I have learned one important thing about the recovery process. It is never boring.
Just when I think I have pieced together my past, I will get a memory back leading me to question how I could possibly forget it. Just when I think I am entering a calm emotional state, a new emotion will come floating to the top and take me out of the present moment for a day or four. And just when I think there could not possibly be another inner part to explore, guess what happens.
This has been my experience this week. I have been in an integration period. I could feel myself processing out some of the old pain from my Karma Kid. I knew I was transitioning. And being the optimist I am, I was hopeful there wasn’t anything behind it. I’m just kidding. That’s not optimistic. That’s delusional. But it is a delusion I like to embrace on a regular basis because it keeps me going.
That delusion has ended as another part has revealed herself. As is true with all my parts, I was already aware of the belief system this part holds. As a matter of a fact, this was one of the very first beliefs I became aware of. I remember exactly where I was. It was eye-opening and disturbing at the same time. It is a defense mechanism that has never let me down. And it has never failed to produce the intended results. I affectionately refer to this defense mechanism as the “superiority complex”.
It is directly related to the inferiority complex. It is a direct internal response to the unworthiness that creates the feeling of being an outcast or an imposter. And it is used for one main purpose. It defends against pain by separating me from others. It doesn’t matter what the life experience is. It works. At the office, I am better than the others, so I don’t have to get too close. In relationship, I am better than my spouse, so I don’t have to rely on him or open up in any vulnerable way. In social circles, I am better than others because I have more important things to do than spend time hanging out with others.
It is a brilliant strategy. It keeps me safe from the pain of rejection and abandonment from others. I reject them first. And it makes sense of the deep belief that I do not belong, that I am truly an imposter on this planet. But it makes sense of it in a way that my inner parts could embrace without facing the painful truth. What is that truth? I am no different from anyone else. My childhood story might be a little hard to hear. My trauma might be severe. But I am a human being with the same tendencies toward fallibility and painful emotional experiences. I came here to connect with others, but in childhood, that only came with pain.
It was so much simpler to become the robot instead of facing that truth. I became the person with no significant emotions. I became the person who could accomplish things without making a mistake (what a difficult charade to keep up). I became someone who I believed was better than others. And “other” is the key word. I created an “otherness” because loneliness seemed like the best form of pain. The rejection and abandonment was just too much to handle. So I made my case for being different, for being unique, for being superior.
But we have seen how the “us-them” strategy never works. And I have come to ask a new question recently. Who is “them” anyway? My abusers? My political adversaries? The other gender? Those who I believe to be inferior to me? Those who had a perfect childhood? I am quickly coming to understand that last one doesn’t exist. And the idea that others are inferior to me is clearly a defense mechanism. To me, “them” can only exist in the past. And in reality, it needed to exist in the past. My abusers were scary people. I needed to separate from them. I needed to defend against that pain in childhood. I was too young to process it.
Now I am learning recovery is about coming out of the past. As an adult, I am responsible to bring my inner parts to the present moment. And in that process, I must drop the child-like beliefs that helped me live through hell. But dropping those beliefs means connecting with others on a deeper, more vulnerable level. Connecting with others means allowing people to help me. It means admitting I am not perfect and I feel pain. It means getting genuine. I have to stop telling myself ridiculous things that keep me in a state of “otherness”. And that is scary.
But I can’t stay here.
I have no idea how this will manifest yet, but I am optimistic. I do want more connection with others. It is possible that I will always want more connection. I think it is a part of being human. We are ultimately here for connection. But I have to dismantle those defense mechanisms that kept me safe in childhood. I have to help my inner parts journey out of the past. And as we all know, it doesn’t happen overnight. The best things never do.
Written By Elisabeth Corey, MSW
I’m Better Than Them was originally published @ Beating Trauma and has been syndicated with permission.
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