How do we heal?

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Hilltop

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How do we heal?
« on: December 16, 2020, 11:28:02 AM »
I am now reading Running On Empty by Jonice Webb and I find myself nodding along in agreement when she asks "Do you feel this etc, do you do that etc?".  I can see things my parents have done when growing up and how that relates to how I feel now.  I haven't finished the book yet however I am starting to wonder, how do I even start to heal?

I remember reading a while back that the first step was acceptance of the situation and accepting that the behaviour of your parent was real. Accepting they may have a PD etc. I do think especially after this last book that I have really accepted that things were not great growing up and that I lived in a house that had an emotional void and I can see how as an adult I still remain affected by that. 

I remember when we received news of my grandmothers death and my parents hugged, my sister ran to her room and I ran after my sister but we couldn't support each other so I went to my room alone, I was a teenager.  My mother simply said "Your grandmother is gone" with a stone face.  There was no hug, nothing, there was no talk about death, there was no asking if we were alright, we didn't talk about it, we didn't support each other.  When they put my favourite cat down, there was no "are you ok", it was just this happened, it's done.  I remember even at that age, stuffing my feelings down, suppressing them. I had been angry because they did it while I was at school and they didn't give me any time to say goodbye.  I left in the morning and the cat was fine, I came home and they had euthanized it, they hated that cat, complained it meowed all the time, I think even at that age I knew they did it for their own convenience.  However I couldn't tell them I felt grief or anger, I acted like nothing had happened at all.  I realize that in my family we didn't tell each other we loved each other, that word wasn't said, we didn't hug, emotions were not talked about, feelings were suppressed.  I now realize that's why my family kept telling me I had an attitude and it was bad.  It's because I had emotions, I would speak up sometimes and they found this difficult.  I wore my heart on my sleeve, I was sensitive. Even now my parents cannot talk about emotions or deal with emotive conversations.  I didn't do what they wanted which was to sit quietly in the background.  My sister of course did and she was the GC.  These are just a couple of memories which have always come back to me, there are many more.  I didn't understand why they remained so vivid to me and now I understand how weird it is for parents to simply dismiss your feelings at times such as those.   I understand better now that they didn't really know me or see me as my own individual self,  I think back to how my mother took me fishing, this animal loving sensitive young girl who cried when she caught a fish.  I now think back to that and wonder why my mother who never fished herself would drag this animal loving free spirit to go kill fish. The memory still haunts me. They didn't even stop to consider who their children were as people and what needs they may have.   They didn't know me as a child and still don't know me as an adult.  I am starting to understand the labels they put on me which I believed for so many years, are not accurate.  It is ok I had feelings, it is ok I am sensitive, its ok I expressed feelings and I'm not stupid nor self absorbed nor am I a bitch. 

I am not interested in blaming my parents though, I can see what their childhood was like and really it seems it is just a generational thing passed on. One big emotional void. Its more for me to acknowledge why I feel the way I do now and understand this weird dynamic with my parents.

So now what, where to from here?  What steps are helpful to move forward?  I do find journaling helpful and I continue with this.  I am wondering what others have done to heal themselves, what things have helped you?  What steps are important?  How do I make sure I have dealt with the emotions from the past?

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Starboard Song

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Re: How do we heal?
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2020, 01:31:28 PM »
The resources in the top line of my signature are the ones that were most helpful to my wife in her journey.
Radical Acceptance, by Brach   |   Self-Compassion, by Neff    |   Mindfulness, by Williams   |   The Book of Joy, by the Dalai Lama and Tutu
Healing From Family Rifts, by Sichel   |  Stop Walking on Egshells, by Mason    |    Emotional Blackmail, by Susan Forward

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Blueberry Pancakes

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Re: How do we heal?
« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2020, 03:21:00 PM »
Hilltop, like you I am not interested in blaming anyone either. I too can clearly see my parent's dysfunction and how they passed it on to the next generation. It is textbook, literally. You bring up a good question though on how do we heal. I think reading as you are doing and journaling are both helpful.   
   
