Wednesday, March 26, 2014

swinging and bending, part 7: the Book.

Read the first part of this story, here.  
the second part, here.
the third part, here.
the fourth part, here.
and the fifth part, here.
and the sixth part, here.


"Perhaps the most devastating psychic conflict the all-good child experiences is inauthenticity--feeling as if those who perceive her as good or competent are mistaken.  

The all-good child is the parentified child--trained to parent the parent.  All-good children are typically obedient and loyal, and may function as little therapists in their families.  

All-good children repress awareness of their true feelings and, consequently, are likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. Because they are preoccupied with the emotional state of others, they have difficulty experiencing pleasure.  Although they are acutely perceptive, they lack insight into their own psyche, and may be unaware of subtle depression.  

They.....may feel undeserving of a good life.  They feel as though they have already been given too much, and do not feel entitled to having more.  They may compulsively provide for others what they need for themselves.

Consequently, the all-good child is susceptible to emotional depletion because of the compulsive approval-seeking behavior.  They can feel overwhelmed with responsibility for caring for others, yet not deserving of being cared for themselves.  They have difficulty articulating their feelings and needs, and are extremely uncomfortable with recognition and attention.

In adult relationships, they are often overcommitted and emotionally preoccupied because they fear disappointing others.  They simply cannot say no.  Minor mistakes can trigger a catastrophic plunge in self-esteem, and internalized anxiety prevents them from enjoying their accomplishments.  The emotional energy of the all-good child is heavily invested in avoiding mistakes that could shatter the foundation of the self.

If it were possible to x-ray the self of the all-good child, one might find a porcelain soul with tiny fractures.  Although outwardly appearing uninjured, a child with a fractured soul lives with an inner sense of fragility.  All-good children suffer silently, unable to articulate the source of their pain that is too deep and too old to identify.  Although a fractured soul cannot fully mend, the all-good child learns to protect it from further injury.  Defenses such as denial, repression, and sublimation keep awareness of their pain at bay.  

While all-good children need therapy as much as the no-good children, they are unlikely to seek treatment."


Late one night, in the summer of 2008, I shuddered as I read these words.

I knew this "All-Good Child" well.  She had blonde hair, blueish/green eyes and dimples.  She laughed easily and rarely cried.  She was there whenever anyone needed help, but could not ask for support because she could not even recognize her own needs.  She hated being on stage, or celebrating her birthday, or being the new girl, or announcing pregnancies--anything that put her in the center of attention.  Her emotions were based on the emotions of those around her--if they were content, so was she.  If they were sad, she was rushing to comfort, her heart breaking with theirs.  If they were angry, she was afraid, and tried to pacify them with either humor or kindness.  She did not know who she was as an individual, but I knew her.

She was who I looked at in the mirror every day.

I was staying at my dad and stepmom's home for a few weeks on our way from the group home in North Carolina to Arizona, where we would begin Ben's journey of doctoral school.  My brother Tyler had let me borrow the Book, one he'd been recommended by a therapist he'd been seeing for a couple of years.

"She said I might be able to find something that relates to my childhood, but I haven't read it yet.  See what you think and let me know," he said, as he brought it to me.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but started reading.  In less than 48 hours I finished the Book, underlining and highlighting entire sections of it.

I called my brother.  "Holy crap, Ty.  HOLY CRAP.  Have you even started this book?  I'm going to have to buy you another copy, I need to keep this one,"  I said over the phone.

I explained to him the Book had shaken me, in a most unexpected way.  I felt at times like the author had filmed scenes from my childhood and written about them.  In the Book, I read about my parents, about my siblings, about myself.  I read about my grandmother.  I read about who I had become as an adult, my weaknesses and strengths.  I read about my marriage.  I read what I would continue to struggle with as I aged, and I read that I would be the least likely of the entire group to seek therapy--because I viewed myself as a survivor of trauma and doing "just fine," instead of as someone who could not recognize my own needs and emotions due to stuffing them down for so long.

It was both validating and terrifying, to read the words of my life.  Validating to know someone out there really understood; terrifying to realize that now that I knew, I would need to do something about it.  I had never been to therapy before, and had attached the stigma I know so many attach to it:  therapy was for people with real problems, who are a mess, who can't cope, and the list goes on.  I wasn't fitting into any of those categories, yet I knew after reading this, therapy was something I needed to pursue.

This Book altered the course of my life, in many ways.  It continues to alter it, for the better.  Because of this Book, I was brought down a path of self-awareness that eventually helped me to find self-worth, learning to untangle my emotions and needs from those of others around me.  Eventually it is what led me to seek help when my lack of ability to believe I deserved good in my life created situations that threatened to take the things I loved most away.

And when my own self worth was finally planted and I could truly feel it, I finally had the ability to help others, with similar stories, find theirs too.

The Book started me on this journey, but it took years before I could reach the end of it, an ending that led me to much closer to Peace.  But there were much more difficult things I had to face first.....

1 comment:

Rachel Chick said...

Oh, my dear, dear friend. This post brought tears to my eyes. I love you so and am so thankful to have been "with" you throughout the years as you've journeyed. You are a beautiful person. thank you for your bravery as you share your soul.