Accountability and the Fear Of Judgment

“When the parent heals, they heal their children’s children.”

The best thing my mother could have done when she was alive was to take accountability for what she took her children into. She never did. She died drowning in the river of denial. Why is this the best thing she could have done? Because it would have healed her. It would have healed my children, because it would have helped me heal long before I actually did.

What’s so hard about owning our own shit? Why do we so adamantly avoid it? What is this fear of accountability and judgment? I would come to realize, that understanding my mother’s refusal to own her behaviors would take me facing and looking at my own. Ouch. That stung to even write out. It’s true, though, and I’m going to tell you why.

“Don’t judge me.”

I know people who preface a story with this phrase. I used to sometimes do the same.

“Ok. I’m gonna tell you what happened but FIRST you gotta promise not to judge me.”

Judgement walks around leaving wafts of fear in its wake. Some of us fear judgment because we care what others think of us and derive our self-worth from the opinion of others. Some of us use religions as a basis to judge other people. Whatever the platform it’s performed from, there is one element that is constant across the board. No one wants to be in the front row when Judgment is on stage.

This has been one of the difficult parts of my healing journey; learning to stand without judgment and see a person exactly where THEY stand and not finding fault in them just so I could feel better about who I perceive myself to be. I’ve had to find my own well of confidence which was already bubbling inside of me. I just had not tapped into my own rich oil. In avoiding accountability and judgment, I was ignoring myself.

“I had to linearly eliminate my fear of judgment and stop caring about being judged. This was intensive self-work to take on.”

In this conversation on judgment we can rule out criminals. They break laws and must be judged by those laws. I’m talking about judgment that is often blanketed as “opinion”. That’s really what judgment is. It’s our opinion on someone’s life, their actions, behavior, decisions, choices, orientation, gender, skin color or whatever else we choose to focus in on. The point is, that for those skilled at the art of judgment there will always be something they can find to have an opinion about.

I found that step one of this learning curve in eliminating the fear of judgment was to look at why I had this fear. It lived in multiple facets of my life. I feared judgment on:

  • My parenting skills or lack thereof
  • My relationship choices
  • My weight and the state of my body
  • The way I spoke, or the words I chose
  • My personal views on life/society
  • My past

Here’s the kicker. I acted like I didn’t care at ALL what anyone thought. In fact I needed to reinforce that illusion by letting others KNOW every now and then that I didn’t care. I imagine many of you are feeling me on this. We are the skilled mask wearers, where on the outside we appear as if we do not give a stone cold shit. Oh, but I did. I cared very much what others thought of me. Words sunk into my skin like arrows. I was affected. I would ruminate on an opinion and even adjust my life out of that fear.

“To understand why I had so much fear of judgment took following the connecting strands into my childhood.”

I was surrounded by judgment as a child. Being a kid in Sam Fife’s “The Move Of God” cult meant walking around with an invisible “judge me!” sign on many of our backs. Day in and day out. Week after week. Year after year, I was subjected to judgment in multiple ways.

The ministers told us that God would be judging us.  That judgment was so deep it could result in an eternity inside a pit of fire. That one messed with my head. Especially after kerosene exploded in my face at 12-years-old, and I learned firsthand exactly what a second degree burn felt like. I shuddered at the thought of my whole body being engulfed in flames. For a whole eternity, 24/7, I would be a ball of burning pain. I did, however, somehow have a smidgen of critical thinking as a child. I would waver between extreme fear of hell and a doubt that anything these people said was true.

I was surrounded by judgmental adults. They judged others together. Then they judged each other behind each other’s backs while claiming to be friends. There was no loyalty or trust existent for me to pattern as a child. Growing up in a cult, I quickly absorbed that no one could be trusted.  I was enmeshed inside endless two-faced, judging eyes.

I watched kids lie on other kids to escape judgment. As a child in the cult, I both lied to escape judgment and was also lied about.  This environment, which included a deep fear of brutal, physical punishment, was a viscous “Avoid Blame” game. We were all constantly side eyeing each other.

This is what prison is like, always watching your back just in case someone comes after you. This is what living in a domestic violence relationship is like, always worrying you’ll say or do the wrong thing and get beat. The consequences of being judged can range from verbal attacks to physical attacks and in some instances and regions of the planet, even death.

