I had to learn to shift my thinking in this process of overcoming the damage caused by emotional abuse. There were a few rather large shifts that I had to make in order to make progress and there was a process to shifting my thinking! It didn’t just happen overnight.
Instead of trying to understand why ‘they’ didn’t like me or why ‘they’ didn’t love me and why I didn’t fit in and why ‘they’ treated me so badly and what was wrong with me, I started to try to understand why I kept trying.
I started to ask myself new questions;
Although I had some suspicions that most of my relationships were not fair to me, deep down why did I believe I was the one that was wrong about everything ~ which kept me trying to fix me?
Although I has some suspicions that there were some things my family was doing wrong, why was I so easily convinced that I was the problem in the relationship which also kept me trying to fix me?
Why didn’t I expect to be treated the way they insisted that I treat them?
Why did I accept such a one sided definition of love that so obviously had two very different sets of rules; a set for them and a set for me?
And as I started to ask myself different questions, I started to find different answers.
There were some levels to this process of healing from emotional damage. These levels are important to consider because each new discovery has a realization and a reaction. Very often it was the reaction to the realization that sent me backwards to the comfortable and familiar coping methods of compliance and obedience that no longer served me.
~As I began to realize that maybe I was not the biggest problem in the relationship and that perhaps there was something valid about my suspicions (labeled by others as feelings that were probably wrong) that I was always being ignored, shut up, discounted invalidated and disrespected ~
~THEN I started to consider that perhaps I was spending too much time on thinking about how I could change me (believing that changing me would change the way they treated me) instead of thinking a bit more about the lack of equal value towards me and I started looking a little more closely at why I didn’t stand up to the ways that I was treated in a more proactive way. ~
~But as soon as I had that thought, the fear reaction came in. As soon as I seriously considered drawing a boundary, my ultimate fear of being cast away from my family without further consideration became what made me reject the thought about drawing that boundary. For years I was willing to go back to ‘trying to understand them’ and ‘trying to change me’ rather than face that fear of rejection. I was extremely afraid of the probability of their rejection as though my very life was at stake; so afraid that I was unwilling to look at truth and consider that continuing to put up with the way I was disregarded may have been worse than being rejected. When I look back on that today, that thought alone was telling. It revealed my own suspicions (what if they didn’t actually care if I was in their lives or not?) and in my still present childhood coping method I was doing everything I could not to face those suspicions.
The truth is that I was putting a ton of work into relationships with people that I knew deep down would dump me if I stood up to them and that was a horrifying realization. I had all those red flags and those warning signals telling me to comply and obey were overriding the belief that I deserved better than that. My fear of rejection was stronger than my desire to have mutually respectful relationships.
It all started in childhood when I believed that rejection is death ~ fear of rejection becomes a survival instinct. Through that grid of understanding, it is understandable that we carry that fear of rejection from family forward with us. It is how we survived and how we coped with any kind of mistreatment as children.
My biggest fear was that if I refused to comply with their wishes and if I drew a boundary and stood up to them ~ then they would reject me. I was in that place for a while, sort of just hanging out between the longing for freedom and claiming my equal value by enforcing it in my relationships and the fear of being rejected if I did insist on being valued and respected.
But as I began to see the truth about that fear a deeper truth emerged; the deeper truth is that I was afraid of something that had already happened. Being disregarded as an equally valuable human being IS rejection. It was through finally understanding that truth, that I was able to see things more clearly and draw self-supporting and self-valuing boundaries.
Please share your thoughts about shifting your thinking, reactions to realizations or any other thoughts you have about love and self-love, equal value, coping methods that no longer serve or coming out of the fog. I look forward to hearing from you. Remember that you may use any name you wish in the comment form and your email will not be shared. If you subscribe to comments, you must return to the blog if you wish to post an additional reply. (Replying in email will not go back to the blog post itself.)
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