The Damage of Childhood Abuse or Neglect to our Adult Relationships–Twelve Effects of Victimization.

This is a longer post…but please look at it from the perspective of being able to learn something without spending all the “real time” that studying and reading require!  I tried to make the post easy to scan for the most important concepts.

There is a stage of life where we must face our personal realities…and the earlier the better!!  The information on this post will not affect everyone, but for those whose trust has been seriously broken (even unintentionally or ignorantly broken)  especially as a child and young person, this may supply some puzzle pieces to understanding who you are and why….not that we stay where we are, but we must get to know ourselves and what has shaped us to grow beyond this stage.

I’d like to share some “puzzle pieces” from Father Hunger by Robert McGee that have been very helpful to me.   This is an excellent book!!  It is not about blaming men!!   However, we must face the truth about many people’s reality in our culture today.

It could possibly be a good book to read in tandem with another older trusted mature friend of the same sex or in a group setting.   Sometimes we need someone with us who can say, “You’re on the right track.  This is true.   This is a good thing.”   Sometimes we also need someone to say…”The truth is not nearly as frightening as your emotions think it is!!   Hold steady.  Give yourself time to emotionally process, but don’t quit!  Keep walking the healing path!  Keep putting truth into your mind!!” 

The Child as Victim  (content from chapter 8)

Obviously, we would all prefer a father who (did all the right things).   Many of us, however, realize that we will never have this kind of father.

Isn’t it enough to find other people who will boost our sagging levels of self-esteem?  Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.  The person who encounters such a trauma eventually develops discernable patterns of behavior.  Unless the root problem is uncovered and dealt with, these reactions may continue throughout the victim’s life.

We act in certain ways as small children when we don’t feel loved as we should. These coping behaviors are likely to be repeated again and again, applied to relationship with peers and spouses, and eventually passed along to our own children.  Even though we may never consciously choose to do so, we become victims who act defensively.

Patterns:

A child may find it hard to feel loved by others. 

A child may suffer because their perspective has been seriously warped.

A child may have grown up abandoned by his father, yet continue to defend him vehemently.

A child creates defenses.

Anger may be internalized.

A victim of abuse may spend much of his/her live searching for a reason when none exists, other than the truth:  the parent failed to show genuine love for the child.  It’s not uncommon for people to completely block out such incidents from conscious        awareness.  But later in life, stress may begin to trigger those painful memories.  Or a   parent whose child reaches the age at which he/she was abuse may suddenly recall these     incidents. 

Effects of victimization

If several of these descriptions apply to you, chances are that you have been victimized in some way in the past, whether you are consciously aware of it or not.  The twelve symptoms listed below are indicative of any kind of victim.

