There can be no doubt that when we were children the adults in our lives were responsible to fulfill our expectations for comfort, shelter, and love. We deserved and had a right to have those expectations.
Unfortunately, for many of us who experienced highly traumatizing childhoods, the natural expectations all children have were not met. We grew up not knowing what would happen next, and fully expecting whatever was coming to be bad. As a result, their failure to meet our expectations hurt us horribly.
Children Have the Right
But here’s a question we as need to ask ourselves as adults. Whose responsibility are our feelings and behaviors now? Whose expectations are harming us in our world today?
When I posted the above picture online, there were many who misinterpreted what I had posted as being hostile towards them. They felt offended and put out. How dare I state that they didn’t have a right as a child to expect more from the people who harmed them?
To be honest, even though the number of people who responded this way was small, I was overwhelmed by their responses.
Who Hurt Me?
So, I decided to write a piece about just what the picture and saying I posted means to me. I know I don’t owe anyone an explanation, but the topic at hand is a very important one. Understanding whose responsibility our emotions and feelings are in our present can be life changing.
Last September on the day before my birthday I was disappointed. I had invited two friends to my home the next day to sit and eat cake with me. We were going to have a cookout and enjoy each other’s company. However, the day before we were to celebrate I received phone calls from them both. They were backing out of my plans.
I became very angry and to be frank quite bitter. I was fuming that they would do this to me! It wasn’t fair! I reiterated over and over again to my family, and had a horrendous day.
These two people had truly legitimate reasons for backing out of my cookout, but that seemed to not change my attitude one inch. I was mad! Period.
I Was Cut to the Core
The following morning, on my birthday, I awoke early still angry. I turned on my computer as usual, and began to flip through my email. Then I came across one that shocked my pants off.
There before me was the saying I have included in the picture above.
“Someone asked me, ‘Who hurt you?’
I answered, ‘My own expectations.’”
I was cut to the core by those words.
I Hadn’t Learned This Lesson Yet
I had endured sixteen years of severe and repeated childhood trauma, had developed dissociative identity disorder as a result, and had just seen the anniversary of being in therapy for 27 years. The pain of the past mixed with the pain of going through therapy had taught me much, but this saying brought to the front of my mind a lesson I had not learned yet.
I Contemplate That Morning
I sat back from my computer and began to consider those words. I realized that my two friends, whom I care for deeply, hadn’t harmed me. The fact was my own expectations of them and frustration over not being able to control their behavior had.
I have contemplated that morning many times since.
Please Forgive the Reiteration
There is a psychological term that explains what I had experienced in my disappointment, locus of control.
Forgive me. I have written about this before, but it is a very important topic.
What does the term locus of control mean?
According to the Gillian Fournier on the PsychCentral.com website a good definition of locus of control is as follows:
“The extent to which people believe they have power over events in their lives. A person with an internal locus of control believes that he or she can influence events and their outcomes, while someone with an external locus of control blames outside forces for everything.” Locus of Control Link
“Blames outside forces for everything.” Did you see those words?
Now remember, this definition is meant to describe adult behavior, NOT children.
Having an external locus of control is very unhealthy.
External locus of control is like being a puppet and allowing other people’s actions to pull your strings. Instead of looking inside for my peace of mind, I had pushed onto my friends the responsibility of making me happy on my birthday.
That is an easy to see example of not having an internal locus of control.
A Good Example from My Personal Life
After I had that revelation, I began to examine all my reactions to people in my life. I have a brother who is an alcoholic. I had spent a lot of time feeling miserable because I couldn’t help him. I had tried to control his behavior and spent many sleepless nights angry as hell because he wouldn’t do what I wanted. I suddenly realized what the twelve groups had been trying to tell me, my happiness DOES NOT depend on whether he is sober or not.
In fact, I cannot change anyone other than myself and my own attitudes.
I Spoke Frankly and Apologized
In getting angry and losing sleep, I was allowing someone else’s behavior to harm me. I had set up expectations for him that weren’t realistic AND were a trap for the both of us. He felt I was disappointed in him, so he drank more. I was upset because he wouldn’t live his life the way I wanted.
It wasn’t an overnight event, but I let him go. I sat down with him and openly discussed what I was feeling, and told him I was no longer going to try to run his life. I was going to take care of me, that’s all I could do. I apologized for being such an ass, and told him I loved him.
We have a much better and more mature relationship now. Not only this, but he got sober on his own. I had nothing to do with it, other than not nagging him.
I Cannot Control Someone Else!
Will they always get sober or stop the behaviors that we don’t like? Hell no. But even if they don’t why should we allow someone else’s problem behavior rule over how we feel about ourselves and life? Why should I suffer in my mind because I can’t control someone else?
Think about it. How many things in your life do you blame other’s behaviors on? How many people do you blame your problems on? How much do you allow something that happened decades ago rule how you feel and behave today?
The Past Belongs in the Past
I realize only too well that survivors of traumatic childhoods, especially people living with dissociative identity disorder are caught up in the blame game at certain stages in their recovery. That cannot be avoided. But just consider how much better you would feel if you would take responsibility for your actions today, and leave the hurt of the past where it belongs, in the past.
Those are not popular words, but I am going to keep saying them. If one wishes to have a successful and peaceful life, the first step is taking responsibility for your actions, thoughts and feelings.
We are Totally and Utterly Responsible for Our Actions
No matter which alter is in control, no matter what happens while we are dissociated, we are totally and utterly responsible for all our actions and words. Period.
Locus of control. A marvelous lesson that many, not just those with a mental illness, need to consider and learn more about.
Think about it. That’s all I ask.
“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”
― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
We adults can choose to take charge of our emotions and to take responsibility for our feelings, or we can let other people control us.