Rescuing my True Self from the Cage of Lies

I haven’t posted to the blog since May 15.  I’ve been having a pretty tough time.  I wrote a longish piece about wanting to die and read it to a friend.  She said not to post it because people would label me.  I have committed to not think about killing myself or dying in some other way.  See post about this.  But I’m still finding it really difficult just to get through the day.

I was visiting my friend Eve and she had a craft project to do.  We thought it might be fun if I read her some of my stories from my “remedial joy” and “redemption” project.  I read her three stories, but because she had to focus so tightly on what she was doing, there was no response.  Finally she said it was not working for her.  I went back to typing journal, but I began to feel really down.  Later I realized that lack of response to my reading was a major trigger.  I needed a response.

Sitting outside with cups of tea, I asked Eve if she thought I was a worthwhile person. She said “That doesn’t come into it.  You’re my friend.”  Then she talked about how much my friendship meant to her, how I let her talk about a past relationship without asking her to get past it, how I let her eat sweets without making her wrong, how I really totally accepted her just as she was.  She compared me to past friends and said I had healthy boundaries. That made me feel a whole lot better.  It was accurate mirroring of the kind that I rarely get — and clearly need badly.

Yesterday, in my therapy appointment, I told Karen what had happened with Eve: reading to no response, getting triggered, asking her if she thinks I’m a worthwhile person.  Then I asked Karen if she thought I was a worthwhile person. Her answer blew me away.  She said “You’re one of the most worthwhile people I know.  The energy that you put into the planet and relationships is sincere and truthful, and worthy of support and appreciation.  That kind of intellectual, emotional, and spiritual awareness is rare.”  I wrote it down, because I didn’t want to lose it.

My self-image was largely formed by what Mother said to me and how she responded — or didn’t respond — to me.  She told me things like “Don’t think you’re so great.”  She would brush off things I said to her by lack of response or making me wrong. (For illustrations of this, see my Fourth of July Monologue.)  She acted as though I got in the way, was a nuisance, as though I did things deliberately to hurt her.  I came out of her training with two deep needs: one was to prove that I deserve to live, the other was that I not be a nuisance by asking to have a need met.  And a third I realize on re-reading: a deep, deep need to never hurt anyone.  I think about two of my “redemption” stories: the one where Mama Greene said I would never do something to hurt someone else, and the time Miss Sheffield said “You’re a good student” and trusted me to write the paper I hadn’t been able to hand in.  The feeling of relief I felt on hearing what they thought of me tells me how much I believed that I was the kind of person who would hurt people, believed that I was not trustworthy.

That reminds me of the time Mother said “I don’t like not being trusted” and I immediately felt wrong and bad for not trusting her.  Only much later did it occur to me: I didn’t trust Mother because she was not trustworthy.  I feel like I’m struggling to wrench my true self out of the cage of worthlessness my mother projected on to me and I’ve been living inside most of my life.  People have used the words “authenticity” and “integrity” of me, and I’ve had trouble taking them in.  “Integrity” I can own, it’s part of my commitment to the truth, a commitment that has powered my whole life, and powers this search for the truth of who I am.  More data for a positive sense of self: Elizabeth praising my commitment, my vision, my generosity; Jalaja seeing “devotion, passion, creativity and sweetness” in my blog.

I feel a little uncomfortable about posting this.  I’m afraid of being judged for “bragging.”  I said this to someone once, and she said “That’s not bragging, that’s telling the truth.”  Dear friends who are reading this blog: if you want to, I would be greatly helped if you sent me a description of how you see me.  Specific words and stories of what I said, or how I helped you, will really help me in this quest.  Thanks!

Feeling good about myself  (written in July 2009)

Jalaja Bonheim’s comment about my blog.

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