Forget You: Recognizing Childhood Trauma
7. Don’t do anything. “Don’t run.’ ‘Don’t climb high.’ ‘Don’t get dirty.’ Your parents tended to do everything for you. They were too afraid for your safety. You may start things, but not finish them. You may struggle to make decisions as you think the world is a scary place.
I came across this moving piece from the The Mission’s “The 12 prohibitions that you need to forget” by Caterina Kostoula and acknowledged what I failed to notice until today — that what I did or didn’t do in any part of my life as an adult was a direct manifestation of my childhood conditioning. I don’t believe it is as sinister as I made it sound, but after reading that piece, I instantly recognized one item as something that echoes in my brain whenever I do anything remotely out of my comfort zone.
Don’t do anything. “Ajaw ug bike sa lajo!” (Don’t go biking too far!)
As a child, I remember how I’m not allowed to ride my bike beyond the street outside our house. So I basically biked in circles in the area until I get bored. It never occurred to me to bike beyond my street. My mother and my grandmother will flip if I did, and as a child, I was already aware of the possible consequences. I didn't want to be scolded when I get home, so I stuck to the rules. You get rewarded when you stick to the rules.
I always stuck to the rules.
Then I had a motorcycle accident. No, I didn’t ride the motor bike — which is also forbidden by my mother and grandmother. I was the one hit, while I was crossing the pedestrian lane. Ironic, huh.
Years after, I’m terrified of biking beyond my University campus. I’m also always paranoid when crossing the street. Whenever I’m going to cross the street and there’s an oncoming car, I always have difficulty if I should let the car pass or I should signal that I’ll cross first. But then, I keep flip flopping into this decision-making that the driver also has difficulty reading me as a pedestrian. You know that feeling? I stop, the car stops. When I saw that it stopped, I wrestle if I should proceed or not, then I decide to proceed, and the car also decided to proceed after seeing me pause (while weighing my decision), so we both move forward too. And we stopped again until the driver gets pissed with me and he proceeds and I get stuck in the middle of the road trying to stay clear of any cars behind me.
I have difficulty making decisions on my own, especially with what I want to do with my life. The world seems like a big, bad, scary place — a left over of my childhood injunctions that when faced with the reality of the world, I’m still the little girl looking for the rules that I should stick to lest I get hit by a car. But then I got hit even when I followed the rules, so I’m at a stalemate. I know I should believe I’m fully equipped to take this on by myself, but I can never really silence that inner voice telling me to stick to the rules.
There’s no rules to abide to. It’s all up to me now, and that’s very disconcerting.
My family has made sure to keep me safe as much as they wanted to feel secure, but somehow it made me insecure in my ability to fend for myself. They won’t always be there, and that’s what scares me off my wits.
This is all just in my head.
In reality, I am a twenty-something millennial who has a job, lives alone, and pays the bills. I think I’m doing okay with fending for myself. It hasn't been all roses, this independent thing, but I’m trying and working hard.
Still, the injunction lives in my head. That’s why I couldn't move out of this shitty apartment I live in fast enough, or go look for other opportunities that could turn out to be great. My comfort zone is uncertainty, and moving out of it to a calm and stable green pasture is overwhelming — not to mention scary. Everything that I've experienced in life had me struggling through every and all obstacle, and perhaps the thought of finally having a break is beyond my consideration to experience.
But then I’m writing all this down, and weeks ago, I said I can’t write anything anymore.
Yet here we are.