Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On Emotional Abuse

This is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart.  Well, it's near.  As an escapee from a few emotionally abusive relationships, I have spent quite a bit of my life licking my emotional wounds, and for a while I jumped from one abusive relationship to another, each consistently worse than the one before it.  It got to the point where I took a break from dating for years because I didn't trust myself to make choices that would be healthy, either in a partner, or in a relationship.  Put simply, I was such a mess I didn't think it was fair to inflict myself on anyone else.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  I'm already at the end of my journey, and I haven't even started from the beginning.  The following is a list, gathered from several different sources which I will cite at the end of this essay, of behaviors that can be classified as emotional abuse.  To be clear, if any, or even a few of these behaviors have happened once in your relationship, it is not necessarilly an abusive relationship.  Just as with the determining characteristics in psychological disorders, abusive relationships require consistency and longevity in their determining factors.

Putting down your dreams and goals
Threatening to use a weapon against you
Name-calling and put-downs
Yelling and screaming
Intentionally embarrassing you in front of other people
Keeping you from seeing or talking with friends and family
Telling you what to do
Using online communities or cell phones to control, intimidate, or humiliate you
Making you feel responsible for the abuse
Threatening to commit suicide in order to manipulate you
Threats of violence and harm to you or people you care about
Threats to expose your secrets

Do you feel that you can't discuss with your partner what is bothering you?
Does your partner ridicule you for expressing yourself?
Does your partner limit your access to work, money or material resources?
Has your partner ever stolen from you? Or run up debts for you to handle?
Does your relationship swing back and forth between a lot of emotional distance and being very close?
Have you ever felt obligated to have sex, just to avoid an argument about it?
Do you sometimes feel trapped in the relationship?
Has your partner ever thrown away your belongings, destroyed objects or threatened pets?
Are you afraid of your partner?

I experience many of these things over the course of my addiction.  And it was an addiction.  I was addicted to the feeling that if I was just "enough," the abuse would stop and my partner would go back to being the person they "had been" or that I had convinced myself they were.  That's the hard part, is that most abusers are not inherently bad people.  Perhaps they have traumatic pasts, or emtional or physical problems that "make them the way they are"... well, sure.  If you believe that people are purely emotional creatures, entirely ruled by their emotions, and incapable of assimilating new input and information into their world views.  But on some level, every miserable person chooses to be miserable.  And of course misery loves company.

But it's never enough.  The problem with a relationship like this is that you feel responsible for the other person.  You feel like they wouldn't be so possessive or controlling of you if they didn't truly love you and need you.  So you keep pouring love and nurturing into the person, hoping to fill the void in them so that maybe one day, they'll give back.  The problem is that abusive people don't have any self-love to fall back on.  They feed on the love of others because they don't have any of their own.  They will never give back because they have nothing to give. 

At some point, something clicked in my head.  I  had gotten to the point where I was so done with the abuse and emotional blackmail that I just didn't care if my partner hurt themselves anymore.  And what's more, I realized that I didn't have to feel that way; that being miserable wasn't a part of life, it was a direct result of the choices I had made, and of my continued choice to stay in my current relationship.  So I did what any logical person would do, and called my dad.  Okay, so it was totally a cop-out moving back in with my parents, but it was one of the best things I have ever done for myself.
The healing process was hard.  At first, I was totally adrift emotionally.  I had spent so much time being told that my decisions were wrong, my dreams unrealistic, myself worthless that I had no confidence in my ability to make my own choices.  Then, I swung completely the other way, positive that my experiences had given me unique insight into relationships, and I saw abuse and neglect everywhere I looked.  Eventually, the pendulum swung back to center, and now I try to see the big picture in everything, but it was a long journey, years in the making.

What makes getting out of these relationships and staying out of them so hard is a general quality of the people who find themselves in them in the first place: slightly lower-than-average self-esteem.  For whatever reason, "fixers" and "nurturers" don't quite value themselves as they should, and so convince themselves that the only partners they're worthy of are, in some way, "damaged goods".  To further complicate the issue, "fixers" will often subvert their needs to their partners in the beginning of a relationship, establishing a precedent that in the wrong situation can become hard to break.  Self-love is not built in a day, and it isn't something that, once acheived, is a given. It is a consistently active process. Just like love between two people, love for yourself needs to be fed, and nutured in order to thrive.

But it is possible.  To escape, to rebuild, and yes, even to love and trust again.  Believe me, I know.

If you are interested in further researching this topic, these are just some of the websites I found:


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Other People's Drama

I pride myself on being where drama goes to die.  I have surrounded myself with people in my life with whom I feel comfortable addressing problems directly rather than feeling the need to ignore their failings lest the friendship suffer, or worse, discussing the issues I have with them with other people at length and letting things fester.  This would make me, as one of my roommates in college put it, "a mean bitch."  You either like the people you spend time with, or you don't and if you don't, why spend time with them?

This is a great plan, but it has a flaw.  I am not an island.  My life invovles other people, as it should, and where there are other people, there are personalities, and life events, and yes, even flaws.  Flaws that aren't ignorable, but are part of them what makes them who they are.  Not to mention the fact that I am well aware that not everyone has the same ideas that I do about facing interpersonal conflicts head-on.  And so, with those people come their drama.

I named this post "Other People's Drama" because many times their conflicts and problems don't directly concern me.  A friend is losing their job, or breaking up with their spouse (who is not another friend of mine), or having issues with their children's school.  These are big issues, and hard issues, and I can listen to them, and cry with my friends, or tell them to get their head out of their ass, whatever they need. 