“Fearing judgment is a deep clotted vein in our bodies. It is real, and it is dangerous to our wellbeing.”

Cleaning out fear of judgment was part of doing intense inner child work. I looked at every piece of my life, the moments I judged others, and the moments I was crippled by judgment. It was an extensively long list. There were times I felt I deserved judgment, when I made mistakes as an adult. It was easy for me to say that I had the right to judge others because I was tough enough to take it. No. I wasn’t. That was a big, fat lie. Being judged hurt horribly.

Yet, no one would ever judge me more harshly than I would judge myself. I was my own United States of Vennie’s Supreme Court. I’ve come a very long way, and it’s one I actively work on.

“Story-time.”

A few years ago I was visiting a family member. We were watching a movie. Suddenly my family member’s husband muted the television and turned to me.

“I am curious about something. Do you feel successful? I ask this because you don’t own anything. You don’t own a house. You don’t have assets. What have you done with your life?”

I was blindside and stunned. I looked at my family member, whose eyes were big as saucers, equally shocked at what her husband had just said to me. I later realized she might also have been waiting for me to lose my shit on her husband. I didn’t. I didn’t even have a desire to lose it. All of this happened in my head in a matter of seconds. I understood clearly that I was dealing with a truly miserable person who thought it was alright to put me down and verbally abuse me. I could see the thing for what it was, and it had nothing to do with me.

What I said next would reveal to myself one of the biggest steps forward in my growth journey. I smiled and kept my voice steady and low.

“My life is so rich. I have two brilliant sons who are adults making their own way independently in life. I have amazing friends. I am free to travel. I’m not tied to anything. I feel the freest than ever in my life. To be free and happy. That’s what success is to me.” I responded.

His face twisted. It wasn’t the reaction he expected. This time, I didn’t take the bait and go off so he could enjoy watching the show of my negative emotions. I was a bit surprised at myself. He retorted some sideways comment I don’t recall or think I even tried to hear, and then resumed watching television. I realized in that moment that I had conquered a huge auto reactionary habit response which had always flashed when I felt judged. In my head I congratulated myself. Inside my spirit and thinking I didn’t feel affected. I didn’t have the usual body reactions such as warmth spreading over my face or fight/flight heart palpitations as I prepared to release my dragons. None of that happened. There was a calm inside me which felt new and permanent.

I had taken a massive step in eliminating my concern over other people’s words in regard to how my life path had emerged itself or the choices I had made. I realized I could actually own all of my stuff. I didn’t have to wear a mask anymore. This began to burst open in many facets of my life as I took accountability for the places where I actually had failed. I learned that there was a difference between my actual mistakes and all of my self-perceived “failures”.

This leads me back to the quote at the top of this post. Healing my fear of judgment released the ability for accountability. This helped me become a better mother. I could look at my children and accept the times I made choices which negatively affected them. I could say this to them without feeling like a horrible failure of a mother. I could hold accountability without excuse.

“I didn’t make the right choice, and for that, I am sorry.”

Holy shit! Do you know the power of healing these words hold? Oh, my friends, let me tell you.

“Story time”

A few years ago I was in a very stressful situation. I had a dear friend who was also going through stress. In the process of that friendship, I projected my stress out into a conversation my friend and I had. I literally screamed into a voice note that my friend was “dead to me”.

If you just said, “What the hell??” you’re a better person than I was being at the time. Exactly! Who says that to their friend? Someone who needs to grow. That’s who. I could have said, “Hey, I can’t deal with this right now because I’m overloaded.” Right? No. I was reactive, and I projected my personal stress into someone who didn’t deserve it. Bad behavior!

I justified the way I acted for a long time, until I had personal growth, and it began to bother me how I had spoken to them. I really loved this person and had promised never to betray them. Yet, I had horribly emotionally betrayed them. When we realize we have wronged someone it does not end there. This is where I have a perspective on the forgiveness concept.

“Forgiveness involves two steps. The first one is the most crucial and must happen if forgiveness is to be the end result.”

  1. I had to contact the person I had been cruel to and apologize. I had to detail my behavior, so they understood I recognized it. I had to say, “I’m sorry.” without expectations.
  2. They got to make the choice on how to receive my apology or if they even wished to accept it.

