Re: We can alchemize abuse into strength
Date: June 28, 2021 09:13PM
I think that one of the greatest mistakes that most of us make after leaving abusive situations is taking on this idea that we are either "victim," "survivor" or "thriver," as if these are three distinct stages that we must all go through on the way to recovery. I don't think surviving abuse is that linear. Some days I am extremely happy, feeling calm and confident and making good progress with my life. Then I slip out of that state and into one where I feel overwhelmed by disadvantage, alone and crushed. I work on those feelings, and regain that sense of joy and control. Sometimes it takes time, and there are days, weeks or months of unproductiveness as I do so.
If recovery really is as linear as we typically believe, then each of these dark patches would be a "failure" on my part, a regression where I find that I'm not where I am on my journey after all. That view would negate all the happy times, and would make all that progress moot. It would mean that any time I felt bad, I'd be back at the beginning of that journey.
Clearly, that isn't true. I see it more like a path through a forest: sometimes the trees above you block the light and everything seems dark, sometimes there are clouds and the path seems gloomy. Sometimes the path opens up again and there's a lot more light, and you can appreciate the beauty all around you. But even if it rains twice on your journey, it's not the same rain, you aren't in the same patch of forest. You might need the same or slightly different tools to get through the rough patch, but you aren't suddenly at the start of the journey again just because things are briefly difficult and dark. Frustration, rain, exhaustion: these are all normal and cyclical parts of the journey.
This reply is getting a little long, but I often think that insights come in layers. You might think that you resolved something five years ago, but then the flashbacks start again. It just means that there are deeper truths that we need to uncover. As an SGA, everything I learned about the world came from the biases of a few difficult people who sought refuge in a cult as a way to avoid change, and those lessons were reinforced by several difficult relationships. That's my entire blueprint of life right there. Every time I change or grow I need to learn a new way of coping, need some extra insight that was missing from my childhood. The fact that I still struggle with PTSD is proof to me that I am still learning and outgrowing those difficult and unhealthy lessons; they show that I am moving out of my comfort zones and into challenging emotional situations where I need new skills and modes of thinking. PTSD is like the conflict between the current reality and past lessons. If I was totally free of it at all times, I also wouldn't be learning anything new about the world. I'd have reached the peak of where I want to be. Hey, I hope I get there one day, but it means I'll have learned everything there is to learn. C.P. Cavafy's poem "Ithaka" springs to mind.
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 06/28/2021 09:16PM by Jupiter.