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September 1, 2019

“A feeling of self-hatred has been a dominant presence throughout my life. I wasn’t always conscious of feeling this way about myself, it would take a particular type of situation for it to raise it’s voice but if I became still enough, I could feel it was always present. Self hate would show up in an automatic thought, alongside a large dose of anger and disgust towards myself. This usually resulted from a situation where I felt I wasn’t liked. The situations were often banal and my reaction woefully exaggerated. It could be something as simple as a facial expression made when I entered a room, which I would interpret as meaning the person didn’t like me. I would later feel so much hatred towards myself, which would be followed by a plan of some sort to improve myself. ‘Must do better Kari’. It took me 30 years of life to realise this was happening and recognise the patterns enough in order to make changes. Key to this was recognising the source of it all; my childhood wounds.

My childhood was ‘difficult’. My parents were non-conformist and both used drugs and alcohol daily. This left my mum being emotionally absent, irritable and often unresponsive. This left me, frightened, anxious and desperate to be loved. Although I always knew they took drugs and drank alcohol, I didn’t understand, until I was an adult, that this affected their behaviour and ability to parent. Young children are ‘ego-centric’, they think everything that happens is connected to them. If a butterfly flaps it’s wings in New Mexico, a 6-year-old in London will think it’s trying to wave at him. It’s completely normal and the way children should be. The down side to this is that children think they are responsible or to blame for things like a parent’s argument or divorce and all too often, for abuse they have suffered. In addition to the egocentricity, children are also dependent on their parents/caregivers for their survival and believing that the fault lies with them, rather than the parent, can be more palatable for the child. To believe the alternative, that their parent is unable to meet their needs, is really quite terrifying for a vulnerable child.

So, just like any young child would, I thought that my parents’ drunk/ drugged/ hungover behaviour was something to do with me. I didn’t know what that something was, but I decided there must be something bad, unlikable or unpleasant about me that would make my parents act in this way. In response, I tried to make myself more likable, more loveable by adapting myself to be more pleasing, happy, funny, helpful, witty, adult-like, anything that I thought would please my parents. I was just desperate for them to notice me. But because of my attempts to be liked, I was given the label of ‘attention seeker’, which is true, I longed for attention, I was desperate to be seen. What I was seeking more than anything was love, so perhaps a more accurate and kinder label for me would have been a ‘love seeker’.

However after a lot of inner work and grieving my childhood, I now know that self-love is a core feeling that develops through receiving unconditional love from a caregiver. As I didn’t receive this kind of love as a child, I have had to slowly learn to offer it to myself. I’ve come to learn that true self-love is something I need to nurture from my own core and grow from being my own loving parent, which for me, is being the parent I never had. Re-parenting myself is tiresome and difficult sometimes and the abandoned child in me throws tantrums and sulks, just as I should have done when I was young. Simple boundaries have become crucial and sometimes means doing things I don’t want to do, such as putting limits on screen time, eating nutritious food, exercising, journaling and allowing space for some unpleasant emotions to come to the surface. These are all things good enough parents do; they don’t allow their child to watch screens for hours upon hours, eat Frosties for every meal or shut down their child’s emotions. A good enough parent offers loving discipline. I am learning that I deserve my basic needs to be met when they arise; to pee, eat, sleep and cry when I need to. This is self-love at it’s most basic. I have learned to embrace the younger version of myself that I carry around inside, that she is the one who deserves my unconditional love. If I am really struggling to feel this love, I look at that old photo of me and tell her, “my darling little Kari, you ARE loved.”

I give heartfelt thanks and gratitude to The Bridge Retreat and Donna Lancaster, without which, little Kari wouldn’t know what love is.”
Dr Kari Deas, Psychologist & Writer

LOVE(D) Documentary shares a story of 12 people as they take the leap to work through grief and loss in their lives on The Bridge Retreat. The image below shows Kari being held by Donna Lancaster during the retreat. Click the image or the link to watch the trailer.

LOVE(D) Documentary – Extraordinary Journey Trailer

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