Reflections on 2010
Last year in Looking Back and Ahead, I tried to make sense of my long healing journey as well as identified my gains for the year. I think it is probably good practice for all of us to reflect on the past year and use it as an opportunity to celebrate the gains, validate the tribulations, and set goals for the upcoming year.
For me, this year has been filled with at least as many ups and downs as the last one. Most of what follows is based on a discussion with "My Healing Guide" a couple of days ago. Whenever I talk about short-term gains, she likes to frame them in a larger context, as being built on the accumulated efforts of the entire journey. She says it is like I have already built a foundation, and our task is to add floors and rooms. I do like that metaphor.
I do believe that the Contract of a year ago was the launching point for what I was able to accomplish this past year. The entire Contract is really based on just a few basic principles (summarized by single words): trust, acceptance, and validation. Everything flows from this. While I don't read the Contract much these days, I don't really need to; its creation came from a place of near complete common ground and all of me knows its essential elements to the core. Yes, the Contract has stood up well this past year. All of me has understood its significance.
While I know our therapy work this past year was a true collaboration, it was important for me to tell "My Healing Guide" that she played a huge role in helping me continue to heal. I absolutely do not take that help for granted. None of my gains would have been possible without her help, without her willingness to be there for me, to walk with me, to listen to me, to promote trust, acceptance, and validation.
I also have an appreciation for the fact that healing is really about living. It is not all about therapy. The work we have done has helped me live more of the life I want to live. Yes, there have been some really low lows this year. But there have also been new connections inside, with my children and, to some extent, with my wife.
The 2010 year started out horribly with the Our Family Crisis, which blew up in our faces. This family "friend" was truly distorting my relationship with my wife and driving a huge wedge between us. This situation had been ongoing for years, but I think it came to a head because the "friend" saw an opening partly because I was in the hospital so often. It is astonishing to me that I was able to solve it. I stood up for my family. I took charge. I reestablished boundaries. The result was that my wife and I became closer and that set us up for what was to come.
In Holy Week, Church Visit, Scandal, and Miracles, I wrote about how "My Healing Guide" went with me to the church where a good deal of my childhood abuse took place. I never imagined that would have been possible, and I still cannot believe we did it! It was initially all completely validating and healing, but it did stir things up inside which caused us to eventually question whether it was the right thing to do after all.
There were gains made, however, which helped us realize it was definitely the right decision. Those gains came at a cost, though, because of internal instability that landed me inpatient quite a bit this past year; five hospitalization for 59 total days. I knew Easter was going to be really tough. In The Word of the Lord?, I wrote about some of the issues I faced during Easter and how I tried to put into perspective the stream of news coming out of Rome.
We then addressed directly an aspect of me key to the self-abuse. Inside, we were all certain this part was the embodiment of evil. We were all afraid of what seemed like unlimited power. In Inside, an art piece done in the hospital, this part stepped forward and joined in the healing process. That was a huge leap forward for all of me.
Not all was safe, though. That huge shift led to additional instability in my system. There was a long period of continued self-abuse from other parts who were newly activated. I wrote about this, mainly from an intellectual perspective, in Sex Injury: Past and Present. I recreated situations that would lead to my own abuse which kept fueling feelings of worthlessness. I do think, now, that I have come out the other side. I firmly believe that kind of self-abuse is permanently behind me. I am continually being reminded of what it was about (through flashbacks) and know it cannot ever happen again.
There were two occurrences that led to this resolution.
First, was when my wife found out about my self-abuse by my accidentally leaving my electronic journal open to a particularly sensitive entry. That she now knows about what has been my life's deepest secret—though she does not know details—is incredulous to me. Even more surprising is that while she had immense trouble with this new knowledge, I think it has made us stronger. The cards were put on the table. She finally learned that there are truly dark aspects to what I have to deal with.
Second, was that I physically got hurt from the self-abuse itself. After I wrote Taking Care When Physically Sick, I found out the illness was a result of the self-abuse. Getting hurt in this way ushered in a whole new sense of what the consequences really are, a reality that acting out parts had no concept of before. It brought self-abuse parts together with more healthy parts and is causing yet another reordering inside.
I have the sense that this new internal reordering will be what 2011 will be about. I know it will not be painless and I do not know what the months ahead will bring. But I hope the reordering and focus on safety will allow certain aspects of my life to flourish. I expect work and my relationships with my kids and wife will be where new gains will be made.
Already, the new reordering inside is leading me to come face-to-face with how to achieve balance in my life. How can I be successful at work, for example, while practicing good self-care? Or, said more broadly: How can I participate more fully in life and still practice self-care? 2011 will be about finding and maintaining this balance. Whereas 2010 was about acceptance.
Balance partly comes from being in touch with feelings. And this is why I have been proactive lately about getting in touch with feelings as a kid and connecting the past to the present. I have watched movies and television shows and read books which are validating and asked my Mom for old pictures of me as a kid. This is one way I know of to achieve balance. It is more difficult to get lost in a single part of me if I am also reminding myself of feelings. I have to always remember that balance is key now. Yes, I know I am being very proactive. I know I am forcing myself to feel feelings. This is one major aspect of self-care. And this is the one area I know I focused on when I started this new healing path a couple of years ago.
I also know that self-abuse was one way to solve internal problems, even though it was definitely harmful and dysfunctional. I talked with "My Healing Guide" about it not only being about making myself feel worthless. But also about recreating abusive events so that I could come out the other side and prove that I was "not really hurt" and could go on and be functional. I am not sure how much was which. But I do not think it needs to be my job to figure out what the relative weights were. We are all on a new course now.
If part of the self-abuse was to feel worthless, I have to challenge that now and do deeds that heal that way of thinking. If part of it was about control and recreation, I can challenge those by practicing my skills at balancing and validation.
What is important for me to keep in mind is that I know I have skills and a plan in place to help keep my life balanced and safe.
Yes, 2010 was a year of great accomplishment. And I know 2011 will be equally great if not better.
Happy New Year to all of you!