By Tori S. July 20, 2017
For the longest time, I wasn’t sure why I did certain things. Even while writing this, I came to huge realizations about how much my feelings, beliefs and actions are tied to my past.
Here are the things I do because I experienced emotional abuse as a child:
1. I don’t guess.
If someone asks me a question and I am not 99 to 100 percent sure I know the answer, I won’t guess the answer. I will freeze and panic.
2. I am terrified of being wrong.
Being wrong feels like a character flaw, like something is seriously wrong with me. I feel humiliated, embarrassed and mortified even if it was just something minor. This makes participating in classes nearly impossible and laces so many of my conversations with anxiety and panic.
3. I feel toxic.
I constantly worry I am hurting people. I push people away just to protect them from my toxicity.
4. I am afraid to share my feelings.
This is for so many reasons… I’m scared I shouldn’t feel a certain way. I’m scared I will be ridiculed or criticized for feeling that way. I’m afraid of being told to “Just get over it” or “Grow up and move on.” I’m afraid of being vulnerable. I’m afraid of being shot down and rejected.
5. I am constantly aware of all of my feelings and reactions.
Part of this is a way I cope with my borderline personality disorder (BPD). But another part of it is that I worry my feelings are overreactions or not justified or are just not OK to have. My family often told me I was overreacting or that I couldn’t take a joke. So I began to worry and apply this to all relationships in my life. As a child, my feelings were neglected and shoved aside. They were made to feel “less than” and unimportant. They were made to seem like burdens. If I felt something different from what the rest of my family was feeling, I would be told I was wrong or needed to just move on and forgive like everybody else had.
6. I feel people out on certain subjects before straight away saying things.
If I am going to be vulnerable and tell someone something personal, I will sort of “test the waters,” if you will. I will try my best to make sure they won’t freak out at me. This also applies to if I’m going to ask someone to hang out. I try to get a sense of if they’re going to be free or say, “yes” before I ask because it is a sort of buffer on what would feel like rejection if they said no.
7. I’m terrified of abandonment, and I think everyone will abandon me.
This stems from the abandonment that actually did happen when I was a child, as well as all the threats of abandonment from my father. I still remember the time when he threatened to take the house away when he was drunk and the time he said he’d leave us because we were better off without him. There were so many more instances, but those two have really stuck with me.
8. I feel unworthy.
My parents never told me they were proud of me when I was younger. It felt like all my friends’ parents told them how proud they were for their good grades and whatnot… but my parents never did. It was merely expected of me. I was never as good as my brother. I never felt worthy of their love or praise, and I never really got their love or praise.
9. I’m afraid of calling it abuse.
All of my feelings were minimized. Even when my father was verbally abusing me, my mother told me I needed to just forgive him because she did and my brother did. They had moved on. I always felt like I was overreacting because I was always told to just calm down, to breathe, to “take a chill pill” — basically, anything to just shove my feelings and reactions away like they wanted me to.
So, for me to call it abuse was a huge step for me because I felt so minimized and was so scared someone would think I was just making a bigger deal out of what happened. Also, I had only heard of physical or sexual abuse being called abuse at that point. I hadn’t heard anybody speak about emotional abuse or verbal abuse or psychological abuse — all of which, once I learned of them, fit my childhood perfectly.
10. I perceive rejection even when I am being validated and accepted.
I am more open to being criticized and rejected because I was criticized and rejected for most of my childhood. I was never validated or accepted growing up, so to receive that now is both wonderful and entirely foreign to me. I also am very sensitive to everything a person says or does — so if they are validating me, but use a specific word or their tone changes even slightly or they glance to the left, I will feel like they are rejecting me or something of the like.
11. I’m sensitive to change.
I hate change. Even small things like someone I see often wearing a short sleeved shirt now that spring is here instead of the long-sleeved shirts they were wearing before. That triggers me to feel unsafe.
12. I feel emotionally unsafe a lot.
I am constantly terrified of being hurt. I always try to prepare myself for the worst… for everybody leaving me or hating me or needing space. I am hyper-aware of all of these things. I don’t feel safe emotionally with people or with myself.
13. I don’t feel like I belong anywhere.
I spent so many years at home and during family vacations thinking to myself, I just don’t belong. I don’t belong here. I don’t belong with my family. I don’t belong anywhere. I just don’t belong.