Accountability should not have expectations. I didn’t apologize with an expectation of acceptance. I did it because it was the right thing to do. Our accountability cannot be self-serving. It must stand with truth and the purpose of making a wrong behavior right again.

There is an inner freedom which comes with accountability. That does not mean we get to keep acting badly just because we own it. No. Accountability comes with change of our behavioral patterns. It means we look at ourselves and, through that examination, we create elimination of the rotten parts of our behavior and thought processes.

I found that as I worked on my self-accountability and my own fear of judgment something else happened. I judged others less. I didn’t have to work very hard at that. It came automatically. When we can connect how bad it feels to BE stabbed with the fact that’s exactly how it feels for someone else when we stab them, it helps us put the knife down.

Accountability is part of processing for me. It’s not just about actions either. I am accountable for how I speak to myself; how I self-care and how I conduct my life in as such as it relates to ensure that I am maintaining personal health; physically, mentally and emotionally.

While I no longer fear the judgment of others and don’t feel an urge to have opinions on other people’s lives, per-say, I am still working on self-judgment. I work on my body image. I work on how I speak to myself and about myself. Sometimes the people who appear the most confident can have some of the most self-destructive inner conversations.

Self-accountability takes a lot of work. One thing I want to leave you with is remembering this. We do not have full control over how others choose to see us. We have 100% control over how we view ourselves and others. We have 100% control over how we behave and process our own emotions.  When I began to actively practice this self-control, many triggers naturally fell away.

When you have moments of self-judgment, apologize to yourself. Be accountable to your own being. You will immediately heal the wound you just created in yourself.  Our relationship with our own mind and body is completely within our own choices.  Forgive yourself for the past if you self-harmed with bad behavior, food, drugs, alcohol or whatever it may be.  Tomorrow is a new day, and you get to choose. That is a freedom no one can ever take from us.

“Fear of accountability and fear of judgment often hold hands. What I can promise you from experience is that self-accountability will help heal your fear of judgment.”

Love yourself. You deserve it.

4 Ways to Stop Fearing Other People’s Judgment

Boundaries: Enacting Them With Empowerment

Boundaries

It’s no secret that I have a tumultuous past. From time in jail to extreme sexual misuse of my body to behavioral problems, I have run the course of self-destruction, projection, being attached to petty dramas and other avenues of self harming, trauma based personality traits.

I am purposefully open about my past.  I want people to know they are not alone. I want people to know they do not have to live in shame.  I want people to know they don’t have to let anyone reverse them to the skin they have shed through healing. So, there is nothing which can be hurled toward me in regard to my past, nothing rooted in truth anyway, which I will not acknowledge. Part of my healing journey has included learning to stand in my place, not with shame or regret, but with empowerment.

I get to choose what to discuss or not discuss. I get to choose what to accept or not accept. I get to choose, period, and that’s that.

I also used to have a deep need to defend myself, explain my side and try to make everyone see and understand ME. I have associates who could tell you story after story of the times I lamented and recycled the same situations until I crazy-made my own mind. I was often in a negative-based mental space.

I felt owed. I felt people should adjust to me. I sometimes felt discarded, shunned and unaccepted, even by my own friends. Until I realized it wasn’t true. I was literally creating a negative storyline in my head that wasn’t fully rooted in truth and acceptance but instead, in my own self-based perception. There was some behavior from people which made me back away but concerning me, in retrospect, I churned those situations far too long and too much.

When we are in that state of mind or have friends who are in that state of mind, where we are churning instead of growing and learning, we can hold space and listen. I don’t mind listening. If you, the reader, don’t want to listen to others situations or can’t hold space, you also have the right to say, “I don’t have that to give to you right now.”

Sometimes it’s difficult to be in the space holding position. I have had friends tell me how frustrating it was to watch me churn petty problems instead of figure out solutions. So, I get it now. I’m an experiencer of this negative thought patterning.

I have a major boundary when it comes to being in the listening position, and that boundary is enacted when someone’s struggles are thrown at me like darts, and I am suddenly in the scapegoat position.

Writing on this subject was inspired by waking up today to a very long message from a friend explaining a situation that we had already discussed just a day ago and seemed, to me at least, had been lain to rest. Okay. I accepted that some things might still be unresolved for them. So, when I began to read, I was open to listening until I arrived at this phrase:

you have written a book and working on another about your torment and pain that some may dismiss as drama.”

