Hope is Denial

Hope_Image

As I was growing up in a home where I was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused, where the adults were addicted to substances such as alcohol or drugs, where chaos thrived, I lived in denial.  Even when I knew in my mind and in my heart that something was amiss, but wasn’t sure what;  that my life was unmanageable, but wasn’t sure why;  that one day I would be free but wasn’t sure when, I lived in denial.  Even when I had an unrelenting hope that one day, my life would be different, I wouldn’t ever again have to suffer these atrocities, and the hurt would suddenly disappear when I was gone, I lived in denial.

“Hope is the denial of reality.”

                      ~Margaret Weis

My denial was an unconscious process.   At first, I recognized inappropriate behavior and became stunned and shocked.  The discernment of the impact of what was really happening was gradually suppressed until my cognizance of it was adrift entirely.  It was as though my mind acquiesced and became desensitized by the constant chaos.  I procured a spirit to survive early on, but that, too, dissipated with the truth.

I was fortunate enough to survive into adulthood, but the toll of a hidden truth was costly.  I constantly sought approval and affection from anyone who was willing, no matter how insincere, to give it.  Somehow I either attracted and/or sought out people who were compulsive and/or abusive.  Despite the way (and because of the way) I was treated by them, I was often clingy and overbearing.  I consistently mistrusted my feelings and felt unworthy of feeling them when I did.   And then, I had difficulty identifying and expressing my feelings which perpetually left me feeling isolated in relationships.

I was a seriously flawed adult, and thought that others would easily see that.  I was in total fear of the most minute amount of criticism.   I sought perfectionism, yet was unable to truly recognize my accomplishments.  I felt responsible for others: their feelings, their wellbeing, their happiness, their comfort, their lives.  Yet, I neglected myself in all of these areas.  I overextended myself by allowing others to take advantage of my good nature.  When that happened, I often isolated myself from everyone, even those who truly cared for me and had my best interests at heart, because I felt such tremendous feelings of inadequacy.

What never occurred to me as a young adult was that I could escape the hands of my tormenters, but I was unable to escape both the effects of their blatant and subtle actions.  I lacked emotional maturity,  just another way that my abusers robbed me.  Therefore, my lack of emotional grounding disguised itself in excessive responsibility.  I was driven by a pseudo confidence which gave others the appearance of me being extremely mature and responsible.  All along, I heard the voices of my mother and her husband telling me I was a fraud.  I shared my inner feelings with no one.  Creating false perceptions for others so that others would view me as happy, secure, and stable was the only way I could feel acceptance.  I (foolishly) knew deep inside that if my secrets were revealed, my companions would shun me.

The coping mechanisms of not talking, not trusting, and not feeling worked well for me as a child.  As an adult, those tactics kept me in a revolving pattern of broken-hearted relationships by repeating the same mistakes without any consciousnesses and each time, anticipating a different result.  It’s as though I had an expectation of a merry-go-round ride that would take me on a different route the next revolution.  What I really needed to do was get off the merry-go-round and buy a ticket to a better ride.

The first step of breaking the effects of denial for me was to stop the insanity of hoping that I could rewrite my past.  I had to accept the reality of my past:  I was a little girl who was born to a mother who was unable to love me the way a mother is supposed to love her child.  Because of her inability to bond with me, she afflicted me with pain in unfathomable ways and allowed her husband, with her full knowledge, to do so as well.  I was a little girl who was often afraid, often alone, and often sad.  Because of the abuse and neglect I suffered, I was a little girl who could not trust anyone.  I was a little girl who was robbed of a life of love, nurturing, and joy.  That is the reality, and that is my past.  The reality of my past, however, doesn’t mean that I cannot amass a wealth of felicity that I so richly deserve as an adult. 

Grieving for myself as that little girl is painful and heart wrenching.  I cry for the little girl I was.  I cry for the little girl I wanted to be.  And equally, I cry for the little girl I should have been.  I am discovering deep-seated anger and fear, all these years later when I am far, far from the reach of my tormenters.  These feelings are part of the process of grief.  I am facing fear and pain even after I first decided to face the truth of my past twenty-five years ago.  At that time, I proclaimed when that I would no longer suffer at the hands of my abusers.  

