Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word

About 15 years ago, my father told me he was sorry.  He apologized to me for the way he had severely beaten me throughout my childhood.  And at the time I was so unable to face any of the pain of my childhood, I kind of hurried through the whole thing and didn’t really take it in.  My father was sincere, I know this.  Apologizing doesn’t come easy for him.  It was a big deal, a first in our relationship, and I wasn’t able to absorb it at the time.  But I can tell you that at this moment, I so understand the almost miracle it took for him to realize how harmful his treatment of me had been, and he owned that, he owned it.  And I know that if he could go back in time and change it all, he would.  He would change the way he had abused me and the affect it had on the rest of my life to this point.

I was driving home from work yesterday evening, a long commute, and I am in the habit of using this time for reflection.  The day’s events, the week’s event’s, my life’s events, they all kind of take turns coming up into the front of my mind so I can look at them.  Yesterday evening I was in some turmoil, trying to sort through some patterns that keep taking place in my life.  And what it all boils down to is not being respected, and bottom line, not having self-respect.  I realized that as much as I have learned about abuse and its effects in the life of a survivor, about how our minds get so twisted up into believing that we deserve to be treated poorly, I still have not somehow ‘gotten this’ down in my soul.  Because what I know in my head has not helped me to change the patterns in my life. Not yet.

I still do not have enough self-respect going on in me.  For some reason, even though I understand in my head that I am deserving of good things in my life, that I am deserving of friends and relationships that offer me kindness and respect and really good things, I have not found this to be true deep down in my soul yet.  I am still willing to accept less than what I even minimally deserve as a human being.  And when a person really feels this way about themselves, other people will pick up on it, through our own actions and words, they pick up on the fact that we are willing to be treated poorly, and if they have the inclination, for whatever reason to do this, they will do it.  And it doesn’t matter if we are kind to them, if we are accommodating, if we go out of our way to show them respect and understanding, none of this really matters in the end, because we have also in some way or in many ways conveyed to them that we are willing to be treated in a lesser way than all of these good things that we have given them in the relationship.

I have issues.  I guess you could say a lot of it has to do with attachment anxieties and abandonment fears, and this comes through in a glaring way in relationships, friendships and in work relationships.  And I will go out of my way to make sure that I have not ruffled any feathers, that I have not stepped on toes, that I have not annoyed or offended.  And I spend half of my time in these relationships apologizing for my behavior if I feel I have miss stepped in any way.  And there are times I really do misstep.   And if I have discovered this to be the case, I will apologize and try to make corrections. The problem is that very often I am apologizing for things that are not even my doing or responsibility, but I do this in order to appease, in order to keep the peace.  And I realized today that there has only been one time in my entire life where someone has EVER apologized to ME for their bad behavior TOWARD ME.  EVER.  And that was my father, and that was about 15 years ago.  Never before and never since have I heard the words, "I'm sorry."

I say all this to say:   I have been in abusive relationships all my life, believe me, there have been plenty of times where an apology was minimum of what should have happened and...NOTHING.  And the reason this is so, is because I keep getting myself into the same TYPES of relationships over and over again.  I choose people who will take out their frustrations on me, who will transfer to me their anxiety and fear and anger from the past, who will use me as the scapegoat and try to rewrite their past through me - by exerting control over me in the relationship, by mistreating me, by humiliating me, whether it be physically, sexually or emotionally, we are never living in the present, but always in the past.  And because they are not seeing ME, but seeing someone from their past who they feel DESERVES this kind of treatment, they feel a sense of entitlement to be abusive (often this is at the unconscious level) and they NEVER feel the need to apologize for their behavior, even if at some point they do realize they have done wrong. At this point, they usually end up ignoring it, or shrugging their shoulders, or making excuses.  And I just stick around and take the humiliation of it all, as if I deserve all of this.  And THIS is because I am still stuck in MY past, where this is what I was taught about myself.  It was my role.

In order for me to be able to choose healthy relationships, ones in which I am treated in the way I truly deserve to be treated, which is with RESPECT, I need to find it in my own soul, this truth needs to happen in my own soul, that I am a good person, that I am kind and have a heart that loves, and wants to give and receive love, and that at the very least, I deserve respect.  And I need to somehow gain some SELF-RESPECT - because no one is going to respect me if I don’t have self-respect and therefore EXPECT to be respected in the relationship.
People will give you what they think you want or think that you will tolerate, they will test the waters and know.  Or I should say that as an adult who really does have power over your own life, abusers are more than willing to use you as a scapegoat if you feel that is your role in your life and theirs and find ways to convey that to them.  And self-respect goes a long way in making the right choices so that you don’t have those types of people in your life to begin with.

