The Inside Voice – A Little Navel Gazing

Jul 2, 2021

So, I listened to a podcast the other day about attachment disorder. Mikhaila Peterson is my latest preferred podcaster for two reasons. First, she has awesome guests and they do long form interviews, so there’s time to go deep. Second, I like her personality. I did the Big 5 personality test, the one that her father and a bunch of super smart grad students put together, and I believe Mikhaila and I have very similar (yet rare for women) profiles. We could definitely hangout without fear of offending or being misunderstood.

Anyway, the attachment disorder discussion was very interesting. It gave me a lot of insights into, not only myself, but also my oldest daughter and my husband. My youngest daughter was born missing most of the left hemisphere of her brain, and possibly because of that, she shows no signs of attachment disorder. I’m grateful for that. At fifteen, she is just as sweet, content, and accepting as she was the first day I met her in the hospital. No games. No baggage. Just sweetness and joy.

The podcast takeaway for me was this: I haven’t been real with other people for almost my entire adult life. Not intentionally, of course, and I didn’t know it either, but given all the crap I went through as a kid because of the seriously depraved malevolence of my father directed at me, I got very pissed, and very tough, and very determined. That can go a long way in life.

And yet, because of his hatred toward me, the names he called me, the things he did to hurt me, his [1]showy abandonment of me, and his murderous motivation behind declaring me as deceased in his final will … well, I have some issues. Who wouldn’t, right?

You might say, “You seem all right to me.” And you would be right. I am all right … more than all right. Lord knows, I have worked long and hard crafting a persona of class and uber-competence, leaving behind a trail of impressive accomplishments to prove that my father was absolutely wrong.

Yeah, it didn’t work.

And why would it? His malevolence toward me was never about me. It was his deep sense of betrayal, and the terrible disappointment and pain he suffered, inflicted upon him by my mother, a chronic adulteress.  She had her own emotional issues. As far as I can tell, her attachment disorder was rooted in her own father leaving her and about not getting the emotional support she needed from my dad, so she had affairs. She was so immature and needy, she brought me into her world by telling me all of her secrets, creating an unhealthy and inappropriate dependence upon me for emotional support and counsel (I was in fourth grade … yeah, really). That’s about the time my father turned on me. Things turned really ugly really fast.

As it turned out, my mother moved in with one of her lovers, leaving me behind with no place to go. I hadn’t yet graduated high school. My father had stopped showing any interest in me around my high school freshman year except for a few times he’d had too much to drink and drove around the neighborhood looking for me so that he could exert some kind of authority and control. The second time he did that, after he’d dropped me off at my mother’s rental, my friends made their way to his house and stoned it, prompting him to return to my mother’s rental, pull me out of bed, and throw me into the glass shower door.

So yes, I have attachment issues. What kind? The kind that keeps me believing that if anyone really knew me, if I showed my true self, that I would be rejected and abandoned. You see, I have an inside voice, inside my head, that runs a constant narrative about the world around me, the people in it, and whether I think they’re trustworthy. So, at the moment, and mostly because I’m now retired from a very rewarding profession where I had tons of good friends, I now have no friends. On top of that, I don’t always enjoy being around family outside of my immediate household because I think they gaslight, and only talk about salad dressing recipes. I’m not that interested.

All right, that was the set up. Attachment disorder. We all have it. It’s only a matter of flavor, and its severity of impact in the here and now. Honestly, I hadn’t really noticed it until I woke up one day last week and realized that nothing has turned out (in retirement) as I had hoped. You know, the second chapter of life, taking it by storm, etc. Didn’t happen.

I got to thinking about it. I realized that I spend a lot of time waiting, keeping my mouth shut, and avoiding inane conversations about salad dressing. In fact, I keep my mouth shut way too much. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say. It’s that I don’t think anyone else can handle hearing it. And as much as I don’t care what they think, I care about my family and don’t want to make any waves.

It’s excruciating. I don’t like it. And it drains me.

At the end of it all, I’m only betraying myself. My parents already did that.

That’s no way to treat myself. It robs me of courage, fractures my sense of personal integrity, and leaves me feeling alone.

It doesn’t have to be that way, or so I hear.

Then it occurred to me that the only option is to surrender, to abandon myself, my expectations, and my future to God.

Why do I struggle so much with this?

I might have mentioned in a recent post that Romans 8:28 has been coming at me over and over from all directions for several days now. It happened again today. Dallas Willard in his book Renovation of the Heart writes:

[2]THE SECRET TO THIS peace is, as great apprentices of Jesus have long known, being abandoned to God…

Because He, who not only loves me but is Love, is so great, I live beyond harm in His hands; and there is nothing that can happen to me that will not turn out to my good. Nothing. That is what Romans 8:28 really means. Because of this, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee,” the ancient text reads (Isaiah 26:3, KJv)…

Here is some of the work to be done. For many of us, just coming to honest terms with what our feelings really are will be a huge task. Paul says in Romans 12:9, “Let love be without hypocrisy” That is, let it be genuine or sincere. To do only this will require serious effort, deep learning, and quantities of grace.

Our ordinary life and our religious associations are so permeated with insincere expressions of love, often alongside of contempt and anger, that it is hard not to feel forced into hypocrisy in some situations. But we can learn to avoid it, and we shall immediately begin to see what a huge difference that alone makes.

But there is much more to do. Very few people are without deep negative feelings toward others who are or have been closely related to them. Wounds carried steadily through the years have weighed us down and prevented spiritual growth in love, joy, and peace. They may have seeped over into our identity. We wouldn’t know who we are without them. But they can be healed or dismissed, if we are ready to give them up to God and receive the healing ministry of his Word and Spirit.

 

I am not alone. I am both a broken person in a world of broken people, and a person who was set aside for His purpose. I have no doubt that all of what has happened in my life has been worked, and is being worked, for my good. It’s time for me to receive this truth into my heart and mind, and start behaving like I really believe He loves me, will never leave me nor forsake me, and is working, always working, on my behalf

 

[1] (He responded to an inquiry of concern from my high school counselor by telling him he no longer had anything to do with me, and another time asked a new friend of mine over dinner whether I had told them he had abandoned me).

[2] Dallas Willard. Renovation of the Heart: Putting On the Character of Christ (Kindle Locations 1867-1901). Kindle Edition.

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