One thing to help you make 2023 a better year
How was 2022 for you? Did you, like so many others, struggle with the challenging year that was 2022?
For me, it was a horrendous year in more ways than I care to think about. The pandemic has, I suspect, left every one of us more traumatized than we already were. Then there is the war in Ukraine. Plus, for us Brits, there has been the loss of our beloved Queen and our new revolving door British politics to contend with. Add to that, operations and health issues for me and my nearest and dearest.
I am happy to see the back of 2022, but decidedly nervous about what 2023 might hold.
So, I am not going to be offering you any glib suggestions or predictions for 2023. Instead, I want to share with you one thing that we all can use to do the best with whatever hand 2023 deals us.
Now, even at the best of times, I don’t think that a New Year’s resolution, a shot of positivity, relying on the Law of Attraction or a would-be inspiring affirmation really cuts it – either for me or for you. I am sure that you have tried all these things, as have I, and the results were mediocre to non-existent.
Real problems need real acknowledgement.
Real problems need real acknowledgement.
That is not necessarily what happens with New Year’s resolutions, the shot of positivity, the Law of Attraction or that super-cheery affirmation that leaves you thinking, “But you don’t get where I am coming from.”
As you have already discovered on your abuse recovery journey, most people just don’t get where you are coming from. Even those who say they do often don’t understand.
Not being understood, acknowledged or validated is one of the very hardest aspects of the healing journey. You can end up trying to journey out of the abyss and into the unknown, at the time when you feel at your most alone, unseen, vulnerable and desperate.
That really makes for a rock bottom scenario.
People get stuck and bogged down, at any point along their healing journey, because something stopped them in their tracks and that deprived them of an awareness of how to start from the place of despair or despondency where they happen to be.
Where do you start?
The question that informs all my client work, everything I write – and my ongoing work on myself – is this:
“Where do you start with someone who doesn’t know where or how to start?”
So, how do you do it? How do you dig yourself out of a black hole?
What do you do when you don’t know what the hell to do?
Having listened to many hundreds of women over the years (as well as the narrative inside my own head), I am no fan of digging.
Nor am I a fan of should-ing.
And I absolutely abhor clever, cerebral solutions to emotional problems – because the brain and the heart work on two entirely separate tracks. That means that no amount of cudgelling your poor brain is going to bring about the radical change of heart you seek. You might as well have someone offer you all the answers to an exam that you have to sit in a language that you don’t speak and cannot translate.
Accepting what doesn’t work is already a win
However, rather than becoming discouraged, you could see it as a cause for some celebration: knowing – and accepting – the things that don’t work is already a win.
Provided you honor what you see as opposed to ignoring or fighting it.
After all, what made an abusive relationship so disastrous was ignoring what you saw and fighting for an outcome that was never going to exist – in reality.
The inability to acknowledge and accept the unfortunate reality prolonged the torture of that abusive relationship exponentially.
What will work instead is the one thing that we are not programmed to do:
We need to stop creating meanings.
Stop creating meanings
Human beings are programmed to make meanings out of information. Sometimes our lives depend on it. We have to be able to register and respond appropriately to the signs of imminent danger to life and limb. However…
And it is a big However, making meanings tends to work well when we work from concrete information. Making meanings about the imminent attack of a dangerous wild animal works well when we have some kind of visual or auditory proof of the proximity of a wild animal.
Bu creating meanings, based on conjecture, about everything might happen to us and around us is really not a great idea. Most of us have an overactive imagination or, at least, an overactive anxiety or fear reflex.
What I learned from family tradition
One of my family’s long-standing and unfortunate traditions was watching television together on a Friday and Saturday night – with no regard to what might or might not have been age and temperament-appropriate.
I still remember one of those programs, a typical tale of young women and serial killers. As an impressionable 12 or 13 year old, I learned that there were all kinds of dangers that I needed to watch out for: including cars that would suddenly pick up speed and run me down on a sidewalk and homicidal maniacs who lurked around every corner.
That program taught me to be constantly on the watch for incredibly unlikely events which could destroy me. It taught me to focus on feeling that I could, at any time, be transformed into a powerless victim.
Of course, that was only one of the ways in which I learned to make meanings out of anything and everything that happened around me. That one, I learned all by myself, courtesy of my parents’ choice of television watching.
Most of the time, a different and more intentional family tradition kicked in. Mostly, I was deliberately taught to make very specific meanings about Life by my family of origin.
Hell and the handcart
If I had to sum up the gist of what I learned from my family of origin, the message was always:
“Either you do what we say how we say, or else you will go to hell in a handbasket and nobody, NOBODY will ever love you.”
That was one powerful narrative.
There was only ever one right way for me to escape that narrative. Allegedly. It required total, unconditional subservience – first to my family of origin and then to my horrible husband. The thought of making unsanctioned choices – for myself – quickly triggered my learned hell-in-a-handbasket narrative.
Did this impose severe limitations on my freedom of thought and action?
Was this way of thinking just some curious aberration of mine?
Every survivor of narcissistic abuse that I have ever spoken with has been afflicted with a similar hell-in-a-handcart narrative – complete with the assurance of their unlovableness.
That is an unbelievably hard and painful burden to carry.
Especially since it is utterly untrue.
What you can and cannot shape
You could not shape your past to your satisfaction because of the emotional control that an abuser exerted over you.
You likely are not free to shape the present to your own satisfaction because you are still laboring under the burden of an old hell-in-a-handbasket narrative.
But you CAN create your future in accordance with your desires, gifts and talents – once you rid yourself of that old narrative and allow yourself to own your desires, gifts and talents.
How do you get to that point?
By becoming as aware as you possibly can be of that old hell-in-a-handbasket narrative and disregarding it.
“These thoughts do not mean anything”
For some time now, I have been a student of A Course in Miracles. I particularly love the lessons for the first days of the year. Today’s lesson reads:
“I do not understand anything I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place]”
Tomorrow’s lesson takes the idea one step further:
“These thoughts do not mean anything. They are like the things I see in the room [on this street, from the window, in this place]”
The meanings that you currently make about what your future looks like and what you can expect in terms of life and love do not have to mean anything.
Your peace of mind
You will have far more peace of mind if you choose to embrace the idea that they mean nothing – or, to put it another way, it is above your paygrade to know what they mean for you.
What they really mean for you will only be revealed further down the line. I don’t know what the things you are currently making meaning about are. But I do know that the meaning you make about the things that have not yet happened and the distress you feel about it all is not serving you. That meaning is not making you feel good. Rather, it is perpetuating the old training and making you feel bad.
So, the one thing that you can do to make 2023 a better year is to become very aware of your meaning-making tendencies and simply say to yourself:
“These thoughts do not mean anything. They do not have to mean anything.”
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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