I also think there are some routine yet smaller mindfulness practices that can help. None of these were modeled earlier in my life so I had to learn them and incorporate where it made sense. Things like identifying negative self talk or self-blaming thoughts and actively replacing it with supportive thoughts instead. Learning boundaries, and disengaging from dysfunction is helpful too. I have been a bit more disciplined with a regular exercise plan that helps me feel like I am not just avoiding something bad, but embracing something beneficial. I like the reading recommendations posted here and will be following to see what others suggest. 
   

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Hepatica

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Re: How do we heal?
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2020, 04:01:44 PM »
My parents were unable to express affection and love. They gave free reign to anger though. It was so out of balance. All anger. No love. Like you Hilltop, there was no checking in about how we, their children, were feeling. I think if we might have opened up to them, they would have only given (bad) advice. They didn't have the skill of listening empathically. It was like love was frozen in them and not able to come out.

I wonder if we do come from generations of people "frozen."

I can't blame them either because I feel stunted myself. I find myself feeling really awkward when I try to express love to my teenager. I so want to but it's become so complicated and he really doesn't want hugs but he does come to us occasionally when he's troubled and upset and I really work on listening to him and not trying to solve it, just showing compassion and asking questions. But how many of us were taught this by our parents?  Sometimes it feels like learning a new language for me, that uncomfortable feeling of showing warmth. I didn't even hug until my twenties when my girlfriends kept pushing me to be a hugger and eventually I got used to it.

I wonder how to heal as well. It's like I have to push past the discomfort of receiving affection and giving it, when it should be such a natural and wonderful thing to feel.

But being raised in a house where only anger and neutral were allowed makes it really hard.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2020, 04:04:31 PM by Hepatica »
“There is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there's
still a sureness in you, where there's a seamlessness in you, and where
there is a confidence and tranquility." John O'Donohue

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JustKathy

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Re: How do we heal?
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2020, 07:56:26 PM »
The thing that has helped me the most are online forums like this one. I was a teen in the 70s when there were no books and no Internet, so I had no way of knowing what was wrong with my Nmother. I thought I was crazy. I don't have the words to describe how I felt the first time I posted in an online forum and someone said, "My mother did the same thing." Finally knowing I wasn't alone felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off of me.

Another thing that has helped is writing about it. I've taken a lot of classes and have written several personal essays about my experiences. I've never submitted any for publication. It's just something I do for myself. Maybe one day I'll post my writing to a blog or something, but for now, just letting it out on paper has been very healing. Journaling is basically the same thing.

Other than that, I'm not sure what can really be done to heal. I know that I'll always be emotionally wrecked, but I can learn to love myself by being the best person I can be. I try to do as much as I can to help others in need. I also work with animal rescue and have surrounded myself with pets. Like you, I loved animals as a child and my parents used that against me by doing many of the same things your parents did. I had more than one pet disappear while I was at school and had to suffer in silence. Maybe I've overcompensated, but my heart feels so full when I look at the many animals I've helped, both the ones currently in my home and the ones that have passed (the compassionate way, with me holding them at the end).

I'll always have low self-esteem, but I find that I can be happy and feel better about myself by simply being what they failed to be... a kind, decent, and loving person.

Sending you healing hugs...
 :hug:

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Hilltop

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Re: How do we heal?
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2020, 08:26:28 PM »
Starboard song - thank you for the recommendations, I will use them.

Blueberry Pancakes - its funny I didn't really see it before but when I look back my paternal grandfather grew up in an orphanage so I now realize that he simply was never shown love, I knew him as a quiet, nice man but he rarely showed affection.  There was no malice in it though.  The maternal side is probably where there were more PD behaviours and I see my mother following on those behaviours.   I like your suggestions they were helpful.

