There are a lot of self-help books and blog posts that talk about how to handle bad memories. There are steps we can take to work through trauma or abuse. While there is no “cure-all” for these types of things, we know there are ways to do self-care to work through various issues.
If you read last week’s “thinks” (Talking to myself: Healing from an abusive childhood), you will know that I am currently going to therapy myself to work through an abusive past as well as some various elements that came along with my background (See My Sexual Abuse Story and How I Forgave My Abuser and Healing from Spiritual Abuse and Forgiving My Abusers).
The abuse you received may be manipulative. It could be a quarel between parents and you were used as leverage. You might have been lied to or used to fulfill someone else’s selfishness or to hide your abusers wrong doings.
But what if you have good memories with these same people who abused you? Perhaps they were your parents or grandparents? It’s confusing to know if that person was kind to you because they were genuinely being nice or for some sort of personal gain.
Perhaps remembering the one nice thing your abuser did for you makes you question if somehow you were in the wrong. Maybe if you had just made them happy enough they would have always been nice or not hit you… Maybe it was your fault after all that they couldn’t control their addictions or anger?
For those of us who have experienced abuse, we are constantly questioning ourselves so this thought process is completely normal.
For me personally, this has been a struggle. Although there are not many good memories from my childhood, I can recall one good memory that I was able to share with my dad. In my most recent therapy session, we discussed this memory. While the memory was good, it made me very sad. To be quite honest, I didn’t know what to think.
I didn’t know he was my dad.
I remember the first time I came to the realization as to who my “dad” was. I had heard some kids talking about who their dads where and I didn’t realize I had one. He also lived with me. Prior to this, I just thought that my mom lived with a really mean man who would yell and hit me. I don’t remember a single time he hugged me unless it was forced by my mom, so I didn’t realize this was my father. My mother was also violent but would hug us when she wasn’t mad, so I knew she was my mom.
My parents were never happy for as long as I can remember. Someone was always threatening to leave, hurting someone, or threatening to hurt themselves. Any type of affection I saw between them was forced for a camera or the traditional kiss when they came home, it was meaningless.
But for a very short time, I once felt safe in my dis-functional home.
My grandmother had suddenly passed away due to an accident and my mother flew back to the US to attend the funeral and be with family (we were living in Japan at the time). I gave my mother a necklace that I had made and asked her to take care of it while she was away. I gave this to her because I was terrified that I would have to be at home with my father during the time she was gone. I was also afraid she would never come home because of the many times she had threatened to leave.
I said goodbye to my mother and I cried as she left to catch her flight.
What followed during the time she was gone was shocking…
I was the safest I had ever been.
I was afraid that if my mom was gone, nothing would hold my father back from his anger. Perhaps he would hit harder or hurt one of my siblings. But to my surprise, he became someone I had never met before. He was harsh to us for about the first two days, but that soon went away. And although he didn’t hug us, we were allowed to laugh. We had fun together and he made us tasty dinners. We were allowed to be children, to be silly. I remember one specific day my father bought us ice cream and he told us to lick the bowl. So we all sat around the table laughing with ice cream on our noses…
My mother soon returned and things did not stay happy for long. I remember them fighting again and everything went back to the way things were, unhappy and broken. I began to cry as I told my therapist what happened. She asked me to put into words what I was thinking.
“I felt like I met my dad but he left and never came back. I wish he could have stayed.”
As I mentioned in last week’s “thinks” (Talking to myself: Healing from an abusive childhood), I am currently working on healing my inner child. These thoughts and feelings that I have are definitely from my inner child. They are a longing for wholeness and a family. My tears were from pain of knowing my father was in there somewhere but never was that kind and funny dad ever again.
I was also in tears because I was confused. Somehow in this mess I was happy. It was only for a brief moment, but I was genuinely happy. I also felt upset, sad, confused, and even guilty all at the same time. Maybe somehow it was my fault that my parents could never get along? Maybe that’s why I was caught in the middle of everything?
As I explained to my therapist these feelings, we worked through this thought process to discover some underlying truths.
My parents chose to be who they are and, it was ok to remember a brief happy moment.
I think it’s not uncommon for kids to think that somehow their parent’s disputes or even divorce could somehow be their fault. Maybe you were told that or maybe you weren’t. Yet our young selves often think that anything can be fixed, so maybe we just didn’t try hard enough.
As I am starting to learn, I want you to know that this is not the case. Your inner child may still be longing for a restored family, but I want you to know there was nothing in your power you could have done to change that. As you know from being an adult now:
Sometimes people make bad decisions. It’s not because someone made them do the things they did. They had just as much of a chance as you to get the help they needed, talk to a therapist, or go to counseling. This is NOT your fault. You are only responsible for what you do with the life you’ve been given. It’s ok to have a good memory about someone even if they were not a good person.
Depending on what the good memory is, you may need to let it go or hold on to it. Remember that it’s your choice as to what you do with it. Neither are correct or incorrect. For me, if I hold on to this memory, I am only sad to think of what could have been. I acknowledge the memory but I am choosing not to hold on to it. Rather I am hopeful that one day, without the pride and sin of man my funny and silly dad will one day return. In the meantime, I am free to live and be happy.
I am not controlled by the good or bad of the past.
Thank you so much for reading this week’s thinks! As always please feel free to comment and share. You can also connect with me via Facebook @happythink.joydaehn or on Instagram @joydaehn. See you guys next week!