Saturday, February 25, 2006

Like Joan of Arc, coming back for more

This past week I have been trying to "honor" my feelings, to use the nomenclature of Oprah, which I've just been dying to do. (Speaking of Oprah, I feel that I should address that million little pieces controversy, since what I'm doing here is in essence a memoir. This is all true! I did not make it up! Isn't that scary!)

Anyway, I'm "listening to" and "respecting" my feelings, trying to take how I feel into account. Since our rational, thinking brain is generally regarded to be the opposite of our feelings (just ask Myers-Briggs), I expected some resistance in that area. Much to my surprise, my rational self gets along famously with my feeling self. For example-

F: That person's behavior is hurtful and frustrating to me.

What I expected to think-
T: Shut up, loser.

What I actually thought-
T: I think you should tell that person to stop treating you like that.

Shocking! I am glad they get along. But my week of listening to my feelings was not all harmony and joy. Part of me felt bad when I stood up for myself. You may wonder if it was the drama junkie, my previously identified attraction to unproductive situations. Maybe you're thinking, as I am, that I sure do have a complicated personality, and why can't I just get over myself? Pipe down, critical self.

No, the part of me I am referring to is my martyr. The martyr thinks I should sacrifice my own feelings to go along with what other people want. Where did I learn to do this? My childhood, of course. Abusers do not come out and say, "I am treating you unfairly because I am a bad person." They tell you that your asking for it, you are misbehaving, you have a bad attitude, you are a bad kid, you deserve it. When you are a child and your parents and other adults tell you that, you believe it. You believe it is your fault, if you were a better person people would treat you better.

Pretty much my whole life, I have tried to win my dad's approval, despite how he treated me. I cannot be myself and tell my mom how I really feel, because people's feelings upset her, dealing with reality upsets her. I felt I needed to take care of my brother, that I was responsible for him. I felt that my family was dependent on me playing along. After I was put in a foster home, I talked to my mom and she cried that they had to hire a lawyer and I hurt the whole family with my selfishness. My family clung to the mythology that every problem was my fault. (I was the lightning rod, hence the title of my blog.)

I feel guilty when I say no to people. I feel guilty when I tell someone they hurt my feelings, or even just burden someone with my feelings. I feel guilty when I hurt someone's feelings, no matter how justified. I feel guilty when I listen to my feelings (besides guilt, of course). This blog makes me feel guilty. I feel guilty that you are reading this. I am wasting your time. I even feel guilty about stuff that has nothing to do with me.

Should I sacrifice my martyr? It is not as easy as that. Having a martyr complex is not all bad. To quote my friend (yeah, I wish) Tori Amos, you're just an empty cage, girl, if you kill the bird.
My martyr is the part of me that is irrational, passionate, and impulsive, disregards sensible advice, willful, endearing, pathetic, sympathetic, exuberant, skilled at laughing at myself, and painfully human. It always believes in people and situations, no matter how foolish and ill advised that might be. It is the part of me that is skilled enough and strong enough to keep picking myself up, surviving through anything, still loving life and knowing that I will always be happy no matter what, and yet clings to the despair that keeps dragging me back into dark places that make it hard to be at peace with myself.

So, what do I do with myself? The good news is I have a role model- Set, of the Ancient Egyptians. Set killed His brother Wesir (Osiris), and fought His nephew Heru (Horus) and His sister/sister-in-law Aset (Isis) for control of Egypt. The struggle for power tore the family and the Egyptian pantheon apart. He does not sound like a great role model, does he? If it was not for the battle with his uncle, Heru would not have been strong enough to take rule of Egypt. Set is the God of appropriate action, and when Ra (the Sun God) decided against Him for Kingship of Egypt, Set accepted his new role at the front of Ra's sun boat. While the sun is down, Set is battling evil so the sun can rise the next morning. Without Him, the world could end.

Even though the Ancient Egyptians had no shortage of Gods and Goddesses, their religion is a monolatry, that is, many gods that are really aspects of one god. Everyone has their role, their place in the whole. The way to deal with destructive energy is to make it constructive, recognize the positive. I suppose that's the point of all this; different parts of me have been going in different directions, had different goals, and were clashing with each other for control. I cannot get rid of these parts of me, and I don't want to. It is not like a puzzle either, where everything fits perfectly together. Regardless, there is only 1 of me, and all of these parts of me are me, as fragmented and scattered as they sometimes seem. I am gathering together my million little pieces. (Could I be sued for that?)

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