So why do I still suffer?  At that time, I allowed fear and pain to stifle my growth and get in the way of me seeing the whole picture.  Now,  fear and pain are promoting it.   In this growth, I find solace in the knowledge what the effects of being raised by a narcissistic mother who is incapable of unconditional love do to a child.  Through reflection, I can find a deeper understanding.  I will allow knowledge to conquer fear and open the door for healing.

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Categories: Abuse, Child Abuse, Dysfunctional, Narcissistic, self-help

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

42 replies

  1. What bothers me, and quite frankly makes me furious, is how much of adult me is influenced by what happened to me as a kid. For the longest time, I couldn’t accept that at least part of who I am is as a result of abuse. But that little girl inside needs acceptance.

    • You are exactly right. For me, the acceptance I am looking for is what I can’t give myself and expect others to give me. When someone doesn’t accept me unconditionally, I become angry and questioning. Is it that I am expecting something from others that I am incapable (at that moment in time) of giving to myself? How can I expect others to be “better” at loving me than I am myself?

      There are times that I am eternally grateful for all the trials and tribulations I’ve been through. Experience shapes us as human beings- and makes us unique. I think that who we are is not a result of the abuse- that’s what the abusers want us to be. Part of who were are is in spite of the abuse- the survival part. We have to choose what parts of our past we want to embrace, and accept that the other things happened as a cause and the result is being able to chat like this about pain and secrets of the past without falling to pieces.

      You have a strong character. Accept that little girl!

      Lots of LOVE and HUGS!

      • It’s an impossible thing to reconcile. But no matter what, we have to forgive that little girl inside of us. We have to accept her because she did nothing wrong. She is a part of us as we are now her.

        The hard part for me is not living in what I call “survivor mode.” I’ve been running forever, never making plans for the future, just surviving from day to day and it makes the little girl in me scream with sadness. We are survivors, but we need to do more than just survive.

      • Me, too! In the past, I was compulsive in my decision making process. I went where the wind would take me. Now, I often find myself indecisive as to which direction to take.

  2. Your post made me cry, I felt so related to it. I too was afraid, alone and sad, and I too feel like my childhood was robbed from me. I am just beginning to learn how to take care of that girl and give her some of the things she missed, though I’m guessing I still have a lot of grieving to do. You’re taking suffering as yet another part of your healing process, I wish I can too. xx

  3. YOU ARE! In your very words, you are healing through the suffering and grief. The tears are for that little girl that was you- the little girl who was alone, the little girl who was afraid, the little girl who was so sullen and sad. She lives in you, but she is no longer you. You are a strong, smart, and beautiful woman! You have jumped hurdles that seemed impossible. You have made gains that no one thought you would, not even you, yet you did that because that little girl inside you pushed you to survive!

    (((Huge Hugs)))

    ~N

  4. like the others on here i can so relate. the pain of the grief we feel (as you know) is almost unbearable, but it is through feeling that pain and grieving, that we begin to heal.

    xo

  5. I was not abused, but my self-esteem was nearly destroyed by others and myself. Most of it was simply ignorance: we are not given a manual on how to raise children or on how to live healthy lives. Still, it is enough that I can deeply identify with all you said and how you felt.
    Thank God you are free of it and can begin to heal. I am doing so, too.
    Scott

  6. One of the biggest problems I find trying to use a coping strategy of sharing with others is that very few seem to understand what we have been through or our need to talk about it, as obsession or sour grapes. It seems we have to also seek validation of who we are, despite what we have had to survive, on our own. I have tried to tell my story to those who have no idea in any sense other than in the most widest sense of understanding of what people like you and I survive, and I feel like i’m shouting down a well. Even the realization of the fact that I, flesh and bones, sitting right next to them, went through severe abuse, doesn’t bring the reality home. I don’t understand that dissonance, or how to bridge it. I barely understand myself, the abuses I went through, and how I fit in the world around me. I long for a community of people who lack that dissonance, outside of professional therapy. We have the burden of that experience, the psychological and/or physical scars, and now the financial (therapy) and sociatial burdens (perceptions, need to change; i.e. new laws) as well. That’s a long way of me saying I understand how hard it is to try to connect with people who are so focused on themselves, and ignorant, sometimes willingly, of the world and the worst around them, those who must pay the price for it and what that really is., And if any advice/help comes, it’s of the cookie cutter kind, of no use for those of us who don’t have the usual problems or experiences., It makes me want to seek isolation myself, rather then the constant din of the echo’s of a lack of compassion and understanding banging in my head daily from the drones who walk around blindly and mindlessly focused on the mundane. and insignificant. Buy this. Dress this way, Put a smile on your face, and everything will be better. Etc..

