Saturday, July 14, 2007

Confusing Pleasure and Pain

The thing about abuse is that it makes you confuse pleasure with pain. It makes you confuse feeling good and feeling bad, and sometimes makes it impossible to know the difference. And even when you know the difference, it can destroy your ability to do anything about it.

And if there was a sexual aspect to the abuse, it messes up even more the distinctions between pleasure and pain. If there was any pleasure in the midst of your pain, then not only has your ability to trust others been compromised, but it becomes fairly impossible to trust yourself.

How can you trust yourself when your own body or your own emotions betray you and side with an abuser or an attacker? How can your body feel good when something bad is happening? How can you have feeling for someone who hurts you? How can you trust yourself not to betray your best interests at other times and in other circumstances?

You’ve already been betrayed by someone you expected protection or at least care or respect from, and then you find that you yourself are also not capable of providing protection, care or respect. Being powerless is terrifying; having it used against you is soul destroying.

At which point the likely response is to either disappear so you won’t be noticed so it won’t happen again. Or, to simply admit the inevitable. That pain and pleasure are mixed together, sometimes horribly, awfully and scarily, but that at least you’re going to decide how it happens, and you orchestrate your own abuse.

So you’ve either gone into protective mode to try to take back control over what’s happening to you, and refuse to interact with people in any way that can make you vulnerable. Or you’ve lost your sense of value and worth, and stay in control by choosing to lose control, maybe with promiscuity, exhibitionism or carelessness.

Either way you lose, because either way there’s no real authority or control, just the imitation of it. And either way, pain and pleasure are still mixed together. And either way, there’s no trust. Not of yourself, and certainly not of others.

Coping is not the same as healing. It’s phenomenal all the ways humans have of coping with the completely unacceptable forms of pain and suffering we’ve endured, but it’s not enough. Coping means you’re just holding on, still locked in struggle and defined by pain.

Healing means that the wounds mend, the pain and suffering lessen and end, that the injury is gone except for the scar it leaves behind. Healing means that there’s room to understand and experience yourself in a new way, and to see you own value, your own worth, your own beauty without distortion.

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