“Is it me?”

by Annie Kaszina on November 9, 2011

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, once an abusive relationship broke up, all the emotional damage magically disappeared?  Just the way some people wish it would, when they don’t understand – and don’t want to understand – about the reality of emotional abuse.

You and I know it’s not that easy.  There are layers and layers of damage, and negative, limiting beliefs that need healing – and transforming.

This post addresses Marguerite’s question.  Marguerite has travelled some way along her healing journey with courage and thoughtfulness.  And she’s fallen into one of those subtle traps that lie in wait for us: the “Is it me?” trap.

Here’s what she says:

Annie,  Since I have started working on myself with you on my emotional abuse recovery, and really focusing on making small changes in daily habits and on paying more attention to what’s happening emotionally within me, I find I am more thoughtful and deliberate in my thoughts, words and deeds.  That is good. However, what is not so good is that I need a slower pace of life than I had been keeping to manage this new way of being.

Am I just getting older and slower, or is there some correlation between changing behaviors that slows one down or some correlation to having been emotionally abused for so long that leaves one feeling stressed by too much at once?

I would appreciate your thoughts. Thanks, Marguerite

Dear Marguerite,

Now, there’s a question.  Let me start my answer as you probably expect I will, by wondering what lies behind the question.

So, Marguerite, we both know that, like every emotionally abused woman under the sun,  you’ve spent your life standing in for the General Manager of the Universe.  You’re a delightful, bright, generous spirited woman, and you’re one of the most accomplished people-pleasers on the planet.

That’s hard work, isn’t it?

In order to be all things to all people, you really do have to move very fast, don’t you?

There are so very many things you have to get done in your day before you can begin to think about your own needs, are there not?

Okay, so we both know I’m embroidering the truth, here.  Let’s try that one again: we both know that, like all emotionally abused women, you have to run through your day like a headless chicken to service, to anything like their satisfaction, all the people who are used to getting a pound of your flesh.

The only way you – or anyone else – can possibly manage that is by putting yourself at the very bottom of the heap, and ignoring all of your needs.

In fact, you’ve been so good at ignoring your own needs, that you hardly even know they exist.

When you started my Quick Start Program, you already knew you had to make changes and, boy, have you made them.  Once again, let me say, how much I admire your courage, honesty, and willingness to go way beyond your comfort zone.

When people have huge emotional realizations – or ‘epiphanies’, if you prefer – it can be overwhelmingly tiring.  It certainly is for me.   When one of the misguided and sabotaging beliefs by which we’ve been living runs aground on new realizations, we experience a significant emotional collision.  It’s not painful, but the mind-shift required is quite considerable.

Often, the best way for that to happen is for mind and body to take some ‘time out’ to process it.

That’s one part of it.

Then there’s the fact that you’re learning a new skill: the skill of taking care of yourself, and treating yourself like you matter.

You were emotionally abused.  Nobody ever taught you how to do that – so it doesn’t come naturally.

Actually, it flies in the teeth of everything you were ever taught. Which could be summed up like this: you were taught to treat yourself badly, and not to matter.

When we have to learn something entirely new to us, from scratch, we have to think the whole thing through slowly and carefully.  You also have to deal with the internal dialogue that goes like this:

“What!!!!  Treat yourself like you matter.  I don’t think so.  You don’t matter.  Who ever told you that you matter?  You’ll get too big for your boots, young lady.  And then nobody will ever like you.” 

No matter that the people who said those things to you didn’t like, or value, you, in the first place.  You believed what they said, and you’re still fighting with yourself over it.  That’s seriously tiring, too.

And so to your question: are you getting old and slow?

Well, Marguerite, I’ll be brutally frank with you, there is no doubt in my mind that you are a month older and slower than you were a month ago.  Or, at least, that’s how it would be if ageing were a linear process… but it’s not.

What I think you’re asking me is this: “Is it me?  Should I just point the finger of negativity, blame, and judgment at myself?  Am I on the scrapheap? Do I need to accept that I’m no longer valuable – if I ever was – and my life is over?”

No, no, no, no! NO! NO! NO! 

You’re having what I call an ‘emotional wobble’.  Up to this point you’ve been living your life on a track – a bit like a greyhound, but with a twist.  Every morning, you wake up, when the starter pistol goes off.  You grab the baggage everybody in your life has dumped –for you – at the starting line, you pick it all up, and then you run furiously round and round the track all day.  At the end of a long hard day of running round in circles, you collapse back into your kennel.

What you’re starting to do, now, is get up in the morning, look at the baggage and say: “What do I need to carry out of all this lot?”  That takes some thinking about.  Then you ask yourself: “Do I want to run round and round this track all day?”  – I’m guessing you don’t.  You then have to think: “What do I want from today?”

Now, that can be a problem.

Picture yourself, momentarily, as a retiring greyhound.  The main difference between you and a bog standard greyhound is this: you have all the resources you need to rehabilitate yourself, and ensure you have a happy life.

Do you think retired greyhounds spend their time regretting the fact that they’re not racing any more?

Or do you think they delight in having a nice environment, and a good life?

Yes, you’ve had a very painful experience of abuse, and you’re finally starting to process that stress and that pain.  You’re doing that really, really well.  You’ve made massive progress in a very short time.

The journey gets better and better as it goes on.

So, accept your ‘emotional wobble for what it is’, trust that what lies ahead will be very much better than what lies behind you, and be kind to yourself.

Reconnect with your inner child, and your inner teenager, quit punishing yourself with this toxic notion of being too old to enjoy life, and think about discovering the fun in every situation.

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