Cue the eye-rolling, because here we go again. Yep, that’s right…yet another blog post full of inspirational memes. We see them every day, and from what I hear people say, many times they do more to annoy us with their sentimentality than they do to actually inspire us.
Not me, though. I like them. On Instagram, I proudly follow #ptsdrecovery #healing and #selfworth hashtags, because trauma isn’t something you just snap your fingers and recover from, and frankly, I’ll take all the help I can get.
And you may be all, “Yeah, yeah, we know, we know. We should uplift and support people whether they’ve had trauma or not, we already do that. We don’t need a stupid meme to remind us. DUH, Jane.” But obviously, there are still some people who forget, or there wouldn’t be memes about it.
Let’s take a survey!
- Do you know any negative, critical people? YES NO NOT SURE
- Are you closely acquainted with negative, critical people? YES NO NOT SURE
- Are you in relationship with a negative, critical person? YES NO NOT SURE
- Are YOU a negative, critical person? YES NO NOT SURE
Did any of you circle YES? Betcha did. In fact, I bet you could write down the names of several people off the top of your head who walk around criticizing people and things all the time. People who sap your energy, people who see flaws more easily than they see strengths. People who, after we spend time with them, seem to leave us doubting ourselves.
So where do these terrible people come from, and why do we allow them into our lives?
Well, here’s something that may shock you: I am one of those people.
…at least, I used to be.
See, there was a girl in my life. She was young and bright eyed, innocent and beautiful, and I loved her. I still love her. Her imagination was deep and wide and filled with impossibly lovely dreams. But she was fragile and inexperienced, too. And when she trusted me with her dreams, I did everything I could to stop her from pursuing them.
I thought I was being kind. I thought it would hurt less if she heard the truth from me rather than from anyone else. I believed I was using tough love and that she’d thank me for it later; that I was stopping her from making mistakes, protecting her from carrying around the staggering burden of unreachable fantasies and unrealized aspirations. I was trying to keep her firmly grounded because life is harsh and sugar coating things only makes people weak and sets them up for failure and suffering. Better she recognize her limits while she was young than let the world crush her later.
Can you guess who that girl was?
Yep. She was me.
And I still haven’t fully recovered from what I did to her.
But then I learned about Transactional Analysis in therapy.
In simplified layman’s terms, Transactional Analysis (TA) is a basic form of ego state therapy which recognizes that everyone has (at least) three ego states: a Parent, an Adult, and a Child. The Parent ego can be either Controlling/Critical or Nurturing/Permissive, while the Child ego can be either Obedient/Submissive or Rebellious/Spontaneous. The Adult ego listens to the others and makes decisions based on all the information. Our developing Adult ego is our True Voice, though sadly, sometimes she/he doesn’t develop.
Our Controlling/Critical Parent ego is an amalgamation of the authority figures from our youth: parents, grandparents, teachers, priests, pastors…anyone who held a position of authority over us when we were young.
Usually, we move back and forth between egos in a fairly healthy manner. You can tell which ego is calling the shots by listening in to the way they speak:
Nurturing Parent: “Good job! I’m proud of you. Keep going, you’re doing great. It’s okay, you’re still learning. You’ll get it next time! Don’t give up.”
Critical Parent: “You’re an idiot. You’re useless. No wonder no one likes you. You are going to fail. You’re an embarrassment. Do better. Get it right this time. You must be perfect. Don’t screw up. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Submissive Child: “Yes, ma’am. Yes, sir. I’m sorry.”
Rebellious Child: “I’ll do whatever I want! You can’t tell me what to do, you’re not the boss of me!”
It wasn’t until I was in my mid-thirties that I discovered that my Critical Parent ego was literally and figuratively kicking the ever living shit out of my Child ego.
And, Oh. I cannot even begin to tell you how amazing it felt to recognize what was happening, to hold myself with mercy, to understand that just because she was LOUD, my Critical Parent wasn’t necessarily right. Learning about TA was so impactful in my life, that the first book in the My Myth Trilogy is basically an allegory of recognizing and reconciling egos and developing your True Voice (with heavy doses of kickass fantasy, adventure, and horror mixed in).
So. Do you know which of your TA egos is calling the shots?
I challenge you to ask yourself these questions:
- Do you frequently judge people even when what they’re doing doesn’t affect you in any way?
- Do you feel the need to tell strangers when you think they are making a mistake?
- Do you offer negative unsolicited “advice” or criticism?
- Do you often see more flaws in yourself and/or others than you see strengths?
- Do you feel the need to save people from themselves either because you don’t trust they can take care of themselves or because you simply can’t stand to witness incompetency?
- Are you personally offended by the way strangers choose to live their lives just because it isn’t the way you choose to live yours?
- Do you mentally beat yourself up?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have an overdeveloped Controlling/Critical Parent ego.
The good news is: it’s treatable.
If you didn’t answer yes to those questions but you feel as if you are in relationship with someone who treats you any of those ways, please listen to me: You are worth while. You don’t have to be perfect. Conditional love (love which is granted and/or withheld based on certain conditions or criteria) is cowardly and abusive. And whether your abuser is related to you by blood or marriage or not at all, you do NOT need to keep them in your life. If you believe you are only worthy of love when you “get it right” or if you are the one who is beating yourself up, you may have a wounded Child ego. But again, the good news is that you can heal. I’m living proof.
Please. Set healthy boundaries for yourself. Seek help if you are in crisis, and counseling if you are feeling lost or unworthy. If there are people in your life who don’t support and uplift you, consider that you don’t need them. It’s okay to let go of the people and things that don’t nurture you.
I am continually practicing treating myself with the love and kindness I offer others. Because I sincerely LOVE being a cheerleader.
One of my favorite things to do is discover the secret things people love best about themselves and celebrate those things. And now, I do that for MYSELF, too.
Cherish the people you love. Tell them you love them LOUD and OFTEN. It isn’t weakness to show affection. I am so grateful for the many wonderful people in my life who lift me up.
Let’s support each other. Lets CELEBRATE. You are important. I believe in you.