Red dog

“You sure know a lot about being dirty, bad and evil, don’t you?”

This statement came near the end of my time with the work place therapist (WPT) today.  To put this into context, we’d just been talking about safe internal places and stuffed animals…  We have two internal safe places and both are fairly barren.  WPT asked if there was anything that we wanted to take into the safe places… something like a stuffed toy perhaps?  A young ones immediate response was that stuffed toys weren’t allowed in the safe places.  You see, we are so dirty, disgusting and evil that if we touch a toy, it’s soiled and ruined.  She explained that we can go into the toy store, touch them to check how soft they are, purchase the one we want; but then it’s put on a chest of drawers or on our computer desk (with the price tag still on) and left to never be touched again – except for dusting or photography purposes.

To us, this makes perfect sense; but it confounded WPT.  He asked if the toys ever get lonely… well, aside from the fact that an inanimate object can’t get lonely, we have lots of stuffed toys.  To ensure we won’t be tempted to pick up the toys, they’re placed in groups so they’ll never be lonely.  He then asked about HIS stuffed bear… one he’d had from childhood.  It was well worn, with an eye missing and some of the stuffing leaking out.  What do we think of his bear?  Well again, it makes perfect sense to us… his bear is well loved, beautiful and clean (unless it’s really nasty and needs a wash).  It’s only when we touch it that it would become dirty.  We never touch other peoples stuffed toys, unless forced.

The cause for this thinking could be for a number of reasons – OCD, perfectionism etc… and while I think these are contributing factors, I think the real reasoning goes back to what Katie said in her comment to me in a previous post.  She quite rightly, pointed out how flippantly I assign negative labels to myself.  I know I do this, and have done so since I was a child.  I am/was sensitive, and remember the negatives said to me over anything positive.  When I was called the “mistake at the end”, “strange”, “odd” or “difficult”, that is all I hear.  I take those words into the system and hold onto them.  They define me.

However, the most damaging use of the negative wording, were associated with the abuse I was subjected to.  The abusers said that I was “evil for making [him] do this to [me]”, “a dirty little girl” or “a naughty little girl”.  When this was combined with the mixed religious messages that I grew up with; it resulted in parts of me firmly believing that they are evil, dirty and anything they touch would be sullied.

We are our harshest critics.  We believe we are stupid, useless, ugly, dirty… the list goes on.  We try not to make it too obvious that this is how we view ourselves – we learned very early that some people enjoy playing with those who have low self esteem.  So, we usually present a façade of calm confidence.  We were so good at this during our teen years, that our aunt considered us a stuck-up perfectionist… Our protection system failed us…  We’d taken it too far.

Couldn’t they see we were just trying so hard to make up for our dirty, evilness?  We had to be perfect in order to try to counteract all that had happened.  We had to be perfect to try and ensure that no one would see us…

You have to be invisible
If you’re invisible, no one can see you
No one can hurt you if you aren’t there

This is an enduring message that I have lived with for most of my life.  It comes from a young one, and has been one of the driving influences in my life.  During my healing, people have tried to point out to me that by being invisible, we are also invisible to those who want to help us.  I think this new way of thinking is starting to sink in.

At the moment, I’m getting lots of little pieces of the puzzle of my life being thrown at me.  It’s difficult to put them into a place or context.  But I am becoming increasingly aware of how they have impacted on my thinking and being.  Some of the enduring patterns of thinking are starting to be identified, examined and questioned.  I’m both excited and terrified…

And the red dog… I found out today that one of the young ones used to stare at our red stuffed toy dog while we were being abused.  She could look, but not touch…

Another reason why we find it difficult to touch stuffed toys.

Now playing: Sarah McLachlan – I Will Remember You [Live]
via FoxyTunes


20 thoughts on “Red dog

  1. I honestly relate to that in many, many ways. I don’t think I can read the post again, but I was in a similar place, toys and all, and you wrote that out perfectly.

    It’s good to read that you are feeling comfortable with the workplace therapist, too. i hope he’s helping you.


    • Hi Lisa,

      I’m sorry this was difficult to read, and that you relate to what is written – indicating that this is your struggle too. They’re difficult messages to live with.

      Allison is also helping, but the work with her has been too difficult to discuss here.