  1. Fragility. Victims are very sensitive to being offended.  When someone upsets them, it is difficult for them to maintain any kind of perspective.   But don’t mistake fragility for weakness.  Victims tend to become very controlling people.   An emotionally wounded person feeling a great deal of internal pain is likely to lash out at anyone who comes too close.  Though fragile, such individuals can still do a lot of damage if you aren’t careful.
  2. Extremes in perception. Victims tend to view people as either evil or wonderful.  Things are black & white.   Hostile feelings toward past abusers are often unjustly projected onto present relationships.  It is very difficult for victims to allow their peers to be simply normal people with normal problems.
  3. Feeling misunderstood. Ever since being hurt as small children, victims desperately seek comfort and security, but they cannot fill that need simply by talking to another person.  If and when they try to open up, they never feel that others truly comprehend what they are saying.
  4. Tremendous rage. Anger and rage are not simply a straight-line continuum of the same feeling.  I think of anger as being somewhat object-oriented.  If I’m angry at something, there’s usually a specific reason.  But rage is more of a continual state—anger looking for direction.   Victims have not usually been allowed to express anger, so the feeling sort of ferments within them until rage builds.  In such a state, the least offense might trigger all those inner emotions. And rage can result.  A common by-product of this process is shame.  Victims don’t want to lose control, but just can’t help it.  When it happens, they feel ashamed.
  5. Lack of trust or commitment. Trusting someone else requires a certain level of vulnerability.  You must let down your own defenses in order for someone else to get to know you better.  Some people enter into relationships much too quickly to be realistic or healthy.  They try to force themselves to be vulnerable to others.   This “pseudo-vulnerability” is intended to draw a similar response out of the other person.   Solid relationship are built one piece at a time, little by little, with one person keeping in pace with the other.  People who try to rush the process are almost always disappointed in their relationship and angry at those who don’t relate well to them.
  6. Lack of thankfulness. A victim’s life is immensely influenced by negative thinking.  Thankfulness may overcome the negativity for a short time, but soon the much greater level of negativity again takes control.
  7. Demand for entitlement.  We all have some innate sense that life should be pleasant, at least to some degree.  For victims, this becomes another defense against the inner “black hole” of negativity.   When these people marry, they expect their spouses to help them overcome those powerful, negative emotions.
  8. Assignment of blame to others. Victims are like a person with a broken rib who gets slapped on the back.  The blow certainly shouldn’t have hurt, yet the pre-existing injury intensifies its effect.  Victims are quick to find fault with others, reflexively transferring to someone else their own wrongdoings.
  9. Desire to punish anyone who offends them. Those with a victim mentality often find it hard to see any offense as a small one because of all the inner feelings they carry.  Frequently, the only punishment that presents itself is to sever the relationship.  Victims forsake a lot of potential friendships over rather insignificant issues.
  10. Continued victimizations. Victims continue to be victimized.  They flip-flop between being just as aggressive as possible to being so passive as to let everyone walk over them.  Then they get mad at themselves for allowing this victimization to happen to them again.
  11. Excuses. Victims can be geniuses when it comes to explaining why they are unable or unwilling to do something.  Passivity generally marks their response style, expecting others to meet their needs.
  12. Continued struggles with the past. Victims remain victims when they never deal with the root problems that cause their pain.   It’s like a splinter.  Victims still carry invisible emotional splinters within them.  They have never found the courage to trust someone to open the wound and get to the problem and extract it.  They want the pain to stop but when someone become serious about dealing with it, they quickly retreat and deny that it’s bothering them.

…. I encourage you to bravely endure the process of having any embedded splinters removed from your heart and spirit.  God is the Master Physician who heals and restores us to complete health.  But you must do your part in holding still and bearing the pain of what will be an ongoing process rather than a momentary “ouch”. 

I’d also like to share a short section from chapter 6:

As adults we may be better able to see that many of our childish definitions were actually based on misperception. 

For example, what we may have defined as genuine “intimacy” might actually have been a severely co-dependent relationship.  Mom’s “unconditional love” in regard to Dad’s drinking might really have been “enabling”. The “respect” we developed for Dad might be a lot closer to fear of an authoritarian tyrant.  Even though we think we know the truth, we may actually be way off base. 

The misperceptions we develop as children can stay with us for a long time to muddy up the waters of our adult relationships.

End quote.

It is my opinion that this information could be meaningful to adult children of abusers, of alcoholics and/or drug abusers, of neglect, of emotional disconnection, or other seemingly more minor offenses.  

Read this post with an open heart and then ask God to lead you if there are some genuine wounds that needs healing!  Remember healing is usually a process, not an overnight fix.

To those who experienced basically healthy relationships growing up….this may help you understand those who have some wounded areas.   And remember, there are degrees of wounds!   We must be careful not to downplay or deny the “1” or “2” on the “woundedness pain scale” any more than we should ignore the “8” or the “10” !!   Pain is pain.  One wound needs healing just as much as many wounds!!     

One last thought.  We tend to give our what has been given to us.  Some victims’ temperaments push them to act out their pain and anger toward people around them. Others turn the anger inward and it is they themselves who are harmed.

Regardless of our gut reaction, how important it is that we deliberately, on purpose, walk toward our pain by “owning” it and then consistently start putting truth into our minds!!  

Another reminder!   Truth has to come from outside ourselves, for rather than being able to view the world though the clear plate glass window of our soul, a victim’s window has a huge crack in it that affects everything they look at…including themselves!!  Sexual abuse strikes at the very core of our identity, our being, our personhood!    

