Bruce's Blog

My Process of Healing

My process of healing (sorry, this is long):

These are the events and books, in the order I found them, which had the greatest impact on understanding who I was and teaching me how to heal:

I grew up as well as any kid could, was smart, and thought I had a pretty good life. I didn't seem lonely, though I was always alone.

I had a very poor interaction with a woman, and began to realize there was something seriously wrong with me. I had no idea what, but it was big enough and so painful that I said the most heartfelt and honest prayer of my life: "GOD, FIX ME!" That was five years ago.

No More Mr. Nice Guy by Robert A. Glover

This book validated the feeling I had that in some fundamental way I was "broken." No particular way to heal, though. Before this I thought I had a good upbringing and my problems were my fault, like the inability to talk to people, especially girls. I had elaborate daydreams/fantasies which I used a lot to aswage bad feelings. I also had long experience of finding distractions (hobbies, mostly, I could throw myself into). This book helped me understand the covert deals I'd make with people: if I do you a favor by going out of my way to help you without complaining, you'll see how I was helpful and return love to me. No one but me knew this was the deal I was making, and of course I was continually disappointed, so I'd fantasize more about being loved and go back to my hobbies.

My Dreams

I had two very revealing dreams. One taught me very early on that there was a major part of me that I didn't know about. I saw a big, sleek black cat, a disembodied old cat's head that was still alive, but could not talk, and a small dog waiting to have fun. They were all parts of me, though I was only aware of the old cat's head, the intellectual part of me which could not really communicate.

Another dream was very revealing. I saw myself as twin babies, both sleeping. One I could see, the other was wild and I didn't look at it. I witnessed the dream from my grown up point of view, in charge of the infants. Then a devil came in through the front door: short, black, wispy, dread, sucking the light out of it's vicinity. It started toward the babies, and to protect them I moved to the side, toward the couch, to attract it away from them. I sat, and pulled my knees up like I was giving birth (I'm a guy, so that was strange to me). The devil surrounded me and I was filled with despair. Then a being of light emerged from within the house, bright, good, loving, with an effortless light that immediately lightened and loved all around, dispelling the darkness. It went to the babies to protect them with love, as the devil settled around me, engulfing me, and I had no protection against it. It took me years to understand all the parts of it, as you'll see below.

Articles at https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/

These are great articles, most by philosopher Alain de Botton. It was here I read about the work of child psychologist Donald Winnicott, who identified the development in some children of a "false self," constructed by the child to respond to the emotionally distant adults around him, and the suppression of the true self. This idea resonated strongly with me, though I had no idea how to deal with my false self. I could then acknowledge my true self, but by false self was still in charge. I began to develop confidence in being true to myself, I was just very bad at it. The big black cat of my dream was my true self. The being of light was my true self, and my point of view was my false self, powerless to resist evil, powerless to protect, could not love, it could only follow orders and obey or disobey.

I got married to a fantastic woman. She has problems she's mostly dealt with, and her kids have problems, but we have a house with love in it, which makes the process of healing better.

Secret Attachments by Peter Michaelson

A minor book centering on the idea that the way we were raised sets the standard for how we recognize love, and that standard can change.

Running on Empty by Jonice Webb

This is the book that opened everything up to my understanding. It explained me. It explained that puzzling halo of symptoms of childhood emotional neglect that I could never put together myself. The advice the author gives didn't help me to the end of my healing, but it was a very good start for someone with loving people around. Everyone who is shy should read this. It's important, with the best set of explanations I've read so far.

The Emotionally Absent Mother by Jasmine Lee Cori

Another of the great CEN books. Essential reading. This book recommends journaling and using sentence roots to open your inner world to you. Very effective for me. The idea of the Good Mother is explained in this book. That was the figure of light in my dream. It was that part of me which knows and understands love. Love dispels the darkness, not through any effort it takes, but just because of the nature of love.

Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson

The third of the essential CEN books. The author makes two big points that really struck home to me: CEN victims entertain elaborate healing fantasies invented by us to give us hope of feeling loved, and that we all take on self-roles. these self roles are behavioral roles we invented as children to earn love. Mine was that I'd do things for those around me, and they would see and respond with love. It never happened, but these are the same covert deals that nice guys use. The really interesting thing is that once I knew what these fantasies were about, they had no more audience and dissipated as soon as they started. I am now far more in the moment now.

I'm not completely healed, but happiness has returned to my life. God is fixing me.

The Blessing of "Seeing" my True Self

I realize, reading the posts in the Childhood Emotional Neglect Survivors group on Facebook that I'm in an almost unique situation: I'm healing well and fast.

Maybe it's because I went through a sequence of realizations that worked really well for me:

I realized I suffered from "Nice Guy" syndrome.

I saw, in a dream, three parts of me: a grey cat's head (my false self, I realized later), a big black cat (my emotional self) and a small quiet dog who was patiently waiting to play (an aspect of my true self).

I realized I had a false self, when meant there was a true self buried down inside me somewhere.

I "saw" my false self in a moment of realization/revelation, sitting quietly in a chair beside my dresser.

I got married to an extraordinarily supportive and wise woman, which is the best part of this list.

I realized I was a highly sensitive person, and felt things more intensely than most.

I realized that my emotional self had been neglected as a child, and that's why I suppressed my false self.

I am healing fast. Lots of grief and mourning to go, sure, but lots of fun, too. But an important part in all this is how clear my True Self is to me, how vivid he is to me. That's important, I think. It's given me a very certain framework to describe what's been going on, with few self-doubts.

Say, Who's in Charge Here?

I've been chatting with my True Self. I know, it sounds crazy. My false self, my conscious self, has been in charge since I was five. Though I've known about my True Self, my authentic self, for two years, my false self remains in charge.

But we were chatting this morning and I realized something important: my false self ABSOLUTELY SUCKS at life. "Thinking" my emotions, thinking through a conversation, thinking through life, just doesn't work. We need emotions to guide us, and it's vital to feel them, recognize them, name them, and listen to what they are telling us. The false self can only think. And that's all a false self can do, existing exclusively in the conscious.

All this time I'd been expecting my True Self to somehow merge with my false self to make me whole. That's all wrong. The false self may have an advantage in the classroom, but nowhere else in life is that an advantage. Well, maybe as a spy, or as a narcissist.

No, what I want is to have my True Self come forward, be totally in charge, and to suppress my false self. A big change, but that's what my goal really is. I'm afraid to do it, because I'm am not sure what my life will look like when it happens, but I know and feel it's for the best.

Feeling Integrated

On Saturday, at EMDR therapy, I was dealing with my inner child. After that I didn't feel much, but in reading one of the Psychology Today blogs I wanted to establish a relationship with my inner child, because if anyone can care for him now it's me.

I started feeling something I've never felt before. I spent Saturday and most of today working on what the feeling was. It was complex, and was a combination of many emotions. Here are the ones I identified over the course of a half hour this afternoon:

Heavy, pleasant, sad, lonely, invalidated, forgotten, helpless, vulnerable, innocent, lovable, sensitive, caring. It's not complete, but you get the idea.

I think I am feeling the feelings of my inner child. It's the first time since I was a little kid. I'm not sure what to do with it yet. But for the first time since I became aware of him, I don't cry when I think of him. That's got to be a good thing.

My Path To Understanding

2014: Nice Guy (No More Mr. Nice Guy)

2016: False Self (Donald Winnicott, as described by Alain de Botton)*

2018: Secret Attachments (Peter Michaelson)

2018: Sensate Focus Technique

2018: Childhood Emotional Neglect (Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect, Jonice Webb)*

I'll add more later.

Asterisks* indicate important resources to me.

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