      Take care,

  2. Dear castor, I’m so sorry you have suffered abuse and shame and internalized shame. No one abused me overtly like that or ever actually called me evil or bad. Yet I carry so much shame even still. I always felt like I was poisonous and that I could “contaminate” things, people, interactions. “infect” people. I always thought I kept myself emotionally hidden and invisible at times, hoping someone would notice and “rescue” me but it wasn’t until a few years ago it occurred to me I might have began that also out of self-protection. I know I dressed to hide my body for that reason. So I can identify. I’m not sure how to heal shame. Finding a way to externalize it is maybe part of what I’ve worked towards. I still carry a lot of shame. But I’ve tried also to recognize how much the shame I believed was ME all along, belonged to someone else and there is something that is truly me that exists underneath and before I learned there was “something wrong with me.” I am again so sorry you feel so bad about yourself. I don’t think you deserve that at all, none of you. And I know you don’t assign negative labels to yourself lightly. I hope for you. That you find a way out of this view of yourself. The person I know here from your posts and our interactions is far from bad or difficult or a mistake. You are bright, thoughtful, considerate, kind and wise…at the very least. Not toxic at all. I never get a bad or uncomfortable feeling from you.

    Wishing you peace and self-love…

    • Hi Katie,

      The hiding, the baggy clothing (I purposefully purchase clothes at least two sizes too big for me), the fear of infecting others… Shame is a powerful emotion that can control so much of our lives.

      I understand what you mean about externalising and directing the emotions appropriately. Intellectually, I know this it what I need to do. The reality of it is so much more difficult. I’m glad you’ve found a way to do so – even in small steps.

      The negative labels are assigned very easily to myself – that’s why I used the word “flippantly” in the post, even though I know you didn’t mean it this way in your previous comment. Similarly to the scenario of being in a room of 20 people, I would be drawn to the abuser; in a sentence of 20 words, where only one is negative, that is all I hear. I know this is my dysfunction, and sometimes I can be aware of what I’m doing, so can avoid the abuser/negative word. But sometimes, it’s like a moth to a flame.

      Thank you for your kind words…

      Take care,

      • Oh good 🙂 there is my original comment. Thank you for your reply. I know so much is easier said than done. And we can know things intellectually but feel the same as before.

        Your feelings about your stuffed animals seem really complex. Maybe they represent a part of you. You seem to want to protect them and keep them clean (or innocent?) It seems like you treating them the way you do is an act of love. Yet it conflicts with the idea that they could be of comfort to you in a nurturing, holding way. It seems to bring up feelings that you don’t deserve love. But they are not “better” than you. You have innocence and deserve love and protection too. Safe hugs, if you want them…

  3. hmm…i wrote a comment, and normally, i will see it appear and it will say, “awaiting moderation.” but i don’t see that today. so i wonder if my comment was lost 😦

    that really stinks. i guess i’ll just wait and see. if it didn’t go through, i will certainly try to recreate it.

    for now i’ll at least go ahead and say that i really identify with you here, castorgirl. and i’m so so sorry you’ve suffered so much abuse and shame and internalized shame. i think very highly of you and don’t think you deserve to feel bad about yourself.

    wishing you well today and always~~~

    • Hi Katie,

      I just upgraded to the latest version of WordPress, so I wonder if that has a bug where it’s failing to leave the text about the comment being in moderation. Your comment was definitely there, and very much appreciated.

      Thank you and take care,

  4. I know this is hard for you. As it is for me. The only way through is to continually challenge these old messages. They aren’t true. They simply aren’t true. We can make them true by recreating experiences in the present. But they still aren’t true. This is where a mantra would come in handy. This is progress, to know this, by the way.

    About the stuffed animals, there could be a positive aspect to this. I know you think negatively about yourself. But maybe for younger parts, putting the “dirtiness” onto stuffed animals could maybe displace it a bit from all of you. Just a thought, and I may be off base with that one.

    • Hi Paul,

      I know that I recreate the situations of the past, and that continually feeds the messages of being dirty, evil and disgusting. I also know that these messages are predominantly held by the young ones, but the message is fairly global within the system.

      I know that in many ways this may have seemed like an odd entry, but it was an important one for me as a reflective tool.

