Freedom from Victimhood
Dr. Edith Eger wrote The Gift: 12 Steps to Save Your Life to help stuck people like me. In her book, she outlines the steps that people can work through to free themselves from victimhood. These are the steps that I will use, with my therapist’s assistance, to free me from victimhood. And wow, have I realized something huge these past few weeks in therapy.
My most significant wow is realizing that part of my victimhood is what I think of as victim programming. Both of my parents used this programming to keep me compliant with my victimization. It is that programming that became ingrained within me became a part of me and my internal voice.
It is the programming that tells me every day that I am worthless, I am flawed, and I am never good enough. And that is what is keeping me trapped in the cycle of victimhood. By keeping me in victimhood, I am also keeping myself from being wholly me.
Each step along this journey is going to be tough. I know that. I am scared. There are times when I don’t want to think about it, let alone write it, and certainly not share it here, on my blog. I am so done with hiding, done with keeping myself in solitary confinement, done staying in the darkness.
The first step outlines in The Gift, Dr. Eger writes that I need to go back in time to when I was hurt by another’s actions, large or small. Going on this journey is hard for me. I started a bit snarky. There are so many, I think, how will I choose just one of them? When in reality, it pains me to have to sit with myself long enough to delve into the details enough even to begin to remember them in detail. I am going to delve back into a moment that has been seared in my memory forever.
There is never enough time for me, the third of four children, to get one on one attention with either of my parents. Well, my mother is a stay-at-home parent, so I am with her more than my dad, but I don’t like being around her. She makes me feel bad about myself. I don’t know why; I always feel like I have done something wrong.
My father works as an associate professor at the local community college. His role at the college makes him a pillar of the community. It is supposedly a big deal in our small town. Whatever that means. I have no idea. He is my dad. I both love and dread his attention. That seesaw of feelings is all of the information that I can understand. And even that, I don’t understand much. I am six, maybe seven years old.
One day my father comes home and says he is taking me, only me, to get ice cream. Wha???!!! Me? Alone? With my dad? I am excited; I remember that. I also remember there is something else mixed in with the excitement. Fear. Yes, fear is what I remember. Why me? Why have I been selected for the ice cream trip with my father? Something about this situation is not one that I like. I can’t figure it out.
I think that I may not have wanted to go, saying so to my mother. She asks me why, but I can’t tell her. I have no words for why I don’t. The light in the kitchen seems to dim further as I try to explain why I don’t want to go. The problem is that I am not sure how to at that age. It is a vagueness, a sense of general unease; some memories are there flitting around my head. I don’t understand them.
I see the look in my mother’s eyes. It is the ‘why are you causing trouble’ look. It is a look that I see quite often. When I see that look, I know that I have no choice. I work on convincing myself that it is a nice treat. I push down the fear and apprehension. So that I can do as my mother says. Having some alone time with my father is a good thing. Isn’t it?
He is nicer to me than she is, most of the time. But that fear still sits in my stomach like a rock. I am not sure that I can even eat ice cream right now. I may vomit. But I am told that I should be a good girl and behave myself (basically mind my father). It is a mantra that I have heard and try to say to myself time and time again. If only people knew what minding my father really meant.
Your Feelings Are Wrong
I am supposed to be happy going to get ice cream, but I am not. I don’t have the words to explain why. I don’t understand why I feel the way I feel. But what the looks are telling me of my parents is that what I feel is wrong. What I should feel is ________________ (insert “better” emotion). I didn’t know it at that time but denying me how I felt was part of the programming.
With dread building in my stomach, my father and I head out into the warm night to get ice cream. We walk outside to where the family’s 1970’s Chevy Blazer sits. Off to the side of the driveway sits the plow attachment. I have to squeeze by the plow to get into the truck. I try to channel how I feel powerful when I get to control that powerful plow. I am trying to hold onto that feeling. To be brave.
I start to climb into the back seat, the spot where I usually sit, and the spot furthest from him. He looks at me in the rearview mirror. “Come, it is just the two of us; you can sit upfront.” I climb over the center console to plop myself unceremoniously into the front passenger seat. He reaches over and touches my knee, “There isn’t that better?” I think I nod or respond with a short yes.
I am not so sure that it is.
Author’s note: Part two will be released tomorrow. Once I started writing this, I realized that my story wouldn’t fit into one blog post. Tomorrow is when my adult self shows up to rescue my younger self.
I have to admit that writing the next part, and creating the drawings made me feel so much better. I tend to be skeptical about some of this stuff. Going back to a memory and rescuing myself and all of that. But it really works. I gave myself the power to give myself a different ending. For the first time ever and it is awesome.
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