Optimism

I had a good meeting with my father and my boyfriend after one whole year. It felt amazing to be able to be myself and really enjoy his company and connect like we did when I still felt like his special daughter. Then, I completely put this meeting out of my mind for the most part.

Learning to heal from emotionally toxic parenting is a difficult process. But I made some progress. With a lot of support and coaching, I was able to set my expectations aside before the dinner and keep them aside after the dinner. I was able to enjoy the moment without allowing myself to fall into a cycle of worry or cycle of hope. Expectations that the next meeting would go as well or that this is the beginning of our reunification as a family would have happened very subtly in the past. But, I have been able to notice when I dream of a reconnected family. I bring myself back to reality and remind myself of my boyfriend’s very wise words: Optimism is not expecting positive results or outcomes in the future, Optimism is knowing that no matter what happens, you will be okay. And with these precious words, my healing continued without falling into the pitfalls of anxiety over rejection or the hopefulness of reconnection.

Many weeks later, I still feel balanced. YAY!!! I feel that I have been grateful for the moment, also minimized the punishing of my father and increased the empathy towards him more often in the last few weeks. It has been hard to not continue to be angry and punish, as that gives me a sense of control; there is someone to blame and hold accountable for my bad childhood. But holding my father accountable is not 100% accurate or fair as he was not the only sinner nor the only one who caused me harm.

As a child we need to know who is to blame. We need to know because we are helpless and need to know who to trust to take care of us. As an adult, that keeps us in the role of the victim, never developing the identity of a survivor in charge of our destiny. We as adults, have to trust ourselves, maybe God, maybe our partners, maybe just maybe, our ability to make good decisions. We have to meet and take care of our own needs. So there really isn’t need to blame, although it does give us the illusion of control and frees us from the anxiety we feel for being in charge of what happens to us. Sigh – can’t have your cake and eat it too.

I often want to blame others. I want to blame parents. I want to blame the world. Because this is a pretty shitty world we live in – all too often it is shitty shitty shitty. People, on a regular basis, make bad decisions, bring life into this world and are completely unprepared for it. And as a result, at least 50% of the adult population has serious issues – attachment plus trauma or abuse – at least  attachment issues. So of course, it is hard for me as a social worker – my heart breaks with every child that has their emotional needs neglected. I see the emotionally stunted adults everywhere – they are everywhere – usually unaware of the cause of their problems, weaknesses and even poor choices. Sigh. I wish I could yell at the top of my lungs and set people straight – but we live in a corrupt world that is only driven by short term goals, not long term consequences. Sigh again.

 

So, I am going to continue to let go and remind myself that it is not my problem. But at the end of the day, all I can do is my part. Once I have done that, there is nothing else to be done. I need to enjoy my life, the little good that does exist in life – I wish for more of this, and wish for God to save our children.

 

Chit Chat.

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The parent anti-oxident

“They gave birth to you …”

“I’m sure they mean well….”

“They love you very much….”

“They will come around….”

Things people will say with very good intentions to help console those that are estranged from their parents. I have hoped and prayed that my parents would come around. I have tried my very best to let the fact that they gave me life, loved me and tried their best to wash away my negative feelings. I have let go and forgiven many times only to realize I haven’t really let go or forgiven completely. None of this has been half-assed. I have honestly been working my pretty little ass off.

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Yet, here I am. Again, at a crossroad, between a rock and a hard place, whatever you want to call it – its the hardest place, most painful place I have ever had to be. And I hate having to come back to this place again and again after I have done everything I know how to do to work through my feelings and move forward. Like seriously, how many fucking feelings do I have? Because they just keep coming, and each one is harder than the first.

The precursor was anxiety. I spent two years working through my anxiety disorder to discover other underlying emotions. The first layer I faced was guilt and shame. I worked through that and improved my self-esteem and self-worth. That was a lot of work over a lot of years –  but I did it!! And I am now a proud assertive woman. 🙂 Then, came the anger and rage. This was harder than guilt and shame. But again, I worked through it – in therapy, on the subway writing in my journal, meditating, taking breaks, talking to people, crying in the shower, talking in my sleep, sobbing in my sleep, exercising, self-soothing, taking supplements, eating healthy, praying, reading etc. Like I said, I really worked hard. Then, came some empathy and forgiveness. What a relief! I could reconnect a little and let go a little. Right until the disappointment from my parents present actions pushed me right back into anger, rage, and a new layer of emotion – grief.

So here we are. Grief and loss. No my parents are alive not dead. But apparently, my childhood sucked so bad that they might as well be dead – at least that is how my body is physically reacting. I don’t want that, but my body is grieving the loss of my healthy and alive parents! How messed up is that?

Then the criticism I experienced my whole life sets in. I must be a bad child. I must be over-sensitive. I mean they gave me life and loved me and did their best. How is it that I can logically get that, want to forgive them, but the forgiveness does not stick? Am I just a resentful, vindictive, parent punishing small person? I didn’t think I was, I mean, I give all the time to others, like literally majority of my life I am giving to others. So, seriously, what the fuck??

Then eventually all the work I have been doing begins to pay off. Its not me its them. Society is wrong on this one. We have a culture of silence about talking about how loving, caring, well meaning parents can screw up their children. How? Because of low or no emotional intelligence, inability to manage their own stress/life, own insecurities and unresolved issues, lack of resources, unwillingness to seek help, unwillingness to acknowledge that they could be wrong even with good intentions, unwillingness to give up the blame game or victim mentality. In other words, because they were never brave enough to face their own shadows or resolve their own baggage, and somehow thought they could raise another human being, without the shadow or baggage impacting their child. Well, I’ll be honest, either thats just really dumb, illogical, careless and/or selfish. Yes, having a child without being emotionally prepared for it, puts you at risk of being a toxic parent.

