I woke up early, too early, like so many times before. There’s a beautiful sunrise out there, for anybody who’d care to witness it. Not me. I am struggling to wake up after I struggled to go back to sleep. Not feeling quite ready to start the day, yet far away from that coziness of being under the blanket and just turning over for another hour of sleep.
Sometimes, in these moments of in-between, I feel the weight of the past. The things I’ve said, the things I’ve done. The faux pas. The promises I haven’t kept – especially to myself. The plans that failed right from the start. The projects that never really took off. The dysfunctional coping mechanisms. The self-blame, which only brought even more dysfunctional coping.
And there is that disappointed voice I know so well, the one that pretends to have known this all along.
“What the hell did you expect?”
“I told you this will never work.”
It’s my unforgiving inner critic. It’s a voice that also extends to people close to me as soon as they seem to withdraw their attention and affection, as soon as they seem to turn away.
“I told you so.”
“They were never really there.”
Behind the disappointment, there’s anger. Behind the anger, there’s crushing sadness and discouragement.
Behind the sadness, there’s a vulnerability so intense that it needs to be covered with something, anything. As if survival would not be possible if this glowing red hot core of vulnerability remained exposed.
For this inner voice, the present has turned into the prisoner of the past. There’s a foregone conclusion, an “I told you so” waiting behind every corner. The freshness of things just unfolding is too much to bear, because it could eventually break through the glass ceiling, show that things could go differently, and undermine the toxic sweetness of fatalism and discouragement.
What is amazing about this voice is how much it needs to be heard and held in the attention, affection, and forgiveness of others, and how incapable it is to offer itself the same things: attention, affection, forgiveness.
Our ability to love mirrors the way we’ve been loved, and the way significant others around us were able to love. But as we grow up the opposite also becomes true – the way we are loved depends on our capacity and willingness to offer ourselves. Emotionally deprived people usually get stuck in this cycle of unlove generating more unlove.
But something’s got to give. Breaking the cycle does not happen when all stars align and change becomes easy. If it ever does, it happens when it’s difficult, almost unbearable. When loving and forgiving feel painful and alien, because there seems to be so much to unlove and so much to forgive.