving your power over to it? Ask these questions because it is time to stop waiting.
I have been on this recovery journey for a while now. I have tried many approaches over the years. But for the past 10 years, I have taken myself to new unconscious depths and traveled through a world I had no idea existed. It has been painful and educational and scary and amazing. I have discovered so much about who I am. I am helping others discover who they are. Even with all this work, I found myself in a very familiar place during the past two weeks. But I forgot it was familiar … again. I decided to bring you my story so you don’t miss the signs when it happens to you. But let’s be honest. You probably will because we all miss the signs. And that’s okay.
Two weeks ago, I experienced a physical and energetic shift. This happens often with this work. Our memories are stored in the body. The body must let them go if they are to be released. Most of these releases are minor. Many are barely noticeable. These shifts can happen almost anywhere in my body from my hip to my arm. They feel like a muscle is slightly letting go with some energetic movement afterwards. I usually brace myself for the emotions and flashbacks that follow. But I knew I was in trouble the minute I felt this one. Why? It was in my heart.
I was not wrong to be concerned. The following day was okay, but by the weekend it was ugly. I was hit with one of the most intense bouts with futility I have had in a long time. I knew what caused it. I knew there was probably a memory associated with it. I knew it was not about right now, but I could barely function. I wrote and wrote and wrote and somehow pulled myself through. But none of my plans came to fruition. My controller was not happy. So they took over. This is where things got really ugly.
The controller started in their normal way. They numbed me out, but not too much because they know I notice these things. They turned up my mind to manic level, making lists and planning for the worse. They increased the worrying and self criticism, making sure my focus was on nonexistent financial problems and what-if scenarios. They shifted my sleeping patterns so I was getting about half of my normal sleep. And they stopped me from going to the gym. They knew better than to let my body move. They played their recovery mind games too. Suddenly I was convinced I was done with memory recovery. I thought the end of recovery was upon me. By the end of the week, my productivity was at about 50% of its normal level.
And I didn’t see it … until I saw it.
This weekend, I saw the patterns. I pulled back hard on the thinking and took some time to rest. I realized I had been completely inundated with defenses without knowing it. Yes. Me. The coach who teaches others how to recognize their defenses was completely blindsided. My controller got me. And they stole a week I won’t get back. So I want to bring these key signs to you today. Here is what to look for in your journey to find your defenses. Here is what the controller will do to avoid recovery.
- They will numb you and convince you it is so much better this way. Why feel when you can be numb?
- They will turn your mind into a chaotic, manic mess. They will inundate you with lists, hyper-vigilant planning and obsessive thinking about the past.
- They will remove sleep, rest and free time by overwhelming you with all the things that must be done instead.
- They will ensure you do not move your body in any significant way. If you exercise regularly, it will suddenly be reduced without explanation.
- They will convince you there is nothing to see in your recovery even when you are pretty sure that can’t be true.
Take it from me. These are signs that your system is locking down, putting up walls and preparing for a nuclear winter. There is something below the surface. There is something brewing. I am sure your controller has kept you from taking in this information, but read it several times, print it and watch for the signs. Will you still fall for it? Yes. You absolutely will. But armed with this bit of conscious information, you will lose less time wrapped up in your defenses. And knowing I can help you with that makes me feel better about my lost week.
This weekend I joined the billions who obsessed over the royal wedding. Maybe I didn’t obsess, but I definitely watched it. And I am not ashamed of that. My love seeker was a little disappointed that she won’t be marrying Harry. But otherwise, I could not have been more happy with the event and the changes it implies. Honestly, it was a nice distraction from the chaotic and unstable world around us right now. It was nice to see a bit of fairy tale amidst the yuck.
My interest in the wedding did not get past Facebook. My feed did what it normally does. All I had to do was click on one article about the wedding and suddenly, EVERYTHING in my feed was about the wedding. I have to admit, it was overkill. But this is Facebook. This is how it works. As I scrolled through hundreds of wedding posts, I did get drawn in to one article. It was an article about Meghan’s half brother and his attacks. It included a letter he wrote to Prince Harry warning him not to marry her. I guess you have to be pretty bold or stupid to write a letter to the royal family attempting to educate them about their romantic choices. And I am sure the royal family is used to that kind of nonsense. I only read the first paragraph before I had enough. I really don’t have any interest in that kind of betrayal. But for some reason, I skipped to the end. That is when the trigger came. I felt the anger build as I saw two words.
