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Posts Tagged ‘letting go’

One of the blessings of having some people in my life who “knew me when” is hearing an outside perspective about how much I have grown since I chose to heal. A friend came to visit over the weekend who knew me when I was going through therapy. By the time I met her, I was seeing my therapist every other week and had worked through many memories. However, I was still struggling with the ritual abuse memories and had not even begun many of my transformations.

Before therapy, I was very rigid and controlling. I was obsessed with having a very specific schedule for my son. He needed to eat at exactly X time, and the world would end if he got to bed one minute late. I have changed so much that I sometimes “forget” about how rigid I used to be, which is where some of the longer friendships really help.

On Saturday night, I watched a movie on DVD with my “old” friend along with a couple of “newer” friends. What’s funny is that one of my “newer” friends has known me for five years versus this older friend’s seven years, but that just shows you much growth I apparently experienced just between those two years.

I made a crack about how I know I am dealing with someone uptight when I am the one advising the other person to chill out and go with the flow. My “older” friend jumped in and said, “You know. You really are so much more ‘go with the flow’ than you used to be.” She said she really noticed the change when I visited a couple of years. She expected me to have a detailed schedule for the whole day, and she was pleasantly surprised by my “whatever” attitude – “The kids can eat whenever… They can go to bed whenever…” She said she was amazed at how much more relaxed I had become since we first met.

I frequently only see how far I have to go, so it is refreshing to hear an outside perspective on how far I have come. No, I am not a completely carefree, spontaneous person, but I am also to the rigid, scheduled person that I used to be, either. It’s exciting to notice the progress!

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I had a restful holiday season and am ready to dive back into blogging again! I hope that you had a restful holiday season as well. Sadly, I know how hard the holidays can be for child abuse survivors, so my guess is that many of you are happy for the holiday season to come to an end.

Over the break, I had a massage. My muscles were much less tense than they usually are. I had an epiphany on the massage table that I have decided to turn into my New Year’s Resolution – This year, my resolution is to let go.

I want to let go of so many things … relationships (both professional and personal) that are no longer working for me … difficult emotions (don’t stuff them down – just let them go and sit with the process until they are gone) … the need to be in control. I have spent so much of my life towing along so much baggage. I am ready to let that baggage go.

One struggle I have always had is wanting to know what to DO without letting go of the many things that I am already doing. I always think that if I do X, Y, or Z, that is going to be the answer. I am all about reading self-help books that provide THE answer. If only I had known to DO X, Y, or Z, everything would have been fine. So, I put my energy into doing X, Y, or Z, but I just wind up even more weighted down.

Yes, “weighted down” is a good way to describe how I have been feeling. I usually use a marathon as a metaphor for healing, but this feels more like a long-distance swim. I keep pulling more and more baggage, and it is weighing me down. I am ready to cut the ties that bind me to this baggage and experience how well I can swim when I am not dragging such a heavy load behind me.

I have spent most of my life doing things I don’t want to do and investing in relationships I don’t want to invest in because I believe it is expected of me. I want to let go of those outside influences and explore who and what **I** want to be.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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This week, I have been exploring my strong need to be in control of the situations in my life and how to dismantle this need for control. I received lots of great advice yesterday – please keep it coming!

I don’t want to have to feel responsible for so much in my life, and I certainly don’t want the responsibility that comes with being in control of so many things. So, I put some thought into why I do this since control is not something that I want in and of itself. The answer came to me during yoga and meditation – I try to take control to help me feel protected and safe.

When abusers were in control of my life as a child, I was neither protected nor safe. I thought that, if I was in control, then I would be both protected and safe. Now, taking control has become my go-to reaction whenever I feel unsafe. OK – That’s progress. At least I understand the trigger that leads me to take control.

So, rather than telling myself “don’t judge anything” and “don’t take control,” which isn’t working very well, I am changing tactics (and will probably continue to change tactics as I consider all of the wonderful advice that all of you are providing!).

I started thinking about when and where I feel protected and safe in my life even though I am not in control. My first thought was my friend’s house. We have been friends for almost 10 years now, and she was my go-to friend during the therapy years. My son and I hang out with my friend and her daughter every Saturday at her house, and I am always very relaxed while we are there. I realized that this is because I feel protected and safe, even though I am not in control.

