One thing I have learned with certainty is not to stand in connection with those who diminish me. This is particularly difficult when family is involved, because we have a vested interest in perpetuating the family system for all kinds of different reasons. I don’t believe one should endure abuse no matter how attached they are to an idea of family. There are many families (read: soulpod) waiting for us just outside our habitual awareness. We are not responsible for those who diminish us. We really have to get that. We can be compassionate and we can certainly understand where their abusiveness comes from, but understanding the origins does not mean we have to endure it. It’s not our cross to bear.
Whoa! Last night’s night out brought a lot of things back to my consciousness – and with a vengeance so! So here I am, on the next day, still trying to catch my breath over what the heck just happened?! From a conversation later on that night, I was reminded of much of what Jeff says here. Or rather: I was reminded of the gargantuan scope of abuse endured earlier in life.
So: What exactly was that thing that just happened? Last night’s encounters and experiences reminded me of all the love trapped inside of me, all that love I have been bottling up since my divorce almost 11 years ago, all that self-punishment I’ve been inflicting on myself since then, blaming the world for having shunned me when in fact the only entity who did any shunning was me, is me, has been me (more recently, not so earlier in life)! And all that for the false, imposed on patterns of self-loathing and toxic shame, brought upon me by people, who failed to nourish and attend to my true personality, but went at almost any extra length to eradicate that very personality for reasons of jealousy and a fear-induced concept of (false) compliance, because they never experienced that particular nourishing themselves (I’m not just assuming on the latter, there are express testimonials from e.g. my late aunt). Now, at this point, I think there is a spectrum of human emotions for a response, ranging anywhere from infinite rage over the damage and abuse incurred, the theft of childhood, youth, early romantic adventures and whatnot to compassion for their own damages endured and being left unprocessed, not overcome, still festering and mixing in with every genuine, beautiful expression of self, thus poisoning their own spirit repeatedly. And I think, it is safe to say that I ran the entire gamut of those emotions over the last seven years, after the shock of losing the love of my life had worn off a little.
So, now what? When pondering taking action, you might pinpoint your choices down to these two extremes of said emotional spectrum: Taking revenge or being forgiving. Let’s take a moment to look at either one:
Let’s say, you’d opt for the first, retaliation or taking revenge. Even without considering all the potential ramifications in case that option included actions of any kind of physical violence, I think the emotionally worse and more harming part is that a) you’ll still act from a place of being a victim, and b) you’ll never get even. For coming close to getting even, you’d have to take away the perpetrators’ concept of being rightful first – and I think, history as well as a host of literature on the subject tells us that rarely – if ever – this idea succeeds. Attacking the perpetrator’s psyche from that angle will always have them up in arms, become defensive or attacking you back – because that’s just the nature of a perpetrator, for else, if they had already done the work of processing their own pain, they’d have never become a perpetrator in the first place. In yet different words and in my experience: It is the very definition of a perpetrator that they should act on their own deficits in such a way that they seek out and find a – usually empathic – individual to inflict harm on (and “ironically”, even some behavioural therapists suggest that very course of action – I’ll never forget the words of a behavioural therapist in my early twens who said this verbatim to me: “You have to be offensive with your emotional deficits.” Go figure!). They might do so on the assumption that if they cause someone else pain, their own pain leaves them. Since it never does, a perpetrator has to find new victims over and over again (or keep conditioning one particular victim in such a way that they’ll remain available as their victim. I think, after much introspection and analysis, I’m safe to say that this happened to me over the course of my upbringing – and continues to this day, if I’d let it happen). These aren’t my thoughts only, they are more of a rephrasing of what Alice Miller has devoted a good deal of her life’s legacy to in analyzing the minds of perpetrators and treating victims. She found this self-perpetuating toxic dynamic at the core of motivations driving serial killers, dictators and all kinds of detrimental individuals, oftentimes leaving entire nations with a horrific toll of suffering. So, even from a logical point of view, I think it is becoming apparent that retaliation, taking revenge and striking back is not an option. It rather seems to be a course of action lending itsself to more pain and harm coming at you.
Well then: Forgiveness. But I think it is important to make a very fine and conscious distinction as to whom we forgive – and exactly what we forgive them for. An aspect of forgiveness might (have to) include the perpetrator, too, in that we understand that they were a victim themselves, haunted and driven by their own demons who’d never let go of them. But that’s about it in my view: Once we understand that aspect, we should liberate ourselves from the idea that there was anything else to do but to briefly acknowledge their own inner demons. Fair and fine – and over and out! (and very much along the lines of what Jeff says above, very accurately so, in my view).
From here on, I think it is more important to forgive ourselves – for not having known better and for not having had any better option but to endure what we may have had to endure – each in their own particular way, each of us having livedtheir own personal version of hell – until now. Now we are free! No longer do we have to buy into the (false) shame imposed on us in order to “keep us around” and available for continued harm. No longer do we have to limit ourselves to whatever concept of self they may have shackled us with. No longer do we need to perpetuate the self-loathing instilled as a way to condition us into toxic compliance.
Once we realize that we are free to make a new choice – healing begins and we can start to do the work of saving our soul, our lives, our future. Let’s do that, shall we?