Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ambivalence As A Survival Skill

I like looking for solutions.

But - part of looking for a solution - means that a problem has to be identified.

This past week over at Emerging From Broken Christina Enevoldsen, founder of popular website and private forum,
Overcoming Sexual Abuse, shared part of her journey at our mutual friend Darlene Ouimets blog, Emerging From Broken, and how she 
learned to identify the dysfunctional family relationships that had shaped both her sense of self and the way she viewed and interacted with the world. 

There's tons of great information in this post (and any other of her posts at
her website) but one thing I wanted to point out is how she identified that push/pull that can be so damaging to our relationships as survivors.

Here's an excerpt on this issue of ambivalence in her relationship with her mother; what it looks like and the purpose it serves:

As long as I saw her as all bad, there was nothing to grieve. 

I’d only seen her goodness when I was a child and I was seeing only her badness now.  

I was terrified that if I allowed myself to see her good side, I’d want a relationship with her and I would be exposed to more rejection.

As a child, it was normal to compartmentalize my relationships this way. It was safe; it kept me from more disappointment and pain. 

And it was normal that this would be how I would view ALL of my relationships: through the lense of expectation that others would cause me pain.

It was normal that my adult relationships looked so much like the ones from my childhood and that conflicting feeling of

I l
ove you so much. (I need you to feel safe, to be ok)


I hate you, leave me alone, go away. (Usually with a few choice names thrown in:))

It was NORMAL for me to view the world in 




Because that is how it was in the dysfunction that I came from. 

I was seen as good or bad based on if I'd done whatever I was expected to do and did it right enough or good enough, based on the ever changing rules that were arbitrary at best. And no matter how hard I tried 

it was never 


I was taught that I was either right enough or good enough based on someone elses determination but for some reason known only to those who modeled this way of engaging with the world as "normal"....I was never

just enough.

Raise a child in the way he should go

and when he is old

he will not depart from it. 


the problem was that I was stuck in that dance of seeing my relationships

and myself

through the dark lense of

all bad

or the blinders that let me see it as all good...

aka denial

and nothing in between. 

In this post by Christina over at Emerging From Broken she takes us into the process of how she was able to reconstruct her view from black and white to that place where she was able to see her past, her relationships and her life 

in living color.


polka dots

and plaids:)

You may also like....

The Relationships That Shaped My Life...and What I Learned From Them

Seek Knowledge, find Wisdom, live your Truth!


Christina Enevoldsen said...

Thanks for amplifying on what I wrote. I like the way you summarized it. Black and white thinking was necessary for survival during the trauma. I can think of so many ways I wrapped certain facts away in a box and hid the box so I only had to deal with one thing at a time. My black and white thinking carried into adulthood and it made me very unhealthy because I wasn't seeing things accurately AT ALL. To heal, I had to face all those things I had hidden away. I couldn't face them as a child, but I can face them now. As my past is assembled in truth, I'm becoming whole instead of that fragmented little girl I used to be.

Unknown said...

Hi Christina! you're welcome and thank you! I'm always looking for ways to explain the "how" behind my own healing journey and your post was a perfect prompt for this subject!

And yes! It was in realizing that in hiding from the past I was perpetuating it in my adult life. Once I understood there was a process to connecting with my buried emotions I was able to, like you, heal the hurt little girl and be the grown up who could take care of myself. This was core to ending the pattern of abusive relationships in my adult life.

Thanks for dropping by Christina! And thanks for all you do to share the message of hope and healing!

Anonymous said...

Lots of very good reading here, many thanks! I had been researching on yahoo when I observed your submit, I’m going to add your feed to Google Reader, I look forward to far more from you.

Unknown said...

Anon...Hi and welcome to my blog! Thanks much for your kind note and I hope to hear from you again!

Unknown said...

This comment is amazing!

I made a screen name at comcast forums Ambivalence a few years back, with that very picture as my avatar, and I even once made a thread about compartmentalizing.

Unknown said...

Wow!... I created a name on comcast forums a few years ago...

The name was Ambivalence... and it was that very picture I have used as my avatar for all those years... I even made a thread there about compartmentalization!

Anonymous said...

I am changing and there is a peace inside of me that I haven't had for awhile. It is difficult to look back at relationships and see that I was mostly the care taker always reassuring others they would be ok with all of my ?wisdom? and insight I gave them solutions. But I kept wondering why I never got that back and why I felt so empty inside. Then the aha came and I began to carefully change the way I addressed someone else's trauma and listened with no comment. It is difficult and painful because what I am getting back from one person in particular is an underlying anger. It is seething there as I just listen with no more ?wisdom? I have always kept moving forward trying to let go of this or that but reverted when I knew I was upsetting someone. Now I just know that I don't want to be in that position again and it is worth the loss of what I have in relationships today. I struggle with the good bad issue and always thought friends help friends in honesty and clarity but in reality the only person I can help is me. I see more clearly the trap I set for myself more clearly than ever but I still feel sorrow for the friendships I am letting go of.

Unknown said...

Anonymous….the way you describe the dilemma is articulate and the pain of letting go very real. I'm sorry for your loss yet celebrate with you the freedom that comes from developing this awareness.

Best always,

Susan :)