I Forgot About Myself: One Man’s Testimony of Self-Abandonment
Angeles Arrien Ph.D. writes in her book, ‘The Four-Fold Way,’ “That human beings, universally abandon themselves for five major reasons: for someone’s love, for someone’s acceptance and approval, to keep the peace, to maintain balance or to stay in the state of Harmony. When we abandon ourselves for someone’s love, pretending to be other than who we are in order to get someone’s love, acceptance or approval, it is a form of self-abandonment.”
We were abandoned by families either emotionally, physically or both. We did anything and everything we could to get the love and support we so desperately needed. We were like chameleons, morphing into whomever or whatever we thought would get us the love we wanted and needed. We could never get it right, if we were tap dancing as fast as we could, they wanted us to juggle. Hyper-vigilant, trying to read the signs which were blurred at best. I remember thinking if I could become a great athlete my Dad would love and approve of me, or become a great student hoping that would win my mother’s love. We took on the blame for ourselves; it has to be because we aren’t this enough or that enough. Spending so much energy on surviving, we never learned how to live. Not knowing at the time there was nothing we could have done. It wasn’t because they didn’t love us; it was because they weren’t able or didn’t know how.
I remember that I had been faking my way through life so long that I didn’t even know who I was on so many levels. A wonderful, insightful and compassionate therapist said to me that we needed to go back into my childhood to where I lost the ability to decide who and what you wanted to be. That it had been taken away from me and we had to go back and take it from those that took it. All those spoken and unspoken rules that we all had in our families growing up. Never let anyone know what really is going on in our house, they might find out that we aren’t perfect. All you had to do in my neighborhood was sit back and watch how our neighbors looked and treated us. They all knew… they acted like our house and everything in it was radioactive. I was told that I had to look after and be responsible for my younger brother and sister. My dad wanted me to take care of my mother.
I was spending so much time trying to be the person that everyone wanted and needed me to be, I forgot about myself.
The message that I took from my family was that who I was wasn’t good enough and that everyone was more important than me. How painful it was to realize I had no clue as to who I was or wanted to be. I even had trouble answering questions about what I liked. No big surprise that I ended up with no sense of identity, low self-esteem and no direction in my life. To realize that I had been living a lie and that turn equated to me lying to everyone in my life. As a good friend mine laughs about how we send our representative instead of our real self.
When we aren’t authentic or speak our truth, we are not being honest to those around us. Our relationships have been built on incorrect of incomplete information. I remember hearing someone say that “The absence of the truth is still a lie.”
One of the most powerful pieces of my inner child work was to go back and find that 5-year-old boy that I abandoned. That precious, innocent, loving, bright, curious and joyful that I thought that I was protecting by banishing him to a deep, dark lonely place. For years it was the right thing to do. I had to protect him in order to survive. The mistake was never going back for him when I was old enough to protect him. The work that I did to build his trust, make my amends, seek his forgiveness, and integrate with him was the start to me becoming who I am and want to be. Another act of love that has brought about tremendous healing.
I will continue to hope and pray that we all chose to do the work.