The Winding Path

Counselling Services provided by Barb Zacharias

December 2023: Choices

Posted on Dec 28, 2023

December 2023: Choices

It never ceases to amaze me how life has a knack of sorting itself out, if we give it a chance to do so. The first two weeks of December were unusually quiet for me, work-wise—which provided an opportunity to practice my belief in a limitless Universe that has my back. It took some effort, but I was able to quell the anxiety about future finances. It helps knowing that worrying doesn’t change anything, simply provides your brain the false belief of doing something when one has no control over the situation—providing a sense of action when there is no course of action to take.

To keep the anxiety gremlins contained, I immersed myself in the concept of wintering that, of course, came across my path via social media. The image is inserted into this blog. And after the past couple months of internal and external drama, I desperately needed a time of wintering—which also allowed for Christmas baking. One of my favourite aspects of this Solstice season as well as a tried-and-true form of neighbourly gift giving. Wintering also gave me time to play around with a new craft idea that extended into gift giving for a lucky (?) few. 😉

This also means I don’t have any reason not to follow through with my blog of November that kind of left my readers hanging. So, if you haven’t read my previous blog entries, now might be the time to do a quick catch up, and for me to go back into that head space after wintering for a bit. How to pick up where I left off? It was about the choices I have as a responsible adult. Options that I didn’t have as a vulnerable child and teenager.

As I mentioned last month, one of the choices involved grieving the loss of the unmet need for an advocate and to recognize my pattern of over-functioning as an advocate or buffer in the lives of others—a pattern that is unable to heal that inner wound and often exacerbates it. The parameters for advocacy needed to change. I had to set boundaries for myself not to go the extra mile and to sit with the ensuing discomfort. I also had to practice self-advocacy when the need arose. This, too, proves challenging; but like any skill, improves with practice.

Another choice I mentioned previously, is that of not delegating my safety. Meaning it is not up to the male populace to play the hero card. It is my job, as an adult, to keep myself safe—another loss to grieve in that I never felt safe as a child and teenager, or even as a young adult. A felt sense of safety has been elusive for me, whether it be physical, emotional, mental, sexual, or spiritual. It is something I can only generate for myself by the choices I make, the thoughts I entertain, the healing journey I continue on.

My journal makes so many good points (over several days), it is difficult to weed out the truly pertinent ones that may be beneficial to others on their healing journey. I glibly mentioned grieving the loss of unmet needs for advocacy and safety. Yet that is a complex process starting with identification followed by recognition. I craved a buffer from the storms of life; but that was me. That was my job in my family-of-origin. I have to face the unfairness and experience the grief “stages” of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance for each of the losses.

None of my coping mechanisms can fill the cavernous void left by my father’s inattention (or my birthmother’s abandonment or my stepmother’s blatant abuse). I will never have a dad to step in the gap for me. He will never come to rescue or save me. He will never attend to my wounds (physical or psychological). He will never care about or for me. The harsh reality is that that ship has sailed. The opportunity for my dad to protect his little girl has passed. I am no longer that vulnerable child, but an adult with choices (the mantra of trauma recovery as many of you are aware).

I need to find other ways of assuaging the pain and completing the trauma response loop. I will spare you the summary of trauma response in our bodies for this blog. Maybe next year, it will factor into one. Suffice to say, I can never be abandoned by my father like that again. From my journal: “Granted, he continues to fail to show up and pokes at that wound regularly. However, I am no longer dependent upon him for my bio-psycho-social-sexual-spiritual development/well-being. His (in)actions have damaged me in all these areas of being human. But I am responsible for myself as an adult—not him…I can’t hold him responsible for healing the wound he created…I can either wallow in it and/or continue to seek out male validation. Or I can embrace myself and work towards retraining my amygdala & whatever part of the brain is responsible for relationships…

…I am whole & complete. No one else can change that. My sense of self may be impacted by others, but my True Self is whole & complete. That bright flame deep within. It appreciates—and shines brighter in—the company of kindred spirits. And like every other human being, longs to be loved unconditionally. That, too, has passed in the sense that that is solely a parental responsibility. In a partnership, there is no such thing as unconditional—it must be reciprocal with equal responsibility. That is even tougher to process—the loss of unconditional love. That opportunity can never come again. I can hold out for reciprocal, but not unconditional love. I can also never lose it ever again as I am no longer a vulnerable child. I am an adult who can make choices about being open to and/or finding reciprocal love and not settle for good enough or safe.”

Part of self-acceptance is owning that I deserve a requited love. From my journal: “But I can never go back to a time of unconditional love—not to lose it, nor to fill it. Just as I can’t go back to meet my attachment needs as an infant or a child or a teenager. Best I can do is love unconditionally my infant self, my child self, my teenaged self. WOW. That’s actually pretty powerful—and tough! My development is so embroiled with shame messages that it is difficult to see myself at any age as unconditionally lovable. Yet that is the only way to heal that father wound. My dad was mistaken and misguided. I AM lovable and worthy of love and deserving of love, of consistent attention and affection. He dropped the ball. NOT me—unless I fail to now love unconditionally every former version of myself. That’s a tough one.”

This is not a one-time realization. It is something I must remind myself of frequently in order to retrain my brain, get new neurons firing and wiring together. Also from my journal: “I cannot be abandoned, left behind, ever again—not as a vulnerable child. And as a responsible adult, I always have choices. I think I’m still missing the part where as a responsible adult, I never leave behind my vulnerable child self. I have tried to abandon her, leave her behind, many, many times. Fortunately, it’s not actually possible. The “worst” I can to is fragment her and/or bury her. I need to welcome her back, to embrace her, to never let her go. To integrate her into my psyche….

…My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to become a unified whole. Integrated. No fragmented parts. Little Barbie was abandoned by her mother, rejected by her father, and resented by her stepmother. I will no longer abandon, reject, resent, or shame her. She is loved, welcomed, encouraged, validated, affirmed, deemed worthwhile, accepted by responsible adult Barb and our True Self. Both child and adult Barb need to be integrated into our True Self. I can only imagine what that unity could feel like, become, achieve. I still have more sorting re: the kindness of men (which to me is an oxymoron). But I think I’m beginning to grasp that it has nothing to do with my True Self.”

In my journal, I explore the concept of trauma bonding of which I believe there are two kinds: 1) shared trauma experience; and 2) a relationship based upon rewards and punishments. But for the sake of this blog, it is enough to acknowledge that my adult choices involve engaging in the grief process for what happened to me as a vulnerable child/teenager/young adult. And accepting that those losses can never occur again given I am no longer in a position of vulnerability. It is now up to me to find ways to meet my needs whether by keeping myself safe, self-advocacy, loving myself unconditionally, or being open to reciprocal love. It is very difficult to explain how liberating these realizations have been or how they are part of completing the trauma response. At any rate, it is helping my amygdala to reset. My danger detector can focus on present/real threats instead of perceived or past ones.

As I work on “rewriting” or “rewiring” my modus operandi, I am better able to set boundaries with self-respect. I am able to empower myself to live my own life instead of one conditioned in me. I am able to slow down the automatic reactions in order to consciously choose a response. And I am able to love all versions of myself unconditionally (I felt an inner cringe, so evidently there is more healing work to be done! 😉).

As we bid adieu to 2023 and welcome 2024, may you find healing for you mother-father wounds and embrace your whole & complete selves to live your magical lives that only you can live.

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