If you are like me, and many of you are, you became aware very quickly after beginning therapy of how other people have influenced your life’s path. The abuse and hellish decisions to harm us made by others changed the course of who we could have been forever.
However, how often have you sat down and considered just how much your own decisions have altered your life’s trajectory?
That’s what this blog entry is all about, recognizing the decisions that make and owning them to become successful in our adult lives.
Now, some may take offense because of some of the things I’m going to say, but I don’t want to pussyfoot around. If I can help any of who are still young to escape the mistakes I have made, then a few sour responses will be well worth it.
All of Us are the Culmination of our Choices
There isn’t an adult alive on planet earth who isn’t in charge of the direction their lives are going. Even when we don’t like the alternative choices laid out before us, we still have them. Unless held against our will, adults are faced with the authentic fact that we are responsible for where we go from this moment forward.
No matter what the consequences, the choices are always there for us to choose from. Leaving, staying, getting angry, staying calm, hating, loving all are examples of the many, many choices we face every day.
Yes, the choices the people in our childhoods made harmed us, but it is how we behave as adults that will make or breaks our lives.
Letting Go of Self-Defeating Anger
Like myself, many who have lived through the tragedy of severe childhood trauma harbor strong emotions ranging from disappointment to hatred of those who harmed us. We hug these self-destructive feelings close, feeling we are entitled to have and express them.
However, consider the following questions.
Who is being harmed the most by the attitude “I deserve to be pissed at to hell forever!”?
Do your former abusers shake in their boots at your self-righteous anger?
Does the world bow down to you and sob, asking for forgiveness for what you have been through?
Well, join the club. They don’t for me either.
The day I began to let go of that kind of thinking was the day I started to heal in earnest.
By holding that anger and all those negative emotions close I was sabotaging any hope of living a healthy and fulfilling life.
Examining The Choices Made by Successful Adults
I am by no means an expert on being a successful adult. However, I have begun myself to examine what it is that adults who go on to live healthy lives do to get there. The trip is one of self-discovery and listening to others, something many of us, including me, have a hard time doing.
Below is a short list of just some of the things successful adults do.
They have a sense of gratitude vs. a sense of entitlement. Enjoying where you are and being grateful for what you have is essential to achieving the inner peace so many of us crave. Far too many people who call themselves adults live in a world of their own construction where they want things and try very hard to get them. By enjoying the simple things, many have found peace with themselves and others.
As survivors, we sometimes harbor thoughts of being owed by the people in our lives to make up for the hell we’ve been through as kids. How sad to be so wrapped up in this line of thinking that we neglect to make and enjoy the beautiful relationships we can have as adults.
They accept responsibility for their failures vs. blaming others for them. I think we can all agree that blaming others for failures is rampant in our society today. Our nation is always looking for scapegoats to blame for the decisions we have made.
As survivors, I know that often we want to blame everything that goes wrong, including our failures, on those who harmed us as children. This gives our abusers tremendous power, even if they are dead, over our lives.
Not only this but accusing others of our mistakes or misdeeds is a too convenient a way to escape taking responsibility for our actions. No one, not even survivors of extreme child abuse, has the right to break the law or harm others in words or in deeds.
By owning our actions and failures, we take back the power we thought we had lost in childhood and can use our mistakes to avoid doing harmful or illegal things. This has the potential to launch us forward into a brighter future.
They plan their actions and words vs. flying by the seat of their pants and saying whatever comes to mind. Of all the things that survivors are guilty of, this is a big one. We don’t stop to consider how powerful our actions and words are and how much pain they can inflict. We sit about and weep about how we were treated and spoken to as children, yet we say horrible things about others and treat other people like a pariah.
Because we are survivors, we sometimes feel superior to everyone else.
It is crucial for our own peace of mind to stop and think before we act or speak. My dad once gave me a little yellow sign that read, “Be sure brain is engaged before putting mouth in gear.” How right these words are and how powerful if we will choose to follow them as adults.
Acknowledging that we are NOT better than others and that no one, even our abuses, deserves to be treated horribly is a massive step towards finally owning our lives.
Are accepting of other’s, even those they don’t like vs. hating others. There is not a person alive who has not done something to harm someone else. Therefore, there are tons of people who don’t like me, and they don’t like you. Does that give me the right to hate them?
Even those who mistreated and hurt us badly as children, does hating them calm you on the nights you can’t sleep? Or does it stoke the fires of rage instead of soothing them to cool coals until they finally flicker out?
Harboring hatred for my abusers is a waste of time for me. No one, not even god himself, can change what they did to me.
Plus, it is my wholehearted opinion that they got what they deserved in retribution. They missed out on having a close and warm relationship with a child who deeply loved them and would have done anything for them.
To me, knowing what they missed out on is enough retribution.
Accepting others at face value instead of hating them is a way of helping myself. That does not mean you have to be chummy or buddy-buddy with those who harmed you, it does mean that you leave them alone to live out their lives without your interference.
Anything else cheapens your childhood experiences and makes you no better than they.
Successful Adults Hold Few Regrets
No matter who you are, how smart you are, or how old you get all of us will make mistakes. So, it is very self-defeating to regret having turned right when you should have turned left.
Successful adults don’t hold onto their regrets. They acknowledge they have erred, make amends whenever possible, and then examine what happened. They look hard at their mistakes not to punish themselves, but to learn from them.
They ask critical questions of themselves such as:
How could I have handled that situation better?
What can I do to avoid that mistake in the future?
What else can I learn?
Instead of holding onto guilt and regret, try some self-understanding. After you have made an error or failed in some way, cut yourself a break.
Self-forgiveness is vital to overcoming the failures in life. After all, no one will probably remember what happened in a few days, months or years, so after doing what you can to make amends move on.
I hope this article has helped some of you. I realize I’ve stomped on a few holy cows, but that’s the nature of being honest. Sometimes people don’t like the path you have led them down.
Just remember, I’ve always got ears open to hear your opinions, and I don’t hold grudges. I understand we are all in different stages in our recoveries and that our paths have crossed online for a purpose.
I hope you can hear me, because I know I hear you.
“You are responsible for your life. You can’t keep blaming somebody else for your dysfunctions. Life is really about moving on.” ~ Oprah Winfrey