Sunday, July 15, 2007

Confusing Pleasure and Pain: II

The thing about abuse is that it makes it impossible to know the difference between your feelings and someone else's. In order to stay safe and protected, your antenna is always out, feeling around for danger, trying to figure out who you can trust and not, and who is safe or who isn't.

And so instead of knowing what's going on in your own head or heart, you're always paying attention to what's happening around you, who is there, and what they might do. And how you might have to escape or try to protect yourself, or endure more suffering.

So your notion of relationship gets twisted, good and bad, safe and dangerous, appropriate and abusive, all mixed up. And your own feelings mixed up with survival instinct that makes all contact with others stressful and fraught with potential danger.

It's hard to pay attention to much beyond the potential danger. No matter how much there's a pull to reach out, to connect, to engage with another, there's the underlying fear that relationship of any kind will be your downfall.

Experience has proven that fear to be well-founded. It makes perfect sense. But emotionally it means the firmest foundation you have is like quicksand, threatening to swallow you up at any moment.

The never-ending stress of looming threat makes some sort of retreat, some sort of sanctuary a necessity. The pain has to be dulled, averted, number, avoided, re-directed. And the consequence of that can be as destructive as the abuse itself.

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