Finding Peace — Manuscript Post #10
–What was done to me
Whenever I describe things that happened to me I choose to use the phrase “what I experienced”. This is a very conscious choice. I started out using the phrase “what was done to me”. I choose not to say this because it isn’t constructive. As I went through therapy I found the more I focused on what happened to me, not on who I blamed for what happened, the more I could understand what happened.
I don’t believe the people I grew up with did anything ‘to me’. Yes, their actions affected me in ways that caused me to have emotional issues that led eventually to my having symptoms that needed treatment. But they did what they did and I just happened to be there. They didn’t look around and decide to do what they did just to hurt me.
This is important because it allows for the fact that those around me cared for me. They may well have been doing the best they could. This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have done better and in some cases a lot better. This doesn’t change the impact their behaviors had on me. But it allows for the seemingly contradictory facts that I experienced things that hurt me, things that were done by people that cared for me.
I don’t think they even realized the impact their actions were having on me at the time. I think they were surviving the best they could. This is not an excuse for my parents behavior, but it allows me to focus on understanding what happened to me as a result of what I experienced.
I have made up a term — paranoid narcissism — to describe the view that some people have, the view that other people are really out to get them. The vast majority of people aren’t out to get me or anyone else. The world doesn’t revolve around me. My parents, my family, coworkers, strangers, none of them planned to upset me or cause me pain.
–People get lost
I think this is where many people get lost. Whether or not therapy is involved, once they determine that something was done to them, they identify the source of their issues and they blame someone or something. Blaming others for whatever we experienced doesn’t help. It makes us bitter, not happy. Even if you are correct that someone is to blame for your issues, you can’t go back in time and make them do the right thing. You will be angry that you can’t right the wrongs that were done by those you blame. Your anger will affect those around you, your loved ones, your friends and your coworkers. Your anger won’t affect those that you blame.
I encourage you to look for understanding of what you experienced and how it has affected you. I know that I am happier with the outcome of therapy because I didn’t focus on finding someone to blame for my symptoms.
I want to be very clear that I am assuming you are not the victim of some overt criminal act. If you have been the victim of violence, physical abuse or other criminal activity, you certainly need to see the person or persons responsible identified and punished. In a case like that, I would very much want you to blame the perpetrator and see them held accountable. Unless that is the case, I encourage you to not focus on blaming anyone.
Further, blaming someone for your issues must not be used to justify your own bad behavior. Using the past to excuse what you are doing in the present is wrong. We are not responsible for what went on when we were children, but we are entirely responsible for what we do as adults. Yes, what happened to you affected you, but you have a duty to deal with it and not allow the past to ruin your present and future.
–Emotional issues in real life
Throughout this process, I was not mentally ill. Many people have issues that would be helped with therapy, and they are not mentally ill either. We all know people that have experienced serious events. Examples include having a baby, a death of a loved one and a job loss.
After a women gives birth, it is not unusual for her to experience some amount of upset. We call this postpartum depression. We even use the exact word ‘depression’. But we wouldn’t say the mother is mentally ill. Unless this situation becomes significantly worse, she doesn’t have a mental illness. She has a reaction to a significant life event.
The loss of a spouse, a child or a parent are all very serious events that have a serious emotional impact. We all know people that have dealt with these events. We don’t say they are mentally ill because they are upset by these events, and we all know people that continued their lives after various amounts of grieving their loss.
This gets back to an important message. Many people have issues that would be helped through therapy. You don’t have to be a victim of violence or other dramatic events to have been affected by what you experienced. I do not want to diminish the damage done to those that have experienced much worse than I did. But I do want to encourage persons who, like myself, have not been through anything violent, but are affected, and can benefit from therapy.
I think there is a recognition that victims of violent crimes need emotional help. Children that are victims of molestation need emotional help. I think there is less recognition that persons that have not had such traumatic experiences can benefit greatly from therapy.
I encourage you to consider therapy if you have things that upset you and you can’t reasonably explain why. If you hit your thumb with a hammer, you’re upset and you know why. When my symptoms appeared, I had no idea where there were coming from. Therapy help me understand what was happening to me. I benefitted greatly from therapy and I did not experience any overt violence growing up.