This is another excerpt from Sally Brampton’s ‘shoot the damn dog’ because her words are too powerful not to share. This passage is about self-abandonment where she has a discussion with her therapist who explains that she needs to stop abandoning herself.
“‘Stop abandoning yourself’ a therapist, Elizabeth, once said to me. ‘What?’ I didn’t understand. She explained it like this:
- Every time you feel sad and swallow down your tears, you abandon yourself.
- If someone hurts you and you pretend that you are fine, you abandon yourself.
- Every time you don’t eat, or fail to feed yourself, you abandon yourself.
- If you are tired, but refuse to rest, you abandon yourself.
- If you drink too much and poison yourself with alcohol, you abandon yourself.
- If you don’t ask for what you need from someone with whom you are intimate, you abandon yourself.
- If you don’t ask for help when you need it, you abandon yourself.
‘You suffer’ Elizabeth said, ‘from a failure of care’. From who? ‘From yourself’, she says. And before that, from your parents. They are the ones who should have taught you how to take care of yourself.
An inability to take care of oneself or soothe oneself is a sign of immaturity. It is a failure of understanding, or of teaching. If you are not taught as a child how to take care of yourself, you do not know as an adult. The pattern becomes ingrained. You are now an adult inhabited by a child. The child pleads, the adult overrules. You deny yourself proper care.
And so, as I understand it, I adjusted to constant loss as well as the inability to articulate any distress on, as one therapist described it, an ‘adapted’ level. The term, ‘adapted child’ was originally used by Eric Berne, the father of Transactional Analysis in the 1950’s. Essentially it means the compliant, orderly side of us that hides anger, pleases others and generally acts the good boy or girl. The more the behaviour is rewarded (and the more that any other behaviour is punished or, more usually, ignored) the more we adapt ourselves to keeping quiet and not making a fuss. Put in another way, we adopt the position known in therapeutic terms as ‘abandonment or withdrawal’.
It is not, either, only the still, pale, silent child who has withdrawn. Withdrawal takes place at a far deeper level and may be disguised by a bright, lively and social exterior – the sort of exterior that indicates compliance because compliance brings its own rewards.
A child who feels ignored or misunderstood turns that message against themselves. It becomes, ‘I have no right to feel the way that I do’. And an analyst will, inevitably, take that to yet another level. A child whose deeper feelings are constantly minimised, challenged or simply ignored, ends up believing, ‘I have no right to be the way that I am. I reject myself’.”
We unconsciously reject ourselves so don’t even realise when we are then abandoning ourselves. And booze is a really good salve for self-rejection. No pain, no feeling right? It also helps us play up to that bright, lively social exterior that hides our withdrawn inner self. This could have been describing me.
Now you see why sober self-care is such a big deal out here in the recovery and sober blogging community. Self care is the opposite of a failure of care. Self-care is nurturing and restorative. January is a good month to start non-alcohol focused self-care 🙂