*This is part of a series on goal setting, please read the first post first.
Research has shown that those who suffer psychological maltreatment as children are more likely to struggle with school, and with obtaining skilled employment. In other words, survivors are less likely to achieve their potential.
This makes perfect sense. We are taught from infancy to believe we are incompetent, worthless and unwanted. It is not surprising we then struggle to succeed in the world.
What we fail to consider is this very important distinction: yes, there is evidence that survivors underachieve- but there is no evidence that we are less capable. While there is no research on this topic, it is my belief that we underachieve because of the unique nature of our trauma.
I have seen survivors who are incredibly intelligent but cannot pass a class or get a job in their field. None of it has to do with ability, but rather the hooks of the psychological abuse.
I want you to understand there is a difference between what you have achieved as a victim of psychological trauma, and what your potential truly is.
It is so important for you to consider this information before setting goals.
So, where do you want to go?
Given the above, where do you want to go with your life? Again, you are welcome to consider one facet, or to consider all aspects of your existence.
Print off the worksheets. This week we will be working with “Chart your course: Your Destination.”
If your destination is like its own country, what features does it have? Consider all the aspects of your life: environmental, financial, relational, mental, physical, career, community, hobbies etc. Consider the nature of this dream landscape.
Consider the costs and benefits of this new way of living. Every decision has both, thus it is important to consider these facets. For example, will you have to move? Will this require financial uncertainty?
This is the fun part! Draw your ideal life. What does this world look like? Is it safe and beautiful? Are you in a career you love? Do you have a safe and giving relationship?
My home is surrounded by the homes of friends and loved ones. Down the lane is my career, a place in which I feel like I am contributing and making money. It is a place of true safety- both mentally and financially. To the south, I have the ‘boundary mountains’ keeping us all safe from the place I started from. I also drew in my hobbies, places to camp and be outside.
Your picture may have lots of detail or minimal. It can have words or simply images. Remember there is no right way to do this. The point is to create an image of what you are working towards so you have something to hold on to in moving forward.
Take a moment to check in with yourself about the quality of this place you are creating. A problem survivors of childhood psychological violence can face in goal setting is what I call ‘learned narcissism’.
We can be inclined to make goals that are reactionary rather than authentic.
When I was growing up, the standard was always greatness and perfection. I remember my dad telling me how he was such a great man, who was better than other people. At some point, that just became part of my expectations of myself. I had to be great. I had to achieve things that other people couldn’t. I spent years working towards fame and riches and glory. When I finally realized; I didn’t actually care about any of it. I just wanted to be safe, loved and content.
We can fall into grand and self glorifying goals. It makes perfect sense when we think about it.
First, the hole created by childhood psychological violence is massive. In this respect, we ‘need’ something just as massive to fill it. The only way to fill the gap of worthlessness is to be a millionaire. The only way to overcome being unlovable is to be adored by millions. It makes logical sense in that crazy way that we have become accustomed to.
Second, often psychologically violent people teach us these requirements. We must be perfect. We must be great. This may be extrapolated by us as children, or it may be expressly demanded by the violent person. Further, some psychologically violent people may display narcissistic tendencies. (1) These are then modeled and normalized for the child. Thus, it makes perfect sense why these ideas would creep into the expectations of a survivor.
I know, how can we underachieve and yet set self glorifying goals? Isn’t this a contradiction?
Not really. Setting completely unrealistic and inauthentic goals is a recipe for never achieving them. Therefore, a recipe for never meeting our true potential or fulfilling goals that are realistic for our current life situation.
In fact, these two ‘contradictory’ positions keep us stuck.
Its okay not to know
It may be that you don’t really know what you want. Its okay if you have only a word or a feeling for where you want to go. Again, this makes perfect sense. As a survivor of psychological violence, you have likely be doubted, questioned and diminished in your life choices. Thus, it is normal to be unsure.
Don’t worry, it will be fleshed out as you heal. If you don’t have anything solid, just write ‘a better life’. You can come back to this at any time.