I am disappointed in myself.
I know that’s not the Practice. I know that if you fall off the horse, you get back on, and don’t berate yourself for falling. Instead, you learn the lesson about the fall, and sit a little tighter, or to a slightly different angle, or readjust the saddle, or… You get the point.
Nonetheless, I am disappointed in myself.
I allowed myself to be dragged into a powerplay, from which I know there is never a happy extraction.
I believe the kind of situation in which I was, once again, embroiled is called a ‘Honey Trap’. The sort of thing where, whilst repeatedly punching you in the face (metaphorically, you understand), you are told “But I love you!”
You can explain a situation from a thousand different angles, from a thousand different perspectives. The problem is not that you don’t understand that you are being punched in the face. You can wax positively lyrical about the ways in which you are being punched in the face, and indeed therein lies the problem: if I explain it this way, they will surely understand… There is great temptation to keep trying. But the problem lies in the fact that the person punching has absolutely no awareness whatsoever that they are bloodying your face. I choose face-punching as a metaphor quite deliberately, because it is that obvious to you. It is so obvious to you that you are almost entirely unable to understand how the person punching cannot see what they are doing.
And, of course, the problem lies also in the hope that if you can just get them to see, then they might stop.
I could go on, but there is little point in going into detail. After all, this is not a lesson about victim consciousness. I no longer feel a victim of this behaviour. I no longer feel the need to ‘tell my story’, or to have people feel sorry for me. I am not interested in pity, or victimhood. What I am interested in is steering a course through adversity that causes the least emotional and spiritual damage to me (and my family, and indeed my aggressor), whilst maintaining my own integrity and equilibrium.
And, you see, that is where this kind of situation drags you off kilter. My equilibrium was not kept intact. I took my eye off the ball. I allowed myself to be bent out of shape. I lost my cool, half-burned the children’s tea, gave them a fraction of the attention they deserve, spent almost 48 hours being sucked back in. It leeches your life. And, in the simplest of terms:
It is not worth it.
Because, at some great cost – of time, energy, emotional stability and presence – I have learned over many years that there can be no other outcome than an escalation of frustration and a very unsatisfactory parting of the ways, that leaves you feeling less than, and a little poisoned.
The way it works is this:
1) The hook.
Maybe a little message, perhaps of ‘love’, perhaps of guilt, something designed to draw you in.
2) The conversation.
During which you can plainly see that nothing has changed since the last time you communicated.
By now, your warning alarm is going off like crazy in the back of your mind. It is, most likely, shouting “Run away!”
3) The position.
Which usually means ‘I want to keep punching you in the face whilst telling you I love you’.
4) The argument.
In which, in the gentlest terms possible, you try to explain that being punched in the face doesn’t work for you.
This escalates, as the aggressor continues to insist on their right to keep punching. But they love you.
And your frustration grows, as you try to explain that love is not punching in the face.
And they fail to see it.
And you become angry.
And ask repeatedly for it to stop, and to be left in peace.
5) The kicker.
The tables are turned, and suddenly the aggressor is the victim. “I see I have made you furious, when I just wanted to tell you I love you”.
Followed, even after your repeated requests to be left in peace, by “Let’s just leave it there.”
And you sit, stunned and dazed, flummoxed and furious, with nowhere to go with it all, having to process the poison and try to regain your equilibrium.
So, you see, I am disappointed in myself. This pattern is not new to me. It is dyed in the wool, tried and tested, and has worked for years. But, until this last experience, I had begun to master sticking to the solution.
Because there is a solution:
It is enormously difficult at first. It feels rude, cold, uncaring. But it isn’t. It is a healthy boundary, and self-protection. When you have experienced the same situation, more times than you can count, and the outcome has never been different, in spite of the many different approaches and angles you have brought to it, then it is sheer madness to expect it ever to change.
Register the sadness that arises in you out of the situation. Recognise that your wishing it could be different is simply a denial of reality.
And then, with a few deep breaths, focus on being here now: cook the supper properly, cuddle your children and hear about their day, tuck them up with a kiss and focus on what you do have, what you can do, the person you can control.
And let the rest go.