When I was a child and did something wrong, the punishment was usually long and arduous, especially if it involved both of my parents. And regardless of the circumstances, regardless of whether or not I was simply grounded to my room, spanked, or if it involved yelling at me, it always involved a lecture about what I did wrong.
Let me explain a little more in detail: it’s not that I never did anything wrong. As a kid, of course I did, it’s how I learned. However, much of what I learned was hypocrisy. In other words, I was getting punished for things I learned from my parents. But they were never willing to listen to “I learned this by watching you…” And if I tried to say it, I was punished for that too.
So regardless of what I did, I was in the wrong. If it was a small infraction, it was usually my mother yelling, maybe smacking or spanking me, and a lecture about what I did. If it was bad, she would call my father at work, so I had the whole day to “anticipate” what he was going to do when he came home. Once he came home, I was sent into my parents’ bedroom to await my punishment, while my father had a cup of coffee and figured out what he was going to do. The punishment often included my father yelling at me and dictating to me what I did wrong, and almost always included the belt, and my pants down around my ankles.
Once the punishment was delivered I was then released to my room where I could “release the drama”, and cry my eyes out. I can’t tell you how many times I broke porcelain dolls and Bryer Horses by throwing around rolls of toilet paper. It became an art form after a while. After a little while, then my mother would come in. She would apologize for the necessity of the punishment, but would then proceed to lecture me (again) on what I did wrong. Never in all of this was there ever any compassion, and rarely was there a “I did something similar at your age…”. Even if there was, there was still, “I’m right, your wrong, and you should have learned from my mistakes.”.
I’m not writing any of this for sympathy. Many of us went through similar circumstances. My point today is that what I truly learned from their punishments was an incredible lack of compassion. When people need me the most, when they need my love and understanding to help them with the pain from their past, I’m not capable of giving it. I turn into a cold, hard bitch and turn my back.
It’s not who I want to be, it’s not how I want to be. It’s also one of the hardest things for me to learn to overcome. How do I learn something I was never taught? How do I become something I have rarely seen? How do I stop my reactive process so that I can help the ones closest to me?
One of the greatest pains in my life at this time is that I don’t know how to let go of my pain. I know and understand the process of doing something different to affect a different result. I also know that once a reactive pattern is set (especially one that has been ingrained for most of my life), the ego will fight back once you try and change the process, and in my case that often becomes violent (towards myself) which is never helpful when I need to help someone close to me. So I often feel stuck, stuck in rage and anger, stuck in fear, stuck in helplessness and hopelessness, stuck in the feeling that there is no way out.
None of this is the fault of the people I am supposed to Love and help. And I am more sorry than I can ever say. I wish it was as easy as snapping my fingers and changing the programming. Unfortunately, it’s not. I can only hope and pray that maybe my writing this will help others know that they are not alone, and maybe next time someone needs my help I can actually be there for them in their time of need.