Posted on July 3, 2018 by Jenn Zatopek
Recently, I have been told that I push people away and that I have to let people in and be vulnerable. But, quite frankly, when I have let certain people in I get the shit kicked out of me. In the past, I have taken the risk of being vulnerable, revealing my somewhat insane past, only to have been abandoned by friends and parents. In fact, when I told one of my friends that my mother assaulted me, she stopped calling and pushed me away. At the time, it only reinforced the lie that because of where I come from I am not worthy of love and belonging.
So what in the world do you do when your templates or maps for attachment are disorganized, based on family-of-origin issues? (By the way, disorganized attachment, the most common for trauma survivors, means that a child does not feel safe with his or her caregivers but must rely on them for life. For a child to be in a family, he or she must feel safe, secure, loved, and nurtured. For many trauma survivors, especially sexual abuse survivors, this is basically impossible, and so children react in a myriad of unhelpful and unhealthy ways. The previous information is based on The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk.)
This is what you do: you find the people who are kind, loving, responsive, and accepting of you. You make time to take care of your own exquisite, lovely, playful, joyful and delightful self and continue to buck the traditional notion that one must have a relationship with family as the standard parents, aunts and uncles, cousins and whatnot. You forgive yourself for indulging in darkness for decades while recognizing that it makes sense, given what you went through. You find compassion for yourself.
Do I wish that I had fabulous parents who treated me like I deserved? Absolutely. Do I honor them by telling the truth about their behavior of me while recognizing that they too were beaten, mistreated, and neglected? Yes. Do I acknowledge that God wants me to rest in love and peace? You bet.
Do I keep trying to make certain family members like me, respect me, talk to me, when they are neither able or willing to do so? No. Do I continue to move toward God, wholeness, grace, acceptance, healing, etc.? Of course.
I accept full responsibility for my life. I accept that God loves me and always has and He will make it easier and easier to find the safe people in my life to be vulnerable with. Unfortunately, it probably won’t be the standard family that we all hear about in movies, books, and Christian culture.
I suppose that’s one of the hardest things about being a Jesus person: the expectations. As a greenhorn Christian in my twenties, I was told, well-intentioned of course, that I would have a great family, that my father would come to know Christ eventually, and if I just prayed hard enough, that my family member would get help.
All those expectations are long gone.
If you read the Gospels closely, Jesus never, ever said all our wildest dreams would come true. He just said that He would be here with us (God or “Immanuel”) in the muck of things and, paradoxically, that we get to enjoy our lives. For someone like me, with no Christian parents, engaged and active Christian siblings, and huge cadre of childhood Christian friends, this truth helps tremendously.
Our country’s national holiday is tomorrow, and while I am not exactly patriotic, especially given our country’s dangerous leader and various other sundry reasons, I’ll focus on freedom. There is freedom in accepting the truth of one’s past and powerlessness of changing anyone but ourselves. There is also deep, expanding, and gracious joy when we lean into the discomfort of being loved just as we are today.
I get to be the tender, merciful, and loving parent I never had today. I get to decide who I want to have contact with and who the safe people are in my life. I choose to practice kindness toward myself on the big freedom day. The same goes for you. There are no exceptions.
It might be a good idea to write down a list of adjectives that describe your gifts, after you sit in silence and wait for God to show you. The trick will be taking time to be still, to practice staying in your body, and to breathe.