Just a note to our readers… this is not the usual post about travelling or moving to a foreign country, but a very personal account what travelling throughout Europe and moving allowed me to accomplish on a personal level. I believe we all have the ability to determine our futures through the power of thought, the law of attraction and the power of believing. It is putting an end to the negative dialogue playing over and over in your head telling you that you cannot make good changes in your life.
You are the key in your happiness and any changes that you want to make in your own life. Pursue happiness.
The basic tenets of psychoanalysis include:
- a person’s development is determined by often forgotten events in early childhood besides inherited traits (really, I wouldn’t mind softening some of my inherent traits)
- human attitude, mannerism, experience, and thought is largely influenced by irrational drives that are rooted in the unconscious (Repressed memories?)
- it is necessary to bypass psychological resistance in the form of defense mechanisms when bringing drives into awareness (WHAT do you mean I have a defense mechanism!!!)
- conflicts between the conscious and the unconscious, or with repressed material can materialize in the form of mental or emotional disturbances, for example: neurosis, neurotic traits, anxiety, depression etc. (I read that 1 in 2 people get depression at some point in their lives! I used to have anxiety attacks in the middle of the night where I thought I was dying and my heart was jumping out of my chest, I think this might count.)
- liberating the elements of the unconscious is achieved through bringing this material into the conscious mind (Placing memories in chronological order, moving them from hard drive by reliving them, dealing with them, talking about them -often eliminates them from the unconscious and they lose their affect on your reactions when similar events take place in the present. I think this is called shadowed anger.)
Now about me…I used to be an ‘if only’ person. If only mom and dad stayed together. If only they had the money to help me through university. If only my first boyfriend didn’t cheat on me. If only my first marriage wasn’t such an utter failure.
I was conditioning myself to believe that I had no power over the outcome of my life, and focussed on the negative. Why me? Poor me? I would blame all my misfortunes, and bad choices on everyone except myself. And so it went.
Then something in me changed. (Probably while watching Oprah) I started to believe I had the power to not only change my destiny but to transform my fate to anything I wanted by simply changing my thought patterns. First, I had to believe that I was worthy of any amazing life I dreamed of, then I stopped focussing on the past, and I started envisioning my desired future. My pursuit of happiness has been my focus since 2000, the day I put myself on my own ‘To Do’ list.
How to deconstruct Eva? I had a happy childhood until I was eleven. My parents instilled in me a strong work ethic and a good moral compass. They laid the groundwork for a successful future, so I needed to be thankful for what I had. Eleven years may not be a lot, but instead of focussing on the people that had their parents stay married or feeling crappy for my parent’s divorce, I had to be grateful. This is where I began my process.
Next was to forgive the people that hurt me along the way. I am not going to lie, this is hard. Some people really did hurt me throughout my life, but again in comparison to the thousands that didn’t make it out of my old neighbourhood, I really am lucky. I came from the wrong side of the tracks where people ended up after divorce. The low income basement suites of Surrey’s Whalley Exchange where many families lived on welfare, now called social assistance, but the name change doesn’t change the people stuck on them. The single moms. The dependent. The ambitionless. The sick. The old. The addicts. And the gang members, the street walkers and teenage mothers. My hood was rough, like the roughest around. Slowly I moved away, leaving my friends behind.
Pain demands to be felt. Once you feel it, you can let it go. Now, I am talking about mental anguish. Physical pain is far easier to handle, once it heals, you can move on. But brokenhearted, crushed to the core of your being pain, brought on by situations that are out of your control are slower healing. I needed to feel mine, walk through it again and let it go so I could grow into the person I was supposed to be. Just because my pain is not the worst in the world that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. Each time something happened to me, I always knew someone first-hand in a far worse situation or who had gone through the same situation only worse. It became reflex to put my own issues on hold. I continued to ignore them, pretend things never happened to me and kept on trucking forward. It built up, eventually creating a crippling weight to carry. My symptoms were defensiveness which led to anger.
So I dealt and it wasn’t easy. It took a long time and more than one try. I relived my entire childhood and then my teen years through memories. I tried to make sense of events, going through them chronologically. I relived them through adult eyes and many things became clear. I asked my parents a lot of questions, how they recalled events when I was a child. The truth always lies somewhere in the middle of everyone’s personal recollections, as often we remember events differently. Slowly I pieced together the reason why things happened, the reason why we were left alone, the reason why we had to work, the reason why we were abandoned by a large part of my family. And my life became full of understanding, and forgiveness. Forgiveness, like a bad repetitive theme from an AA meeting, it was the key to moving forward.
The next step was to understand my first relationship. I often thought society had a big part to do with the biggest folly of my life. In many ways we are taught to accept nothing short of ‘And they lived happily ever after.’ Conditioning from years of chick-flicks, girls especially dream of being saved from their misery, saved from their captors and swept off their feet by a tall, dark, handsome prince. I must have somehow only heard dark prince, and when he showed up, I wanted to believe he was the one and only one. I placed all my ideals of my fairytale ending onto him. And for a very long time I actually convinced myself we were living the dream. When I realized he was not my knight in shining armour, I had to forgive myself for picking so badly. And picking badly I did.
