I had another counseling session today. Today was interesting. She chose what we’d be talking about. Today’s topic: My father. I think my eyes got a bit wide when she said that was what we were going to focus on. My history with my father is full of ups and downs. It’s not something I like to talk about or get into. It is what it is.
My counselor’s approach is an interesting one. She works to help you map out patterns for behaviors. To understand why we do and react the way we do. After talking about my father and answering her questions and probes for 40 minutes – a few things bubbled up to the surface. She helped point out patterns, behaviors I learned from a very, very early age that I still do now. Ways to cope, ways to comfort, things that I’d do or say or feel, that I still do and say and feel today in different environments and circumstances. On one hand, it was fascinating and comforting to suddenly understand why I do those things… but on the other hand, it was frustrating because I don’t want to be that way, I want to break the pattern and change… but when you’re faced with the knowledge that those patterns were created when I was very young – it makes it very clear that it’s going to take a lot of time before I’ll be in that place.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around it all, but there were a few key topics, or nuggets of info that came out today that really shook me:
1. My father has a personality disorder… maybe even a couple.
2. I’ve been striving to “feel loved and accepted” by my father, my mother and my grandparents since I was just a young child. And I can clearly identify WHY I didn’t feel loved or accepted by all of them in my past. It is why I consistently don’t feel good enough, why I am always striving to be the peace keeper and fix things, and why I struggle daily to understand someone else’s ability to love to me.
3. I was not looked at as a daughter or even a child by my father. I was an object. He’d say “I’m not your father, I’m your friend.” He still says that stuff today. This rejection that has continued since I was little, has led to me fearing abandonment and rejection in deep ways.
4. Emotional/Sexual abuse. We’ll likely spend more time on this in later sessions.
5. Over the years, my feelings about my father have changed a lot. I’ve come to accept him for who he is and what he is. I don’t feel a sense of anger over his actions/behaviors anymore. I used to. I used to hope that he’d magically become the dad I always needed him to be… and what I’m learning is that he never will be. He is not capable of that.
6. My overwhelming need to ensure that people I love and care about know that I love and care about the, stems from my lack of feeling that myself as a child. What I have to remember – I am not my father. I am not my mother. I am not anyone but me. And who I am is shaped by what I’ve been through, yes, but I am in control. I can let something affect me or choose not to. What I cannot do tho, is to fix everything all the time. Something I learned was to fix it when there was a fight or a problem. Whether it was cleaning the house, making dinner for the person who I was fighting with, or showering them with gifts. I STILL do these behaviors. I don’t like feeling that angst and uncomfortable feeling you get when things aren’t ok with someone. But it’s not my job to always be the one to cave, give in and fix it. I learned this behavior from an early age, and repeated it with my mom and my father on so many occasions.
7. I had a great childhood… I have a great family. BUT… sloughing off what I went through.. pretending things weren’t messed up or pretending that all is ok is a response I learned from the “strong” people in my life. It’s ok to admit that things that happened to me as a child, teen or adult shook me to my core and really impacted me. It doesn’t mean I’m weak now. It doesn’t mean I was weak then. I’m not. Now I get to work to understand it and move forward.
8. Showing any kind of emotion other than love and happiness was not acceptable to my father. It was mocked, it caused anger, and would often cause him to pack me up and take me back to my mom’s, leaving me feeling abandoned, unloved, unwanted and upset. This is when the idea of not showing emotion and putting on a mask was ingrained in me. Granddad didn’t like emotions either, so it was then reinforced.
When I left my counseling session today, I was shaking I was so upset. And knowing I had to then go to work and put my game face on… made it difficult. Hence I’m taking my lunch time to sit and write this out. So glad it is Friday and that my day is kind of a light day today. Note to self, perhaps we need to not have counselor appointments where I have to go back to work afterwards. It is too hard.
Thanks for being there, Neverland. Thanks for the extra strength today.