Evelyn Ryan, Yourlifelifter
“We all have inalienable rights to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Absolutely we do. However, if we are prevented from pursuing them because we have damaged the only vessel that we have to travel in that journey, we are sabotaging not only our own health and happiness but also our children’s by teaching them the same maladaptive unhealthy thinking patterns and beliefs. And, frankly, we and our children all deserve so much better.”
The article, “The Damaging Effects of Living An Inauthentic Life and How to Change It,” by Tracey Crossley provides probably the most important lesson to adult survivors of childhood abuse on the damaging effects of childhood abuse.
This is why.
Because abuse survivors were punished in youth whenever their authentic selves emerged to protect and care for themselves and they were rewarded for being who their abusers wanted them to be to serve none other than the abusers.
We learned, as a result, at that moment in time when we were defenseless dependent children and our brains were in critical stages of development, to become inauthentic versions of ourselves in order to cope and respond to pain. We disconnected rather than integrated with ourselves emotionally, did not learn self-care and self-compassion, and learned to maladapt and rely on others who cause the pain (we think we deserve) to soothe the pain. As we took in too much pain and trauma, our bodies defensively repressed it, temporarily stored it away in our memory banks until we were more mature and better equipped to handle it.
As is described so eloquently in Tracy Crossley’s article, as we go out into the world and live our lives and develop relationships, go to school, and pursue our passions, we make decisions based on false perceptions and beliefs about the world and ourselves along with our unhealed trauma wounds. In the process, we never learn what the real things are that nurture OUR souls and OUR self-worth and that make US happy and how to pursue them. We end up neglecting our own needs and become overly dependent on other people to tell us what we are doing is worthy and we use, by default, their happiness to bring us happiness rather than sourcing that from within our own selves.
Let’s explore this not so obvious point a bit more.
Living Lies Cannot Sustain Us
Living lies just like physically abusing or neglecting our bodies cannot sustain us because our bodies were not designed to work that way. We are fighting nature by fooling ourselves and what will nature do? It will rebel and when it does, the consequences can be severe and for some irreversible. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So when you do not supply the body what it needs to function properly, it will attempt to take from somewhere else.
So if you do not provide the body the proper nourishment it needs to survive and sustain itself or you take in too many toxic substances or stress your body above what it was designed to do, the body cannot develop normally and visually, you look bad and physically and emotionally, you feel bad. You become physically and emotionally unfit.
Now for a while, the liver or body systems that are being taxed will filter out the crap and your natural defenses will take over until..wham! You have overtaxed them and they no longer are able to filter out the garbage faster than it is coming in or you have strained that vertebrae or ligament or muscle as far as it can be stretched. You experience emotional and physical pain. These are the cues that what you have been putting in the body is not sufficient to nourish and sustain it and you need to stop doing what you are doing and course correct.
So you could take an aspirin or an antacid or put on makeup or get false teeth or take high blood pressure medicine or cholesterol medicine that will mask the damage and temporarily relieve and sustain yourself, nevertheless until you provide your body the proper nutrition to care for it and ensure its works as it was designed, something will continue to give and you will continue to risk being at some level of pain and suffering.
How Overtaxing the Mind Starves Us of Emotional Nourishment
Equally, when you do not provide the mind what it needs to flourish or you overtax it and take in too much emotional toxicity or pain, the spirit will starve for nourishment and you will exceed the pain threshold your brain was designed to handle. Read more on nourishing our souls. The brain has remarkable plasticity but it is not good at spontaneous healing. The mind and spirit will become traumatized and malnourished and you will become emotionally fatigued, exhausted, stressed, or depressed. Sustained emotional stress also results in more physical damage to the body because the human body is comprised of integrated systems. Stress hormone levels rise for longer periods than the body is designed for leading to inflammation. The body responds with recognizing the inflammation as disease that the body’s immune system attacks. The neurological system is connected and interrelated to all the body’s systems, hence, healthy body, healthy mind and vice versa.
In essence, when you mess with nature, you mess with your own divine AUTHENTIC and integrated design. To be happy we have to learn and embrace a healthy life style that includes not only our emotional fitness but also our fitness related to our achievements and relationships and our physical health. Read more here.
Masking Pain Will Not Address It
And like an aspirin that provides temporary relief from physical pain, we can bandaid our emotional pain. Absolutely, we can. Doctors can label us with this condition or that and prescribe antidepressants or mood elevators or we can self-medicate with alcohol or illegal drugs or food or people and find many other creative ways to mask the pain and continue to be someone we are not and look to others, even abusers and manipulators, or things to define our worth and for instant relief and gratification. We can even deny it. The body when the trauma is too much for the mind to bear, even represses it. However, wounds that cannot be accessed cannot be healed. Some of us may even believe this works for us. That is until we get older and our liver or kidneys or heart or soul become stressed to capacity or until we face some major emotional catastrophe that tests our self-reliance, self-assurance, and coping skills. Then and for some, only then, do they experience the perfect storm and are faced with reality and like Dr. Phil says learn in the hardest and worst way that what they have done has not worked for them and has resulted in immeasurable and, for some, irreparable damage.
