29/01/2013

Beginning to Undo the Damage*

Posted in Encouragement, Family, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:29 pm by The Water Bearer

beach

The theme of my concerns over recent weeks/months/years, has circled my role as a Mum. I have this tremendous fear that my insecure reactions may have already damaged my children’s sense of self worth. How it is especially hard trying to raise them to be healthy, happy and secure, while I am still trying to get myself there. I get angry at myself for falling short, giving them less than they deserve. Tears well up as I confess this, it is extremely difficult to share, so please bear with me. I will try to allow my vulnerability and shame to create something worthwhile here…

I lean heavily into my faith, repeating the mantra, “Don’t Stress, Do your Best, God will take care of the Rest and You’ll be Blessed”. I trust in this, yet I admit my trust wavers, especially when it comes to me doing my best, am I really? While He develops my faith, I pursue healing… I must for their sake and my own.

My children are older now (9 & 16), they are dealing with emotional issues, more than behavioural ones. They are extremely well behaved, and try their best to be so. Recently I watched my reactions as a parent to my children even more closely; I saw how often my desire to teach them sounded as if they were ‘less than’. How my attempts to help them understand happiness made them confused and sad. How my reaction to their unhappiness made them self-conscious and withdrawn.

I broke down…

“How is this still happening?” I thought to myself. After over 6 years of therapy and 13 years of developing faith, I still have not figured out how to stop the cycle of damage and self-loathing which has infected its way throughout my family tree.

I wrote and wrote, I poured out my confessions on every scrap of paper I could lay my hand to. I let the tears fall as I held myself accountable for their growing hearts, which need to be nurtured by a Mum that loves in healing ways, not toxic ones. Yet I had no idea why my love was so poisoned.

Then as usual I withdrew again…. into distractions and a couple of glasses of red.

I had a 2.5 hour session with my therapist the other week, and we spent time figuring out the core of my parenting crisis. It was supposed to be the usual hour, but he knew I needed more time and gave it willingly, bless him.

After many tears shed and much rambling, probably mostly incoherent, we came to a few realisations. Firstly, that I have a list of responsibilities in the forefront of my mind. Fighting for the top spot of that list is my desire to make my children happy, along with being an obedient, self aware, child of God, and a supportive, capable and loving wife etc.

We narrowed in on my role as a Mum, to find out what causes me to react in unhealthy ways rather than healthy ones (besides the general thesis that my reactions spring from a platform of shame and insecurity). We needed to discover the more specific catalyst.

Eventually this catalyst revealed itself to be a connection between being happy and being right. I grew up believing being ‘right’ was the be all and end all. I spent so many early years unhappy for being so very far from ‘right’, believing many lies were truth, that somewhere along the way of realising this I have attached unhappiness with being wrong.

As we dug a little deeper we found that whenever I see a need to correct my children’s behaviour or teach them how to deal with something new, my fear of their unhappiness attaches itself to them being human (not perfect) and my panic causes an emotional reaction. This emotional reaction is more powerful than my words aimed to teach, more powerful than my good intentions. My way of defending against the fear is what shows on my face as I react. My anger at myself for believing those early lies is what shines out, and all they must see is an angry, scared Mum. No wonder it doesn’t work out well. 😦

We also figured out that I seem to be missing a piece of the puzzle, the place of stability that helps gauge which situations are worth getting upset about and which ones can be met with a neutral, unemotional  response. In my desperate mission to stop my girls ending up like me, I have been allowing my fear to unconsciously correct their emotions and even their opinions. I cant express in words how ashamed I am. Forgive me Father, Forgive me Girls!

And so now that I have become aware of this in more detail, I must learn to give supportive freedom for them to experience their own emotions and opinions in each situation and not link them to being right or wrong, happy or sad, damaged or healed. Just to simply accept them, for all that they are. The Lord will teach them in life what I cannot, I need to change my focus to be less about teaching them how to not be like I was/am, and more on helping them be who they are. Using Affection, Approval and Acceptance to help them believe they are good enough, that they belong and are loved.

My psych has given me some tips to practice, in order to attempt to undo some of these patterns.

  • Sitting face-to-face with them wordlessly, non-judgmentally, soothing the internal dialogue inside me, which drives me to teach them to control and avoid imagined catastrophes.
  • Sit and listen without responding so much. (Oh my, that is hard for me at anytime)
  • Try not to challenge any opinion they have unless 99% sure that it is incorrect.
  • Try not to challenge any emotions they have, merely SHARE the experience with them.
  • Try not to let their emotions change my emotions reactively. Wait until I can think neutrally before making decisions. This will teach what my words could not, that emotional manipulation is unfair and unhealthy.
  • Before I respond to anything, ask myself this question, “Do I feel good enough or defensive?”, and wait until I feel good enough before I respond.
  • Use soft eyes and a low pitch when correcting and teaching.
  • Be aware of my fearful reactions during meditation, run through these tips from a calm relaxed place and allow the fear to pass by without being the catalyst for reaction.

