So many contradictions have been unravelling in me recently. It has been an endeavour of two parts: one part an intellectual challenge of ‘Western thinking’ and one part delving into my deepest emotions and lived experience of subconscious wounding. The former I have some degree of direction over, the latter has largely happened to me.
The ‘Western Mind’ wants answers! The problem is, often life’s answers are contradictory. But it wants one anyway and this leads it in circles, or even, disastrously, to throw up its arms and say ‘this just doesn’t make sense!’ or ‘that is just the way it is!’ When it comes to abuse and psychology, this is dangerous. Such lack of understand perpetuates the vileness of abuse, and makes a mystery of something which is uncomfortable, but nowhere near as arcane as it may seem.
At any time there are two forces at work, conscious and unconscious. What the unconscious wounded self seeks, may not be what the conscious mind desires. Hence why you can get what you want without knowing why, or get what you want even if it acts against your own wellbeing. People who deal with only the conscious mind, who deny things such as the need to resolve wounds, who naively and arrogantly think they can just override the subconscious, are those most likely to continue destructive patterns. They are also the most likely to be confused, looking for black or white answers and motivations. But something can be black and white at the same time, and this must first be accepted to truly challenge and understand abusive relations.
There are so many contradictions inherent in us, in you, in me. The greatest in my view is the wounded self. As a child one is helpless, in the guardianship of two or more adults. The wounds of that early era go deep, and we all have them. But some people have more wounds than others. A painful childhood, helpless, hurt, wounded, leaves deep scars. There is a fundamental contradiction: no matter how cruel a parent, a child is small and vulnerable, they also need their guardians, who are large and in control.
So when a child is abused and hurt by their guardians, they have contradictory ideas at the core of their subconscious. A child abused will learn whatever strategies they can to deal with a seemingly impossible, inescapable and traumatic experience. These strategies can be carried into adulthood. They evolved for a reason, they had their place, and they are a valid part of their being; when they are used effectively. Yet the love and desire for attachment they feel for their guardians, from an age when they could know no better, also remains. They may want to please their guardians, or even heal their wounds with love. This duty to love is shored up by the values a parent can force into their young – and you don’t have to believe in them for them to work on your subconscious. Simultaneous to belief in obedience and parental authority (i.e. the seeds of abuse), you could believe in dignity and mutual respect. The result is a mangled contradiction.
I want to stand up to these abusive tyrants who caused so much damage, but my deepest core trembles at this great blasphemy. I want to be respected and treated as an equal, yet my deepest core wants to surrender and be cared for by my guardians.
One ultimately has to choose. Do you want to relate with abusers who will likely never change their ways, who will deceive and confuse, hurting themselves and others till the day they die? Or, do you want to learn strategies to cope, and find people who will help you live without that fundamental connection, to stand in truth and face the consequences of such a decision?
What else can I advocate for but that which I truly believe in, at the core of my being. To be free from contradiction, to stand for truth.
Without a font of expression, the contradictory feelings remain in the body, deep, deep at the core. They can make bad feeling seem inevitable and arcane, instigating depression. A child wounded will carry rage at their helplessness into adulthood, lashing out at others without truly knowing why. One of gentler aspect may hurt themselves, with no means of resolving the energies inside them. One who seeks not to understand themselves is the one who is capable of greatest evil. One who denies the power of the deeps, is hiding in cowardice from their own shadows.
Healing the wounded child
The shift away from wounded child to adult is harder than it may seem. Abuse contains the seeds of its replication. Abusers will hold onto whatever power they can, whether or not the outcomes are good. They do not care about wellbeing, they care about power; the domination of others that allows them to escape their inner-fears and feelings of helplessness as children.
Thus the abused and the deeply wounded, no matter how much they may consciously long for something better, have to make that an actuality – this journey always begins against the odds. In a society where it is increasingly more difficult just to meet basic needs, this makes escape even harder. Materially, freedom itself is a challenge.
But there is, I believe, a deeper contradiction and problem, which must precede material challenges. The abused child may have their sometimes-useful shell, but also a deep distrust of the world, and of others. Such distrust is useless. It is very easy to develop a paranoid mind-set, to generalize the world of adults as vile, abusive creatures, when this was your first experience of the world. Yet the distrust perpetuates the abuse, for not being able to love or open up to new people, good people, the abused has to settle for the ‘devil they know’. They also live in contradiction – wanting to be loved but being too distrustful to truly open up; wanting to heal, but daring not to look within.
As I grow older, I learn how important it is to be vulnerable in front of people, and to see it as a sign of strength, a demonstration of trust. The only way out of the abusive relation to the family is to practice this vulnerability with others; to found a new family. Open to the wounded self, we can heal ourselves and heal others at the same time. Trust is needed before healing can take place. Without trust, there is no healing. And without healing, constant healing, the wounds ache, and people continue doing screwed up things. Healing requires an acceptance of our vulnerability, and to turn our love and compassion in upon ourselves, as much as others.
An end to abuse
Abuse benefits no one. The tyrant gains nothing – their wounded selves remain, they paint a sad mark on the tapestry of history, they have not magnanimity of character, and they are essentially the worst of humanity. The abused are least benefited, but worse so if they also become abusers, carrying the attitudes of abuse and the scars of wounding to unfortunate conclusions. There should be no sympathy or respite for those who abuse – to do so is to negate their basic responsibility as sentient creatures. Nothing justifies abuse of another, and to say that being abused determines character is the deepest moral cowardice.
Building a new, mutual way to relate in truth, prepared to face and heal our deepest wounded selves is the only way forward. It is, I would venture, the prerequisite to a better society, and thus world. No ideology or set of attitudes can displace the depth of subconscious desire and motivation, and to live without understanding of this fundamental force is the ultimate folly, and cause of the repetition of so much that is wrong in the world.