Pain makes you selfish. I hate that it’s true, but it is.
When we experience trauma, we often become blind to the pain of others.
Being selfish is not intentional. It is an unconscious form of survival, a way for us to provide the self-care that others, such as our parents, should have provided.
I love my parents. But their own childhood trauma made the baggage they carried into adulthood impossible for them to ignore.
As a result, they couldn’t provide a stable, loving home for my brother and me after a certain point.
Their burdens had simply gotten too big to bear, and they went their separate ways, unintentionally creating mountains of new trauma for my brother and me.
Trauma cycles are like that. Left untreated, they continue on for generations.
As I said in a previous post, I got pregnant and married very young, hoping to “fix” everything that was broken in me.
I thought that my husband and children could heal the shame, guilt and trauma by going here, being this and doing that.
But other people cannot heal you. You have to heal yourself.
You cannot make your parents be people they are incapable of being.
Your spouse can appear perfect on paper and they still won’t fix your broken past.
You can throw your children in every sport, activity and competition possible, but nothing they become, no prize they gain, will heal you.
When the love of our primary caregivers has gone haywire, it’s tempting to think we can replace that love with something or someone else.
But no amount of outside love–no food, alcohol, person or other distraction–will heal an inside wound.
However, the craziest thing happens when we take the focus away from the people who hurt us in the past and focus on the people we’ve been given in the present.
By loving others, giving time and care to the people that surround us, we begin to heal.
I’m not talking about a martyr-like form of self-sacrifice, where we lay down every hope, dream, want or desire we have for our own life.
I’m simply talking about loving, listening, parenting, and being married in a way that wasn’t reflected in our past.
This takes work. How can you be different if you never saw different?
The work starts with awareness. We must pinpoint the things in our past that hurt or traumatized us and refuse to repeat them with our own families or friendships.
We have to actively choose to form new habits in our lives that will fire off new pathways in our brains, thus ensuring those habits become ingrained.
As new habits and pathways are formed by loving others the way we needed to be loved, the confidence we gain grows strong because we realize we have all the tools we need to love ourselves.
I’m writing this post as I watch my three-year-old great-niece eat animal crackers and watch a movie on my couch.
Her baby brother is asleep in the playpen next to me.
No, I’m not that old; we just like to have children young and out of wedlock in my family.
It’s part of the cycle that has continued for more than four generations in my family.
Some would call it a curse. But as a Christian, I don’t believe that.
I believe that we simply haven’t learned from our mistakes. Up to this point, we have lacked awareness.
My pain caused much blindness. As a result, I couldn’t see the harm I was causing to myself, my spouse and my children.
But when I turned thirty-three and started to become more aware of the way our past affects our future, I began taking steps to heal my pain.
Now I practice loving others the way I wish I’d been loved and had seen love as a child.
Loving others has become a form of self-care.
I know my limitations. If I give too much of myself I become resentful and bitter.
Even so, I’ve learned the real secret of contentment is found in giving, not receiving. So for me, loving others has become the way I change my past.
Three ways that loving others is a form of self-care:
- When you love others, you are benefiting humanity as a whole.
Scientists have worked to prove that truly loving and accepting people regardless of gender, race or social class makes the world a happier place. When we are happy, we tend to find more success in our endeavors.
2. When you love others, you are benefiting the generations after you.
Setting a pattern of working through your own issues so that you can love your spouse and/or children shows them that you love yourself. Following your example will cause them to love who they are, too, and to believe they are important and worthy of love.
3. When you love others, you are benefiting yourself.
Scientific studies show that loving others creates psychological, physical and mental health benefits, including lower blood pressure, less depression, and better overall health.
When I decided to love my spouse and children the way I wanted to be loved, it changed my whole life, including my past.
And In changing my past, my hope is to change my family’s future.
In what ways, have you worked on giving yourself and those around you a different life than you had growing up? I’d love to hear from you.