I had a little breakthrough in my self-therapy yesterday. Psychological breakthroughs are equally tough to face as they are liberating. It means you have pushed through a wall – and acknowledged something that you haven’t been ready to admit to yourself before and suddenly you are so clear in your mind – and things finally start to make sense.
As I am working with my self-therapy and making research and notes in my notebooks, I often return to the same conclusions, but always with more understanding or new theories which will add something important to the old ones. I gradually build a clear understanding of my own behavior and emotions – and then I can move on and hopefully change from the core out.
One thing that I keep coming back to is my theoriy about the dance of death (the destructive relationship, see older post here). I’ve filled notebook after notebook with theories and illustrations about the cycles of abuse and psychological submission/dominance.
The basic foundation to the dance of death is one person feeling submissive to another who’s acting like a victim that the submissive person is trying to rescue but being dominated and damaged in the process – and ends up a real victim (and the abuser won’t recognize or acknowledge the process of this dance which leaves the submissive person feeling lonely and powerless or doubting the whole experience).
A simple movement of a bad cycle going round and round but each time becoming more toxic and damaging for the person who’s trying to rescue the other (and the fantasy of what it COULD be like if the other person would change their behavior). A base for co-dependency.
This is the first step in getting caught in a destructive relationship – and the reason why many women stay with men who abuse them (or vice versa). But there’s more. Here is a ‘destructive ladder’ I’ve found in my work yesterday:
- Lack of acceptance. I could not accept that the person I loved (and the victim I wanted to rescue in them) could ever abuse me or use psychological manipulation to put me down, to force me into a submissive position, to blame me for their damaging behavior etc, because that meant that I had to leave. The thought of leaving scared me so much that I’d much rather accept being treated badly. Because the abuser doesn’t want to take any responsibility for their actions or words – and their damaging behavior, I was left with all the guilt, shame and the heavy responsibility of blame. That makes it even harder to accept that the relationship is toxic and leaving the ‘victim’ I was trying to rescue is very difficult when you feel responsible. The lack of acceptance made me stay and paradoxically accept the abuse .
- Expectations. Instead of accepting reality, that I was being abused, I turned to my expectations that things would get better or that the person would change, that they would come around and understand what they’ve done and apologize, that I could change them and make them see just how toxic their behavior was, that they would suddenly be full of remorse and regret and cry and promise never to repeat their abusive behavior. Of course that never happened. The lack of acceptance made me stay and accept their abuse and the expectations of a future time where everything would be alright, would make it even harder for me to quit the dance of death.
- Responsibility / Guilt. Because I wanted my expectations to come true, I had to carry the responsibility all alone and not make anything worse by saying the wrong thing, by being confrontational or provocative, I had to adjust my own behavior and censor myself to not make the abuser angry or more hateful. Here is where I would lose myself completely to THEIR expectation of who I should be to them and the guilt I felt for being who I really was made me even more submissive and cemented my role in the dance of death even stronger.
- Blocking out negative emotions. Because of I had to live up to their expectations of how I should behave, what I could or could not say or do, to make them comfortable and happy enough so that they would live up to MY expectations of them (to stop being abusive and start being empathetic and loving), and because I refused to accept the real nature of the relationship, I had to block out the negative emotions in order for the ‘lie’ of the dance to go on. This repressing process of real and powerful emotions is very damaging and leads to a disassociative state, memory loss, depression, separation of the self and makes the dance of death seem natural and normal. It will take a long time to reclaim all these emotions if a dance would ever end.
And it’s not easy to disrupt the cycle or end the endless rotation of the dance. But I did, more than once. If I’d only accepted the reality of the situation and the destructive nature of the relationship, I wouldn’t have stayed in the dance.
This is one of the most important discoveries I’ve made in my self-therapy so far.