When I went to the family therapist, after Edi kicked me out, he didn’t have a lot of time, so he described our relationship in words pretty similar to how you described yours: being controlled by someone else’s displeasure.
He taught me things, such as other peoples likes and dislikes only describe them, not me.
I had a date, after, a teacher, and we were going to her Christmas party, she said you are not wearing those jeans, are you? So I changed to dress pants, because I was programmed to not like myself if someone else was afraid (that’s the key word) that I would embarrass them in public, because I was afraid of being embarrassed in public too. So we had a little shame contract, you won’t embarrass me and I won’t embarrass you. A business deal. When we got to the party everyone was dressed any old way they pleased, of course.
We spent our anxious (and later she was very hostile) time together with me being shut down, never knowing where the next blindsiding attack would come from. I was in bed with her, naked and vulnerable and she said, I don’t know what I’m doing with you, all you have is a truck a computer and guitar. I put my clothes on, silently, and left. No lashing out, no blog posts, just leaving the abuse, without criticising it.
But speaking of me, if I have presented myself as anxious and hostile, something went very wrong. An abusive man would criticise your relationships, especially your relationship with the church, given the abandonment and other abuses I have suffered. So I have done the opposite, saying unconditional acceptance is what I have been taught as the antidote to abuse in relationship. If church is important to you, then it’s important that I respect that, if you want me to go, then I’m going because that’s important to you. If it were a gallery opening, and I wanted company, would I ask you to join me and have you say no all openings are shit? Or would you say of course I have had poor experiences at openings in the past, but what did happen doesn’t mean will happen, and because this is important to you Jerald, then this is important to me.
Of course I have never had a relationship where someone actually said that, all I’ve had are business deals, but I can always hope. In the meantime I make friends like you and that’s nice, sharing recovery from being shut down in abusive relationship stories, and trading strategies for healing. I put two books in my blog post because they helped with that. Ours is a common story. It boils down to they hate us for our empathy because it makes them look bad. We must never make them look bad.
So I sit here, alone still, with my loss and my grief, and write about it, because friends refuse to go out in public with a walker, a cane, a wheelchair, it would make them look bad, being the centre of attention accompanying me. No visits to the hospital either, too busy, not a priority, too creepy, whatever.
I am an INFJ in the Myers Briggs personality type, the rarest of all kinds, full of empathy, so I am able to understand and feel the terror these people fear at being exposed. They refuse to read my writing because I (intentionally) expose myself, as a shame attacking exercise. It creeps them out, don’t mention me by name don’t take my picture, all the usuals. As if your right to privacy were a weapon I might use against you, which is your mind numbing fear, held over from being controlled by just such a fear by a scared and angry 4 year old of a partner, the same partner I had and all the friends too, a business deal of shame, anger, depression and disease.
So, I crave intimacy, that is defined by creating a safe environment for emotional honesty. Since folks are too busy running from that due to fear of exposure, I have made it my work, my writing and my visual art, a personal history of expressionism, emotional honesty. One of my readers said he reads my posts aloud to his wife, has for years. They sent me hundreds of dollars when I was ill and broke, complete strangers that I have never met. People who crave emotional honesty.
Alice Neel, one of my painter influences said ‘finding a businessman involved in art, is like finding chicken shit in your chicken salad’. The same is true of finding them in any relationship that requires intimacy, safety, honesty. Ironically, I have found intimacy, safety, honesty by being ‘exposed’ and talking about myself in my work.
You described me, when you met me, as fresh, alert, awake, someone who showed up. The ashrams and buddhists call me enlightened. That’s what it looks like when someone is dealing with their fears as best they know how, then ignoring them, and focusing on ways to find satisfaction. I mean I was homeless, extremely ill, living in a hospital, just lost the use of 50% of my body, my income, my home, my lovely dear dear cat, extremely lonely, even family refused to visit, due to my refusal to make shame deals and not discuss stuff. So I wrote about that, with my left hand, as best I could, taught myself to wipe my own ass, put on my own clothes, got myself in a wheelchair, and with one hand, got myself to a coffee shop where I met you, and many others, a daily thing, so I could intentionally ignore my troubles by focusing on you and your cancerous husband or their stoke victim wife, still waiting for someone to respond in kind, but they never do, and ask me how I’m doing.
So I decided it’s not a reasonable expectation in the land of ‘hard luck rivalry’ (thanks again for that insight George Toles), from people who have been so abused by their partner and their disease, I mean I know it well, I was once in exactly the same isolated lonely shoes.
David Burns, the author of several cognitive therapy books described loneliness is the result of saying, no one loves me. Why that is a lie is because I love me, I always have my best interests at heart, so I’m not dependant on others to care for me. Adults, say Ellis, are self supporting, children need support, so adults support them. That’s basically the problem I have with religion, its being a child again, needing support. If it is to be it’s up to me. That includes satisfaction in the midst of mind numbing loss and grief which I am experiencing, and dealing with daily.
My good friend Will Ross, dying of liver cancer, REBT therapist and trainer, gave me an insight. “what good, can I make of this?” that is the important question. Well, I don’t have that abusive cow pushing me around with her shame and fear anymore. It’s true I miss the incredible sex but that was just a distraction from anxiety for her, I was like a drug, she was really zoned out, not interested in my pleasure, only in receiving her distraction, some relief from her mind numbing fear. Terror actually. And that describes the rest of our past relationship too. Conditional.
So I wish to build one that is unconditional. So it has to start with me. I am interested in how my day is going, whether I am 50% paralyzed or not. Victories like being able to cut my toenails are huge signs of independence. I am interested and care about others the same way, so I wish you well with your emotional independence and make myself available to listen, awake, present, I show up.
The same is true of the world, shitty things happen to nice people and nice things happen to shitty people, I use my extremely powerful free will and power of choice to accept this, this thing called life.