I was adopted as an infant by affluent parents. And although we lived in a big house with all the material possessions we could want, I was never happy. Because of the way I was treated that big castle of a house felt like a prison. I remember living my childhood as if I was behind bars. Although my mother said she loved me, I’d get confused when she’d hit and slap me again and again. She would tell me that “the ones who love you hurt you the most.” As a result, I began to wonder if I wanted to be loved.
My father was a constant reminder that I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough. These difficulties were compounded when I was repeatedly abused sexually by someone who worked for my family. Already distant and alienated from my parents, I felt that I could never tell them about these awful and humiliating experiences. I thought that I must be to blame. I withdrew further, at first depressed and finally angry. By age 22, I had attempted suicide twice. After that, although I no longer wanted to end my life, I remained deeply unhappy. Combative and resentful toward my parents, I once refused to speak to my mother for two years! Years of therapy only helped me get better at protecting my feelings. I was still too scared to love.
Then I attended a workshop at The Option Institute. I had the opportunity to examine, in the most accepting environment, the beliefs that had been making me so unhappy, above all, the belief that I was not good enough. As I explored this it became clear that there was no evidence in my life to support that belief. I let it go. When I did, I found that I no longer needed my hard, protective shell of defensiveness and anger. I now felt strong without it. And as I began to feel better about myself, I also began to see my parents in a new light. I could now understand that they had been angry and frustrated with their own lives and, like me, just doing the best they could despite their discomfort. This understanding opened a new possibility of forgiveness and compassion. Finally, I sat down and wrote them a letter, expressing genuine gratitude for having them in my life. I knew that I would continue to feel good no matter how they responded, because I was finally learning to love and accept myself. With this new attitude, I awaited their typical insensitive reply.
One week later, I received a package from my parents. In it was a plaque that said, ‘Not flesh of my flesh, nor bone of my bone, but nevertheless my own. Never forget for a single minute, you weren’t born under my heart, but in it.’
With tears in my eyes, I knew that my new-found love and acceptance had not only affected my life but theirs too. I know now that you can indeed feel hurt by those you love most, but you also have the choice to love and be happy with them. In my castle, there are no more prison bars.
Jan C., Computer Programmer, Illinois