Is the terrorist just trying to help?


There was a time, only a few years ago, when I hated myself. Self-acceptance: zero.

The terrorist in my head was running the show, and she was doing a pretty stellar job. My internal monologue was whack, and pretty much every thought was founded on the core limiting belief: I’m not good enough.

I’m not good enough. They’ll never like me. I’m not smart enough. I’m not pretty enough. I’m not cool enough. I don’t deserve to have nice things. I don’t deserve to spend money on myself. Spending money on therapy is a waste. I don’t deserve to have a loving relationship. I don’t deserve to have nice clothes. I don’t deserve to be happy and healthy. I don’t deserve to get better. I don’t deserve to be well. I don’t deserve love. I don’t deserve for people to care for me. I deserve to feel like this. I don’t deserve better than this. I deserve to be treated like crap. These terrible things wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t deserve it. I’m ultimately worthless.

To start off, I wasn’t thinking these things all the time. I wasn’t even thinking some of them explicitly, but I was behaving as if they were true. I was treating myself like crap, staying in emotionally abusive relationships, pushing the people who cared about me away, drinking too much and generally sabotaging everything in my life. Eventually, my mind was overrun and I started drinking myself to death, just to free myself momentarily from the constant self-hatred.

My mini-terrorist was pulling out all the stops and I was falling for it hook, line and sinker.

The emotional pain that I was in was excruciating.

Pain is an incredible alarm system. If we brush our hand against the stovetop, the pain causes us to pull our hand away, even before we have consciously understood what happened, and emotional pain behaves in much the same way.  

Without pain, there is no awareness and without awareness, there can be no change and ultimately, no self-acceptance.

In order to fully accept ourselves, we must not only accept everything that we are, but everything that has ever happened to us.

So here I was, self-medicating to keep the terrorist at bay, and starting to find that my solution was even worse than my problem. The terrorist had dialled it up a notch and my options were severely limited. It was sink or swim.

Terrorist – 2, Me – 0.  

I didn’t know this at the time, but what was happening was my alarm system was going off. I was disconnected from myself and from the universe, and unbeknownst to me, I was playing out some early survival protection mechanism.

The question was how much pain could I endure before I went and did something about it? And what needed to be done?

Firstly, I needed to quit drinking, and then I needed to start dealing with the terrorist. So I started to learn about myself. About my patterns and behaviours. About who I was and who I am. I learned to take responsibility for my actions and to change whatever needed to be changed.

For a number of years, I believed the hype about the terrorist. That she’s out to get me. That she wants me dead. And that was really helpful at a time when I needed to have some clear guidelines on what thoughts were self-sabotage and what thoughts came from my higher self.

Now, don’t get me wrong, she can behave like one hell of a psycho, and she did almost kill me, but what if she were just trying to help? What if my entire pattern of self-sabotage were a mechanism that made sense and was actually warning me that in order to fully love and accept myself, I needed to accept everything that had ever happened to me?

As we’re developing, the most important thing for us to believe is that the people looking after us are safe. If we don’t have that, then everything will be under threat. We need to believe that they make the right decisions.

Unfortunately, none of us have perfect parents or carers. As children, we chose to believe that they are safe and right. The alternative is far too terrifying. The challenge is that if they’re right (idealisation of the parent), then any behaviour towards us that is less than ideal doesn’t make sense. So how do we reconcile this?

The only way we can make sense of that is that we believe that their behaviour towards us was appropriate because of something to do with us. That maybe it’s our fault. If they’re not wrong, then I’m wrong. We choose to believe this because it makes sense of something that was previously too painful to think about, that there is something wrong with our carers, that they’re not perfect, and that we might not have been safe. 

In adulthood, we need to uphold this belief, that I’m not good enough, that I’m not OK, because if I’m OK, then what was all that about?

It brings up our really early resistance to our true awareness of what our carers were like at some times. We get stuck in patterns of self-sabotage because we are invested in this story. It keeps a very young part of us safe from our early survival fears, but let’s be honest, it makes for a pretty crappy adult experience.

Which brings me on to the need for self-acceptance. When we deny our experience of what it was like at that time, we’re hiding from a part of ourselves. It requires us to revisit it and to feel how we felt because it’s the feeling that we’re not prepared to feel (the fear or the sadness for something that happened or didn’t happen long ago) that requires this defence mechanism, that I’m not ok, that I’m not good enough.

So the terrorist has been trying to help. The terrorist is actually my protector.

She was trying to protect me from some really deep survival fears, but I don’t need protecting from them anymore. I am an adult, I can feed myself & keep myself warm. I can give myself the love and affection that I need. And I can listen to the part of me that is still terrified and needs to uphold the belief that I’m not good enough and I can say to her, ‘it’s ok darling, tell me all about it’.  

In order to fully accept ourselves, we must not only accept everything that we are, but everything that has ever happened to us.

My work as a FreeMind Hypnotherapist allows me to help my clients do what I have done & continue to do, meet with their inner child and feel the feelings that have been bottled up for so long so that finally, they can accept everything that has ever happened, and in so doing, accept themselves fully.

I am good enough. So are you.

Me circa 2009, self-medicating. Lost and full of self-loathing.

Me circa 2009, self-medicating. Lost and full of self-loathing.

Nadine Cameron Ward