Friday, September 11, 2015. I am asking myself, “Do I really know what respect is?” It is not a tangible object. That much I know. Yet I turn the word around in my mind as if it IS some kind of internal object that some people must actually “have a handle on.”
Handle. I would say that in my “world order of things” respect seems to be connected to the way I handle my own self in the world.
“In respect to….”
As I try to inspect what I might inwardly know or at least believe about respect I cannot avoid opening some inner doors of revelation into my childhood. As this happens I cannot avoid cringing.
It is easy for me to simply say, “Nobody ever respected me.” So how DID I learn a single thing as a kid about respect?
I couldn’t demand or command respect from anyone as an infant or as a child or even as a teenager. What I do know, for example, is that in our family it was perfectly fine for my mentally ill mother to beat me often, whenever she wanted to for as long as she wanted to for no reason that any sane person could have determined.
Yet at the same time all her children were trained to climb the steep hillside above our Alaskan homestead shack ALWAYS on a specified single narrow pathway out of respect for NOT harming, not hurting, not damaging, not trampling any tiny tendril of any plant that grew there.
So I DID learn certain things about respect from my parents?
But I learned NOTHING about what it would be like to be respected myself – except perhaps by default from teachers at school – in some sort of remote and depersonalized way.
(Interesting) Origin of RESPECT
Middle English, from Latin respectus, literally, act of looking back, from respicere to look back, regard, from re- + specere to look — more at spy
First Known Use: 14th century
Taking a massive leap forward, today I look back at my parenting of my three very-grown children. By miracles I will probably never specifically be able to identify I was able to completely respect my children and to teach them to respect their self. I can’t see, however, that I kept our relationships in healthy balance, however. I could not do a good job at teaching my children to respect me.
I still have aspects of a huge-hole-within struggle when it comes to understanding what it feels like to be respected – wholly respected – for who I am. I attach “completely valued” now to any concept of respect I come up with. (I am very blessed to have a few fantastic friendships with people who offer me the best kind of respect that I can imagine.)
I think there is a kind of warm and tender caring involved for me to FEEL fully respected. It involves on the part of another person (and what I know I do not always give to other people myself) careful listening with an open mind and heart so that I feel listened to and HEARD with high positive regard and empathy for me to FEEL respected.
I don’t think I built that kind of an infrastructure from early on into my children’s relationship with me. (Oops!)
I can learn to more clearly identify that when my reactions to others are filled with feelings of disappointment, fear, sadness, frustration, loneliness, shame and even of anger it may well be my “respect-hole” that is being activated and needs to be honored, examined and healed (some more).
I don’t want to keep falling blindly into that hole created, in part, by my tendency to attribute worth and value to others without keeping my half of all interactions firmly anchored in what now needs to be my OWN respect for myself.
I need to strengthen my own self-respect foundations. This is part of building more resiliencies into me as I decrease my reactivity to how I perceive other people as acting toward me.
In the massive tumult and jumble of unresolved traumas passed down over generations in families (and in cultures) it can be hard and can take a very long time before complicating factors can be disentangled so that they can begin to be identified and examined. Both of my parents always had terrible relationships with their parents.
Yes, respect is a part of love. But it is its OWN part. To use attachment-related terminology from developmental neuroscientist Dr. Allan N. Schore, problems with respect are about “ruptures without repair” in traumatized family and the people who grew up in them. Healing can at times seem overwhelming.
Hopefully having the processes of “respect” jump into my current life’s limelight will help me even at age 64 to examine some specific related patterns that have always been troubling to me, usually without my knowledge. Intergenerational trauma is often entrenched in patterns of “shame and blame” (the antithesis of respect) so that any attempts to heal these traumas and their consequences MUST take place entirely free of those deadly cycles.
Essentially these processes are about healing our attachment trauma wound at its core that left us perpetually asking, “Will you love me if I am completely myself?” (“Will you respect me if I am completely myself?”)
We are learning, bit by bit, to replace the unequivocal “NO!” we were so traumatized by with a permanent (we can TRUST it) unconditional “YES!”
This healing, as it takes place, happens in all of our relationships ESPECIALLY in our relationship with our self.
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Tags: adult attachment disorders, adult reactive attachment disorder, anxiety disorders,borderline mother, borderline personality disorder, brain development, child abuse,depression,derealization, disorganized disoriented insecure attachment disorder,dissociation,dissociative identity disorder, empathy, infant abuse, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),protective factors, PTSD, resiliency, resiliency factors, risk factors, shame