I had a really difficult week this week. When I arrived at my therapist on Thursday all the hurtful judgements of my Inner Critic just poured out. I was sharing how in the depths of my most lonely time following the end of my marriage I was beseiged by a powerful inner force that told me it hated me and I would be better off dead, it explained how from the age of six it had loved the power it gained over me in making me feel bad. This was a scary revelation. Since being in therapy I have become aware of a part inside me that wants to undo positive impulses at times and runs an endless monologue of self crticism. Certauinly I am not perfect and at times there are things I can work on and change but I have also had a lot of trauma and I am beginning to see I judge myself by standards that are not possible or realistic, nor compassionate for my inner self.
Lately we have been exploring the painful circumstances of my childhood within which such a force could take hold. As the youngest, life revolved around a much older family and my parents were always otherwise engaged. The feeling I have carried is that I am unseen and don’t really matter, that to win attention I need to revolve myself around others and that I must deny, minimize or swallow down my needs.
There were also experiences growing up when things got lost or damaged that I could not turn to anyone and that I feared being punished, these feelings of inadequacy and fear I carried into relationships and as a teenager I began to look to alcohol in a home where that was encouraged and bury feelings of insecurity down deep and pretend I knew or could cope when I was over my head.
Today I cried for the way I have punished and judged myself for turning toward this ineffective way of coping.. I realised at a very, very deep level the lack 9f self love and compassion I show toward myself a lot of the time.
In my last relationship I attracted someone who personified this voice. I now know he was an external manifestation of that harsh critic at times. When we broke up his voice remained a powerful introject that from time to time attacks me when I feel low. His parting break up email was a litany of my so called defects, which had become stronger during a relationship in which I was bullied if I didnt meet all of his needs and standards. I now know if my self esteem at that time was not so low and if I was not driven to a desperate hunger due to deeply unresoled grief and pain I would never have stayed after the early abuse began. I also know if I was more in touch with and sensitive to deeper feelings and sensitivities I may have been able to express fears and vulnerabilities in a healthier way.
For anyone who has struggled in a similar way I have compassion and I know there are a lot of us. We are learning all the time.
Sharing my struggle with self love and compassion may show that it is still early days for me with regard to positive growth, but I do feel today that I have gained a deep glimpse into the roots of this struggle.
I have shown strength in remaining drug and alcohol free for nearly 23 years. Emotional insight has taken many years. I am learning that love really does begin from within. Over many years I have supported my family in their own illnesses knowing through my own sobriety how and where a lot of our families damage came from.
As the youngest I have received the least nurture and a lot of anger about this has been emerging especially since my diagnosis with breast cancer in January. The cry of pain in me can best be answered by love for otherwise it just turns into a painful resentment that hurts me. I still need to hear that pain and find ways to soothe and express it in healthy ways so that it doesn’t fester within and make me ill.
I realised today that my life most often hasn’t been fair and due to the emotional neglect of my childhood and the trauma of a critical time in my adolescence I didnt have the positive foundation of resources within and around me and that has meant a history of painful experiences. I have acted out of pain in ways that damaged me and others more.
Recovery has meant at times painful examination of where I have fallen short and of years of damage due to the emotional hunger I carried and played out unconsciously. Its painful to face these wounds knowing they were not personal and at that time beyond my control.
What now is within my control is the way I relate to and treat myself and I now see the amends I most need to make are to myself. I think it is true that the price of change and growth is often difficulty and suffering. We can also learn from the positive influence of those around us who are loving to themselves and others. These are the people I now most need in my world.
I feel I am at the beginning of a new journey which involves learning how to practice compassion for myself, how to nurture the child within and hear all she has to tell me about what happened. I need the loving parents inside to hold that child and help her grow in maturity and understanding, to allow her essence to shine free of self pu ishment, criticism and blame.