One of the fundamental things that happens to a person who has been severely mistreated in childhood is the inability to experience self-acceptance and self-love. I would address this problem in this article.
Humans begin to form relationships with others at birth (some believe even sooner) and our mother is usually the first person with whom we bond. It is from this secure base that we begin to learn about our world and how to interact with it. If the mother is not available because of disease or death, there is normally another caring adult who takes over this important role. It is from these relationships that we learn two very important lesson, that we are loved and valuable.
What happens to the child whose mother or caregivers are distant and/or unpredictable, or abusive? They are unable to experience the world as a safe reliable place in which to explore their emotions, and they are unable to receive those important messages of self-love and self-importance. The child is left to fend for themselves, trying to sort out in their minds what is good, bad, and most of all, whether-or-not they should even exist.
I realize that there is more involved in these problems than just lack of attachment and love from primary caregivers.
As these children become adults, these inadequacies lead to people who are plagued with feelings of self-loathing. Maybe it is not overt in many survivors, but sometimes actions say more than words. In my travels down the road less taken, I’ve not only had to face my own lack of self-love and self-respect, but I’ve met many other survivors who have also expressed how they do not value themselves. These lacks are visible in a myriad of different ways. Perhaps we have eating disorders and either choose to starve ourselves or to overeat and be obese. Some jump from one disastrous relationship to another in search of the love and security that they were unable to find in childhood. Many suffer in silence, deciding unconsciously to live in isolation and loneliness.
One of the first things my therapist did for me was to help me to understand that I AM worthwhile and lovable. She taught me through her patience and caring that I AM worthy of existing in this world, and that I am NOT a mistake. Just believing that I belonged in this world was more difficult than I can express. My whole being believed that I was just taking up space, and that the world would be better off if I were not in it. This is a common thought among survivors, and one of the primary reasons it is so easy for us to kill ourselves. We feel we are doing the world a favor.
After I began to gain a little insight into the fact that I did belong, my therapist turned to my alters. I had lived for a long time with resentment towards these ego states. I felt that they were my enemies and the reasons my problems. My therapist helped me to understand that these internal helpers were really just parts of me, many of them children, who were stuck in trauma-time. She encouraged me to look at them as my kids, and to begin to have a mother/child relationship with them. Over time I began to feel a real maternal feeling towards my alters, and we became a family. It took some time, as I was finding it unfair that I didn’t have a mother to care for me, and I was jealous. My therapist helped me to understand that I was the best candidate for the position of mother in my system as I understand the laws and mores of our society best, and had experience taking care of children.
Thus, I began the important work which lead to the wonderful life I now share with my alters.
Now, when I have an internal child or teen become activated where they are triggered and feeling badly, I go into my mind and treat them just as I would any hurting child or teen. I hold them, talk quietly to them, hug them, and tell them I love them. I also reassure them that I will never, ever allow anyone to harm them again. I remind them of how safe my home is now, and invite them to come and live with me. In this way, I am really loving, holding, hugging, and reminding myself. They are me after all, and I am them. This has been a very powerful instrument in my getting to the point where I am now, where we interact as one team. We can handle life much better now, because there is a continuity and cooperation that exists between us. I won’t say that we are able to communicate or cooperate perfectly, but who in humanity can say that they do get along with themselves all the time.
It may sound to some like I am bragging, or that I feel superior in some way. If so, then this next statement can only serve to back-up those assumptions.
I love and respect myself, I am worthwhile and important, and I believe that I have something to contribute to the world.
How many people, including you who are reading this article, can say those words and mean them? It is so unfortunate that I had to suffer so much to reach point, but I wouldn’t trade what I’ve gone through for anything if I had to do so to reach this internal knowledge and acceptance.
The way to change humanities me-me-me-ism may indeed be by learning, ironically, to love and value ourselves. If we can learn self-love in its purest kind, then perhaps we will not be so inclined to harm others to get what we desire. In valuing ourselves our human eyes may be opened to the fact that everyone else in humanity is valuable too.
“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Buddha