Hepatica - I agree that if we had of opened up there would have been bad advice, even as a young adult when I did open up there was bad advice.  I feel stunted too and yes still struggle with hugs, I hate them.  Although you feel stunted, you are aware and that will make all the difference with your teenager son.  At least you are changing the dynamic and breaking the cycle.

Thanks JustKathy.  I am finding the forum very helpful, reading others experiences has been good in opening my eyes and giving me things to consider and think about.  I feel the same way about animals and will always have pets around me, I too get such joy from them, I know that nice feeling in the heart when I look at them.

I think I am on the right track then, years ago I tried therapy and it wasn't for me.  I guess I was worried that would hold me back.  I have a few plans and goals for next year one which is exercising/being healthy and I've also started meditation before bed.  I am still working on anger.  I think the piece I am missing is the mindfulness so I see what I need to work on coming into the new year.

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Adria

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Re: How do we heal?
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2020, 12:27:37 PM »
I'm right there with you and the others. All good advice.  This forum is wonderful. I also recommend Luke 17:3 ministries. Also, the book "Toxic Parents" Overcoming their hurtful legacy and reclaiming your life," by Susan Forward. And the book, "The Sociopath Next Door," by Martha Stout. These books gave me great insight into the kinds of people I was dealing with in my family.

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Sneezy

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Re: How do we heal?
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2020, 04:52:06 PM »
The thing that has helped me the most are online forums like this one. I was a teen in the 70s when there were no books and no Internet, so I had no way of knowing what was wrong with my Nmother. I thought I was crazy. I don't have the words to describe how I felt the first time I posted in an online forum and someone said, "My mother did the same thing." Finally knowing I wasn't alone felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off of me.
This.  100% this!!!  Once I could search online and find books about PDs and then found this forum, it was like a lightning bolt.  Finally!  I finally started to understand.  It was remarkable just to hear that others have gone through the same things, but what really helped me was hearing that these things were/are wrong.  Not to sound judgemental, but for me, to finally be able to say it was wrong made all the difference.

Sometimes I have conversations in my head with my grandmothers and my father (all deceased now).  I ask them what really happened, what was true and what wasn't.  Don't worry, I haven't gone completely crazy, they never answer me.  But if I had to imagine their answers, well they didn't know what was going on either.  They did the best they could when it came to my mom, but they couldn't figure her out.  And there was certainly no internet for them to look it up back then and people didn't "air their dirty laundry" by talking about any family problems.

Analyzing the past, trying to figure out what really happened, and why - that helps.  Reading, gaining knowledge, that all helps, too.  And then being determined to move past it as best I can.  It's a work in progress.

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Hilltop

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Re: How do we heal?
« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2020, 12:05:50 AM »
Thanks Adria I am always open to book ideas because reading them gives me new insights.  This last one did point out that you actually have to do the exercises and so I have pen and paper ready, lol.

Sneezy I think validation is important and you made me realise that I don't think I have that yet with my parents.  I remember years ago with my MIL I did go see a therapist and she was amazing.  I told her my issues which my DH and my parents were telling me to try harder and this therapist just got it.  She validated my feelings and the same as you it was like a lightning bolt.  Honestly that changed my path for good with my MIL and I moved on.  Unfortunately that therapist moved away and I later on tried four more and they were no good, they were really bad actually.  I sort of gave up on therapists after that.

I think I accept that situations were not normal with my parents, I accept that their behaviours can be hurtful, I accept their past however I am not feeling the validation and I'm not sure why.  I have it in small bursts such as reading this forum, speaking to my DH but I almost feel that the other messages drown it out.  Self doubt creeps in, I don't know if this is normal. I also think there's more emotion with my FOO than in-laws. I do agree that knowledge is good, at least my eyes are open, its a start.