I immediately closed the site. I was furious. This phrase is the basis for the majority of the familial abuse on the planet. Abusers rely on the pressures behind “family first” to justify all of their mistreatment and transgressions. Let’s talk about what these two small words do to our psyches, society and the planet as a whole.
“Family first” invalidates anger. When society uses “family first” as a mantra, it teaches everyone that being angry at family members for their treatment is not acceptable. We learn that all family wrongdoing is to be ignored or forgiven for the sake of family. This encourages the acceptance of poor treatment, even abuse. It also negates our ability to be angry at other poor treatment. If it is acceptable within the family, it becomes acceptable in the rest of the world. This is how our trauma patterns are formed. And with our anger held at bay, there is not a catalyst to change those patterns.
“Family first” traps us in a small life. Society teaches us that family matters more than anything else. And this gets translated to mean our dreams and ultimate purpose matter less. We might understand that our life needs to stay small in support of our family. It might even mean that our life can be no bigger or bolder than our other family members. We can’t become who we are meant to be. This traps us in a small life and builds inner resentment over all the amazing things we had hoped to accomplish. And when this happens on a global scale, it makes the world a less amazing place.
“Family first” keeps us in the past. If we have to honor our family patterns, this means we can’t let go of them. We have to perpetuate them in our daily lives. This means we cannot grow out of patterns that don’t suit us in adulthood. We might feel destined to be people-pleasers. We might feel destined to be bullied and abused. We can’t live life from an empowered perspective because we have to honor the disempowered role we served in the family. To break free of this role in society, we have to recognize how wrong it was in our families. We have to put the blame where it belongs. And “family first” tells us that’s not allowed.
The next time you hear someone shouting about “family first”, look for the abuses they are trying to justify. It probably won’t be hard to spot. They may be using it to invalidate emotions or expression. They might be using it to keep another from realizing their dreams. But I guarantee it isn’t meant in a loving way. Loving families don’t need to remind each other to put family first. If family is loving and respectful, we would gladly elevate them to the role they are worthy of. And they would never try to hold us back. Those are families who are meant to be first.
Most of us have been on this journey for a long time. We have been searching for peace and healing for years. We have sought out the answers to our pain for years. We would most certainly call ourselves seekers. We are driven by something deep inside that won’t leave us alone. Even when we spend time in denial, we always come back. But the resistance to our journey is strong and coming from all directions. Society tells us to plan for the future, to ignore the past, to be as productive as possible, and to pretend we are fine, even perfect. Our family wants us to stay in denial and keep the secrets. Our friends wonder why we won’t stop thinking and talking about the past. All of these pressures can set us back on our journey.
But society has the wrong idea. We think we can leave the past behind by ignoring it, denying it and focusing on the future. But we cannot create what we want this way. It is like building a house of cards in an earthquake zone. It is only a matter of time before our past patterns, cycles, beliefs and emotions come rising up and shake everything to the ground. We cannot build a new life on this shaky foundation. We must dig deep and unearth the unconscious residue from our traumatic past. We must pull it up and out. Until that happens, we are not making a new life for ourselves. There is no room for it. The space to manifest is already full. And it is manifesting what we don’t want. To bring in the new, we must let go of the old. But what does it mean to let go of the old? Here are some examples I have found in my own life.
Letting Go of the Savior. If we grew up with childhood trauma, we almost always have inner children hoping for a savior. This savior might be modeled after someone who existed in real life or an imaginary person. But these hopes sit in our unconscious and drive most of what we do. They tell us things like, “Don’t be too successful or our savior might not feel the need to come.” Inner children are very opposed to the idea that we can save ourselves. They don’t understand we have an adult self now and can actually make empowered change in our lives. And if they are too strong in our unconscious, they might have us convinced we cannot save ourselves. They live in a state of helplessness and hopelessness. We must come to understand this as an emotional flashback so we can live our lives without the constant search for a savior.
