In my quiet space, I have been having flash-backs to past events and feeling how I felt at the time (including negative feelings) rather than stifling those feelings. This has not been looking back at a past happy time and now seeing it in a sad way, it is looking back at a past positive experience that had negative sides and now feeling that negativity.
For example: one new year due to my mother-in-law suffering an injury, I stayed home two nights to care for her and my two younger children while my husband and two older children celebrated with others at the beach. The voices I listened to at the time were my mother-in-law not wanting to be a burden, my husband needing a break and my upbringing of doing the right thing.
My small voice
It was a huge step for me to feel my own feelings at the time of – sadness (missing that celebration with my family), anger (the event was not cancelled so we could be together), and unfairness (my own needs were neglected). I am now allowing myself to feel that pain as I too am vulnerable. I do not have to always be the strong one. My voice is being heard above the crowd. I too am important. I do not always have to stand aside. (Reading between the lines = resentment that he could not give up his NY party).
While it is enlightening that I am recognizing my own voice, that immediate voice I hear has been in some respects reactive rather than responsive. That voice has been my small voice playing the victim of being trampled on rather than the survivor who stands firm. My small voice is me being the warrior who wants to fight for my rights rather than the carer who wants to heal a situation.
The influences on my voice
My own voice had been influenced over the past four years by divorce advice and reading past events as supposedly “red flags” that I had missed. So the voices say to me ‘how selfish of him’, ‘he treated me badly’, ‘I was neglected’ (voice = he is the bad guy) OR ‘I did not stand up for myself’, ‘I became an enabler to his selfishness’, ‘I created the situation for betrayal’ (voice = I am a weakling). Listening to either voice, someone has to be at “fault” with the casting of either blame at his choices or shame in mine.
In reality, at the time the choices were a compromise that in a good marriage happens all the time. Make allowances. Understand. Care. Quite often in a marriage when there is young children, elderly parents or someone working long hours; sacrifices are made for the greater good of the relationship or family. That is what happened at the time. It was not a missed ‘red flag’.
Finding my stronger voice
I began ignoring other voices including my reactive small voice twisting the past. Instead I looked at why I was feeling pain over an event of 27 years ago. The trigger was an example of me being ‘the good wife’. Perhaps (looking back) I would have preferred he had made the choice to move the new-year event to home so that we could have been together that night. However, I am not responsible for his choice, only mine. What I did that night was to put his mother and her needs as my priority. While at the time I felt I had been appreciated, his decision to leave me 23 years later now overshadowed that. The pain I felt was that my caring side was not considered in his decision. In the here and now, it was the wanting to belong to someone who deeply cared for me and who appreciated me for who I am.
If I responded to my small voice I would get sucked down into the blame and shame game.
I am not a vindictive person so to impulsively demean or blame violates my own values with revenge-thoughts I do not like. Focussing on actions done or words said or how others have behaved towards me adds to the blame-game. I am not that person.
Degrading myself with critical ‘you are hopeless’ makes me think I should become more selfish, less caring and to stop thinking of others. I am not that person.
The truth is the lack of being appreciated by one person for my caring actions does not mean those actions or that trait in me were wrong or weak. Quite the opposite.
Appreciation and caring are a great strength and the greatest acts of human kindness.
I need to focus more on appreciation of others, and those who appreciate me.
I need to focus more on caring for others, and of those in need.
This is empowering.
This is my stronger voice. I have found it.
While ‘give and take’ makes for a good relationship it seem there was too much take by the other party, Elizabeth. You have come out on the other side and that’s a good achievement.
Out the other side feels good.
Embrace this voice with love and compassion. She deserves it after being stifled for so long in the name of being good and putting the needs of others first 🌟
It is strange hearing that voices sometimes and wondering whose it is. ‘Oh, it is mine’ I hear myself say, and then I have a different (and truer) perspective on things.
Creating balance within and around us is the secret to life. You have definitely moved into a new direction Elizabeth and increased your inner power and confidence. LIfe will unfold very differently for you now. Go girl!!
I agree–balance is good.
Yes, balance is good. Thanks for that reminder.
Thanks. I appreciate you being there.