    • So very well said. Dissonance is what has made me feel like an outsider my entire life. As a child, in my teens, and on into college, I was quite popular. I gained that popularity by hiding my true self. I lived in constant fear of exposure. The older I got, the less I cared about what being popular, and the more I cared about having real friends who liked me for me. But here I am writing under the cloak of anonymity- almost.

      I do have a group of friends that care about me dearly. I have found dissonance with this group. They are the only people I have told about my blog. They are my Al Anon family. My mother, as it turns out, has a problem with alcoholism. My husband took me to an Al Anon meeting before we were married, sort of as a “wanna grab some lunch with me after my meeting?” thing. I went along with him for the lunch! But as it turns out, it was a great decision. Al Anon is not for everyone. I’ve refrained about writing about the Al Anon program in my blog because it’s not about Al Anon as a program. It’s about how I work at getting serenity in my life.

      Not everyone in Al Anon has been abused. But everyone in Al Anon understands fear, hiding, having secrets, being different, trying to control a situation that’s uncontrollable, etc. There’s no judging, and there is complete anonymity from all the “normal” people out there who aren’t in Al Anon. That is what has helped me with the societal burdens.

      Now if I can just figure out how to get the psychological scars and financial burdens taken care of, I’ll be ready for the rest of the world! 😉

      Thanks for the comment!

  7. I understand fear. I wrote something about fear that I thought you might be interested in reading. We both had mothers who acted like wolves – not human.

    http://robinclaire.wordpress.com/2012/10/25/something-most-wont-understand/

    Robin

    • Hi Robin,

      I read this (and so many of your other posts.) It is amazing! Well written, and speaks to the heart of what I deal with in my mother.

      When I was in college, I decided to go to therapy- it was free through my university. Because I was so troubled by the abuse in my childhood, I had nightmares, suffered from depression, and fits of anger over the smallest of things. I only went for about three months.

      I went again two years ago for about five sessions, but did not feel it was helping me. I’ve been anxious about returning, but I want to have a good fit. I’ve heard that takes time…

      Thanks again for all your support!

      ~Noel

  8. Many people don’t realize how much their childhood environment affects their life as an adult. I know many people who try to hide their past and pretend it never happened. My husband and myself both grew up in dyfunctional families – his was worse than mine, but we both carried issues into our marriage, which affected our children and almost destroyed our marriage and my life.

    I lived most of my life with low esteem and depression due to a lack of emotional support growing up and I decided to try and change this. Through tons of research, doing an honest self-evaluation of my life, trying to bring as much positivity into my life and living my faith daily, I was able to work through my issues and make changes in my life. This led me to create my website http://www.imconfident.com and do workshops so I can help people become more confident in themselves and build esteem.

    One thing we don’t realize is that we are all special and we should take care of ourselves. It doesn’t matter how we were raised; our parents learned what they knew from their parents and the problems came from generations back, so we have to work hard to break the cycle of dysfunction. I know my parents loved me and they didn’t make mistakes because they wanted to hurt me – they didn’t know any better and they were raised badly also. If your parents or anyone says hurtful things to you, this doesn’t mean they are true – I was told I was stupid and bad and I believed this for many, many years. I told my kids the same things, but we are human and we all say dumb, hurtful things that we know are wrong.

    I’ve learned in the past few years that we have to face our past and work through these issues or they will continue to affect us. It isn’t easy but necessary if we ever want peace in our lives. I tell people who are struggling to find one person they trust completely and share their feelings, not necessarily all at once, but over a period of time – this could be a family member, friend, doctor, co-worker – or even just write in a journal or blog. Immerse yourself in positive surroundings with positive people who can help you through your issues. If it is too difficult, professional help should be sought.