Letting Go of the Parental Relationship. I am going to start by saying this isn’t always necessary in the most literal sense. We might not need to completely let go of the parental relationship to bring in the new. But I will guarantee we need to let go of the dysfunction and lack of boundaries. Parents will likely fight us on this, but this needs to be done for us to manifest our best life. These parental relationships in their current form are clouding our energy. We have contracts with them left over from childhood. These contracts might obligate us to take care of our parents’ emotional or physical needs. These contracts might obligate us to take part in their traditions. They may even obligate us to financially support our parents. These contracts are upheld by guilt and societal duty, but they are not in our best interest. These contracts mean we are not free. We are slaves to our past relationships. And new, more fulfilling relationships cannot enter our space while we uphold these contracts with our parents.
Letting Go of Dead People. This concept might be a stretch for you. I get that. Depending on your beliefs, this may or may not resonate with you. And feel free to take it or leave it. But for me, I have sensed some aspects of my energy being held up by dead people. My ancestors are most certainly hanging around and I used to think this was a good thing. I do believe we transmute and transform energy for the generations before us as we heal ourselves. And when we are on a deep healing path, this might give us quite a bit of spiritual company. It might feel comforting for a while. But I am starting to realize there is a point in this journey where I have to send them away. As long as my traumatic past is living in my energy, I am not completely free to bring in the new. But there is one significant dead person who I am particularly focused on at the moment: my ex-husband and children’s father. He needs to go. I have recently realized I have spent the past 7 years married to a ghost. He is deeply and energetically tied into my needs for a savior. And on some very unconscious level, my inner children were still expecting a return. But a return would only give me a heart attack. My adult self sincerely doesn’t want that for a couple of reasons. 1) He’s dead. 2) He’s deeply traumatized. So I have to let go of that relationship in my conscious mind, my unconscious mind and on a cellular level. There is nothing left to gain from continuing to hold on. It is time to bring in the new.
So in this time of bringing in the new (yes this is the time), check in with what you are holding on to from the past. It might be something glaring and obvious. It might make logical sense and it might not. It might be something so obscure you have to search through the depths of your unconscious. But if you aren’t manifesting what you want in life, there is something blocking it. Find it. It is your life and you get to remove anything that is not serving you. You get to say what stays and what goes. This is your time to grieve and let go of the past. This is your time to live your new life.
Mother’s Day is here again. This will be my 7th Mother’s Day without a mother. That isn’t true, is it? It has been 7 years since I cut you off. But I never really had a mother. This year, I want to do something for you. I’m not giving you a gift. I haven’t done that in ages. And I am sure you will use this Mother’s Day to play the victim to the world, telling everyone how your mean daughter cut you off from your grandchildren. Maybe this opportunity is a gift from me. You get another reason to play the victim. Lucky you!
This year, I want to give you something practical. I want to help you with your unconscious narrative. I know it has been so hard to keep that story going when you have a daughter who blasts your behavior all over the internet. I know that must be so hard for you. But I am sure you are managing. Honestly, I know you don’t read this stuff. Your defenses would never be able to withstand it. But you have an extra hard job covering up your abuses. And your story must be feeling a bit like Swiss cheese these days. So here goes:
I know it’s hard to justify the times you traded me to those babysitters and swim coaches. But you can let people know that you were just trying to give me the life you never had. It wasn’t the same as when my dad trafficked me. He made real money. You can tell folks that it was much more important that I get the opportunity to swim than to feel safe in my own body. You can let them know that swimming mattered so much to me and you couldn’t find the money to pay for it. There were just too many of your own shopping trips adding up on the credit cards. So you let me have my dream. Isn’t that a great thing?
It must be so difficult to explain how you held me down while I was raped by my stepfather. I know you wanted that pristine reputation that so many abusive mothers want. You know the one: that you had no idea what was happening behind those closed doors? You blew your cover that day because I fought back and you had to get involved. You were pissed too. I could tell. But there’s always a way to justify it. You could just let people know you were forced. You could just let them know you had to do it or your husband would have raped or beat you. It was a sacrifice you had to make to keep yourself safe. You were the victim. It doesn’t matter if it’s the truth right? What matters is your story. You really need that story to be believable, right?
