Thursday, January 19, 2006

What Matters

When I first began trying to come to terms with my childhood, I spent a great deal of time trying to remember exactly what happened. It seemed important to catalog the harm that had been done to me. The problem with that was that I was reliving painful experiences and didn’t know what to do with what I felt.

Eventually, I realized that it wasn’t the details that mattered. What mattered were the messages I had taken in—about myself, about the people who had hurt me, about the world. What mattered were my expectations. I didn’t need to remember what happened; I needed to remember how I felt and what I believed because of what happened.

Now I am not going to suggest anyone start trying to do that—especially not on their own! If there was ever a time it was important to have someone objective and someone who believes in you available for support and to talk over those beliefs and feelings, this is it. When I would remember what I believed about myself, it made a huge difference to have someone who could offer a new way to look at what happened. It mattered to have someone who could point out who I am today and that whatever happened in the past, I am someone to respect now. When I remembered feeling totally unlovable, it helped to know there were people who cared about me now.

I say all this because often people who have been through difficult times block out those times. We get good at it because it helps us survive. But if the day comes when we need to look at the past, it’s important to know where to start and what to focus on.

It’s also important to know that we don’t have to be afraid to look at those messages we took in as children because guaranteed those messages were wrong. Guaranteed we took the blame on ourselves because that’s what kids do.

We don’t have to be afraid but we do need to make sure we have a support system and someone who can help us sort through those messages. We don’t have to be afraid but we do need to ground ourselves in our strengths and ways to cushion the impact of this process. That’s why it’s so important to make lists of what you like about yourself and what your strengths are and what your successes have been. That’s why it’s important to have lists of things that make you smile and resources you can turn to if you need them. That’s why it’s important to begin a habit of treating yourself to something nice every time you do something that scares you. Keep lists. Keep journals. Do whatever it takes to build a foundation of belief in yourself and who you are NOW.

That’s where healing begins—with faith in ourselves.

I will also say this: The greatest insurance against repeating the cycle of abuse is to find ways to believe in ourselves, to love ourselves, to be happy, and to conquer our fears. If we are happy and able to love ourselves, if we can learn how not to be afraid, then we will never need to hurt anyone else the way we were hurt.

Until next time, sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))).


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