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Dear Cynthia... > shrinking/filling the hole?
shrinking/filling the hole?
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1 post
Jan 23, 2010
9:23 AM
There is a hole at the center of my being. I know that it grew from resentment, and abuse in my childhood. I believe that it is there because I feel unlovable and unworthy on some level (the tapes playing in my head tell me so). I recognize that these tapes are telling me lies, but I don't know how to get rid of them or change them. I don't know what message was given to me as a child that keeps this hole so big, and I don't know what to look/listen for in order to heal it.

My question is: How can I change beliefs that I hold when I know better than to listen to them put limits on me?

In my head, I know that I'm lovable. I have a wonderful wife who loves me without limits and I her. No, the relationship isn't perfect, but we are committed to one another and we are still very happy after more than 9 years. Part of the reason we work so well is that we share some similar history and self esteem issues, and we help one another with them; but our individual issues limit the help we can give the other. I am also quite happy with my career choices and have a job I love, that challenges me and demands that I learn and grow.

Last Edited by on Jan 23, 2010 9:24 AM
270 posts
Jan 25, 2010
12:03 AM
Hi Cecelia,

Thank you for asking this question, because I think many many women can relate to it. It's wonderful that you have a good life, and healthy love--these can be very difficult to acquire with those "tapes" playing.

Most commonly, those tapes come from messages we got from the people around us when we were children. As children, we are programmed neurologically to immitate. So when people treat us in a disrespectful way, or treat themselves or others in a disrespectful way, we immitate acting disrespectful toward ourselves, and sometimes others. Sometimes this happens when people around us repeatedly attack our value, sometimes it happens when we have a big trauma or loss, and sometimes it happens because of the absence of love, attention, caretaking, nurturance, protection, or anything we need as a child. When children don't get something they need, they often assume that means they didn't deserve it, and therefore they're not worth much.

When we experience a huge trauma or loss, we often have thoughts that come from the shattering experience, such as "I caused this trajedy," or "this happened to me because I never should have been born," or "I will never love again, because losing that love hurts too much," or many other such thoughts. These thoughts can affect what we think and do and feel for the rest of our lives, without our even remembering that we had that thought.

So I'm explaining how those "tapes" may have gotten started, but of course it can be even more complicated than this. Maybe you would tell us more about where you think yours got started.

Once started, people tend to practice these thoughts over and over all day for years. So once we are adults, we have had so much practice telling ourselves we are unlovable or unworthy in some way that we are very good at it, and it's very easy, automatic, and powerful. It's kind of like learning a language. If you decided that after all these years of practicing English, you didn't like knowing English and were going to unlearn it, how would you go about that? I'd say this is similar.

To further complicate things, we often have investments in the tapes. Sometimes it's just that they're so familiar, but they can also represent a tie to our parents, or seem like our only source of motivation (for example, "Come on you lazy, stupid idiot--go do your homework!"). To change this, these investments have to be identified and worked with. They are part of us, and have good intentions for us, but their method is also hurting us.

So the investments have to shift, the traumas and losses have to be grieved, and then you have to learn a new language to replace the old. This involves practicing the new language and not practicing the old one. The new language sounds like "I'm just as lovable as anyone else," or "I made a mistake, but it's forgivable, and part of being human," or "the fact that my parents didn't know how to love means nothing about how lovable I am...." But trying to do this last step without the negotiating with the investments or grieving and resolving the traumas and losses doesn't usually work.

So I don't know enough about you to know exactly how you might fit into all of this, but this is generally the process. I hope it's clear. I'd be very interested to know how this applies to your experience, or if it doesn't, tell me more, so I can help you with what's true for you.

2 posts
Jan 25, 2010
9:35 AM
Cynthia, thank you for your response to my post. You've pretty much hit the nail on the head. I agree that many women can probably relate to this issue because so many of us were told for so long that we weren't worthy on one level or another; be it equality with men, the careers that were (or were not) open to us, or our rights to make our own choices.

My parents were both ACA, though they never sought help or possibly even recognized it. They also had 11 (that's right, ELEVEN kids), I'm # 10. So, in addition to having to vie for any love and attention I did get, I learned a few survival techniques along the way: any attention was better than no attention, even if it was punishment for acting out; disassociation is a great escape from a very unhappy reality; and, when all else fails, run like hell.

I was sexually abused throughout my childhood, by my father and one of my brothers. I spent many years in therapy and have had great results. I've used EMDR (and still do) and I've worked hard but this issue just sort of hangs over me. I quit therapy a few years ago because of the financial stress. I figure I've spent enough money on therapy to buy more than a few luxury cars (and maybe a house in a different market).

Your statement about practicing the new language, "But trying to do this last step without the negotiating with the investments or grieving and resolving the traumas and losses doesn't usually work." Really struck a cord; this has never really been a focus of my healing, and I have tried to record over the tapes, without much success.

Thank you.

Last Edited by on Jan 25, 2010 9:36 AM

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Email: CynthiaLubow@yahoo.com 

 Cynthia W. Lubow, MFT

 For 30 years, compassionately helping people build self-confidence and feel happier.

 San Francisco East Bay Area Therapist

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