    Today I know that I am much better parent than my parents were and I’m a good role model for my new grandson. This comes from constantly working at being positive – reading, researching, helping others through their issues, eliminating as much negativity from my life as possible and putting all my faith in God.

    Great that you have connected with some good friends – this is so important. Keeping moving forward and work your way through the pain. There is peace on the other side! Never give up and remember that you are valuable!

  9. Lovely post. I recognize so much that little girl. For me fantasy ruled my life, instead of true hope. When I was a child, the only thing that could save me, was if someone rescued me. I have recreated that scenario so many times in my life, only to end up with another dysfunctional person, who preyed on vulnerability. Now I try to be my own savior, thus also attracting people who want to help “save” me in a good way. As within,so without….

    Hugs to you!
    Kristina

    • Hi Kristina,

      Thank you! Your story sounds so much like mine. I did the very same thing… one relationship after another with men who took advantage of the fact that I was so insecure.

      In my younger years, I spent a great deal of my life daydreaming. In my daydreams, I had a different life- one that I created where the people in my daydream life were trusting and loving. Things were so lovely for me in my imagination. But when I was forced to live in my real life, I was often depressed because of the huge difference between reality and fantasy. It was an escape for me from a tormented life, and I think that it saved me in a sense. It also hindered me in a detrimental way. Each relationship I compared to my daydream fantasies. No one could ever live up to the perfection that I created in my head, including myself. It is very difficult to break away from the daydream life and accept that my real life will have pain and suffering. But it also has REAL LOVE, the kind that I have found now, with my husband. He is the only man I have ever shared any of these thoughts I write on my bog.

      Lots of hugs back,
      ~Noel

  10. Reblogged this on ilikebeingsickanddisabled and commented:
    A worthy site for women and men struggling with the adult effects of childhood abuse.

    • Hi Kathe,

      Thank you reblogging me, for your kind words and sharing the your site. I am going to check it out right now!

      Pray tell, what doe L.M.F.T. stand for?

      Kind Regards,
      ~N

      • Hi Noel 🙂

        I noticed you asked what L.M.F.T. stands for. It’s Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

        Denial that my life wasn’t as bad as it was was the only thing that got me through my childhood, that and dissociating. Before my mom died I still had deluded hopes for us having a great relationship by some miracle! She had early on-set Alzheimer’s and Narcissistic Personality Disorder but I still had that hope! So deluded but it was not something I was ready to give up until she died 4 years ago and I was forced out of my delusion. It was like having my crutch torn away from me! How could I live without the hope of a better relationship? This despite the fact I knew it was logically impossible.

        I see the hope I had as negative with respect to my hope of having a wonderful relationship with my mother by some miracle or other. But hope doesn’t necessarily have to be denial. One can hope for it to be sunny tomorrow for example. Or hope that your test mark comes back good. But I understand in the context you are speaking in hope equals denial. Just had to say hope isn’t all bad!

      • Lots of food for thought… I also hoped for a different sort of “normal” relationship with my mother. But in the end, I realized I would never get it. So, I gave up hope in that area.

        But this doesn’t mean I haven’t gotten the nurturing that I needed elsewhere. I have a wonderful fellowship of friends who are my “family.” (I have a loving and caring husband, too.) In this fellowship group, we all come together with the same goal: to share our experience, strength and hope (yes, I agree that hope isn’t all bad!) in order to solve our common problems. It is amazing how supportive this group is, how much I have learned from the people in it, and how much I have taught others by sharing my insights, too. So, even though my mother is living, and I still have contact with her, I have learned that my expectations had to be lowered. Isn’t that a coping mechanism called aim inhibition? Not all coping mechanisms are bad! lol

        Thanks for the comments and sharing your insights. It is very welcome and very informative.
        ~N

  11. “This time, fear and pain are not stifling my growth. Fear and pain are promoting it. In this growth, I find solace.” Your words are so challenging and encouraging. My abuse was not in childhood, but I still have the fear and pain, and I am squirming and trying to crawl out from under my pain with an arsenal of self-help approaches…I don’t yet understand how fear and pain promote growth which brings solace…but if that solace is the carrot out in front of me, it is worth anything. I’m listening and learning. Thank you (and to your commenters) for what you share. Diane

  12. Hi Diane,

    To clarify, if I ignore the fear and pain with my outdated coping mechanisms (running from fear and pain, hiding from fear and pain, ignoring fear and pain with excessive daydreaming, pretending that fear and pain don’t exist) then I won’t ever face my past and the long-lasting effects of what someone else did to me. For a long time, I did not want to be a “victim.” I still don’t. But, I was at one point, helpless and under someone else’s control. I was in a constant state of fear, and the pain was overwhelming. When I escaped the clutches of my tormenters, I pushed the memories aside and continued using the tools in my coping mechanism tool box in other situations and with other relationships.

