My therapist is wise. I appreciate him. Sometimes we chip away at our therapeutic process for months, even years, and we get good results although we’d like to move faster. And, then, our therapist says one thing that busts everything wide open. It isn’t necessarily that their words are profound. Their words, however, seem to bring all our effort into alignment. Something feels solidified. Suddenly, our journey, or our experiences, make so much more sense than they did before. That’s what happened for me this week, and perhaps his words might do the same for you.
He inquired after my mother’s recent letter. I didn’t want to discuss it, but he felt like poking at it. So, I let him. Go ahead. Poke me. I did admit to attempting to write a response to my mother. I supposed that if she had the chutzpah to write a letter, then I ought to respond to her except that I had no idea what to say. There was nothing new to add to our conversation because she had said nothing new. We were just setting ourselves up for another round in the ring. She said/she said. I was not going to penetrate her logical fallacies. She has her story. I have mine. There is no reconciling the two.
He observed that I was angry, and I agreed. “Your mother can still cause you to feel anger and even disappointment even though you know what she will do. You know what she has done, what she’s capable of, and, most likely, what she will do in the future. And you are still hurt by her? That’s interesting.”
I know. I felt a bit stupid. That’s a self-judgment, but I felt it nonetheless. It’s like being surprised that a cat scratched you. Cats scratch. They have claws. It’s what they do. Why be surprised? Sure, scratches hurt. Feel the pain. Disinfect the wound. Feel surprised though? Why?
I didn’t know what to say. He looked at me for a moment. Then, he leaned in and asked: “Can you nullify a person?”
His question took me aback. Can I nullify a person? I could answer him without hesitation. I knew immediately: “No, I can’t.”
“So,” he continued, “no matter what someone has done to you–no matter how bad–you will still continue to believe that a person might be capable of good even though you cognitively know that they will not act in line with their potential? You will see their potential until the day they die, and this is what pains you? You know that your mother lacks the capacity to choose to act in line with her potential goodness, but you are hurt and disappointed because you see something else in her. And when she makes choices that hurt you then, what hurts you more? Her hurtful behavior or the fact that she, once again, did not choose to act in line with the potential for good that you see in her?”
He named it. He described my internal turmoil so well.
“My mother ,” I said, “has always hurt me, and she always will. I have settled that. What pains me in some weird almost existential way is that she continually chooses to act opposite to what I see as good in her. That is what hurts me the most. The utter loss of potential and, thus, her future suffering.”
And there it was. I cannot nullify her.
“There are pros and cons to this,” he said.
” I know,” I said while playing with my fingers. I know that all too well.
“Can you nullify anyone?” he asked me.
I was silent. I shook my head.
“Even the man who abducted you? Could you nullify him?” he pressed.
“He was a human being. No one is 100% evil.”
He sat back and said, “And this is why your mother’s actions will always cause you to suffer. This is why it was so hard for you to walk away from an abusive marriage. It’s not a bad trait. Not at all. It is, however, good to know this about yourself. Because you can’t nullify a person, you will suffer more. Sometimes, you must know, it is okay to nullify a person. For your own safety and well-being. It’s okay. It doesn’t make you a bad person. This, however, is how you are wired. Be aware. Simply be mindful of it.”
It was a shocking session for me. I do think, however, that knowing how we are “made” helps us understand our own suffering and our journey to health. Why are certain things harder or easier for us? Why is it so hard to let go of relationships sometimes? Why do we feel what we feel?
The question of nullification is an interesting one. No one has ever asked me that before. Perhaps to make the idea less distasteful, change the phrasing to, “Can you nullify a relationship?”
“Can you nullify a relationship? Permanently?”
That is a very good question. It’s worth asking and seriously pondering.
The journey to well-being and health isn’t easy, and it’s full of hard questions with few easy answers.
This is a hard question, but I found it very helpful. I learned something about myself and my journey. And my future, too.
Perhaps you will as well.