One’s Origins: A Journey from Adoption to Identity – Part Eighteen

Trying to “fit in” might provide an illusion of escaping isolation from others but it will indubitably isolate us from ourselves.

― Matthew E. Gorman

My Journey from Adoption to Identity is approaching a milestone. I began this journey with no particular end point in mind. My only objective was to travel in time throughout my life in hopes of reconciling the place from where I came with where I have been, where I am and where I am going from this moment forward. One’s Origins was a journey back through my life moving forward in time while looking backward like driving a car with the windshield and rearview mirror switched. While conventional wisdom might argue that this holds no value, I emphatically disagree. This opportunity to reexamine the motivations for decisions I made and lessons I failed to learn throughout life the first time has helped relieve me of so much emotional turmoil. I may have had no particular end point at the onset of One’s Origins, but the healing of unsurfaced wounds has been the greatest gift I could have given myself. The journey is by no means complete and with God’s grace it will never end. However, it will never again be the same because the lens with which I see my relationship with the world and others has changed.

The more I learned and shared, I would often receive feedback that there was much resonance among others as they could identify some of their own inner conflicts with my depiction of my own. It is in learning of such drawn connections with the reader that has had such a divine impact on the way I view the value of all with which I have struggled. I am not alone. No one is alone. Many of us feel alone, but we never are alone in often hard to grasp cosmic ways. At our core, we, as a species, are bound by experiences of both pain and joy. In Part Nineteen I will share with you the joy that emerges from confronting pain.

What follows will, at times, read like a manifesto of grudges, in other words, it might appear that I am complaining or venting, or worse yet, whining. Perceiving this as such is understandable. In the introduction of the book version of One’s Origins, I share the need to draw our demons out into the light of day if we hope to conquer them. In part Eighteen, I summon my demons to introduce them to their maker and their demise. My demons are Fear, Remorse and Anguish. As you read what follows, I invite you to think about what still haunts you today. Once I acknowledged my burden it immediately and noticeably diminished. If there is a whiff of complaining as you read the below, it is in pursuit of enhancing my endearment to you. I promise it will be faint and quickly passing.

Fear

Nothing more and nothing less than fear has kept me from pursing my dreams. Nothing ever stood in my way, EVER except my own damn fears! I feared more than death itself both rejection and ridicule. As a child with behavioral challenges attributed to deficits in my ability to pay attention[1], I was very often on the receiving end of rejection and ridicule. Like the child bitten by a dog who never outgrows a fear of dogs, I never outgrew my fear of rejection and ridicule. Because of this I was often left on the outside looking in. I concede that I might recall this happening more than it truly did, but it did often enough to have a lasting impact on me. This culminated in my rebellious lifestyle years later and the mistakes that ensued.

The same fear followed me throughout my career. My fear of rejection and ridicule triumphed over self-confidence, so I adapted to my environment by doing what and being who was expected by others. Being nonconformant years earlier had not turned out so well, so I figured conforming was my only option. Paradoxically, conforming, or “fitting in” did little more than isolate me from myself. I did so out of fear of being shunned again. ‘Fake it until you make it’ often is a fruitful strategy if your heart is into what you are trying to accomplish. Otherwise, you can easily appear disingenuous and untrustworthy. This would ultimately lead to perhaps not complete rejection but certainly being shunned. Ultimately, I was rejecting myself.

Lastly, I have feared loss. To avoid loss, I would avoid deep connections. This fear frightens me so much that I have not even been willing to have a pet of my own, let alone emotional dependency on another human being even though both would immeasurably benefit me. The death of every pet in my home as a child as well as anyone I have loved was always unbearable for me. It is said it is better to have loved and lost than never to love at all. What about having loved and lost and lost and lost and…? I will address this in further detail in Part Nineteen.

