The last few months have been nothing if not a STEEP learning curve. SO, I am wondering what life lessons have you learned from the pandemic?
For me, there have been a lot. But the strangest one, and the one that I believe could be powerful for you, too, is the lesson that I learned from my sourdough. That lesson clarified a long-term glitch in my thinking that had held me back in all sorts of areas of my life.
In fact, I had no real idea of how much that glitch was holding me back until my sourdough revelation highlighted it.
That is how abuse works.
How abuse works
It gets into every corner of your belief system and undermines your sense of your own worth and abilities – until you become aware of what is going on.
Despite all the work that I have done on myself over the years, that glitch had remained largely unchallenged until The Great Sourdough Revelation. I want to share that revelation here because I suspect that it may well be affecting you, too, in some area of your life.
The story in brief
Here in the UK, the pandemic has generated a tsunami of cake making and sourdough baking. Always a passionate cake-maker, over the past few months, I have also become a sourdough nerd.
As I understand it – and feel free to correct me if you know more about this than I do – sourdough is simple to make but also, like many simple arts, it can be quite tricky. You have to get it right.
After several months and many attempts, I was still struggling. l could not get my sourdough to rise and hold its shape anywhere near as well as I would like. My baked loaf bore an unfortunate resemblance to a cowpat.
I bought books on sourdough, watched Youtube videos and vowed to go on a real world sourdough making course to learn Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Sourdough – I really can be a bit nerdy like that.
Then I did one simple thing that I hadn’t been able to do before and, hey presto, I produced a handsome loaf.
The powerful life lesson
The powerful life lesson when it hit me was that the gulf between what I was doing and what I needed to do in order to succeed was actually far smaller than I had assumed it to be.
Abuse had instilled in me two decidedly faulty convictions about myself:
1) Learned worthlessness. I had been taught to believe that I was always less worthy, less able, less intelligent, less deserving – and so on ad nauseam – than other people.
2) Learned helplessness. I had been taught that most things were too difficult for me ever to be able to do for myself.
While I have done an enormous amount of work on learned worthlessness, pockets of learned helplessness still existed unchallenging in my view of myself.
So, I had been running this old programming to the effect that I couldn’t produce a handsome sourdough loaf because…
Because…. I am not quite sure what the reason was. However, it all came down to the fact that my family and my husband had led me to believe that I lacked the ability to cope with any kind of challenge for myself.
I actually believed that despite having been shown many, many times that I am brighter and more resourceful than any of them.
Effects of learned helplessness
I see the effects of learned helplessness play out in my clients’ lives all the time.
- They might settle for jobs that they are overqualified and underpaid for.
- They might settle for being disregarded in one or more areas of their lives.
- They might think that they don’t know how to build healthy relationships as a result of what the abusers in their lives have said.
- They might struggle with boundaries in one key area of their lives when they have no problem with boundaries in other areas.
Learned helplessness is a powerful tool that keeps a person playing far smaller than they truly are.
When I looked at my handsome loaf of bread, I realised how small the block was that had held me back.
I had overcome that block purely by chance. But having overcome it, I resolved to learn the lesson.
So many of the blocks we face that seem close to insurmountable can be very small indeed. Others may not be so small.
But, then, neither are your resources.
Abuse survivors are not helpless
Abuse survivors often feel helpless although, in reality, they are very far from helpless.
Anyone who has survived an abusive relationship – or, as is more likely the case, an abusive upbringing and then an abusive intimate relationship – is anything but helpless.
It takes enormous personal resources to survive abuse.
Yes, there is a fair bit to learn as you transition from surviving to thriving.
You may need help along the way to help you resolve the pain of what you have been through.
But don’t let the old learned helplessness slip unnoticed under your radar.
If you are telling yourself that you cannot hope to achieve some things because of your past experience, please replace that notion with this new idea:
You are not where you want to be yet.
However, the distance between where you are now and where you aspire to be is, likely, very much smaller than you believe. In fact, it is something that you can master far more easily than you think.
All you have to do is silence that detrimental internal narrative born of learned helplessness and trust yourself to find that one – likely small – difference that will make the difference. In my case, that difference was a packet of corn starch (UK corn flour). What will it be in yours?
Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.
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