As a child, from ages 6-12, I was bullied first physically and then mentally. My parents never openly advocated for me, and teachers turned a blind eye. As a result, I advocated for myself, and have learned to be strong in that sense.
However, as I grow older, my childhood haunts me. I feel like I will be left holding all the bags at any moment. I have issues with trust and intimacy, and this wrecks havoc for relationships that I am in. I question all the good things that come to me because I was told by everyone that I did not deserve it. I feel hardwired to think this way, and it feels terrible. I feel that it would be irresponsible to find someone who could handle all of this baggage, so I desperately try to solve my own problems. However, this drives a wedge between my partners and myself as I will seem moody and distant simply because I cannot express my feelings in a constructive way.
What can I do to get rid of this ‘baggage’ that prevents me from becoming intimate with another person?
Thank you for your time.
The Bullied & The Beautiful
Dear, “The Bullied & The Beautiful,”
Thank you for your heartfelt note. I’m going to do my best to give you something concrete to work with through what I offer here, and at the same time, it is clear to me that these thought patterns that feel “hardwired” to you at this point are going to take time and TLC to re-wire, and the most effective way to get clear on and release the blocks and blind-spots keeping you from deeper intimacy is for you to partner with a coach or therapist to help. I can absolutely help you unpack that emotional baggage and support you in taking the scary and ultimately, rewarding steps on the path to trust. I can help you gain the confidence to ask for what you want, believe you are worthy of having what you want, and to open up your emotional world to someone and allow yourself to be supported.
Some resources: I highly recommend the Work of Byron Katie as a simple set of tools to help you question the thoughts and stories that are creating your suffering and open you up to your life NOW, rather than being led by your past. Another experience that could be quite powerful for you might be to participate in the Landmark Forum—the experiential learning there would also support you in the breakthroughs your are wanting. Psychodrama group therapy could be a powerful experience to help you process, re-frame and let go. Brené Brown’s latest book, Daring Greatly would also be a helpful resource in helping you strengthen your shame resilience so that you can open yourself to being vulnerable in all of your relationships.
The work that I encourage you to start moving through is to start differentiating between what happened in your past and the stories that you created around those experiences that are now shaping your future. The past is truly in the past. As painful as it was, it is now over, gone, never to be as it was. Even the terrible, nasty things that people said to you are in the past, over and done with. What is living NOW is the story you created, the meaning that you added to those experiences in your life. Stories like, “I don’t deserve to be loved.” “I can’t trust anyone but myself.” “Love isn’t safe.” “If I’m vulnerable you will hurt me.” “I’m a victim and you are the perpetrator,” “I will be left holding all of the bags at any moment.” As a small child, you couldn’t help but buy into these stories. You were doing the best that you could to protect yourself and survive. As scary as it is as an adult, you don’t ACTUALLY need these stories to protect you, anymore, and the most powerful place to be is in the heart of your vulnerability, rather than gripped by the fear that these thoughts of mistrust create for you.
And if you were to go back and get really clear on what actually happened in your past, (ie. My classmate called me fat, ugly and stupid) and then the story you may have created around what happened (ie. My classmate hates me, she said that because there’s something wrong with me, everyone hates me, I really AM fat, ugly and stupid, people think I’m undeserving of love, etc.)…the more you separate out the story from what happened, the more you will be able to take responsibility for the meaning you added to those experiences, and set yourself free. The wonderful thing about life is that all kinds of stuff happens, and WE get to be the ones who make meaning of it. At any time you can choose to shift your reality based on how you are choosing to perceive it. At anytime, you could choose to open up your heart and know that no matter what the other person does or does not do, you will never leave you, you will always be there to love and support you. (another one of my posts that has great wisdom in it for you: http://askthejoydiva.com/2012/01/18/why-is-it-so-hard-to-accept-that-my-boyfriend-loves-me/)
So, my love, like I said above, this kind of letting go and thought-shifting may not happen over night and will best be addressed via the support of a professional to hold up the mirror and help you with this process of differentiation. You most certainly do not have to do this growth work on your own, and truth-be-told, as someone who has also built quite a wall of self-reliance through the years due to former abuse and bullying—it doesn’t really work to do that kind of growth work on your own.
I’m always here if you should want to take your healing to the next level and you don’t want to go it alone.
Much love to you. dear heart.
Melissa A.K.A. The JoyDiva
©2013 Melissa Simonson