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About having feelings invalidated
July 26, 2005
11:30 pm
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exoticflower
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I had a really great therapy session today. We where talking about how since the time I was very young, I was told that my feelings where wrong, that either I didn't feel that way or that I shouldn't feel that way. She said that as soon as I first walked into her office and she asked me where I would like to sit (I couldn't decide), she saw a girl who was just hanging there TERRIFIED, assuming that whatever I decided would be wrong, or that I wasn't qualified to make decisions at all.

And I started to cry, this is so true and I just minimalized it my whole teen and adult life "oh, I can never make up my mind" or "Oh, I don't know what I am in the mood for" or "oh, I'm easy to please", when what it really is would be me saying " I don't know how to decide or how to ask what I want or need. I'm scared to. I don't want to screw up or be made to feel like I have".

My whole life has been a series of mind games (many partners who have the same characteristics of my stepmother, always a matter of making me feel/look crazy, invalidating my feelings, making me look foolish to others, maybe really beleiving I AM lesser than them and they need to help me), and I have never really learned how to simply want and feel and for that to be allowed. Even when people sk me about my relationships and such, I say 'I don't want to complain' or 'I really do think that they're great, but...". I don't even allow myself an opinion without covering my bases, protecting myself, fearing retaliation for having a solid feeling.

The jist of it was the realization that these where just the only ways I could try to keep myself protected as a child, and they hinder me and cannot work in a functioning fashion in my adult life and world, or most adult lives and worlds. My partners have ALWAYS reflected dysfunction and mistreatment from my youth, otherwards the relationships couldn't have lasted, if that makes sense. The best part was, I came to a lot of it on my own. Logic and reason definately have to be aknowleged here. I allowed myself some validation by looking at this and aproaching it honestly...I always ask if I have been abused or if i imagine it that way, if they are right, if it's just insane of me to think such a good guy as x or x could have hurt me, or if my father may have done a lot wrong when I was young that I need to work through, or if I really was a good kid with lousy circumstances, not just 'oh, you know how stupid you can be when your young'. But, taking social opinions, others validation, what my exs said about it when I felt this way, as long as I was unable to think and decide and exist in an adult level, the person with me could not be doing that either. I don't have to give my ex or other people who have mistreated me in my life all of that credit and power to take away my feelings or change them, to tell me if I am right or wrong...how healthy could they be to stay for so long with someone who has LITERALLY the coping mechanisms of a child?

Which I guess may sound bad, but just realizing it rocked my world in a good way..I'm NOT crazy to think that it isn't all me, or to think that I'm not crazy for that matter.

I am allowed to feel abused if I am abused. I am allowed to hate the way I was treated. I am allowed to find fault with my mistreatments. I am allowed to have needs and wants and work to have them met. I am even allowed to make demands that you don't like as much as you are allowed not to meet them. And I am allowed to not be the bad guy, to love myself and know when I am wrong or right without your aproval. I am allowed to be angry and sad and confused, and to grow past it without first dismissing my feelings as wrong so that you can tell me I am well.

I don't know if this comes across clearly, it's just been running around in my mind and it feels so great. I really do feel very hopeful, I think just seeing and saying these things is letting that little girl free to feel too after she had to just turn off in some senses, if that makes sense.

Thanks for listening, sorry to ramble it out so.

July 26, 2005
11:38 pm
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exoticflower
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I should note here, I mean I can't make ANY decisions often...where to eat, what color shoe to buy, where to sit, if I want to go to a friends or have them meet me, etc. There isn't a decision I can make without first feeling panic, pressure, fear, even shame.

July 26, 2005
11:41 pm
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cpt1212
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What you have said here is my goal! I can logically say these things, but I don't feel like it is true and like you I am constantly "covering my bases" as you put it. I just want to say congratulations and thanks for letting me know it can be achieved--that bridge from knowing to feeling. Also, EF, I could be wrong but I seem to remember from an earlier post that you are around 25yrs old? And that in reading your posts over the past couple of weeks I am impressed with your wisedom at that age.

