Messages from the past are a bit of a mixed bag, aren’t they? Remember the movie ‘The Goonies’, where kids are finding an old treasure map in the attic and get quite excited about the possibility of helping their parents out financially, ending up – after overcoming dangerous booby traps – finding an old pirate ship full of jewels and gold? Happy ending, but a nail-biter in between. I suppose, one could say the message was a positive one, given that it evoked excitement and hope.
Other messages from the past are not so positive. Most people who read this blog have had a history of abuse and neglect. They struggle with old messages either given through hurtful words and actions or through neglect, the absence of caring and nurturing words and behaviours. In short these messages can be summed up as ‘you are not worthy of care, love, and protection. One can easily see that the later messages are negative ones given they can be emotionally crippling and causing symptoms (low/no self-confidence, lack of self-care, lack of emotion regulation skills) some people label as ‘mental illness’.
Most survivors, if I would be able to take them onto a journey into the past whereby we could visit a fellow survivor in her childhood and observe a situation when they are being hurt, would say without hesitation that the fellow survivor does not deserve to be hurt, it’s not her fault, there was nothing she did wrong. Indeed they would immediately see that the parent and/or abuser were accountable of their acts no matter what excuses they would utter.
How come that people carry these message for years and years in their hearts? Partially because there are strong painful emotions accompanying abuse and emotions act like glue, they make memories stick! Another reason is that abuse happens mostly in childhood when the kid’s cognitive development is mainly shaped by egocentrism causing her to believe that she ‘made’ it happen.
Looking back as adults, we can see easily the fault in such thinking. How then are we to understand survivors tendency to nurture these old negative messages from the past? Especially given that often the message sender was ‘out of his/her mind’? Given that what a person says or does has all to do with that person and with nobody else. Given that a statement such as “you are …. xyz” can’t possibly be true and accurate given that whatever a person perceives is filtered through his/her own history, filters, biases and subject to distortion, deletion, and generalisations.
I hope that survivors give some attention to the function of thought in human’s experience of creating reality and scrutinize their own thoughts about themselves. Thinking “I am not OK” or anything negative about themself can’t possibly be real because it does not take the whole person into consideration and completely ignores that thoughts are just thoughts. They are like a picture of a person but never the living person. A living person is more than a picture can ever convey.
I wonder what help my readers with putting their self-perceptions into perspective. If you want to know how understanding the processes of thought, mind, and consciousness can help you to have a better life, and if you want to know how to let go of a child’s perspective, follow this link and contact me.