As adults, we can let the abuse cycle continue on out of self-centeredness and fear…or we can do our own personal work of replacing the lies with truth and breaking the cycle for our children and other loved ones coming behind us!!     That is the kind of unselfish love that leads us to being able to not only love ourselves as an authentic person but to love others in a way that builds them up, rather than tears them down!!  Those choices leads to a fulfilling, fascinating  life!!   WE give out to others what GOD is giving to US!!   Love and Trust!   

However, we’ve got to learn what healthy trust is…and take the risks of “trusting” again.    It is not the only place to start, but the safest place to begin that process is by entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ, for it is through Jesus Christ that we get to know God the Father.   God is healthy in every way!!   God is love!  God is trustworthy!!   God practices healthy boundaries and relationship principles in the relationship between the persons of the Trinity!   We see His character all through the Bible!   It is our relationship with God that gives us the ability to do what we can’t do on our own!!    Jesus died to prove to us that God the Father is trustworthy!!   It is the Holy Spirit who leads us and guides us and empowers us…as we ask!!  The Bible speaks to every problem mankind will face.   It  doesn’t avoid the realities of humanity’s fallenness.    

There is so many good things waiting on us to learn once we start on this healing path!!

Once you have processed the losses and wounds and asked God to help you find healing…. rather than sensing a running sore just under the surface of your heart, you discover a healed scar.   You remember, but the emotions are not reactive now.  

God often redeems our pain though our interactions with other people (as He opens the doors), which in itself is very healing!

You know when healing happens.  It’s real.   But we can’t force healing.  We can’t make it happen.   Rather, we must cooperate with healing!   Yet we know when we’ve gone even one baby step up the spiral!!   And that gives us the desire and courage to keep on!! It feels good to grow up, no matter how slow it may seem!!

Once again…”The truth will set you free”!  It’s not just spiritual truth that sets us free from sin and a broken relationship with God, but it’s also emotional truth and relational truth that frees us from baggage and bondage!!   The truth will set us free!!

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Keep the Poles Set

This is most likely our last time of pastoring.   That’s quite sad.  Being invited into a congregation’s lives, especially during happy and sad times, gives a depth to relationship that is very meaningful and special to me.

My last word while here in Westfield…. 🙂     I believe I’ve mentioned Rev. Adcock before and the phrase he used but it’s on my mind again this morning.

7-27-2016

Our professor at God’s Bible School and College, Rev. J. Wesley Adcock, used to tell us, “Keep the poles set.”    As a student in my early 20’s, I didn’t grasp the depth of what he was saying, although I did pay attention.

Paraphrased in my own words, “Intentionally and consistently put yourself in a place where God can speak to you and give you help, regardless of whether you “feel” like it or not!!”

I’ve certainly not done as well as I wished I had done!  I gave in too often to feelings…but overall, I put people around me who had the same spiritual-relational goals in life and similar life style choices.  That positive peer pressure strengthened me to be more than I was!!

(First thought)   I’ve said it before, but in my early 30’s God spoke very calmly but definitely to me one morning about my devotional life, which, although I wanted it to be, was not in actuality a priority.  The thought that I could end up not being in a personal relationship with God got my attention so strongly that I got serious about devotions.

That confrontation by God was an act of love!  God knew I was going to desperately need Him in a few years and He helped me to get that pole of a consistent quiet time set now so that when emotional crisis hit, my first instinct was to turn toward God—because I’d been practicing that for 2-3 years by then.

(Second thought)  Keeping myself consistently in church has changed me.   Yes, I totally understand that many times it can be a routine that you don’t feel like doing all the time!!  I’ve felt that too.  But by keeping that particular pole set, I was there when during a revival  I heard an illustration given that ripped the blinders off my eyes to myself.   I can’t describe it…it wasn’t fun right then….but over time, accepting that truth has started me on a path from which I never want to get off!   It has been life-changing to me!    But I had to BE there!