I also feel protected and safe at my church and when I am at the gym even though I am not in control. That tells me that it is possible for me to feel protected and safe without having to seize control of the circumstances. (I also used to feel protected and safe when I traveled, but that all blew up last week. I’ll write about that situation in another blog.) So, it is possible for me to feel relaxed while not in control, but just writing that is triggering me – clearly parts of me are not ready to do that.

I have been working again on mindfulness and staying in the moment. For example, because of what I just wrote, I feel triggered. In reaction, I am taking deep breaths, and I am analyzing the facts of my present situation. At this moment, I am completely safe. I am in my home office in front of my computer with a full stomach (just ate dinner). I don’t have to worry about whether or not I will be unsafe at a future moment. Right now, in this moment, I am completely safe. So far, this has been helping me bring myself back down.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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As I shared yesterday, I am in a difficult place of healing. I am feeling a strong pull to let go of the need to be in control all of the time and to stop making myself feel responsible for everything that goes on around me. For someone whose life has always felt out of control unless I took charge, that’s a very tall order.

I know exactly how and why I grew into a control freak. As a child, I could not trust those who were in charge because they were either abusive or, at best, negligent (such as my father and grandparents, who did not abuse me but also did not stop the abuse). When my father died (during my senior year of high school), having my mother/abuser in charge of my money (college tuition) was pure hell, and I swore to myself that I would never let anyone else control my pocketbook again. So, I completely understand how I got this way and am not beating myself up for the choices that I have made up until this point. However, I do feel the need not to live the rest of my life this way – in reaction to my childhood.

A friend had some interesting advice about letting go of control. I told her that I know what I need to do (let go of being in control) but now how to do it. Her observation was that having to be in control ties into judgment – judging different events as “good” or “bad.” For example, my luggage not arriving at my destination until 10-1/2 hours after I did was simply a fact. I am the one who made the judgment that not having my luggage arrive on my flight with me was a “bad” thing.

However, I don’t have the first clue about how to remove judgment from events that happen around me. Right now, I have no personal income despite the fact that I have two part-time jobs. (Don’t worry – hub provides amply for necessities. This is “my” money to spend however I want without hub getting a say in how I spend it.) Both jobs are adjunct education positions, and neither one has work for me until the end of August. This is simply a fact, but I judge it as “bad” because I want an income and really hate the thought of having none for a month.

My guess is that my friend would say that I could choose to view this hiatus as a “good” thing because it is a reduction in my responsibilities. It p@$$es me off, though, because I did not choose this hiatus – it happened out of my control. That makes it hard for me to view this as a “good” thing.

My understanding is that some faiths (Buddhist, maybe??) recommend removing judgment of anything being “good” or “bad.” By removing the emotional attachment to what happens, you find freedom from what happens. I am not quite sure how to do that, though. Any suggestions?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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My son and I just returned from our trip across the country. We were gone for over a week, and I did not access the blog at all while we were gone. So, please bear with me as I approve comments in the moderator queue, etc.

In a nutshell, here is what is going on with me…I had a full-fledged panic attack/meltdown at the beginning of the summer. I still do not know exactly what triggered it, and I also have not fully recovered from it. My therapist thinks I don’t nurture myself enough, which is true but not enough to explain the intensity of the breakdown.

I have felt a strong pull to let go of feeling so responsible for everything around me and try to let go of the need to be in control all of the time. The problem is that so many things keep going wrong when I do let go of the control. For example, our flight got delayed due to mechanical issues, causing us to miss our connection across the country. The airline put us in a hotel and said that arriving one hour before our replacement flight (a 6:00 a.m. flight – oh, joy!) would be plenty of time. It wasn’t. We barely made our flight, and my luggage missed it. Don’t even get me started on the inconvenience of being sleep-deprived with no luggage, sunscreen, etc. I even had to buy my kid a change of clothes.

My personal rule is to arrive at least two hours before a flight, but I chose not to “be in control” and trust the expertise of the airline personnel, which also equated to getting to sleep until 4:00 a.m. instead of having to get up at 3:00 a.m. (neither of which would have been necessary if the d@#$ed flight had not been delayed). If I had just followed my own instincts, I wouldn’t have been so panicked trying to check our baggage and get through security before the flight left, and my luggage would have arrived with me.

That’s just one example, but you get the point. So, this whole “letting go of control” thing isn’t working out very well so far, but I also feel a strong pull to do it. I simply don’t know how. More on that tomorrow…

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I received an email from a reader who asked me to talk more about “processing the forgiveness” part. I have written about forgiveness several times on this blog. However, I do not claim to have all of the answers.

