My first memory of my mother taught me a life-long lesson: people cannot love you the way you need them to when they do not love themselves.
I was about two and a half. I was sitting in my high chair at the table watching Looney Tunes. 'What's Opera Doc' was playing, and "Kill the Rabbit" befell on my favorite character. I remember being sad, climbing down my high chair and running back to my parent's room, looking to my mother for comfort.
Standing in the doorway crying, my mother dismissively asked what was wrong with me. In that moment, I realized that there would be no comforting of the loss of my friend, Bugs Bunny. I knew she wouldn't understand. I knew she would dismiss my feelings further if I shared them with her.
I was told to quit crying and return to my breakfast. I was inadvertently taught to self-soothe, and that the love I needed would not be available from her. That may seem a bit heavy for a two and a half year old to grasp, but the message was clear. And became clearer throughout my childhood.
Looking back on what my grandparents experienced growing up helps put some pieces together for me about the broken humans that raised me. I cannot know all of the things that my family endured as children, but I can surmise from stories my elders have told me, and from observing inter-family relationships growing up. Being aware of their challenges as children helps me stop the cycle of my unhealed lineage.
Obviously it's not easy to sum up in a blog post. But let's just call it a Don't Ask, Don't Tell environment ~ and I would say for both sides of my family. "Don't ask" because you don't want to know the answer. And "don't tell" because you don't want anyone to judge you for your decisions. So, there were not a lot of feelings being shared, unless of course my cousin got drunk at Christmas and wanted to tell me how much he loved me (when I was about 7 years old). Otherwise, it was a bit of a stoic environment.
Oh, sure, there are pictures of people smiling and laughing and gathering and celebrating. But as a little kid, raw and open, I could feel the hurt and pain from most of them. I never could figure out what was bothering them, or why they were not really speaking to one another. But I could feel it - whatever "it" was.
Love Thy Self
Along my healing journey, I've learned a lot about how the desire to be loved can impact your relationship with yourself. Most of us have not been taught to love ourselves. We've only been taught how to survive, and not in a "teach a man to fish" kind of way. We learn to survive out of pure necessity. We learn only after being denied love, which includes broken trust, or worse - abandonment.
As a child, you are raw; open to the energy around you; constantly longing and seeking love and approval from the seemingly smart and well-adjusted humans that surround you. What you do not realize is that those adults were once little humans, and they were also seeking love and approval, and they were inadvertently taught lessons that broke their trust.
The healing begins when we give ourselves all the things that we were denied. We must break this generational trauma cycle by learning to love ourselves.
Looking for a Sign
Unfortunately, no matter how great your parents were, you will likely still carry unhealed childhood trauma - for years - and never know it. When you are not taught to communicate, how to set boundaries, or given tools to manage your feelings or mindset - it is all a recipe for unhealed trauma. It impacts all of your relationships, from your partner to your boss, and can cause misunderstandings, hurt, pain, and loss.
After a certain point in your life, no matter what was done to you, trauma becomes your responsibility to heal. But you must first learn to recognize it.
One of the hardest things in life to do is to look at your own stuff. The common denominator in all of your relationships is YOU. Being able to notice patterns of behaviors - either in others or yourself - is a good first step. For instance, what is a common denominator in your friends? Are they all happy? Sad? Angry? What trait do you connect with the most? What does that trait have in common with your parents (or family)? Can you remember the first time you felt that emotion?
The first time I remember feeling abandoned was in that moment, at two and a half years old, standing in the doorway crying, wanting my mother to soothe my sadness - needing her to love me. But instead, it was a long line of abandonment from others in my life. I had to look at that trait and notice how I abandoned myself. Although I was inadvertently taught to do that, I had to actively learn to stop so that others would stop doing it to me.
Your Healing Journey
Just like all trauma, healing it can be complicated. Sometimes you cannot trace your emotions, loss, or pain back to a single moment. Sometimes you are left with more questions than answers when it comes to understanding how you got where you are today.
Let me offer something I first heard in therapy at fifteen years old ~ Healing is a Journey, Not a Destination. I remember being angry when I heard that. I wanted my stuff to be 'fixed'. I didn't want to keep assessing, and journaling, and searching all the corners of my emotions. I wanted to basically drive up to the Healing and be done with the Journey of it all.
Now I understand that life is basically a journey back to yourself - back to that raw, connected little soul, new to the planet and all of its offerings, good and bad, including its mixed messages.
Here are some basic steps to follow daily to begin your healing journey:
Feel your feelings.
Move your body.
Give yourself positive, loving affirmations.
Eat fresh and nourishing food.
Be quiet and reflective daily.
Give of your heart without expecting anything back.
Love yourself. Because others will never know how to love you like you do. And that is okay.
Be well, Friends