Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,
I was singing “Let It Go” from the Frozen movie with my four-year-old daughter, when it hit me that I can’t let my past go.
My daughter’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, especially since my family wasn’t.
My sister died from a heroin overdose. My brother molested me, and my parents don’t believe me. They don’t speak to me.
My biggest problem is I can’t “let it go.” I dwell on it and have vicious nightmares. I get depressed and then angry, because I wasn’t believed or believed in. I feel unworthy for all the tears I waste on these horrible people.
Why do I still want them to love me?
Yesterday once more
Dwelling on the past may be caused by underlying feelings of worthlessness. It’s common for those with severe trauma to want to rewrite history where their hopes of being loved can appear.
The mentality of “If I can’t get ‘horrible people’ to believe in me, then I’m worthless,” becomes a struggle for them to see your intrinsic value, your goodness, loving, and compassionate characteristics.
The lie of living in the familiar “yesterday” is thinking you can make your past better and easier to accept, when you can actually make it worse by insisting you’re right. The past is unsurprising, but the truth is that you will always be surprised by their inability to love.
People who have experienced severe trauma often continue seeking out those who were supposed to love them unconditionally. Your family hasn’t experienced gaining buckets of empathy that comes with severe and painful experiences. Those people won’t change just because you implore them to change. In fact, they won’t change unless they see a need to change.
Remember this quote attributed to Lao Tzu, author of The Art of War: “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the moment.”
Start giving love to yourself first; no one can take away what you give to yourself.
Then you need to give love, acceptance (not of them, but acceptance of your circumstances), and forgiveness to everyone involved, even you.
No one chooses to be a victim, but anyone can choose not to stay a victim. It won’t be easy to make this choice, but this choice will make your life easier.
Try putting signs up in every room saying: “Yesterday – I don’t live there anymore.” And if you believe in God, add, “I am a child of God, therefore, I was born with worth.”
Rhonda and Dr. Cheri