Bruce's Blog


Becky wanted to go to the rec center. Noah wanted to go with to do some weights, and Joey, to swim. I was invited, but had a headache and declined. And I was instantly filled with tremendous guilt for saying , "No." I mean, really heavy, damning guilt.

I got to thinking why I felt that, and realized it wasn't guilt I felt, it was shame. I had been trained to respond to shame. It was a tool my family, even the kids, used to get their way. When I wanted to do something different, I'd be shamed, sometimes very hard, until I buckled. Eventually I just started shaming myself for even wanting something different.

I didn't realize until tonight how strong that still was in me.

Inner Child

I've told you about my inner child, the five-year-old I saw once. He is my true self, the one I developed a false self to protect. I've integrated him, but I haven't been taking care of him as I should. And he needs a lot of care. He's been in there a long time. This is probably my main job for a while. (I'm the Good Soldier)

An Absence of Forgiveness

I have a few memories of my childhood. Not many. Most are when I was alone. None are of happy times. Some are traumatic incidents. Two stand out, when I was treated badly by my parents.

The thing is, there was no attempt after those incidents by my parents to apologize, or ask forgiveness. Forgiveness wasn't a thing in their house. We'd get spanked, and then be expected to just carry on as if nothing had happened. Sometimes we'd be humiliated by being asked to find a switch from the willow tree, which would never meet mom's requirements and we'd need to go out again to do better.

No attempt to tell us we were still loved afterwards. We were just left with the knowledge that we weren't good enough. I learned that I was unloved, and that once I'd failed, it was permanent. Quite a lesson. I learned it well.

When I think of a movie like Inside Out, these two memories form one of my islands.

And now I need to learn I can be forgiven, and that failure isn't permanent. These seem very dangerous lessons.

The Double Whammy

There is a thing which happens now, one of those damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situations. When there is an event or activity I want to attend, important enough to think that my best is expected, I get anxious. In the past I buried the anxiety, but now that I am letting myself feel everything the anxiety hits me pretty hard. I haven't managed to let it flow past after I recognize it. So I back away, at which point I feel guilt for wimping out. And I can't let the guilt just flow past either.

No wins in this situation. I still identify pretty strongly with the negative emotions, guilt, shame, anxiety, while if I'm concentrating I notice the positive emotions as they pass.

The Real Task of Integration

It seems the reason I formed a false self to please my folks is that I wasn't getting the necessary instruction on how to handle my emotions. Some emotions were too powerful to just ignore, though I probably tried. I formed a false self who didn't respond to emotions, counter-dependent is what they call it, where I became the opposite of dependent, which isn't independent. I would refuse help, and make it a point of pride never to need help.

I never learned to deal with emotions. When I start to feel a negative emotion, I could quickly push it down to where I didn't feel it. I'm very good at it. Thing is, ignored emotions never just to away. They linger, and some make me angry. But I have no one to be angry with, so I was angry with myself. Being counter-dependent, I was the only one around. [Again, if your kids are not angry at you, they are angry at themselves.]

My job now, in integrating, is to feel emotions. It's a tricky thing. I have a hard time feeling good emotions, just as I suppress the negative ones. So I spend time just trying to feel emotions, and learn that feeling them isn't a bad thing, the way it was when I was five. then some strong negative emotions seemed very dangerous (like concluding your mom wanted you dead). But now the emotions aren't bad at all. I just need to let myself feel them. Practice.


What I did feel growing up

I did feel some genuine feelings growing up. All are bad feelings, sadly. Loneliness, sadness, those I suppressed very well. But emotional pain, or pain that comes from a social situation going bad for me, that I felt acutely. I felt guilt, mostly over things I wasn't responsible for, and that was a real feeling. I felt responsibility for others feelings, but my own feelings seemed to just be in the way. And lots of guilt for wanting to feel good feelings. I had learned that feeling good was not for me, and I took that very seriously. Not yet sure why.

Most of the bad feelings would linger for the day, then disappear during the night, and I'd start fresh in the morning. Most days I felt nothing at the end, but maybe once a week I'd be miserable inside, happy outside, and go to bed hoping the pain would go away. I think most of the time it did, but a few times it lingered for weeks. I covered a lot of bad feelings by "thinking," ore pretending, that I felt good feelings.

But I didn't feel love, ever. That one to me was a total counterfeit. I thought it was a lie, a way to get your kids to obey. What love really meant to me was that my parents would give me the hope of affection if I did what they wanted, but that affection never materialized. If I didn't do what they wanted (chores, homework, whatever) then guilt was mine to enjoy, mostly for the shame I brought my parents by being disobedient.

I'd always be afraid of the Bishop's office. Talk about guilt for sins of omission. And the real guilt for having feelings and wanting them to go away.

Oh, I look back at my school photos, in kindergarten I looked happy. In first grade I looked worried.

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