Monday, January 04, 2010

Focusing On The New When The Past Stays With You

As the new year has begun I've been reading and watching typical statements about people's thoughts on the new year and new year resolutions. In several places people have said that you can't think about both what you want to get away from and what you want that is better than the past.

This used to sound like great advice to me before I started dealing effectively with my trauma. When I reached out as a teenager after I was raped to multiple professionals they didn't have the knowledge or the tools to give me effective help and in their ignorance sometimes compounded my trauma.

After multiple failed attempts to get help, those failures made me feel like the problem was with me. The stock "focus on what you want not what you don't want" helped me justify giving up on dealing with my trauma, but when I thought that not thinking about my trauma would make the impact of that trauma go away I was wrong. I not only carried my trauma with me I carried many toxic ideas that still persist today in our society about sexual violence.

The reality back then was that not only didn't I know how to deal with my trauma, the professionals I interacted with didn't know how to recognize the source of my trauma and so were often trying to fix problems I didn't have or which were genuine problems but totally unrelated to my trauma. Rather than dealing with more of the same incompetence, the best choice I had at that time was to block out my unresolved trauma and focus only on the positive.

Doing so had positive and negative consequences. It contributed to me dropping out of high school for non-academic reasons and it contributed to me going back to school and getting a bachelor's degree in computer science.

If I thought about my trauma at all for too many years it would overwhelm me and make it hard to focus on the positive I wanted in my life. This was because of those past failures with professionals, the pervasiveness of victim blaming and victim-centric prevention messages and not just that I was thinking about my trauma.

Once the reality clicked that my boyfriend was responsible for his sexual actions and I sorted through my traumatic memories enough to see that his sexual violence was premeditated the largest part of the morass eased. I could begin to see internalized victim blaming as the BS it was and I could begin to see where my boyfriend premeditated shifting the responsibility for his violence onto me.

Rather than eliminating thinking about the negative what I've found to be useful to having a happier way of being is to identify and reject the victim-blaming garbage that is still so pervasive in our society. What I used to think of as harsh self-talk was really internalized garbage from others.

When people are more judgmental to a girl who is too trusting of her boyfriend ("she shouldn't have been alone with him") than they are of boyfriends who rape their girlfriends they are interfering with the happiness and safety of girlfriends who have no committed no crime and are helping rapists be happy with their violence so that they can go into the new year feeling they've done nothing wrong.

The victim blamers may want a happy new year, but they don't deserve to happily roll into the new year. If they believe in general happiness then they need to stop contributing to violence and to the trauma of rape which can persist for a lifetime. Sometimes long term happiness requires short term unhappiness as people realize they've done something wrong and need to resolve to replace that behavior with words and actions which support recovery and non-violence.

This brings me back to something else I've heard this new year. The importance of commitment and not giving up at the first roadblock. We cannot control the behavior of others but we can choose how we respond to that behavior and if enough of us are committed we can eliminate the social norms which help make sexual violence so common. This in turn can interfere with the rationalizations that the sexually violent use to justify their unjustifiable actions.

We can do this. And if this makes some people unhappy then they will just have to deal with the unpleasant fact that they want a society which excuses most rapists and which views most sex crimes victims harshly.


Bookmark and Share
posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:49 AM   3 comments links to this post


At January 04, 2010 1:41 PM, Anonymous m Andrea said...

What a beautiful post. Thank you.

At January 04, 2010 4:48 PM, Blogger Ethereal Highway said...

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I think I *heart* you, Marcella! (It hurts me as much as rape to be the pitiful, disgusting, whining piece of crap who is responsible for her own misery for being unable to join with the 'past is the past' crowd. It's so sad to be less than for being in pain. My own people rape me again when they do this and then I have no people.)

At January 19, 2010 8:40 PM, Blogger Prudence said...

Glad to see that you have continued to be strong. Last time I came here you were struggling with your memories of your experiences and the fact that it never seems to go away.

"when I thought that not thinking about my trauma would make the impact of that trauma go away I was wrong. I not only carried my trauma with me I carried many toxic ideas that still persist today in our society about sexual violence." - this resonates a great deal with me. I thought I'd neatly packaged the whole experience into a box inside myself sealed away, but all I'd done was to deny myself the option of ever talking about the experience whilst letting it gnaw away at my insides.

I think we need to acknolwedge that the negatives are as important as the positives and never try to bury it all again.

Thanks for all your work on your blogs



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home