Just curious--how long have you been in therapy?

July 26, 2005
11:46 pm
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cpt1212
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I know exactly what you mean about decision making--it is nearly impossible for me to shop alone without someone there to "approve" of the dress or the shoes. I have found a, rather boring, way to deal with more mundane decisions like where to eat or what to order--I pretty much always get the same thing. It is almost a joke with people who know me. But I can be driven to paralysis by indecision. I work for a telecommunications company and we were supposed to demo a new ringback tone feature before it was released to customers --- that was months ago---and I still havent because I simply can't decide (and really what a trivial decision--but ofcourse I have to analyze it to death)

July 26, 2005
11:52 pm
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exoticflower
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I've been in therapy for a few months...no contact has helped, he was always telling me that I didn't need help with the things that related to him, that there was nothing wrong with him, so I always felt I was doing something somehow to make that the issue, that I was manipulting the situation. he said I wouldn't get better if I didn't understand that I was sick and needed serious help and he has always been wonderful. So, I was resisting working towards healing there becasue he told me that he didn't hurt me.

WOw. Reading that, I concidered this guy NOT to be controlling, manipulative, abusive...wow, I DO need lots of therapy, I AM pretty messed up not to have seen this aspretty obvious!:) How could I subject mysefl to this? I don't want to be that person...but don't tell him that, he seems pretty convinced it's all about him...AURGH!LOL!

July 26, 2005
11:55 pm
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exoticflower
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Can I tell you, btw, a funny carreer thing? I loved my job as a hostess when I was younger more than anything else becasue no one knew me and I was allowed to act like I trusted myself...literally ACT like I had faith in myself, even after doing the job amazingly and being promoted twice, I felt like these people really bought it..."I can't belive they think I'm doing things right", as though I where getting away with something, not just doing a great job! How horrible is that?

July 26, 2005
11:56 pm
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cpt1212
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Hey, at least you can laugh about it!

July 26, 2005
11:56 pm
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on my way
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ef,
sounds as if you made a lot of progress today!! Digging and identifying problems is the first step.

And, i grew up almost the same way..and used to have trouble being me and became enmeshed with my relationships. I was very insecure, and always thought others knew better than I did...simplyfrom my upbringing.

But there is a point where one stops allowing their past to control them control, and see it as a gift that makes us all unique, and that we do not have to remain in the muck, but can be freed from it and move forward, with freedom, optimism and great expectations for a happy life.

SO try to beleive in your self. Grieve your past, grab any positive you can about it, but it sounds as if you are "on your way".

Have you ever tried writing: let's see. this is how it goes:
Write out questions you would ask a child with your dominant hand, and answer them with the other. For example, What is your favorite color? What were you afraid of when you were a little girl...etc. It is AMAZING how it feels, it helps you to get in touch with that little girl that has been ignored, buried, etc.

Hang in there,....if I can make through that crap...anyone can!
hugs, omw

July 26, 2005
11:59 pm
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exoticflower
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OMW, what a neat idea, where did you hear about it?

July 26, 2005
11:59 pm
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cpt1212
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I know exactly what you mean! I wonder will I ever get over that? I feel like a complete fraud at my job, although I know that is not realistic--in the past year and a half I have received raises totaling 26% of my salary and had 3 promotions. I just started a new position yesterday and as I am being overwhelmed with new info I just have this nagging voice whispering--okay, this is how they found out you have been faking! BTW--do you feel like you are only "playing" a grown up?

