“I know that what you mean is, that’s how you feel with the information you have now."
My friend’s words hit me over and over again- deep and painful punches reminding me that I don’t have all the information, and that what I experience in life is always filtered through my own gaze. The ego is a funny thing, built to protect us from harm and based on the experiences we’ve been through. Often, we think we know our wounds. It is easy to engage in a brief review of the events in our own lives and to find moments where another choice could have resulted in a different perspective, where someone else’s actions or decisions influenced us negatively, or where we were treated unfairly. It’s not so easy to look at life and acknowledge where we in those same ways have been unfair to others.
I am the child of two people who were emotionally unavailable to me for a variety of reasons during times when I felt I needed parenting the most. That is not to say I think of my parents as failures- they were only doing the best with the information they had. There were times when I was angry with them. I felt they should have known better how to support me, or how to prioritize my needs along with the other needs within our family unit: somehow I always felt invisible. I strived to be the easiest to care for. I wanted to need nothing. If I could be as self sufficient as possible, maybe I could outgrow needing a parent for external validation or comfort. Maybe I could be the little adult they were asking for in order to GET that care and affection I was looking for.
The reality is that telling myself this narrative over time became more harmful than the actual events that occurred. My memories of childhood are spotty at best, but the positive moments I do remember are highly centered on one thing: being alone. I told myself that to be alone was the only way to be safe. I could not let people in because my needs would be too much. I had to push people away when they wanted to know me, because it was the only safe way to live. My ego told me the story that I was smart and strong and independent, and that if I pasted on this mask of abrasive toxicity, and acted the way I THOUGHT others wanted me to, I was doing the right thing and it was THEM that were the problems.
This ego was fed further by relationships that repeated the same cycles of stress and honeymoon periods. Both my romantic and non-romantic encounters involved co-dependence, enmeshment, and trauma bonding to a point that until very recently, I no longer had any idea what I even liked anymore. I found myself asking on a daily basis- Do I want to do this? Or do I feel conditioned to do so?
I have been so mixed up in myself, tied up in knots trying to navigate how to be an authentic person when I have not been presenting my true nature to the world around me.
It’s a process, to realize how your energy and actions impact others and the stories your ego has created for you. My biggest ego story in the past year has been that I am a survivor. And I am a survivor- but I am also a free willed human who did not know or feel that they had a right to be loved, and even less, deserved to be loved for being themself. I craved toxic relationships where I could justify my withholding nature because I was too different or my interests were not relevant to the other person so I could tell my ego story that I did not matter to them, that I was not considered, and that I was strong for making my way through and giving time/resources/affection regardless of their shortcomings.
The truth is, that is only a story. Every story has two sides. We tell our side with the information we have today, with the resources that are available to us at that moment in time. And this is what a pattern is. A series of moments where we are or are not available for new information, where we can or cannot learn and be open for growth. I am a deeply (but not uniquely) flawed individual with much to learn and many more moments in my life to explore. My ego is a flawed storyteller. The moment I lost the thing I was so desperately holding on to, a narrative that served the decisions I was making despite the utter nastiness of them, my ego and her responsibility in all that occurs became visible.
She and I have work to do. I need to witness her. To ask why in her reactive moments. What story is she telling me? Why is this story a safe space to view the world from? How can we tell this story differently? I am tired of my own shame spirals and self doubt, imposter syndrome, and personal sabotage ruining my perception of reality. The only way out is through.