Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Crippling so many of us

I woke up discombobulated this morning.  Bad dreams last night that left me feeling out of sorts: The old abandonment stuff that seems to recycle every few months, bubbling up from some part of the mind that has held onto yesterday's fears.

It takes a few moments to remember that none of the dreams are real.  And the fears, well, those don't have to be made real unless I allow that.  It's best for me to get up and get moving, rather than to lie there and let the mind reel.

All that abandonment stuff seems so real when it plays out in technicolor when I'm asleep.  Maybe it is there with me even when I'm awake, just lurking beneath the surface, ready to come out and wipe away peace of mind.

Once traumatized, do we ever really rid ourselves of the feelings and images that have held such power in the past?  Maybe the point is to not have to rid ourselves of anything but to simply acknowledge the feelings, check the barometer of life on this day, and make a decision on how to proceed.  I found the following from the psychologist, Carl Rogers, to be interesting:

"I sometimes fantasy about what it would mean if a child....never had to disown his feelings in order to be loved. Suppose his parents were free to have and express their own unique feelings, which often would be different from his, and often different between themselves. I like to think of all the meanings that such an experience would have. It would mean that the child would grow up respecting himself as a unique person. It would mean that even when his behavior had to be thwarted, he could retain open "ownership" of his feelings. It would mean that his behavior would be a realistic balance, taking into account his own feelings and the known and open feelings of others. He would, I believe, be a responsible and self-directing individual, who would never need to conceal his feelings from himself, who would never need to live behind a facade. He would be relatively free of the maladjustments which cripple so many of us." ~ Carl R. Rogers, On Becoming a Person

I suppose it's easy enough to be crippled by what happened in childhood, what our parents did to us, what others did or said that made us feel less than or fearful.  So many people are wounded today.  That wounding comes from all manner of things--loved ones, jobs, the economy, life.  But it doesn't seem to be so easy to be whole again. Or is it?

It seems easier to blame others for unhappiness.  Or perhaps to find fault with others rather than looking inward at myself.  I like what Rogers describes as ways to live a "good life".  It makes a lot of sense to me.

  1. A growing openness to experience – move away from defensiveness and have no need for unconsciously applying strategies to prevent something troubling from entering the consciousness.
  2. An increasingly existential lifestyle – living each moment fully – not distorting the moment to fit personality or self concept but allowing personality and self concept to emanate from the experience. This results in excitement, daring, adaptability, tolerance, spontaneity, and a lack of rigidity and suggests a foundation of trust.
  3. Increasing trust – Trusting my own judgment and ability to choose behavior that is appropriate for each moment.  Not relying on existing social norms but trust that by being open to experiences, I will be able to trust my own sense of right and wrong.
  4. Freedom of choice – not being shackled by the restrictions that influence an incongruent individual (= a false individual in pursuit of personal regard), I am able to make a wider range of choices more fluently. Believing that I play a role in determining my own behavior and so feel responsible for my own behavior.
  5. Creativity – feel more free to be creative without feeling a need to conform.
  6. Reliability and constructiveness – Acting constructively. An individual who is open to all their needs will be able to maintain a balance between them. Aggressive needs will be matched and balanced by intrinsic goodness in authentic people. 
  7. A rich full life – he describes the life of the fully functioning individual as rich, full and exciting and suggests that they experience joy and pain, love and heartbreak, fear and courage more intensely. 

Here is Rogers' description of the good life:

This process of the good life is not, I am convinced, a life for the faint-hearted. It involves the stretching and growing of becoming more and more of one's potentialities. It involves the courage to be. It means launching oneself fully into the stream of life.
I like the idea of launching myself fully into the stream of life: the good, the bad, the perceived, the real, the imagined, the ugly, the beauty, the wonder and the joy.  Let's do it. 


  1. This really gives me pause today, Syd. I feel I put a lot of expectations (unspoken demands?) on my children. I don't dwell on the past, but I truly wish I had let them be free to become whomever they wanted.

