Learning to Accept the Past | The Column
Over the last year, I’ve been going through a big phase of self-reflection, in attempts to work through some head stuff in the healthiest way possible. I have come to accept some things for the way they are and accept some things about myself too. Part of this has been coming to terms with my childhood.
LEARNING TO LET GO
Reflecting on my childhood and the relationship I had with my Mother, brought a lot of things to the surface, that had long needed confronting. Instead of repressing traumatic memories, I’ve been acknowledging that they happened, and trying to understand them, and how they have affected me.
My Mother and I are now estranged after she decided she wanted no further contact with me. She no longer wanted my help or my presence, and that meant I had to take a step back, and not have her in my life.
In many ways, I think it was probably the healthiest option for me, and the option that would prevent me from experiencing further emotional and psychological damage, as much as it hurts sometimes.
It was this distance and subsequent perspective that lead me to research into similar child-parent relationships. Through this, I then began looking into 'narcissistic personality disorder' and while I am by no means diagnosing my Mother, the similarities shocked me, and I couldn’t believe how much I related to the daughters of 'Narcissistic Mothers'.
I had stumbled upon a book by Karyl McBride called ‘Will I ever be good enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers’ and the more I read, the more I began to understand certain things I had experienced throughout my childhood from a new perspective. Further to this in a strange way it allowed me to get more of an understanding into why I am the way I am.
Looking back, my mother fulfilled nearly every criteria of the Narcissistic Mother and when reading through the traits belonging to the daughters of Narcissistic Mothers, it was like looking in a mirror. I was not alone in how I felt, or in what I had experienced.
As a child, I was exposed to things that no child should have knowledge of, and I witnessed things that were deeply traumatic. I learned that nothing I did was good enough and that there were very few people who I could trust. All of this contributed to a deep lack of self-confidence and an incredibly fragmented sense of self.
A LENS OF EMPATHY
Researching into the idea that perhaps there was an explanation behind my mother’s behaviour, and that maybe it was based off her own trauma, made it easier for me to empathise with her and to forgive her, even if she wasn’t asking for forgiveness, or apologising for how she had treated me.
Viewing the situation from this perspective, also made it easier for me to process my own trauma because it allowed me to externalise it. It gave me some insight into maybe why she is the way she is, and some possible reasoning behind why she treated my Brother and I the way she did. In a way, it has helped me to cope.
I’m an adult now and through exploring what happened to me, I have been able to move past a lot of this. However, whilst I feel like I should just disregard all of this as merely part of my history and disconnect from it, in part, it has shaped who I am as a person. My past has influenced my life choices, actions, relationships, and anxieties and I know that it is something I will be battling with for a long time.
WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU....
But… it’s not all doom and gloom, whilst it has been traumatic, all I have been through has ultimately made me a stronger person. It has influenced my passion for writing, as a form of self-expression, my unstoppable desire to succeed in everything I do, and, using humour as a coping mechanism. As much as it may sound morbid and unhealthy, it has helped me always see the funny side of things, which lightens even the darkest moments, and that’s important.
Now, if I find myself exhibiting certain behaviours, or feeling certain emotions, I can process and rationalise them. I link it back to what I’ve experienced and this makes me feel a lot more comfortable with myself.
I have such an amazing support network and a wonderful boyfriend, I am trying to fully experience and enjoy life now.
Thomas Mann wrote that ‘great things that exist owe their existence to a defiant despite' and this is true. As complicated, damaged and complex individuals, we are capable of so much, despite everything and that is what is truly amazing.
I GUESS WHAT I'M TRYIMG TO SAY IS...
Talk about it. You should try to learn how to understand and make peace with your past, and when you start to do this, it will be tough but ultimately liberating. Whilst throughout your life this parent may have taught you to repress your emotions, it’s important to address your feelings, and your past and learn to love yourself.
If you are still in an environment where an abusive parent is negatively affecting you, it might be time to distance yourself from them.
You should not feel guilty for talking about what you have suffered through, your mental health is more important than someone’s pride, and talking about such issues makes others like you feel less alone.
Through talking about your trauma with other people, you’ll learn that no childhood/family is perfect and there’s a strange comfort in that.
Sometimes you can’t change things, and you need to let them be.
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