“Feel your feelings, but don’t let them become you.” ~ Dr. Ruth Ziemba
The thing about growing up with a difficult and emotionally absent parent(s) is that it leaves us utterly confused and exhausted with our own self.
We grow up with no sense of self-identity. We don’t know how to validate our feelings because we don’t even have the concept of emotions and validation.
In fact, we don’t even know why we exist at all.
Somebody decided to bring us into this world and then left us to our own devices.
It turns us into an “emotional scavenger.” All we do is hunt for emotions, validation, and acceptance.
From one person to another. From one setting to another. From one relationship to another.
We become like parasites. We need a host to help us survive because, on our own, we feel like we won’t be able to.
The world seems like a cold, dark, and utterly lonely place where we don’t understand anyone, and people seem to simply look past us.
It’s a shadow-like existence.
Days are daunting and nights oscillate between being our best friends to the worse enemy we could ever have.
In our strongest moments, we want to run away from them. We want to show them and the world that no one can take us down.
But at our weakest and the most vulnerable moment, we feel like the world is going to end.
The walls of our own room will gobble us up and spit us out into a void of nothingness.
We meet people every now and then, searching for that certain someone, who would see us for who we truly are and not load us with labels we don’t even understand about ourselves.
We meet everyone who thinks, talks, and behaves like the emotionally unavailable parent—”our role model of an ideal relationship,” and our scavenging mode gets activated.
We continue to struggle; to look for something that doesn’t exist in this person and this relationship.
Yet, we can’t help ourselves. That’s all that we grew up with. That’s the language that we understand.
That says, “You don’t deserve any better,” “No one will be there for you,” “Hang on to whomever you can find because you won’t find anyone else.” And we scavenge. We try and settle with whatever crumbs of affection and appreciation they throw at us. The more they throw, the more we give ourselves to them. Until there is nothing more to give.
It’s not that our self-worth is shattered. It’s that we weren’t even aware that it existed and still does.
Except that sometimes when we’re alone with ourselves, we can hear its muffled cries and stifled words.
Even we know it’s there. Yet, we don’t know what to do with it.
And then one fine day, we meet someone who is exactly what you wanted and needed in your life to make us feel loved, understood, secure, and safe.
We recognize it and feel paralyzed by this recognition.
“How could this be?”
“This must be a joke!”
“I don’t deserve this!”
“Oh! He/she will leave me. That’s what always happens!”
“Maybe he/she needs something from me. Perhaps, I’m only good till I’m of any use.”
“I don’t deserve someone good. I shouldn’t even think about it.”
The list goes on…doesn’t it?
And we wonder if it would ever stop. If we could ever pull ourselves out of this deep, dark hole that drives us insane with emptiness, loneliness, and fear.
If these dark clouds would ever stop raining down on us.
The silver lining is that it doesn’t stop on its own. “We” have to make it stop.
I’m sure that a lot of us have had such experiences, not just with parents but others as well.
The first experience with the absence of emotional validation and understanding hits us at the core. It makes us question our very being, our existence.
Yet, it also paves the way for self-discovery through pain and trauma, building emotional strength and self-growth. As Oprah Winfrey says, “You have to turn your wounds into wisdom.”
We are emotional, physical, and spiritual beings. We are put on this earth to learn and grow. No one said it was going to be easy.
If it were, then we would have all been stunted.
There wouldn’t be anything to look forward to, would it?
We can blame people and circumstances as much as we like. Yet, it doesn’t change anything.
It just takes away our own power from us. It makes us bitter.
We become like malfunctioning machines.
Always triggered. Always on the edge. Lost. Confused.
More than we hate the world, we actually hate ourselves for who we let ourselves become.
I guess, it takes just one moment for us to change things.
Just one—when we decide to change.
When we are ready to step out of those four walls and face the world.
When we decide who we want to be.
Only when we decide to take the reins of our lives in our hands.
It takes only one moment to change our own lives.
All we need to do is—wake up to ourselves.
” You are not a mistake. You are not a problem to be solved. But you won’t discover this until you are willing to stop banging your head against the wall of shaming & caging & fearing yourself.” ~ Geneen Roth
Read Damini’s follow-up article on the topic: Emotional Invalidation: The Perfect Recipe to give your Relationships a Slow Death.