Then I get stuck on NC or VVVLC.  Maybe I am rushing things.  I will continue the exercises I need to do, make the changes I want to in the new year, continue looking into CBT for mindfulness.  I at least feel 100% positive about taking time away from my parents, I was dithering for a while but now feel good about it, relieved for the space.  I got a Christmas card in the mail today and the message was all light and airy, which is fine, that's what they do, rug sweep, pretend all is fine, I got from the message they just think this year is tough with COVID and all will be normal in the new year.  Oh well.  I may look into another therapist in the new year, I'll see how I go.

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Jolie40

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Re: How do we heal?
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2020, 03:00:00 AM »
 biggest thing was forgiving as it was freeing for me & then next biggest was becoming a parent


being a parent & becoming a family has been the best part of my life
that is healing

since becoming a parent, have found my voice
no longer afraid to speak my mind
that is healing as when a child, I had no voice

lastly, going NC this year has been empowering
I'm an adult & no longer have to take it
singing "Titanium" ...... I'm bullet proof


« Last Edit: December 18, 2020, 03:53:44 AM by Jolie40 »
be good to yourself

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TwentyTwenty

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Re: How do we heal?
« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2020, 11:50:23 AM »
Great advice from everyone here.

In my case, it became very clear to me that in order to start healing, I must first stop the damage. You cannot simultaneously accept more damage and heal at the same time, not possible.

So in my case, I severed ties and have been NC for over 3 years.

I’m not only healed, but blissfully happy, joyful and have more peace and direction in my life than ever before. Wish that I had done that decades ago.

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Hepatica

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Re: How do we heal?
« Reply #11 on: December 18, 2020, 12:37:18 PM »
TwentyTwenty,

I'm so happy for you. That's wonderful. I am NC since August only but I already find myself happier. Don't get me wrong. There's been some hard days and weeks. I definitely have felt fear and grief and confusion at times. But what I am noticing that I cannot remember doing before, is I am giggling more. I am feeling genuinely charmed by life. My dogs make me laugh and I note myself laughing and think, 'that's new!' These must be little sparklings of joy that come from letting go of the dark cloud of anxiety I felt when in contact with my family. NC is the only change I've made. I'm not drinking over here!!  :D
“There is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there's
still a sureness in you, where there's a seamlessness in you, and where
there is a confidence and tranquility." John O'Donohue

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TwentyTwenty

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Re: How do we heal?
« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2020, 07:55:18 PM »
Hepatica I know exactly what you mean.. My 10 year old daughter and I laugh so hard sometimes that my wife says ‘what is going on with you guys?!?’ And of course that makes us laugh even more.. we’ve become ‘decidedly joyful’ and having the time of our lives. I’ve stopped questioning my worth and value, and understand what it means to be truly happy. 😊

We ALL deserve happiness, joy, peace and safety. Never let anyone put a dent in that!

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JustKathy

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Re: How do we heal?
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2020, 08:15:13 PM »
In my case, it became very clear to me that in order to start healing, I must first stop the damage. You cannot simultaneously accept more damage and heal at the same time, not possible.

Yes! I couldn't begin to heal while my toxic parents were still taking swipes at me. I had to remove them from my life and put them in my rear view mirror before I could move forward. I first went NC with my Nmother and still had difficulties since my enFather was acting as a flying monkey. Once I went NC with him, things fell into place for me. The hurt from my past will never go away, but I can now live my life and work on healing without interruptions from them.

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Hilltop

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Re: How do we heal?
« Reply #14 on: December 19, 2020, 01:35:16 AM »
Twentytwenty I'm so happy for you.  It's so interesting, I hadn't thought of it that way,  "You cannot simultaneously accept more damage and heal at the same time, not possible."

I have only just gone NC in the past month and most of that month I have been feeling guilty and unsure of myself.  When I am out with friends I forget and feel great however when things are quiet I feel unsure.  Only recently have I begun to feel sure about the space I need.  Perhaps given more time it will naturally sort itself out without the extra damage coming in. 

Hepatica perhaps I need to start drinking lol.

