There are some very good questions you can ask yourself when you are working on your emancipation process. To get some idea of where you are in the process, ask yourself the following questions: Do my actions reflect what I believe and who I really am? Am I carrying around beliefs that were given to me by others, but that I do not ascribe to wholeheartedly? What is my belief system? Who would have me abandon my own beliefs in the service of their needs? Must I abandon my beliefs, needs and goals to make others happy or to gain others’ love?
These questions illuminate the reality that each of us has rules that surface from our childhood that prevent us from growing and achieving our own goals and dreams. It’s a common experience for everyone. As you endeavor to uncover and correct these experiences in yourself, you will get better and better at recognizing subtle constrictions that keep you stuck in childhood modes of behaving.
Here is your assignment:
What are your childhood dreams? Have you ever imagined that you might change the world in some unique way? What did you dream of that you later decided was an impractical or impossible dream because others told you that you might get hurt? I challenge you to take some time to remember. Remember right now!
Then, get some paper and a set of crayons and draw your dream. Or take out your journal and describe your dream. Or, gather several magazines and cut out pictures to create a collage of your dreams. Whatever you do, do SOMETHING that provides you with a visual reminder of what you imagine. Make it tangible.
Now . . . .
Look at the project you created that represents your childhood dreams. When you look at it, do you experience thoughts like: “I could never really do that”? Write down all of the objections that come up for you when you think of obtaining your wildest dreams. What are the “shoulds” connected to you giving up your dreams? Where did they come from? Is there anyone in your life currently who is echoing those “shoulds”? Are they solely coming to you from archives in your past?
Think of whom in your life (past or present) would be most likely to discourage you from reaching for your dreams. What did they say (or what would they say) about what you are doing right now or what you aspire to do? When you actually obtain what you dream of, how will they respond?
Now, pay attention to your feelings when you think of this person. How young do you feel?
Write a letter (don’t worry, you will never send it) to the person or people who contributed to the “shoulds” that influenced you to abandon your dreams. Recognize that you are no longer a child and can make your own decisions about the direction of your life. In your letter, remove permission from the person or people who discouraged you from reaching your dreams. Tell them that you give yourself permission to strive for and reach your dreams. Now, read your letter to yourself and give yourself permission to go after what you dream of. You can do this for yourself every time you feel anxious enough about the pursuit of your dreams to quit. A little anxiety can be productive, but don’t let the anxiety suffocate the joy in the journey toward your dreams.
If you are in a violent relationship, please be sure to do this assignment safely. Any move toward embracing yourself is likely to meet with resistance because such activities are powerful tools toward helping you find your voice. Proceed. But proceed cautiously.
© Tamara Bess, LMFT 2014 All Rights Reserved. Any use of this article without Tamara’s express written permission is prohibited.
In cooperation with 2bsisters, Tamara is in the process of making her recovery curriculum for domestic violence survivors available via a protected online format. This curriculum is for victims who have not yet been able to escape, those who have recently escaped and those who have been independent for a time but still need to strengthen themselves as survivors.