Friday, May 11, 2012

Feedback from yesterday's post

Yesterday I put up a post about Romney's alleged assault of a fellow student and I very quickly received a response from someone who took issue with what I had to say. Not about Romney, but my statement that integrity is a fixed trait that usually doesn't change over time. She said that statement was hurtful to her.

After re-reading what I wrote, I agreed that it sounded like a sweeping generalization and didn't properly convey what I wanted to say, so I edited it to focus on abuse, which is what I was on about. Though honestly, I'm still skeptical that integrity is something that increases much over time. That just hasn't been my observation. Am I wrong? I'd loved to be wrong about that.

I don't feel that people are incapable of change, or of healing. Far from it. I think healing is one of our primary purposes in life.

She got me to thinking more deeply about the issues of abuse and respect, and what exactly is integrity. To me, all three are connected. Hot-button issues for me, as you probably know.

I feel really, really strongly about assault and abuse. I feel really, really strongly about gay rights (or, as I like to call them, human rights).

In my mind, both are intrinsically tied to respect. Both are intrinsically issues of entitlement. Both involve oppression.

Here is what I've learned about abuse. It is not caused by poor anger management. It is not the result of a bad childhood, or of psychological or emotional problems (though all those things may be present in situations of abuse). Abuse is a problem of values, a distorted sense of right and wrong.

Abuse stems from a distorted sense of entitlement.

I believe that people who can justify carrying out targeted abuse and assault typically do not change over time. Only very, very rarely. Blame, projection and justification are hallmarks of abuse, making these people very resistant to any real change. I've read a lot of research on the subject, trying to make sense of it. It's sobering.

Oh, and something else. Assault is not a prank. Short-sheeting your sister's bed is a prank. Tying someone's shoelaces together is a prank. Disappointed with both Romney and the media for minimizing what happened.

Okay. So the woman who first wrote me. We engaged in a conversation on the topic of personal transformation and I asked her is she wanted to share some of the insights from her own experience in today's post. She did, though prefers to remain anonymous

For the record, I welcome all discussion, regardless of whether you agree with what I have to say, as long as it's communicated respectfully. (Aside to friends of ex: this does not apply to you. If you write me again I will pass your name and address to the media at the time his charges go through -- I'm sure they would love to talk with parents who support the production and distribution of child pornography.) 

Kudos to you 'anon' for having the courage to write and let me know your thoughts.

Anyway, here is her story.

* * *

I am a recovering alcoholic. My father was an alcoholic. My mother was an enabler. My brother was stuck with us.

I was sexually abused by a neighborhood boy a few times and by a family friend for years. When I told my mom the first time she just sort of glossed over it. A few years after it stopped the whole can of worms exploded all over our lives. My abuser died in jail.

Not surprisingly, I had behavioral issues at a young age. I was diagnosed with PTSD. I suffered from depression and a mild form of bi-polar disorder. I always felt less than others. I was lonely and fearful. And sometimes I was angry. I felt persecuted by the other kids at my small school. I was bullied physically and verbally. When I switched to public school I was chased home and threatened on multiple occasions. It sucked.

Sometimes I would bully back. I definitely participated in bullying behavior against a few other kids in middle school. Same same for high school, but by then I was trying to be nicer. But those feelings of inferiority and pain and fear never left me, and colored the simplest interactions with those around me.
I engaged in lying. Cheating. One time in grade school I stole over $100 from other kids during a book fair and bought myself a shitload of books. Eventually I got into drugs like weed and meth. I stole from my family, I stole from stores. I kicked the drugs in my late teens and began using alcohol as my sole escape. As I got older, I began to believe that my only worth was my ass. So I gave it up left and right. I lied to my jobs about why I was late. I stole a TON of merchandise from one employer and sold it to another business for profit. I falsified time sheets, travel mileage, concessions. I have been known to sleep with multiple partners in one night. I may have even raped someone; I don't know. That night only comes to me in my nightmares.

I did some of these things before ever taking my first drink. I did some of these things while under the influence of  drugs or alcohol. I did some of these things while I had no mind-altering substance in my body. My entire outlook was so skewed from my diseases and the previous events in my life it was like viewing the world through a gigantic bubble; EVERYthing was distorted. Someone reading through specific bits of what I have written above could very easily conclude I have no integrity. That I am nothing but a loser, a waste of space. Someone you wouldn't allow near your kids. Someone who belongs in jail or an institution. Someone who needs to be held accountable for their actions and punished. And had you met me during some of those years, you would have been wise to avoid me. Because while my actions were generally dictated by my untreated mental illnesses and emotional scars, they were still my actions. They had tangible effects on others around me. And at that time, I didn't f***ing care. YOUR pain was not as real as mine, so screw you. You were part of my problem.

Thankfully I am no longer that person. I acknowledge that what I did WAS WRONG. Period. No matter what was going on in my life, it does not excuse my actions. I have made amends to all the people I could contact, and written letters to those I could not reach. I have admitted every single thing I have done that was hurtful or wrong to another human being OUTLOUD to a willing listener. I have committed to never doing those things again, and to help others who are suffering wherever possible. Years of work on my emotional and spiritual well being has shown me that I never have to be that person again.

The mental illness is still there. The disease of alcoholism is still there. The fear is still there. So is the loneliness, the anger, the sadness. The inferiority complex is alive and kicking. BUT. It is so much better. I do not steal. I do not cheat. I do not lash out physically. I am now married with a small child and my number one goal is to show my child how to be decent human being. And I believe I can do so, because I have learned to be human. I have learned to have compassion. I have learned how to be honest, especially when I don't want to be. I do not have the luxury of poor or harmful behavior, because if I am not careful I may drink again. And for me, to give up sobriety could mean giving up my hard-won humanity.

* * *

Kristin here again. I'm curious, what are your thoughts on personal transformation? Do you think a person's basic character generally changes through their life? Is that even the right question to ask (how do you define basic character, anyway)? Throwing this one over to you. I'm not sure.

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