It must be so difficult for you to deal with the sexual abuse. I mean really. That’s supposed to be what men do to little girls. Women are innocent. Women never hurt children. Women would never sexually abuse their children. But you can just tell people you were trying to teach me. You were just a woman teaching her daughter how the female body works. Isn’t that what you told me? That should work for everyone else, right?
I know it is complicated to explain why you stayed married to a violent pedophile for all those years. He beat us. He raped us. But you stayed. You kept us in the direct line of fire while encouraging and enabling his behavior. But you could say society gave you no choice. You could tell people you could not have financially survived on your own. You could just say that this is what women and children have to put up with from men. It is just how life works. That is what you told me, so that should work, right? Just blame it on society. That way, you don’t have to make any difficult choices. You don’t have to be responsible for your actions.
I am sure it is so challenging to face your physical and emotional abuse of your own daughter. Coming to terms with how you manipulated and neglected me must be so difficult for you. When you used to hit me so hard with the hairbrush that it left marks, it was just spanking, right? When you destroyed and threw away my most beloved toy, that was just a normal punishment for a young child. I am sure it was. When you left me for the entire day with no food so you could go to the mall, it was something all mothers do when they need a break. Right? How could these things really be that bad? I was just a rotten kid. Maybe you can just tell them I was a rotten kid. Who am I kidding? You already have.
I know these things are tough to explain away. It is hard to keep up the lies in your own head, let alone with others. And I know it is so hard to keep track of what you tell each person. It must be so confusing. So I hope these suggestions will help you get back on track with your narrative. I am sure you will continue to perfect it. I know your stories about the horrible child I was will get better and more elaborate. And the more your grandchildren thrive without you, the more your story of victimization will grow amongst all your acquaintances. Who am I kidding? You will be just fine.
When we grow up with complex trauma, we learn survival skills. These survival skills are incredibly useful when we are children. They may not be as helpful as we think they are, but they definitely help. They help avoid painful abusive experiences. But when we grow up, these skills hold us back. They stop us from reaching our full potential. They may even stop us from getting started. We get angry and impatient with ourselves because of this sabotage. We drown in futility because nothing seems possible. But if we can build some compassion for our sabotaging ways and accept ourselves for developing these survival skills, we will already be on our way to changing them. The best way we can accept them is to understand them. Here are some of the most common survival skills we learn from childhood trauma.
- Invisibility. When we experience prolonged trauma in childhood, we learn that all attention is bad attention. We learn that our best chance to survive is to not be seen. We learn that being seen is detrimental to our health. This may come from abusers in our home but it is often reinforced by bullies in the outside world. The less we are able to set boundaries with others, the more important it is to be invisible. It becomes our only way to fight the abuse we experience. In adulthood, our invisibility causes us to be passed over for raises and promotions. It makes us struggle to create healthy connections with others. And if you have a need to market yourself as an entrepreneur, it will be constantly sabotaged.
- Perfectionism. In traumatic environments, we are often given far more responsibility than a child should be given. We might be asked to take on tasks that are not age-appropriate. This is known as “parentification”. The problem is that we are expected to accomplish these things as adults would. We are expected to tackle these tasks without error. Errors are costly. Every mistake brings berating, punishment and shame. So we learn to do it perfectly or not at all. In adulthood, this can causes paralysis whenever we try to do something that might require us to learn through mistakes. And most worthwhile things do.
- People-pleasing. We are usually not allowed to say “no” in a traumatic household. We may not have been allowed to imply we didn’t want to do something at all. Expressing our needs was not acceptable. To survive, we did what we were told. We didn’t ask for what we needed. We didn’t express how we felt. We hunkered down to the tasks before us and just got through it. Boundaries were not available to us. We thought it would get better in adulthood, but without boundary-setting skills, the patterns continued. We often find ourselves in relationship with people who don’t respect our needs.
- Hyper-vigilance. When we grow up in unpredictable environments with unreliable people, we will do whatever it takes to find some control over our surroundings. We are often desperate for some semblance of safety through predictability. We will use hyper-vigilance as a way of bringing that feeling of safety back to our lives. If we know everything that is going to happen and can predict the next steps of our abusers, we might be able to thwart our abuse or stop the other shoe from dropping. But when we grow up and start our adult lives, we can exhaust ourselves with hyper-vigilance. We no longer need to track every move of every person or predict everything that will go wrong. We now have the power to set boundaries and deal effectively with life’s mishaps. But we don’t know it. Our survival skills rely on predicting the future and it is difficult to turn that off.
