“God have mercy on the man who doubts what he’s sure of.”
~Bruce Springsteen (Brilliant Disguise)
My birthday weekend was devoid of palm trees. I enjoyed two outdoor concerts and danced barefoot on the sand, underneath a brightly starred sky.
I felt a strong sense of freedom as I watched my first fireworks show of the summer season. I was in my cherished beach community, exactly where I was meant to be. I was home.
My boyfriend and I had very limited contact for a week or so, cleared another breakup misunderstanding and decided our separation was for the better. A week later, he asked if I wanted him to visit.
There was nothing I’d wanted more a few weeks prior. But as much as I wanted to see him, I couldn’t imagine us creating anything beyond the conflict we’d been immersed in. And if I couldn’t imagine it, I couldn’t create it.
He seemed understanding and respectful of my decision. The problem was, I wasn’t. Instead of working through my own feelings, I decided to codependently help him through the ones I thought he was experiencing. In writing. We’d been experiencing countless misunderstandings through the written word, but it was almost always my communication vehicle of choice.
Our ensuing fireworks display would have made the Grucci brothers appear as amateurs. The colors were vivid, the explosions loud. We both possess an unfortunate talent for sharp barbs, witty comebacks and equally piercing and entertaining dialogue when we’re angry. Our grand finale was a work of art…and then the sky went black.
The next morning, I placed my first call to “The Hotline,” detailed in the first posts of the blog. My advocate was incredibly supportive. She validated my experiences and feelings. She told me the pain and scars of emotional abuse can run even deeper and last even longer than those created by physical abuse.
Plus there is so much more confusion. When someone smashes you into a wall, you don’t wonder the next day if it happened. You have bruises to prove it. But when you’re the victim of emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse, you don’t even trust your own memory.
She confirmed everything I’d suspected from my extensive online research about abuse. She handed me the victim baton and I ran with it, faster and harder than I’ve ever run in my life.
While I’ve since passed the baton to the next runner, I absolutely needed my turn with it. Then I began to see that while it was true he exhibited emotionally abusive behavior, it was also true that I had started to myself.
Somewhere along the line, I’d stopped being present with his unwarranted rage. I’d started to fight back. I yelled. I judged him for judging me. I blamed. I threatened to leave. I slammed doors. I threw a key into the parking lot by his building.
My aggressive behaviors may have been in reaction to my inability to handle his, but if I was being completely honest with myself, if I was victim, then wasn’t I also an abuser?
I wasn’t quite ready to go there. It was easy to justify my own behaviors as reactions to his. I needed to invest deeply in the victim phase and explore it from every possible angle before I could be remotely open enough to examine myself as an abuser, and eventually transcend these labels and behaviors altogether.
I’d done my best to stay present and respond with love. It hadn’t worked. The only alternative I saw to fighting back was tolerating abuse. There was a peaceful way that didn’t involve either, but recovery was an enormous jigsaw puzzle. It was going to take time to collect the essential pieces I was still missing – such as why I’d been a match to a relationship like this in the first place – and learn how to put it all together.
I ordered a library of books about emotional abuse. Some of what I learned initially seemed to counter everything I’d previously believed about oneness, co-creation, faith and everything happening for a reason. There was only one way to navigate that dichotomy: change my beliefs.
Viewing myself as a victim took all the onus off me and frankly, I was relieved to have this new identity. Being a victim may be incredibly painful, but it is also super easy…at least in comparison to the level of personal growth work I was accustomed to.
I began to view everything we’d experienced together in a new light, or more accurately, a new darkness. The first couple of months had mostly felt like a beautiful dream to live, but now I could imprint abuse and warning signs onto the majority of my memories.
Fortunately in my version of The Matrix, the choice to pop the blue pill and remain in the illusion of victim mentality was not irreversible.
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