We all have inalienable rights to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Absolutely we do. However, if we are prevented from pursuing them because we have damaged the only vessel that we have to travel in that journey, we are sabotaging not only our own health and happiness but also our children’s by teaching them the same maladaptive unhealthy thinking patterns and beliefs. And, frankly, we and our children all deserve so much better.
How Abuse Makes Our Emotions Toxic
Let’s now look at abuse and how it impacts our abilities to regulate our emotions and engage in healthy relationships. Everyone who is abused is most likely not able to recognize the “good” in a healthy relationship because they never learned to relate good treatment to love and to defining their worthiness. The belief filters in abuse survivors become skewed. The magnitude of the damage depends on what “fears” are driving you as well. Read more in “Why Did I Get Involved with a Jerk and What Can I Do About It.”
Part of healing and building self-worth is learning what self-love is and what healthy loving relationships of reciprocity are. We are all born lovable however loving relationships are not an entitlement. They are worked for and earned based on honoring each other’s wants and needs in sickness and health and in good times and bad in a respectful manner beneficial to both parties. Emotionally intelligent and healthy individuals know this and live it. They are clear on their personal worth and lovability and the rules of healthy respectful human interactions.
When we are abused, our pain-based emotions become faulty and lose their intended design functions of being reliable protective safety measures and providing depth and color to our lives. They go haywire and rather than protect us, do us and our children more harm as we teach the same distorted thinking patterns to them as well. We and our children become vulnerable targets of energy and power vampires. Read more in How Emotions Go Haywire in Abuse Survivors.
Abuse victims can develop an exaggerated anger response due to suppressed emotions from routine invalidation and learned emotional helplessness. This can trigger a knee jerk aggressive anger response that can do us and others immense harm and cause us to sabotage our own recovery as we blame others for the discomfort we experience from our uncontrolled emotions. The response can be covertly or overtly aggressive rather than constructive. this does not mean we suppress our anger or our feelings. To the contrary, it means we can learn to recognize the emotional root causes that trigger the discomfort and the steps proactively and effectively communicate our discomfort, problem solve a solution to address it, and benefit from the experience rather than repetitively continue to harm ourselves and others and sabotage our recovery.
Don’t forget that in life, we move in the direction of, create in reality, and do what we believe to be true even if it is a lie and even if it does not serve us and harms us. That is what makes us get involved with abusers and not leave them on the spot. Our filters for screening out narcissistic jerks were damaged in childhood and most likely many other abusive power imbalanced relationships we have had in our lives.
The problem is that if we meet someone who is authentically a good person and who is NOT inflicting emotional pain on us and NOT pushing our fear and pain buttons, we are at risk of feeling unloved, unfulfilled and unworthy and then proceed to sabotage the “good” relationship to keep ourselves in our comfortable and familiar state of shame that, of course, while painful, we nevertheless “believe” we can handle better, say, than our fear of being betrayed and abandoned and do not believe we are worthy of anything better.
This is an excellent example of how abusive childhoods cause pain addictions and skewed beliefs in personal power that rule our lives that become “pain-seeking” and “pain-avoiding” rather than “joy-seeking” and “joy-filled” (e.g. joyful). While we do this unconsciously and not deliberately, these vulnerabilities make us susceptible to attacks from emotional predators and for a life of chronic unhappiness, unfulfilment, and emotional pain and fatigue.
“The problem is that if we meet someone who is authentically a good person and who is NOT inflicting emotional pain on us and NOT pushing our fear and pain buttons, we are at risk of feeling unloved, unfulfilled and unworthy and then proceed to sabotage the ‘good’ relationship to keep ourselves in our comfortable state of shame that, of course, while painful, we nevertheless ‘believe’ we can handle better than, say, our fear of being betrayed and abandoned and do not believe we are worthy of anything better.”
Let’s break this down a bit further as it applies to relationships. Do relationships with jerks bring you pain? Absolutely, however, it is pain that you associate with being lovable and a good person and believe you are powerless to and you do not believe you deserve better. You also in your childhood most likely developed codependency tendencies and learned to self-sacrifice for other people. Perhaps you are an empath with too much compassion and believe you must fix other’s problems before you take care of your own needs? Perhaps you never learned you are worthy of being happy and were rewarded only for taking care of other’s needs?
This maladaptive thinking is what keeps us vulnerable to abusers and how abuse makes our emotions become toxic to our own selves. We learn to maladapt and confuse self-worth with avoidance of pain rather than pursuing goals and relationships that bring us real joy. Our decisions become heavily based on our learned pain tolerances and perceived weaknesses rather than our personal value and power and worthiness of joy. We become attracted to power imbalanced relationships because we believe we should suffer to be lovable and can “handle” the shame and emotional pain from abuse better than our fear of abandonment from being alone. So a relationship with a “good” person would not be appealing to abuse survivors who would not relate being treating well to being lovable or worthy and would not be able to “see” the good in it and therefore, would perceive no value in it.
Here’s the good news!
We are only born with two fears: fear of falling and fear of loud noises. All others fears, pains, apprehensions, anxieties, phobia, bad habits? Well, those we learned. And just like we learned them, we can UNLEARN them.
I am committed here at Yourlifelifter and wrote Take Your Power Back to help you do exactly that and show you where to look to discover the real truth, facilitate your healing, and live as the joy-based authentic person you were put on this earth to be.