On my blog entry entitled Dealing with Judgmental People/Stigma of Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:
Faith- did u ever love your mother? I mean wholeheartedly love her? I did mine. And then she left me to my abusers without a look back. How do I GET OVER SUCH A BETRAYAL? Can I ever love anyone again? ~ Carla
I answered the first part in my blog entry yesterday. Today I will focus on the second part… yes, you can love again, but you must be willing to risk being vulnerable to being hurt again, and that is hard to do. When the betrayer is your mother, finding the courage to risk loving again is that much harder because the person who was supposed to teach you unconditional love is the one who betrayed you. This makes the challenge harder but not insurmountable.
The first step is to recognize that you do actually trust some people in some ways. When your mother betrays you, it can be very easy to use blanket statements, such as, “I cannot trust anyone in any way.” My therapist challenged this thinking, pointing out that I trust my husband to bring home a paycheck, I trust my friend not to repeat something I told her in confidence, etc. You need to remove the legacy of your mother’s shadow from darkening your perception of all other relationships. You need to get at a heart level that not every person on the planet is like your mother.
The next step was the hardest for me … You have to risk being vulnerable in a relationship. I was so guarded that my goal was to tell someone that she was becoming a good friend. Just the thought of saying these words to another person gave me multiple panic attacks, make me nauseous, increased my heart rate, and caused me to hyperventilate. When I would reconsider telling her this, all of the anxiety eased. This told me that I was onto something, and I forced myself to say these words. I had to binge eat immediately after because I was shaking so badly, but I did it! I felt the walls of ice around my heart start to break down with this one act of courage.
Once you risk opening up your heart to another person and feel the warmth of love in a part of your spirit that has been icy cold for decades, you realize that the risk is worth the reward. You take more risks in baby steps and enter into truly emotionally intimate relationships. Once you have had a taste of them, you won’t ever want to go back.
I wish there a way for me to make this process less scary for you. All I have to offer is my experience. I have two very close friendships in which I am 98% completely open and honest, and I trust that they will love me no matter what I do. I also have several other close friendships that are dear to me but not quite as emotionally intimate. It all started with breaking out of my mother’s shadow and taking the risk that love was possible for me.
Photo credit: Hekatekris