I hope you are having a restful summer. Once
again I am so grateful to all of you who have sent me emails thanking me for the
newsletter or telling me how much you have gained from reading Healing Your
Emotional Self and The Emotionally Abusive Relationship. I feel so gratified
that my books are helping many of you to heal from the emotional abuse of your
childhood, from your adult relationships or helping you to stop your emotionally
In the News from Beverly segment I include
announcements of upcoming events, workshops or conferences relevant to the
treatment or prevention of abuse. Feel free to send me announcements you feel
readers will find of interest. I cannot guarantee I can include them all but I
will do my best to include what I feel is relevant. I will also announce my own
upcoming workshops and books. I ask that you order books directly from
BarnesandNoble.com as I
do not sell individual books directly to readers. If you would like to attend a
workshop, feel free to email me directly at
Please forward this ezine to anyone you know who
is interested in preventing or healing childhood emotional, physical or sexual
abuse or emotional, physical or sexual abuse in adult relationships. If you are
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please follow the instructions at the end of this newsletter.
your name to anyone for any reason. Thank you for trusting me with your personal
LOOKING DEEPER IN THE MIRROR: DISCOVERING THE REAL YOU
“What lies behind us and what lies before us
are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Many survivors of emotional abuse and neglect (as well as other forms of child
abuse) do not know
themselves. They know who their parents have said they are and they know who
they pretend to be, but they don’t know their true selves.
You are the only one who is capable of
determining who your true self is. Other people’s misplaced labels, distorted
perceptions and negative projections may have created a false image—an image you
now need to discard. In its place you will need to discover and create your true
self. This means you will need to look deeper inside to begin to find your true
People who were neglected or abandoned tend to
have a fleeting sense of their own identities. It is as if they walk by a mirror
and see a reflection of themselves that disappears immediately. Many are in a
constant search for clues about who they are, and they often struggle with such
a sense of insubstantiality that they feel at times they could actually vanish.
But no matter how fleeting the image or how
insubstantial you feel you are, there is someone there. You may have to continue
to dig to find it under the rubble of your parents’ judgments and expectations,
or you may have to look deeper in the mirror to find yourself, but sooner or
later, with enough focus and patience, you will find the real you.
Self-discovery requires self-awareness—or an
ongoing attention to one’s self—and for this you need to take on a neutral
stance. When you observe yourself with a neutral stance you take in whatever you
notice about yourself with impartiality, interest and curiosity, but you do not
judge what you observe.
Exercise: Who Are You?
- Closely observe
yourself for at least a week. Notice your behavior, your feelings and the
thoughts that run through your head. Make notes about what you notice or any
insights you may have about yourself. Notice any tendencies you may have to hide
your true self from others or yourself, any tendency to pretend you are feeling
one thing when you are really feeling another.
- Write a description of yourself based on
your observations and what you already know about yourself to be true. Be sure
to include all aspects of yourself in your description including your physical,
social, intellectual, emotional and spiritual sides. Add to your list
whenever you notice something new about yourself. You will find that you are
thinking about yourself and looking at yourself more carefully than you ever
Reconnect with Your Emotions
One of the most effective ways of discovering who
you are is to pay attention to your emotions. In fact, some define
self-awareness as the awareness of our moods and our thoughts about our moods.
Awareness of one’s own feelings as they occur is a keystone to emotional
intelligence, as defined by Daniel Goleman in his groundbreaking book, Emotional
Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. According to Goleman:
“Self-awareness—recognizing a feeling as it happens—is the keystone of emotional
intelligence…the ability to monitor feelings from moment to moment is crucial to
psychological insight and understanding…People with greater certainty about
their feelings are better pilots of their lives…”
Unfortunately, for many who have been neglected
or abused in childhood, emotions are a frightening thing. It was when
their parents’ emotions got out of hand that they got yelled at, pushed around
or hit. It was when they themselves got angry or started to cry that they were
ridiculed, punished, or abandoned. For this reason, most survivors of abuse and
neglect tend to deny and repress their true emotions. Even those who may appear
to be extremely emotional, eruptive or volatile are usually denying their more
vulnerable feelings underneath.
In addition, if you were neglected or abused in
childhood, you will tend to be overwhelmed and controlled by your emotions. Many
become so overwhelmed that their emotions become their enemies. Dysfunctional
behaviors, including abusive or victim like patterns, substance abuse, and
suicidal tendencies, are often attempts to cope with intolerably painful
emotions. Many try to regulate their emotions by trying to make themselves not
feel whatever it is that they feel.
What is referred to as “psychic numbing” (stuck
or frozen feelings) is another frequent result of abuse and neglect in
childhood. Children shut off their feelings or dissociate in response to a
traumatic situation. Learning to re-experience frozen feelings takes time but
reconnecting with feelings can provide you strength, courage and joy.
It is important that you stop labeling emotions
as “good” or “bad” and instead see them as important messages that can educate
you about yourself, your circumstances and your environment. You will begin to
see that your emotions can empower you to take better care of yourself and in so
doing, help you raise your self-esteem.
Exercise: Your Feelings List
- List some of the things that cause you to
- What are some of the things that cause you
to feel sad?
- What makes you afraid?
- What makes you feel guilty?
- What makes you happy or joyous?
- What makes you feel fulfilled or satisfied?
Learning About Yourself Through Your Emotions
The key to learning about yourself through your emotions is to experience them
without inhibiting, judging, or distracting yourself from them. This is called
being mindful. Instead of fighting our emotions or walling them off, being
mindful of our emotions can help us discover more about who we are. The
following steps will help you to experience your emotions in a mindful way:
- Begin by simply observing your emotion. Notice
how it makes you feel. Notice what happens in your body as you feel the
- Do not judge the emotion as good or bad.
- Fully experience your emotion. Allow yourself
to feel the emotion as a wave, coming and going. Try not to suppress the
feelings or push the emotion away. On the other hand, don’t hold onto the
emotion or amplify it. Just let it pass through you like a wave.
Discover Your Essence
There is another aspect of you that is not related to your physical
characteristics, not defined by your emotional qualities or personality type and
is not a result of your history and conditioning. This aspect of you is
sometimes referred to as your true nature, your being or your essence because it
is the essence of what you are beneath your individual history.
The negative messages you received from your
parents (spoken and unspoken) became an overlay on top of your true nature or
essence, often hiding it from your awareness. Essence also refers to the part of
you that is most permanent and unchanging—the part of you that is central in
defining who you are.
According to Byron Brown, the author of the wonderful book, Soul Without Shame:
A Guide to Liberating Yourself From the Judge Within essence (or true nature)
manifests itself uniquely in every person and that uniqueness is inherent in who
you are at birth. It is not achieved, nor can it be destroyed. It is not
dependent on your appearance or anything you do or accomplish. You can however,
lose touch with your true nature—or even forget that it exists. .
Your essence or true nature is made up of what
are called essential qualities—attributes essential to what is most true in the
experience of being human. These qualities include truth, joy, compassion, will,
strength, awareness and peace, to name a few. Essential qualities lie deeper
than habit, preference, and early conditioning and they always exist as
potentials buried in the unconscious depths of each person.
Although we all need validation from others, the true source of your
self-esteem and your power comes from within. In order to access your power you
need to stay connected with yourself. You need to develop the habit of going
inside and connecting to your inherent strength, goodness and wisdom. Doing this
throughout the day, every day will not only help you raise your self-esteem but
will help you to feel more inner strength and security.
This article is based
on Healing Your Emotional Self: A Powerful Program to Help You Raise Your
Self-Esteem, Quiet Your Inner Critic, and Overcome Your Shame (John Wiley
and Sons, 2006).