What is it in you that attracted you to (fill in the blank)- for me it was a guy.

The Volk, Fall 2019

I don’t feel comfortable being away from him. Like now, we are apart. I’m waiting for him to call so I know what I am doing. That’s sick. I’m sick. I’m fucking angry as hell at myself. I just want to say fuck it and learn to be happy with myself. But then again, I want to work this relationship out. Everything I am doing; I’m just hurting myself. It’s gonna take so much to get out of where I’m at.

Personal Journal Entry, June 1990, 18 y/0

This person I was in a relationship with punched me in the chest and knocked the wind out of me. I don’t recall what I did immediately after this, but I know I stayed with him for a while longer. I also remember telling my dad he hit me. I wanted my Italian father to pretend “he knew some people” and go after him. But instead, my dad asked me this: what is it in you that attracted you to him? 

This is not what I wanted to hear. However, his question changed everything for me. It took the focus off the abuser and onto me, where at some level, felt I deserved it. Now, I know this isn’t popular and some may see it as blaming the victim. Further, I am not here to say that my situation is like all others. Mine is mine and my father’s question helped me to begin a journey that allowed me to explore what I bring to a relationship. When we take responsibility for our part in all of our experiences, we have the opportunity to understand and grow from what we learn about ourselves. 

The words of my 18-year-old self were right on: It’s gonna take so much to get out of where I’m at. It has been almost 30 years since I wrote that sentence, and just this past year I finally feel like I am out. Although this one article cannot hold what I experienced and learned about myself these past 30 years, here are a few lessons I’d like to summarize: 

  • The root of psychological suffering in relationships is unworthiness. 

According to Melody Beattie, who wrote the book Codependent No More, said “..our low self-worth or self-hatred is tied into all aspects of our codependency.” I am not a huge fan of labels, but I would consider myself a codependent who is in recovery. Melody’s definition of a codependent is: “…one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.” 

We often try and control who and what we fear and what we don’t understand. We can spend years, and sadly, our entire lives, doing this. I learned that my controlling behaviors were both a sign and a symptom of something deeper happening within me and served as a distraction from going deeper. The deeper issue I was avoiding was my feeling and belief about being unworthy. An experience of unworthiness is quite common and often originates from childhood neglect and trauma. 

  • Relationships are a vehicle to help us grow. 

I posed this question on social media recently: Is it true we must leave certain relationships in order to grow? Or is that we use this more than we should because our discomfort about facing ourselves and our own dysfunction in a relationship scares us? 

My answer is: both are true. According to the Imago Relationship Therapy model, developed by Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt, we attract partners who carry psychological and emotional patterns from our childhoods. As we move deeper into relationships, these patterns are exposed, and often erupt. The relationship dynamic itself is a vehicle in which we have the opportunity to uncover, and therefore understand and heal from our childhood traumas. Therefore, it is important to investigate the reasons for leaving a relationship that makes us uncomfortable or we may find the same kind of relationship, only with a different face. Also note, I am not at all saying, in the case of an abusive relationship, we stay in order to learn and grow. This article does not address the specifics and dynamics of domestic violence. 

  • The fear is emptiness. The gift is self-love. 

When they are away, it is the emptiness I feel.  It is this emptiness that makes me do crazy things and act in crazy ways.  It is this emptiness I must embrace, but I am afraid to be with it, to be with myself. I don’t want to use them to fill the emptiness that is within me. I need to fill that myself so I can be secure within myself. 

Personal Journal Entry, July 1990

The emptiness many of us fear is an unknown experience for most of us, yet we fear it anyway.  Why else do we fill ourselves up with information, activities, noise and addictions of all sorts. There are two experiences of emptiness I have found: one that we run from and resist and one where we finally settle into it and find everything we are looking for. 

When I was younger and working through my codependency, I feared I was only my dysfunction and scarier, who would I be without it? Empty. Nothing. But this is far from true. The gift we receive from self-discovery and understanding is self-love. We begin little by little to be self-contained and self-reliant. We seek what fulfills us from a greater sense of self-value and clarity, and a foundation is built on worth, not unworthiness. 

I would love to hear your thoughts, questions, struggles and experiences in relationships. If you’d like to expand and deepen understanding here are a list of resources: 

  • Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
  • ImagoRelationships.org
  • Codependents Anonymous, CoDa.org

This Week’s Self-Reflective Practice: Seeking Validation Part II

Validation: “recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile”

Two weeks ago I gave general and personal examples of validation seeking, and explored potential roots of this need for validation

This week I’d like to start by sharing a poem I wrote while in the midst of some buried trauma and pain around validation seeking.

