I have a different underlying premise to my work than I think most other people do. Maybe anyone.

One of them is that I think your mind will make you happy. I believe it is wired to do this. I believe this because of Dan Gilbert’s research on happiness. This means I don’t believe we sabotage ourselves. I don’t believe we have poor self-images or low self-esteem or whatever, think we don’t deserve good things, and so don’t give them to ourselves. I don’t believe in that.

I believe, instead, we can’t regulate. The mind works properly only when we can regulate. Too hot—too emotional—and we are impulsive and act without taking all the facts into account. At other times, we shut down emotions and since emotions tell us things, we are again operating without all the facts. I think people with traumatic histories have these difficult later lives because we are basically never running on all four cylinders. We are either too hot or too cold. Too analytical or too overcome by emotions.

Certainly, there are particular moments when one of those emotions that is too strong is a sense of worthlessness or guilt. And at those times, we might punish ourselves and do things that hurt us. But that’s not what is going on all the time. We are just making poor decisions because we can’t think properly.

Essentially, I think if you can regulate, your mind will come around to its own happy ending. I don’t think you need to concern yourself with that. It will happen. What you need to concern yourself with is regulating, and then trying to decipher what you are thinking when you regulate. Not alter it. Not coming around to seeing things in any particular way. Just regulate and decipher.

The thing is this is scary. It’s scary to try to heal from a completely different premise, because what if I am wrong? It seems to me I am getting better, so then maybe I am right. But I am taking on all this responsibility this year. If I am wrong, if I am not getting better, then this is going to be too much. I won’t be able to handle it, and I will let people down. Namely C.

That is how I woke up this morning.

I woke up and quickly began feeling worthless. So I had this idea worthlessness is part of a train of thought I need to complete. Okay. Just try to regulate. Don’t argue with the worthlessness. Concentrate on regulating. I didn’t learn how to regulate as a child. That takes deliberate attention. But my brain knows how to think.

Then I had this sudden idea that I am not the worthlessness. I am the person who feels the worthlessness. I was the person who felt the worthlessness when I was being abused and sometimes feels it now.

Oh.

This is me. Not the feeling, but the person having the feeling.

Oh.

The reason this came to mind is that C is talking about me as “mom.” She wouldn’t be doing that if she didn’t want me to be mom. It’s not part of what she is required to do or expected to do. It isn’t manners. The only reason to call me mom is that she thinks of me as “mom.” She thinks of me as mom because she wants me to be mom. She was hoping for it. I bought a bucket and a mattress and some other stuff and the material transaction—plus maybe going before the admission committee on her behalf—made it seem she could depend on me as mom.

It’s a pretty high honor.

Your kids want you to be their mom if you are their mom, but they kind of don’t have a choice. C has a choice. She is just adopted, and not in any legal, permanent sense. How mom and daughter she wants to take it is up to her.

She’s choosing me. I chose her and she is choosing me.

I am worth something to her.

And this has been clashing against that feeling of worthlessness in my head for the last two days. It can’t be me she calls “amma.” I am worthless. If I am “amma” then all of the bad stuff didn’t happen and nothing makes sense about my life.

It’s a dilemma. But if I am the person who feels the worthlessness, then I can also be the person C values. I can be one and the same person. I can be someone who has different feelings at different times. I am allowed to remember the worthlessness I felt when my parents abused and neglected me, and I am also allowed to be awed with the privilege of being a child’s mom.

Oh. Yeah. It’s like that.

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