In the first part of this series I talked about the draw-backs of defooing but what about the benefits? There must be a pretty great reward at the end of this troubled journey considering the painful costs that one must pay, otherwise no one in their right mind would ever think about defooing.
Logically, the benefits should at least be equal to the costs. For me and for many others – friends and clients that I’ve worked with – the struggle and the suffering was indeed, absolutely, worth it.
Removing abusive family from my life provided the kind of clarity and peace that I needed to rediscover my true self. Separating from my family of origin came as a direct result of setting higher standards for my relationships – standards that I started to build and put in place during my process of defooing. After paying a high price for that separation I was compelled to maintain and apply those same standards to all the relationships that I built later.
My defoo left a big hole in my life in the shape of my family which I eventually filled with other people, with better people, with people that understand true love and respect and that know how to show it. These people would have never been in my life if I would have still been under the influence of my abusive family. These people would have never associated with a person whose standards were that low.
After I set myself free from abuse, I built a life where I do not have to self-erase and, in the new tribe that I created around myself, my virtues are celebrated instead of punished, my values are admired instead of denigrated, my input is solicited instead of rejected, my self-esteem is boosted instead of destroyed and dismantled and my thoughts and feelings are cherished instead of denied.
For the first time in my life I got to experience how it feels to swim in some clear and clean waters but this happened only after I left the toxic pond filled with the radioactive waste of my family’s abuse in which I grew up.
It takes a lot of courage to go against your own roots and it takes a lot of pain to sever ties that might seem as essential as an umbilical cord to a baby. However, when the cord carries toxic juices to your brain and to your body, the healthy thing to do is to cut it, go through the pain, convalesce and grow healthy and stronger as a result of the separation.
I will share with you the different and distinctive phases of my own defooing because I think there is a lot of value in creating a map that can guide others who are just now thinking about going through this process.
I experienced my defoo in several stages.
Stage I – Confrontation
The first, and most painful, was the full frontal conflict with my family, my culture and my society. However, my defoo did not end with the physical separation from my abusers. This was only its beginning.
The conflict stage took only a couple of months and it happened years after numerous failed attempts at figuring out what this process truly entails and how to best approach it. I attempted and failed to defoo several times before and, looking back, I see those failures as fits of anger instead of thoughtful actions taken with a true purpose.
Stage I was the physical separation and, after I gained some wisdom from previous failures, I went through it fairly fast. For a more detailed view of my personal approach to this stage please go to Defoo Part III.
Stage II – Exorcism
The second stage was the greatest challenge of my defoo. I can best describe it as a self-exorcism performed while attempting to cross a desert and it took several years to get all of my “demons” out and reach my first Oasis.
We tend to carry our parents within us everywhere we go, even after we physically cut them out of our lives. There are so many aspects of our family of origin that we internalize and, while we are in constant contact with them, it is very hard to tell those “demons” apart from our true self.
However, when we put some distance between us and our abusers and, after we pay with pain and suffering for our decision to leave, we start to differentiate between our true self and learned behaviors and we can begin to sort out our true feelings from the defenses that we built when we were vulnerable and helpless in the care of people who harmed us.
When we reject our family based on higher standards for human interaction we are compelled to apply those standards not only to the new people that will eventually populate our lives but, most importantly, to ourselves.
Whatever we reject, we do not become, whatever we renounce we do not reproduce. Escaping the inter-generational curse of an abusive family is a reward greater than any price that one might have to pay for defooing.
Stage II was the longest and most strenuous part of my defooing process in which I had to comb through my own behavior and sort out my own thoughts and feelings from the ones of my internalized abusers. This stage, put me into an impossible social situation and I experienced it as a stage of great isolation.
After separating from my family, I was too healthy to ever consider going back but just not healthy enough to be accepted yet by truly virtuous and loving people. This was the desert that I needed to cross alone and I have to confess that it was a very, very lonely journey across it.
I fluctuated between feeling lonely and abandoned and feeling like a mad scientist that has closed herself in her lab working and perfecting a cure for a deadly disease. Other times I would feel like a sculptor locked up in his shop, working ceaselessly, obsessed with removing the unnecessary parts of a boulder to reveal the beautiful statue that he knows is hiding deep underneath the ugly rocky surface.
How much of me was me and how much of me was my mother? Telling and tearing myself apart from her was not an easy task. I started by removing obvious toxic behaviors that I borrowed from her.
These were the surface bad habits that were pretty easy to spot, but there was more. I kept digging deeper and deeper, looking for smaller and smaller pieces of her that were planted closer and closer to the core of the person that I thought I was.
I sometimes would hear her voice in the slightly raised tone of my voice when I felt defensive. I looked for and started to spot small gestures and passive-aggressive facial expressions that I would use when I felt threatened.
However, increasing my awareness of some of these things, did not automatically give me control over them and I had to learn how to exorcise each toxic piece that my mother left inside me on my own. In a nut shell, I spent the next few years teaching myself how to communicate and how to relate to others in a completely different manner.
I rebuilt myself, piece by broken piece and, in the end, I became fluent in a different language than the language of aggression and manipulation that I was raised with. And when that happened I was ready for stage three.
Stage III – The Pay Off
The third stage was reentering the world as a rehabilitated and healthy individual. I don’t know if this was an experience that was unique to myself but this stage happened faster than I was able to comprehend at that time. After years of isolation, when I finally felt ready to rejoin the world, I reached out and looked for a connection.
Almost immediately great people, wonderful people, amazing people flooded my life, and my social circle became a highly populated place in the span of just a few weeks and I realized that – at least for the very last part of my journey across the desert of social isolation – I was the one that was hiding away thinking that I wasn’t ready or worthy of love and respect just yet. My life turned into a beautiful and peaceful place populated by amazing people faster than I ever thought possible.
“Once we begin to cross-examine our own core beliefs – the prejudices that we have inherited from history – we will inevitably face the feigned indifference, open hostility and condescending scorn from those around us, particularly those who claim to have an expertise in the matters we explore.
This can all be painful and bewildering, it is true – on the other hand, however, once we develop a truly deep and intimate relationship with the truth – and thus, really, with our own selves – we will find ourselves almost involuntarily looking back upon our own prior relationships and truly seeing for the first time the shallowness and evasion that characterized our interactions.
We can never be closer to others than we are to ourselves, and we can never be closer to ourselves than we are to the truth – the truth leads us to personal authenticity; authenticity leads us to intimacy, which is the greatest joy in human relations.
Thus while it is true that while many shallow people will pass from our lives when we pursue the ‘truth at all costs’, it is equally true that across the desert of isolation lies a small village – it is not yet a city, nor even a town – full of honest and passionate souls, where love and friendship can flower free of hypocrisy, selfishness and avoidance, where curious and joyful self-expression flow easily, where the joy of honesty and the fundamental relaxation of easy self-criticism unifies our happy tribe in our pursuit and achievement of the truth.
The road to this village is dry, and long, and stony, and hard. I truly hope that you will join us.”
Check out Part III where I will take you step by step through my personal approach to Stage I – The Confrontation.
If you are looking for help with regards to your defoo, RTLC offers support sessions that are tailored specifically for this process.
Sign up for a free introductory session to find out more.