“Mom, what’s the difference between people pleasing and helping someone?” asked my kind hearted teen who 5 years later is still unraveling the trauma that she had no say in, but because she has chosen to do some serious work, has a good level of self awareness.
“Well, people pleasing is based in anxiety. The ‘helping’ is just a reaction to your own feelings, a deep down feeling of anxiety. Then you do something or say something to ‘fix’ it, but it ends up just being a secretly selfish thing, because you’re doing it to ease your own anxiety, whether it hurts or helps that person long term. That’s people pleasing, please them to help yourself. It looks nice on the outside. And friendly. I’m sure that mostly adults who function in this way have no idea the processes and feelings driving their actions. And on the other end, truly helping someone is coming from a good place in your heart, you feel good, and whole, and you make a logical decision to help someone. That’s also when the Holy Spirit speaks. And you are doing it from a place a of wholeness, without an unhealthy drive, or a secret expectation for a reaction or attention you want.”
“Yes, that makes sense. I’m thinking about that often in my everyday.”
Recently at a bible study, we had to share about our lives. The person before me shared how hard their life was. They had a newly adopted child, other young kids and a newborn, they were on the verge.
What could I say next? I had been there. We had at times felt broken, cracked through the center and bleeding. But we were not there now. I prayed my words would be honest and humble, I don’t know all the answers–but should I hold back what we’ve been through just because someone isn’t in that season just yet?
She wrapped up, and eyes shifted to me. I took a deep breath. “I know that story so well. We were there for years. With seemingly no end in sight. I wanted my kids to just be healed already. Right now. I didn’t have strength for one more day. I prayed and prayed, begging God to help. I thought He said he was ‘the healer?’ Then why was I disappointed and alone?
And why was no one getting healed, and us feeling more broken. It’s like all our surface, easy things, were getting cracked away, pulling off our layers, and we didn’t like what was down below? I thought I was a ‘good person’? We had functioned well before bringing true trauma into our lives.
I wanted God to fix the kids, yesterday would be best, but God had a specific plan. And for that season it wasn’t fixing those broken kids. He wanted to piece back together the one constant in their lives.
It wasn’t their school.
It’s not their therapists, their friends, all that changes over weeks, months, years. But they have one daily constant, morning and evening and everything in between. That daily constant would either add life and love, or it would be reactive, angry, victimized by them, exasperated or checked out–all unhealthy, but even worse now providing a daily message towards their self worth that every child is building each day with what is provided and shown to them.
One daily constant…
So when I begged God to fix the kids, he let time pass first, and showed me that His plan for us to get the healing. US!? But–wait…
So I showed up to the counselor’s parking lot. Pretty much feeling way better, you know, I’m glad I made this appointment, I’ll just chat with her today, and whatever–pay the money, it’s fine for today, but as of right this moment, I feel pretty good, so, I’ll be done after this.
A kind woman welcomed me back–not my broken kids, weird–and I sat down. “I’m fine, really, just… here’s whats going on with my friends (they probably need help, and my this and that, and I’m anxious about school for my kids, and… but other than that, pretty A-OK…”
But she was smart, and listened, yes, but saw and knew all this other stuff that I definitely didn’t talk about (ahem, or know about). We started talking about things from long ago, that I didn’t plan or know to chat about, and I ended up crying, and telling her I’d see her next week. She mentioned people are actually just great with coping, so much of the ways people fill their days are actually just coping if their haven’t processed their lives, their past, their current. Not just the common numbing ways of not feeling painful feelings like drinking and drug abuse, but things like busyness to not slow down and feel feelings, control, achievement, escapism into movies or online, scrooooling through, workaholic, all sorts of cute little compulsive things that rob us from our lives–and burry the feelings we’re avoiding. Men and women. Drug addicts and small group leaders.
So I started my process. I started seeing my darling girl every week. I had researched EMDR for some of our respite girls, so I brought it up myself, and did it with my counselor. I remember walking out after my 3rd EMDR session knowing, and I mean KNOWING my life would never be the same deep down into my sensory system, things were freed and released, things that are almost impossible to have access to without EMDR therapy.
But also, the ways I would guilt myself with my kids, feel too bad for them, my loving, kind counselor, freed me from. I don’t have to feel bad for them anymore. Their old story isn’t their new story, and the longer I felt bad for them, the longer they’d be stuck.
So humbling but so good.
I found all my triggers, saw why certain reactions would be why they were (pro tip–it’s ALL embedded in our past, and certain feelings about ourselves that feed into every interaction we have, from the poorest, to the richest, there is something there fueling them for better and for worse) Even people with ‘no feelings’ or who ‘can’t remember their past’ 😉
And now those feelings got integrated from my clueless but bossy subconscious into my real life, my conscious, aware life, my real self, an awareness that knew, and thrived and offered peace no matter what was happening with whomever was doing anything. I was ok. And I could bring peace to the table, because the only person I can control is myself. And I can empower others to do the same, but it’s not my responsibility. And I was going to be ok, no matter what was happening. Instead of being annoyed by the kids doing things, I was curious, but not responsible (omgggg, yes). I put it back on them. “Well, you can do and say all of these things, but why do you think, deep down, you are being led to do this? Is it because you want to and think it’s right? Or do you have a buried feeling down there, anxiety or fear, making you choose that? You have full control over your life, you can act that way if you want, but choosing anything because of anxiety isn’t going to end well–but–it’s your choice.” And I was fine. I wasn’t burdened by their choices. I had the actual ability to empower them with healthy boundaries and insight. As a family we learned how the brain works, learned about EMDR and neuroscience.
