Wednesday, August 17, 2016

On Being an Enemy

I was not born to be an enemy, nor am I "wired" to be an enemy. I have lived enough trauma in my life to give me my guarded places, my triggers,my vulnerabilities, and my often stultifying insecurity.
But an enemy? I've lived my life trying to please people. I've wanted to fit in. I've hated feeling so weird, different, and isolated and have gone to opposite extremes to be non-threatening and compliant.
It isn't like I don't make relational mistakes. Some weeks feel like one long attunement desert, and I have to go about figuring out how to reconnect.
But the bottom line is, I care about my relationships. Issues and all, I care deeply for the people I love.
No matter what mistakes I've made, I did not sign up for being an enemy.

It has been one long journey into the heart of grief, and indeed, being faced with that most basic human task: to make meaning of  suffering. In my case, it is a manifestation of monumental projection of a group of people that drives me to seek meaning.


In 1991, when my first baby was a mere 3 months old, I mustered up all the parenting excitement of my 23-year-old self and took her to see Beauty and the Beast. It was a silly thing to take a baby to a movie, but I was new at parenting and it was what I did. In the movie, a group of townspeople, led by a witless brute, sought to prove their capabilities and strength against the Beast. Now, the beast had done nothing to them but symbolize the reflection of their own beastly natures. They were scared of themselves, in essence. They made an enemy out of the beast that did not seek to harm them and had lived in isolation. The townspeople lied about the Beast's true nature and put scary qualities on him. The Beast was human all along, and just needed someone to recognize his humanity and have compassion for that; someone who saw the truth all along and did not imagine some Beast. In fact, he was more "human" than the townspeople who scapegoated him. They made an enemy of him and forced him to fight them out of their fear and hatred. They operated out of their illusions. I understand this dynamic all too well.



Of course, we never saw in the story how the Beast grappled with the fact that he was being made an unwilling enemy, that there were people who wanted him to suffer and enjoyed his suffering, and how his struggle to make meaning with this cruel situation contributed to his transformation. I would point out that his anger created his transformation as well. Without his anger, he would not have achieved the courage and clarity of spirit to touch his humanity.
The enemy-makers in my case are in healing professions. My prayer for them is that someday, someday, they will run into a woman like me, one who has been betrayed and made into an enemy. I hope she asks the same questions of them: why has God forsaken me? why are there people who gloat and revel in the suffering of a human being they once professed to love? why do humans put on the mask of love but carry hatred in their hearts and deeds? why don't they stop this suffering?


They will have to face helping her sort out a situation that makes no sense on a moral, ethical, or spiritual level.  They will have to guide her towards making making meaning of this particular type of suffering, one that is so blatantly senseless and preventable.
They will have to then think of me differently, not as an enemy, but as a human being.
Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk says in his vital, wonderful book, “The Body Keeps The Score”:
“Trauma almost invariably involves not being seen, not being mirrored, and not being taken into account. " Enemy-makers will have to do what they did not do in my case: come to terms with their own illusions of beasts, and how that imagined beast is actually a reflection of their own unresolved darkness. They will have to gather in the fact that they caused trauma in another human being, that they initially drove another person from God while professing their ministries. They will have to muster up the compassion, empathy, and self-awareness they could not find before. They will ultimately have to face themselves, or they could continue to choose not to. 
I find my way to God despite their actions. And I hope they, too, find their way to God. For I am often selfish, and do not consider that when one conjures up an enemy to start a war, there are losses on their side, too. For instance, friends..childhood friends...have been cast aside in favor of carrying the torches of accusation. Relationship with me, peace, stability for the broken family...these have been sacrificed in favor of the spoils of war: moments to gloat, moments of victorious demeaning, all the room in the world to harshly judge and blame without measure, creating destruction without actually having to take responsibility. No one can knowingly cause suffering in another without damaging their own integrity. 
A friend of mine said to me, "Do not pray for what is fair. Pray for what is merciful." I am not a beast, or an enemy. I am a human being, striving and reaching, made clear and courageous through anger, and seeking to make meaning of being portrayed as a "beast" and being made into an unwilling enemy. 

I draw upon the wisdom of William Shakespeare.  From Portia in "Merchant of Venice":



"The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there."


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