Posted on July 3, 2018 by Jenn Zatopek
Recently, my therapist noticed I push my beloveds away and he advised me to let others in and be vulnerable. But frankly, when I have let certain people in to my life, I have been deeply hurt, which has caused me to withdraw and stay distant. In the past, I have taken the risk of being vulnerable, revealing parts of my troubled past with others, only to lose those relationships.
If only we could sit with each other in the suffering and simply listen with no agenda. That’s what I needed most and maybe you do too.
What in the world do you do when you crave connection but push your beloved people away when you reach out? (By the way, this form of attachment known as disorganized attachment is he most common for survivors with severe trauma histories, and it means that a child is afraid of their caregivers but must rely on them for support anyway. The most primal bond becomes associated with great danger.) For a child to be in a family, they must feel safe, secure, loved, and nurtured. For many trauma survivors, especially those with significant abuse histories, this is essentially impossible, and children learn many unhelpful ways of relating to others. Please see The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk for more.)
This is what you do: you find the people who are kind, loving, responsive, and accepting of you. You carve out time to take care of your own exquisite, lovely, playful, and delightful self and buck the traditional notion that one must have a relationship with family members even in spite of their cruel or unkind behavior. You forgive yourself for indulging in darkness for decades while recognizing that your behaviors made 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, because that’s what we all want.
Do I honor them by telling the truth about their behavior of me while recognizing that they too were beaten, mistreated, and neglected? Yes, I can have compassion for them too.
Do I acknowledge that God wants me to rest in love and peace? You bet, but this does not come naturally and needs to be learned.
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, I accept that some of my family are not willing to treat me with the love and care I deserve.
Do I continue to move toward God, wholeness, grace, acceptance, and healing? Of course because I am, like you, worth the work.
I accept full responsibility for my life, that God loves me and always has, and that He will guide me towards cultivating relationships with safe people. For me, it probably will not be what I had longed for in my past, which is to have the mythic and perfect family that we all hear about in movies, read in books, and absorb in Christian culture.
One of the hardest things about being a Jesus person is this: the expectations. As an impressionable Christian in my twenties, I was informed that I would most likely 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. Jesus just said that He would be here with us in the thick of things and, paradoxically, that we get to enjoy our lives. For me, with no Christian parents or active Christian siblings or cadre of childhood Christian friends, this truth helps me tremendously to relax into what is.
Our country’s national holiday is tomorrow, and while I am not usually patriotic, especially given our country’s dangerous leader, I’ll focus on freedom. There is freedom in accepting the truth of one’s past and powerlessness of changing anyone but ourselves. But there s also a deep and expanding and gracious joy when we lean into the discomfort of being loved just as we are right now.
Today I know I get to be the tender, merciful, and loving parent I never had. I have the privilege of choosing who I want to have contact with and who the safe people are in my life. Tomorrow, I choose to practice kindness toward myself and my hope and fervent prayer is that you will do the same.
Write down a list of adjectives that describe your gifts, after you sit in silence and wait for Spirit to show you. The trick will be letting yourself slow down for a moment and take time to be still, to practice staying in your body, and to breathe.