This list is not going to be easy for me to apply, but I have been trying and had a few successes. I hope that someone else out there can gain something useful from this post. So that other children don’t have to stay in unhealthy cycles. I ask for your prayers, pray that this is finally the breakthrough I have been waiting years for and that God will reach down His hand and help me walk these new strategies out in my life. That His love will flow through to fulfill my girls when my love is tainted with fear. That my inner enemies will not win out, but will end up in the pit far away from my me and my family. In Yeshua’s Mighty Name I pray. Amen!

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14 Comments »

  1. Summer said,

    Your are so encourage to share this. It must be hard for you, but in this way you can read it to when you need it in difficcult times. It’s now not only in your mind but also on paper. I learned from my friend, my emotions are not someone else emotions. I was copie my feelings on others. I was feeling their pain, their sadness and in that way I would protect them for the bad feelings. But it does’nt work out. My emotions are not their emotions. Everyone felt on his own way a emotion and must learn to deal with all this. It will make them wiser in life and learns them how to deal with different situations, If they need advice you can listen to them and ask what they think the best way is, or you could share how you think about it.

    Believe! You will learn it. It takes time, step by step.. And embrace yourself that you work on it, and buy a cute thing for yourself by each success that you make : )

    Love and Peace, Summer

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    • Thank you Summer, your lovely comment here has warmed my heart and soothed my shame. Bless you sweet Sister.

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      • Summer said,

        Don’t shame, your learning too.

        Sweet greetings, Summer

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      • Ah Summer, that’s much easier said than done, we all have shame, according to Brene’ Brown’s research. In order for shame to thrive and cause damage, it needs silence, secrecy and judgment. So those who don’t talk about their shame usually have more than those who do…So I share my shame, even though it is hard, I give it a voice and the empathy I get from people like yourself is what diminishes it. So thank you very much 🙂

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  2. What a true and helpful post. Thank you! My daughters are 27 and 31 now, but I still hear myself in your words. The things you listed can help me with other people also, and my adult daughters even now. One thing that has been so helpful for us (my girls and me) is that as older teens and adults we have talked openly about so much…mostly my reasons for making the choices I did, unseen issues with their dad (in not too much detail – but they see the picture), and their feelings about certain things. Not too much….hopefully not too little. They are my best friends, they get it, and we are all so much healthier now (not perfect!!! :-)). Your honesty and open heart absolutely do, and will continue to, speak to your children, and you have many years ahead to enjoy the ongoing changes in your relationship with them. Such blessings to you! Diane

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    • Thank you so much Diane. It is comforting to know that I can begin to change because I now understand the problem. Many years ago I thought of taking my life because I knew I was doing them damage and couldn’t stop myself. I am glad I stuck around and stuck with therapy long enough to understand so I can change. I showed my eldest daughter this post, as we do talk very openly with each other and are very close, she said “This is huge mum!” and she is right. I can now work on something, I can now move forward, I can now heal….for real! Amen!

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  3. sharonjudah said,

    Amen sister! Its so wonderful and amazing to see a parent who cares so much and puts the time and effort into our most important and precious assets…our children. God given gifts of new life from Him. Your children are VERY blessed to have a Mom who loves them enough to do this soul searching and praying on their behalf. I know your prayers are heard, appreciated and well recieved and you will have mine for your cause as well. Many blessings to you and your beloved children:)
    Sharon

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    • I appreciate your words here more than you can imagine! Thank you so much for dropping by Sharon, and for taking the time to comment in such a supportive way. It has blessed me tremendously. 🙂

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  4. […] Beginning to Undo the Damage*. […]

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  5. […] I mentioned in my last post, somewhere along the road of life I have subconsciously attached being ‘Right’ with […]

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  6. mindfuldiary said,

    Wonderful and very helpful post! I think as parents, especially mothers, we all do the unhealthy reactions and emotions, because we want to help, guide,prevent, fix things for them. We love them so much. There is so much wisdom in your post that I don’t even know where to start. I think the most important parenting skill I’ve ever learned is to just BE with my kids, no talking, no responding, no expectations, just being present with them. I too have those unhealthy moments, I apologise to them when I slip. Nobody is perfect all the time. You should be proud, I bet your children are, that they have such a caring and courageous mother! xo

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    • What a wonderful comment! You have warmed my heart with your comforting empathy. I agree, being present is the best lesson I have learned too, I just need a bit more practice as it is only new to me. I know I am not alone in my unhealthy reactions, I have watched variations of these throughout my family and friends for as long as I can remember. I just couldn’t sit by and let it go on, I needed to get to the bottom of it so I could begin to change it. I am grateful that the Lord has given me this platform to share with others as I learn, because every child deserves to have a Mum who is present and accepting of them. The insecurity that comes without it is crippling, I have lived it. Thanks so very much for dropping by, Blessings to you!

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  7. […] my fear of mistakes has been showing it’s ugly head in more and more ways since my recent breakthrough. I pray this is the Lord purging it from my nature so I can finally treat others with the respect […]

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  8. […] while I engage with people who I feel most sensitive around, I am noticing that this helps slow my defensive reactions so I can ease them […]

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