For many of us, I think we learned early not to trust our own perceptions. We learned not to notice lies. We learned to believe things were better than they were. Because that’s how you survive in an abusive home when you’re a child. And it’s not always a bad strategy as an adult. When we see the best in others, sometimes that’s what we evoke. But not always...
I suddenly found myself remembering this week times my ex-husband may have lied to me. Times I ignored what would have been red flags to someone else. ("If I were unfaithful would you want me to tell you?") I found myself remembering what (acccording to him) other people supposedly said about me—and that I didn’t have the courage at the time to ask them if it was true. (A friend supposedly upset with me that I was getting divorced. My therapist supposedly agreeing I’d make a really, really good liar—and maybe I was one. Another friend supposedly disparaging my writing. My in-laws supposedly worried about my mental health.) And so it went. For years. Only a chance comment to a friend this last visit back east to see my son made me realize he hadn’t simply misunderstood what she’d said, he’d outright lied about speaking to her at all the day he claimed what he claimed.
I recount all this not to bash my ex. Or to suggest that it’s good to hold onto old grievances. Not at all. What I am suggesting is that not seeing the world as it is can sometimes hold us back from making changes that would improve our lives and that believing lies and being afraid to challenge them can keep us trapped and isolated—usually because those lies in some way resonate with our own fears. As always--it is the assumptions we do not think to challenge that trip us up!
So once again it’s a question of balance. I believe it’s good to recognize that there are wonderful people in the world and at the same time learn to recognize that some are not. It’s good to pay attention to the signals we’ve been trained to ignore so that we recognize when someone isn’t trustworthy. It’s good to recognize and let go of our dependence on the opinions of others and belief in lies we’ve been told—especially lies told to us by abusive people in our lives.
Looking back, I know that what stopped me from challenging the things my ex said was the fear that if I did so and they were true, I might have to walk away from people who were important to me. As long as I didn't ask, these things I was so afraid were true might not be.
How do we get past this kind of fear? By expanding the circle of people we know. By risking making new friends and new connections. By discovering that we are both strong enough to manage on our own and that we are also people others might want to know.
It’s all part of this journey we’re on.
Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),