Photo by Chinh Le Duc on Unsplash

I wonder if this is how children feel…

Who is listening? And who is there to talk to? 

Who is there that isn’t too drunk? Too high? Too distracted? Too wounded? Too insane? Too selfish? 

This deprivation turns to desperation. And then to rage. 

Who is listening? Who is there to talk to? Who has space for me? 

We are all in the same boat. Violently rocking. Or barely hanging on. Or with a stiff drink in our own hand thinking: this is the life. 

But is it? 

Do I need you to see me to know I exist? To know my experience matters? Do I need you to hold my space?

Where am I in this? Can I do it without you? 

Is it too much to ask a wounded mother and father to do this? 

Is it appropriate for that same wounded mother or father to ask their child to do this?

Who is listening? Who is there to talk to? 

This poem could go further. I thought it might. But, turns out I had to live it through a little deeper in my own life in order to finish this piece on validation.

What I now understand is that poem is from the old story. Old does not make in now invalid. Instead this story is valuable, essential and leads me to where I am now where it is old enough to gain perspective and understanding in order to let it go and make room for a new story. 

I cannot proclaim to know all the pieces of the new story yet. The new story is unfolding. But here are some pieces that I have gathered so far….

Piece One, The Repair Journey: On my walk this afternoon, I listened to a Super Soul podcast of Elizabeth Lesser. She spoke about her book, Marrow: A Love Story and the work she and her sister did together to repair their relationship. She posed the question: Who do we need to clean up space with so we can truly connect? Who have we hurt? And, then ask and listen. 

We hurt people in many ways, often stemming from our wounds of neglect and trauma. One of the ways we hurt people is by expecting them to meet our needs and to validate us.

Piece Two, The Spirit & Soul Journey: Maya Angelou said, beware of the naked man who gives you his shirt. She also said she doesn’t trust anyone that says I love you when they don’t love themselves. I remember my mother telling me to look in the mirror and say: I love myself. And, my mother didn’t, and doesn’t love herself. It has been a strained relationship, but in many ways I took her words to heart. It framed a life, my life. I have been on the self-love journey this entire time. 

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Self-Reflective Action

To begin Repair: As we step into our reflective practice on seeking validation, let’s be curious about which relationships in our lives need some tidying up. Who can we do some repair work with? Who have we hurt, and then ask and listen, defenses down. Also, consider is this person safe, willing and ready to begin the process. There are some people who, at this time, are far too wounded and therefore will be too defensive to clear space with.

To begin the Conscious Spirit & Soul Journey: Consider that you are on a self-love journey, no matter how low or how badly you feel about yourself. Do you believe this to be true? Then, where do you think you are on this journey? Are you the kind of person who is naked, but giving your shirt away? Or do you have so many shirts and won’t consider sharing one? Either behavior shows there is an imbalance within the relationship with yourself. What if you looked in the mirror and said: I love myself? Notice what you feel. What you think. Do you believe it?

Photo by Joanna Nix on Unsplash

Which brings me to the next piece…..

The New Story

This weekend, while journaling, I understood that a new rhythm unfolds inside of me. The Voice Inside says to me gently: let it happen. No need to figure it out, alter it, halt it. Let it occur. 

This new rhythm is of my own making. I no longer beat to the drum of my old childhood wounds and buried trauma. There is a new sound coming forth. 

Here is the poem of this new sound: 

There is a new rhythm coming forth. 

It is of my own making. 

Why would I do anything to disrupt and disturb it. 

It is coming together to create a new dance in all of my relationships. In the relationship with myself.

It comes with a trust toward my eternal and steadfast vision of the person I want to be, the person I know I am. 

It is not a head path or the old wounded way.

It is a soul path, a heart path. 

And it is unfolding, and I am watching, noticing and gratefully looking forward to what is transpiring. 

In this new rhythm I begin to understand I am fully nourished by Spirit, by my Soul’s Journey. My my very own Self.

As always, I am here to help you investigate this topic because sometimes it’s a lot to do this on our own. If you have questions about this week’s practice or have insights to share, please contact me. For deeper, more concentrated work, I am available for tele-therapy.

To learn more about me and my services, click here. To reach me for questions or to share, click here or email me at thesoulreporter@gmail.com 

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Next week’s Self-Reflective Post will be about eating and noticing our thoughts around it. 

~The Soul Reporter