Woke up today after a nightmare. It was my Mum and my partner in my dream. My Mum is really inappropriate with men (and my partners). I’ve never called her on it as I would be made out to be a liar or crazy. I know this as every time I try to express my feelings if they contradict a perfect picture of her I get belittled, made to feel guilty for saying something that might hurt her sense of self (I still carry this today, I feel guilty for expressing myself if someone has hurt me as I don’t want to hurt them).
So this dream, my partner is in it and we’re having an argument about something, I’m in my parents house. I’ve warned my partner that my Mum will flirt and be suggestive with him and I’ll find it difficult. So, my Mum comes in the room – make-up on as usual. She’s really pretty and men do find her attractive still, or maybe I just think that because I see her as a threat (which is true in many cases, she’s a threat – not a source of support, albeit one that I used to go back to time and time again, just to see if sticking my fingers in the fire still burnt). So my mum comes in the room, straight away I tense and start to act sulkily. My Mum then rolls her eyes at my partner, like what are you putting up with her for? I don’t remember the rest now – but at the end there is a big argument where I’m told to leave the house. I remember a feeling of not feeling supported by my partner…. I with a raised voice but not shouting tell my mother “you try it on with my partners again and I’ll kill you, do you hear me” to which she replies “yes” and actually looks sheepish.
Now I know this is a dream because whenever I call my mum out for her behaviors I’m called mental, spoiled, ungrateful and inconsiderate. So, after this dream I’ve got up, meditated (as I usually do each morning) and now I’m really fucking angry. Like pull my skin off angry! Just so frustrated, I think I’m back in my childhood emotion. All of my childhood, from the minute I was a teenager and could think for myself I was made to feel like my feelings didn’t count (and actually if you factor in the abuse before that – then you could say this started much earlier). Me and my mum would continuously argue, and no matter what my Dad would come home and it would be “say sorry to your Mum for upsetting her”. There was never a question about whether I’d been upset, or whether my Mum was being reasonable. Which frequently she wasn’t, she’s got a horrible temper – is quite unstable emotionally, can’t express her emotions so they come out in spiteful hateful ways towards both me and my Dad…..
So I sort of see as a child/teenager why this was the case in the sense of me being ignored, They were the adults and they ruled the roost. But actually is that OK, to systematically break a child’s sense of their feelings in a situation being valid? I think I have heightened sensitivity towards this from the sexual abuse, and feeling like I’m a worthless nothing – who’s feelings obviously don’t count. I’ve questioned endlessly what is right and wrong in situations. But it’s so hard for me to trust what I think as my whole world shattered when I realised my creation of my upbringing i.e. how I saw certain people and situations, had to be completely shattered on my journey of recovery. I know recognize not having the love and support of my parents, in ways that nurtured and recognised my feelings was hugely detrimental.
And yes, I’m still really fucking angry. For years I swallowed down my parents behaviours. In fact they’re not talking to me now. I put my feelings on the table and said certain things were unacceptable – like being drunk and abusive, flirtatious or innapropriate with my partners, lying to me, not respecting my feelings (to try and assert my role as an adult in the relationship, as I can’t continue to be belittled and have my feelings ignored if I’m going to heal and break free from my abusive past). I said I can’t accept these things anymore, so if we can go forwards and start to respect my feelings and if when they do something to upset me it can be recognised and talked about we can go forwards. I said I was also willing to make changes. I haven’t heard from them since.
But anyway, that’s an aside to my anger. The anger of constantly being belittled in the sense of my feelings being ignored is what’s coming up. It was so incredibly skin peeling-ly frustrating to have my Mum behave inappropriately with my partners. I used to deny she was doing it, and thought I was going mad. Then one year (on bloody Christmas day) it was so obvious that I couldn’t deny it to myself anymore. That year I didn’t say anything, but wanted to leave on Boxing Day, and was made to feel so guilty for leaving them. I think what made all this worse was my Dad’s complicity in this. I always felt like I was going crazy, I was this bad egg and everyone else was doing right. It was something wrong with me. Counselling is making me recognise that it isn’t always me… But it’s so hard to let go of this default of not considering my own feelings and putting everyone else first.
So this anger is just like trapped in me now, the anger of not being heard, the anger of my feelings not counting, the anger of people not validating me or my feelings. So it found a way to come out in my nightmare last night. But I’m also finding it in my relationship at the moment to. Since the new year I’ve started to recognise that my partner maybe doesn’t recognise my feelings in certain situations, and is driven by his emotional needs in that moment not mine. I also recognise this is how most people work. But I need some support, I need to not give everything and not get it back in certain ways. Feeling validated is something I know only I can give myself, but it’s so difficult knowing what is reasonable to ask from a partner. I’ve never acknowledged or considered what I need fully before and now I am doing its hard. I see what I do for him, how I think about what he needs in certain situations and reassure him or we explore how he can manage a situation. I point out to him if he’s triggered and stuck in a cycle. He doesn’t do these things for me. Is that OK? I’m working this out.
I think that is making me angry to, I’m angry that I’m not sure in myself enough to know what is right or wrong when it comes to respecting my feelings and meeting my needs. I recognize why its hard for me to do that. I’m angry that I feel like I’m in the role of giving and considering and being supportive to the extent of putting myself last again at times. I’m angry that I am the one who goes into default and helps someone through a difficult situation for them, but doesn’t get this back. I’m angry when I feel my feelings are ignored. I think these are all valid, but I just don’t know what it’s reasonable to expect and in what ways. I know that it’s not my partners role to “heal” me, that the validation needs to come from me – which is why I go in circles.
So, I’m trying to work through this as I type. What is OK for me to expect? That if I say I’m struggling for that not to be ignored, or for in that moment my partner to consider me? I even question this. I recognize he has feelings too and might be finding it hard. But I do in some ways feel like it’s a one way street of giving emotionally and in terms of support. He is very open to change, and wants to be supportive. But it appears as a case of saying one thing and doing another, often he gets triggered emotionally and just starts reacting to that. It’s then all about him and what he needs (and my snap reaction is to tend to his needs), is it wrong that I need it to be about me sometimes and for him to manage his triggers like I do. But he has just started his journey, maybe it’s not possible. Can I continue to be the supporter when I want support at times? It just makes me want to jump up and down, peel my skin off and shout “what about me?”. I’m used to be so ‘small’ and not asking for things for me in many ways (even though I’m outgoing and even loud in others), I need to stop these cycles of my feelings being ignored and my emotional needs not being met.
I worry I’m repeating another abuse cycle. Where I’ve got with someone who is incapable of recognizing my needs. Luckily (or unluckily) he’s doing it in a way that is loving – he doesn’t mean to…. see where I’m going with this?! My parents always presented as loving, my grandad always presented as loving, they didn’t mean to abuse, treat me in ways that were harmful to me. Or am I just transferring the past onto him? Maybe I’ll never feel secure in loving relationships because they provoke such suspicion in me, rather than put my barriers down they put them up in many ways. How do I unravel the two. I can focus on the now. He’s said he wants to try to be more supportive and recognises he’s been selfish in certain situations/inconsiderate as he’s been focusing on his needs not mine. So it’s a start. I have to just see if that can develop, and see if that trust can build.