It’s hard to feel like I belong when I always felt like the outcast in my family. I was different. I was more emotionally sensitive. I felt things to an even higher intensity. I was more attuned to emotions (both my own and the emotions of others). I didn’t like the same things. I didn’t make the same crude jokes. I was always made to feel like the odd person out. Like the reject. The “screw up.” And being verbally abused made me feel like I didn’t belong as well.
14. I feel like something is seriously wrong with me.
Whenever I expressed a feeling or a thought that was different from the rest of my family’s, I was berated. I was called out on that. I was cursed at or laughed at or humiliated. I was told to change to be like the rest of them because they were the “normal” ones. And for me to feel and think all that I did and do seemed to make me defective, was really hard on me.
15. I have flashbacks.
When a situation in the present too closely resembles something that happened in my past, I will have flashbacks. When I smell something that reminds me of a place or a person, I’ll be transported back to that place. When an abandonment happens in the present that resembles the abandonments in my past, I’ll start spiraling backward. When someone is mean or yelling or cursing or too loud, I will flash back to instances when this happened. When I smell alcohol, I will flash back to instances when my father was drunk and verbally abusive. Sometimes, I won’t even know what triggered a flashback. And other times, I won’t know what memory I am flashing back to — sometimes, I flash back to feelings I know are associated with memories and places, but I can’t quite place the memory.
I am hypersensitive to triggers when I am going through intense emotional stress in my present. So, I will often have flashback after flashback and just get lost in memories of abuse.
16. I “buffer” things I say.
For instance, I may ask someone something, but then make sure to say, “But it’s totally OK if you don’t want to or you can’t or anything like that! No worries at all!” Even if it doesn’t feel OK and it does matter, I’ll still say that to protect myself.
17. I worry I’m being manipulative.
My mother, father and brother took it upon themselves to talk about how manipulative I am… how everything I did was merely my antics. My family basically told me I am a manipulative person who will do anything to get what she wants. So now, I am hyper-aware and think about everything I feel, think and do to make sure it isn’t me manipulating. And when I don’t trust myself, I’ll check in with a couple of people to see if they believe a certain action or thought is manipulative.
There are days when I fear everything I’m doing is manipulative. And, if I end up “getting what I want,” I will worry that it was only because I manipulated the other person into giving it to me — even if that isn’t the case. It’s exhausting, but I’m finally realizing why I worry about this so much.
18. I worry people actually hate me, even if they say they don’t.
My family had these “secret” email chats behind my back… they’d email all about the problems of Tori. The frustrations Tori caused. The issues Tori caused. Their reactions to me. Their judgments. Their criticisms.
Being a curious kid, I managed to stumble across some of those emails, and in them, I was called a “monster,” “manipulative,” “fat,” “self-centered” and “only thinking about herself.” They warned each other to not give in to or fall for my antics. Basically, nothing I was feeling or doing or saying was real or valid to them. I was only seeking attention in their eyes. This made me want to hide even more to avoid their family email conversations about me. They warned each other to not become like me. So, I worry people will talk about me behind my back, that they secretively hate me or are secretively judging me… and I am so insecure.
19. I don’t trust myself, my thoughts, my feelings or my memories.
My family often had different interpretations of events. They also perceived things differently than me. I was in my prime developmental age when my world fell apart. So I reacted very differently than the rest of my family. The verbal, emotional and psychological abuse were interwoven into my brain as I was developing. My family invalidated my feelings, my thoughts, my beliefs.
20. I need constant validation.
But I worry asking for this validation will push people away, so I only ask for it if I’ve gotten to know someone for many many years and even then, I am cautious.
21. I feel the need to justify my feelings with an explanation.
This probably comes from needing to defend myself against the onslaught of hurt that would come when I voiced a feeling that differed from the majority consensus of my family.
22. I apologize and feel guilty a lot.
I apologize even when I’ve done nothing wrong. I apologize for the actions of other people. I apologize when I feel like I’ve done something to hurt somebody else. I apologize, and I don’t always know why I am apologizing, but I know I truly do mean my apology. I actually feel incredibly sorry and remorseful and guilty.
I feel guilty even if I haven’t done anything. I even feel guilty if someone else I’ve never met hurt this other person I’ve never met — I still feel guilty. I was always blamed as a child. Things were always my fault. But I am also extremely empathetic and feel other people’s pain as though it is my own.
