Sunday, April 13, 2008

Patterns

I was in Tisdale, Saskatchewan yesterday to give my presentation on Victor not Victim, to a group of Victim Support workers from northern Saskatchewan.

I caught an early morning flight from Calgary to Saskatoon and headed east on Highway 41. The sun was already high on the horizon as I followed the long stretch of highway. Curves were few and far between, notable because of their unexpected presence on the ribbon of ashphalt unfurling into tomorrow, just there over the horizon. Winter fallow fields glistened with melting waters on either side of the road, deer grazed on last years grasses and Canada Geese splashed in pools of melted snow.

It was a beautiful, soaring free kind of day. The sky above stretched on into forever, the road beckoned me onward.

I use my experience with the psychopath as the foundation of my presentation. I begin with my blind leap into 'happily ever after kind of loving' where Prince Charming rode in and swept me off my feet. Using the lies he wove through my life as the backdrop to my fall from grace, I follow the trail into hell. I point out the red flags I missed, the disorderly conduct I overlooked, the deciets I explained away, the unacceptable I made acceptable through my denial. And then, I come to my awakening from magical thinking and the reclamation of my life, my spirit, my hopes and dreams upon his arrest and my journey into healing.

As I was finishing my presentation yesterday, one of the attendees asked, "Have you looked for markers in your life, like early childhood events, that would show why you fell prey to such a relationship?"

I smiled. "Absolutely." I replied. "But it's important to remember, we can all be conned by a conman. In my case, when I met Conrad my hungry heart was yearning for solace. I wanted someone, out there, to fix me. I had an external modus of operation, as opposed to an internal modus of control."

We talked some more about childhood events and their impact on the adult and I finished off and began driving back to the airport in Saskatoon, chasing the setting sun's rose-coloured rays expanding across the western skies.

In my work with abuse survivors and workers in the field of abuse, I have often talked about the patterns in my life that kept me mired in self-denial, and ultimately abuse. Those patterns, while not as dramatic as the encounter with Conrad, definitely are apparent to me as I sit on this side of the timeline of that journey and can look at it from the perspective of what was, once upon a time, in my life.

What I didn't see, until yesterday as I drove westward and thought about that woman's question was the familial pattern I had repeated throughout my life. In seeing it, I can change it!

In my family, secrets were important. Outside, out there in the community, we were 'the perfect family'. We kept that image intact, at all costs. No one knew of my father's rages, my mother's depression, or any of the host of problems each of us suffered in our lives. "What will people think?" was the watchword by which we measured our response to every circumstance.

As I looked at my relationship with Conrad, I saw where that watchword, that pattern of behaviour had overshadowed everything I had done in that relationship. I could not let anyone how much pain I was in. I could not tell anyone what was happening in my life, to me, to my daughters. I could not show pain. I could not show fear. I could not be real. I had to hold up my image of perfect, smile my way through each day and pretend like none of it was happening.

It was tiring, taxing, and ultimately numbing and debilitating.

The pattern of not talking about what is happening runs deep within me. In seeing it, in acknowledging its presence, I can look for its ripple effect in my life today.

Truth is, I am really good about sharing the good things in my life. Not so open about sharing my fears and concerns.

To be intimate, with C.C., with my family and friends whom I love, I need to share the good, the bad, the ugly and the not so ugly. I need to share what thrills me, and what pains me. I need to be real. In holding back on sharing all of me, I undermine relationships, I make judgements on what others will see me as, not because I fear their judgements, but rather, because I assume I know their response before I even give them a chance to be real with me.

The patterns in my life are varied. There are threads of patterns that have formed a beautiful tapestry of love and joy and laughter, of sunlight dancing on water, of moonbeams sparkling on waves. There are patterns of wonder, of awe, of blissful surrender to the mystical world around and within me.

And then there are the patterns that hold me back from being authentic. Those patterns of keeping secret my fears, my bumps in the road, my bruises and warts. Of sharing only what I believe will be palatable for others to receive.

When I pull the thread of hiding behind the mask of perfection I want the world to see, I unravel the mystery of why I stayed so long in a relationship that was killing me. In my denial, in my refusal to talk about what was happening in my life, I forced myself into a corner of my own deciet. Trapped by the lies I was telling to keep my world from falling apart, I lost my hold on the truth, and fell into a thousand pieces.

