Friday, July 7, 2017

post estrangement: healing encompases much learning

Obviously, anyone who is struggling to heal from trauma goes through many stages and steps toward recovery.  There are many ways we learn to make changes within ourselves, our thought patterns, our responses, discovering false core beliefs etc.

However one of the most valuable tools that I have discovered in healing is learning about the bad behaviour patterns of others.  The more I am aware of the types of actions used by Character Disturbed People (that is people who lack character and to some degree actually gain pleasure from using and hurting others) the more I realize that being proactive in recognizing these traits and categorizing them as "bad behaviour" and then making choices for my own defense the more "safe" I feel.

One of the aftermaths I experienced post trauma was a fearfulness.  For a long time I did not recognize what was holding me back, I just resisted virtually all social situations. I felt great anxiety or panic when forced to face such situations.  Now, as I have learned so much more, I have come to realize that this is my "flight" response in anticipation of being rejected and exposed to more of the same trauma.

I never learned about bad character in my life and so I was not prepared for encounters with bad people.  Most of my life the manipulators and controllers went under the radar!  Their jabs so subtle that that vague sense of un-ease I felt was my fault, I labeled myself as too sensitive.  Oddly enough this was often reinforced when I did dare to voice my opinion that I was feeling hurt!   You know exactly what I mean;...the well meaning advice "oh you are just being too sensitive". 

How many unkind words are spoken, how many put downs uttered, how many times are we made to feel inadequate and when we complain we are the "overly sensitive" ones; or we have no sense of humour; or we misunderstood.  And when the events of unkindness are small ones we tend to ignore our inner warning signs.

Here is an example from my past.  I redecorated a room. I put in hours of research, found pictures that spoke to me and made me feel good.  I was excited about creating this room and worked hard finding the colours and patterns to create my vision.  When done I was incredibly proud of what I had accomplished.  When completed, most people enjoyed the results.  However one person looked and said "I would never do a room like that!"  Now this was not a direct insult but it did imply that my room lacked appeal.  I ignored the warning signs that this was not a nice person. I continued to be friends with her. 

Years later when our children were teens and I confided in her my challenges with my son she blamed me for his behaviour.  It was my fault because I was not strict enough.  Now that of itself hurt, but she then went on to make sure my children knew that she felt I was an inadequate parent. She continued to undermine my parenting because my children started going to her for advice and ignoring mine.

Here is a classic example of how a "gut feeling" ignored early in the relationship led to this person remaining in my life to cause me harm later on.

The small warning signs should NEVER be ignored. First of course we need to know that they are in fact warning signs.  And sadly that is not something I was taught and I presume that there are many "nice, people pleasing" types of people around who fall into the same category of lack of knowledge, as I did.  We brush off the small slights maybe with a cringe, but we forgive and forget too easily.  For this reason a vital aspect of healing is to learn to recognize  these warning signs. That requires learning about what makes manipulative controlling egotistically full of themselves people tick! 

The second thing we need to learn is that we do not have to tolerate such behaviour!  We do have the right to respond with boundaries and limitation setting retaliations!   In the past my "I am a nice person" persona did not allow me to do this.  So my next step in healing is overcoming my fear of responding!

I can recognize bad behaviour, my "gut" always warns me.  If I feel bad I know I have been treated bad.  But now I also have the vocabulary to define what the bad behaviour is!

In the process of healing I have gotten good at removing myself from the presence of people who exhibit bad behaviour.  I call this my coward approach, but in my fragile state of recovery it was all that I was able to accomplish.  If you do or say something that is derogatory or harms me, I reserve the right to remove myself from your presence.  That is called "flight"

Now I face my next challenge, when I recognize bad behaviour to confront the person immediately with a response about how I feel about their behaviour and that I won't tolerate it!  That is called "fighting".

Most of my life I have used "fawning", doing things to try to get people to like me and treat me better, or "freezing", trying to become invisible, insignificant not worth picking on.  I never felt I had the right nor the option to flee or to fight. 

Healing has taught me that I do have the right!  

As always, dear reader, I love to hear your thoughts on what healing has taught you.

Renate Dundys Marrello
2017 - 07 – 07

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  1. Healing has taught me to not fear my most frighteningly negative emotions, the "shadow" that feels so dark and scary when it falls. I've learned to allow myself to feel whatever it is I'm feeling and accept all emotions as part of being human. At the same time I strive to be kind, to cause no harm, to practice the golden rule and treat others as I'd like to be treated. Further, I've learned compassion isn't pity; it's based on respect and a genuine sense of concern for the suffering of other people.