    Now, I am facing the fear and pain and gaining a deeper insight of how, out of fear and pain, I used coping mechanisms that hindered my growth as a human being. Because I faced the fear and pain, I learned to recognize those coping mechanism and shed them (well, not completely because I am still learning!) The solace is found in the events when I feel myself reaching for a tool that I don’t need, but catching myself in time and then, instead of using that tool, I turn it over to my Higher Power. Let go and let God. There is my solace.

    You’ve just helped me write two paragraphs of my next post!!!!

    Do you find yourself using coping mechanisms that you developed when you were in your abusive relationship with Peter?

    Thanks so much for your feedback!
    ~Noel

    • Hi, Noel: Regarding coping mechanisms…I’m not sure. I might not know them by correct terms. I have always become wary and analytical to address challenges, but it isn’t always serving me well, as I can be very indecisive. I don’t know if this is from abuse of just my personality. I do watch others to see what is “healthy” (really to check out THIER heathier coping tools), collect information to excess maybe (though I don’t rely on others’ judgments too much). I procrastinate and divert to less stressful (and less productive) activities, possibly displace anger (usually to myself), probably still bury anger, some daydreaming, FLIGHT – moving on because I feel I have no power in a situation (could be good or bad…don’t know – right now it involves whether to continue my marriage to my very dear, calm husband…because he is immovable and I feel like I’m giving up valuable things in me and in my life to be an add-in to his life). I AGONIZE about the effects of my choices on others, and the unknown future effects to me. I don’t have a clear picture of a higher power I trust to turn it over to. I have had neither an overwhelming EXPERIENCE of God’s love, nor constructed/found something I can all out believe. Ok…a couple more….hypervigilance and mistrust!!! 🙂 Thanks for asking…you made me think about a couple things that might be helpful!! I’m hooking up with some counseling today, so that will be good. I look forward to operating with more clarity, and experiencing that solace!! As always, I so appreciate your honesty and insight. Hope this wasn’t TMI! Diane

  13. This is a great blog and I am so glad you are writing your story. What you said really resonated with me. I am always telling women I work with (as a therapist), “I didn’t get it until I was 40!” I didn’t understand how I could remain so emotionally immature for that many years…but I have gained some insight and realized that I was going the best with the knowledge and insight I had at each juncture of my life. I will keep checking back here. Thank you!

    • Thank you for the positive feedback. I have contemplated therapy lately. When I was in college (about 20 years ago) I saw a therapist just after I left home and returned for Christmas. When I saw the chaos after having that break away, I guess I had a different vantage point from it. I had about 12 sessions, but those sessions gave me the courage to walk away from my mother for nearly three years with no contact from her. Those years were difficult and glorious at the same time!

      I sought a therapist again after the stillbirth of my daughter (which I have already drafting a partial post about that moment,) but when she told me that it had been six weeks since her death and it was time to get over it, I looked at her in shock, stood up, and walked out. I should have sought a different therapist, and sometimes I let hind sight slap me around for not doing so! Lately, I’ve been contemplating finding a good one. I think it will really help me now that I’ve gotten some tremendous insight on how things worked against me in my childhood, and how I worked against myself in my early adulthood! Emotional immaturity was my middle name!

      Thanks again!
      ~N

      • Hi again! This is kind of funny to admit, but when I was in my early twenties I was seriously mentally ill, and went to some terrible therapists. I got worse instead of better! So I thought, “there’s no good therapists out there…I better become one some day!” Now I know that I didn’t look that hard for one…in my naivety I thought all therapists operated on the same premise…dig…dig…dig into the past. Well, now that I am one, I am privy to the reputations of the therapists around me and I see it’s still the same…there are some terrible therapists who just do the status quo. Then there are some really good therapists who are always striving to learn and to do their best work for their clients each and every day. I hope I am one of those. I have a professional website, and it might help you to look at it in order to get an idea of what you may be looking for. It’s at http://www.lindahoenigsberg.com. I use a pseudonym for my writing. I’m very happy to “meet” you!

