I made the decision over two years ago to leave my hometown; putting roughly 364 miles between me and the first 31 years of my life. About a year in, I finally asked myself this question: “Why do I fucking hate myself so much!!??!?!” It was a violent hate. It was a condemning, condescending, vitriolic entanglement of tones, yells, facial expressions, temper tantrums, arguments with my husband, fights with my child and a rigid, unyielding anger….At Myself.
Trying to resolve an argument with someone when you are more angry at yourself than anyone else is madness. There is no winning for the other person. Any contrary opinion feels like an attack and concessions feel like pity. Pity I desperately wanted, actually, but too proud and scared to take the comfort. I would spend hours arguing simply on the basis of what a horrible person I must be to feel…anything. To want..anything. To need anything. To have an opinion. To have a “wrong” opinion. To make too much noise. To not have everything ready. To not know everything. To know anything.
I feel overwhelming anxiety and stress over these things, every day.
The Inner Critic and Toxic Shame grows rampant in traumatized children. It fuels the emotional flashbacks and creates hypervigilance in even our most mundane activities. The child who grows up in a toxic environment, has to develop an almost psychic awareness in evaluating every thought, word and action so as not to be singled out for punishment or ridicule.
The obsession becomes in rooting out real and imagined flaws or limitations, so as to keep order to our world; and it lends to a debilitating pattern of performance anxiety as we try to express ourselves as adults.
In Other Words, It’s Exhausting. It’s Really Fucking Exhausting.
But the exhaustion is nothing compared to the shame of feeling this way. Self-esteem is obliterated; Inundated with a sense of worthlessness, feeling stupid, flawed, ugly, broken…feeling as though you have no right to be here or take up space.
It is an isolating wave of emotions that reflects the childhood environment.
I always want to hide my face when I am feeling this way and having a conversation with my husband. He has to pull my chin up and I can never keep eye contact for very long.
But I’m working on it.
Being lost in a toxic shame spiral or feeling the abuse of your own inner critic are signs of having emotional flashbacks. I am thankful that I followed the question of “Why do I feel this way” because I realized it was never about me, and while that is harmful in its own right, and to be explored later, it is a very true concept. Hurt people hurt other people. It is an unconscious defense mechanism. Families who have generations of abuse and addiction in their history have remained unconscious in their pain and keep inflicting the same wounds over and over and over again.
Children are perfect triggers for these wounds. We are told as children that we have no rights or freedom until we are adults. We have no control over the environment our parents provide us with. But as adults we have responsibilities and our own children, where we find we have to share our rights and freedoms with them!
A lot of our repressed anger comes from finding out that Control is an elusive and mythical concept. We struggle with the cognitive dissonance of having been controlled through our early years, having repressed many of those themes and memories, only to have it resurface in our children, whonaturally refuse to be controlled.
And we start to remember what it was like when we were kids.
To understand the developmental process of the child is to understand that the child holds no manipulation or malice in their early years. It is easy to take the behaviors of our children personally. And then react, unconsciously, from the experiences that make up our second nature. When we see children as children, in all of their curiosity and true innocence, we do not attach the karmic feelings of shame and guilt to their behaviors. When we see ourselves in our children and we grew up in a violent home, all we see is shame and guilt.
And it is no longer about the child.
Being caught in emotional flashbacks is like Finally making it about me, but I know it is still misplaced and still one more thing to work through. Unfortunately, emotional flashbacks can be present your entire life, but it becomes more manageable as more feelings and experiences are validated within you, when you can “make it about you” in the most healthy, life affirming way you can imagine.
Just know this: You have a right to be here. Your worth is immeasurable. You have a purpose. Doubting those truths are painful to the soul. Make a commitment right now to stop denying it.