When we can’t let ourselves be real in relationships as adults, can’t let ourselves express our emotions and feelings, the chances are that the problem is entitlement and self-esteem, and has its roots in our childhood. A lot of people think that what happened in childhood only matters if you were overtly and really badly abused.
But it’s not true. Everything that happened in childhood has gone into making us who we are now. Childhood was where we learned what we were allowed to do. If our parents couldn’t handle our energy, or our needs, they might have given us the message “don’t be who you are, be who we want you to be. Don’t express your emotions. Don’t even feel, because it gets on our nerves.”
The messages can have been very covertly conveyed – by parents withdrawing, getting silently annoyed, withholding strokes. That has a huge impact on children, and they carry that impact into adulthood. Suddenly one day they realize “I don’t know how to express my emotions and feelings – I don’t even know what they are! And I don’t know how to be real.”
I was discounted all my life – which, let’s face it, is emotional abuse – and it’s been really hard to even imagine going on a rant or expressing my emotions at all, because I didn’t have any entitlement to speak out. I didn’t even have entitlement to know my feelings, so I was completely numb and I thought I didn’t have any. How wrong can you be.
I wasn’t beaten or even shouted at. My family was very civilized on the surface. But my parents both just withdrew if I displeased them. Which meant having needs and expressing them. They didn’t want to know about it. I can still remember how terrifying their disapproval was when I was about four. Imagine what it must have been like for me as a baby. I was never allowed to cry.
That makes some children reactive, but I wasn’t like that. I just adapted and kind of disappeared within myself. I got the message long before I learned how to speak. They boasted about what a good child I was. I wasn’t good, I was just shut down.
The punishment was severe enough for me to have learned the lesson really young – keep your mouth shut, don’t be a nuisance, your needs aren’t important. It can be hard to undo that and get in touch with anger as an adult. It was for me, anyway. It had been normal for me for so long to be insignificant, I didn’t even know there was any other way of being. Scary.
A lot of people think that you’re only disentitled from childhood if you were violently abused, but that isn’t true either. Sometimes it’s not even really about abuse as we understand it, it’s just about parents not realizing what their child needs. The child grows up thinking it doesn’t deserve, because children never blame their parents, they blame themselves. I did. I was severely hobbled by that.
And it isn’t just about what happened in the family. It’s about society’s message also. How many of us have been conditioned to believe that women have to behave themselves? Women aren’t supposed to swear, or yell, or say nasty things. We’re not supposed to have tantrums. How many times has a man said to you, “don’t be so emotional”? How many times did a parent, an older sibling, a teacher, say it to you when you were a child?
“Don’t be so emotional.” Why not? Why shouldn’t we object when we’re discounted? Why shouldn’t we get outraged when we’re dismissed? Why shouldn’t we feel enraged when we’re abused? Why should we be reasonable about that?
To buy my ebook And What About Me? Am I Into Him? on how to get real love and respect and be real in relationships, Click the title.