Friday, June 16, 2006

Continuing Recovery: Apologizing, And The Fear Of Setting Limits.

In my last post I came down hard on dishonest sales practices. I offended the individual I was discussing. This person wrote a nearly unreadable comment for this blog and a longer email to me personally. My first reaction was gut-wrenching fear.

Fear began to corrode into the insane compulsion to 'people please'. I had caused this person pain. They made sure I knew how I'd hurt them, in word and action. The small child almost bought some of their product. I didn't intend to hurt anyone. Thankfully, I had the sense to flee to God in pray, and not to the internet to BUY.

What to do? I changed my mind about letting the garbled comment, complete with the individual's identity stand. Another unwanted comment, had accidentally been approved - which was more smarmy adver-speak from someone else. I deleted both comments. I then sent a personal email to the afflicted individual. I have been advised: "Never apologize. Its a sign of weakness." I don't believe that for a second.

Since I slammed a person publicly, who may not have intended to offend me, I felt and still feel that my apology was in order. If I read this person wrong, perhaps they should move on from me to someone else who isn't as dense. It has been my experience, that when someone accuses me of something and they are totally wrong, it really doesn't stir up much reaction.

You say I'm a prostitute. I know I haven't had sex of any kind for the last eight years. I would question you, as to what caused you to think that way towards me and learn from your answer.

On the other hand, if what you accuse me of is actually true, but I don't want to admit to the behavior, or I refuse to be responsible for the behavior, I'm going to get very, very upset inside (if not publicly). Usually, what you bring up about me, I have already spotted and tagged (in my mind) about YOU. Now, before I learned the folly of pointing one finger out at you, with three pointing back at me, I would use all my intellectual ability to dissect and dice your character, until you would leave me alone. Anybody recognize the manipulative tactic of trying to cause shame?(This is an excellent way to drive healthy people out of your life).

I still am nervous about having hurt someone, but refuse to do any more about it. If I am contacted by the offended party, I will speak to them, but I refuse to be manipulated into buying anything. What I have done is been willing to DO SOMETHING EVEN IF IT IS WRONG.

For years, I was paralyzed into total inactivity, unless I was sure that I'd come out 'right'. So, I basically ran my life via apathy, people-pleasing and guilt-tripping people. These strategies failed me miserably and kept me trapped in feeling like a huge victim.

I now have enough confidence in myself to allow for making mistakes. I have made the astounding discovery, that a real apology builds character and can open up opportunities for growth unimaginable to my less healthy self. I rejoice I'm willing to act at all. My old self would have bought products I didn't want and listened to hours of whining speeches I didn't care to hear, in the name of 'friendship'. Trapping not only myself, but the other individual in our mutual pools of misery.

I also have decided to take a page from my church's behavior. There are certain standards they require and will enforce. It is not acceptable to swear like a sailor, in church, or when speaking to Pastor privately. Potty mouth has always been a life-style for me. I used to think it made me look grown-up, confident and strong.

No, it shows that I'm into intellectual laziness. It takes very little effort to parrot a slang expression. It takes real mental energy to figure out what you truly are trying to communicate about a situation. My pastor is very gentle, but insistent with me, on language use. Because I trust him, I don't fear being honest in his presence. Because he is kind and gentle about his rebuke, I'm willing to really make an effort to change my behavior. I pray about this issue daily, as it is a habit I've cultivated for decades.

A friend came to my home and we were chatting over coffee. He likes to be outrageous by insisting that he likes to wear women's clothing, loves other men and in general acts like an overt gay male. Frankly, I don't like it and got tired of hearing about pink TuTu's, his sex fantasies and infatuations. He wanted to tell me about the funny ad for the upcoming Gay Freedom Day Parade in San Francisco.

That event turns my stomach. I did something I've never done before. Its my house, I don't want to talk about gay sex any more. Let's talk about something else. I waited for my friend to rage at me, guilt-trip me, or begin to turn against me. Just as I do with my friends and their limits, he stopped that line of conversation, with no further incident. Amazing.

I didn't loose a friend, and I feel physically better, not having to think of the drek of The Gay Freedom Day Parade (of ludeness). I would be just as disgusted if it were a bunch of heterosexuals being lude in public. I don't like seeing private acts done in front of me, on a public sidewalk, while I'm trying to get to the Opera House in San Francisco.

I remember the first time I ran into a limit with another friend. He doesn't like anything of a smutty nature - even the mild stuff. Thankfully, I asked him if he wanted to hear my favorite dirty joke. He politely said 'no'. I am astounded that other people act with me, as I acted with my friend. Much as I think the joke is funny, I haven't shared it because I've been asked not to. How refreshing that I don't have to lose friends over my new-found desire to set some limits in my own house.

Limits are difficult for abuse survivors. Our personal body, mind and spirit were grossly invaded when we were children and therefore the concept of 'no', can be very difficult to learn in issues of our personal space. Here's the great news. Setting limits frees you from unnecessary pain. Not having to resist the temptation to be angry at someone for doing something you don't like, frees up your energy for more positive things. You will discover the fantastic notion of respecting yourself. You aren't letting people walk all over you any longer!

Any new behavior always feels insane, at first. I can only continue to document my ongoing recovery. I'm actually honoring commitments to myself these days. I feel stronger and more alive then ever before. I now exercise most days for an hour by walking. My health is improving.

I'm realizing I have a right to organize my life. I have a right to terminate bad things, encourage more of something good and I have the responsibility to face up to criticism, when I'm wrong. These are the traits of a maturing adult. If I learn to take criticism without tears, or other manipulative tactics, people will be more able to incorporate me into their projects. I become more employable, in the personality department. Most important, I can accept respect from others, because I am now doing things I respect within myself. I again reproduce a wonderful poem by an unknown author:

A Biography In Five Chapters, author unknown

Chapter 1.

I walk down the street and fall in a hole, I didn't see.

It is deep and dark.

It takes me a long time to get out of it, but I do get out of it, finally.

I continue down the street.

Chapter 2.

I walk down the street, see the hole, but fall into it anyway.

This time, however, I get out much faster.

I continue down the street.

Chapter 3.

I walk down the street, see the hole, fall in and get out really quick!

Its a habit.

I continue to walk down the street.

Chapter 4.

I walk down the street, see the hole and walk around it.

I continue to walk down the street.

Chapter 5.

I walk down a different street.

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