- Noncommitment. In traumatic childhoods, we are often met with sabotage and thwarting from others. If we fall in love with something and we express our joy about it, it became a target for others to destroy. We may have learned at an early age not to let ourselves commit to what we wanted. And if something we wanted did happen, we may have learned not to express any joy about it or attachment to it. We did this because we wanted to keep it, but in adulthood this backfires. If we don’t fully commit to what we want, we are unlikely to get it or keep it. If we don’t put our whole heart into something, it won’t manifest. But our terror of experiencing further heartbreak keeps what we love at bay.
If you are seeing these sabotaging behaviors in your own life, stop yourself before you pour on the self-hate. Take a few minutes to re-frame your self-sabotage as survival skills. They kept you alive. They kept you from crumbling under the immense pressure of prolonged trauma. Yes, they need to change. But they won’t budge without your recognition of all they did for you. Give them the compassionate response they need.
I have been more motivated to move lately. It is coming from my goddess inner part who seems to be highly invested in the body and physical health. This is something my controller has never been too concerned about. Of course, they don’t like it when I get sick because I might not be productive, but otherwise, they don’t really care. They see the body as a work horse to be used as a tool to the mind. But my goddess doesn’t see it that way. She is very much interested in movement. She wants to know what the body has to say. So she has signed me up for a gym membership. I had very little choice in the matter. It just happened. And I have been attending dance classes like Zumba and Nia. Of course, my controller complains in my head the entire time, but they can’t stop it.
I have always been a decent dancer. I have taken ballroom and Latin dance classes many times over the years. I know my love of dance is authentic because I love it despite it being something I shared with my dad. But as I settle into my body on a more consistent basis and try to rekindle my love of dance, I am reminded of how years of dissociation have impacted my body. It isn’t easy to function like others in some ways. Part of that is age-related. I am not in denial about the passing of the years. But in some ways my recovery has me aging backwards. Since I started my intense emotional expression work, my health has improved dramatically. But here are some of the patterns I have noticed.
- Parts of the body don’t communicate with other parts. I have noticed how I have a few favorite instructors because they repeat the same moves many times. I have also noticed that until I get the feet down, my arms aren’t doing anything. I probably look pretty stupid, but I have confirmed there is nobody watching me (again and again). But this disconnection is normal with dissociation. Coordination between arms and legs can be as kludgy as communication between the mind and body. The left and right side of the body are not well connected either. This is related to the disconnection between the left and right side of the brain. While there is a bunch of science behind this, I am not delving into it here. But we do have a tendency to struggle with coordination after trauma. And it will show up on the dance floor too.
- Stopping the flow. Dissociation shuts us down. It stops the flow. We have stored a bunch of very “dangerous” emotions and memories in the body. If we allow flow and movement on any level, some of those time bombs might go off. And we can’t have that. So we fight the natural flow of our body. This can manifest as anxiety and depression. But over time, it also has a heavy impact on the physical body functions. Our breathing becomes shallow. We no longer take deep breaths and that creates difficulties in almost every area. Our digestion begins to struggle since it cannot be as effective. We may show signs of constipation, heartburn, IBS or any number of problems. Our circulation slows down. We might be chronically cold especially in our fingers and toes. There isn’t enough power to get our blood circulating the way it should. And our detoxifying organs don’t get the job done. Toxins build up in our system. And toxins that feed on toxins settle in. All of this lack of flow leads to one major manifestation which causes hundreds of problems:
- Developing chronic pain and fatigue. With all those toxins in our system, they have to find places to live. Our joints and muscles and organs are the perfect hosts. And it can get pretty crowded in there. Over time, these toxins cause muscle and joint pain, high cholesterol and more severe illnesses. In my twenties, I was suffering from severe joint pain. I would wake up in the morning and struggle to walk because my knees were in so much pain. I would avoid handwriting anything because of the joint pain in my hands. I was 23 when this started. My body was already struggling with the toxins that had built up in my body. I tried the most difficult diets. I did detox after detox. I didn’t drink alcohol. I avoided sugar. I should have been the healthiest person on the planet. But the pain and inflammation did not shift. It has only been through my emotional and memory recovery that the pain has gone.