      • Thank you! I will certainly look at your website. Obviously I use a pseudonym, too. It’s much easier to be honest when I don’t have to worry about someone in my professional life taking something I have written out of context. I chose my career for the very reason you chose yours. I was an abused and neglected child. At least one of my teachers should have seen the signs, but no one ever approached me about any of the things they saw to ask me. There were times that I would have told, but I felt like it must something that no one, not even my teachers, is supposed to talk about. I also had the impression somehow that the teachers were afraid of my mother, too. She was so frightening at times, how could they not be afraid like me? The thoughts of a child are so simplistic, it’s amazing that most people cannot figure them out. My ability to reconnect with my childhood thoughts has made me the educator that I am today.

        Thanks again for the link, and I am honored to meet you, too!

        ~N

  14. On your blog I often wish the system would allow me to press the ‘Like’ button as many times I would like to.

    You can reach the deepest chambers of one’s soul by your authenticity and by the dramatic and poetic power of your writing, while you can refresh the mind with this clarity and coherence in expressing your thoughts.

    I always need to collect a lot of courage to deal with some episodes of my similar memories, then wehenever I read another part of your life-story and of your reflections it feels like an almost-religious experience of “being saved”: being saved from the inability to dig for these unspeakable thoughts and emotions and bring them up to the surface; being saved from the confusion, from our distorted self-perception, from the loneliness we used to be locked into through these never-to-be-shared experiences, from the desperation triggered by the ultimate betrayal of being hurt by the very someone who was meant to be the ultimate shelter to protect us from the abuses from out there, free from all the misplaced guilt and other burdens we carried on behalf of our abusers …

    And every time I encounter someone with such a pure, rational mind and heart of gold like you are, I rejoice, and all the hurt of the past seems to dissolve into the neverwas.

    • Hi, Noel,

      I am glad you reblogged this post – after rereading it, the part captured my interest in which you called your earlier self “flawed” with reference to the list of features that followed.

      These can make life difficult for someone, indeed, but that doesn’t imply flaws per se – on the contrary: if we approach the question in an objective sense there is much more value to such attitude, than to its opposite: the narcissist one, the emotionally grounded, who is indeed free from these “flaws”. He is fearless, he is a socialite and he is sure of himself regardless of what he achieves or not.

      It is also true that we can’t change our past. To undo its effects is equally impossible, I think. We are the way we are (or the way we have become) and I think (as I mentioned before) for most of us it belongs to the wishful thinking category to believe that we can change or eliminate the effects of our upbringing. But these effects don’t make us more flawed than those who had better upbringing.

      Also, there is another factor here that we can’t tell either: the nature part aside from nurture. Much of what we are is genetically or “from above” given, regardless of the socially determined effects shaping someone.

      As always I can only come back to this conclusion: the only true measure as to being flawed or not flawed is just being an immoral or moral being. And a characteristic like – for example – making the others’ well-being our own concern is an objective moral value, rather than a flaw.

      I am wondering what your thoughts are on this …

      PS: I sent you an email some time ago

  15. When action is impossible in the present moment, and the present moment is very hard, then hope is necessary to keep alive from moment to moment. This reminds me of ‘the gods must be crazy 1″ where Xi goes to jail, and since he does not know hope slowly dies, until they get him out.
    In all other case, hope is expecting a better future however stifling us to act in the present.

  16. Just wanted to send you a note with my hopes that everything is well with you. : )

    • Thank you! I have been very busy searching for a new job in another city. My husband is being transferred, so we are preparing to move. I have been neglectful of my blog-followers! But things will settle soon, and I will be more prolific in my writing.

  17. Sweet you,

    I’ve an award for you, for the person who you are and the things you share with the world
    http://summer4soul.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/peace-is-a-free-choice-so-is-this-award/

    Thank you for that..

    Namasté, Summer

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