Today, we’re grateful to @ivavnuk for his guest post on his experiences…
Having read the powerful and thought provoking post by Amanda here. I thought it might be worth sharing my own experience.
Perhaps for my own post to have context it may help to know something of my own background – and I think you could find some of that in a piece I wrote some time ago here.
Amanda’s post picked out the shift in perception that comes when you view someone’s actions as a product of their own experience – where empathy brings a clarity that can transform blame and turn a villain into a victim…
Now to try and bring some clarity to my own point – I’ll talk from my own experience…
I realised two things early on:
One – that on some level my brother and sister were in need of some apology or acknowledgement from my Birth Dad, for the violence he’d brought upon us. Some process to enter into with him, which would allow them to express and release their anger, fear, and their grief.
Two – that wasn’t going to happen.
So, I undertook to try and cast off my burdens myself – part of that journey was coming to understand why it happened.
I think where a parent is throwing you against a wall or a wrapping a washing line around your neck to hang you in the garden, you don’t think ‘he’s had a bad day at work’, you think it’s about you, you think that on some level you deserve it. And I think, that in a way that no other lesson could, it teaches you to feel that fundamentally you are a piece of shit.
As we grew up of course we came to know, that ‘no – this isn’t right, this isn’t how it should have been’. He becomes a villain. Sadly though the lesson is not overturned where it needs to be – in the root of your being. It’s only the mind that recognises that what happened was wrong – the body somehow still believes its lesson,
So, back to my story; I started to learn about his own past and understand, on a slightly deeper level, that he and his behaviour was a product of his upbringing. It wasn’t about me, it was about him.
I struggled between two views: for myself I knew that blaming my own background for the quality of my life, just gave more permanence to my burden. Viewing myself as a product of my conditioning disempowered me from changing.
Conversely: taking personal responsibility for my experience and actions empowered me to change, and yet here I was absolving someone of their personal responsibility to not injure and frighten their children.
I guess the Christian outcome would be to forgive them – that’s not quite where I ended up. I think letting go would be more accurate to my experience.
What I came to understand for myself was that flexibility of vision was more useful than deciding which view was right – having both views at your disposal was more beneficial.
Despite their contradiction, together they brought more balance:
Recognising the effects of my background helps forgive my own shortcomings in myself – Recognising personal responsibility allowed me to jolt myself out of being a victim and start again. Recognising the effects of my Birth Dad’s background helped me let go of it being personal and see him as a victim – Recognising his responsibility stops me invalidating the emotional experience that what had happened was deeply wrong.
Sometimes I think some things should not be forgiven.
Maybe I’ve a bit to go yet still, but that flexibility of perception contributed greatly to allowing me to retrace my steps back towards the root of my being and to start undoing what had been done there. To start to realise that I wasn’t a piece of shit – that I was basically and fundamentally good.
Perhaps I could finish with a short story….
So, as a young man I found myself at that surreal event of attending my Birth Dad’s wedding. Surrounded by his new friends and people soon to be his new family, all strangers to me – who knew him as a gregarious, overbearing, smiling man – who worked too hard in company and seldom told the truth.
Now, I’d reached a point in my own journey where I felt it important to have a genuine gesture with each member of my family, just to tie things off – just a moment of recognition between us that would cut through our neuroses, cut through our fears, and enable us to share a moment of total honesty. It was something I thought would never happen with my birth Dad.
Now, back to the wedding reception…
Amongst the things he gave me, was being dysfunctional in large groups and the fact that loud noises scared me – so I found myself taking ‘5’ hiding in a toilet cubicle (hey you take whatever space is available!), when two guys came in for a pee. I overheard them say:
“So, what do you think of Bob then?”
(Distorted party music in the distance)
”Well …” (sound of zips going up) ….. “he’s full of shit – but I think he’s alright. I quite like him”
And they left.
And I thought – “you know what – I kind of feel the same….”
I came out the cubicle, washed my hands and was just about to leave – when who should I surprise as they walked in – but my birth Dad.
On some visceral level I knew this was the moment – and before he could slip into character I started:
“Do you know – I’ve just been in the cubicle and heard two guys talking about you”….. (pause – I looked at him and he was terrified) …. “…and one said to the other: ‘So, what do you think of Bob then?’… and the other other guy said: ‘I think he’s alright. I like him’ …………. And do you know what Dad? So do I”
Then he was back in character and it was brushed off – but I’d had my gesture, we had shared a look that went from my centre to his. Of course – it would never be spoken of.
You may wonder why I changed their words?
That was because I knew that if he was ever going to begin his journey to being healed – it would need to begin from recognising that he was basically good too.