Now, how to get that deep down inside my soul where I need it?  I’m working on this.  I’ll let you know.

My soul, where are you? Do you hear me? I speak. I call you–are you there? I have returned. I am here again. I have shaken the dust of all the lands from my feet, and I have come to you again. ~ Carl Jung


  1. Love this post! I kept working at it. I kept looking at what happened to me and "THE DAMAGE" it caused in order to realize how my self esteem got so damaged that I was attracting more abuse. The day came when my self esteem grew strong enough that I didn't attract abuse anymore. I have enough self respect and self value today that I don't care what anyone thinks about me either. I am not always liked but I know that it is because people are threatened by the fact that I don't care what they think of me and that my high self esteem reflects on their low self esteem. Crazy backwards world we live in !!
    Hugs, Darlene

  2. Darlene, I have been getting so frustrated with myself and I am glad you mention the fact that you had to keep working at it. It is a PROCESS, not a one time 'light bulb' experience and I have to remind myself of this. The good news is I am more ahead in the process today than I was yesterday, and so on and so forth, so I can rejoice in my victories each step of the way.

    Thank you for your encouragement, as always, it means a great deal to me!
    Hugs, Carla :)

  3. Carla, your post is both timely for me and also it brought me back to a point which I should know and I keep forgetting - that self respect and gentleness with my self are tied together. When I'm letting people treat me poorly I'm also treating myself badly - by allowing it and by falling prey to the negative self talk that just perpetuates it. No one said sorry to me either,and I so wanted to hear it that I found myself saying it over and over even when it wasn't warranted in situations where it wasn't needed. Thank you for your post and your blog and for writing and sharing! Bless you!

  4. Wow, Mystic Mom! Something I have been really missing in all of this, gentleness with myself. Thank you for that piece of gold! I sure needed it, I have been so down on myself for my 'failure', because I am still stuck up in my head in all of this. And to get this down into my soul, where I NEED it, will require gentleness with myself; Love and Truth together - this is always the pathway to healing. Gosh, thank you for commenting, you have given me a real moment of enlightenment! Blessings to you as well!

  5. Carla, thank you for your heartfelt comment back. Today I needed that :-) Being gentle with my self is one of the hardest things to do, I was conditioned to accept and dish out more harshness than anything else. When I discovered that Jesus reminds us to love each other as our selves and we want to be gentle and loving to those around us it just followed that we needed to do that for ourselves as well. Be gentle with your self Carla, and give yourself the love you deserve. Hugs you and prayers for you. Bright blessings...

  6. Carla, I truly believe that people treat us the way that we feel we deserve to be treated. Right now in my life, I am where Darlene is in that I am not liked by some people because I have enough self-respect to not follow them mindlessly and do what I am told.

    One particular man comes to mind. He used to be a friend to my husband and me both. Now he isn't because we both refuse to put up with his verbal abuse and controlling behaviors and he doesn't like it. He is used to others giving into him when he tells them to do something. I would watch him trying to control me and others. He doesn't like it that I am strong enough in my own self-respect that I do what I want rather than go in the direction that he wants me too. I wasn't always this way.

    When I met my husband at age 20, I was extremely shy and hardly talked to anyone because I was afraid of people. I was attracted to my husband because he made me laugh. He seemed to enjoy it so much when I laughed. I had never had any reason to laugh as a child. My husband helped me to come out of my shyness with his confidence in me.

    Only through the grace of God did I not wind up in any abusive relationships before I met my husband. I can look back and see the possibly abusive relationships that I could have gotten into and didn't. I didn't have the knowledge to not get drawn into them. For some reason, they didn't latch onto me. They could have and I probably would have fallen for them because I was so desperate for love and attention of any kind. As I have grown over the years, so has my husband and our relationship. I thank God for that.

    It is a process as you said. You are worth taking the time to learn how to respect and love yourself.

  7. Patricia, you were indeed very fortunate to have found a non abusive relationship at a young age! And up to this point, I would never have understood how I was the one attracting the abuse because it was how I felt inside, I felt deep down that I deserved it. Because after each relationship I would go into such depression not being able to understand why the pattern kept happening in my life, I didn't realize that, no I wasn't wearing that proverbial sign on my back that said 'Abuse ME!!!', but I was attracting it into my life in other ways.

    It's taken me a long time to understand the 'why' of it all.