      The WPT gave me The Velveteen Rabbit to read as therapy homework… I have rather interesting contrasting homework from Allison, which is about trying to express some of the issues that led to what I experienced this past weekend.

      I know what you mean in about putting the dirtiness onto the stuffed animals, but there was internal horror at the thought of doing that… We can’t spoil the cleanliness of the toys. But it could well be a first step in externalising the shame… one we’d have to work towards.

      Thank you and take care,

  5. Your post really hit a nerve with me, CG, I’m sitting here in tears.

    Anyway, my comments aren’t about me – they’re about you.

    I’m so sorry you feel this way, though I do understand. There are lots of things in my life that I never allowed myself to touch or do because I thought I’d infect them. Rationally I now understand that the “infection” wasn’t about me, but what was done to me. That infection belongs to the abusers, not to us.

    I’m glad that you’re finding pieces of the puzzle. I hope you can just sit with them because one day (soon, I hope) you’ll find some of those connecting pieces that help it all make sense.

    ((warm safe hugs))

    • Hi (((Kerro)))

      I’m both sorry and glad for your tears… tears are a powerful healing tool.

      Yes, intellectually I get that it’s about things done to me, rather than me being intrinsically evil. But, it’s going to take a long time to work through these messages.

      I’m glad you’re able to work it through…

      Take care,

  6. Pingback: Feeling funky « Kerro's Korner

  7. Hi CG, I just want to tell you that I’m here and reading. My head is buzzing a bit too much to think of a sensitive, supportive response and put it into words that say what I mean, but I just wanted to let you know that I’m here and thinking of you and you are definitely not those awful things. Those horrible people told you horrible lies.


    • Hi Dawn,

      While I always appreciate your comments, please don’t ever feel forced to do so. I know you’re going through a rough time, so I’d encourage you to look after yourself first and support others only as you feel able – sometimes it helps to offer support, sometimes it feels like you’re spreading yourself too thin.

      I know intellectually what you are saying about those words being lies, but they are stuck in my brain for now. The work now is to move them.

      Please take care,

  8. “And the red dog… I found out today that one of the young ones used to stare at our red stuffed toy dog while we were being abused. She could look, but not touch…”

    Tears in my eyes. Tears of familiarity, tears of empathy, tears of “sisterhood”.


  9. Your WPT seems to be quite good. I’m glad you can talk with him.
    I’m so so sorry that no one of your little ones can touch and play with the stuffies. Little A. who loves your new teddy was really sad about this. 😦
    We have stuffed toys like the red dog which cannot be touched in any way (the same reason as you have described), some littles never touch anything because it would be contaminated, but we still have some of the littles ones in our system which can play with stuffies and it helps a lot.I hope that maybe one of your little can try it soon, so she could play with her favourite toy. It would be a great step forward in healing.
    Take care and many warm safe hugs to those who want them ((((()))))

    • Thank you LostShadowChild… We were given therapy homework of reading The Velveteen Rabbit, I’m almost too scared to read it…

      Take care and (((warm safe hugs))) if they are wanted,

  10. WOW! I do the very same thing with stuffed animals and dolls. I buy them and put them up never to touch them again unless for dusting purposes.

    In the store I avoid the toy section, not because I fear a little one will pop out but because it hurts to look at them knowing if I touch them they’re ruined. It breaks my heart to know why I avoid the toy section like the plague.

    Your last two entries, this one and the one about being free of fear to create have been quite on target with how I feel.


    • Hi Austin,

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who does this, but am also sorry this is your struggle too. Sometimes it breaks my heart when I can feel a young one looking at the toy and feeling my hands going behind my back so that I won’t be tempted to touch it. I’ve tried touching them, but I can’t right now…

      I just realised when reading your comment, that we often test the softness of a toy while one part is present, but then that one retreats and we find an identical one of the shelves that she hasn’t touched. So I think a majority of the feeling is associated with one part. Not sure. WPT tried to introduce a stuffed toy to us in the session after this, but it all went horribly wrong… poor man.

      Living without fear to create would be awesome and something I can’t even imagine right now… I’ve tried doing things for the Arts Carnival and failed pretty miserably because I won’t allow myself the space to do it.

      Take care and thank you for your comment… it helped.

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