A great post Elizabeth. I know that focusing on the needs of others will be rewarding! It is also rewarding when we give ourselves permission to value “me” too!
Allowing myself to be heard (even in my own head) is a bit foreign and there is a tendency to downplay this. So I hear what you are saying!
Ridding ourselves of reactivity can be so tough but so rewarding! It’s taking years of a patterned response and turning it on its head, finding that momentary pause and staying in it. Wishing you eventual success, as I think this one tiny piece is a big game changer. Pema Chodron writes of it quite a bit . . .
Thanks … I will look up what Pema Chodron says about this.
Part of my healing was to listen and not judge the past, but recognize that we all made choices. The good of the whole- absolutely my default setting, but the breakdown in my marriage came when I began asserting my own needs, and the realization that the spouse did not want to sacrifice for the good of the whole. A whole lot of journaling, meditation, reading and counseling gave me the strength to change MY behavior here and now. We all learn from the past if we are open to the lesson.
I understand where you are coming from – that trying to assert your own needs led to the breakdown of your marriage. It was a bit like that with mine too, although I failed to recognize that at the time.
This is an empowering post for all of us, Elizabeth!
Your specific process was tremendous. Unlike Annette, I finally learned to step up and specifically judge the past when applicable. Too long I took the judgments of my ex on myself, so this was a big step for me.
I understand this difference entirely and know what you mean. Accurately judging the past was a huge step for me too.
I found a female therapist who listened and guided me through some of my memories. She asked often, “How did you feel when this happened?” She didn’t say to dwell on it, but to express and yes, journals are also ways to say over past hurts you pushed aside. In your case, “I did a good thing by staying home to care for my MIL but I did not get appreciated for this action.” This would encompass the positive and the negative aspects of this one example. I actually tell people I was a doormat and never really had a balanced relationship, Elizabeth. At least, when I first starting reading about your ex, you seemed to have felt like a true partner. I never felt this respect level and looking back, resented inwardly the “Assumption” I would perform certain responsibilities without gratitude for my doing so. You sre way beyond dwelling on the past, Elizabeth: I see you soaring! 🙂
Hope you and granddaughters are baking cookies or enjoying special holiday tines together! ♡♡
Thanks for such a thoughtful reply and your openness and honesty . I truly appreciated it. You are correct that in many ways I did feel a true partner. And that is why it was so much of a shock to me when he left.
However, now sometimes looking back on some incidents I can see ‘red flags’ that perhaps I missed. I am not dwelling too much on these past times. They have simply come to me in a flash when I have been sorting through memorabilia, and it has intrigued me that I am now having these negative thoughts that I had buried for many years. My solution is that I am throwing away anything that triggers those negative feelings so that I can move on without being reminded of that past pain. Thanks for your kindness and positive encouragement of me. I am most grateful. 🙂
I believe you have great strength and great character! By sharing your journey, you’re empowering us all! Thank you, Elizabeth.
Thanks for your encouragement. I truly appreciate your support.
Loved your enquiry of your own self.
You have rightly conjectured that our ‘blame’ and ‘shame’ thoughts emerge out of situations which we cannot ( or could not) control. So that ‘small voice’ always waits in the wings and comes out at inopportune moments to tell us about ‘what could have been’. It remains deliciously tempting to ‘listen’ to that voice and thereby further strengthen one’s reactive stance to future events.
For me , the only recipe that works to shift us out of reactiveness and into an increasingly responsive space is to hold the realisation that whenever we find someone’s behaviour or words hurtful or offensive, it is really all about that person’s own inner turmoil, frustration or unhappiness and never about you. This realisation allows you to “Let go” and move on.
Thanks. That is really sensible and encouraging advice. I really appreciate it. Thanks for your support.
I read this post with great interest. I absolutely love that you took a situation that really, for most people, would have been an easy one in which to cast yourself as the victim. And perhaps you did so for a few years, but being able to turn it all around and to learn from it, AND to clarify that the voice is indeed your stronger voice only demonstrates your own strength of will. Brilliant. And I should take a few pages from your book.
Thank you for your kind words of praise for me. I really appreciate it.
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