I can’t believe that it’s been a month since my last post. I don’t usually neglect my blog for such a long time, but life is changing chez moi. I like to write posts that will, at a minimum, be interesting to read and, if possible, helpful to others. I am in a season of immense change from a spiritual perspective and in a relational perspective as well. Many paradigms are shifting.
I am currently studying with a rabbi, and I find the journey very stimulating and illuminating. I am also attending a synagogue of the Reform persuasion. It is like inhaling fresh mountain air after having been locked in a stuffy, crowded room for too long. I am enjoying every moment. I am learning extraordinary things.
The other thing I finally did was find a therapist. Yet again. I have said for a while now to my friends that I need to find a worthy therapist. It’s one of those off-hand remarks like saying, “I really should go to the dentist,” or “I need to schedule a physical.” For many of us, we know what we ought to do. It is overcoming that resistance that is so difficult.
I feel as if I have spent so much of my life in therapy. One of my daughter’s psychologists suggested that I go back to graduate school and get a graduate degree in psychology: “You’re 75% of the way there already. It would be a cinch for you.” That did not feel like a compliment. It was a reminder to me of just how much time I’ve spent in the Hot Seat. There are very important reasons to go back to the therapeutic environment, and the primary reason I’ve returned is to re-examine my Resiliency Spectrum.
That’s the name my therapist gave it. What is the Resiliency Spectrum (RS)? The RS is a great term for something that we all use to judge whether or not a situation is “normal” or tolerable and whether we have the ability to survive the circumstances relatively intact. For victims of abuse, domestic violence, survivors of long-term domestic abuse, and childhood sexual abuse, the RS is very wide vs. people who have never experienced such things.
Practically speaking, why do men and women who were abused earlier in life often find themselves in relationships and even abusive circumstances repeatedly? Their RS measures their circumstances as “normal” so they don’t realize that they should take action to get help or even leave. Let me make this more personal.
I returned to therapy because I realized that I was having problems in my marriage. I specifically told my new therapist in my intake appointment a few days ago that I had lost my ability to judge what is true and healthy because of his crazymaking behaviors. I knew that he was engaging in gaslighting behaviors, but, in the middle of it, it was becoming harder for me to discern the truth. I shared an incident with him when my husband displayed violent behavior towards me that was rather shocking. My therapist asked me if I had ever called the police. “Well, no. Why would I do that?” I, of course, felt silly after my admission.
The important moment came when my therapist said, “I see it now. You have a very wide Resiliency Spectrum. Being abducted by a sociopath is a 10 on your spectrum. So, your husband being violent towards you is what? A 5? You could probably survive anything. So, we need to adjust your spectrum so that you relearn what is actually acceptable. Just because you can survive it doesn’t mean that you should ever have to tolerate it.”
Isn’t that key? Just because you could survive it doesn’t mean that you should ever have to tolerate it. This is one of the primary reasons I am returning to therapy. I have found this to be a huge hurdle for people exposed to abusive situations. You can get used to a lot and, suddenly, you find yourself tolerating treatment that is absolutely intolerable. Self-esteem starts to plummet. Health begins to falter. Isolation begins. Shame becomes a shroud. Who wants to be identified as a battered woman or a victim of domestic abuse? This is particularly devastating for men. It’s emasculating. No one wants to discuss these things, and few people are equipped to actively listen and act as witnesses. This is why well-trained therapists are the best options.
I do not know how we will proceed. An intake is about two hours, and one covers a lot of ground from family of origin and past traumatic events to current circumstances and goals for therapy. There was a moment during my intake wherein I was very honest about an incident with my husband, and my therapist said, “If it was wrong for you, then it was wrong.” And my immediate response was, “Not in my house. If it’s wrong for me, then I’m wrong.”
I know that this line of thinking is the crux of gaslighting, and it’s emotionally abusive. I know this. I felt very strange hearing myself say this out loud. I grew up with a borderline mother and an abusive father who used gaslighting as his primary means of communication. I simply don’t know how to handle this in my marriage. I’m fearful. There is narcissism present and other things. Where does one even begin?
Step 1: Find a therapist.
Step 2: Go to therapy faithfully.
Step 3: Tell the whole truth to said therapist.
I don’t know what Step 4 will be in these circumstances (I could give you a road map for recovering from sexual trauma and parental abuse), but it’s going to involve that Resiliency Spectrum. Remember: Just because you can survive it doesn’t mean that you should tolerate it.