I had a military father who would abusively discipline me by spanking (beat me with his belt or a wood ruler). I also grew up around some neighborhood bullies who would hold me down and slap my stomach to give me a “pink-belly”—they thought that was hilarious.
I know there are many people who can relate to growing up under the influence of parents “with issues” or being subjected to neighborhood or school bullies. The abuse from parents or bullies can be physical, emotional, sexual, even intellectual, but at any level or form it comes in—the damage done fragments a sense of oneself and this has the effect of leaving pieces of “you,” as it were, all over the place with other people.
These fragmented pieces of your psyche are angry, hurt, vengeful, and wounded—they bear hatred and hold a grudge. And in as much as these other people can change your thoughts, emotions and behavior when you think about them (or when in their presence), they and your condition of powerlessness throw you off center and wreak havoc on your emotions so you don’t feel like yourself. Thus, the phrase “I feel like I’m falling apart!”
Getting a Hold of Yourself
Growing up with bullies or abusive parents we experience times of feeling disempowered or powerless—our power to chose what we experience, our safety and autonomy is in the hands of another. The fear, anger, rage, hurt, and shame that we feel somehow subverts the strength and wellbeing of personal power; effectively giving these away to the perpetrator. It’s not necessarily a conscious giving, but it happens—and a piece of you resides with someone else.
Long term exposure to repeated episodes of fear and trauma inculturates us to accept that our power resides with someone else. We become obedient and submissively participate in a one-up/one-down power dynamic. Sometimes this was a necessary thing to endure so as to survive long enough to escape—or get away when reaching adulthood. In other cases we never get away from its influence; it gets implanted in the mind that we’ve given a piece of our power away and they have control of us. This control can be expressed as simply as influencing your preferences and desires or as overtly as forbidding certain behavior or banning pursuits.
Getting your power back is a process of reclaiming the pieces of yourself that are deposited with other people. When you take back your power and autonomy from others it strengthens and emboldens you to feel whole and complete unto yourself.
Negative and abusive experiences are not the only way to feel fragmented and disempowered. There’s another, less obvious, way we give pieces of who we are away to others.
The Shadow Side of Love
As a child growing up your mother was the primary source of love and affection you experienced. You learned to get approval from her (or your father) for something to be OK to do, think, or feel. This would have been overtly taught or expected and implied by your parents and your extended family—its a natural part of family bonding.
As children our sense of what’s OK, authorized, approved and valued was passed through the filter of the parents and if they didn’t approve of something—even if you felt different—you capitulated to keep the peace and be approved of. This phenomena is tied to the sense of love and affection you learned while growing up and is expressed in the patterns of relating you enact with your spouse, partner or friends.
When your sense of self-approval, or self-esteem is “out there” with other people you depend on what they think of you to make you feel OK, approved, or a “good person.” This is again placing “pieces” of yourself in the control of others you are connected to. By so doing, you let other people decide for you and control you—and live out their standards, desires and directives for your life.
Getting along with people and being a caring and empathetic person is not the same thing as co-dependently getting your sense of self from other people’s approval or opinions. If you suddenly feel disempowered or less-than when your spouse, parents, or friends disagree with your choice—or you desperately wait for one of them to tell you what to do, feel or think, then you’re not whole unto yourself, you have a reflected, co-dependent sense of self.
Putting Humpty-dumpty Back Together Again
It’s possible to collect the pieces of yourself that you’ve given away to others and regain your personal power, autonomy and a sense of wholeness. Click on the download button below to get your copy of my report “Putting Yourself Back Together Again” and follow the simple step-by-step process to reclaim your autonomy and personal power.