Owning my Trauma, Owning my Needs…
I was five years old when I took responsibility for wiping my mother’s tears. I vowed that I would hate everyone that she hated and I would love anyone she loved. I didn’t tell her about my abuse or any of my other troubles. Why worry her?
In fact, this became the way I related to my family – a compartmentalised version of me – where part of me disappeared when I talked to them. I knew that they needed me and it was “up to me” to make their lives better. There was no need to focus on myself because I didn’t deserve love.
So I became “the one they came to” for many, many years. I was their confidant; I was their counsellor; I was their financial help, and I was their entertainment. I made it my life mission to be there for my family.
I remember that when I received my first salary, I gave the paycheck to my mother. Her tears of joy made me feel so joyous myself. I was achieving what I had set out to do; I was wiping away her tears. She used to say to me: “may Allah give everyone a daughter like you…”
Hearing this was like honey to my ears. I was special and I was making her life better. I loved that feeling.
This pattern of “taking responsibility” for others became the new me. I did this with my friends; I did this with my lovers and I did this with my partners. I was on a mission to make lives better for others and it felt really good. My friends and lovers over that period of time called me their mirror; they said that I made a huge impact on their lives and this felt even better…
Things would have continued this way till my last ex, who said that I emasculated him. This completely shocked me!! Here I was, doing my very best to care for him but he didn’t appreciate me at all. I became enraged. But I knew that I had to “unpack” what it is that I did that emasculated him…
This started a journey of exploration with my therapist Robert Ged Lewitt. Through his help, I started to look deeper into my patterns. My last session with him was profound. I said something like “Unless I do something for others, I don’t feel that I have the right to live on this planet”. I was shocked as the words came out of my mouth. My natural response would have been to continue rambling but he stopped me; he asked me to sit with what I had just said and just breathe…
This was exactly what I found very difficult to do but I had been learning to sit with discomfort so I sat and watched myself go into a state of turmoil. My breath became stuck in my body; I started to have a panic attack and my whole body started to shake/move involuntarily. Sitting became harder; my arms and limbs tingled and had this restless feeling… I needed to move; I needed to distract myself from this awful feeling but instead, I just cried and continued sitting with it knowing that Robert was there.
Slowly, my breathing returned to normal and I stopped crying. The first words that came out of my mouth were”I didn’t die” – another shock!! I mean I knew that this was no death situation but it felt like that.
What followed were massive realisations – I thought that I was “serving” others by taking responsibility for them. I was actually disabling them. I was taking their ownership of their responsibility from them so they didn’t have to do it. In reality, I was serving my own needs; I wanted to feel important; I wanted to earn my right to exist and when these loved ones appreciated me, I felt okay – I was allowed to live on this planet.
I felt ashamed in acknowledging that I was catering for my own needs in a deceitful kind of way. I had to stop this; I had to stop my patterns but I didn’t know how… Then, Robert said something very simple and profound – “How about you simply acknowledge your needs and ask for them?”
Once again, the words dumbfounded me.
If I acknowledge my needs, I don’t have to use any back door to meet them. Taking responsibility for others has been tiring and I realised that the hole I was trying to fill just wouldn’t fill so I did more and more to fill the hole and my life became all about others to the point that the only time I found relief was when I was by myself coz there was no one to take responsibility for.
By simply asking for it, I don’t have to do any of this but more importantly, I get to be honest and vulnerable and present. I get to connect with people rather than “solve” their problems for them.
What a relief!!!
All it required was to “acknowledge my trauma” and “own my needs” and when I do, the unconscious patterns have no way of getting into my life.
Do you acknowledge your needs? or do they find a backdoor to get themselves fulfilled?