I have been avoiding my friend. I don’t think I am motivated by vindictiveness–maybe I am. But she made a point of saying I was intruding on her time with her family. She has a right to set that boundary. What she doesn’t have the right to do is move the boundary around and confuse me.
It’s very uncomfortable for her that I am sad about what happened. She keeps telling me how terrible she feels and then suggests different ways she can find me other places to stay. It makes me extremely uncomfortable. I had this therapist once–I saw him for a few months–and there were a few things I took away from seeing him. One of them was this point when he said about me and my then-partner, “You are having a problem with yourself and you want her help with it.” That’s something I’ll remember. I don’t want to be like that.
It’s what it feels like my friend is doing. She can’t stand her feelings, so she needs me to be different so she can stop having those feelings. I need to tell her it’s okay what she did, but I am not her conscience. I know it’s her house and what she did is within her rights. I know it brought up my own issues that she did not cause. I think she probably struck out at my wounds intentionally. I don’t know that for sure.
I was thinking about this–about her repeatedly stated wish for me to stop feeling sad so she can stop feeling guilty. It was in my head, this discomfort, a feeling of being sickened by it. I had a moment of thinking of myself as a child, pushing someone off me, wanting to fight. I realized I was remembering being sexually abused. Something about the situation with my friend and her need for me to feel a certain way so that she could feel okay again seemed the same.
It was sort of startling. I know I was abused, but I don’t always feel it in this embodied way.
It made me think about my perspective and about the feeling of being erased as a child. It’s hard to explain. It made me think my parents needed me not to be an observer to their actions, because what they were doing was wrong. In the same way that my friend needs me not to have feelings so that she need not think whatever it is she thinks about what she has done, my parents needed me not to feel distress, because using their children in order to soothe themselves was wrong. They needed my point of view to disappear so that they need not face the feeling of wrongness.
In the case of sexual abuse, my dad was getting this kind of charge from it, like a hit of a drug. Sexuality is pleasurable and so is power. He was meeting this need for a lift in his mood by harming his children. The feeling I have so powerfully about my childhood is that I needed to be erased. Well, that’s why.
My distress told my parents what they were doing was wrong, and they did not want to know.
In my view, the worst pain and the greatest dysfunction comes from having the past be so painful that when it plays out in the present, it can’t be understood or faced. I do think there is this cultural idea that the past distorts the present. It only distorts it to the extent we can’t calm the feelings of it–because they are powerful things. The conventional wisdom is that we need to see how the past is different from the present. When it repeats, we are meant to see how we have brought this on ourselves. My point is that we can’t think about it. The intensity of the trauma makes our minds stop working, and we don’t respond effectively.
I find it very helpful just to see what things are. This feeling of disgust and constriction I am having–what is it? What’s causing it? What is it about? It seems to be the same as being sexually assaulted as a little one. Okay, so how do those things connect? Those questions help.
I think what’s hardest about it is coping with the grief and loss involved in that. The intensity of those feelings about what happened prevent us from knowing or understanding what it actually was. There is a very deep sadness in knowing this happened to me, which is really beyond anything I can describe. This was my childhood, where I was never really allowed to grow and develop as a person, or even to be safe. That happened before I can even remember it: there was no “before” even.
I cannot state this strongly enough: if I cannot engage with that grief in loss, I also lose out on the joys of the present. If I cannot accept the sadness of having been used rather than nurtured, I cannot (for example) enjoy the wonder I see children experience.
For so long, although I wanted to get better, I wanted to do it without really feeling the pain–or perhaps I just did not know how. I did not see that things are what they are. If they hurt me, I have to feel it, or I lose out on everything.