July 27, 2005
12:07 am
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exoticflower
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You know, that is such a funny question to ask me...I used to ask boys I really liked if they ever felt like we where just playing at being grownups to make an impression on them (at 20, yeah, we really where!), and my ex said that no he never did, that he knew he was and that I was...DINGDING said my mind...YOU'RE going to help me feel good, you're going to make me real. And he must have known it too, from then on that was how it all was in a way...up to him to make it real or not. Just like with my other ex's, and all to try to undo my stepmother and the making anything possitive NOT real, still trying as an adult to acheive that childs aproval she was never allowed...and it takes two in a game like that...see? Again with the game! I know exactly what you mean there, and to me it really is all a game I was taught I had to play, AND that I wasn't allowed to win at for that matter. Maybe the point of such a game is to distract from a real and healthy world the abuser was hiding from themselves and needed you in so THEY could win?

Have you ever seen the movie Freeway, by the way? It's a great Steve Martin movie that makes reference to not feeling real or adult, and it's visually very pretty too.

July 27, 2005
12:19 am
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cpt1212
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No I haven't seen it, but I will look for it next time I am renting something. Speaking of Steve Martin, I didn't know he was also a serious auther until recently and I read one of his books--can't remember the name at the moment--and I really enjoyed it. The main character is a man who is OCD and agoraphobic and co-dep and he learns to break some of the habits that are holding him back, but it is written from such a unique perspective and is very funny at times. Wish I could remeber the name! Not very long, and definately worth the time.

July 27, 2005
12:21 am
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exoticflower
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Codependancy is actually a big one for him, he's a very smart, tallented, funny man...one of my favorites, actually!

July 27, 2005
12:24 am
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cpt1212
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He can always make me laugh and Bill Murray too. He doesn't even have to say anything, just his expressions are enough to crack me up. I mentioned it on another post, but I love the movie What About Bob. I hadn't seen it in years and it was on tv the other day and I laughed and laughed. It is especially funny to me know that I have entered therapy.

"I feel good. I feel great. I feel wonderful," Bob says with gritted teeth.

July 27, 2005
12:26 am
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on my way
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ef..in counseling...i grew up too fast and lost that little girl inside. it made me rigid, afraid to let go, and have fun..always afraid of what others thought...you know the rest...ugh!

the results are amazing. when i heard about it i thought yeah right! but i swear to you, it works...it is a right brain/left brain thing...and you reallyfeel like a child again.

let me know if you try it ok?

July 27, 2005
12:46 am
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exoticflower
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I will, absolutely! I want to do it at a time when I feel like I'm in a good calm place in my adult skin though, I really can't wait. Thanks so much for the suggestion, this is one of the cooler exercizes I have heard of. I did one once which is when you take an early memory, one that you identify with feeling your child retreat (you know those uncomfortable recolections, right?), and you step in in your mind as an adult and correct the situation for the child. You laugh at the person berating your childhood self and say 'see how funny and crazy they look?' or you tell the abuser what they are doing is wrong and that they are very bad to do it, letting the child you where feel stood up for and cared about by who you are now. Then you take the child from the situation and say 'you don't have to stay here, it's ok, I'll take care of this now', and you carry the child somewhere safe and pleasent (for me outside to a nice garden with some toys), and you kiss them or hug them and say that it's ok and they don't have to be scared again. Just remembering this one for me really sets off the watterworks, I feel like I want to sob right now and my mascara is shot. I t was so amazing to me, and as I went through it, I realized what about the situations hurt me, what about them had made me feel so trapped. WIth some sexual abuse, what really upset me and i never thought about as an adult or even as a child, was that no one fixed it even after it had happened and come out...my parents asked me and I panicked and said that it wasn't true and withdrew. Een knowing my stepbrother was troubled and I was too young to make something like that up, they chose to ask me in the hopes that i would deny it, easier to look away if I help them do it...and for years I thought about the abuse, but never realized until this exercize when I called them in after caring for and comforting my child and telling them "you should not let this happen, you ingnored it and it was wrong to do" that i realized what a huge part of my pain was that, not just the abuse but the ignoring of it, the decision to deny it and not protect me. And with my stepmothers verbal abuse and phsycological mistreatment, I told myself how silly that screaming woman looked and pointed out a mirror to her, this big woman bullying a little girl, told myself how the things that she was saying made no sense and why they where not true, that a little nice girl can't be the things she said, and that i know that she was a good girl and that it was lies and that it wasn't fair, and would always know that and for her not to worry. When that went on, when that was how my mind chose to deal with the memory, I realized that the comfort and release was not regarding the cruelty alone, it was also hugely rooted in soothing away so much shame and guilt I hadn't even let myself look at for ages. I swear, this one was just huge for me, it made a big difference in the way i look at my defenses and coping tools, and wow, I can't say enough about it.

