This has led to a paradigm shift: the thoughts I expressed in the last two posts (“Apparently normal” and “Unstuck) have completely rearranged my head for me.
The parts have been a work-around, so that I could go on not knowing about the effects of the abuse on myself while having some degree of internal communication. They could at least have some awareness of their own emotional realities and take some steps to meet them while allowing me to not know that these realities existed.
For a long time, I denied having parts, but at least they knew about themselves and some of them knew about each other. Then, I stopped denying the parts, but I could go on not taking in the full reality of the abuse and its effect on me by assigning those emotional realities to other parts. I knew the parts were me, but I didn’t have to fully engage with the fear of the consequences of not keeping the family secret: the family secret being that the children in the family were not being nurtured and protected but were instead being used to serve the desires of the adults. The family secret being that I was dramatically harmed by this arrangement.
I have been wondering about this for a while, because the emotions and needs the parts have been expressing recently have not always been very problematic more recently. Ruthie tells me she’d like a drink, or I dropped something. The emotion is not more dramatic than mild surprise.
I know the parts have remained because I can’t always manage the emotional intensity of what they hold, while at the same time I need to know what those emotions are and where they come from. Staying in parts keeps things to kind of a dull roar. I can learn about the emotions but go on thinking straight. But we’re talking about mild surprise. The surprise of a dropped pencil I can deal with. So I have been wondering about this.
Now, I understand it. It’s not about the dropped pencil. It’s about the internal world I needed to invent in order to maintain my parents’ lie that I wasn’t being harmed and I didn’t have enormous trauma-derived emotional needs that no one was meeting.
It’s about the reason there is a Ruthie, that I couldn’t know I had no parent at home to attach to, and the person I was attached to was a fellow trafficked child. If I were going to feel the separation anxiety involved in that reality, I had to feel it as if I were somebody else. Otherwise, the mask would slip. I wouldn’t be able to go on presenting “apparently normal” to the world. Every part has some fundamental emotional truth involved in their creation, but this happens to be Ruthie’s. She knows about separation anxiety. She knows I had no one at home to turn to. Keeping a separate Ruthie has allowed me to withdraw from full engagement with that reality.
I know I haven’t learned emotional regulation skills partly because no one showed me how, partly because the emotions I had were way out of the range of normal, but it’s also that the emotions are evidence that the trauma happened and my need to have adults help me heal weren’t being met. But I am not really phobic of emotions—It feels that way, but that’s not it. I’m afraid of what they reveal. They reveal I was harmed. They reveal the family secret. And I’m phobic of the consequences of revealing the family secret. I don’t want to go back in the box.
And suddenly—it seems sudden—there is an adult inside who is competent to manage that intense fear, who can manage life as a deeply traumatized person, not as someone presenting “apparently normal,” but as someone who actually knows how to cope with the damage I live with every day. I know I’m not going to go back into the box. Because this competent adult is not going to let that happen.
I’m not just saying that. It is not a lie I am trying to force myself to believe. I have learned how to cope, and my needs are getting met. Enough, anyway. Enough that I believe I am a competent adult who can keep me out of a box.
I have proven myself to myself.