Friday, May 13, 2011

Value what you know with your mind. Value more what you know with your heart.

     "Think for yourself" and "Question everything" are phrases I heard and championed in college.  I absolutely thrived in classes where I was not only allowed but encouraged to explore the basis of everything I knew.  The point of course, was to let me discover that life was more than what it seemed, that there were more angles than the ones I had been raised on, and to teach me to consider instead of blindly accepting what I was told.  I doubt any of my professors could have understood the repercussions such a lifestyle would have on this particular student.
     Nothing in my life was as it seemed.  I questioned everything expecting for the most part to simply be reassured of what a solid structure my life was and instead found it crumbling around me.  Nothing in my life could withstand questioning, because nothing I had been taught was real. 
     For the first time, I believed what I saw and thought over what I was told.  It was quite the daring thing in my world, to trust your own mind.  Few people could believe that any abuse, much less something so severe, could happen in a home like mine.  It took a long time to find people who understood and believed what was happening in my home, and fewer the degree that it happened in.  And as knowledgeable as people got, the ones who understood, told me to get out.  I finally had validation from outside myself to do what I had to do.  These few people, which in my relief I clung to as my only salvation, understood evidence of what was rather than a wish of what should be.  It was harsh to accept that my parents could deliberately hurt me, indeed, that any parents could.  But they do.  Abuse is chronic in the world and most people ignore it on the pretext of love.  "I love them, they love me, they would not hurt me and if they do, it is an accident."  An accident implies that it will not be repeated or carried out with such precision as abuse usually is.  Neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse- these all have a devastatingly strong impact on a person that science is just beginning to uncover.  Only a few generations after the Holocaust we are still struggling to understand humanity and just how fragile it can be, and testing ourselves to find how strong we can be to balance that.
     The truth in my family is that it was an abusive one, not a loving one- and they knew it.  I constantly challenged this for myself, going over everything I could remember and ruthlessly scrounging for any scrap of defense on their behalf.  To them I said very little, a silence which seemed to make them nervous, and they started talking.  Everything they said, though meant to discredit me and herd me back into the fold, actually said volumes about what they knew.  If what I knew wasn't enough, listening to what they knew and the guilt in their voices was.
     No one seemed to understand why I could not let it rest after that.  Why was it so important to me?  Because if I keep following what I know before what others know, I know that this is not the whole truth.  Abusive people use the lie of love as an excuse to cover their actions, which are deliberate.  Very often, they won't change, and they certainly can't be changed by anyone else.   That doesn't mean that love is not there.  Believing in love for a survivor of abuse seems risky because of the strong desire to use it to cover a multitude of sins.  Most people in abusive situations want to cling to any reason to believe that everything is all right so they can stay.  Love is a huge reason, an overwhelming reason.  Combined with the tendency of abusers to play that to their advantage, to profess love so their victim will stick around while they continue to lie and hurt, love can be a very dangerous game.  Finally getting out of this web can quite sensibly makes survivors want to renounce all love between them and the abuser/family/parent/lover.  It does seem that any love there was a lie, a manipulation.
     That is the greatest lie of all: that after having escaped all that they have reduced your capacity to love, or your belief in it.  That I think is one of the worst affects of abuse, that it is people convincing other people not to love.  Certainly it should never be used as a lie or a cover, and survivors have perhaps learned the hardest lesson of caution.  I firmly believe with my mind that no one should tolerate or excuse abuse for any reason.  I believe there is no excuse for abuse, no legitimate reason to defend a person committing it.  That any person victimized by abuse has every right to leave, and no obligation to excuse or contact their abuser.  I firmly believe with my heart that every person is worthy of being loved, no matter what they have done, no matter who they are - abusers, bullies, and criminals included.  That love is never a lie or an excuse.  That love and the ability to love is the right of every creature.
     I know this without reading it or being told, I think everyone came into this world knowing this.  I think we are convinced to disregard what we inherently know, and we spend the rest of our lives searching to discover it again.

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