Since my marriage collapse, my confident, self-assured, caring, partaking-of- pleasurable-activities, I-know-where-I-am-going, healthy adult persona has often been replaced with a fragile, directionless, powerless, inner child. Just as a child in distress clings to a comforter, such as soft cuddly toy, I too cling to my comforters. Initially I survived by coping, whichever way I could by strategies that provided comfort during the initial crisis and the ensuing months of turmoil. While these were excellent coping methods (indeed I still use some or turn to them when feeling overwhelmed), they are coping techniques. They are not healing techniques. Well-suited for comfort in crisis or trauma, some can become maladaptive if used longer-term.
Maladaptive coping strategies are extensions of the ‘fright’, ‘flight’, ‘fight’ responses.
Fright (freeze) is to give up or become subservient and self-depreciating.
Flight (run away) is to withdraw, retreat into a private world, rely on soothers such as food or alcohol, numb out or become disconnected.
Fight is over-compensation with controlling, excessive orderliness or a rebellious ‘I-am-fine’ (when I am not) persona.
I have fallen into some of these maladaptive coping strategies, relying on my home and routine for certainty, using food as comfort, and withdrawing. I have stayed with these strategies because they work (in easing the pain). However, I have been clinging onto them as the vulnerable needy child instead of responding to my distress by my healthy adult persona.
What is the difference?
A child clings to their comforter when distressed for whatever reason – whether they are hungry, lonely, or tired. Conversely, an adult will deduce what the problem is and find a solution. If it is hunger, prepare food. If lonely, seek company. If tired, sleep.
In the complete disruption to the fabric of my former life, I clung on to what remained; my work and my home. Within that seeming framework of familiarity I propped myself up with pillows of comfort; connecting with family when I could; and following a routine. I was clinging to what I had left, to what was left of my ‘normal’. I was comforting myself with a (fragile) sense of certainty, while my real world was far from certain.
I had lost three main fabrics of certainty; my intact family unit, trust, and future certainty. To regain trust in future certainty I began trusting the future one minute at a time, then one hour at a time. Gradually that grew to a day at a time. I spent many months watching the sunrise. It would always rise. I could trust the sun to rise. It gave me a sense of certainty and grounded me. I got myself into a weekly routine. I trusted my routine. If I stuck to my routine in my familiar place, life was certain. I regained my sense of trust in certainty.
It would all unfold whenever I went away or broke my routine. The pain would return.
My inner child had been responding to pain. My adult persona is now recognising that it has been stability and future certainty I require, not simply comfort from my pain
There was a fourth source of stability I had lost from my previous life. It was me. I had been the rock, the stable one. I had been my own stability. Yet now I had become the vulnerable needy child looking for pillows and comforters instead of looking for solutions and answers.
While I can never again return to the world before my losses, I can rebuild myself. Instead of focussing on dulling my pain, I can focus on me and a vision for my real future, not my false comforting ‘week-at-a-time’ future. I will prove to myself that I am still stable. I will begin by focussing on the proof of how I have acted and what I have achieved since the collapse of my marriage. Here is the proof:
1. I am living by my reaffirmed values of courage, fairness and kindness.
2. I have provided a safe-haven for my children to come home to.
3. I have helped friends and loved ones through personal issues.
4. I have provided employment for 20 employees and services to the community.
5. I have journeyed the marital split with grace and dignity, keeping to my divorce code.
6. I have been supportive of others in my blogging world.
7. I am a rock.
I am my own stability.
I am my own future.