Ah. Now I see. Because this person is attached to adult drama, they had the audacity to compare it with my childhood trauma. What I was reading was a projector’s mindset. I was being crazy-made.

I even further realized I was a target when I continued reading and arrived at… “All the times you schemed, planned, and even asked me to be involved. Or carried on without me, I never said a thing. Yes I was angry.”

At that moment I became slightly alarmed.  My mistrust meter went up to level red.  I began to search my brain. When did I scheme with this person? When did I ask them to be involved with a scheme that made them angry? My brain could find nothing. I attempted to call them to openly discuss it so I could understand more clearly what they were even talking about. They didn’t answer.

Then it hit me. If they were actually really referring to every person who has schemed and planned with them, but they couldn’t aim their anger at the actual person, it was being aimed at me. I was dealing with a deep projection.

This is where I advise not to take everything someone says to us literally as if it refers directly TO us.  If we cannot connect it to a specific event, most likely it really is not rooted in us.  However, we should not allow anyone to speak to us in ways which disrespect our growth and the ethics we work to maintain.

By that time, I was angry. How dare they speak to me this way. How dare they imply such things to me, that I’d ever schemed or been a petty person with them. How dare fabrications be thrown my way. How dare they not have the respect to answer the phone and actually talk to me about it.

By that time, I knew that I was done. I knew that I needed to separate from the recurring theme of this person’s personal life and being in the projected position. I realized this person was just being plain malicious and mean to me. At least that is how it felt.

I realized how hurt I was in that moment. So many times, I’ve been the only one listening to them; the only one understanding; the only one protecting. I sat on my bed, looking at my phone and realizing this was the crossroad we are at, and I had to choose to turn. That doesn’t always feel good.

I sit back now, writing out this emotion and decision to cut ties. I am hurt, confused and irritated to even have pettiness infused into my day unexpectedly. I also understand this really doesn’t have anything to do with me personally. I am being scapegoated. When I am feeling like that, I take my leave for my own spiritual safety. I always wish well, even as I wield a verbal sword when I slam the gate shut, in my heart, I always hope for healing and eventual accountability.

These are the times it hurts to cut ties with people we have been there for and truly care about in regard to their well being. This decision, for me, is rooted in the fact that this person has no respect for my own mental health, in that they found it alright to disrespect me. This person has now chosen to impede on my peace and mental health. That is a strong boundary for me now.

I write about this to both expel the negative energy that it created in me and to really drive home that we get to choose. I used to HATE when people said that to me. It pissed me off because I wasn’t ready to change my self-defeating behaviors. I had excuse after excuse. Everyone else was the problem. While yes, others had issues too, I needed to learn how to just focus on my own and not allow them to project theirs onto me. I had to also learn how to not project mine onto others.

I could list out the various physical and mental impairments I generally positively live with on a daily basis. I could demand everyone comply to my needs in regard to them. What I’d rather do is tell you that instead, I made the choice to create an environment which is conducive to my own well-being. I created it by building boundaries and standing mostly quiet in them, only raising my voice when it needs to be heard very clearly. It changed my whole life for the better. Any situation or connection which is not contributing to my greater good can be released or even taken a break from.

Once, one of my sons and I took a break from communicating because things were tumultuous between us. As a mom, I felt crushed. I spent many a night crying and lamenting until I finally realized that I was part of the problem. I needed to learn some different parenting skills, became accountable, listen more and stay rooted in my own safety boundaries. I started focusing on how I could do better, and our dynamic grew into a better and more loving space. I needed to lead by example in that situation.

I don’t expect you to compare any situation you may be having to my own. I share these examples because when I chose to own my own life and stand in what felt safe and comfortable for me, it changed everything. When we choose to heal the triggers which once rocked us they aren’t as daunting anymore. We remove the trigger and live from a state of self-care.

Until we choose to put our own peace of mind first, which can also, unfortunately, include pissing people off to do so, we will always be in the negativity zone. Becoming an empowered person means putting our own well being first.

Release unneeded worries. Cease churning negative situations. Create safe boundaries for yourself and adhere to them without fear of backlash. Most of all, accept that we are the only ones who can choose to protect and put ourselves first in our own lives.

