Shadow work

Last night before bed, I began wondering aloud about people who invite you into their space, where they then treat other people horribly in front of you. This causes the esteem you give the people who invited you, to drop. Sometimes, like a rock. Yeah, I know, “judge not lest ye be judged,” or whatever, but I’m not Christian. And I’ve been judged. By Christians. And the vast majority of the incidents I’m thinking of, had to do with other people at least implicitly judging the people they were treating horribly. And now that I think of it, most of them have Christian backgrounds. (No, this post is not about Christians or Christianity. This is about people treating other people horribly, and its effects.)

Is it their intent to destroy goodwill directed toward themselves? Why do people do this? Do they not understand that their actions have consequences? That other people have feelings about how they treat others (aside from the real harm they may be doing to their targets)? I have numerous examples of this dynamic; at least four from within my own family circuit, none of which are necessary to get into right now.

Do they not understand that I understand that if a person abuses someone else in front of me, I know that I will eventually come up on the menu? The problem isn’t about the person being abused. It’s about the abuser, and their pattern of behavior, and their method of control. An invitation into a venue from someone who then tries to shame another invited person in front of me means that I am somehow involved in this theater of play, as either supporter of the accuser or victim of the accuser (or, I suppose overall, witness to the accuser). If I don’t want to be involved, I don’t have to be there at all. But is that the best response? Is there an option besides confrontation or avoidance?

At a certain point in the conversation (this was a conversation), it became noted that I seem to, “find things to be angry about.” To me, this seemed to happen expressly because I have so many examples of other peoples’ screwed-up behavior targeting other people (including myself) within arm’s reach at any one moment.

I should note that the Creative Writing class I was taking on trauma and writing has ended. I am still engaged with the counselor whom I committed to seeing, at the same time. Even though I am dealing with anger issues, they are apparently not extreme enough to qualify as, “anger issues.” Is this just because I keep myself well-enough under control? Probably.

Toward the end of the conversation — and this was at around midnight this morning — I did say that I realized at a certain point, while working at my first job, that it was in a Public Space. I felt I was never safe in a Public Space, and so I needed to keep my guard up and be hypervigilant, because I could be attacked at any moment, from anywhere — as I was trained into from Martial Arts. I didn’t specify all of this, but it is essentially what I felt, and what I meant. No, Martial Arts don’t all the time, necessarily help a person with their anxiety. Generational trauma can in fact be passed on from teacher to student.

The response was, “if you could never feel safe, you shouldn’t have been working there.” It would have been nice if someone had told me that, then. Okay. But it clarifies that this was another thing that I, “shouldn’t have had to go through,” like the persistent pestering from one regular when I cut my hair short; or the guy who wouldn’t stop trying to force me to take his candy; which no one alerted me to, beforehand (with the exception of kindergarten, in relation to the candy — seriously, what the–).

Like I said: in arm’s reach.

I keep this stuff in the forefront of my mind in order to retain control of my psyche; so I don’t forget who I am. (I have gone back and forth with the phrasing, here, and have decided to keep it.) I fear that if I allow myself to relax, someone is going to blindside me with something idiotic, and because I haven’t been paying attention to my dark side (and I have a whopper of a dark side: it’s why I made the rule for myself that no matter what I felt, I would not [at least, physically] harm other people [etc.]), I’m going to lose control, lash out, and end up in a legal confrontation. Or with a job loss and a bad reference. Or whatever.

In addition, there isn’t likely a person I would come across who would actually deserve to be a target of decades of pent-up rage. Sometimes it’s not about them. Sometimes it’s about me, and just because I may handle my issues poorly, that doesn’t mean others deserve to suffer. Even when they seem to offer themselves as a sacrifice — to what, I don’t know. (Do they?)

It’s really, really obvious sometimes, when people who have no experience in dealing with their own darkness, try to engage with their own negative emotions, and don’t know how to do so in a way so they aren’t just a butt. I’ve known some. They are not pleasant to know, especially when they are still attempting to come to grips with the fact that they are an entire human being.

A decade or two ago, “shadow work” came into vogue in the New Age sector near me. My issue at the time was more finding the light — or perhaps the substance in light — that was casting the shadow, not trying to get to know something that I’d disowned. Similarly speaking, shadow selves — let me speak for myself — my shadow self is not entirely evil and gross. He is male; I (speaking for the whole, here) am not. There are important self-protective and self-reclaiming, self-possessing qualities to my shadow. (And it would be nice if I could access them, without being triggered. Maybe the fact that he comes out when he is triggered, is the reason for the triggers to keep coming up, and unpairing them would help.)

There is an important element of liberty there, in the sense that I have a choice as to what I will do. It’s not all predetermined. I don’t have to follow a script. Not following a script, keeps me safer where it comes to others’ attempted manipulations. Because when people try to manipulate, they try to guess what you will do if they do one thing or another. The uncreative, follow the script.

My problem is a procedural one: I’ve learned to keep my shadow in the forefront of my consciousness so that I can monitor it. “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer,” so to speak. Of course, keeping everything triggering and problematic one has ever experienced in the forefront of one’s mind (so that one doesn’t lose touch with it) has a tendency to make one a fairly miserable person, because then one is constantly reliving everything painful (and often painful events are so stupid and unnecessary, we could all have done without their existence in the first place) one has ever experienced.

This is in an effort to keep past experiences from repeating themselves in the present and future: but guess what? If you’re constantly reliving these same experiences in the present, then they are repeating themselves in your present, despite your efforts to stop them: because by trying to keep them from happening again, you’re constantly revisiting the past to revive and remember them.

If you don’t release the negative memories (to what? I don’t yet know, but I feel I can generate someplace gentle enough), they are guaranteed to arise again in your future, simply because you become their necromancer and keep raising their ghosts. Ghosts are things that haunt. They are things that repeat. They are often based on trauma. They do not exist now. I know of no better metaphor.

What I was told last night is that I don’t have to worry about past experiences repeating in the future, because they will never repeat. I can see this from a couple of different views. One, from the perspective of trauma: whenever something happens to trigger that memory and transport you back to that moment (a flashback), the trauma will repeat unless you can break out of it (through something like a grounding exercise to remind yourself that you are not there then, you are here, now). Two, I will never be at the same place in my development again, where the same person at the same point in their development will be attempting to control me and I will have no experience with the situation, no help, and no idea what to do.

The fear of the episode repeating, that is, is the fear of the initial trauma being triggered and then repeating in one’s mind. The exact situation never recurs, except psychologically — and it could be recurring on a daily basis, psychologically.

What I’ve been told is that I need to let go of the past so that I can get “unstuck” and embrace the future. As hard as it is to envision any future, right now.

Maybe that’s the point.

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