Growing Pains: Learning To Thrive
In my last post, I mentioned the email I received from my mother and all the fear and anxiety it evoked. I’ve been grappling with those emotions all day. It’s brought up my past and it has made me realize that with my mother I often exist in the past.
My childhood was not a happy one. I spent most of my time feeling isolated, and desperate for attention, affection, and love. In elementary school during recess, I would find a little corner somewhere away from the other kids and just cry silently. I was in so much emotional pain, that in my early teens I contemplated suicide, and once downed an entire bottle of over the counter pain killers in a feeble attempt to end my life thereby ending the pain, but nothing happened. I didn’t even get sick, and I didn’t really want to die, I just wanted to be free of the pain.
Fortunately, this overwhelming agony dulled when my mother decided to enter my siblings and me into a private college preparatory school. Thoughts of suicide waned, and I found salvation in the pursuit of knowledge. I was happiest when I was learning, and I also had attentive and compassionate teachers under whose tutelage I thrived. It was the beginning of my love affair with academia.
I was also blessed with a family friend who took me under her wing, loved me unconditionally, and showed me that I mattered. In my early adult years, I confided in her sharing my emotional pain and misery with her, and she listened. She listened and she shared her story of pain and strife, and eventual triumph in the face of misery and self-doubt that comes out of a painful childhood. She too suffered emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her mother. Being able to share my pain with her helped me tremendously.
So I survived. I have been surviving most of my adult life. Although I am grateful for everything that I went through and all the things that I have learned throughout my life, and I know that those things will help me in my endeavors to be whole and happy, I am tired of just surviving. It’s not enough for me anymore. I’ve learned to love myself enough to give myself the permission to want a better life. I have just begun to live a life worth living, and it is proving much harder than a life lived surviving.
Thriving means delving deep into the shadows where the most brilliant parts of myself are waiting patiently to be released. They are the parts of myself I’ve abandoned in my childhood or in my adolescence in order to survive. They are the parts of myself that I need in order to thrive. I know this. I understand this, but the fear, that faithful and familiar companion that has been with me for so long, keeps me from going back in.
Although I’ve done it with excellent results, I am afraid to do shadow work. If you’ve followed this blog since the beginning you know that I’ve had great results from delving into the shadows. I’ve gained self confidence, a sense of purpose, and I now believe in my core that I matter and I have value. These are priceless and wonderful things, and they have all come about as a result of my facing my fears and plunging into the depths. So what’s stopping me now?
I can only say that it is the fear of losing my mother. The fear I feel now is related to my mother and our relationship. As I face this realization, I am reminded of Teal Swan’s video called “The Catch-up Effect” in which she talks about the real reason we fear change. She says that it is because we are afraid of losing a loved one. Of all the people in my life that I love, my mother is the one whose love I fear losing the most. Despite her constant betrayals, and her manipulation, and her disregard for my feelings and my individuality, I have always craved her love and attention. I am attached to my mother, and I’m afraid that if I do the work that I know I must do I will lose her.
This fear is irrational. There is no guarantee that I will lose her because after all, it is not my current relationship with my mother that is the problem, it is the trauma associated with the relationship that I had with her in the past. Resolving those issues that cause me to react negatively to the seemingly benign and even loving gestures she makes now will allow me to have a healthier and more adult relationship with my mother.It will give me the clarity I need to be present with our relationship now, so that I can behave appropriately when she offers to pay for my daughter’s tickets and offers to let us stay at her place. It will make our relationship better.
Rationally I know this, but the little girl inside of me that is afraid that confronting all the wrongs my mother committed in my childhood will result in mother’s disapproval and consequently the loss of her love is begging me not to do anything to jeopardize our relationship. Those parts of us that are stuck in the past have no idea that we are adults now and that our circumstances and our ability to change our situation have changed. They are still living in the past where the trauma occurred forever experiencing the emotions that were born of the trauma.
As I write this, the fear dissipates a little. I sigh deeply and accept what needs to be done. I will close my eyes, let myself feel what I feel and embrace it, sit with it, and learn what lessons I must from it. Delving into the shadows learning something about myself and reintegrating the part of me that is crying out to be loved and to be accepted I will emerge a stronger wiser version of myself ever blossoming into one who thrives.
Until next time, I wish you all the very best.