Sunday, July 22, 2007

Confusing Pleasure and Pain: X

The thing about abuse is that you believe their lies for your truth. You adopt terrible lies as your truth and start to forget that these actually are lies. You get used to thinking that lies are the way things work, that if someone wants something they shouldn't want or can't otherwise have, that it's ok to use a lie to get around the obstacles.

Because that's what happened to you. Someone wanted something from you and took it, convinced you of the biggest lie ~ that it was ok, that they had a right or reason to do that. And you were asked to believe that lie and repeat it and internalize it and protect it. And so you did. Because you couldn't do anything else at the time. And after a while you couldn't tell the difference between their lies and the truth.

And that spills over into everything. It makes you a sucker for a good line, not because you believe it exactly, but because you want to believe something that sounds good, even if it still feels bad. 'Cause there's so little to actual feel good about. And you don't really believe words of any kind anymore anyway.

So their lies become your truth again and again and again. Maybe it started with one specific person, one specific event, but it confuses everything. And no matter how good your radar is, no matter how much you can see through the falseness of what's being presented, there's still a tsunami of internal confusion keeping you from knowing what to do about it or how to change it.

Thankfully, you don't have to stop being confused to know that something feels wrong. You don't have to understand it all. Not yet. You just have to know that you don't have to keep feeling bad. You don't deserve it, you don't owe it to anyone, and it really can stop.

Once the emotional assault of all the confusion ends, you begin to get your bearings back, and you begin to recognize the difference between their lies and your truth. And you can see how far apart those two things are. And you can't believe you couldn't see it before since it's suddenly so obvious.

The liberation of that moment is the weight of all the sorrows in the world falling from your shoulders, in its place the wings of freedom.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Confusing Pleasure and Pain: VII

The thing about abuse is that sometimes you meet someone who is intriguing for all the wrong reasons. Maybe that person feels dangerous, exciting, scary, secretive, different, or unusual, and all that is very attractive to you. Not because this is the beginning of a good relationship, but because they remind you of something very familiar about how you understand relationships to work.

And the very qualities that make you feel instantly at home with this person make you also uneasy and unable to trust them. Because you know that the magnet that pulled you together really can be dangerous, just like it has been for you before.

But the lure of the familiar, no matter how potentially destructive, is incredibly powerful. And safe, secure, wholesome, and nurturing somehow seem too boring. And you consider that your ability to withstand so much turmoil and emotional discomfort to be an indication of some mature experience.

It isn't though. Your ability to withstand so much discomfort is just a sign that you've learned to ignore your own feelings, even at great peril to your well-being. It's nothing to be proud of. Just one more indicator that things have gotten mightily messed-up along the way.

And that it's time to step back from all the stuff that makes you feel so bad until you can learn some new ways of doing and being that won't keep causing so much pain.

Confusing Pleasure and Pain: IX

The thing about abuse is that it distorts your sense of self, making you willing to believe almost anything about yourself.

Your real sense of self, likely still being formed when it was shattered, has been smooshed down, compressed, all the lightness squeezed out of it. And in its place mostly emptiness, your abuser/attacker having sucked the life out of you and taken it for their own.

Not only did they take your sense of self, but the one they reflect back to you cannot be trusted for even a second. Because of their own damage, all they can reflect back to you is damage. Their sickness is your mirror.

They twist everything, turning it upside down, trying to convince you that you were the one who got it wrong. Trying to convince you that you were the one with the problem, that you were the one overreacting, that nothing at all was really wrong except for you. That everything was fine until you ruined it.

They engage you in an emotional fencing game, using the thrust and parry with such messed-up rhythm that the sport becomes torture. And there's no real engagement, just them trying to make you feel bad, to show you that they have the power and control And then they hurt you with it. No doubt the way someone did to them. They pretend at friendship, at closeness, at connection, but they have no idea how to truly be close to anyone, and they make you suffer for it.

They can't handle the reality of relationship, the vulnerability of intimacy, and so they play act, like some child playing doctor. And they substitute melodrama and sentiment for true feeling, and force and coercion for true intimacy. 'Cause they don't actually have any idea what they're doing, and all they know are secrets and lies and fear and suffering.

But you do. You know enough to know you don't want this anymore. That you're not going to be the next person to perpetuate awfulness, destroying another invaluable soul in the process. You know enough to know that all the distortion and lies and confusion don't belong to you. You know it's time to put them down and walk away.

Confusing Pleasure and Pain: VIII

The thing about abuse is that it makes you think secrets are normal. It makes you think that when someone is weird or awful or hurtful that you are responsible for absorbing or fixing or hiding it. You have some very confused sense of loyalty and responsibility, protecting your abuser/attacker more than yourself.

You think that the secrets you share with this person are shameful and by telling them you are telling on yourself, revealing to others your own badness. It doesn't occur to you that you should tell, that you should not have to keep dirty secrets for other people. Because you are so ashamed of yourself, even though it's not your fault at all.

And your abuser/attacker is so damaged that they let you, or maybe even force you, to take the blame, to keep the secret, to hide the truth. They let you become the vessel for their damaged psyche, staying safe and secure in the knowledge that you are as committed to keeping the secret as they are.

And this perverted fidelity somehow binds you together, you and your abuser, sharing a secret, sharing an intimacy, that is dangerous and destructive. It turns the notion of intimacy on its head, making you think that intimacy is a bad, painful, scary connection.

It's impossible for you to conceive of intimacy as life-affirming, supportive and precious. It's impossible for you to conceive of relationships as something good. Which is tragedy on top of tragedy. Because they can be the very best things of all. They can be the very thing that frees you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Confusing Pleasure and Pain: VI

The thing about abuse is that it makes you think you are damaged. And, of course, you are. But it's easy to get confused. Thinking that what happened occurred because you are damaged, as opposed to understanding that what happened is the very thing that damaged you.

