Hi everyone. April is almost here and as highly sensitive survivors you may be experiencing what can only be described as Easter Guilt. Easter is a family time, when families get together and celebrate God and Jesus and hsps often contemplate very reason for being on the planet. Even for the non-religious, Easter causes many to deeply evaluate our true purpose and our humanity. It is similar to the Christmas holiday when we look at our lives and say to ourselves “Today I SHOULD be happy! Where is my happy extended family that loves and supports me!”
Depending on where you are in your recovery from narcissistic abuse or childhood wounds, you may have started your own new Easter traditions with yourselves or with your own children which are more loving and focused on celebrating Spring, the miracle of nature and new life, and appreciating the ability to renew yourselves by being more loving–you remind yourselves, your children, or new-found friends that God loves you as you are, unconditionally.
Still, the Easters of your childhood may hold onto your hearts this time of year. You may still unconsciously hold down the pain of Easter family get-togethers filled with religious abuse and guilt-inducement, or the pain of no celebrations at all at a time when other families and children seemed to be so happy and loved and celebrating. Holidays such as this can surface feelings of deep loneliness as you realize you are separated from your true selves and true potential because you may have had to manufacture a self that was pleasing to your narcissistic parent, a false self that was superficial and not at all the rich, deep, complex personality that you still feel ashamed to completely step into. You may want so badly to be good, kind, fair, and right with God so you may feel guilt not honoring the commandment that tells you to Honor Thy Father and Mother.
As part of your recovery from childhood wounds, you may want to include reading Alice Miller’s book, The Body Never Lies. I want to share with you a review of this book that I found on her website in order to support those of you who still struggle with guilt if you happen to be needing to enforce No Contact in order to heal from your childhood wounds:
“Norm Lee, May 2, 2005
Of Moms and Moses A Review of Alice Miller’s book, THE BODY NEVER LIES: The Lingering Effects of Cruel Parenting
…. We have to break free of our (internalized) parents’ grip on us, that of the biblical injunction, “Honor (obey, worship,) thy father and thy mother.” Until then we, in a sense, feel and behave and think like the little children we once were; we cannot grow up. Worse, because as children we weren’t accepted and loved for who we were, parents repeatedly punished us in attempts to force us into the imaginary mold they had prepared for us, i.e., what a child should be. Dr. Miller’s message is that our bodies bear a detailed record of every childhood hurt and humiliation inflicted, every spank and slap, insult and indignity. And until or if those internal, psychic wounds remain unhealed, we can expect to continue to pay the terrible price in physical illnesses. Powerless to do otherwise, we suppressed our true and good authentic selves to win the love our emotional survival depended on.
Dr. Miller writes with astonishing and penetrating truth about the connections between childhood suffering at the hands of parents, and the physical consequences of obedience to the Fourth Commandment. The Biblical law, “Honor thy father and thy mother” is here challenged as the source of widespread – even universal – life-long suffering. As children we attempted to free ourselves from our feelings of fear, insecurity and confusion thru repression and dissociation/self-alienation. Whatever the cost (abandonment of our true selves), we persisted in loving and trusting our parents (we hardly had a choice) and strived to earn their approval, (and (thus) to please the Greater Parent in the Sky.)
Today, what stands between our bodies and the healing of those injuries is the hold the Fourth Commandment has on our minds. As we live and breathe, the fear of parental rejection/punishment lurks within that fear. It has to be brought to consciousness and examined before healing can take place. We walk carrying a sack full of personal history, the burden of wounds inflicted by all the punishment and indignities that have ever happened to us. Until we heal those internal wounds, we daily pay a terrible price in suffering, much of it physical illness, and make others pay as well. Those others are most often our own children. The claim so often heard, “I got spanked and I turned out OK,” cannot be upheld when it is understood how the denial of physical and emotional injuries are connected to present illnesses.
