“Keep thy heart with due diligence; for out of it spring the issues of life.”
New King James Bible
When I was a little girl, I lived in constant fear. My mother was an emotionally unstable individual whose day to day life was full of inconsistencies. She could go from seemingly loving to full of rage in a nano-second. I never knew what to expect or what was about to come at me at any given time.
When I was much older, I began to remember stories she had recounted to me of her own childhood and parents, and that, coupled with reactions to her father’s occasional visits, started me realizing she had lived a similar life to the one she had inflicted upon me. For child abuse is a wheel, a circle, that without extensive therapy, will continue to move through people’s lives forever.
We are and we become, what we have learned.
When a child is fearful, anxious and uneasy, they will seek the one person who is there the most, their first parent—their mother usually—for comfort. If the mother—the first parent—gives back a snarl, for whatever reason, the child learns its first emotion—confusion. If everytime that child tries to get comfort, they are met with a series of conflicting responses, they learn fear. And, if this continues long enough—and long enough may only need to be one moment of desperation, or a year or two—they will learn something that will affect them their whole life, even more than fear and confusion, and that is never to trust anyone or anything.
Now, human beings all have bad days; that is part of living in this world. Life itself can be surprising and frustrating. Things can come at us from every direction. Accidents of nature, other people’s behaviour and our own karma—what we are reaping from our behaviour sown—affect our personal world on a daily basis. But, how we behave during those events is what shows the world, others, and ourself, what we are made of. So, our visage, our face to the world is entirely up to us.
If, when your child comes rushing up to you for comfort and reassurance, you respond with anything other than needed gentle comfort, then you are not doing your job. It is up to you to climb over your own problems and step up to the plate of responsibility. You are the adult. You have the power. No matter how old the child, you are still their comforter, and if you are consistently inconsistent, they will learn from you that love is not unconditional, that there are lots of conditions wrapped around it, and it may or may not have something to do with them. And so confusion becomes even more a part of their daily life.
When I was three or four years old, my mother once replied to my repeated question of “Do you love me?” with the answer “No, I do not!”
I don’t remember why I was asking, but I sure recall her reply. I also remember clearly how I felt when I heard those words. I was pretty insecure anyway, after years of mistreatment and inconsistency. That put the icing on the cake. My stomach fell through the floor. I felt weak and faint and deathly ill. To this day, anytime I experience extreme fear, or have deep trust issues suddenly face me, I have the same physical reaction.
One thing I learned, as I was growing up, was my mother became Florence Nightingale when anyone was sick and so—you guessed it—I was sick through most of my childhood and well into my adult years. Even after she died, the response to anger on the part of another was often get sick…go for the sympathy factor.
As the years went by, I decided that response was pretty counterproductive to life and so I am probably healthier today than I was as a teenager.
It has taken me years to not be full of fear, but that one is so very hard. I have learned to trust God for consistent love and comfort and try to allow for the imperfections of man.
Trusting other people has not been easy and there are few people I can honestly say I do trust. Perhaps that is a good thing, to a certain extent, but it doesn’t help in a marriage.
If you are overwhelmed by life and feeling out of control and you are a parent, it is extremely important you sit down and analyze the basics of your life.
What are my issues in regard to:
1) My relationship with my partner.
2) My relationship with God.
3) My relationship with my own parents, whether alive or dead.
4) My economic situation.
5) What am I afraid of?
6) Who do I trust?
7) Who can I talk to for advice or help?
8) Am I willing to talk to that person and then…
9) Heed their advice?
Then…you must look at your relationship with your children.
1) Are my problems spilling over onto them?
2) When they come to me for comfort, am I giving it to them or am I inconsistent?
3) Do I feel love for my children when they are bad or not doing what I believe they should have done? And if I don’t feel love for them, who taught me that? Where did I learn that? Then—love you child as you wish you had been loved. Be your own consoler.
4) Am I assuming my babies, or children of any age, are more mature and able to understand than they are? Am I treating them like they are a fully cognizant adult, whose behaviour is supposedly controlled by themself? If so, stop and think back. When did you grow up? How old were you when you started to understand your own behaviour? Get the picture? Yes, your answer is—“Only right now as I am thinking about this.”
So…if you are 20, 30, 40, 50 or more—the answer is ‘your present age’. So how can you expect a baby, a one year old, or 2 or 3 or 4, or even 14 or 16 year old to totally understand why they are behaving the way they are, if they are living in a world of emotional inconsistencies.
It is up to you to be the consistent force in their life to teach them how to steer their own ship. You are their rudder, their tour guide, their map, and if you have screwed up, you will know when you look around, for the answer to that question will be in the behaviour of your children.
So…are they sick all the time? Do they yell and scream, bite, hit, tell you “NO!” all the time? Do they bang their heads on the floor or walls, pull out their hair or eyelashes, cut themselves or self-mutilate in anyway? Do they go out and not call? Do they constantly defy you and seem out of control?
If so, then look to yourself for the cause. Fixing yourself is not easy, but you can do it.
1) Find a friend, a confessor, a priest, a therapist, a doctor, or just someone to talk to who will listen and offer advice as needed.
2) Relax. Look at yourself in the mirror. Now, no matter what you see or think you see, look at yourself the way you wish your parents had, and say out loud, “Sweetie, I love you. No matter what—I love you and I always will.”
Now every single day, for the rest of your life, look in the mirror and say those words to yourself. You can do it more, everytime you feel the need. Every moment of insecurity can be answered with that action. There is no limit. For what you are doing, is allowing the God Within to speak to you from your own heart.
Don’t analyze this, just do it. The more you do it, the better you will feel. You are going to have to trust me on this.
3) Now, say those words to each of your children, everyday, at least once—especially when they are going to bed. Let those words be the last ones they hear before they drift off to sleep.
4) Now give each one of your children a “mummy moment” or a “daddy moment” everyday as long as they are with you. Give them five or ten minutes all to themselves when only their view of the world and your love for them are in the forefront. A child can handle anything if they know they will have your undivided, loving and comforting attention for even just five minutes a day.
And never miss that time, ever. Even if you have to do it by phone.
You can fix it all. No matter how bad it seems, you can fix everything. There is always time.
There is a certain franticness in the world of abuse, which is overcome by learning to relax.
As children of abuse, we are taught the world is out of our control, and so we become ‘frantic’ to control it—never being quiet, never sitting still, never just contemplating the clouds going by in the sky above.
So learning to relax and let the world go by as we simply are still and observe, is the first thing we need to do. It will also be part of almost every waking second of our day—teaching ourself to relax.
For when we relax, we learn to trust. And when we learn to trust, we negate our biggest enemy, fear.
As the years have gone by, I have learned to forgive my mother. That has not, however, repaired the damage, but it has helped. It must be one of the steps on your road to healing.
But the most important one is talking to yourself in the mirror everyday, telling yourself that you love you out loud and allowing God to speak to your heart through those words.
For God truly loves you. This, I know.
Sister Abhidheya and Ben