My relationship of three months ended recently and I am confused about how I contributed to its abusive aspects. My ex said terribly hurtful things to me, called my behavior “pathetic,” and generally used very harsh, aggressive words. I kept thinking there must be something I did or said that caused his behavior. We’d try to clear the air, but he never promised to stop or even to try to stop. My heart gradually hardened and I would brace myself if I had an e-mail or voice message from him. We have now stopped speaking, but I wonder why I have again ended up with someone who says and does cruel things. I knew that my self-esteem was being compromised, but continued in the relationship. I wish I were the kind of woman who likes or knows herself well enough to say, “This isn’t working for me. I’m moving on.” I feel like I can’t trust myself. I know this has to be my doing, but I am confused about how and worried about being in another relationship without knowing that. Your column always helps me to see the big picture. Now, I hope you can help me see my place in it.
James Joyce once said of himself, “A choice phrase is enough to trigger me.” He was admitting how easy it was for him to be distracted away from a conversation and into the imaginative realm where his literary work was born. The point is that when a person is determined to go somewhere, they will use anything as a trigger. Similarly, if a person becomes addicted to anger, they will unconsciously attach to anything they believe will justify anger. Anger offers a sense of power they do not otherwise believe they possess or provides a release from the tension that they have allowed to build in their lives. In other words, anger is simply a means to what they really want: a greater sense of personal power or less stress. With that in mind, did you cause your former boyfriend’s behavior? No, but you contributed to it by continuing the dating relationship beyond its expiration date (that’s being cruel to yourself).
Perhaps you’re addicted to self-doubt because it’s a delivery system for what you truly seek: self-examination. If you simply commit to spending time each week on compassionate self-review, you won’t have to engage in as many relationship dramas that result in brutal self-examination. Gradually, self-trust will strengthen as you discern your inner voices and choose to listen to that still, small voice that leads you to life-affirming choices and a deeper union with the Divine.
I am writing to advocate Turn Off Your Television Week. Too many people spend too much of their lives zoned out in front of the television, instead of reading and or hanging with friends.
Oops! I opened this e-mail late and the celebrated week is complete. Thank goodness. Sorry, but I don’t think television is the problem. There are plenty of folks who turn off their TVs just to zone out with a paperback equivalent. The real dilemma here is the lack of awakened thought. We need to teach ourselves and others how to turn on our ability to think literally and symbolically, simultaneously. Any medium can be employed to exercise our mind in this way. When we begin to wake up, we understand that television is an entertainment medium, not an educational one, unless we each take it upon ourselves to interact with it differently.