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Emotional abuse impacts our physical health
Losing a child is like hell on earth.
Many are caught up in the confusion of what (not) to say or do when meeting someone who is going or has been through the loss of a child.
Show you CARE. Please do not cross the road to avoid meeting us.
It is ok if you have no idea what to say. “I’m so sorry (I don’t know what to say)” is more than good enough.
Stop talking and just LISTEN. It can be the same story for the hundredths time. Or crazy rationalisation. Or buckets of tears interrupted by crazy laughs.
It is a journey. Personal and unique for each one of us.
“There’ll be another one” is ok if WE say it. We try to cope.
YOU please DON’T. “Another” is not “the one”.
It is a seemingly endless 3D roller-coaster ride on the snakes and ladders board when it feels like we would never ever reach the end: to learn to live with it.
It doesn’t matter when, how, and what happened, it is like our heart has been ripped out of our body.
Coming with the loss of future.
Their future. Their what-ifs. Their hugs, smiles, love of life.
Sometimes the death comes as a relief after suffering.
It still hurts!
And there is not even a word for a parent who lost their child.
So just please BE THERE for us.
A loving hug can mean the whole world to us.
Have you ever found yourself doubting yourself and acting against your own interest?
When is it 100% clear what you should, need, MUST do, yet you just simply cannot make the decision?
Is there a recurring pattern to these situations?
I would like to introduce “self-sabotage”.
A usual excuse we use, even to ourselves, – and yes, we believe it – is the “I’ll wait to see how it unfolds”.
Yes, there are times when waiting is the right thing to do. But it must be a DECISION to wait.
Including a deadline when we will RECONSIDER our primary decision to wait.
Without a deadline it is PROCRASTINATION.
Sounds like a very valid excuse, isn’t it? And we can get annoyed if people around us – those who really love us and put OUR INTEREST first – dare to share their concerns about our indecisiveness. They point to the fact that our “let’s see how it unfolds” is not a decision, it is self-sabotage. We lie to ourselves. Their feedback is like a smack in our face.
Well, it is time to face it: most of us do it. I do it.
You know what?
Give a deadline to yourself!
Make a decision WHEN you will act and WHAT you will do if the issue does not solve itself.
Yes, the “WHAT” must be decided now.
THEN the pressure of making the decision will be enough.
Here we pondered about what love is not.
It is time to look into the deep and dig out a few possible answers for the question:
What is love?
Love is a DECISION. To love someone even if they don’t deserve it. Despite their actions. While keeping healthy BOUNDARIES.
Love is ACTION. To go that extra mile for them. It must be a FREE choice. Free from ANY influence – outer or even inner!
Love is an APPROACH. How we turn to someone. How we see them. Whose interest do we take into consideration: ours or theirs? Can we act selflessly, even to the point of suffering disadvantage?
Love is LISTENING. The ability to shut up and let the other talk.
Love is CARING. Even if we disagree with their choices.
Love is HONESTY. Sharing our thoughts, our doubts, our questions. Yes, we can share our concerns about the consequences of their choices.
LOVE is PRESENCE. So when they fall, we stand beside them so they can lean on us while pulling themselves up. Because they know: even if we sometimes get frustrated with their decisions, indecisiveness, procrastination, seeing them slowly ruining themselves through these decisions, we are still on their side.
What is love?
If their world falls apart, we will still be there for them.
“What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me Don’t hurt me no more” (some of you might remember the song from the 1990s).
So, what IS love?
Well, let’s make a firm line in the sand – what it is not.
Love IS NOT a feeling. Yes, when we are “in love” we do have some physical symptoms. Physical. Physiological. Symptoms.
Love IS NOT the lack of healthy boundaries. We can love someone and still be able to say no.
Love IS NOT saying YES all the time. But what prevents us from when saying NO would be the best choice at that time?
Whose interest do we put first? And do we do it voluntarily or do we feel coerced into saying yes – even when we indeed want to say no. We just simply can’t.
Love IS NOT allowing the person who has been exploiting us continue to do so because we feel unable to put up some boundaries in the situation. This is the very opposite to love. It is not loving them, it is self-loathing – ourselves.
There is a lovely, heart-warming short animation I would like to share. Short but powerful.
There was a time, about 10 years ago, when I first saw it. I must admit I saw it as anything but lovely.
I thought the lady’s last actions were unnecessary, I couldn’t understand why on Earth she was doing what she’s doing.
Years passed by and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Something was bothering me about it. I should have seen an uplifting action but I couldn’t.
Then, one time when I remembered it again, I suddenly recognised the beauty in it. The care, the love. And it made me think:
Why hadn’t I seen this before?
How I had perceived the story was filtered through my inner being. And that time I was hurt, dragging along with a lot of pain in my heart.
