I never really knew how to feel about my strong sense of emotional values. I would often be told to ‘get off my high horse’ for believing in being good to others. I’ve definitely struggled with identity issues, issues that were placed in how people perceived me. My intrinsic values on the other hand have been steady for as long as I can remember. These values are love, kindness, sincerity, and conscientiousness. I actually remember being in my second year of primary school and learning the word ‘conscientious’ as part of the three C’s- Courteous, Considerate, and Conscientious. It immediately became my favourite word.
I once believed that was actually my greatest weakness. Although I’m learning that this perspective wasn’t my own, it was a fear that had been programmed into me by my abusers. When they would put others down for what seemed like no reason at all, I would attempt to understand the angry statements. This never worked in my favour, but I was driven to remain kind in my perspective of others, hoping that one day my family would understand the beauty of kindness. In a sense this might be where I learned to believe that I was ok with being abused, rationalising it with the belief that it was better me than someone else who may not be able to ‘deal with it’. In truth I wasn’t dealing with it at all. I was absorbing it.
Looking back on those intrinsic values, I have found a new appreciation for myself. Somehow my young mind had understood that keeping an open heart was important to maintaining sanity. It drove me crazy at times, trying to figure out why so many people around me could be so cold and inconsiderate. That is where my identity struggles took action. How could it be that love is a good thing, if I was being punished for expressing these emotions? Perhaps I wasn’t expressing it correctly? There were times when I experimented with being cold, but it never felt comfortable… So rather than forcing myself to adapt I have instinctively sought out people who are similarly kind.
It’s difficult to express what it means to have made these choices, most probably because I don’t fully understand it myself. And I certainly created a habit of connecting with emotionally exploitative friends when leaving my abusive household. I formed these friendships with good intentions, and as the reality of such relationships become apparent I have ended them with an empathetic heart. But what was always important to me is the belief that humans are inherently good, or at least inherently neutral. As I mature I feel less inclined to trust that this applies to adults, but I still believe that is more due to the psychological wear and tear of living in this world as opposed to people being good or bad as lifeforms. Reaching out for information from psychologists and others who have experienced child abuse has really helped me to feel less guilt for ending toxic or negative relationships.
The best way to acknowledge my feelings towards the choices I have made is to relate it with how I would feel about someone else making the same choices given those circumstances. It’s actually pretty cool, and fascinating. Removing myself from the concept of those choices I can see just how difficult and incredible it is for a child to be able to develop unconditional love when having never experienced it for themselves. I have no idea where it came from, but I truly am so grateful for the human mind, and for my own emotional creativity.
Warm regards, xxx