(Third thought)  Accepting God’s invitations to interacting and connecting with other people is another pole that I’ve had to  “on purpose” keep set.  Shortly before I had surgery for breast cancer, Pastor Going invited any who would like, to come to the altar for prayer that evening.  I didn’t feel any especial pull…actually I’m a pretty private person and don’t like attention, but my head said that this would be a good thing.   When I did and my friends came up and prayed for me, I will never forget feeling so “surrounded” with their prayers and good-will.   But I had to put myself in a place where that could happen, even though by nature I tend to resist the openness.

The same can be said for involving a Christian counselor or reading good books that cross our paths .  We must do it…. read it…. talk it…  As we do, even if nothing positive immediately happens, we’re keeping a pole set so that God can use even one thought to start or continue the process of change in us and send us one more step up the spiral!!

Intentionally going to the altar or meeting in a prayer group where other people can support a burden or care that’s on our heart is also strengthening!  Even joining in with other people who are likewise praying…all separately, yet all together—is so bonding, and fulfilling!

These are all trust building exercises!!   God wants us to know the delight and pleasure of trusting Him, trusting other people, and even trusting ourselves.    But we have to do our part by putting ourselves in the place where God can speak and where we can learn by “obeying before we understand”!!

 

 

 

 

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Getting Through the Unsettledness of Change

 

It’s on my mind to publicly share some thoughts based on the book by Stephen Arterburn  in SAFE PLACES.   Everyone may not understand what I’m trying to say,  but my purpose is that  it will be an encouragement to all of us.

When we moved to Village Park, I went through a period of personally feeling “unsafe”!   It was absolutely not because of what anyone said or did or from any attitudes shown!!!    It was the fact of change and the uncertainty that was rooted in my own fears.    

My point is…that was only a stage!  But I had to move through it to get it behind me.

Quote from the book SAFE PLACES:

A safe place is where a person’s basic needs are met, where a person can give and receive love, where one can grow toward maturity, where a person trusts others, where one has the freedom to serve others, where a person is free to express emotions, where relationships can grow strong and be healthy.

(quote starting at p 192.) 

One of the safest things you can do in anticipation of entering into a committed relationship, whether marriage or business partnership (or church), is to avail yourself of advice and practice in problem solving and conflict resolution.

How a couple (church) handles conflict is one of the best measures for a marriage’s (church’s) success.  Good conflict resolution is a skill that every person can and should acquire.

All families (churches) have unsafe periods.  Anytime that a family (church)  undergoes a significant change in schedule or routine, location, procedure, or authority structure, anytime a person is added (babies, in-laws) or subtracted (death, divorce) from the family(church)  unit, anytime one member of the family (church) undergoes a life crisis, these changes tend to be internalized by one or more family members (church members) as unsettling, confusing, or threatening.   

Anxiety can set in, frustration can erupt, and communication can break down.  What has seemed to be a safe, settled, and steady environment becomes one that is unknown and alienating.

Since human beings tend to like control and to like knowing what is going on, changes—even ones that everybody may agree are for the best or hold great potential for good—are always to some degree unwelcome.

The conclusion is this:  all families (churches, schools, colleges, etc.) have unsafe periods.  The challenge of creating a safe place to build your life as a family (church) is a daily, ongoing challenge.  The same holds true for any relationship including those at work, at church, at school and in the community at large.

(words in parentheses are mine)

End quote.

So, for all of us affected by change in the next year or two….let’s not panic at the unsettledness of change!    I feel it too!!   I hate the feelings of change!   But I’m looking back at the largest crisis of my personal life at 35 which involved seeing and letting God heal my very damaged trust,  to many other smaller crises that involved much shorter periods of unsettledness and change…and God used every one of them to heal me in an area, to help me to mature in an area by making decisions based on the principles of God’s truth and not on my own feelings about the matter, or to experience some emotions so that I could understand other people with my heart!    Those learning times varied in length from a few hours to 3-5 years!

Never one time have I welcomed the “unsafe, unsettled” period!!    But afterward  I have experienced the joy that made the discipline worth it!!     God is a safe God!     He always has a good reason for allowing discomfort or pain…or change!!    It’s the only way we can grow and mature!     God wants to mature us!!   And we do that in community with other believers!