Vennie Kocsis is the best-selling author of Cult Child and the hostess of Survivor Voices Show. She is an advocate, poet and artist.

How to Know When You Are Truly Outgrowing Your Past

Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?” Danielle LaPorte

Many people talk the talk, but do they walk the walk?  Many times in my adult life I was a downright hypocrite.   I still have my moments, although now, I root myself in awareness of my behaviors so that my actions align with my words.  I try my best to do what I believe to be right.   Tonight, I was pondering on how a person knows when they are truly outgrowing their past.

I came up with one simple word.

Behavior

Our behaviors, the decisions we make, how we view the world, how we treat others and how we treat ourselves are all indicators of our past conditioning.   I am not a licensed therapist.  I’m a trauma survivor who has attended therapy and spent years reading a whole lot of information trying to figure myself out and understand what had been done to me as a child.

Behaviorally, as an adult, I was a walking ball of confusion.  I had no danger boundaries.  I allowed abusers in my life in both friendship and romantic relationships.  I faltered at being a mother.  I was either overly protective or not setting proper boundaries and sometimes even shut down.   There was a time before I had children that I enjoyed getting into fights.  I was essentially, a mass of anger energy.   Beneath all of that anger and false bravado that I spun to the world in an attempt to appear “normal”, was a deep pain that only seemed to seep out when I wrote poetry.   The rest of the time, it manifested itself in negative behaviors.  I made life decisions that weren’t always the best ones.

In my head I quietly lived in extreme fear of the world, but I didn’t understand why.  I was having numerous panic attacks starting in my late twenties to mid-thirties.   They crippled me.  I would have to leave the store.  There were times I believed I was dying, as my breath faltered and my palms sweat.  Once, I left a whole grocery cart of groceries in the middle of an aisle and high tailed it out of the store.  I didn’t know that I was having panic attacks.   I just knew I felt like the walls were closing in on me, and I was filled with an overwhelming panic to get out and to safety, even if it was my car.

My child abuse also manifested itself in irritation and lashing out behaviors.  For example, if my sons wanted to do something that involved an immense amount of people and/or noise, I would become agitated; begin having fear at the thought of the noisy and child filled environment, even though at the time, I had no clue that was why I was irritated. Noise levels affected my hearing.  Too many humans affected my moods.  I wavered, and I am sure for my sons I just appeared to be a mean mother.   Meanwhile, I continued either spoiling them when I could, in the hope of remedying my failures, or I gave far too much freedom to both of them, which unknown to me, was a recipe for creating a disastrous parent/child relationship.  What did I know of that?  I only had a childhood on a cult and a narcissistic mother to pattern my parenting by.

As my sons grew older, it became very difficult to say no, unless I was feeling anger and/or at a snapping point.  I had no boundaries allowing me to critically think through some of my parental situations.  I loved my sons and was often over-protective of them when they were little.  I worried constantly that someone would sexually abuse them or kidnap them.   I ruminated on fear which often drove my own mind into a state of frenzy that I wasn’t equipped to handle.  That is just one example of how trauma not only affects the person who suffered it, but also their future generations.

Fast forward years later, after counseling, which I now don’t foresee myself ever giving up, just for the sheer support of it, and I realize that things which used to make me exceedingly angry or even hurt, I now have the ability to observe from an adult perspective.  This is how I know that I’m partway into outgrowing my abuse.  My behavior no longer manifests my moods.  I am not always perfect.  Trust me, I can snap and be NOT nice at all when I am pushed in that direction.  I am a work in progress.  However, my pushing pattern has immensely changed.  Where the old self used to flash very quickly, the new self simply moves with action.  Actions truly do speak loudly.

We make mistakes in life.  There are times I snapped and said fucked up things to or around my kids; things I can never take back.  The guilt which builds up in a parent can be smothering.  It can cause parents to become enabling.  It can also be manipulated, if our children get wind of it.   When that guilt no longer exists, I can stand in my place, owning my life experiences, saying, yes, my childhood damaged me.  Yes, that also affected my sons, the third generation children of a cult survivor.