I found it difficult to cope with that level of kindness, the outpouring unconditional love, because I had never experienced it myself.
The uncertainty in who I was, the lack of experiencing and knowing that I am worthy of love simply because I am, severely impacted my views.
It was a long journey, painful but fruitful, to come to the place that I understand the value of meeting people where they are at.
Making them feel worthy. Accepted. Loved.
The power of being present.
The worth of presence in someone’s life.
Do you have anyone to walk beside you on your journey?
Not long ago I faced the big question: who am I?
You might wonder why. So, here is a short story.
The last few years created a huge shift in me. Moving across the globe with my family and adjusting to the new norms and language not only brought hidden skills to the surface, but also shaped me significantly.
The robust diploma course in coaching was a painful eye-opener: I had a picture of myself, what I was like, and it turned out to be utterly false. I spent hours contemplating “what’s wrong; why does the test say I am introverted when I have always been an extrovert?”
A dog will never turn into bacon, it cannot be real!
Then it clicked…
Who am I indeed?
I am not changing into something new but turning back to who I was meant to be. I have been taking off the uncomfortable, protective garments. Shields, swords, axes, and breastplates which have shaped my thinking and behaviour were there to provide a more controllable, seemingly safer environment. Seeing everyone and everything as a threat had been eating up my energy, turning my focus away from inner growth and creating a false reality: that if I can control everything, I will be safe.
And now, leaving these behind one by one, the real me is coming forth.
Who am I? I am me.
The dog is not turning into bacon.
The bacon-shaped dog is turning back into being a dog.
(I used the word-by-word English translation of the Hungarian saying “Kutyából nem lesz szalonna” because I believe the English saying “Once a thief, always a thief” does not accurately portray the message I wanted to convey with this story.)
We are seemingly prone to give in when we see tears. I wonder why?
Children have seemingly endless creativity to convince, coerce, persuade their parents to change that NO into a YES.
Those crocodile tears do not necessarily flow like a river because they are hurt, sometimes they just simply do not want to accept that NO as an answer. I was too a kid once 😊
Tears seem to work most of the time.
Even when adults cry for the same reason.
We are seemingly prone to give in when we see tears.
I wonder why we give up our boundaries so easily?
I do not know for sure, but my guess is that our subconscious pulls out a formula that drives us to give in.
Even if it is about nothing else but trying to push those boundaries. Which adults do too. However, they usually do it very consciously.
Tears can manipulate us to say YES when we want to say NO.
Sticking to our NO is tricky because we need to do two important things. And we must do both:
- We need wisdom to determine if those tears are genuine or manipulative.
- If the latter we must believe that keeping our choice of NO
- will do no harm and
- it does not mean lack of love.
Sometimes our NO originates in our self-care – which is paramount for our own wellbeing.
Other times it is for their benefit (just think of bringing up children). It can be good in the short term, but mostly it is good for the long term. Even if it is painful now.
When we say NO we teach the other person (whether a child or an adult) as well:
- By “enforcing” them to respect our boundaries they can exercise self-control.
- As role models we show it is ok to say NO, teaching them not to be afraid of setting boundaries.
If we love them, we must take on healthy confrontations with them in order to teach them about boundaries.
Love without boundaries is not love.
Talking about teenagers and our resilience journey, I started to think whether there is any benefit in continually reprimanding them for their bad choices when they are already aware of the fact they have “screwed up”.
Shouldn’t we change how we react?
Things we learnt in our childhood are sitting deep in our subconscious, determining our instant reactions as parents.
I am talking about how our parents reacted to us – and most of the time we pull out the same patterns with our children.
How many times do we hear our mother/father talking to our children through our mouth?
Furthermore, how our parents treated each other has an impact on our instinctive reactions to our spouse. There is no magic in it: we use the learnt behavioural patterns, until we consciously re-write them.
Why is it worth putting time and effort into something like this? We have already started when choosing to love, and acting accordingly, haven’t we?
To get from A to B we need to start with recognition:
realizing and admitting we need to change.
Unfortunately, we cannot do much without looking in the mirror and acknowledging our issues.
I think one of the most heart-breaking revelations is seeing our older child treating the younger one in a way our parents used to treat us, the way we have said we would never ever act.
Well, how has the child learnt this, if not from us?
However the painful realisation comes, we need humility to deal with it in a positive way. When we analyse our behaviour and can spot the triggering factors, we can create a plan to establish a new reaction. Having true friends around who can provide honest feedback can be quite beneficial. Many times just sharing our discoveries with someone trustworthy helps to find the solution when we describe it (either verbally or written). The further we step back from it, the bigger picture we get:
The easiest way to get out of a maze is to fly above it.