WHEW. Mostly cause i wouldn't have room...SORRY!:) Really though, it's great.

July 27, 2005
8:15 am
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Oh EF
I am so happy for you…I experienced a similar “breakthrough” last year, and it changed everything for me. I was never accepted or validated as a child. Both of my parents are alcoholics and my father, I’m quite certain, is bipolar but untreated.

I can totally relate to your struggle with indecisiveness…I was the exact same way and couldn’t understand why other people knew exactly what they wanted but I couldn’t even decide what kind of spaghetti sauce to buy. And I would doubt my decisions afterwards (I shouldn’t have gotten the no-name kind- should have bought the Prego!! Haha)

I kept reading, over and over in my recovery books, that what I thought was enough. My opinions were enough. My feelings were valid. I didn’t need others to approve or agree, but it took months and months for me to actually start to understand this. The need for approval, and the fear of rejection, was deeply ingrained due to the environment in which I was raised.

I still have to work on this every single day, but what a freeing feeling…to realize that MY truth is enough. I, like you, had given so much of myself to my alcoholic husband, and because I was externally driven for approval and acceptance, I ended up leaving it to a very sick man to decide whether or not I was ok. And of course, I wasn’t ok to him. I couldn’t be because HE wasn’t ok with himself.

He has deep issues, much like my father. But my father’s behaviour wasn’t my fault…any more than my husband’s behaviour is my fault. As a child, I must have internalized it and believed it WAS my fault, that there was something wrong with me, and I always felt ashamed, afraid and unloved. I walked on eggshells as a child…never really knowing what I would get in trouble for. It was unpredictable, and my father’s anger was frightening. He wasn’t physical, but I lived waiting for it nonetheless. And then I married a man who brought out all those same feelings from childhood…I could never do enough...never please him…never be quite perfect enough to earn his approval. There was always something wrong with me, and I accepted that it must be me because that’s all I knew.

What a relief to find out that’s all wrong!!! Looking at my daughter, who is 4, I understand that my dad was struggling with his own demons, and he took a lot of it out on us children. But it wasn’t our fault, any more than it’s my daughter’s fault that I have bad days, or that I have struggled with my life during this divorce. She is as innocent as I was.

I know that I will struggle for the rest of my life with seeking the approval of others. I know I will need to always be conscious of this ingrained habit to make the feelings and opinions of others worth more than my own. That’s why I don’t believe I will ever be “recovered”. I have to work it, every day, but the benefits are immense, and slowly, my confidence and my self esteem have started to rise.

To know that my opinions and my feelings matter is awesome! To know that there isn’t something wrong with me, no reason for me to feel the deep shame that’s followed me through my life…that my dad was just a guy who had a messed up childhood and didn’t know any better….it lets me off the hook and allows me to learn how to love and care for myself in a way that I never have before! That is something I CAN control. I am very excited that you are there as well. Hooray for you!!

Peace
kc

July 27, 2005
9:26 am
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Exotic...

I haven't read all of the posts here, just the first post from you. I am sure there are some wonderful support comments posted here.

As you know, I have been reading the Verbally Abusive Relationship. Everything that you have stated is discussed at length in the book. According to the author, any statement made by someone beginning with "You", "You should", "You shouldn't" and "You need", "You think"...(do you get the picture?) can qualify as verbal abuse.

