Friday, January 13, 2012

Denial

"Denial" is the fourth of my five therapy boxes and the funny thing about denial is that at first you don't even realize that you are doing it.  I found this definition of denial as it relates to psychology: 

An unconscious defense mechanism characterized by refusal to acknowledge
painful realities, thoughts, or feelings.
It wasn't until my second visit with my therapist when I was telling her about growing up and she said something about that being a lot to deal with as a child and that that wasn't normal before I took a second look at what I had accepted as a normal childhood.  There were a lot of things that were normal, but then there were the things that weren't and were never talk about.  As I began to re-evaluate some of my childhood experiences and look at them through new eyes, it made me very sad.  I looked at how my daughter's life at 13 was and how mine at 13 was and I was very sad for the 13 year old me.  I cried for her and her challenges.

I had had a vision of my life that was very "rosy" and I couldn't seem to see what some of my other siblings were talking about.  I had a very good life and I didn't see how they could have made some of the choices they had because I kept thinking we had the same up bringing.  Then when I realized I was very co-dependent, I understood their choices, we all picked different ways of coping and my "drugs of choice" so to speak were co-dependency and denial.

I didn't allow myself to see that there was something wrong with our messy home, other than I preferred clean rooms.  I didn't allow myself to see that my mom wasn't taking care of the house or my siblings at the time, I just did as much of it for her as I could.  I didn't allow myself to see that my family wasn't fine.  I didn't allow myself to see that my family wasn't as active in church as I thought we were.  I didn't allow myself to believe that we were neglected in many ways.  I didn't allow myself to see that my mom always being sick in bed or on her bed with her head in a book weren't good things.  I didn't allow myself to see that her emotional explosions were frightening.  I didn't allow myself to see that my mom was relying on me to be what I called myself which was "Second Mom" and sometimes turning away and leaving me to it all.

The problem was that I then continued this pattern of denial into my adult life.  Once I was married and had children, the pattern of denial became the "normal" way I treated myself.  I denied myself the basics of even food and rest.  I would give my husband every opportunity to sleep while I would take care of the kids, even if I was exhausted.  I kept thinking if I let him sleep then he would be happier with being with me and the kids.  I gave up my sleep because I thought for sure it would make everything better.  And the food situation, well, food just never really seemed that important to me.  It was more important to take care of the things around the house than for me to stop and eat something.  Another example is that I denied paying for myself to get a haircut.  I would cut my hair myself so I wouldn't spend any money on me, it was some how okay in my mind for my husband to pay for a hair cut, but not me. 

Worst of all, I denied myself love.  I had always felt like it was more important that everyone else felt love.  I didn't want my family to feel like they weren't loved, so it all went out to them.  When I was younger it was to my sisters and my parents, when I was older it was to my husband and children.  I didn't even realize that I needed to show love to myself.  I denied my own wants and desires for the same reasons.  It was more important that everyone else get what they wanted or needed, I was fine.  I was always fine. 

And last, but not least, I denied my emotions.  I would lock them up inside and I wouldn't even let myself feel them.  I had learned how to lock them up in my heart.  I wouldn't share them with myself and definitely not with others as I didn't want to burden anyone.

Embracing truth and letting go of denial wasn't exactly easy, but once you see the truth and you understand the truth, the only thing you can do is move forward.  I knew it was time to face truth and quit denying myself.  We did a lot of different things in therapy to begin to do this process.  One thing I did was reading my past journals.   As I read my journals with new, non-co-dependent and truthful eyes I was shocked at what I saw in the old me.  I saw how I let guys mistreat me and I was ashamed at how I just accepted it.  I saw many things that in my life I had accepted as normal but now realized I wasn't seeing the reality of things at the time.  It was very eye-opening and made me realize I needed to treat myself better.

Probably one of the best things I did was talking with my parents and sisters about growing up experiences.  We started talking about painful experiences that we had never talked about and other family members weren't even aware of.  We all started opening up to each other's pain and helping each other heal which was, and still is, a huge blessing for all of us.

I also opened myself up to see what was really inside me.  I found ways to begin feeling my emotions which often was a painful process.  I had to start by thinking about experiences and logically thinking how the average person would feel about that experience.  I would write them down, then in daily life I would find ways to move with that thought, like throwing rocks when I was working in the back yard and saying, "I should be mad about . . ." and eventually the emotion would come out with the thought.  Another way was doing Cranial Sacral Therapy which really helped me get in touch with emotions and pain I had locked in my body.  I have followed these processes with sadness, joy and anger and I think fear is probably the next thing to follow this process with.

You can't fix anything if you can't see the problem and denial is a huge problem, but it blinds you to the fact that there is a problem there.  I'll forever be grateful that the mask of denial was pulled off of me as now I see my life clearly and I've improved my life because of that.  I've been able to let go so much of the past, forgive and move on and in doing that I open myself up to more happiness than I thought possible.

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