The longest journey begins with the first step. I began this journey of my lifetime just over 54 years ago. Some of it I have taken with eyes closed, teeth gritted, hands fisted in my determination to endure, to get through it, to get over it, to get it done with.

Today, I travel the road, eyes wide open, smiling from my heart, hands extended in love to receive and to give of my spirited truth that I am an awesome woman of worth. I am a unique, magnificent human being committed to do what it takes to have the life of her dreams.

And in my journey, there will be patterns to unfurl, new patterns to weave into the vibrant, multi-hued tapestry of my life today.

I am a fearless woman, sharing her unique gifts to create a mystical world where spirits soar free to dance in love, joy and harmony with the world around them.

I am blessed.

The question is: What patterns are you repeating? Where are the patterns from your past forcing you onto roads well-travelled with not hope of finding an exit to the life of your dreams?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am repeating the pattern of feeling ugly and unlovable. I don't like myself at all.

My mother was neglectful and I believe depressed and just overwhelmed in her situation with 3 young children and no emotional support from my father who is a bit of a narcissist. Not the life she had expected at all.

The Narcissist I was involved with for over 10 years left me months ago, and I feel worthless and can not stop crying about it. I hate being alone. I want him back, even though I know he is a big liar.

I never grew out of being a child. I don't know how to move forward. I just seem to be stuck in this pattern of hating myself.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Dear Anonymous,

I am so sorry for your pain. He isn't worth it.

You've taken a courageous and powerful step in acknowleding the pattern. Can you accept that? Can you acknowledge how courageous you are?

That feeling of worthlessness is so debilitating. I know it well! It came from my childhood, buried beneath my psyche long ago.

Do you really want him back? Or are you telling yourself that because you're frightened of stepping into the unknown of the world beyond the pain and horror you felt with him?

See, when I was with Conrad, I bought into my core belief deep within me that I was unworthy. He was my means of proving that belief true -- and yet, the truth is, I am not unworthy! I became so sick with him, however, that I thought I really was.

Can you give yourself a schedule for crying? When I first got my life back, I kept crying and knew there was a lot I had to do to get my life back in order so I could heal. So, I gave myself 10 minutes on the hour every hour to cry. That was it, a scheduled crying break. And I held myself to it. It was important because I needed to relearn what it felt like to keep commitments with myself, and I had to teach myself that it was okay to cry, but I needed to get some things done too.

I too had a mother who was depressed and overwhelmed -- she still is at 85! My father could rage like crazy! It terrified our entire household.

As an adult, it is my responsibility to deal with the outcome of my childhood -- it is also my gift to be able to create for myself the childhood I've always wanted. I'm working on it!

The pattern of hating yourself is very very painful -- you can change it though. It takes a commitment to YOU.

Can you rewrite your message to me and say something like -- I am a woman who loves herself even though in this moment I don't like myself very much. I am committed to loving myself and in this moment choose to acknowledge that I was with a man who abused me, lied to me and decieved me. In being with him, I bought into the lie that I am unloveable. That is not truth. The truth is, I am loveable. I'm learning how to love myself.....

see -- your head is telling you that you want him back because your heart is yearning to be free -- from what I read in your post, you have insight -- and now need to face the truth. You deserve to be free of abuse -- both self-inflicted and that which he and others have inflicted upon you.

This is hard, but joyous work.

If you can be stuck in a pattern of hating yourself, it's also possible to get yourself stuck in a pattern of loving yourself. Just flip the words. Say -- I know how to move forward. I will stick myself into a pattern of loving myself by.... and then list one or two things you can do today that will affirm you. Keep adding to your list every day.

Baby steps -- but keep doing it.

If you're not a member at WON, I'd suggest joining that site. The address is: www.groups.msn.com/thewebofnarcissim

You have to apply for membership, CZ -- the manager, sometimes comments here. The site is filled with lots of information -- and people -- who will support you as much as you want and need.

You are worth fighting for. You are worth loving yourself!

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for the reply! I was actually suprised, thought I was just leaving my comment.

I am trying to love myself, but I don't think I could write that now... it would be a lie.

I want him back because I want a companion, right now i feel like i still love him. He would be better than nobody. I just plain old do not want to be alone. i know he won't come back though. The whole thing is a nightmare!