These are just some of the things I’ve realized I do because of my childhood emotional abuse. I find I blame myself less for doing these things because I now know they aren’t my fault — and they aren’t flaws. They are there for a reason, and if I am aware of that reason, then I can work on them. I am learning to be more aware of them and to have more control over them, but they will always be part of me and affect me because of the emotional abuse I experienced as a child.
If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
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by Tiffany Schupanitz, LMHC
Have you ever done something that causes guilt? What do you do about that feeling?
Guilt is a normal human emotion. It motivates us to apologize and change behavior for the future. But what happens when that guilt is misplaced or inappropriate for the situation. Often we can feel guilty for situations in which we have no control. This guilt can quickly turn to shame. Shame begins to shift the focus on the self, thus leading to feelings of self-loathing and helplessness.
When shame is present, thoughts shift to thinking of the self as inherently bad instead of thinking the behavior as bad. If we view the behavior as bad, then we can take responsibility and change the behavior. If we think of the self as bad, then we begin to blame others or hide our shameful parts. This impedes healing and growth.
Therapy can help do sift through feelings of shame versus guilt to gain a more healthy and appropriate perspective. It is possible to shift the thinking from “I am bad” to “I am good, regardless.” Through Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, you can work with a therapist to reprocess memories that feed in to feelings of shame to fully heal and connect to a more fitting and true message. Consider taking the first step towards healing today.
What Makes a Child Shy? What research tells us about the biology (and parenting) of shy kids. Vanessa LoBue, Ph.D
social anxiety when I’m around new people or when I’m in large professional settings, like academic conferences, where meeting new people is the whole point. My 3-year-old son could not be more different. He is outgoing, loves new people, and seems to make new friends every time we go to the park or even out to eat. The first thing he does when we sit down at a restaurant is scope out the people around us, saying hello and smiling his inviting smile at each one of them.
What makes a person shy or outgoing? Is shyness something that we’re born with, or is it something we develop based on our experiences with other people?
Source: Kristoffer Abildgaard/FlickrA long history of research suggests that temperament—or a person’s own style of emotional responding to the environment—can be first identified in infants as young as 4 months of age. It is measured by showing infants some simple toys, like a mobile with several hanging animals, and studying how they react. This simple test at 4 months has shown quite consistently that babies who become overwhelmed or emotionally distressed in response to a hanging mobile are the ones most likely to become shy as they get older (Kagan, 1997). These babies are particularly sensitive to any type of change in the environment and may get easily upset by even the most routine of activities, like a doorbell ringing or a diaper change. In contrast, babies that react positively to these changes, or don’t react at all, are the ones most likely to become very social as preschool-aged children.
Amazingly, this relationship goes beyond early childhood, and babies’ responses to the mobile at 4 months of age predict how shy or social they will be into adolescence (Kagan, Snidman, Kahn, Towsley, Steinberg, and Fox, 2007). Differences between shy and outgoing preschool children can even be seen in their biology and in the brain (Barker, Reeb-Sutherland, and Fox, 2014; Fox et al., 1995), suggesting that shyness has a strong biological basis and might be part of an individual’s personality from very early in life.
Does this mean that the environment plays no role in producing shyness? And is shyness anything to be concerned about in the first place?
Just because temperament has a biological basis doesn’t mean that it’s set in stone. A child’s temperament can change, and babies’ negative reactions to new people, objects, and situations can become less extreme over time. On top of that, there’s nothing wrong with being a little shy. Many children have a temperament described as “slow to warm up,” and just need some time to adjust to their surroundings before they are ready to jump in and join the fun (Thomas, Chess, and Birch, 1970). It is, however, worth noting that there is a subset of infants, about 10-15%, who are sensitive in the extreme. These are the ones most at risk for the development of shyness, and a portion of them (about 40%) might even go on to develop social anxiety later in life (Fox and Helfinstein, 2013).
So if you have an extremely sensitive child who doesn’t warm up to even familiar people and places after some time, there are interventions available to help prevent them from developing social anxiety problems. On top of that, a supportive parenting style can really help. For example, research has shown that a baby’s risk for becoming shy decreases significantly when they have mothers that are sensitive and respond appropriately to the child’s needs. So even for babies who get easily upset when presented with new or challenging situations, having a parent that is responsive to the baby’s needs can act as a buffer against the development of shyness or social anxiety (Panela, Henderson, Hane, Ghera, and Fox, 2012).
