Closure from our painful past is something that cannot be willed. However much you wish, you simply cannot just shut the door and stop the putrid stench wafting into your present existence – you just cannot. Like evil spirits, those hurtful energetic attachment bonds keep you yoked in misery to your abusive family.
It has been over 25 years since I left my abusive home in the hope of being free from the pain. However, it is only recently that I am able to view them without feeling emotionally overwhelmed, angry, rageful, sad, depressed. For years I was very resentful at being abused, used, and treated like I was not good enough. I felt robbed of my dreams and life.
More than anything I felt angry at myself for putting up with it for so long and turning the other cheek.
Having to consistently suppress the feelings of injustice and pain kept my HPA axis activated – continuously dripping stress hormones into my body. Chronic stress causes the muscles in the body to be in a more or less constant state of hypervigilance. No surprise I developed scoliosis. No doubt, trying to stay true to my faulty Christian indoctrination is the reason for my mental and physical health issues.
I Clung on Like a Drowning Person
After my mother died, I expected my father to up his parenting game. But no, I was supposed to put on my big-girl shoes and be responsible. Which would have been fine if it meant just me. But no, it meant taking care of my home -from cooking to listening to my drunken father’s diatribe and threats. Hoping for some respite I’d flee to my maternal grandmother’s home.
Up until my mother was alive she was the perfect, generous grandmother. Always giving us the goodies she had made. Post my mother’s death, I got to see the real grandmother – and it was not good.
One day I was so hungry and went to her home, with the expectation of getting something to eat. She said there was nothing. I was baffled. How could it be when her favorite daughter (my aunt) was supposed to return from work. It was the moment of a rude awakening. My perfect grandmother did not care about me. The hatred I felt emanating when I innocently kept insisting she must have something.
That was the first of the many betrayals I experienced at her hands. Of, course when she wanted me to take on babysitting for my cousins, she was saddled with she was all milk and honey. This covert manipulation of hot and cold behavior tactics really messed with my head. At least, with my father, you knew what you were dealing with.
Inconsistent Caregiving and Trauma Bonding
This inconsistent behavioral pattern really messed up my internal compass. How do you as a child and later on as an adult judge who is good or bad? Intermittent reinforcement plays a big role in traumatic bonding. A trauma bond is a very strong attachment to an abuser that develops not in spite of, but because of the abuse.
I lived in hope that one day they would change and totally. accept me. Finally, I gave up and ended being so emotionally vulnerable and falling for a wolf in sheep’s clothing. – he was married.
Thankfully, the good Lord decided to give him his ticket to the other world. It saved my life, though financially, it was a struggle raising a child all alone. And so, I felt angrier and filled with resentment when my family left me to fend for myself.
Interpersonal Neurobiology and Energetic Cords
Familial relationships play a critical role in the development of our sense of self. Who we interact with most becomes part of our psyche, encoded in our DNA. Interpersonal neurobiology is real – our brains interconnect with other brains through limbic resonance.
Moreover, as kids, we are dependent for our survival on the adults in our life. Abuse, neglect, abandonment, rejection shape how we perceive ourselves. When we receive negative mirroring we end up internalizing the energy of our abusers. These self-hating critical thoughts and voices in our heads continue to torment us even as adults.
Thus, severing the energetic ties is not so easy, especially with family. Those bonds have become encoded in our minds and body on a cellular level.
Feeling Unsafe And Trauma Bonding
It is natural to expect our families will have our back, at all times. But in dysfunctional families that is not true. You have to deal with so many betrayals.
Feeling unsafe and unsupported is the underlying reason for all childhood trauma. And the more we feel frightened and unsure the more we cling on for dear life. It is our survival mechanism that kicks in.
Unfortunately, this gets programmed in our brain – that we need these people to survive – the Stockholm syndrome. This keeps us energetically attached and loyal to our abusive caregivers.
Even though we may have moved away, we still hold on to the hope that ‘one day we will be loved.’
Or we may want to return the hurt and the pain. We want them to pay for what they did. Any emotion we feel towards someone whether good or bad keeps us energetically connected.
However, expecting people to change can be as futile as trying to find a needle in a haystack. You will spend your entire life hoping and waiting.
Giving Up The Fantasy and Acceptance
The first stage in our healing journey is taking responsibility to change – particularly how you think. You have to steely accept that even though they were family they never truly loved you. It is a bitter truth to swallow but one has to in order to work through the denial of what is the actual reality,
Nonetheless, it means removing those rose-colored glasses and acknowledging the violations you suffered. It means giving up the hope that your family will be what you expect them to be – caring, compassionate, and dependable.
It is a fantasy one has to give up and analyze the actual situation with honest scrutiny.
