What happens to your sensitivity, empathy and intellect when you grow up in a seriously dysfunctional family? How does your perceptive mind and open heart survive the alcoholic parent or the emotional abuse? What beliefs or patterns set up in your childhood follow you into adulthood? When is it time to find a good psychotherapist and dive into the abyss?
In this post, I’ll begin to answer these questions. (more in future posts) And, disclaimer, I’m only speaking to my experience with my particular clients and myself. OK? I don’t speak for all psychotherapy everywhere. (But you knew that.)
Here’s what I see: Even though you’re super-sensitive, emotional and aware so that you can be easily hurt, you’re also terribly resilient because you’re super-sensitive, emotional and aware. You’re likely quite affected if you grew up in a chainsaw family system. And yet, there’s also something gorgeous-powerful deep inside you that was untouched. Your self-esteem is what’s been damaged. You have a distorted sense of your true self. That may look like lack of self-confidence, getting into abusive relationships, self-hatred, underachieving, anxiety and depression.
As a child, you were so vulnerable, that you had to believe what your parents told you. It was inevitable that you’d misinterpret their dysfunction to mean that something was wrong with you. Even though you were smart, the intensity of parental shame, fear, rage and who-knows-what got transmitted to you. So this is what needs to be dismantled: Your misunderstanding of who you are.
And that requires diving into the abyss. Poet Adrienne Rich calls it Diving into the Wreck.
Yeah. Abyss. Wreck. Oh boy. You’ll want a guide. Someone who’s been in their own Abyss and is very familiar with it. Someone who has explored their Wreck and found the buried treasure hidden inside.
It can be a scary proposition. It can take time. Even though you’re a fast learner, this process is slow. You’ll get impatient and think you’re doing it wrong. You’ll have times when you’re feeling overwhelming sadness. You’ll wonder why the hell you thought that hanging out in an Abyss was such a grand idea.
But, eventually, you’ll find that it’s worth the time, money, and tears. You’ll notice changes in your inner and outer worlds. You’ll start to discover your gorgeous-powerful self.
That doesn’t mean that the Wreck will disappear, by the way. You may fall in every now and then. Get lost. Flounder. Cry. Shriek. But it’ll be less scary, more familiar, smaller. You’ll add a cozy chair or hang a piece of art.
And, while you’re there. Well. You’ll find the jewels.
To my bloggEEs: I wish I could be your therapist. But I’m only licensed to counsel in Oregon. But here’s something that you can give to the therapist that you find. It will help him/her understand your giftedness. And, of course, you can give her/him a copy of my book! Let us know in the comments how you’ve dealt with growing up in a dysfunctional family. And thank you for being here and for your courage. (and for putting up with my on-going and shameless self-promotion)