In the treacly syrup of therapy sessions that I waded through last year (and earlier this year), I’ve endlessly tormented myself with a clutch of seemingly unanswerable questions.
Why did this (assault/PTSD/depression) happen? To me? Why did I have such a strong reaction to it given it was a single incident? Why was I having such a hard time “getting over it”?
I had no answers. My therapist suggested that if it was important, we could address it later on. That there might not be any ready answers and in fact, worrying about the why just then was counter-productive to getting on with the healing process.
She was right. So we moved on to other topics, but I did keep returning to them for regular self-flagellation. I should have known better, right? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?
We want answers. When something unthinkable happens, especially when it’s personal… we want to draw a logical line from point A to point B and say Ah!!! So THAT’S why!
I suspect that in our hurry to understand why, we create reasons. And then, people tell us things like: Everything happens for a reason. Or… Something positive has to come out of this.
People might even suggest a reason or two of their own. Good people. Well meaning people.
But it doesn’t help.
Rarely will someone say those kind of things about positive life experiences. We don’t ponder (not too much anyway) why we met our life partner, or why we get to travel, or win the lottery…
And to be honest, I don’t know if everything that happens in this world (and to us personally), has to have a reason. Maybe what we think of as “the reason” is not even the real reason. If there is a reason beyond general randomness!
After all, the universe has the capacity for randomness. So perhaps that’s the real reason that seemingly senseless things happen. Perhaps they just are senseless.
Can we live with that? Sometimes, and then sometimes not…
Over at Michele’s blog, we considered the idea that perhaps the reason doesn’t matter in the end (read the comments).
Although there might not be exact reasons, there’s definitely contributing factors to certain events. Influences that led you to be where you are. Again, there’s no real proof that these actually cause an event to occur. Or not.
Lately, I’ve been considering my pre-disposition towards abusive relationships. All kinds. Friendships, lovers, family. And I do think that pre-disposition was a contributing factor that led to me being involved with a physically violent person.
Basically, it seems I’ve put up with people treating me poorly for many years. [Note: not that I’m perfect, or that I’ve never treated other people badly. I’m not saying that.]
Which is related of course, to poor self-image/self-worth. Similarly, the next level of waging war – in addition to beating ourselves up – is to extend the war to others. And this shows up as abusive behaviour between people. Often it goes both ways. Starting within our family, of course.
Parent to child. Sibling to sibling. Child to friends. Friends to child. And so on. The circle continues to widen.
Much of my young life featured what I’ll call “low-level” abuse on an emotional and physical level. I used to think it was normal for people to be nice to me one day, and horribly upset with me the next as a repeating cycle. There was the bitching, the withholding of affection, the physical violence, regular screaming matches, being given the silent treatment for months on end and bring threatened with abandonment.
To be clear, its not that I think any of the above is particularly unusual. Actually, I think it’s the status quo in a lot of families, and almost accepted as normal even.
But it’s not normal. This is abuse.
We get used to treating other people badly, and being treated badly ourselves. Of course, there are more extreme situations, with children being molested or otherwise mistreated. But the more casual forms of abuse are important, too. Perhaps because they’re so very ubiquitous.
Possibly, growing up like that doesn’t bother everyone. At a minimum the impact would be the way people mimic abuse that was visited on them – they deal what they were dealt.
But for those who are extra-sensitive or vulnerable or otherwise naive (like I was), it can be a disaster.
When I consider the relationships and friendships I’ve had/have, it’s clear to me that I seek peaceful and harmonious relations with others. Well, that’s what I want, but it’s not always what I’ve been attracted to. Certainly for the most part, it’s not what I’ve attracted into my life. Until recent times, anyway.
Maybe that’s one of the great learnings for me – seeing just how much abuse I allow myself to put up with (not to mention the abuse I’ve dished out in return), and why. It wasn’t a one-shot deal though. It’s something I’ve continued to learn about, especially this year.
I was trying to be friends with someone who didn’t really want to reciprocate. Like a puppy dog, I wanted to be liked. I bent over backwards to be nice to this person. I gave them things. I spent money I didn’t have to do things for them.
In return, there seemed to be a friendship developing. Even if it was uneven. Even if, from time to time, this person decided to take offense at something I’d said and chuck a temper tantrum about it, way out of proportion to the actual event. Even if they gave me the silent treatment from time to time. They still encouraged me to rely on them. And so I did.
Because I wanted to be friends, exhausting as it was.
This was an abusive friendship – both ways. But I stuck it out until in the end, after we’d both torn shreds off each other. And by then it was clear: I was barking up the wrong tree. This situation came about because really, that person never wanted to be my friend in the first place.
If only I could’ve seen the other person’s abusive reactions for what they were – a cryptic message to back the hell off! But because I was used to accepting abusive behaviour, I didn’t.
This time, the end result wasn’t a physical assault. But it was an assault on my heart and self-esteem.
And I think (and hope) it was the final wake up call.
I don’t want to be abusive towards others, and as a yogini I’m working towards stripping these tendencies away from how I move about in this world.
Equally, I don’t want to be friends with people who treat me badly.
Just maybe then, that is the reason why? In the end. Or perhaps it’s just a by-product? Either way, it’s a good piece of knowledge to have on this journey.