Dissolving the Crystal

Photograph by Lionel Kennaugh

As I enter my fifties, something that I have been battling with is how to dissolve the crystallised feelings of hatred, betrayal and bitter resentment and come out the other side of this process wiser and calmer, with set intentions to be able to move on.

What strikes me about this is this question, ‘What is real?’ The loop in my head, the constant chatter, the obsessive thinking, or what stands alone as facts, not the fiction that I feed myself, for whatever reason whether it is to feel better or worse. On my bad days, I feed it to feel worse, and on a good day, an upper day, when my mood is elevated, I use this self-same chatter to feel better, only the perspective changes.

What if for just one second, I could reverse my perceptions of ‘offences’ against me? What if for only one second, I stopped, thought about it, and tried to put myself in someone else’s position and heard not the words that I find offensive, but perhaps the feelings behind those words and what the person is actually asking of or saying about me?

Yes, there have been real concrete actions and abuse of me and my trust. Yes, I have gone from victim to survivor, but even a survivor must ultimately move on to thriving. I am tired at a Soul level from having lived in survival mode for so many years.

As I turn the page from my forties to my fifties, I look back on the last decade of my life as the most wonderful and some of the worst times of my life. In that time, I became a mother, met my life partner, lost a child in our family, and lost other friends and family members. I have owned and lost a successful sensual massage business which was ripped out from under me very suddenly, and I’ve had a long period of unemployment. Yet I’ve also had periods of high productivity, if not remunerated in currency, in learning and self-understanding.

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘we give offence when we take offence’? This is one I often forget, and in that forgetting, I return a perceived offence reflexively, without forethought. I just lash it out there.

The on the stairs chatter (when you think of something you should have said, but you’ve already left the room and are on the stairs or the landing)’ of what could/should/would have happened, been said or been done differently, to the imagined horrors and scenarios I play for myself like an internal movie, about what could/should/must be in the future. How I will handle these new imagined challenges, which have not and probably will not happen. It seems crazy, and it leads to high anxiety to think in these terms.

Losing a dear friend recently also taught me that I need to let life be a big deep let go, you don’t have to wait until you die to do this, you need to be able to do this while you are still living, yet there are parts of me, that always wants to fight this.

I want to counter with ‘yes but, someone did this thing to me’, ’and this other thing was perpetuated against me’, ‘and then there was the time that somebody else did this and that’. Does it really matter in the end? If this is what I am hanging onto, continually replaying the hurts, the circumstance, the slights against me, what purpose does this serve? Is keeping my library of wounds well indexed and accessible in my immediate memory serving me in any way at all? Or is this a perceived but incorrect core belief that I must hold onto all this stuff to keep my guard up and to prevent the past pain from happening again. It is only a perception of control; I have no more control over the future than I do over lightning bolts. So, do I have to hang onto these negative core beliefs about myself and others to protect myself from some future imagined occurrence?

I make this controversial statement without making light of it. I do not believe I should be forgiving of anyone for what as emotional abusers they have done within the context of deliberate emotional and mental abuse; nor do I expect anyone else to forgive me, if I too am guilty, in truth or not but according to their own perceptions of perpetuating the same type of mental and emotional abuse.

The new culture of victim shaming by way of forcing victims to own the bad behaviour of others by ‘forgiving them’ is not part of this. Letting go of the hurts and the abuse and the toxic thinking after you have managed to free yourself. Yes. Forgiving yourself for what you had to do to survive. Yes. Walking away from someone for good. Yes. However, owning someone else’s bad behaviour. No. Owning your own bad behaviour. Yes. Abuse perpetuates abuse, we never talk about the self-abuse that we carry out on ourselves, long after abuse by another has taken place, and this is where self-forgiveness is essential.

Having said all that, there is still a need for self-healing and the ability to go from survivor to thriver. I don’t want to change myself and my own modes of communication to suit everyone else, or ostensibly to change myself to better suit other’s needs. I want to do it because changing these ways of communicating indeed will be better for everyone, including me. I want to change my point of view and perceptions and means of communicating to help to start melting that crystal of hatred and bitterness and regret and resentment and to allow it to dissolve within me.

I’m not what you think I am, and the same goes for how I see myself, as it does for anyone else. At some point, someone must own their own part in whatever happened in the past and look beyond their own desire for yet more aggressive behaviour, to looking into the future and perhaps realising that the time to keep punishing one another is over and it’s pointless.