When I begged God to heal the kids, He had this plan that was sooooooo much slower and humbling–but also life giving and liberating than what I expected. Uggh, God.
See in MY mind, I was gonna go, get these broken kids, and they’d get SO healthy and then it would be like, YAYYY! Hurray! How cool and fast 🙂
And God was like, “Awww, you’re so cute. But my plan is actually to heal all ya’ll.” And it was through the brokenness that I so desperately begged for Him to remove me from.
But to walk that healing road, to be permanently healed from some of the junk I had stored up, and FREED from the reactions and anxiety it gave me (that I honestly had no idea I had) I thought I was unique and cool, and strong and just like, sometimes upset with the people closest to me, but it was mostly their own fault #precious
So 1 year, that’s how long I went. Looked at my wounding and how it directs me. And now, I tell people about it 🙂
People say to me–
“I’m feeling anxious”
“I respond like this”
“I spend so much of my time doing this…”
I ask them about their parents, and I tell them, “Did you know that deep down we all have buried feelings, and we are like marrionet puppets to them?”
I feel so fortunate that I have had friends (and strangers, hah) start going and get freed up from so much junk. Able to connect in ways they have ALWAYS wanted, but it was always sabotaged, by themselves, or more specifically, from their wounding and copings that they think are just who they ARE when it isn’t. It IS NOT WHO THEY ARE IN THEIR SOULS. So many children get a whole parent back who instead of compulsively checking out or angrily reacting, are doing good, and can offer love and support even in the worst times, and can spend their efforts pulling out their kids strengths.
Children can offer their full selves to their parents without getting shamed for who they are or what they do, what they look like, how they speak or learn. Parents aren’t thirsty for good grades or performance in an activity to fill a missing self worth. They can be perfectly imperfect because it no longer threatens their parents already broken selves.
The other day, a girl at Maria’s school called her ‘bible girl’
I felt annoyed, but wait–should I? I waited to hear her reaction to it first. “How do you feel about that?”
She shrugged, “That girl is a super rude girl, so I know she was saying it to put me down, but I don’t care. I mean, if you think of it, it’s a compliment. I know what I believe, and I know God, and I know what He has done in my life, so how could that bother me? It doesn’t.”
“Good for you, I agree,” I tell her
Could a child who has lived through what she has be healthier than I was at her age? I think so, depending, right? All depending. Do we show up and focus on health and mental health, or do we shut down, give up, turn away, avoid and cope? I’ve done BOTH but only one brought us to the freedom we have now.
And it’s this forever kind of freedom. I understand God so much more than I ever have. God has amazing love and boundaries.
I read this last week in my growth group:
-Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, ‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?’ (lollllllll) Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” //luke 12.13-14
They were like, ‘Jesus, you’re God, fix this for me cause you’re loving and my problem should be YOUR problem,’ and he was like,
And not only No, but also, here’s an exact reason your concern is a problem. Bye.’
So I wrapped up sharing my story in that group, that I had been there, nothing left to cover up our pain, and so it was touching and scraping at things deeper down, which we thought was the end. But it turns out, it was the beginning. Of real life. Of freedom, connection and joy. When you let God in.
I was just listening to this guy speak on the Oprah podcast all about this deep self awareness, pushing past old pain and open nerves linked to our past, and he seemed like one of those ‘spiritual’ guys who would have zero interest in Christianity. I was loving what he was saying, so was Oprah, and then at the end, he said, “I love how Christ says, we must die to ourselves before we can be reborn, and that’s what self awareness is, it’s at the end of our coping with past pains, it’s where God is, pure love and joy. Your personal self will no longer pull you away from His joy and peace. It’s always there it’s always available. You must die to be reborn. You must be willing to let go of your personal self, of your phycological self, of the complaining voice inside, your ‘identity.’ In order to be who you are, you must be willing to let go of who you think you are. You must die to be reborn, and He will help you do that.” -Michael Singer
Well, I sorta thought I would blog today about our fun trip to Costa Rica we took this summer. This trip is another thing born out of counseling, she really encouraged me to go if we truly wanted, to think about the self worth and connection our kids would receive from taking this time. But, I guess I went another way. I hope someone out there can hear this and know that if they aren’t feeling at their best, there are options. If your kids are struggling, maybe you taking care of yourself is a good, good option. It’s your choice. You have full control over your life–if you want to.
It was work.
It took time and it cost money. It was something that I invested both of those things into.
And what I learned is, in the midst of the worst of it: The only person I can heal is myself. Only I am responsible for it, and only I can do it.
Even my kids is a no. I can’t heal them. I can be healed, and be a source of healthy for them. I can encourage them about it, I can be an example so they know healthy exists, talk to them about it, facilitate it by driving them places if they are wanting their own healing that they want to choose. But their healing road is ultimately their own.
And mine is mine.
The only person I can heal is myself.
And I don’t want to waste my life. My kids, my joy, my marriage and connection swamped in weird, reactive, broken thinking and burdens that shouldn’t be mine ever.
The broken things in our lives can turn us bitter and angry, victimized and helpless.
Or we can humble ourselves, and start our healing road. God is there to help us. An abundant source of love and peace. The Prince of it.
the only person i can heal is myself.
So I’m gonna