Remorse

Throughout One’s Origins I hope I have done an adequate job in communicating my awareness that I have been inordinately blessed and that I am a very fortunate human being. In union with my gratitude there also lies remorse. My fear of not fitting in diminished my sense of self-worth and all the shame and blame from my youth would be adopted by me as deserved and justified. I know no ill will was ever intended by anyone. When I was young their intent was almost always of a corrective nature even if intimidating. Resultingly, shaming and blaming myself was how I was conditioned. I was quick to be harshly self-critical of every mistake I made. More regrettably, to a lesser extent I became critical of others for their flaws and mistakes. I was a product of judgement because of my differences and as a result I became a very judgmental person.

It is in the pain of the aftermath of this that has impacted me the most. I would go on for over three decades believing my worth as a human being was below that of anyone else. Because of this, I invested a lot of time and energy trying to be someone I felt was more worthy of admiration than myself. I was constantly trying to be someone other than who I was, hoping to avoid being judged by others for being flawed. The result was that I was always judging myself and often quite harshly.

I was often told that I just needed to forgive myself. However, I did not believe I owed myself an apology. I knew I was harsh on myself, but I believed deeply that I deserved it. I absorbed enough shame and blame all throughout my youth because of my behavioral challenges that I adapted to the belief that it was all justified and there was nothing for me to regret. That is why the idea that there was actually anything for which I needed to forgive myself never occurred to me.

I wish to reemphasize something I mentioned in Part One. In the very first paragraph of One’s Origins I wrote these words. “…and that home is the place to where my memory carries me to this day when I desire peace and warmth.” My childhood home was my sanctuary. The harshness I internalized my whole life came from outside the home.

Anguish

Following remorse is Anguish. I have been anguished for allowing myself to fall into the pit of despair over all decisions in my life that I had perceived as unforgiveable mistakes. Hell, I even held anguish for the perceptions that my mistakes were unforgiveable. The result has been a catastrophic self-perpetuating cycle of disharmony. Everyone makes mistakes and many of us spend far more time than is warranted stewing over them.

I have been anguished not that I sunk three quarters of my annual salary at the time into a highly ranked two-year MBA program or that I invested nearly as much money and nine years into a highly specialized technical undergraduate degree. I have had amazing experiences and developed life-long friendships. My anguish comes from my motivations for doing so. I did not do these things to further my career per se, I did it to further my image in my own eyes. I can pretend I wanted respect and admiration from others but in truth what I wanted, no, what I needed were those things from myself. My ego needed me to. I enslaved myself to my ego. I am now also aware that I wanted to honor my dad’s wish for a better life for me. These are the reasons I chose to stay on the career path I was on for so long.

I remain anguished for feeling ashamed of myself, not because of my mistakes with substance abuse many years earlier, but rather because I refused myself the forgiveness I so much both deserved and needed. The way out of this hell has been right in front of me with the door as wide open as every other door I have ever walked through to get me to where I am today.

Finally, I am anguished that until now, my only outlet for this has been anger. What pains me the most is never learning how to see the good in myself that others did. Somewhere along the way I lost my ability to reciprocate any, let alone all, the love I was ever given. I was the only one standing in my own way. Of all that still haunts me today, this one continues to drive me to tears.

I had become co-dependent on the trifecta of Fear, Remorse and Anguish. Those three emotions wrapped up in one, personified the person I would see in every mirror for most of my adult life. I saw a person in whom I never had any confidence. Is it any wonder why others lacked confidence in me as well? It has been only in emotional outbursts that my pain would find its escape.

These are my demons. Now that they are out in the light of day, I have the upper hand in confronting them. In Part Nineteen I will share my plans for doing just that. I look forward to seeing you there!

[1] As a matter of personal conviction, I decline to use any description of a human quality the includes the word “disorder”. In my rather unwavering view on this, negatively labeling any quality of mental, neuro, or emotional differences as a ‘disorder’ causes a significant part of the challenges those possessing these qualities throughout their whole lives. Diagnosed is better than undiagnosed all day every day but we mustn’t compound their struggle with negative labels. During the course of writing One’s Origins, I came to learn of a growing hypothesis in the field of child psychology that what is referred to today as ADD might be a manifestation of depression from very early life traumatic event.

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