I was told not to cry. I was told “stop that crying or I will give you something to cry about” and I tried to stop. As a child forced to stifle tears, what was communicated to me? As I look back and try to remember some of the feelings, the thoughts that went through my mind at those times, I can’t recall much other then the need to STOP Crying. I do remember thinking that I already HAD something to cry about. And thinking about it today I know that a LOT more than just “stop crying” was communicated to me with those types of statements.
I became afraid to cry. I remember trying to stop… trying to control my breathing and slow it down and trying to stifle that hiccup sound that comes from heavy sobbing. I was so afraid of the consequences of NOT being able to stop the tears. I don’t even remember if I ever got a second beating for not stopping; all I remember is being told to stop and trying to comply and that the fear of the consequences made it very hard to get any kind of a grip on the situation.
I became so afraid to cry that even today it is very rare that I do cry. But it isn’t just being told to stop crying that caused all the problems around that statement. There is more to the communication “stop crying or I will give you something to cry about.” That statement means that the speaker, the adult looming over me, told me that I had “nothing” to cry about.
What happens to a child who is not allowed to express emotional hurt or pain? What happens when the communication (covert OR overt) is that you should NOT express your emotions?
There is fear that comes with this dynamic too. I am crying. I’m told that I have no reason to cry and then told that if I don’t STOP crying, I will GET something to cry about. Since I am already in pain, usually in both emotional and physical pain, and I am really afraid of what they might do that would give me a “real and valid” reason to cry.
I am already crying.
I am in trouble for crying.
I have been told that I have no reason for crying
I have been warned that I will GET a reason to cry if I don’t stop crying.
How does a child process that? Over time I agreed with them that I had no reason to cry. How could I, as a child, disagree forever? These adults were my love source. They were my caregivers. They were my life’s blood. Without them what would become of me. I had been taught to respect my elders and to view them as authority. They were authority. And they declared that I had no reason to cry. No reason to hurt.
My pain had been invalidated by others so often that I learned to invalidate my own physical and emotional pain.
My invalidated pain would not cease to scream in the background of my life. And my invalidated pain manifested itself as an illness, which I realize today was my first real depression when I was only ten years old. My invalidated pain had to find a way to SPEAK. My ten year old self was being psychologically abused by a teacher. My ten year old self had already been sexually abused by several people, and disregarded by even more. My pain, although suppressed by me and my oppressors, found a way to express itself. In illness and depression. I developed asthma. I couldn’t breathe and if you think about me being told to suppress my emotional pain and tears, no wonder I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t BE. My depressions were deep and dark. All I wanted to do was sleep and sleep. I didn’t want to face anyone. I didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t want to live. I think if I had understood what death was, I would have wanted to die.
And we think child sacrifice is not something that we encounter in civilised countries.
In recovery, before I could validate my own pain, I had to realize why and how I had learned to invalidate it. Once I realized where the invalidation of my own feelings originated, I was able to realize why I also invalidated it myself. Once I realized that I did in fact invalidate it myself, I was able to finally begin to listen to me. I was finally able to hear the voice that told me I had nothing to cry about and respond that it was lying. I replaced those lies with the truth that I had never heard before. That I DID have something to cry about. That I WAS in pain, either physically or emotionally and usually both. That I had a reason to cry. That I deserved to express myself emotionally. I told myself over and over again that I was VALID and that my FEELINGS were and are VALID. Every time I heard that voice (sometimes my own voice, sometimes the voice of an adult in the past) telling me to “suck it up” or telling me to “quit being such a baby” and actually telling me that I had no right to FEEL, I corrected it. This was a very big part of my emotional healing. Sometimes I asked (the voice) for more information so that I could dig deeper into the origin of my own belief system.
And this process, like all others, took some time. When I was finally able to validate my own pain, I realized that there was a lot of it. There was pain from the past and pain in the present that I had learned to discount and ignore. Pain, fear and anger that I had learned to invalidate. But through the process of seeing the beginning of where it was first shut down, I was able to sort it all out. I was able to feel it, embrace it, validate and affirm it and finally let it go.
Exposing Truth ~ One Snapshot at a Time;
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