JustKathy I think that's what I struggle with the constant swipes, you get over one and the next ones' coming.  It sounds like with space things naturally settle down, I guess with time things will fall into place.
« Last Edit: December 19, 2020, 01:39:16 AM by Hilltop »

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Hilltop

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Re: How do we heal?
« Reply #15 on: December 20, 2020, 04:28:02 AM »
I just wanted to add that I am leaning toward NC.  I keep reading about putting boundaries into place and that's the thing, I don't think I can with my parents.  I could easily say to them "don't come over unannounced, please call beforehand"  however how do I say "you are mocking me, laughing like that is mocking me and I don't like it".  They just deny and call me crazy, say I am reading the situation wrong.  I know this because this is what has happened in the past.  It doesn't even occur to them to ask if everything is ok for me to feel that way, they just deny, blame me for feeling that way and I leave feeling like they will laugh about it all later.

It's the subtle messages that other people don't see or get.  It's cards.  I received a card for Christmas, a nice one, that means my mother got me email and is currently in the stage of trying to appear nice.  When she is in a really good mood I get a handmade card.  For my birthday this year when she was really letting me know she was upset I got a basic generic birthday card.  I cannot say this to them without looking crazy and yet I see the messages in all these cards.  I see that she has thrown cash in the cards when she knows I don't want to do that for presents, when I have told her that.  When she is happier with me I get gift cards.  Cash just shows no thought, no effort, it shows my place to them.  As I said to her why bother giving each other $50 in cash in a card to each other, its so silly, knowing that I said I didn't want this, this is what she does.  I also know she has bought expensive face creams for my GCSister in the past, she would never throw cash in a card for her.  Its subtle but to me obvious. 

It's these subtle messages I no longer want to be around, it's damaging, it's ongoing damage and I can't tell them to stop because it's all so easily denied. For the last two Christmas's a friend of my mothers called in during our Xmas lunch.  My mother later told us all she didn't know her friend was calling in however as her friend walked in and my mother had to leave the room, I saw her looking back at me staring at me, watching me to see my reaction, that small smile playing on her face.  It just felt off and yet I couldn't say anything.  I didn't care about her friend calling in but I did notice my mother making a huge deal about it, making comments that I would be uncomfortable with the visit and she didn't know why her friend had called in.  It was all so odd.  My mother said she'd told her friend when I would be there so she didn't understand why she would drop in and I had the belief that my mother had set the whole thing up, thought I would be uncomfortable for some strange reason and then she watched me.  It was creepy.  Yet what can I say there is nothing, how do you explain that this interaction has left you feeling off and you don't know why.  I read it back and think I am an insane person however this is what I felt on that day.

This is what it is like with the subtle things, you doubt your perspective and yet you feel it keenly.  There are outright  insults but I have come to the conclusion of what's the point.  So I tell them not to insult me, the damage is done, I've heard it already and taken the message in already.

I've come to the conclusion that enough is enough.  I may not be able to point and go there it is but my body feels it keenly.  I don't leave other people feeling like this.  I don't even know what the game is, I just feel off centre like I am always one step behind.  This new game of the weird mocking laugh has really rattled me because it's new and I can't work out what is going on.  This time though I've decided to protect myself.  I simply cannot be around it any longer.  Even just going to visit and being looked up and down and up and down and being judged and I feel uncomfortable, I don't want this in my life any more.  Enough is enough.

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Call Me Cordelia

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Re: How do we heal?
« Reply #16 on: December 20, 2020, 07:43:07 AM »
You don’t sound crazy it all!!! I’m nodding my head right along with your post. The little games with the barely perceptible smile playing around the lips is very familiar. One of the ones my dad liked to play: I had a long term boyfriend before I met my husband. Their names are unfortunately similar. UNF would call my DH by exbf’s name and then look right at me with that crafty gleam. It is unnerving. You’re with people who take pleasure in causing you pain. My opinion is the only sane thing to do is get away. They are bullies, plain and simple.