Sharing a journey through treatment to demystify the process for anyone nervous about starting therapy and also help me reflect and find the lessons to move me forward.
The last session held some more conversation about one of the flash backs I suffer with. In all honesty it is still a subject I may have mentioned in passing, but feels really uncomfortable so I will spare you the details.
The core of the discussion was focused on this deep seated belief I hold that I was responsible. That all the screwed up things in my life are my fault. That I did the wrong thing or didn’t do the right thing. That I failed to help those around me.
For me it almost feels like at times that I caused it. That I made it worse. That I stayed. That I didn’t fight hard enough. I would never want the things that happened, let alone want to create them. But I get let go of the sense it was me after all so much of my world appeared broken and I appear to be single consistent variable.
So the homework of course… to consider what is stopping me letting go of this unhelpful belief. Dr Chris enquired if it may have been out of loyalty to my parents. They were my parents after all and he explained that as children we believe our parents are right and often if they do wrong things we can only comprehend the cause being us.
…Rather self centred in my view but it makes sense, as children our worlds evolve around us. It is the only perspective we have to make sense of the world. Come to think of it that may even be true of us as adults. Perhaps as adults we get better at creating a set of filters to apply to our perspective but really we only have our eyes, our ears and our minds with which to interact with the world.
However when I check in with myself if loyalty is a driver the response I get back is no.
So I took away the homework and this is what I have come up with so far…
The weed with many roots…
I started thinking about some of the other beliefs or rules we have successfully challenged. The belief I must operate at a extreme level of perfection (or at least try too), my belief I can’t go backwards (to the extent I was going out of my way not to travel back down the same street). I realised that a lot of what held these rules in place for me had been fear. Fear if I didn’t sustain them something would go wrong. I am normally good at pushing through fear so it makes sense with Dr Chris’s help, identifying them, considering them and challenging them, I have been able to break or at least unsettle these rules.
So if not fear nor loyalty what is it about this believe? Why is it so hard to shift.
As often my mind bounced all over the place and started to offer lots of thoughts or possibilities. As I tried to sit with each one, to try it on for size I realised something.
Most of my other beliefs were held in place predominately by one deep rooted driver. This one was not. As I considered many of the reasons they all fit to some extent…
For as long as I can remember I have been Roman Catholic. I did dabble for a short while in my teens with other religions but I always found my way back to the Catholic Church. A large element of the teachings and actions in the Church are based around blame. Even a child is born with original sin which is absolved through baptism. There are regular sacraments focused on confessing your sins. And at the start of every mass you start with the prayer.
“I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done,
and in what I have failed to do;
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;..”
I am sure my religion has saved me on many occasions, it offered a sense of connection at times when I felt so alone in the world and offered me the perspective there is always someone worse off. But I have to acknowledge it probably drove some firm negative views or myself.
My desperate need to understand
I have always had a really strong drive to ask why. To try and understand the world around me. I think we all really like to be able understand. To have a sense of comfort and knowing.
To this end I think if I accept things were my fault I can understand it better. I know I am far from perfect, I know I make mistakes. Me failing to do the right thing is understandable.
If I believe that things were not my fault the level of my understanding about why things happened becomes less. The output of which is a greater sense of nervousness and discomfort. It’s more confusing. If it was not my fault the WHY gets bigger.
This is not something I have thought about before. I have been reflecting on the fact that taking undue responsibility myself is some how protective. If I blame myself that transfers some of the pain into blame. Blaming myself goes a little way to absolving others from their part. It goes a little way to making what they did more acceptable some how. And that makes it less painful. If I accept it was not my fault… that pain… well I am not sure it is something I even could process. How do you comprehend the people who should love you most in the world being the ones to hurt you.
If I blame me, I can change me, I can make me worthy of love. If I accept it was not my fault, that I did not cause the abuse. Then what the hell made me so unlovable. I didn’t think I was a kid who was either an easy target or a child you would want to target. Sh!t listening to me even writing that. Who the hell wants to target any child!
What I mean is I thought most of the time I bought happiness to a room, I was one of those children people seamed to want to have around, grown ups would say things like “ If anyone can do it Alison can.” “Alison you always make me smile.” Mum would constantly profess how I was her sunshine!
So what is the truth I was a loveable person who did things or failed to do the right things, inevitably inviting shit to my door or I did not do anything wrong but for some reason I was never loveable enough for them to stop. Never good enough to be saved. I didn’t warrant enough love to allow them to over their demons. I mean if you love someone you not continue to hurt them?
What will it mean now
I have lived with the burden of blame for so long it has allowed me to accept and to some extent forgive the other people who played a role in the traumatic events of my life. If I take the blame away from me, where does it go. What does it mean for how I feel and respond to reminders of the past. I am already finding it hard to look at pictures. When my siblings mention my mum or dad I could previously talk about them (at least the day to day things) without feeling upset.
Now I feel upset just seeing a photo and I know some of that is the pain I have tried to lock away. If I acknowledge their responsibility in all the sh!t how much more upset might I be. It is going to get worse? I can see a path where I don’t want to talk about them or I at least struggle to happily discuss the fractions of time we all found normality or dare I say it a glimmer of happiness.
That would likely cause friction and challenge for my siblings which seams so unfair on them. We are our best link to the past and I know a lot of the time they value the opportunity to reflect. I also know Dr Chris would tell me not talking about them is avoidance and that is not great. Can I acknowledge what they did, still forgive and still hold space for them in the here and now which is a happy space, untarnished by everything else.
Pulling up the roots
Overall I am reminded when we got our first house and the place was a wreck, the garden totally overgrown. We must have spent weeks in the garden pulling out plants. Some plants were surprisingly easy to pull out. They appeared to have one long root which might only require a loosening of the soil around it and we would be able to swiftly free it.
Others, took hours, you would dig a little find a long thick reaching root, chop at it, only to try and pull to no avail and have to dig, find and chop at another. Eventually you would get enough of the roots that you could tug it out of the ground.
Perhaps this belief that it is my fault is like that plant with multiple roots, and so maybe it will take a little more time to shift. I can do it though. I just have to find each root and cut through it…It would be nice to stop hating myself above the things that happened.