There was a time when low self-esteem and the fear of rejection stifled most of my actions. I had trouble taking emotional risks such as extending myself to others. It was too scary to risk rejection so, I didn’t allow for much vulnerability, didn’t allow for much emotional risk taking. Being vulnerable meant danger for me, danger of getting trampled on because I didn’t have boundaries. I hadn’t learned that my safety would come from within me, from my ability to set healthy boundaries with others and me.
Consequently, this meant that I was isolated by my immaturity. Isolated by my fear of rejection, my perceived inadequacies and inabilities that were rooted in old childhood experiences, still living and operating in my subconscious behind the scenes, and obliquely in the present within the same scenes, confusing and amplifying my distress.
Furthermore, the difficulty is when the subconscious projects these old stored beliefs onto a present circumstance. I was experiencing this too often, but it took some time and with skilled therapy I was able to fully resolve. I continue to work on the seemingly unlimited aspects of my family of origin wounds. In doing so, I also continue to go through painful realizations that then lead to resolution and peaceful harmony, until the next trek into the past appears before me.
Now when something happens in the present, that stimulates old painful feelings, I can see, I can feel that the past is calling for my attention. It doesn’t take my awareness hostage though, like it used to do. Now it rings the bell of similarity, showing me that something right now is similar to something that hurt me long ago. It is similar, so I look at the present experience to see if my boundaries have been violated. If they have, I set new boundaries. If they haven’t been transgressed in any way, but I still feel hurt, then I know it’s more about my history and me than what just took place in front of me. Self-awareness, reading the signs of my emotional world, sets me free in this case and most others!
Drake calls right on time for his session that we planned a week ago. He begins by telling me that his partner, Susan, doesn’t seem to be able to tell him her deep feelings. He is forthcoming with his emotions, thoughts and desires, but he feels confused by her reluctance to share herself with him.
I am seeing that this is affecting his security with her. Drake is a confident man, sure of himself in most areas of his life, but this confusion with Susan is rocking his security and beginning to percolate, and permeate into the rest of his life with questions that unsettle him.
I see that he is off balance and grieving the loss of his sense of solidity, and he’s afraid of the possibility that Susan has fallen out of love with him. When he asks Susan what she’s feeling, needing or wanting, she does not know. This fuels his fearful fire like gasoline would fuel most fires.
I begin looking at Susan for clues leading me to when, where, and why this is taking place. I see that Susan’s childhood was quite difficult. Her parents had already had three children before they realized that they didn’t want any more. Susan arrived a dreaded nine months later, just one year after their third child. Susan’s mother was cold and indifferent sometimes, while other times she was open about how much she disliked Susan. Little Susan languished alone in her crib for days on end, crying while no one came to hold her.
I saw that Susan tried to make eye contact with her mother, but her mother could not reflect love back to her. Throughout her early years, most of what Susan experienced was riddled with shame, a shame that cut her to the core. Little Susan thought it was her fault that her mother didn’t love her. Whenever she reached out for love she was rebuffed in some profound way, sinking her into deep despair about her worthiness. I see that this taught Susan to not reach out to others, to Drake, for fear that rejection was eminent; for fear that she was not lovable.
I explained this to Drake. It seemed to register with him as she had talked to him about her childhood before. He hadn’t made the correlation though, between the neglect by her mother and her fear of sharing her loving thoughts and feelings with him. I noticed some relief in his voice and his energy field as he thought about this concept I presented. I noticed he began to open to the idea that she did love him, but she was handicapped at this time in her life.
I also noticed numbness in Susan; numbness encased by the fear that she was unlovable. I mentioned this to Drake. He was aware of her numbness but he had misinterpreted the meaning and personalized it erroneously.
I could see that Drake was feeling more empowered with the knowledge that his partner still loved him, but sad that she was stewing in her old childhood pain. This gave him some renewed hope. Hope that they could work through this and come out even closer than ever. I suggested she find a Family of Origin Therapist and get to work on uncovering and mending the broken pieces of her childhood. This would build her self-esteem over time. I cautioned Drake by letting him know that even though she is in therapy, it will take time and effort on both their parts to grow through this obstacle. Drake was more than willing to proceed in this direction because now he had a renewed drive to love her, and them, even more.