 

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The Fear of the Lord Is the Beginning of Wisdom

An excellent tool for serious Bible Study:    http://comeafterme.com/index.html, developed by Nathan Brown.

This is my personal take-away today, May 23, 2016.

Psalm 111:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments.”

I’m coming from the angle of action and consequence.

ACTION: Acting on God’s principles (which means we often must stretch ourselves to “trust and obey” beyond our emotions!!) starts us “up the spiral” in any situation, even in what might be called “messy” relationships or situations. Hannah Whitall Smith’s book “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life” was written from her “messy” life which came as a result of her husband’s choices, but God redeemed the “mess” in Hannah’s life by helping her learn what she probably could not have learned any other way. She shared it and it has blessed many!

CONSEQUENCE: There are good results to any baby steps of obedience we take out of a heart that is trusting God. Somehow we personally experience the positive consequence of going up the spiral (of maturity) a step at a time!

Psalm 112 reinforces to me the end result of having a “trust and obey” attitude toward God that is deeper than our “feelings”. Feelings are molded by our past experiences and training and may not be based on truth! It may take a serious exercise of trust to act on God’s principles beyond our personal feelings!

Obedience precedes understanding. (Obedience is not collapsed boundaries!) This is true for all faith/trust-based relationships. Our relationship with God is our first safe “trust-based” relationship, for God is “healthy!” He is not self-protective, does not have an agenda, is not self-centered!! God is love. We can only increase our ability to truly love as we learn from Him!

Out of our relationship with God flows our own “trust-based” relationships with people. Jesus is our example of how to have trust-based relationships with people. He knew what was in man’s heart, but He still acted with a “trusting” attitude. God does not control us; we have been given free will.   Jesus practiced healthy boundaries when relating to people.

However, we can choose, but we can’t choose the consequences. God will never lie to us. There IS a moral law already in place in our universe and God will not make us the exception. He will always be true to Himself….and to us!

WE have the choice…God’s Way or Our Way….up the spiral, or down the spiral….

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BOUNDARIES–How people with differing boundaries act and react

This article was one of those eye-opening bits of truth for me.   I had no clue about “personal boundaries”!!    However, “collapsed boundaries” described me very well at that particular time during mid-life.

We have to recognize our issues before we can work on them!    This article strongly challenged me to intently study and learn about healthy boundaries.   I wanted to understand!!!    I started with these books:   BOUNDARIES by John Townsend and Henry Cloud and also BOUNDARIES, WHERE YOU END AND I BEGIN by Anne Katherine.

HOW PEOPLE WITH DIFFERING BOUNDARIES ACT AND REACT

Source:  Marti Lisa, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Orlando, FL

The Greenville News,  c. winter 1996-1997

Appropriate boundaries are what enable people to say no without feeling guilty or fearful that the person they are dealing with will stop liking them or respecting them.  Here are breakdowns of people with different boundaries.

PEOPLE WITH HEALTHY BOUNDARIES:

  • You are willing to say no, to let others know when they’re stepping on your toes; you’re also willing to say yes.
  • You have the ability to make requests and to seek alternatives when others must say no to you.
  • You have a strong sense of identity and self-respect.
  • You make appropriate self-disclosure; you reveal information about yourself gradually and only as mutual sharing takes place and trust develops.
  • You expect shared responsibility for relationships.
  • You recognize when a problem is yours or another person’s; when it’s not your problem, you don’t jump in to rescue the other person.
  • You don’t tolerate disrespect or abuse.

PEOPLE WITH RIGID BOUNDARIES

  • You’re apt to say no if a request is going to involve close interaction.
  • You have strong defenses to protect yourself from getting close to people; you may pick fights, for instance, or stay so busy you leave no time for on-on-one relationships.
  • You avoid closeness because you fear either abandonment or engulfment.
  • You make little or no self-disclosure, perhaps preferring to draw the other person out but not sharing information yourself.
  • You have an inability to identify your own wants, needs, and feelings.
  • You have very few close relationships, though you may have many acquaintances.

