Do you remember the brain scientist who had a stroke, and her mother reached in and her love pierced through her daughter’s incapacity, and retrieved the inner injured child. I have to learn to be that mother to myself, how to find my own inner child, how to listen to her. How to meet her needs.
Isn’t it strange how we can forget? I often wonder, when did I start to forget how to listen, when I did begin to forget an incident or an experience? Was it the next minute, or the next day, or was it just incremental, an instinctive survival response. I’ve got nobody to go to with this, it’s too painful to feel. So I’ll just numb it out.
I couldn’t do it forever, though, and as an adult if you unresolved stuff it will control you without you realizing it. But this is the amazing thing about life, you get wake-up calls. Crises. If you listen, but go back and do life the way you were doing it, you’ll get another wake-up call. More severe. If you ignore it, ditto.
The crisis of my bankruptcy wasn’t about losing material things, or losing three businesses in a row, or even about the vortex of chauvinistic, abusive behavior and betrayal I found myself in the midst of. It was about my disempowerment and ravaged self-esteem, and my absolute ignorance that I had any rights at all. If I’d had healthy self-esteem and entitlement I would have been able to find a solution when my first business nose-dived. I would have be able to protect myself from the men who betrayed me.
My low self-esteem goes back to my relationship with my mother. Who also had ravaged self-esteem, but whose all-consuming and voracious needs overpowered me as a child. She was more important than I was. It takes a long time to change that when you’re an adult. The belief sticks to you like a skin of super-glue.
When I was about 14 a man in his early 20’s – called himself John Smith – somehow spied me and wanted me. He found out where we lived, visited my mother. Flirted with her, told her he came from a good family. Said he wanted to take me out. So she told me I had to. I didn’t want to. She got angry.
We got as far as the kitchen. He unbuttoned my shirt, and said “I like to educate virgins”. He forced my mouth open, stuck his tongue down my throat. I’ve blanked the rest out. I was 14 going on ten. I wanted to vomit, I wanted to run, to scream. Please God make him stop. I was also so conflicted. I didn’t know, was this what girls had to do – had my mother done it, my sisters? Should I be liking it? Was there something wrong with me? Why did I feel so dirty.
I was able to say to my mother I didn’t want to go out with him again. I couldn’t tell her why, because I was so ashamed and I felt so dirty. She got angry and forced me to. The needs of a stranger, a paedophile, and her own consuming needs to be affirmed by men, were more important to my mother than mine.
It’s easy to look back on an incident like this and blame your disempowerment on it. But the incident is really just a symptom of the culture of my total unimportance that eroded my self esteem from day one, every second of every minute of every hour. Unrelenting. That’s what does the damage that is so hard to undo when we’re adults, because we’ve become so accustomed to it that we think it’s normal.
Learning that you have value when you’ve spent your life entrenching the belief that you don’t – it’s possible, but it takes time. That’s all.