So I’m thinking about all of this—the overwhelm, the shame, the feeling of failure—and trying to get it a little sorted out before I have to head off to school and another day at work where I need to be “on” for most of the day. And it crosses my mind that as a child I had my own goals for myself.
My goals were to grow up: to learn to share and wait my turn, to understand the perspectives of other people, to manage my frustration and control my temper, and to be able to accept not having things my way all the time, to be able to be kind and to help others and not have my own needs consume my whole being.
When I think about the parts, those have been their goals. They come out and those are the things they most want to do. They want to be “good” and that is what good means to them. It means being balanced enough that they can play nicely with others.
They come out with those goals because those have always been their goals. Not really always, but since the time they can remember. Those are their goals because those were my goals.
But, of course, I had this trauma burden. I had all of these intense emotions throughout the day as different overwhelming memories were triggered by ordinary events and I couldn’t manage them. They overwhelmed my ability to think and seduced me into acting impulsively and unwisely. The only way to grow up was to shut down those feelings. The feelings had to be shut down during the abuse because the abuse demanded I act contrary to how I felt, but they also had to be shut down the rest of the time, because if I didn’t shut them down, I acted out, and I didn’t like that very much. Acting out makes you feel very much out of control of yourself and is just generally not very nice.
So I shut the feelings down. I grew up, but then I couldn’t have my feelings. I lost my authenticity in the process. Naturally, I feel like a failure. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. It was too hard. I wanted my authenticity and I wanted maturity and pro-social behaviour and I couldn’t do both.
I still can’t do it a lot of the time. I have this enormous burden of trauma to carry and it makes being the kind of person I want to be very, very difficult. It is difficult in every way. Of course it is. People aren’t designed to cope with all of that.