I still mourn the loss of the imaginary person I had created. He never actually existed. Not only did I lose the relationship, but I had to come to grips with the fact that I too was to blame. It took a long time, as for many years I happily enjoyed being the victim of a narcissistic man who neglected and took advantage of me for eight years. Here is the thing. I gave up my power he never took it. I chose this older man and projected my Disney fantasy on to him.
It was impossible for anyone to live up to my high standards. Myself included. I couldn’t be the perfect princess wife either; cleaning and cooking, working two jobs and always being happy. With my martyr syndrome, I sacrificed myself for his happiness. I wasn’t getting my happily ever after-after all, no matter how hard I tried, how much I worked, or how much I gave. When my energy faded, my delusions stopped as well, and then all of sudden the facade fell and I was left exhausted. My world fell apart once again. I couldn’t keep up the lie any longer. When I let myself see the reality of my situation, I ran and didn’t stop running for years, keeping myself too busy to deal with my broken heart. Broken again.
Somewhere between then and now, I decided there must be a better version of happily ever after than in a relationship with some guy. I decided to focus on being the best I could be at whatever I did. I took my fate in my own hands and went back to school, stopped dating for one very long year, and worked on myself. I was not searching for my ending in someone else, because the secret is your ‘happily ever after’ ending is up to you.
It was when I wasn’t looking, so busy focused on just being me, that I noticed the man who would become my future husband. He was there all along. He was a good friend, a family friend and someone I trusted with all my heart. I decided to try my hand at marriage again with the idea that we would always be friends. And it is true, we have been good friends for over 25 years and although we too have been through hell and back together, through deaths and illness, we remain the best of friends. I got his back and he’s got mine.
Our family, hands down, is the biggest accomplishment of my life, and when I ask him, he says the same. We built this life together, brick by brick, issue by issue, and it is the foundation I raise my children on.
In the safety of this relationship, I found a way to heal. I found a way to forgive and to accept my past and grow into the person I was supposed to become years ago. It took work. And while I revisited my entire life, I had a safe place to work through all the pain, to accept the things I could not change about others or myself and understand why people do the things they do.
Part of this process, I also had to accept who I was, and love myself unconditionally. Instead of trying to be someone else, I had to know who I was at the core of my being. Yup I had to accept myself with all my quirky interests, goofy sense of humour, deep rooted emotions, and knowing my vulnerabilities. I had to stop being so tough. I wasn’t. I was protecting myself from harm through a big smile and an easy going personality. I am not easy going. I am complicated, passionate, loving, flawed… I had to figure out what it was that I actually wanted from this life, and not to adapt to someone else’s version of happiness. For years I did things that I didn’t really enjoy trying to please other people. I had to stop. Only knowing myself and loving myself unconditionally could I love someone else unconditionally too. After all this work, my husband was there, patiently waiting for me to return.
What did I find in me? I tracked back to where the pain began and analysed each situation carefully to understand the most important question, WHY? All the answers for me came back to one simply reason, the human condition. We, as humans, only do what we need to do to survive, no more and no less. People are generally good, and their decisions are based on their own personal experiences. Anyone who hurt me had their reasons, their own justifications, their own history going along with their actions. I have managed to forgive. It took miles (and miles) of road to find my way, but eventually it happened. Deconstructing my life somewhat on a timeline, I worked my way back to ‘happy’. Reconstructing Eva was the easy part and amazingly freeing.
If I didn’t deal with the stuff from my past, I would have continued working at Safeway until retirement, instead I believed in my ability to start again, and to pursue a different life.
I honestly believe people get stuck if they don’t work through their past problems, issues that build up from their past over time. The baggage we carry needs to eventually be sorted and washed, and then you have room to put anything you want back in, and throw away the things that don’t fit anymore. The anger, the resentment, the tears, and for me, the pain.
*There was a part of me that stayed 12-years-old, a piece of me that needed to heal. It may be why I remain so naive at times, or perhaps have the ability to have child-like wonderment, but she was demanding my attention, I couldn’t put it off any longer and once I figured out why this part of my life hurt so badly, I could let it go. And I did.
I don’t know why it took me moving to France to sort through all my crap, but for me, disconnecting from my past life was the only way to escape and psychoanalyse from a distance. I had no distractions, no influence from the people of my past life to mess up the process. I had to do it on my own. I couldn’t have stayed in Vancouver and sorted myself out. The last four years has had no background noise, and no interruptions. I found the time to reflect. I made the time I needed for that little girl inside me to heal. Which is where all my issues began.
The most important lesson learned is that we must forgive our younger selves for the mistakes we made, after all, we didn’t know any better. We do better, when we know better.
Every step towards understanding one another, is a step towards understanding yourselves.