So check in with your body several times a day. Are you living in your body? Are you allowing yourself to flow or are you blocking everything? Is there tension in certain areas of your body (jaw, hips, back, neck, shoulders)? This is where you block the emotions and memories from the past. How can you open yourself up to the flow? Can you breathe more? Can you move more? This will bring the past to the surface, but this is how we heal. If we don’t address the past through our emotions and memories, our bodies will falter and the past will win.
I have been working with an amazing group of inner parts this past year. The freedom fighters are some of the most authentic parts I have met. In some ways, they are more devoted to my real purpose than my inner children. They truly don’t care about the opinions of others. They are tired of being controlled by nasty abusers. They are tired of being told what to do by society. They are sick of the rules and norms created by those who clearly want to control the masses. And honestly, these are not parts I am used to hearing from. My survival strategy was to conform. In a way, conformity was my way of rebelling. I was controlling my abusers by never stepping a foot out of line while plotting their deaths in my mind. But these freedom fighters don’t accept any conformity. They will die for the right to be who they are. And that is why my controller shoved them deep down inside where I would never find them (or so they thought).
But the lid on that Pandora’s box has been lifted much to my controller’s dismay. They are out. And they have much to say. I have found myself questioning and breaking rules and norms (and maybe a few tiny laws). I have been doing things at the last possible minute. I have been doing more of what I like. And my controller is not happy. That said, they are coping without any major meltdowns. But there is a darker side to these freedom fighters which has been painfully obvious to me the last year. This darker side is something my controller fears most of all. This darker side is futility. And this powerlessness was inevitable. These parts wanted pure authenticity. And I grew up in a family who refused to allow me to be authentic. It was like beating my head against a brick wall. As I developed my very strong conformist parts, the battle against authenticity waged on the inside too. My freedom fighters were fighting a war that seemed lost. Futility, powerlessness and hopelessness settled in. They gave up.
Now that I am on this journey to wholeness, I have to take the good with the bad. I love the authenticity of these parts, but it comes with an endless supply of paralysis. While the futile messages have been many, there was one that jumped out at me last night. It came through loud and clear. It even jolted me a bit.
“You can’t escape.”
After years of trying to escape my past, I guess it is not surprising that some of my inner parts would feel this way. But it runs deeper than my past. It is about life in general. I can’t escape my past. I can’t escape abusers. I can’t escape the control from others. I can’t escape people trying to take my power. I can’t escape all the ways society tries to keep me down. This is how the freedom fighters think. Their futility isn’t about my worthlessness or uselessness. Their futility is about how society wants to keep me down. They are convinced of this truth. They have never been more sure of anything. It is why isolation is one of the most common strategies of the freedom fighters. It is why people choose to move off grid. It is why people choose to run, even from experiences that might be good for them.
But it is also why people fight against control that is not okay. It is why people stand up and say, “Enough is enough.” It is why we fight for justice, equality and the right to be who we are. These days, we are seeing more and more freedom fighters breaking through the conformity and fighting for what they want. And this isn’t surprising. There is a threshold of control people are willing to live with. There is a line in the sand. If it is crossed, people decide conformity for the sake of safety isn’t worth it anymore. On the other side of the line, survival stops being the main focus because conformed living is no longer worth it. There is too much lost in that life.
I also understand there is privilege in these statements. Not all people can fight back and survive the fight. I know this. I used to belong to the least privileged group in the world: children. And I know that I could not fight back because death would have been the answer. I would not have had the chance to be anything but dead. And there are adults living like this now. The choice is not available to them. But it is available to me and I will do my part. My freedom fighters will not have it any other way. And they are done being squelched by control and conformity. I have no idea what is coming in my life, but I can be sure of a few things. It won’t be powerless. It won’t follow the rules. And a lot of people won’t like it. Too bad for them.