That in this world evil exists in varying degrees and not everyone has your well-being at heart. Even if they are family, friends, or anyone close – one needs to watch out and not tolerate abuse.
Maybe my lack of boundaries and dependence encouraged people to take me for granted. But then how was I supposed to know, I was just an innocent 11-year-old. Learning about boundaries has been really huge in my healing journey.
Feeling, Grieving, and Releasing the Pain
The major part of healing is feeling those emotions that we suppressed to avoid being rejected or attacked.
It took me nearly 4 years to work through. I used sound therapy, writing this blog, venting to my son, EFT-tapping. Some days were so terrible. I felt my life was controlled by some horrible demons. There seems to be no end to the pain. Those angry intrusive thoughts just keeping playing on without pause.
Overwriting The Past With Repetitive Restorative Experiences
I have been fortunate to finally have a safe space to just be and shed those layers of trauma and pain. Also, having an enlightened witness who listens without judgment and expectation has been crucial to rewiring my nervous system. When someone mirrors love and caring our limbic system calms down. We overwrite the past with repetitive, restorative experiences.
No matter how much self-care you may indulge in, you do need someone to re-ignite those mirror neurons in positive ways. Only then can we change our old paradigm of bad, not good enough to I am lovable.
It is crucial at this time when our brain is healing we stay away from negative, abusive, and judgemental people. If anyone or anything is triggering your abandonment, shame, or guilt issues cut them off. Don’t tolerate anyone invalidating and disrespecting your needs and feelings. It does not help you or them, in the long run, to swallow it and keep the peace. Tolerating bad behavior is the breeding ground for devastating violations.
Practicing Radical Self-Forgiveness
Those of us who have come from abusive homes invariably get sucked into toxic relationship dynamics. I don’t think I would have got involved with a married guy in normal circumstances. But I was desperate to be accepted and love. I believed that because of my curved spine I was too ugly.
So when I was given the attention I craved I put aside my morals and succumbed. Even though I felt ashamed I deluded myself it was okay. Most of us have skeletons we would rather forget ever happened, However, this can derail our healing process.
One of the biggest issues is forgiving yourself, even if you aren’t the real guilty party. Sometimes we take on guilt for things we haven’t done but feel we could have prevented, which is impossible. We can’t turn back time, so we need to learn to forgive ourselves – we simply did not know then what we know now.
Let it go.
Don’t hold yourself hostage for the mistakes of the past. Releasing the guilt, shame and blame frees your life force energy.
Closure – The Relief You Feel
Closure does not happen overnight. It takes time, concerted effort, and restorative social experiences. Gradually, those hurtful memories become less painful. The memories may never go away, but remembering them no longer causes deep, searing pain. In fact, I can look at the past with a sense of detachment.
Shit happened and I am glad I could wash myself clean.
I have given up the fantastical belief that things could have been different. We can never go back to those times believing that they should have behaved better, it is over and done – that is what closure is all about.
One of the best feelings is losing your attachment to people who are no good for you
And, it’s such a relief to know I no longer belong there. That part of my life is over. That door is closed, I was meant for better things.
Indeed, our brain is amazing – it has a remarkable ability to rewire and change.
Image Source: Pexels
The Developing Mind, Second Edition: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are – Dr. Dan Siegel
I really want to take on a lot of your insight but I keep feeling off about whether or not your son is being parentified too.. you mention things like venting to your son, how your son is supporting you through your trauma etc. I only bring this up as a child of abuse too and having suffered severe parentification. I actually found your site through googling parentification as I’m trying to find a way out of my crippling mental health. It did lead me to read many of your articles that in parts gave me hope like also identifying a lot with the double bind article which I really identified with but yeah… I’m just concerned whether I can trust the information if you are actually subsuming the role that you were victim of and unknowingly perpetuating it.
Thanks, Zena for sharing, So sorry about your parentification, it really sucks. I believe in being honest when sharing my story. One of the most damaging aspects of parentification is when our contribution and effort are not unacknowledged and validated. I have been in the carer’s role since age 9 when my mother was terminally ill with cancer but at that time my mother always thanked and praised me and it felt good. But after she died my extended family just expected me to work/ babysit without acknowledging my contribution. and that is what hurt and was traumatizing. By the way, my son is an adult and, not acknowledging his contribution to my healing would be dishonest and hurtful to him. I don’t claim to be perfect, I am a work in progress but thanks for bringing this aspect to my notice. I hope I have not inadvertently used my son. Do check out this site for recovery from childhood trauma, particularly this article on parentification https://childhoodtraumarecovery.com/all-articles/parentification-a-closer-look-at-the-harmful-effects/ . Hope you heal and get well soon. Take care