Day 4 - Breaking up with Punishment
This is a question I've been giving a lot of thought lately... I realized that for a long time I've been drowning out the sound of my own voice with the Voice of Punishment. In fact, they had almost become the same voice. One of the ways you survive narcissistic abuse (or abuse of any kind) is by becoming your own worst enemy so to speak. You learn to blame it all on you. You tell yourself that if you were just better, kinder, more patient, more giving, less prideful then you could FIX this situation and everything would be alright. It's also usually the same thing your abuser is telling you, so that doesn't help. But the funny thing is, I've been out of the abusive situation I was in for almost 6 years now and I feel like I keep discovering ways that I'm still being my own punisher. Even if you haven't been abused, our culture seems to have a LOVE AFFAIR with punishment. Everything is "If you do this, you get this. If you don't do this, you get punished." It's maddening...
One of the things that kickstarted these thoughts for me has been a shift in season I've been feeling for myself... My previous season was one of processing old pain. This next one is one of looking forward and discovering who I am without the pain clogging up the works - and without the Voice of Punishment running the show. Everything in me and everything I'm hearing from God is to let go of the past and turn around. Not in a denial sort of way... in a "Okay. That happened and I've slowed down enough to fully let myself feel and process the pain. Now it's time to not get stuck in the pain or let it run me and discover who I am without the lens of pain and fear clouding my vision."
So, I've been re-evaluating everything. In all honesty, as I've stepped over the threshold, the biggest roadblock I've discovered has been the fear of punishment. I discovered I was actually afraid of the freedom God was trying to bless me with. The wide open spaces are where I feel the most at home, but also when the nasty voice of self criticism comes in and says "What are you doing? That's not 'right'. You're messing it all up!"
Slowly, bit by bit, I'm letting go of the rules and the boxes that I've put myself in and discovering what works for me, what I like and who I really want to be. Again, it feels odd to be discovering that at this stage in the game (39 years old... 40 is coming quick! lol) And even that fact wants to tell me a story... the story of "It's too late. Just give up." BUT NO! I am finding the courage every day to be curious about myself. To break up with the voice of punishment and stop expecting myself to be perfect.
One of the things that I've discovered about myself so far (I've kind of known it for a while but never really gave it permission) is that LOVE to dance and it's one of the languages I most enjoy creating with. So, as a way of telling this story in a different way, I'm going to share with you a video I did for my final assignment in my first year at BCA. I just finished it a week ago and it's pretty raw and vulnerable for me... It's something I haven't talked about a lot overtly, but one of the ways that self hatred has latched on to me is in my body and the way I see myself.
I've struggled with an eating disorder for almost 20 years. I was recovered until COVID struck and all my control mechanisms came to the surface. They had always been there... the super strict food rules, the NEED to workout a certain amount every day just to feel safe, the pinching and measuring and sizing myself up in a mirror... but during the slow down of COVID, I somehow came to the realization that living that way is no fun and was robbing me of enjoying EVERYTHING about my life.
So slowly, I have been going after that and letting go of one rule at a time. Changing one thing about my routine and seeing how it works. Reaching out for help and being SUPER honest with myself and those around me about my struggles. That part alone (bringing in the beauty of community) has been the MOST helpful for me. As I've shared with those I'm closest to and mentors in my life about the thoughts that go through my head on a daily basis, how restrictive I've been with myself, the over-eating because I've been so restrictive, the shame, the punishment... my internal thoughts have been replaced with wisdom and people helping me normalize something that has literally been torturing me for years because I was hiding. From myself mostly... but also from others. I was pretending that the "problem" was when I "broke down" and had a piece of pizza or a whole pizza. I would share that part... but I was hiding the uglier part. The real self hatred that happens every day when you don't give yourself enough to eat because you've believed the lie that you aren't worth it. That you aren't enough. I believed that lie, but NO MORE.
I'm opening up and sharing this part of me (while I'm still in the walking into truth phase) because I believe women out there need to know they aren't alone and FREEDOM is possible. I'm already seeing it and I've only just started really getting real with myself. But I can feel it building... as I lean into loving myself every day in small ways, I'm building trust with myself again. Trust that I won't constantly be punished for some imaginary sin or short coming. Trust that I will be nurtured and loved... by God and more importantly by myself. FREEDOM happens every day in small choices... and one day, suddenly, you turn around and you can't believe how far you've come.
I'll leave you with this image... God keeps talking to me about Joshua and how he led the Israelites into the Promised Land. They marched. One foot in front of the other. Around the SAME GROUND every day. It must have felt so defeating and repetitive. (Sound familiar?? Anyone who's gone through a recovery process can attest that it feels like you're having to take the same ground again over and over.) What He's been showing me was that it was in that PROCESS of marching the same ground over and over again that He was teaching them and giving them the strength they needed to be able to sustain themselves in the Promised Land once the walls came down... because if you remember, they had to fight a lot of people once they crossed into the Promised Land. It wasn't all easy street. BUT! They had grasped the concept of rest and reliance on the Presence of God before they went into their Land so they were fully equipped to possess the land, not just be renters who got kicked out. So march! Keep marching! I'm marching with you! And when it's time to shout and praise God and watch the walls come down, we will be strong enough to live in the blessing that's on the other side. And remember this, there is NO SHAME in the building process. No shame in the self discovery it takes to step away from the voice of Punishment ringing in your ears to find your own voice. It's all part of the beautiful work of finding yourself and loving yourself again.
LET'S GO! I hope you enjoyed this and it inspired you... as I'm discovering my voice and how I like to express it I have a feeling this blog will switch from something instructional to something much more centered on freedom through art and creativity!