I found all of this very validating, as I have been a people pleaser and have taken what people said to heart all of my life. Often denying or mistrusting my own true feelings. This is a revelation. Another key to unlocking the healthier me. I think you and many others here are discovering the same thing.--2b

July 27, 2005
9:36 am
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2b
That sounds like an interesting book. The statement that talks about "you" statements being verbally abusive- I want to ask you somthing about this.

I used to say this to my husband all the time...You need to ..... You should.....

I know that a lot of other codependants do this as well...it's all over the threads...other people telling that special someone what they should be doing or not doing.

Do you think the book would categorize us (those who use or have used the "you should" statements) as being verbally abusive?

I would be interested to hear this. It's been so easy for me to point all of my husband's defects out because they were so obvious (haha) but to actually have to start owning my own is more challenging. My self esteem was too low before to be able to self reflect like this, but I'm much stronger now, and I WANT to be healthy.

Just curious to hear what you think based on what you've read.

kc

July 27, 2005
9:53 am
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Here's the website address. They even have message boards, similar to here. There is an interactive "test" you can take. According to the results of my test, I was mildly verbally abusive. Yeah, I know. Be careful what you ask, you might not like the answer you get! Ha ha.

But in all seriousness--I think when advice or counsel is UNsolicited is the key to verbal abuse. Much of the commentary and sharing on these boards sought out--like "Need your opinions", "need advice".

I asked my counselor last night about the anger element as my ex always used to say "I'm a lover, not a fighter". So he never raised his voice, or criticized angrily. That sort of abuse is very confusing because the abused feels that what the abuser is saying is being done lovingly. According to Patricia Evans (and my counselor) this still is abuse.

Key is, kc--we've all said things similar to what you have said to your ex. In close relationships, it seems like it gets to the heart of the matter more quickly, eh? But in reality, it's a way to control. And we code's are experts at that. Asking a person a question and giving them the opportunity to answer it themselves first seems to be the way around verbal abuse.

I hope this wasn't too confusing! I may have lost my train of thought somewhere in there!

July 27, 2005
9:55 am
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July 27, 2005
10:08 am
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ef, I haven't read the whole thread, but WOW! I am 35 years old, and I feel as though I am playing at being a grown up. Maybe this is part of the reason I don't wear make-up or heels, because I feel outlandish, as though the pretense would be obvious to everyone if I actually put on a costume.

I think that my emotional age is about 14, right now. I am barely going through adolescence, figuring out what I want to do with my life, actually making decisions, participating in my life. I am almost ashamed of the amount of time I spend daydreaming, almost as though I am unable to engage with reality.

We have come a long way, but there is still so much more out there!

July 27, 2005
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omw, I tried it and it just didn't work out for me. Maybe i just wasnt in the right frame of mind or something? I do want to ask my therapist about it next time though, it sounds so good.

JW, I go the other dirrection, I throw myself into convincing others that I am confident, that I am togeather, cool, adult, etc. People thought when I was a teen that I was in my mid twenties, and now mistake me for someone way cooler or who has experianced more than I feel like I really ahave, even as I know I actually have, with ticket stubs, a resume, the smarts, all of that stuff, to prove it. And yet, I can't seem to priove it TO ME. ...I just don't FEEL it. Sometimes I even feel like I'm just playing the role of a mother and I'm going to slip up...how could that happen? DO I really think one day I may get out of bed and decide NOT to love her, or NOT to take care of and provide for her? Can breastfeeding be a scam? NO, I'm really doing it. Labor, I know I was there, I have a few tummy lines to show she was in there, if she cries I go to her...the human mind can be so bizare! Even knowing these things, I feel like I am going to be 'caught'. I understand exactly what you are saying. WHen do we let the facts speak for themselves?

At any rate, thank god for therapy and this site!

July 28, 2005
3:59 pm
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ef, great that you are remembering an writing all of this stuff down..you go girl!!

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