When we attach to someone, their point of view becomes a part of us. We move through our worlds with their point of view in mind. My “I” is a composite of the views of my attachment figures of me, friends views, siblings, peers, and me. “I” am not strictly “I.”
If someone abuses you, they either see you as a threat or an object to be used. I keep coming back to this. My view of myself during moments of abuse have another mind attached to it. Human beings construct reality as a joint project. We aren’t just passive recorders of reality, but we are actively working to create meaning from it. It’s not as simple as someone put shitty feelings inside, but I am always imagining how others see me. I see myself, in part, as I imagine others see me.
When I was most hurt, my parents’ behaviour expressed to me that I did not have value to them. This may or may not be what really happened for them: they might have been having psychotic breaks and not even realized I was there. But this is what I thought they thought of me.
And it’s sad. It makes me really sad.
I think that might be the core of this whole thing.
I’ll say a little bit more about that.
The self must be continuous. You can’t just discard parts of your experience. So I have this image of myself that’s historical, but which has unconsciously informed my present as well, of being without value, being disposal, being shameful because my reality was something which couldn’t be talked about, of being selfish and evil—a kind of bad seed. And these have been lenses through which I have often understood other people’s views of me or their behaviour towards me. I have at times worked very hard to purge myself of this, and to see this image of myself as a part of the problem—the damage, as it were—and something which needed to be gotten rid of.
But now I am starting to understand that I am continuous. I can’t just get rid of this. It’s me. It’s a part of my experience, but what is going to help is to feel the feelings about it and to contextualize it within the experiences in which I felt that.
How do I say this? When my parents abused me, I felt very sad. If I have all the pieces of that: my mother saw me as a threat, for example, and she attacked me, and I felt very sad and very scared when that happened. If I can do that, then the feeling of being worthless or bad isn’t disjunctive with being an adult who can have value for other people, and I can have a coherent self-image without avoiding trauma-based feelings that come up.
One problem I have is that I spent a lot of time when I was younger with “recovery” kinds of things which colluded with my assumption that I needed to cut off that part of myself and disown my felt memories of sadness during abusive experiences. The thing is you do need some other part of you that you do have a positive feeling about; this is the importance of “resourcing,” and that might mean for a while walling off certain positive experiences from negative experiences of yourself. However, that habit of walling off negative feelings can, in the long run, make things worse. You end up in a war with yourself over something it is too late to undo.
But you can contextualize it, as I just did. And that’s okay.