(Update: All the posts of this series have been collected into one piece, Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships, and How to Defeat Each One of Them.)
[An update for those of you who read yesterday's Blind Mans Heart Accidentally Cut by Surgeon: Prayers, Please: Gary is still on life support in intensive care. It's such a shock, of course: one slight mistake, and a routine 20-minute procedure becomes a three-hour emergency operation. Gary's prognosis is poor; he probably won't make it. I saw and spoke with his sister Karen this morning, and, with tears of gratitude in her eyes, she asked me to please convey her thanks to all of you who were kind enough to write in your prayerful thoughts to her and her brother.]
I concluded my last post of this series with, “Next time, I want to talk about the means by which any person can go back into their past, and rescue the child they once were. Or, more accurately, can be rescued by them.”
Here’s what I mean by that: You were once a little girl. That little girl deeply loved her parents, and believed everything her parents told her, especially about herself. If you are a woman involved in or drawn to abusive relationships, it’s a certainty that when you were a little girl at least some of what either or both of your parents taught you about yourself was just plain ol’ wrong.
What you learned about yourself was that you were bad, or wrong, or in some way defective. And you accepted that belief about yourself—you incorporated that negative information about yourself into your core perception of yourself—because you had to. You had no choice. You had to survive, if nothing else.
For all the reasons that kids love and obey (and fear) their parents, you turned yourself into the person your parents told you you were.
Now, as an adult, you are unhappy more than you should be. The reason you’re unhappy is because all of your life you have been living a lie. You are not bad. You are not stupid. You are not ugly. You are not unworthy of your parents’ love unless you do something to deserve it.
You are not all the things you had to become in order to at the very least get your parents’ attention.
Once upon a time you were an innocent and good little girl, as all little girls are. You were smart. You were curious. You were well-meaning. You were optimistic. You were spectacularly unique; you had gifts and talents and propensities all your own. You radiated wonderful enthusiasm for all kinds of great stuff. You were fun and kind and whole and good.
And do you know what happened, pretty early on in your game? You betrayed the little girl that you were.
You left her behind. You abandoned her. You ditched her in order to become the person you had to become in order to survive in your household.
Who you really were was very different from the person your parents, however subtly, insisted you were. And that gave you a choice—which, because you were so young, wasn’t a true choice for you at all. Instead of the person you actually were, you “chose” to become the version of yourself that your parents directed you to. And doing that meant leaving behind, however consciously and/or purposefully, the good little girl that you were.
In the course of growing up—as part of the cost of growing up—you abandoned the best, truest friend you ever had.
You left the little girl you were behind, and moved on without her.
But guess what? She’s still back there, waiting for you. And she’s not mad at you one single bit. She loves you. She admires you. She understands why you did what you had to do. All along throughout your life she’s been there, watching you, rooting for you.
In truth, you’re her hero. She admires you. She knows that you put yourself out there—that you took the blows, that you survived, that you did what you had to do—so that she could stay safe and protected.
And all she wants—all she’s ever wanted—is for you to come back, and claim her. She just wants you to be with her. To hug her. To talk to her. To listen to her.
To be the parent to her that she’s always wanted, and deserved. To finally put right what your parents put wrong.
So do it! Open the bedroom door in which the little girl you used to be has long been sitting and awaiting your return, and go on in. Sit beside her on your old childhood bed. Take her hand in yours. Tell her how much you love her. Tell her all the things you’ve longed to for all these years. Thank her. Apologize to her for having ignored her so long. Listen to her tell you what it’s been like all these years, quietly watching you live your life, and go through all that you have.
Spend lots and lots of time with the little girl you used to be. Ask her to come out and play all the time. Take her to the movies; buy her some ice cream; let her show you how to have that good ol’ fashion, real fun you used to know and revel in.
By incorporating that young girl back into your life, you’re saving her. And you better believe she’ll save you.
Without her, you were never more than half of yourself anyway.