Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Healing Journey: Setting the Scapegoat Free

One of the burdens we shoulder in the aftermath of being estranged is that we "self blame".  For me however, this self blame went deeper and the trauma of estrangement left me confronting my life long habit of self blame. 

Part of my healing journey has been facing the negative way I talk to myself and the impact that this habit has had upon my life in general. In order to bring appreciation and joy and love back into my daily life I needed to change those deep down feelings of unworthiness.  I needed to embrace that self-love and self-worth and self-compassion, are qualities that I actually deserve to experience!   

I NEEDED, almost desperately, to escape from the negativity that because I have not been perfect and because I have made mistakes, I somehow don’t deserve to feel appreciated, joyful or loved. 

Because I own responsibility for all things that have gone wrong in my life to a detrimental degree.  I carry with me this huge burden of self-imposed guilt.  It is a burden that I took up as a child (those feelings of not being good enough) and it has been with me my whole life.   

I saw every insufficiency in my life as a being the result of my not being good enough, doing good enough, being successful enough. And then I carried that guilt for “not being good enough” in my psyche!   I carried this burden with me into my daily life!  What a great burden to carry!
I should have let go of this burden a long time ago, but it was so ingrained in my nature that I never even stopped to think of the damage I was doing to myself by blaming “ME” for everything that did not go smoothly or did not turn out the way it was planned.  

It was just somehow always “my fault”, and I never stopped to question the truth of that statement! 

I have been learning to question the veracity of that belief!

Actually I have been forced to learn that lesson by events in my life. 

The turning point came when I realized that I had taught my children to judge me as harshly as I judged myself!   I had taught them that is was okay for them to blame me for everything that was wrong in their lives.  They had the perfect scapegoat, MOM!

When our eldest child estranged from the family she sent a letter and the message that resonates with me the most was this sentence:   

“There are so many things wrong with my life 
and they are all your fault.”  

My world collapsed in the reading of that sentence!   
I was guilty!  
I was to blame.  
I was a horrible person.  
I was a horrible mother!  
I was a horrible person.  

How was I going to live with the knowledge that I was such a failure?!  That was May 2009. 

Looking back now I find it interesting that she did not take any responsibility upon herself, not even the tiniest bit!   She did not see any of her actions as contributing to the growing tension between us.  

Even more perplexing is that I allowed her to use me as a scapegoat!   I did not even question that it was my fault! 

I was ultimately the perfect scapegoat 
because I believed the accusation that 
I was at fault for everything 
that was wrong in her life!

So there I was, shattered! 

First the good news, I survived!   I somehow picked up the pieces and spent the ensuing years trying to mend my broken heart and my broken life. I read, I attended therapy sessions, I joined support groups for estranged parents and I worked very hard at learning about myself, my unrealistic expectations, and what exactly I was and was not responsible for.  

Second the bad news; it has been an uphill battle that has seen me struggling with old concepts, outdated ideas, facing new knowledge and new understanding.  Rewiring thoughts about who I was and what I could and could not take responsibility for, has been like an emotional evisceration.  I was often left feeling raw and exposed and vulnerable.

I am now firmly on the path forward toward rebuilding with new and healthier foundation stones those parts of my life that I do continue to take responsibility for.  

What I have left behind, is the baggage of making excuses for others and then shouldering their share of the blame as well as my own.  

I have stripped away guilt that 
was not mine to start with.  

I have removed self-shaming for being inadequate from my self talk vocabulary!  

I have learnt to embrace that being human and making mistakes is part of living and that this is not something to be ashamed of.

I am rebuilding those areas of my psyche that still need fortification.  Most importantly, I have created a fourteen day self-appreciation challenge that I pamper myself with whenever I catch myself sliding back into old habits. 

Originally this challenge came out of my need to remind myself that:

  • I deserve to feel good about who I am and what I have accomplished. 
  • I deserve to  declare to myself that I deserve the good feelings that come with acknowledging my victories rather than drowning in my failings.  
  • I have a right to claim my rights as a human being; to no longer be trapped in the role of the scapegoat.

Appreciation is one of the highest emotional states you can be in. 

I love writing my daily gratitude list.  It allows me time to reflect on the state of abundance in my outer life. Over time this exercise also taught me that if I am capable of appreciating others then I should be able to learn to apply that skill towards appreciating myself.  The goal was to create an equal state of abundance in my inner life.  I do this for ME, because I too deserve appreciation. 

Out of that awareness came my "Self Appreciation and Self Love Ritual"  (in my soon to be published book, Post Estrangement: Journey Forward Toward Healing)

My ritual is there to remind me of my promises to myself.  

  • I will stop and take a moment to remember and fully experience gratitude for all my good qualities. 
  • I will make daily self-appreciation a part of my daily gratitude practice 
  • I will make it a priority in my life to work on changing old conditioning patterns that no longer serve me. 
Setting the scapegoat free has been one of the most precious gifts that I have given myself during my post estrangement healing journey.

Renate Dundys Marrello
2015 – 11 – 18

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  1. Thank you. Your words are what I can't say! It's so hard. This is me too.

  2. I thought by taking self responsibility I was modeling the way people should behave. I thought by modeling apologies I was modeling how it's ok to be imperfect and apologize and move on. I thought I modeled empathy and kindness and forgiveness. I guess the abandoning adult child learned a different lesson. Blame and no responsibility.

  3. Just last night I cried myself to sleep, knowing that I wouldn't be seeing my 2 son during the holidays. They have abandoned me and have kept my beautiful granddaughters from me for almost a year. I raised them as a single mom, and now that I'm again happily married, they don't know if I'm alive or dead. The heartache is intense. So thank you so much for sharing this. It was perfect timing.

  4. Me too spending Thanksgiving without my kids and grands......this sucks.
    Im still going to makeing Thanksgiving dinner for me.