It's like mixing up feeling bad with being bad with bad things happening. And thinking that bad things happened because you're bad. And getting all that straightened out and sorted through isn't so simple.

Because by the time all this confusion has seeped deep into your sense of self, you've also absorbed so much of what your attacker or abuser felt. By this time you've completely internalized the badness and taken it on as your own. Which means you think that bad things, bad relationships and bad feelings are inevitable.

But nothing is inevitable. There is always a chance for renewal. There is always the power of good, and it shines brighter and cleaner than badness. Badness is a state of desperate need born of excruciating emptiness.

The chance for fullness - for fulfillment - is the hope of empty, wounded souls everywhere. It's the hope for all of us.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Confusing Pleaseure and Pain: V

The thing about abuse is that it leaves you with a simmering rage, hiding just below the surface of every emotion. It's roiling current threatens to break through whatever calm demeanor or acceptable exterior you've created.

One thing is the barrier you've built to keep others out. The other is the barrier you've created to keep all this stuff inside. It's not easy to contain so much feeling, and so much awful feeling at that. It requires constant vigilance, a never-ending attention to yourself.

How much to reveal and how much to conceal? How much to share and how much to keep? What do you give of yourself and what do you hold onto?

And what to do with the sense of outrage, of injustice, of revenge? What to do with the need to set things right, keep yourself from being the same kind of person, and make sure it never happens again? What to do with the constant feeling of threat, of terror, of misunderstanding?

For how long can that rage be contained? And who or what is going to be the catalyst for finally unlocking it? And what will the consequences of that liberation be?

What happens when a dam finally breaks? Eventual calm waters, but the initial destruction can be devastating.

Confusing Pleasure and Pain: IV

The thing about abuse is that it keeps you stuck in the past. It keeps you stuck in an emotional response of fear or disgust or anger or shame or sadness or helplessness long after the moments of awfulness have passed.

It keeps you stuck in a way of thinking and being that get all mixed up with other elements of your personality. It gets mixed up with the stuff that is positive and powerful and amazing, and can just completely eclipse that magic that is you.

Maybe you split into little compartments emotionally and mentally, where the different feelings you have live in different parts of your life, never meeting, never coming together. So that no one else ever sees these aspects of yourself.

Or maybe they do see them, in little drips and drops, surprised at the insecurity of an otherwise confident person, alarmed at the self-destructiveness of someone otherwise life-affirming, shocked at the stupid choices of an otherwise intelligent individual, concerned at the isolation of an otherwise connected soul.

Or maybe all they see are the wounded, injured parts of you. Maybe they are painfully displayed, daring someone, anyone, to reach out and help. Maybe you are just one sad, bleeding mess that no one dares to approach.

The stuck-ness of being defined by the past is that you miss all the other stuff that's happened since. You miss the chance to be shaped in positive and powerful ways, having been so completely defined by negativity. You miss the chance to re-create yourself independent of someone else's damage. You miss yourself. And so does everyone else.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Confusing Pleasure and Pain: III

The thing about abuse is that you confuse abuse with attention. It becomes impossible to make the distinction between someone paying attention, noticing you, loving you, and being cruel, abusive, and using you.

And when you can't tell the difference, all sorts of completely unacceptable behaviors begin to seem normal or at least acceptable. And you don't know if the reason they feel so bad is because there's something wrong with what this other person is doing, or because there's something wrong with you.

You don't know if the bad feeling is because you're bad, or because what's happening is bad. And you don't know if something bad is happening because you are bad, or because the other person is bad. And you don't know if what's happening really is bad, or just a different kind of normal that you should feel ok about even though you don't.

And sometimes what feels bad also feels good And you're also getting a special kind of attention that maybe no one else seems to get. And that's the point where it becomes impossible to know the difference between abuse and attention, between good and bad, between pleasure and pain.

So you go through life not being sure how to draw any lines between yourself and others, because feeling bad isn't reason enough to change anything. You let all sorts of bad energy into your relationships 'cause you don't know you have a choice. And you don't know that things can feel more good than bad.

And you don't trust anyone anyway. There's the sense that whatever has happened will keep happening, and it will last forever. And if you at least care about someone, even if there's lots of bad between you, you think that bad is inevitable, so you stick with it.

You stick with discomfort and sorrow and confusion and an awful, empty, aching feeling that love shouldn't be so awful. But because attention and abuse are so mixed-up for you, you really, truly don't know that it can be different. And you find every reason in the world why what is never ok is somehow ok for you.

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.

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.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

A Beautiful Thing

It's a very powerfully beautiful thing to be reduced to something essential within yourself. Maybe there's no greater pain than when everything you were counting on falls away, but seeing what's left - the essence - is a chance to know yourself anew and re-build a life around what's most meaningful.

There is nothing without its gift, however hidden away it may be for a time.

Full Moon

I love looking at the full moon, its light spilling out with the promise of an unending cycle of life. The hope of regeneration in the midst of the rubble of destruction, the moon reminding me that fullness always returns.

And I love especially that it reminds me of the sun. The moon's glow exists as a reflection of the sun, the cool nighttime mirror to the hot intensity that burns during the day.

My favorite gem is moonstone, named that because it has an inner luminosity like the moon itself, a glowing reflection of the light around it. Sitting in a puddle of moon light, walking through the path it shines on our planet, comforted by the same adularescense that has graced our planet eternally, is pure joy.

I must go back to India sometime, to sit on the top of the mountain and be close to the moon.