  2. Renate... thank you so very much for your journal entry today. I loved reading it. I feel similarly. I have allowed myself to ignore the warning signs of others, leaving myself open and vulnerable. It was two family members, not simply a friend I can decide to disregard if I need to. One was my son. I love him with everything in me, although, I just don't really know who he is. He has stopped talking to me. It has been over three and a half months. I have been so available...perhaps too available and giving in the past. I am in no way perfect, but I have loved him his 31 years of life to the best of my ability. I suppose his spirit needed to fly without me. My grandchildren are gone for he will not let me see them either. I never knew about the mothers and grandmothers of the world that would face this kind of suffering. I now find myself in a new community of those who grieve for their loved ones, as if they are dead, but are still alive and unreachable. I shake my head in dismay and a perpetual sadness that has permeated my life for months now. I reached out to him through an email yesterday. No response. I sent clothes in the mail for my twin grandchildren; no response. He didn't say, "respect my boundaries and stay out of my life," like he did earlier in the estrangement. I see this as hopeful. Wow...I did really write that? Is it hopeful? Or, maybe he is just ignoring me now? I help people in my work everyday. At times, I don't know how to help myself other than to feel my feelings and be kind to others. I do both of these things well. I pray. It helps. I cry. It helps. I hope. It helps.

  3. Dear Renate, Reading your journal today was the best therapy I've had in a long time. I could identify with every word you wrote. I grew up with two parents who were alcoholic. I wasn't aware of how dysfunctional it was until I was in my forties and it all fell apart. Typically, I married a man who was hiding his alcoholism and sex addiction. We had seven children and I thought my life was perfect. We lost a son at age two
    many years ago. It all fell apart after 35 years. Our last child was going to college and he revealed his secret life. Immediately our daughter took his side and I lost her and two granddaughters whom I had cared for every day. They were just gone. We were separated and I was in shock. I was grieving the loss of my daughter and grandbabies. My ex-husband has mental health disorders and is a manipulative pathological liar. He threatened to take away my children and he succeeded even though they were all adults. Prior to
    the bomb hitting our family I was as you described in your post. I quietly took any and all emotional abuse and just swallowed it rather than speak up. From my parents, husband and children. But after ... I became a different person. I spoke the truth and my children didn't like it. Perky Mom was suddenly gone. They were unable to deal with this new person ~ stronger person I had become. Add to that that their father was doing his best to come between us. Ultimately I was deemed the liar by five of them and lost them all including grandchildren. Some have been born and I have never seen them. Only one son remained and that was because he was told the entire perverted and sick truth by his father. He never spoke to him again. That was ten years ago and as we all do, I wrote letters, emails, phone calls and stood on the doorsteps in an effort to FIX IT. I was discarded. It is difficult to comprehend how they view me and I wonder if they remember the mother who loved them with all my heart for all of their lives. But I found out that speaking out even in a nice way does not work in a dysfunctional family. You are immediately punished by silence or worse. I still grieve for all that loss but I am blessed to have one son and a beautiful granddaughter. As 'soul walking' above stated ... there is a perpetual sadness. Some days are better than others but it is never far from my mind. Two years ago I made the decision to stop hoping for a miracle. I felt that it was no longer good for me to hope for something that is likely never going to happen. I needed to move on. There are wonderful online communities for parents and grandparents who have been estranged. Your blog always gives me solace! Thank you for putting into words the devastation we feel when we have been called 'dead' by our children.

  4. Renate your words always resonate. After years of estrangement, I now see it as nothing but a passive aggressive silent ego trip laced with ostracism. They know what they're doing. They just don't care.
    I will never beg someone for crumbs of communication again.
    Fully grown, self-actualized people discuss issues while considering everyone's feelings.
    The character disturbed play head games, withholding, rejecting, and causing pain and chaos.

    My passport is a beautiful thing. Spending their inheritance has opened some doors for me. I'm blessed with new friends, interesting people with great hearts and minds. You know you're in good company when you feel affection, appreciation and reciprocity.

    I wish I hadn't wasted so much time missing them, stuck in the pain of why. Repeatedly reaching out to silence was humiliating. Didn't change a thing. Just made it all hurt more.

    Life gets good when you decide you have a right to peace and happiness. There is life beyond the pain, but you have to go and grab it with both hands.
    Good on you for this beautiful blog. Have a beautiful life! You deserve it.