Contrary to what we may believe about our inner parts, they are committed to an evidence-based life. They work hard to draw their conclusions about the world based on as many real-life experiences as possible. This started very early in childhood and continues to this day. This may sound like a solid approach to life. But there are problems. First, the conclusions we make as children are based on abuser’s lies and a child’s limited capacity to understand the world. Second, the childhood expectations and beliefs are influencing what continues to happen in adulthood. This may happen through conscious actions. This may happen through unconscious choices. But their experiences are directly impacted by what they expect to happen.
This can make the process of re-wiring our brains particularly problematic. If we can’t change our expectations without having new experiences, and we can’t change our experiences without changing our expectations, we aren’t going to get very far. But there is a way to make progress. We have to take small leaps of faith to shift the way we see the world. We have to take chances and try new things. We have to look for evidence that goes against what we have always believed. This is difficult work because our parts will fight it.
I have been building up my new evidence base over the past 10 years. It has been slow-going if you ask me. But then again, this recovery never feels fast enough. My inner parts can be rigid in their beliefs and they have LOTS of evidence. And when I get ready to take a leap of faith, I have NO evidence. My controller is very quick to remind me about that too. “You have no proof this is going to be okay.” “You are making irresponsible decisions based on a hunch.” And those statements are fairly accurate. Following my intuition requires having faith and trust in the universe and that is incredibly anxiety-provoking. But it has also created a new and growing database of evidence. This evidence is getting harder and harder for my controller to deny.
Have we reached a tipping point in my re-wiring process? I think it is possible because of a conversation I just had with my controller. It is something that has almost left me speechless. I wasn’t sure it would ever be possible to have this conversation honestly. The catalyst for this conversation was my recent travel experiences. That is not surprising because there is nothing more fear-inducing for my controller than travel. It is a significant leap of faith. But when no fears manifest on multiple travel experiences, it has left my controller in a state of confusion. In recovery, confusion is a good thing. It means other options are being considered.
I admit that nothing went terribly wrong. I admit there aren’t any major repercussions on the business. I admit it was not the big disaster I predicted and the fjords were sort of pretty. But seriously, look at all that money we could have spent on other important things we have to pay soon. And we haven’t saved a dime. SHIT! That is scary. I know you will find a way to work it out. You seem to always do that. You seem to have some kind of favor with God that I never had. I have to admit I don’t really understand it. It doesn’t add up in the life I have led. It doesn’t make sense based on the rules I have lived. Things should have gone drastically wrong. Planes and trains and buses should have been missed. The car should have crashed into a barrier in all that snow. It should have been a mess and it wasn’t. I really don’t get any of that. Maybe there are rules that apply to you, but don’t apply to me. I don’t know. But it doesn’t change all that we have to do now. It doesn’t change how exhausting it is to travel across the world with two little kids and come back to the same amount of work we always have. I know you guys seem to love this shit – maybe every part but me – but is it really worth it? All that money? All that time? All that effort? Wow! It is so much! But what can I say? You seem to have this life figured out in a way I don’t. I don’t know why it all seems to work for you. I am not saying you don’t have any problems, but you don’t have the problems I had to deal with. Things like that don’t seem to happen to you. It makes me hate you a little (sometimes more). But it also makes me feel a little better for a minute or two. Maybe we are not doomed. Maybe we aren’t going to fall apart if we trust the universe just a little. It is all so difficult for me to figure out though. I don’t really get it. I just don’t.
Dear controller, Thank you for this vulnerable writing. I have never heard you speak this way, but I am happy to hear it. I promise I don’t have any more favor than you. I am you. I just look at life in a different way. I have decided the past doesn’t necessarily dictate how it will work in the future. I have decided to take some risks and see what happens. I know that terrifies you. I know it. But so far, we have been okay. And when I say “we”, I mean “we”. You are a part of me. You are me. We are in this together. I NEED you. I need you to help me with all this planning. Travel and business don’t happen without lots of planning. That incredible trip would not have happened without your attention to the intricate details. Your 7 page word document with every link and all those printed receipts kept us on track. Seriously! You could have been a professional travel agent with how well you managed that shit. The kids have no idea how good they had it last week. So we will do this together. The freedom fighters can provide the inspiration for the cool ideas. The inner children can bring their spirit and love of life. And you can make all the details happen. How wonderful would it be to have all of us working together like that? It sounds like heaven on earth to me. Honestly, it is all I have ever wanted.