I’ve been living abroad for so long, I forgot how my mode of surviving home was by repressing my feelings. I struggled so much with this in my adult life, this feeling of esentially not being allowed to express myself. It left me with an underlying fear that speaking up, simply being assertive or stating my boundaries would result in catastrophe and regret.The ‘normal’ world doesn’t necessarily function this way; therefore, over time I learned and re-wired myself to developing this area a little bit. Every time I was met with a gentle, understanding and accomodating response to my opinions, I healed this part of myself a little more and became better at it.It’s often a shock visiting home. I find myself feeling I have to regress back to the old me – a version of me I’ve worked so hard (and still have a way to go) to develop. During my recent visit back to SA, it became painfully clear to me how this internal struggle I’ve been batting came to be. As a child, I learned that any protest or opinion I had would be met with either dismissal; extreme anger; punishment for days, weeks, (sometimes even months) of the silent treatment by my father. He would either explode or withdraw. Ultimately I was left feeling guilty, and that my feelings weren’t valued.
It is the parent’s job to turn their child’s rage into sadness, grief, and resolution (Cloud & Townsend, 1998). I believe that no matter how old your son or daughter are, you as the parent, should foster a feeling of safety for them to be honest with you and voice their feelings; knowing downright that there is absolutely no threat of punishment, abandonment, humiliation or guilt.Children develop this intrinsic feeling when parents treat their pain with “comfort, care, empathy and connection” (Cloud & Townsend, 1998). I am eternally grateful that my mother entreched a feeling of unconditional love in us. Without her, I honestly do not think I would have any sense of self-esteem what-so-ever. Though I acknowledge and empathise with my father’s disability in being the family man we needed growing up, the effects this has left are still difficult to manage, and even worse so when it re-occurs. It is a thunderbolt shock back into an infantile feeling of worthlessness and fear. “Stop crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about” is exactly the message received.
I became a passive kid who, as an adult, had to learn how to overcome the underlying fears and anxieties which paralyzed me from taking initiative. I recall sitting at my desk as a schoolgirl, watching as the other students confidently approached the teacher. I could not, for the life of me, get the courage to put my hand up in class.
Even when I was genuinely battling with a task, I would rather figure it out on my own before approaching an authority figure. I feared rejection and humiliation so much. I had learned to battle through things on my own.Unfortunately, my recent visit proved to me that everything I’ve done to remain neutral, understanding and loving toward my father, even after all the pain he’s put me through (intentionally and unintentionally; vicariously through his treatment toward my mother and brother, and personally) meant nothing to him and, in fact, gets twisted and thrown back in my face as an insult.
As of Friday, 10/11/19, I made the decision to cut my father out of my life once and for all. Unfortunately, this should’ve been something I did long ago. I refused to fully accept the fact that his narcissistic abuse and neglect was never going to change. Opening myself up to hope left me disappointed time and time again.
I made a vow to cease doing things for people who do not appreciate it. If my efforts do not matter, I’ll save my effort. We live and we learn. I may have been vulnerable to faulty, unhelpful wiring as a child, but now I take responsibility to being the solution to my problems and the answer to my needs.
I have survived and succeeded with very little – in fact, the bare minimum – from my father (in all aspects) and have been doing all I can do to nurture the abandoned child within. Not only has he not been willing to hold up his end of his relationship with me as his daughter, he hasn’t responded kindly when I attempted expressing my feelings, or tried to find solutions, thinking that maybe he just battles with communication.
No doubt, I have him to thank when it comes learning everything there is to know about what NOT to do. I’ve been blessed to have a man in my life who challenged all my assumptions I learned about men from the main role model in my life. I knew how to pick my partner well. Simply put, I went for the exact opposite of him. I’m grateful for the blueprint.
My father never took the time to teach me how to play τάβλι, showed any interest in my studies or even gave me the time of day when it came to all those little milestones in life (learning how to drive, opening a bank account etc.) Yes, I became an active, problem-solving, initiative-taker but with a lot of pain struggle on the way.Some people lose their father’s to death. I have a father who is alive but acts as if I’m dead. So, I’m now taking the initiative to simply accept his limitations, love him from afar, but not allowing him passage to hurt me anymore. It’s no real loss really, as he really hasn’t shown much concern or care towards me over the years. No phone calls. No simple “how are you doing? How is life abroad? What’s news?”
Again, I have him to thank. For making life at home so challenging, and so unbearably painful that I hopped on a plane and took my chances starting a life of my own; one where I grew profoundly; experienced adventures beyond my imagination and got the opportunity to touch and be touched by the lives of the children I taught. Lest I forget, meeting the man of my dreams!I do not see myself as a victim. I am, in fact, a survivor! If it weren’t for the pain I experienced first hand, I would probably not have been as compassionate or determined. Through studying psychology, teaching and travelling, I became a richer person and learned so much.
I still battle with things that began in my primary years. This is a silly example of how childhood conditioning has an impact on a person’s adult thoughts and behaviors. A deep one is my approach to romantic relationships. It has taken me over a year and a half to finally get to a place of comfort with commitment. I’m finally in a good space in my life. I have gone through a massive journey and I’m speaking my truth and living as authentically as I can.
I am trying. All we can do is keep trying our best at working on “all the important areas of growth and life, not just the ones we are gifted” in (Cloud & Townsend 1998). I have managed to make lots of positives out of negatives; beauty out of pain, and I won’t stop pushing forward. I will no longer let anyone get in my way of becoming the best version of me I can be.
I relish and celebrate the fact that I am no longer that passive little girl too afraid to raise her voice. I hope my brief account on my story and personal experiences encourages and inspires you to do the same: raise YOUR voice ♡