Similarly, parenting can play a role in how shy versus outgoing children develop a sense of morality or conscience during childhood. For example, children who are shy, or apt to feeling anxious are likely to become upset easily when they are reprimanded for breaking the rules. As a result, they really only need (and respond well to) gentle forms of discipline, since they are easily made to feel guilty for their transgressions. Children who are much more outgoing or fearless don’t always respond to gentle discipline and require a bit more attention when they break the rules since they don’t easily feel anxious on their own (Kochanska, 1997).
Altogether, this research suggests that the seeds that grow a shy or outgoing personality are planted early in life, and have a strong biological basis. But, anatomy isn’t destiny, and if you have a baby that is really sensitive to any type of change in the environment, equally sensitive parenting that allows the child to adjust to new things at their own pace might help them from developing later fear or anxiety in social situations. And although shyness does have a strong biological basis, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have two children who have exactly the same temperament. You might very well have a shy, anxious child, followed by a rambunctious, fearless one. If that’s the case, it’s important to remember that adjusting your parenting style to fit a child’s needs is important, and what works for one temperament might not work as well for the next.
September 18, 2019 • By Cedar Barstow, MEd, CHT
Just process your mistakes into learning: it sounds simple and obvious. Why would we not want to learn from our mistakes? But as easy as it is to say, resistance can come from some interesting places, and we may not always be aware of it.
For example, when feeling ashamed, you might become convinced there is something irreparably bad about you and lose your ability to connect with others. When that happens, it makes sense that you might try your best to keep a mistake secret and hidden.
When you want very much to be helpful and kind to others, you may make yourself less prone to noticing a mistake, a misunderstanding, or even unintentional harm. When you’re not feeling self-confident or empowered, you may react defensively to criticism or challenging feedback. Generally, when people feel like a mistake is a bad reflection on them, they won’t admit it.
Our very human feeling is that we don’t want to cause harm, and we are afraid of making mistakes. We imagine that we lose power, control, and respect if we do unintentionally cause harm.
Our very human feeling is that we don’t want to cause harm, and we are afraid of making mistakes. We imagine that we lose power, control, and respect if we do unintentionally cause harm.
LEARNING TO MAKE MISTAKES:
In my early thirties, I got a job as a carpenter. In the beginning, I was the “go-fer,” wearing new baby blue overalls and eating from a lunchbox from the television show The Waltons. Barney, the company owner, enjoyed teaching carpentry skills and hired minority workers. I was a minority individual as a woman in the 80s. I loved the job and stayed on, but I had to go through quite a learning process that was slowed down by my fear of making mistakes.
I would measure for lumber cuts four and five times before making the cut and would ask Barney for instructions several times. I would measure the distance between nails before hammering them in. You get the idea. I was slow.
One day, Barney said, “You know, the sign of a good carpenter is not one who never makes mistakes, but one who knows how to fix them.” It took months to learn that lesson. Here’s what I noticed: As I let go of fear, I became more skillful. The electric saw became an extension of my hand rather than a difficult, loud tool. As I relaxed, I worked more quickly and easily, and I even made mistakes.
Because I had learned that I could fix mistakes, I could cut another piece of wood and use the one that was too short for something else. Drywall mud can cover imperfect looking cuts. I discovered that fixing a mistake can be quite creative and even produce something better.
PROCESS MISTAKES INTO LEARNING:
Later, as a psychotherapist, I had to apply the same lesson. One sign of a good psychotherapist is not one who never makes mistakes, but one who knows how to track for relationship trouble and then resolve and repair it. Over time and through experience, I relaxed my terror of unintentionally causing harm and developed confidence in my ability to see or feel that my impact was different than my intention. This allowed me to be able to pause, get curious, check in with my client, attend to repair, and in the end, learn something that I could use in the future.
For a simple example, I suggested at the very end of one session that a new client do a little journal writing about the issue she brought up. In this case, I wasn’t aware of a problem until her next session, when she walked in very mad at me saying that I was just like all the other therapists, with an automatic order for journal writing to solve every problem. I paused, acknowledged her anger, and then thanked her for letting me know something about her—that she hates journaling.
I agreed never to suggest that she journal again. I could have gotten defensively caught in trying to explain that I had never ordered journaling, just suggested it, but that would not have restored our connection. My takeaway learning was a reminder that my influence (suggestion heard as an order) in my role as a therapist is stronger than if I were a friend.