I will share my own forgiveness process and then share what I have heard from others. I have not fully forgiven my mother, although I really am trying. However, I do know child abuse survivors who have completed the forgiveness process, and I will pass along what they have told me.

I used to hate my mother/abuser. I would nurse the bitterness, and I would be so frustrated that she continued to have the power to hurt me. It simply was not fair.

I was listening to a talk radio show, and somebody called in with a similar issue. The host said that the way to get out of this dynamic is to forgive. I about choked at that advice because my mother did not deserve forgiveness. However, after really thinking about it, I decided that I deserved to be free from the pain, so I began the process of forgiving her.

For me, forgiveness has meant choosing to stop thinking about my mother/abuser and, instead, use that energy to heal myself. I made a conscious choice to stop nursing the bitterness. Whenever my mother/abuser would pop into my head, I would choose to think about something else. Gradually, as I stopped putting energy into hating my mother/abuser, I began to release the bitterness.

The next step was to heal myself. Part of healing myself involved expressing my anger toward my mother/abuser. This was very different from nursing the bitterness. Instead of pouring more energy into myself through hating her, I was pouring energy out of myself by giving my anger somewhere to go. I did not need to interact with my mother to express my anger. I managed this by punching pillows and doing other physical things to process my anger.

Since then, I have moved into a place of indifference toward my mother/abuser. I really do not care if she lives or dies. (However, I will admit that I get an involuntary smile on my face when I think about her dying). I put no energy into her at all. I rarely think about her, and, when I do, I just let the thought pass on through.

So, this is where I stand now as far as forgiving my mother/abuser.

I have friends who have moved past this stage of indifference. They tell me that the next step is to grow compassion for your abuser. You see the weakness in the abuser, and you feel compassion for all of the hurt that s/he has suffered. You want to reach out yourself to heal your abuser’s wounds.

Personally, I do not know if I will ever reach that place. I cannot fathom wanting to spend one more second of my life around my mother/abuser. However, these abuse survivors were once in the place where I am, and that is where they have gone. I just need to trust that my intuition will lead me where I need to go if and when the time comes.

Related Topic:

How to Forgive an Abuser After Child Abuse

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Plant (c) Lynda BernhardtI have written a few times about forgiveness after child abuse. Forgiveness is such a huge stumbling block for many adult survivors of child abuse. I have heard many say that if forgiveness is required in order to heal from child abuse, then they will never fully heal.

I first approached the idea of forgiveness before I faced the extent of my child abuse history. I hated my mother/abuser throughout my life, and I thought it all stemmed from certain emotional abuses that I have always remembered. I was angry about the fact that she continued to have the power to hurt me. I was listening to a talk radio show, and somebody called in about a similar issue. The radio personality said that forgiveness was the key to releasing my mother/abuser’s power over me.

I was floored and had the same reaction that most child abuse survivors do – She does not deserve forgiveness. However, I wanted relief from the ongoing emotional pain, so I read a book about forgiveness. I came to realize that, while she did not deserve forgiveness, I deserved healing. I chose myself over her. Also, I came to realize that, whether or not I forgave my mother, her life was pretty much the same. I was the only one who was suffering.

So, I chose to let go of the bitterness, which is how I have always defined forgiveness. I chose to stop nursing the bitterness, and I freed myself from her. The emotional abuse history lost its power and stopped hurting me.

I have applied this principle to my other abusers, first processing my anger toward them and then choosing to let go of putting energy into thinking about them. I have defined forgiveness as becoming indifferent toward them. However, some comments now have me questioning if this is forgiveness or something else.

I have a friend who has forgiven her father for his sexual abuse. She went through the same place where I am now for a very long time. However, as she continued to heal, she grew compassion for him, and he is now in her life again. She says that forgiveness is about recognizing his limitations and wanting to love him through them. If that is forgiveness, then I am not there and probably never will be.

I also wrote an article on forgiveness for eHow.com. A reader over there says that I am only “pretending to be indifferent.” Seriously, I am not pretending anything. I really do not think about my mother that often, unless something forces me to think about her like having to provide her maiden name to get a credit card. But that is more of an annoyance, not a dwelling.

That reader says that forgiveness is really about finding compassion for the other person, which is the same thing that my friend says. And that seems to tie into forgiveness meaning understanding. If that is true, then I guess I have not forgiven my abusers. If I have not, then what have I done? It has brought me an enormous amount of relief and comfort. But what exactly is it?

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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