The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

It's never too late

Parents, please be careful with your children. They only get one childhood, and damage that occurs therein lasts a lifetime. I recently spoke with a client who has had a confused personal history: broken relationships, distorted body image, an inability to meditate, career chaos that is confusing (given her brilliance), an oddly infantalized parental relationship, and other things that have troubled me for some time.

And just recently, during an intense session, several things clicked into place: she was prematurely sexual (horrifically young), was never able to tell her mother about it, and the guilt and shame, the resentment at not being protected in combination with a fear that, were the truth known it would deny maternal love, has lead to a lifetime of pain, lies, and finally last week the admission: "I hate myself."

Oh, God. Where to begin? If you don't start with love for yourself, you will spend your entire existence trying to get that love from outside yourself. If you must lie to others to protect some "dirty" secret, you lose the capacity to know what is true, and what is false. The map you navigate is distorted by your need to justify, and you swing from grandiose feelings of entitlement to deep and horrific despair.

I suspect that many of the religious organizations that offer healing change the names of their adherents to create a new identity--that it is possible to do such damage to ourselves that there is almost no way to heal it while clinging to the old. I don't know. I know that damage that takes place on the sexual level is secondary ONLY to damage that involves mortality itself. The scars go so insanely deep. Fifteen years ago I dealt with an incident that involved sexual and emotional issues in my own life. The incident lasted only a couple of months, but it took almost a year of meditation to shovel out the shit in my mental basement. Someone who is damaged in childhood, who doesn’t become fully aware of it until adulthood might have DECADES of emotional filth to wade through to get to purity. Few have the patience to shovel for so long. Most wall the damage off (explaining a lot of emotion-based obesity) and pretend it isn’t there. Stay in denial, until the pain and poison builds to the point that their bodies break down, almost as if they’re playing a game: “can I avoid dealing with this altogether? Can I arrange to die physically before I have to deal with the fact that I am a twisted, evil thing?”

Of course they are not, and never were, twisted evil things. They were beautiful children who should have been protected and guided and told every day that they were as precious as the stars. No one should have to spend a life shoveling shit out of their emotional basements, or denying they live atop a cesspool, until they die from the vermin crawling up to bite them. And their dreams. And their children.

Parents, shelter your children. And remember always that your most important child sleeps still within your own heart. And needs, more than roses need rain, to know that you love her. Or him. No matter what.

It’s never too late to have a sheltered childhood.


Reluctant Lawyer said...

Wow. That really hit close to home, particularly with some problems that I am going through right now. I realize that self love is something I really struggle with, in particular trying to let go of making mistakes. I am trying to deal with my issues before I mess up my sons lives, but its hard. Thanks for the insight.

Steven Barnes said...

My very great pleasure. If there is more interest, I'll be glad to dedicate a few posts to the process.

Reluctant Lawyer said...

I personally would appreciate a few posts on the subject.

Daniel said...

I was abused when I was 4 years old. I am 31 and still, I'm terrified of other people's anger. This post hit deep because the little boy inside still cringes at any challenge or threat. I would very much appreciate more of your guidance on these issues.
Thank for your words Steve, I'll keep shoveling.

betty said...

wow..just wow...ive been trying to say this to my family but never had the words.
its because of your emails and posts that i have decided to start Therapy...well my Doctor calls it intensive finally hit me...thank you for this today..thank you.

coriaedu said...

Thank you for this. I'm forty and finally fully realizing that I don't love myself. I did not have a traumatic experience like abuse or physical violence, but my parents were (still are) very young and probably clueless... and I don't remember a happy childhood. I don't remember feeling safe, encouraged, supported and properly loved. I remember my fathers anger always close to exploding, and their inability to help me being bullied.... and I don't even know what I've been through from 0 to 3... My brother (two years older) did not experienced it like that, but then again... might be that the second child does not get as much attention as the first.

So I don't have those building blocks and end up sabotaging myself at every turn out of happiness and not fully understanding why. So I'm trying to learn now... I would really appreciate any tips or advice. I meditate. I will try that "shoveling shit from the basement" thing, but mostly, I would like to know how to build what I did not have in my childhood.

Interestingly enough, my parents (now in their 60s), are now more supportive and encouraging and make me feel safe, but I'm still the 6 year old that shows a drawing to his father and I get "not good enough"... even though he's now amazed at the kind of art I can create (I'm an amateur artist).

Sorry for the long winded exposition.

My only tip for learning to love myself again, is to focus on the love we have today from friends and family and realizing "If they love me, maybe I deserve to be loved by me too"