So now what? I go on the internet to google ‘how to work through your estrangement with your parents’ and many other similar searches. Almost all the links are for parents who’s children have cut them out. Poor parents, here is how to cope if your child doesn’t want to have anything to do with you. Really? Even google is telling me that the world thinks its the child’s fault. REALLY? So after another round of self-criticism, I finally come back to the realization that the internet is wrong – again only because now I have been working my very pretty little ass off. Seems like its gonna get really pretty before I find some resolution. 😛

But there is good news. YAY!! I love posts with a happy ending too (its the Bollywood, rom com lover in me ) I have done the hard work to find one book that looks promising and so far it has really been helping. The audio version is going to be my mantra to and from work. Its called “Toxic Parents” by Susan Forward. I hope Susan is forward thinking enough to help me detox out of this mess. But I am prepared for a disappointment like some other books I have read. But at least I have some hope again, and its going to be back to the workout of my life – working and working so damn hard, all because – lets face it – I had lazy, flabby assed parents!!

Chit Chat.

Pre-Occupied

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Pre-Occupied: verb. A matter or subject dominate or engross the mind of someone to the exclusion of other thoughts. – google dictionary.

Attachment: theory. A deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space – simplypsychology.org

It was a Wednesday like any other Wednesday. I was sitting in another attachment training, reviewing what I had already learned in the last two years of these monthly trainings. As the newer staff were catching up on what attachment really looked like in our clients, I was reflecting on what my attachment looked like with my parents.

Two weeks prior to this meeting, I made a very important step towards self-disclosure about my sexual abuse to my parents. I disclosed smaller but important concerns that had lead to anger/resentment. These events had left me feeling uncared for, as my emotional needs had not been met in these circumstances. Needless to say, it went poorly, with minimal validation or closure and most of my fears of my parents’ inabilities were confirmed.

However, here I was at work, in a more emotional place than usual. I listened to what I had heard many times before, but something interesting happened. I had an overwhelming emotional response. In my mind, all I could see were memories, flashes and the feeling that everything was clicking and making sense. Click Click Click …. crap crap crap!

I just discovered another layer of trauma that I did not really accept I had. Wonderful! Time to find the immense energy it will take to work through this layer, when I am already feeling emotionally tapped out, trying to keep it together every day, trying not to break down crying on the subway, trying to be there for my boyfriend in his time of need, and trying to continue to be the best therapist I can be as I listen to those who have it much much worse than I ever did.

After a sobbing session (or three) in the work bathroom, I feel a wave of relief. Through my overwhelming sense of grief and pain, I feel a sense of acceptance, peace and understanding seeping through. I begin to feel calmer. I remember other times I had these moments of difficult realizations of why I was the way I was or why my life was the way it was. I remembered, the best therapists are the ones who went through trauma. Working through this, really understanding how much attachment affects all your relationships, how even with good intentions you could screw over all your relationships – how that feels, how it is experienced, how helpless one feels knowing this, then how to finally change it and over come it – can only be another beautiful gift I can give to others.

For now what I have learned is that accepting that I have a preoccupied attachment and maybe even an avoidant attachment is very difficult. But for years my friends have said to me, sweety, you need to think less, you think too much. Meaning, I am very worried, obsessively worried when I don’t need to be. For years, I have felt helpless, overwhelmed by my own thoughts, felt stuck in anger and resentment. I have had a very hard time forgiving then maintaining forgiveness. I have had a very hard time not talking about, thinking about, writing about my trauma, my childhood. I have had a great internal longing to work through all this so I can finally heal and stop being captive to my past, my trauma, my thoughts. I always thought this preoccupation meant I wasn’t healed yet from my abuse. What I did not realize is that this preoccupation began before I was abused.

Parents pass on their attachment styles to their children. My parents are pre-occupied and avoidant people. I am both pre-occupied and avoidant. I have developed secure attachments and have learned to be less pre-occupied and almost non-avoidant with friends. But the closer the relationship, the greater the attachment to that person, the more this learned attachment pattern is triggered. Why? Because the greater the internal connection to another person, the greater the fear of rejection/fear of not getting your emotional needs becomes – and the fear begins to feel overwhelming, suffocating, debilitating. Without lots of work, any person feeling this way will then revert back to what they subconsciously learned from their parents, because when stress levels are that high, humans cannot think clearly. As a result, in various ways, people with an insecure attachment (i.e. pre-occupied, avoidant, disorganized) will create the rejection they fear. Either I avoid and push away, or I become so pre-occupied with the relationship that I appear needy/clingy, or I become so pre-occupied with my past that I miss things in my present. I miss important signs, signals, I forget important conversations, I begin to appear selfish, self-involved, uncaring, ungrateful. None of these help relationships, and the ones we love the most are most at risk of having to deal with this.

Sigh.

I am learning, trying to learn, to accept that this is what is happening for me and has been happening for me. I see a pattern of how this played out with friendships that did not workout and ex-boyfriends. I am learning to accept this is NOT my fault. I learned this from my parents. They learned it from their parents. Unfortunately, very few people in the world, much less in India where invalidation is a normal occurrence, have a secure attachment 100%. But, now hear I am. Beginning a new chapter of my journey, to now uncover this layer of maladaptive attachment behaviours that I keep repeating even though, I never ever wanted to be like my parents. Subconsciously, I am already like them, and now I have to undue what I learned while still finding a way to not resent them for the damage they did to me because they were damaged as well.

Thanks for your support and visits,

Chit Chat.