“…. Dr. Miller repeatedly emphasizes the tragic effects, in the form of physical ailments, of the body’s life-long yearning for parental love and affection. She touches on the way this suppression is expressed in religion: the command to love God, on pain of punishment when we fail to do so; the absurdity of inventing a parent-like creator, perfect and omnipotent, who craves our love. It is an odd god, an immensely dependent god, a Big Daddy who, if given the love demanded, will reward with an eternity in blissful heaven. (And the teenage suicide bombers of the Middle East are promised the bonus of 72 virgins to sweeten the deal.) Inasmuch as the Great Father is not loved, even worshipped, the alternative is agonizing punishment from now to the “end” of eternity.
We have to liberate ourselves from the propaganda imposed on us – and enforced on us on pain of punishment – by conventional morality. This book calls for a higher morality, as it applies to parenthood. We cannot truly love our parents, she asserts, until we are liberated from the infantile attachment, the idolatry, that trapped us in childhood.
Dr. Miller wants the reader to understand and accept that parents who abused us do not deserve our love and honor, regardless of a Moses-imposed commandment to do so. As we all must know, love is one thing that cannot be enforced. Like Sgt. Joe Friday, the body, in its wisdom, rejects illusions. It accepts only the facts, as higher morality is inherent not in the mind, but in our bodies. She takes to task all those friends and relatives and preachers and therapists who say, “Forgive your mother, forgive your father; they did the best they knew how. She changed your diapers, he sacrificed for you, and above all they loved you.” Miller will not hear it: forgiveness is a crock and a trap, laid to continue the dependency, and preserve the hope, that somehow, sometime, we will finally bask in the love that was so long ago denied us. Reading Alice is like hearing someone whisper, “I know the secret you are hiding in your past, the feelings of hurt and fright and shame and humiliation at the abusive treatment you suffered at the hands of your parents. And I’m asking you – urging you, challenging you – to come out of that dark closet and face up to it.”
In the valley where I live, the #1 fear at whatever age is parental punishment. And among adults, it’s primary defense is Denial. Behind the denial of childhood mistreatment lies the fear of punishment, therefore acknowledgement or recognition of it in adulthood can approach terror. But the price for denial is paid in physical as well as mental illness. When aware of it we see it everywhere: the suffering in the bodies and minds of strangers and of those dear to us. But we must begin with ourselves, confronting the punishing parent within.”
As supportive as this information is, I know how difficult it is to step away from your abusive family ties and go it alone and start a new emotionally healthier life so that you can heal and get stronger. You need support for such drastic actions and I offer you that support through my posts, articles, poems, songs and lyrics, my coaching, and a community here with many comments on my website that I hope lovingly states, “you are not alone, you are in the company of a community of survivors that is growing in number as they dare to come out of their darkness and speak the truth of what happened to them as children!”
As highly sensitive people (HSPs) you have many gifts to offer that are lacking in many of the people around you. Celebrate your differentness, celebrate YOU this Easter and open up to the love that exists from God and from other HSPs like yourself. I believe we HSPs are gifted with compassion and an ability to love deeper so that we can help each other through the negativity and dark energies that do exist around us.
Love to you this Easter season, may you realize your shining light inside of you and shine it on your children, spouse, friends, and especially your self! You deserve a wonderful Easter!
Wonderful post! I know that “honor thy father and mother” is over my head with my recent no contact with my family and lingers me with guilt. The funny thing is that I remember my own mother making fun of Alice Miller and stating at what a quack she was! I have just ordered some of Alice Miller’s books. I wish I would have read her work years ago and sad that she passed away. I am also sad to see that there has been no official, or at least what I could find, documentary film about her.
ISO, Thank you for your comment and kind words about my post. It’s great that you can now see your Mom’s comments about Alice Miller were so wrong. So glad you will be reading Alice Miller! It is never too late to read her books and I agree, an official documentary of her life would be so wonderful to see. Thanks again, Roxanne