There will never be accountability for me from my own mother.  I can’t sit around waiting for someone to say “I’m sorry”, or come rescue me, in order to change my life or my future.   I am ultimately responsible for me and my decisions.  I can make boundaries and firmly stand by them.  I get to decide my journey.   I get to say no to anyone who doesn’t respect me.  I get to drop people out of my life who have no empathy for those who have been through trauma.  I can do it any way I choose if it feels safe and right.  I get to outgrow my trauma.

It doesn’t mean the trauma doesn’t exist.  It doesn’t mean the past doesn’t love to keep its grimy fingers dug into our flesh.  For me, the very first step to outgrowing my trauma was to accept that it happened and then to accept I can never change the past.   The next step was to then, with vulnerability and no shame, look at my own behaviors and assess what I could change about myself.   Then I had to be willing to do the work.  Part of that work includes learning to be alright with saying no, and putting your well-being at the forefront of your life.   It’s not easy work, but like climbing a mountain, when at the top you see that beautiful view, it’s worth every step.

I feel alright with where I am right now.  I listen to people everywhere complaining about life, and I just think about how many people feel truly lucky just to be alive.  I am one of those people.  I am lucky as fuck to be alive.   It doesn’t mean I don’t cry sometimes or don’t feel the totality of the apathy that’s rampant in the world.  It just means that I am in acceptance of the reality that I can only change myself.   Only I can outgrow my abuse by eliminating behaviors which were once ruled by it.   I don’t wait for someone else to take accountability.  I don’t wait for tomorrow.  Awareness is a state of being; a way of life.  Mindfulness becomes second nature.  Self-love begins to feel good instead of selfish.   We learn what we can and cannot do, and that becomes our boundary line.  We then learn to hold that line like a warrior.

Streams Of Consciousness | 6.25.15

I am here weightless. Ear tuned to every sound. The fireworks are starting. A week filled with the explosions of war. I despise the celebration of generations who’ve been traumatized by genocide. Headphones. I’m trying to stabilize.

Can I float off away from this place yet? Work to do, but goddamn, I’m tired. Inside. Down in the caves where the seaweed waves in water. She, there, that siren; she is tired inside her liquid soul.

Outside, my body pushes. My face smiles, forced because maybe if I push at it fiercely it turns into the real real. The sounds of fans whirring above me. It’s heated evenings with the shades pulled up to catch the breezes.

Life moves on. Can’t do shit to change that except to feel it all. Face forward. Eyes on the prize, girl, eyes on the prize. Actualize. My destiny has arrived.

Which looks like….

A settled sunset in a camp chair around a beach bonfire,

A triumphant glow in the eyes of a child who has escaped the pain and healed,

A human holding accountability softly in their palms saying, “I fucked this up. I deserve to carry this, not you.”

An acceptance,
A sag of the shoulders and
A rest before the next climb.

They say don’t expect too much from people. It gives way to disappointment. I say that goes along with all the other ways a victim is left to carry the blame. No. The shame belongs solely to the asshole who throws away lives without a care. Don’t blame us.

Here is YOUR Diagnoses:

Apathy, Chronic
Envy, Unresolved
Greed, Chronic Satiation, Level OCD
Selfishness, Harmful Ideation

Everything with you motherfuckers is about money. It temporarily numbs the pain like drugs, and when that plug is pulled, what’s left but the abscess to drain endless,

Your chosen mental madness,
Your fucking sadness,
The voices in your head
Telling you that you ain’t shit;
I know all about it.
I used to be a pro
At telling myself no,
Instead of attending
To my precious soul.

Thinking about it makes my stomach sick. I’d rather live a thousand lives of loneliness than ever give in to anyone again.

I say yes to this right here; the silence; the peace; the ability to freely be me. And fuck the gurus and the controllers, the betrayals and the disloyal. It’s a journey of suffering embraced like a blanket and the shit ain’t mine this time. I get to leave it all behind.

So, I am weightless on this bed. Thinking about communion style wafers of white chocolate and laughter that fled at the sight of action and accountability, because standing on your own two feet ain’t never been a strength when you care more about Vera Wang than your own ability to become better and change.

Lying and manipulation is the crutch of your existence,

And me? I’m just weightless. I’m just feeling, dealing and healing. Because that’s what I do. Live my truth. Even if the self hating critics keep the rest of you in prison, I have escaped to never, ever return to that gate even if it grows flowers;

Unless I have a mallet
To knock down the malice.