I am the product of generational wounds. I learned the basics of relationships and behaviour from people that passed along their lessons. I know that my experiences as a child were not my fault, just as theirs were not their fault. A child is helpless and at the mercy of their surroundings and we do our best with what they are presented. A child doesn’t understand that what they are being shown is not healthy, or abnormal. They trust and accept, they have no other choice.
For a lot of years I blamed my parents and my family for my unhappiness. And some of that was justified. It is okay and reasonable to be angry about the experiences I had as a child. To wish that I’d had an easier and more supportive ride. To be frustrated that my current emotional wellbeing, as an adult, is a result of unlearning and acknowledging the good and bad of those experiences.
Anger has always been an easy emotion for me, and one of the few I excel at. There was a lot of anger and resentment in my childhood, and in the generations that proceeded that. My grandparents and their parents dealt with a lot of challenges – poverty, discrimination, war, and grief. There was little to no effective mental health medicine or treatment available to them. The only choice was to continue on, and to their credit they did what they needed to do. And they tried to prepare their children for life by passing along those lessons, strategies, and mechanisms.
Those strategies did not include anything which would resemble emotional intimacy, compassion, or care. Those strategies included disconnection, isolation, force, desperation, resentment, addiction, shame and insecurity.
Like my parents, I don’t understand what it’s supposed to feel like to trust and love someone unconditionally and like the generations that came before me I spend a lot of time fighting the feeling of being less than, or unworthy of most things.
I admit that for the majority of my life I used these models as an excuse not to heal and to justify my own poor behaviour. I think the idea of letting go of that resentment kept me trapped for a long time. It is easier and more comfortable not to change.
I unconsciously look for people that reinforce those feelings of insecurity, resentment, and inadequacy because anything else feels uncomfortable. Anything else means that I have to admit that I don’t understand what healthy means and that I don’t know how to cope with normalcy. Anything else means that I have to look inward and admit that I am choosing to nourish my own misery.
I am fortunate to be in a romantic relationship with someone that does not have those shared experiences. That’s not to say his life has been without challenge, but he has never doubted that his family loves and accepts him. He has never accepted relationships, romantic or otherwise, were abuse has been a factor. He approaches all challenges with confidence, acceptance, and perseverance. He has faith that things will work out and he will be fine, regardless of what he is presented.
I love and admire this in him. And in my weaker moments I am jealous of him and I struggle to understand him. I debate how much to tell him about the specifics of my past experiences and the steps I take in my daily life to grow, change, and live a better life.
It’s interesting at this stage in my recovery that what stops me from blurting out all the shitty things in my past is not that I don’t trust him, or don’t want him to know… what stops me is that I don’t want to do to him what’s been done to me. I don’t want him to feel obligations towards me because of what I’ve been through. I don’t want to make excuses for my behaviour.
I guess I’m writing this here to try and organize my thoughts, and to illustrate that recovery is an ongoing balancing act. Wherever you are in this process, there will be good and bad moments. You will need to continue to grow, adapt, and be accountable. There are things that come up that don’t have a manual and there are no one size fits all solution.
I write this to remind myself to keep showing up. I write this to remind myself that it is always ok to return to step 1.