I was so stuck and closed off I couldn’t even accept a loving gesture from my husband, and he was perfect in the way he offered it. This was new territory. I knew he was really trying something new for us, but I could not meet him there. I couldn’t let myself receive the gesture, which made me feel worse. Why? What was here for me to see and learn? At least I was aware enough to ask these questions. Still, I felt so vulnerable and embarrassed.
It had been a challenging few weeks including a major surgery in the family and a family death. That evening I had gotten into this terrible mood for reasons he couldn’t understand, and my inner torturer took over convincing me that I had yet again failed to take care of myself. It was relentless, and I was stuck in the suffocating shame of it all. This was not by any means the first time I had experienced this feeling. I have experienced this since I was a little girl. In this particular shame I feel closed off, and something has convinced me that I am bad. Something has convinced me that I am difficult. Something has convinced me that my husband must think so too.
In the past, my husband might have agreed with the torturer. Sometimes this was because he was stuck in his own crap, and sometimes it was because I was actually difficult. I would send mixed messages and not say what I really meant. I was less skilled. We both were. Sue me! I am human. Nevertheless, when I am in this place I want to be alone and not the kind of alone where I want to enjoy some quiet time in my own company. It actually feels more like a need- a desperate need. I need to be alone. I need to have time to be quiet and not have to explain myself. I need time to have my bad mood, and I can’t let anyone cast a gaze upon me in this space.
I had been convinced that if he didn’t see the issue the way I see it then receiving comfort from him would not be enough. I was also convinced that if he did not see it my way I must be wrong, and wrong equals bad. Bad then equals shame, and shame sends me to my room. And if he did not see it my way, how could he really even comfort me?
What an absurd notion that if someone does not see what I see then I must be wrong! It was also not helpful to think that if my husband (or someone) did not understand exactly why I was upset he couldn’t possibly comfort me – a lie that I had bought for years. He had already said, “I don’t understand, but I want to be a soft place for you to land”. We weren’t always that for each other. There wasn’t always room for me to be in a bad mood. He would have been too uncomfortable with my discomfort and would not give me my space. He would get flat out angry at my sensitivity and silence. We had both come a long way though, and that day he was on it. He was aware and attempting to create new ground. I wanted that so badly. I have wanted that my whole life, but I couldn’t let myself have and receive it. I could not let myself really be seen and sensitive here.
Ah…being seen – the thing many of us really want but are unconsciously scared to death of. By this time, I had grown myself up enough to have this awareness in the moment. I had done enough inner work to confront the part of me that was hell-bent on convincing me I couldn’t accept this – that I shouldn’t accept this. The torturer loves to use words like should and shouldn’t. Those words have become great clues for me. They let me know the torturer has barged right in unbeknownst to me. He/She typically doesn’t knock and ask for permissions to enter! I had been convinced that I should only accept a loving gesture when I looked good, and I don’t mean physically. God forbid I accept this kind of love when I was actually hurting. Am I only deserving of love when I am behaving in a way that feels good or “right”…when I have it so called together? This is a deeply ingrained side effect of bad religion, but regardless of the cause, it was my job to break this vicious cycle. I was working on it.
I felt like a big baby, and my torturer was ready and armed to make me feel awful about that. The torturer was pounding away at me, and I was so enmeshed with him (or her) that I did not even realize it was him talking. I did not realize I was being emotionally beaten. Luckily, my inner teacher, adult self, big self or whatever you want to call it was much more present in my life these days. Perhaps I am simply more open to her. She was showing up more and more. My inner teacher had taught me that my child self was not bad. She let me know that when I felt like a big baby it meant I was feeling vulnerable and needed care. My inner teacher and my child self have had many conversations teaching me the value of my younger self and the wisdom of her. The two of them were teaching me that my younger self did not need to be marginalized and criticized. She needed to be nurtured, loved. She needed me to respect her feelings. They taught me that I truly value sensitivity and softness, and that was a wonderful thing. She needed to be protected not tormented. This younger self was desperate for something better…for me to show up better. She was ready for me to stop perpetuating the world’s marginalization of being sensitive. Turns out that doing this inspired my adult self to be more accountable and strong.
My husband fully respected where I was that night, and left me to myself. After a few minutes alone and full realization of the torturer’s presence, I had the space to confront it. This is what that sounded like: “I make a decision that did not work out exactly the way I wanted, and you take the opportunity to pounce on me in my disappointment. That is exactly like you – chicken shit bully!! I can’t even accept an embrace from my husband because you’ve got me in a chokehold, and that shit stops now! You can #### all the way off! You will not keep me from love.” Five minutes later I got up, went downstairs and joined my husband for a movie. Once again, I was able to give myself the space and nurturing I needed to care for myself and understand what was going on more deeply. In that space I was also able to have an awareness of the torturer and confront it. At the end of the day, I was gaining traction. What a night!