You have probably practiced this in your own life in small ways without realizing it. In a romantic relationship, you may have learned that when someone is upset, you ask if what’s needed is sympathy or help with a solution. Maybe you have learned that it is better to ask for something to change instead of talking about what isn’t working. Starting with small situations that might have less of a shame reaction or big impact on your life could help you create a consistent practice. Even small actions in a relationship can have big results.
TIPS FOR TURNING MISTAKES INTO LEARNING EXPERIENCES:
Here are several pointers for processing mistakes into learning:
Try this power-positive activity:
A. Think back over a mistake you made—either a big one or a little one—that you still feel bad about.
Then follow these steps privately:
Practice sharing your vulnerability; this can help solidify your learning as well as create a habit of embracing the learning process. Your friend may also be able to bring up other curiosities or observations that help you move away from shame. We are often better at seeing each other’s strengths than our own and can tend to be kinder to each other than to ourselves.
C. Ask someone with whom you have a lingering regret to meet with you.
© Copyright 2019 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
Original Article: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/so-youve-made-a-mistake-where-do-you-go-from-here-0918194
What should you be doing that you aren’t?
Most of us are raised with an internal “code of ethics” or “emotional barometer” that reminds us that we live up to our promises and complete our tasks on time. We all seem to live on a very tight schedule, so when we are spending time doing what we’d “rather,” guilt creeps in and reminds us that we’re not doing what we “should.” Sometimes the “shoulds” are things that other people are telling us we should be doing, or even things that we just imagine that other people are thinking. We can create a lot of inner turmoil all by ourselves, without even realizing that only we know what we, ourselves, “should” be doing.
Let Go of Nagging Self-Doubts
When we spin our wheels or go in circles wondering about what we “should” be doing, we are clearly not making any progress moving forward in our lives.
When it comes down to it, no one is inside your head, but you. No one is living your life, but you. There’s no reason to give away ownership of your decisions to what “anonymous others” think you should be doing with your life
You Really Don’t Have to “Do It All” and “Do It Well”
Many of us think we have to do it all. It’s really our culture, today, to make us think that we’re not doing everything we should be doing, from 24/7 news cycles to email to text to social media such as constantly rolling Twitter feeds and Facebook and Instagram “life boasting” feeds.
One big problem is FOMO or Fear of Missing Out. When we see the awesomely fulfilling or exciting or heartwarming activities of others everywhere we look, it’s easy to feel that our own lives are somehow lacking; although we actually may be staying super busy and accomplishing a lot of the normal, routine things that actually bring us satisfaction and joy.
What is most important in quelling the “shoulds” that play in your own head is taking a little bit of time to reflect on what is truly important to you, personally, in your life. Make a list of all the things that you feel have personal and intrinsic value to you. Maybe it’s a clean home, maybe it’s a hot meal on the table every night, maybe it’s annual vacations to amusement parks with the kids, maybe it’s keeping up with your favorite TV show, maybe it’s a weekly night out with your friends or a date night with your significant other. Once you make a list of what you truly value, then you’ve created the only list of “should” that should ever really matter.
Tips for Giving Up Shoulds
Maybe I “should have been a lawyer,” but going to law school just wasn’t a priority.
Maybe I “should keep my house cleaner,” but spending time with my kids is my priority.
Maybe I “should make my own holiday gifts, but my priority is making time to do the things that I value most and holidays are about spending time with people I love.”
How Do We Defuse the Shoulds that Play Through Our Heads?
Remember, you do not have to seek approval from absolutely everyone who knows you for your life choices; when we constantly try to please other people and do what they think we should do, we are taking away our own power to do what we know is right for us.
Have confidence in yourself and give yourself time to reflect on what you value—lifestyle, goals, accomplishments, experiences. The things that make you happy, that allow you to live the life you want, and to have your world filled with the people (family, friends, etc.) and things you value are the things that you want on your priority list. Life is short and there are so many choices out there and so many examples of how people might live, don’t let trying to live someone else’s life get in the way of living the life that brings you satisfaction and contentment.
Suzanne Degges-White, Ph.D., is a licensed counselor and professor at Northern Illinois University.
I write articles based on my experience as a therapist or a training or conference attendee. Many of these articles are written by others who are experts in their field and I share their information as resources for others.