PEOPLE WITH “COLLAPSED” OR NO BOUNDARIES

  • You can’t say no for fear of abandonment or rejection.
  • You share too much personal information too soon.
  • You take on other people’s feelings rather than just feeling empathy.
  • You have a high tolerance for abuse and for being treated with disrespect.
  • You believe “I must have deserved it” when treated badly.
  • You do anything to avoid conflict.
  • You have no ability to see flaws in others because you’re focused on being what you think other people want you to be.
  • You have no sense of self.

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Ten Simple But Powerful Ways To Build Your Marriage by Tami Myer

Taken from:   http://www.startmarriageright.com/2015/08/10-simple-but-powerful-ways-to-build-your-marriage/      by Tami Myer

The entire article is very good.    I’ll list all of them and you can go to her website for further reading for they are each excellent, but I’d like to give you number ten in full.  I had never thought of this, but looking back, this is so true!!

Quote:

  1. NO SARCASM.
  2. USE YOUR BEST MANNERS.
  3. BECOME FLUENT IN THE LOVE LANGUAGE OF YOUR SPOUSE.
  4. DO NOT ASSUME YOUR SPOUSE’S MOTIVATION.
  5. FAST AND PRAY ON A REGULAR BASIS FOR YOUR MARRIAGE.
  6. AVOID CORRECTING YOUR SPOUSE.
  7. PRAY TOGETHER AS A COUPLE.
  8. SPEAK THE “GENDER LANGUAGE” OF YOUR SPOUSE.
  9. KNOW THE PASSWORD TO YOUR SPOUSE’S HEART.
  10. MAKE AND ACCEPT BIDS.

Dr. John Gottman is known around the world for his forty years of extensive research on marriage and relationships. Twenty-five years ago, he began watching and recording the daily interactions and conversations of hundreds of couples.

He expected to see successful couples involved in countless small examples of self-disclosure and personal sharing.” What he discovered, though, was not what he expected.[ii]

Successful couples spent most of their time talking about ordinary things that seemed to make no difference to anyone, such as ‘breakfast cereals, mortgage rates or the baseball game.’ They rarely talked about their deep, inner feelings.”[iii]

Here is what was important: successful couples made “bids” and responded to them.

“Bids” are any type of invitation to connect, such as a comment or a touch or even just a look. After one person makes a bid, the spouse then accepts the bid by some type of positive response. Again, it can be a simple comment, gesture, or even facial expression.

Successful couples make countless bids back and forth; each accepting the other’s bid. Their bids often look remarkably inconsequential. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that the bid is made and accepted.”[iv]

For example, perhaps your spouse remarks one morning that there is a beautiful red bird sitting on the back fence. If you take the time to look at the bird yourself, you are accepting the bid, and building your marriage. However, if you ignore the comment about the bird, or respond harshly, you are refusing the bid and damaging the marriage.

Day after day, as a couple creates many of these bids, offering and accepting, they are knitting together a very strong relationship. Each interaction may be small, but they are powerful when woven together. Likewise, a series of refused bids, however small, becomes a very destructive force in the marriage.

Responding to bids is so significant in a relationship that Dr. Gottman learned that he could predict with high accuracy the success or failure of a relationship by this factor alone.

Just as a bird builds its nest, bit by bit, so you can build your marriage, bid by bid.

End quote.

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An Example of the Healing of a Past Emotion

While talking to a friend this morning, something triggered this memory.  I think I’ll write it down and share it.

This is an example of the healing of past emotions—feelings that can pop up unexpectedly later in life.  Some memories are a simple one-time “recognize it, figure it out, say it out loud to the right person, and let it be healed” action.   Other memories have many different facets of emotions that must be walked through one at a time.   I’ve done both kinds.

I believe this occurred just before one of John’s first overseas trips.

A few days before he left I started feeling unusually depressed.  I couldn’t put words to it.  I just “felt”.   I felt depressed even when we went over to my SIL’s home one evening which was something we all loved to do.   Our kids were the same age and played well together.   I believe she even commented on my mood.  But I had no words, no understanding of the “why”.   I still could only “feel”.

