A couple of weeks ago I invited a dear friend to stay for the weekend. S. is someone I met some 5 years ago. We were both leaving toxic relationships and we met the first time we both attended the same domestic violence support group.
S. is probably the most talented woman I have ever met. Still, 5 years later, while things have changed for her also, she has barely moved forward.
Like everyone, she has challenges and blessings; the challenges are considerable, so, too, are the blessings.
A weekend is the longest time I have spent with this woman whom I love dearly. By the end of it, I felt absolutely drained. S. can home in on the negative in anything within about 30 seconds.
She arrived, weighed down by a vast array of physical baggage (including, inexplicably, her mattress). It seemed like the physical manifestation of all the emotional baggage she brought with her.
The idea had been to provide her with a break, and a haven, from the everyday demands on her; including the demands of her two delightful, exasperating children. I doubt that she actually experienced the change of scenery as a break.
S. lives with a burning regret for the person she was before; before meeting her abusive partner, before the children, before so many things. She may, or may not, have been as strong, independent and self-reliant as she thinks she once was.
More importantly, she is nowhere near as helpless, hopeless and resource-less as she now believes she is. It is as if she alone does not deserve to entertain even the occasional positive thought.
S.’s abusive partner behaved towards her in a predictably vile way. Like her parents before him, he blamed her for everything; for his problems, their children, her behaviour, her health problems. It was one of those ‘you name it, she’s to blame for it’ situations. Like most of us, S. ended up believing that pretty much everything must be her fault one way or another.
Five years on, she still blames herself and her circumstances.
What happened to her was never her fault. Nor are any of the difficulties that she is experiencing now her fault. It never was a question of fault or blame. S. is simply one of those good people to whom bad things – and bad people – have happened. (As have good things, and good people, also.)
Unfortunately, hers is not a mind-set that empowers her to move on. Nor does it offer her children a role model that will help make them less vulnerable, in their turn to abusers.
Whoever it was who said: “With one leg in the past and one foot in the future, you can only urinate on the present” was right. With one eye firmly on her past perceived shortcomings and the other on the bleak future that she knows (and how, pray, can she know for sure?) will surely come to pass, she is blind to all the opportunities and satisfactions that the present might afford her.
There can be no doubt that her ex-partner is responsible – or, if you prefer, to blame – for his deplorable treatment of her. There can be no doubt that he, like her parents, conditioned her to view her world in terms of fault and blame.
As long as she remains with that viewpoint she perpetrates her victim mind-set.
Yes, of course she has been victimized. Now, her recovery hinges on her challenging and rejecting the victim mind-set.
Because things have happened to her that should not happen to anyone, that does not mean that in the future she will be denied the same satisfactions, joys and possibilities that are available to other people. It has been different for her in the past. But there is no reason why it should be in the future. She can yet move from the stagnant holding pool of abuse, back into the mainstream.