Ghost pathways

May 7, 2013 at 11:02 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

It is sometimes galling exactly how ingrained the abused!person thought processes are. Including the ones that date from my childhood.

Over the last few days, I’ve done some fairly assertive things. I’ve been a bit awkward and spoken my truth about being genderqueer in a religion that can sometimes be obnoxiously binary-orientated. I’ve expressed opinions about all sorts of things in all sorts of places.

And I’ve brought to a close a friendship that had long since ceased to function as one. With someone who used to be one of my best friends, but whose behaviour towards me became gradually more dismissive, more patronising, more unpleasant. Someone who regarded herself quite openly as very much superior to me, especially morally – for being mono, for being het, for being a Christian, for being not as disabled as I am. Who praised herself for “not judging me” for my lifestyle, and “not minding” about my disability. Who regarded herself as a much, much better person than any of my friends. Who refused to acknowledge that she wasn’t my only devout Christian friend. Who showed off about what a wonderful aunt she was about to become, an hour or two after I had told her that my brother had cut off communication between me and his children because I am poly. Who borrowed my things, sometimes without asking, and sometimes lost them. Who ganged up with the Warrior against me, and generally brought out the worst in him. Who demanded constant ego-boosting, but when asked tentatively to say something nice about me, could only remark that I have lots of super friends, and was good about introducing them  to her. Who showed off, repeatedly, about how much more everyone liked her than me. Who crushed me with her pity, and laughed at anything about me she didn’t understand – which was an awful lot. And so on – that’s not an exhaustive list.

I had nothing approximating to enough confidence to pick her up on any of her behaviour at the time. But as I started to realise that every time I saw her I ended up feeling about two inches high – and no wonder, in retrospect – I began to just let the friendship slide. I didn’t reply to her messages, got her off the phone as quickly as I could (not least because I generally hate being phoned, which I had repeatedly told her, but she insisted on doing it anyway).

Last week, I after she left a message on my voicemail saying she wanted to revive our friendship, I sent her a message saying I didn’t want to. That I wished her very well, but I felt that we’d drifted apart, and the friendship wasn’t healthy for me.

I had a passive aggressive response back, but no indication that she’d try to contact me again. Though her implication in the message that she “didn’t judge” me, unlike many of my “other friends and acquaintances”, got under my skin more than I’d like.

And then, a day later, a mutual sort-of friend posted another passive aggressive thing on Facebook, saying that “discarding people isn’t nice” – and making it clear in the comments what he was talking about.

It’s hard. It’s hard, because I was trained from a very young age to be passive and accommodating. To never, *ever* assert myself . And to be pathetically grateful for any crumbs of friendship anyone might deign to bestow upon me. Even if they were stale, or tasted bad. Even if they were poisoned. Because if I wasn’t, then no one would ever want to be my friend again.

It’s easy to see rationally that this was abuse-talk. It’s easy to see rationally that the people who know me best, love me best, and care about me best, all like me being assertive and confident and caring about myself. All support, absolutely, my right to express my opinions, to speak my truth, and to choose where to give my time, energy and love. They *like* the newer, happier Fool. And these are people who aren’t just wonderful to me – these are people with, consistently, better judgement and greater wisdom in all areas of their life, than those who prefer the old Fool, ground down and bowed under and willing to flow wherever a path was cut for me.

Unfortunately, as we all know, knowing something rationally and believing it deep down are very, very different things.

I am getting there. My self-esteem is far better than it used to be. But the old neural pathways are still there in my brain, and when feeling stressed or tired or threatened (or all three), it’s far easier to follow them than to break free of them.

And today, I’m at a horribly low ebb. Low on confidence, very, very low on self-esteem. Convinced that most people are judging me harshly, and wishing that I was the old Fool again. Finding it hard to resist the confirmation bias that means that anyone not actively saying in, ooh, the last couple of hours that they like me, clearly doesn’t. It’s ridiculous, and I know it’s ridiculous. But it’s also very, very hard not to just go along with.

The Magician is being wonderful, as is the Ranger. And as are several of my close friends.

I will get through this, and be more confident again – I have before.

It’s just… a bit frustrating, and a bit scary, and a lot sad. I’m thirty-four. I fervently hope that there will come a day when I will no longer default to abused!person thinking. Hopefully before I am very much older…

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