A while back I wrote a blog called Suck it up. The blog can be seen here.
Why would I revisit the same blog. As we write, we learn. The original blog was important for me in that it pitted me as a writer against the idea of weakness. As Americans, especially as males, we are taught to suck it up. It’s a fierce and indomitable force in male psychology.
But what is lost through abuse? It’s life. When you get beyond the original damage, damage that is not a choice but is a programmed reaction to certain experiences as infants and children, you get to the crime: the theft of the living of life on a level playing field. If life is difficult enough, wearing a yoke of stone that prevents you from seeing the world clearly simply makes the task of daily life much like treading water.
For those of us who are the victims of abuse of any kind, there is always a temptation to find a way to muscle our way out of the demons that eat at our soul. “Muscle” is a perfect word because you are always supposed to be able to find a way to overcome your fears and the obstacles to living up to your full potential by punching your way out of the box you’re in; it’s part of our heritage to be “warriors”. The sad part is muscling is the last thing that you need to do. To understand what you are trying to “suck up” is really the key.
What the original blog discusses that is important, important for abuse victims and the purveyors of the “suck it up” mentality, is that we are not, by nature, glorious warriors who gird their loins and go into battle. As babies we are empty vessels who respond to a specific set of actions by adults. What that means is NOT that if you are genetically weak in some way that you will be adversely affected by less than optimal parenting. It means that the equipment you are given as an infant will create issues immediately and in later life if you are not nurtured correctly. This is not an issue of character or “good upbringing” but a biologically programmed reaction.
This will upset many people who would like to think of humans as the masters of our own destiny but it shouldn’t. In the long run, we are masters of our own destiny. But what happens in the case of children lacking decent care as babies is what is called “failure to thrive”. Babies don’t and can’t decide to have this happen in a fit of weakness; their perceptual abilities are not up to the task of making that kind of decision. And what occurs over time are symptoms such as a predilection for substance abuse, health issues, a tendency toward involvement in crime and recidivism. What is worst of all is that many of these horrors are based on an altered perception that comes with a failure to thrive. I’ve come to call this perception “shit colored glasses”.
And here is where the rubber definitely meets the road. If you have a synthetically produced perception of failure, persecution, paranoia, etc that follows you around and refuses to exit the premises, you will approach every situation, new and old, with all those monkey’s on you back. The horrible kicker is that, more often than not, these perception are not seen as “wrong” but normal. If reality is an internal trench war, then how can you see your way clear to “the light” that people speak so freely about? The deck is stacked against you and you aren’t fully aware it’s happening.
So why a second version of this blog? After all, I could have written a new one J. What has become obvious to me is that all types of abuse, and there are many of them, result in this same long term live in demons. Some people can get past this…to some extent, but there is always wrestling with damaged perception.
What brought this to my attention and, perhaps a more critical reason to re-write this blog, is my particular form of abuse. Not having experienced one of the more sensationalistic forms of abuse, I had myself convinced that what I had experienced was not abuse, just perhaps some bad parenting that could be ignored with enough sucking it up. The problem is that my life has been characterized by a rather rabid desire to avoid just about anything positive that wasn’t absolutely necessary even if it meant a sub-standard life. No risks, no noticeable achievements, being trapped in dead end jobs, staying in toxic situations long after it was obvious it was time to go. A life controlled by fear and ruled by the hope that nothing threatening would happen to me, ever. All this was a trade off for a false sense of safety which became my holy grai. From certain points of view a silly, unworthy life.
And, more to the point, there has been a sort of odd “fog” that has characterized my perception since I was a child. The fog itself has helped block any sense of initiative or ambition and also has kept me anesthetized from a sort of a knee jerk anxiety that is always present. Lacing the fog is an insidious “fear” of getting shafted. The creepy thing about this fear is that, more often than not, there has always been a real-life manifestation of the “threat” actually appearing in the form of hostile or neglectful figures in my life. Over and over again.
I don’t feel sorry for myself. But that last part is the creepiest part; I am not one for mysticism. And yet, like many people I have encountered the same “people” and “situations” over and over again with enough variation to initially convince me that history isn’t repeating itself, at least at the beginning. This underscores the power of the “shit-colored glasses” to do an incredibly effective job keeping you off balance and ruining your life.
The result of living this kind of life is a loss of life. At the age of 57 I can definitely attest to the fact that I have lost ground that I will never regain. And I mourn the losses that coming generation will experience; that is the reason to blog and to keep beating the drum, not matter what. As I often do, I dwell on the sadness of what is lost by quoting a poem that puts the experience into perspective. It’s the poem “Maud Muller” by John Greenleaf Whittier. The quote is as follows:
“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.”