The time came when John would be leaving very early the next morning and he finally just asked outright, “What is wrong with you?  What’s going on?”

I didn’t know, so I started thinking hard and praying, “Lord, what is going on?  Why am I feeling like this?”

God has always helped me to discover the answers when I’ve honestly asked Him, wanting to know the truth.     Many times I’ve asked Him the “why” questions about myself!   “Why am I reacting this way, Lord?   Why am I over-reacting?!!  Why am I feeling so bad?”   “What’s going on with me, Lord?”    When I was being honest and able to receive the truth, God helped me to understand.

A little later I came back to John and said, “I think I’m afraid that you’re going to leave and not come back.”   

Those are very simple words, but for me at that moment those words were loaded with emotion!  For you see, even though I was too young to remember it, my dad left early one morning and never came back….and the family lived with that reality the rest of our lives.    On a trip to Memphis TN from Indiana he was involved in a truck/train accident and was killed.   He left a 33 year old wife, a 14 year old boy, a 10 year girl and a 22 month old baby girl.

I’m not trying to garner sympathy.  I’m just stating the facts so you can understand where the strong feelings were coming from.     There was a deep fear that was surfacing in my consciousness…. “Was history going to repeat itself?

I’ve realized over the years by paying attention to my emotions and reactions that I believe I have what Gary Smalley calls a “core fear of emotional abandonment.”   I have a feeling that this event may have been one root cause of it.  The other root is that it seemed to me the husbands of my aunts did not seem very emotionally connected to their wives.    I was pretty sure they had probably been “in love” when they married… so in my young mind I came to the conclusion that love does not last…another form of emotional abandonment.

This is not a running sore now, it is a healed scar…but it is healed because I took the risk of identifying and revealing my feelings to the right person, the man who mattered more to me than anyone else in the world.   It felt very risky because he could have discounted my feelings by saying, “That’s so silly!   That happened 30 years ago!   Why in the world are you making a big deal out of it now!   It’s not even something you remember!!”

But he didn’t do that.   He was sympathetic, he paid attention to my feelings, he gave me time to do my personal grieving and processing without pressuring me in any way.    He didn’t have to do anything.   I just needed him to be a safe person and hear me when I needed to say something as I worked my way through my feelings.

That was a one-time occurrence.   At the time, he could also have thought, “Oh boy…is this going to happen every time I go on a trip?”    Well, if the feelings hadn’t been recognized and processed, it very well could have been that way, I suppose.   But because I “felt” the feelings and said them out loud to the person I needed to say them to, it was an emotion that was healed.   Even though the same thought may still pop up when he leaves for a trip now, I pray and say, “Lord, if the worst does happen, then please help me to trust you!”  And I let it go.   The ability to let go has to come after the processing!

Other people’s deep fears could come from many different sources…. a mom or dad who left  with divorce being the cause rather than death,  and possibly emotionally or physically abandoning the kids.  It could be broken trust in certain people or abuse in its many forms.

I don’t know the wounds of others, but I know it seems to be a natural reaction that if one person of a group breaks our trust, we tend to think that everyone of that group will do the same.   That is not necessarily true!!  Example:  Just because one man seriously broke my trust does not mean that all men are untrustworthy!    That fact could be something we may know in our head, and yet our emotions may start going crazy with fear when put in a similar situation…fear which could be masked by anger, depending on our personalities!!

We will not be able to grow beyond those fears without taking some emotional risks…of giving other people the chance to prove themselves trustworthy!    I can’t tell you the depths of fear I felt while taking some of those risks with John, but he’s proven himself a trustworthy man.    That doesn’t mean we don’t have conflicts and disagreements and maybe even deeply hurt each other….but we’re doing our best not to harm each other!  If we do, we try to correct it.  There is a big difference between hurting someone and harming them.

We are committed to growing in our relationship, with God’s help and leadership!

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Fear, God can be trusted, Healing of Memories and Emotions, Knowing ourselves