Then there's the drama in which I am indirectly involved.  My friend breaks up with her boyfriend and he becomes my roommate.  Another friend cheats on her husband with someone I'm seeing.  These are serious issues, and while I did nothing to cause them, they still affect me.  These are rough, because they involve people who are intrisic and central to my life.  And for the most part, this is the kind of  "Other People's Drama" I have to deal with. 

The hard part, though, is when I've hurt someone.  And the hardest part is when I've hurt someone without realizing it or meaning to, and sometimes just by existing.  Because what do you do?  The "wrong place/wrong time" for someone else is the absolute "right place/right time" for me.  I don't mean to get a promotion, a spot on an album or a lover over someone else, but I do.  By virtue of those things happening to me, it means it doesn't happen to someone else, or maybe even changes someone else's life.

We are often not given to know the cost of our happiness until it's too late to alter course.  And while my conscience might chaff at getting joy out of something that brings pain to others, who am I to question the gifts of fate?  I suppose in the end, I have to do the best with what I'm given in life and hope it's good enough, and try to minimize the damage my happiness causes to others.  I want the world to be happy, but I know that the only happiness I can truly control is my own.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Zombie Plan

I heard an "Off Air" tone coming from my neighbor's TV this morning, and of course like any self-respecting self-rescuing princess, my first thought was "ZOMBIEOCALYPSE!"  And so, I began to contemplate my zombie plan. 

Most zombie movies work on the theory that zombie-ism is a virus that takes at least 12 hours to incubate, results in death and then reanimates the infected, who now have no mental acuity and an insatiable appetite for human flesh.  It also assumes that somehow a significant percentage of the population will be able to survive an attack, escape, and continue to live long enough for infection to take hold.  Given this, if the virus is going to spread globally, the zombies will have to be roughly 25% slower or weaker than normal humans in order to allow incubation.

There is also the assumption is many movies that virus will originate in a majorly populated area that is a center for world travel, and is near enough to some sort of research facility where the virus will have originated as a (theoretically containable) biological weapon.  Given this, and given the fact that the US military is the only organization in the world with both the resources and the hubris to create something so destructive, that narrows the origination points to two places: The Pentagon and Area 51.  As many have tried to prove the existence of Area 51 and all have failed, the most likely city for the zombie virus to begin is therefore Washington DC.

Given this, we know two things: One, the US government will be all but non-existent once the virus takes hold.  And two, given the number of foreign dignitaries and private jets in the city, as well as it's proximity to New York City, is is very likely that the virus will have spread world-wide within two weeks, however, we on the West Coast will have between three days and a week to plan.

We know from Zombie movies that holing up in a mall or fortified bunker never works.  Eventually the food or ammo runs out.  Or some crazy power-hungry control freak starts killing everyone off because they're paranoid.  Or some stranger you've never met but suddenly have a great loyalty and affection toward because, well, they're not a zombie, does something stupid and you end up making some half-cocked rescue attempt only to be overcome by the ravenous horde beyond the confines of your makeshift fortress.

So, the most obvious solution is of course to remain mobile.  You can move from town to town, following the food and ammo, and keeping ahead of the ever-increasing shambling masses.  You'll of course want to skirt large cities, as the more largely traveled areas will have a higher risk of infection.  Theoretically, if you're able to assemble a fortified vehicle and plenty of guns ahead of time, you can keep moving for the time it takes for all the zombies to die of starvation.  There is a flaw in this plan, however, as eventually the food and ammo will run out.

My plan is a bit different, if unconventional, and that is to go underground.  Way underground, in a retired nuclear silo.  With enough preparation, you can set up a renewable food source, the details of which I refuse to share here, and even take a few friends with you.  And since you're about 40 yards below the surface of the earth, you can fortify the entrance back to the surface, and ensure that the mongol horde will never find.

So there it is, my zombie plan.  Now look into the end of this silver pen, I have to erase your memory...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

An Open Letter to the Thorn in My Side

Dear Jerk-Face,

As a matter of fact, I am qualified to teach an acting class.  If you'd like to take that up with the UCLA Theater Film and Television Department, you're welcome to do so, as I am confident they will confirm both my credentials and my talent in the particular field of acting.  If you require further credentials beyond the University of California's scope, I can provide you with several references from professionals in the Entertainment Industry who's knowledge and experience are well-known and beyond reasonable question.

Your failure to see how said class might be beneficial both personally and professionally to those who were formerly your students makes me question the validity of your continued involvement in a program for which you have shown marked contempt and disdain, and in which you have shown a marked inability to administrate.  The amount of time I have spent, in the short time in which I have functioned in my new position, cleaning up your administrative messes is astonishing and disheartening, and I'm sure would prove very interesting to those to whom you are so quick to report what you perceive to be my own professional failures.

Furthermore, you are neither my direct report, nor the direct report of any of the instructors in said program, and therefore your continued involvement in my activities on-campus is therefore not only annoying, but also inappropriate.  I would also like to add that if you would like to smack me in the face for mentioning the class that brings me great joy in it's instruction, and brings my students great joy in learning, I cordially invite you to do so, and see what happens to your continued employment at the current learning institution which I am unfortunate enough to share with you.

On a personal note, I do apologize for the female gender that the best companionship you seem to find is in the cold hard metal of the various coins you obsess in collecting.  I have tried on numerous occasions to reach out to you on this level, but you seem to have an unwarranted contempt for me, the source of which I can only conclude has nothing to do with myself, as I have always endeavored to be both professional and polite to you.  In conclusion, I would like to invite you to kiss my proverbial buttocks, and enjoy the knowledge that you are both ineffectual and powerless to affect me or my continued instruction.  To use an informal-yet-fitting colloquialism: Bite me.

The Self-Rescuing Princess.