  2. Let's do it, Syd. I'm in. I'm living life to the best of my ability. I'm seeking happiness from within and showing it to as many others as I can. I think we heal from our childhood traumas, but the scars it leaves are thinner than skin and the pain comes easier. But we are ALIVE and that is GOOD.

  3. I loved the first quote from Carl Rogers....and then I came to the one on the bottom of your post. I love that one even more.

    My older kids tell Little Lu (who recently informed me not to call her "lu" in my blog because in England that means "toilet") that she is so lucky that I found Alanon...because she can be free. :o( Bittersweet. Were they not free that means? They must not feel like they were. I also had a lot of expectations and so much of my identity was wrapped up in how they turned out and/or responded to their daily lives. I have my own mistakes to forgive myself for...not the "beating the children" type of mistakes, but hovering, expecting, demanding, loving too darn much....who knew that could be a problem? I really didn't understand so much.
    Anyway, great great post! Lots to think about here!

  4. So glad I found this today.

    from timbre

  5. Ah, yes ... the 3 and 4 AM hours. Those are the times that I wake up in a sweat and fear creeps in. I have to hurry back to the "One Day at a Time" mode and pick up all the tools that our program gives us. It usually works...usually.

  6. Hi Syd. Sorry to hear trauma still haunts your dreams. I've recently started therapy for PTSD to help me with that horrible loop that past traumas still have ahold over me.

    It seems to me, though, that for the most part you are navigating life's bumps and changes -- mindfully. I am so inspired and impressed with your development & I hope I too can get to the place where you've found yourself.

  7. can't I just stick my toe in first, to test the current?

  8. Powerful post... thank you for sharing!

    I really like Roger's description of a good life. Good stuff. That stretching and growing is tough stuff, but I'm ready!!

  9. Say. Upon awakening, what seems to fit me perfectly is "discombobulated".

    Then, after I determine what day is it?, stuff just unfolds, as if scripted...kinda fortunate for me. No dreaming--I miss it. Really.

    Life-lasting childhood crippling I run into every day. When it springs itself on me (rarely), I usually blog it the next day. And it goes away, midst the folly I then

    PEACE, Syd. Try not to dream Bungee Diving...or you'd need a bed like a baby with railings--grin!


  10. i used to think that therapy is like a magic wand, erasing all the hurts and the pain, leaving you a whole and happy person. and when that (obviously) didn't happen, and i started to really think about it, i realized that i could never be a 'whole' person if half of my past were erased. there'd be these huge gaps of nothingness. and that made the whole process of living with the past much easier. i am who i am because of all i've experienced, the good, the bad and the ugly.

    as for that point 1... especially the moving away from defensiveness part, is HUGE. to me, at least. it took me until very recently to realize that i STILL react to unpleasant things with an instinctive 'hide' emotion, pretend it didn't happen, ignore it, etc etc etc. and now that i know to question it, it seems so silly?!?!? after all, things happen. things i cannot control, nor caused. so why should i...

    thanks for this amazing post!!!

  11. It has been a long time since I've read Carol Rogers. We read him in Educational Psychology in cllege and I recall leaving my book behind when I moved back from Houston in the fog of drug and alcohol addiction. I think it's time to re acquire that text. The book was entitled "Freedom to Learn: A View of What Education Might Become." I remember being blown away by what we read and discussed.

    I miss college, which is why I almost always look forward to finding myself in a classrom and/or learning environment.

  12. Well, I woke up at 3 AM thinking it was 6 AM which really messed up my day.

    My sleeping is so not good. I can't figure out how to make some changes without a magic wand. Or money. Since neither exist...

    Plus it snowed. GRRRR.

  13. Had a dream the other night in which a dog I was looking after tore another dog to pieces on the back porch of the house where I grew up. Very scary dream, violent and bloody, and as you say, the old fears recycle every so often. I tend to be drawn to angry people, I think I can "help" these people, but I'm also afraid of them, and my fears come out in my dreams.

    I love how the metaphors of water and streams come up throughout your writing, Syd. much love /G


Let me know what you think. I like reading what you have to say.