FEELING ON YOUR OWN FOR EVERYTHING IN THIS WORLD
SUNDAY JUNE 21, 2020
When I think about my childhood, I only have four memories; and for a long time this burdened me. It did so because, I wanted to understand the world; and those memories, to me were a key to the answers. However, as a persistent individual, by nature my search continued; and is still ongoing. I am not done yet, in this interesting search for the truth.
Every next step led me to new discoveries and revelations. Beside my therapeutic work, which is a great teacher too, I recently came across the work of a Canadian doctor (of Hungarian origin) who is very much engaged in sharing his practical experience about the consequences of trauma on early child’s brain development, and affects the environment has on the perception of the world. They say – there is no coincidence, when the student is ready the teacher appears.
I am sure there are many of us who question why we experience certain repetitive events or meet the same type of people. My AHA moment happened when I recognised and understood, my belief about the world, began to build when I was still a child. My question was: Why do I have this pervasive feeling, that there is nobody in this world I can rely on, ask for help and unload some of the burden on. The only people I ever received help or support from were strangers; people not related to me, at best my colleagues at work. Which happened again, not so long ago.
Why? According to plentiful research work, we now know that the vast majority of our believes are created up to the age of seven (sure some later during growing up), but these first years are crucial in that regard. It’s no secret, my family was never a functional unit, that would enable healthy development and support for a child. However I am very well aware, I would never be who I am without those experiences. So how did this belief, of being on my own for everything, develop? These are the memories it was based on:
My first memory goes back to when I was a few month old baby; when in the early morning my mother took me to the neighbours who took care of me when she was at work. Wrapped in a warm blanket she put me into the bed of my “adoptive” grandmother and grandfather. I felt so safe and warm. Then she left.
My second memory is much more unpleasant. I was three years old and I was taken to the hospital. As they told me later I was a rather sickly child, with regular sore throats and fever. After a couple of days, I remember feeling much better, very excited to go home. I saw my parents standing on the other side of the door; assuring me (with a smile), that all they need to do is get my little dress and then they can take me home. In the next moment, they turned their backs and left me in an empty, lonely room. I was crying inconsolably, alone and lost in a big hospital bed with metal fence.
When I was five years old; I remember being with my father under the hayrack. I had a neckless with a golden medallion and two photos in it, his and my mothers; when he saw it, he opened it, he told me to throw away my mother's photo and keep only his; have something to remember him by, as he will not be with us for much longer. As a confused child, I could not understand what he was saying. But I also felt ashamed, because I actually listened, and took the photo of my mother out of my necklace.
My final memory is something I am rather proud to share with my audience, specifically at my workshops. It is a memory of the first time, I stood up for myself. I rebelled against HIM, my father. I was only five and a half and I needed to practise reading. It was one of those books that contained a combination of words and pictures. I followed the words with my finger, reading out loud; knowing the text is difficult yet with a lack of coordination - the words and the finger were quite inconsistent. Yet every time I made a mistake, he hit me with a leather belt. It didn’t really hurt that much, because of the back rest on the chair, but it was unpleasant and unjust. So I stood up in the moment when he wanted to hit me again, I grabbed a bread knife and swung it in his direction, saying: “If you hit me one more time, I will…” Next we both jumped up, I ran through the door outside and under the hayrack, when everything goes blank. Most likely, I blocked the beating that followed, unavoidably.
Running through all these memories and events, as with self-hypnosis, I can only make one logical conclusion; that quite obviously to me, as a child the world appeared as a huge, lonely place, in which my parents were either unavailable or was I punished for no just reason. They left me confused and alone. The only people I felt at least some safety and acceptance with were my neighbours - strangers, at least at first. Later on they were always my refuge, a shoulder to cry on and a family I never had. So how can a child, dependent on their parents for care, not not feel alone and abandoned, in such circumstance. Starting to believe the world is a lonely, unsafe place, where one can only survive by relying on themselves.
We know that early in our lives, we create our beliefs and later those create our reality. Life serves us what we believe and that is exactly what manifested in my life. Through all the distress, the only help or support I could count on, was from people I didn’t really know. But mostly, I was my own – the only person I could always and depend on - was me. Indeed, it is very liberating to know, that you do not depend on anyone, that you don’t owe anything, to anyone. It gives you freedom. However, it can also be so damn tiring and hard. And when asking for help is not an option because, any way there is nobody to help, refusing the rare moments when help is offered, is an automatic response. Then the circle is closed. Your belief creates behaviour and life confirms it at each step.
But now, I finally understand; I have became aware of my behaviour. Ensuring next time, when I want to refuse the help that is offered, or simply start to think that I am on my own, I can mindfully recognise the though and make a note, to avoid it.
When I think about the events that led me to this belief, I can start to slowly accept the fact, that the way my parents raised me, was the best that they could do. As individuals, they are not at the level on which they could even try to understand that there was another way. How else could I interpret, why my father (a former athlete and boxer) would after all the cruel treatments and beatings he received, do the same to a little girl, his daughter. Listening and reading about all the consequences trauma has on the brain development, many things became clearer. Everybody lives and functions up to his own capacities and his is very little.
In my view, the most important thing in this life journey is to understand what happened to us, the consequences it had on our understanding of the world and ourselves and accept it was not our fault. It was unjust and it should not have happened. However, it must be said: it didn’t happen because we were bad. It happened because our caregiver didn’t know or try to be better. With such understanding the heavy load on our shoulders becomes lighter, we might even find solace and get read of self-criticism and we get power and control back into our hands. Dr. Gabor Maté says, his eulogy will read: ”It was more work than anticipated.” But it’s worth it – for ourselves, for our children and our grandchildren.