Figuring the way out, making the map and using it to reach the end. Once we can see our problems from a higher perspective we can identify more contributing factors and can have a better established response to deal with the situation.
Why is it us (always us!) who needs to put effort into these connections and relationships?
Well, if we don’t act, who will? Who else can change the outcome if not us?
There are things in life we have absolutely no control over. Nothing we can do will change these things happening. But the determining factors of the outcome are our own reactions to these things.
And it is resilience!
As long as we give the same reaction to the same issue the outcome will remain the same: no change has happened in the equation.
If we want change in the outcome we need to intervene in the one and only part which we have control over: our reaction.
We need to re-wire how we act through re-writing how we think.
As our innate reactions are rooted in our subconscious, we have to really push the new “how to” to replace the existing patterns.
It starts with declaration – as we made our choice to love, we need to hang onto it, even in the midst of turmoil. If we keep repeating “but I have declared I love” it will make us pause before we act, realising in our subconscious there is some contradiction between how we are about to act vs what we declare.
Pausing enables us to use the new reaction we have found, or simply gives us space and time to come up with an alternative response.
Either way we successfully changed one factor in the equation, so we can expect a modified outcome.
I think there is a huge misconception in our heads about love.
This might be one of the root issues from the topics discussed earlier. Some of us might have been brought up having to earn the love of our parents.
We had to prove we are worthy of their love.
We had to act in a particular way to gain their affirmation. Often refraining from acting in a particular way produced no positive feedback because “not doing that” was the expected behaviour. Picking up all the errors and neglecting any improvement, saying that the level reached is “the norm” so there is nothing to praise – won’t have contributed to developing a positive self-image.
The pattern seems to be painfully familiar:
being loved for what we did, not for who we were, leading us to embrace what we are instead of who we are.
It ended up rooting our identity in the what, because we missed out on the experience to be unconditionally loved for who we are.
The beauty of being grown up is that now we have a choice: we can say it is not good enough for us, so we want to change.
We want to discover and rely on, who we are, but where to start?
We tend to think of love as a feeling: we love our spouse when they act in a nice way – bring us flowers, a book, makes dinner, picks up the kids –, but dislike them (or should we rather honestly say “hate”?) when they disagree with us, doesn’t do what they promised, had a bad day and their tone is not the nicest.
When we act like this, we are falling into the same trap: we love them for what they do.
And isn’t it easier to love our kids when they act in a nice manner rather than having a tantrum?
However difficult it seems, even impossible, we need to learn how to love them when they are having their tantrums. Again,
love does not mean the lack of healthy boundaries nor the affirmation of their behaviour.
So what is love?
Love is a choice.
Simple as it is.
We make a decision to love – our children, spouse, colleagues, boss, janitor, parents – and we stick to our choice.
It won’t come easily, it will take time to redefine our reactions until the new ones become the norm. Also, redesigning one reaction does not mean the automatic reshaping of our reactions for other situations, but the more we reconfigure the easier it will be. And in the meantime, we need to learn how to address our disapproval of certain acts. Which is another big chunk of sweaty work. So why would we bother with all this?
Well, there are two main reasons: us and them.
For them it would mean
they start experiencing being loved for who they are.
Not what they have or what they do, but simply who they are. And whether it is a close relative or even a stranger, it might start reshaping how they think of themselves.
It might trigger questions in them:
- Is it really possible that someone loves me despite how I act? Despite how despicable I am?
- Maybe there is more about me than my position?
- What has someone spotted in me that makes them believe I am valuable?
- Am I really worthy of love? How can it be?
They might even start a journey of re-establishing their identity on the ‘who’ instead of the ‘what’.
We cannot deny, humans are subjects of self-centredness 😉 so what are our benefits in all this?
First of all we step on a life-long journey of personal development.
We learn that we are capable of more than we think,
we have control over our behaviour.
We will slowly change in other areas as well, as our decision to love sneaks into our subconscious and starts its work there. As our perceptions and attitudes are gently altered, we change.
Our actions, tones, words chosen, start softening and this
triggers change in others around us.
They may get an unusual response from us which would likely make them stop and think – whether they re-think their own actions or analyse the change in us, it pulls them out of the recurring pattern of interactions. Their reactions start to alter.
And one day, out of the blue,
we realise that we do feel love for our child in the midst of their tantrum.
We empathise with them as we remember feeling as confused and hopeless as they might feel now, and we just simply leave them alone.
It is their battle with themselves.
And when our teen emerges later, pretending like nothing has happened, we know that our message has come through. Their silence is a form of acceptance and affirmation – of the rules and boundaries we, as parents, set up for their benefit.
They would not be afraid of doing the same to defend themselves.