It is not about winning or losing, or who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s about defusing the entire interaction to become solution focussed rather than driven by a need to show someone else up or to somehow make them ‘wrong’ and ‘bad’. If I want someone else to change their behaviour toward me, I need to make that change for myself first and then toward them. This does not mean I become a wilting lily without boundaries. It does mean that how I communicate changes, to become more eloquent by saying less and meaning more, without making justifications, but also without aggressively defending my ground. I merely must stand my ground; in that way, it is already supported.

Something I am learning is that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing either, it’s okay to concede a point and often conceding a point for the more significant good works out well for everyone. I have learned the tough way that the cost of being ‘right’ can be tremendous. The divisiveness of right and wrong thinking, good and bad, etc. is precise in that it is divisive. It pits you against yourself, and as you make this decision about other people, you immediately pit yourself against them. A ‘them against me’ belief is born, and so a fight mentality results.

Judgemental thinking presumes to know someone else’s motives or desires, based on my own fears and predisposed thinking about that person. My own personal bias about them has been nurtured and fed and watered so well and so often that it feels almost impossible for me sometimes to really ‘see’ them in a different light. A whole new style of communication is what is needed from my side to start to change how I view other individuals; especially those I perceive as problematic in my life.

A way of letting go is to become aware of and then stop obsessive thinking about anything, no matter what it is. The first thing is to become mindful of obsessive thoughts. How often are you dwelling on obsessive thinking in the past or concerns about the future? How much of your thinking processing power is given over to overthinking the past or the future? Remembering that your thoughts (often) are not based on reality and facts. While trusting yourself and your own evaluative thinking is one thing. Still don’t always believe everything you tell yourself. Question that first before you question the next person.

Can I learn to separate someone else’s behaviour from my own judgements of their behaviour. Can I find a way to see the person and the action, and even the words that we both speak as separate to who that person is at their core, and who I am at my heart? And, if I can do this, will it help me to better communicate, especially with those I consider to be ‘problematic’ in my life?

Someone I consider to be a massive thorn in my side in my life, I believe because our core beliefs about ourselves, and about one another are so different, that it is not surprising at all if I take a giant step back and look at it to see how we so often have a hit and miss in communication. Especially when both of us are trying to hold onto our own perceived control over our situation and circumstances.

Yet even as I write this, I feel like a fraud, because my core beliefs about myself and about this person are so strong, that to contest them, even within myself, I find to be an immense challenge. Even knowing that this is precisely what needs to happen for us to both moves forward, feeling safe with one another’s intentions and actions.

I have been whining for a while now that I will never be free of this person, they are never going to let me go, stop trying to trip me up, show me up, and put me over in the worst possible light to anyone who’ll listen. Same goes for me. While I own all the lies and the insinuations and half-truths and untruths, I become more and more dependent on this person’s core beliefs about me, and I accept them. I become them because I am unwilling to let them go. It has only been very recently that it has occurred to me that I am the one who must do the letting go. My bitterness and regrets and resentment have blinded me into my own prison. These toxic emotions have blinded me from what I need to see. To see what’s important, and to understand, that cleansing my own mind and soul are what’s required to move on.

Amazing Grace. How often have I prayed for grace, and to be gracious, it’s about graciousness and giving the grace to others that you would want for yourself. I may not believe I have to forgive, but I certainly can understand letting go of all those negative emotions with grace and to try to start afresh by offering grace and graciousness in how I handle things going forward.

Can you change how someone else treats you? Yes, to a point. Can you change their core beliefs about you? Probably not. When so much has happened that it feels like all those feelings have crystallised, and how do you dissolve that crystal? Perhaps you start with liquifying your own crystal first in the hopes that you can be a leader into a new way of understanding one another.

When I write about narcissistic abuse, I write about not feeding the machine that is the narcissist, but what about how we supply the devices that are our own minds. The slow dripping poisons we pour onto our thoughts and then obsess about. Our own ever chattering mind, rewinding and playing again and again what was done to us, is a form of self-abuse. I need to un-train my mind, especially when I let it wander down long dark passages that are not necessary. I need to become mindful of my own thinking.

It occurs to me that obsessive thinking can be easily derailed as soon as you become aware that you are doing this. It takes practice, I know this, and I don’t always get it right. But I do catch myself out with the ‘shower brain conversations’, those moments where I’m living in pure fantasy, reimagining the past or reframing the future. Sometimes so much so, I can’t remember the car journey I just took, because I was so deep into these thoughts. I must yank myself back continually to what is essential only for today, for this hour or this moment. It’s harder than you think, but it is worth the peace of mind and far less anxiety the more I practice it. I do believe that becoming an observer of your thoughts rather than a participant in them is one of the best ways to achieve the process of letting go.

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