Archives for posts with tag: emotional violence

[Oh hey, I’m talking about emotion and domestic violence in this one. No surprises. Please take care of you. <3]

Think about this carefully; anger doesn’t solve very many relationship problems. It’s not that anger is “powerless” – it isn’t. It’s a dangerous force for change, particularly in the context of lost self-control, lost perspective, and a righteous sense of entitlement, possession, or justification. Tragedies happen by way of uncontrolled rage. Clearly, anger can be quite powerful. “Violence never solved anything” is both true and false – and very much dependent on what we mean by “solved”. If we end an argument with violence, we’ve ended the argument certainly, but whether that counts as a solution depends on whether everyone walks away undamaged.

There was a time I didn’t understand emotional violence as violence – primarily because I lived in a messy tangle of both physical and emotional violence, served up with a hearty helping of military life, as well as gas-lighting. Emotional violence was the least of my worries. I didn’t understand my experience. I lacked the emotional intelligence to understand that I had options – and choices. It’s hard to look back comfortably on the choices I did make. Like a barefooted journey across hot asphalt and broken glass, every step did more damage. I lived with continuous fear and anxiety. I rarely slept. The emotional violence in my relationship was the least of my worries; I just wanted to survive the physical violence. I eventually got out of there, safely away, and sadly still unaware of the worst of the damage that had been done, because that wasn’t physical at all.

Physical injuries heal in a physical way. Bones mend. Scars fade. My arthritis follows me everywhere, but as a consequence of earning my freedom from fear it is a reminder that I live…still…it fucking hurts. I never forget how I got here. Tomorrow is 22 years since a nightmare ended. I ended it. I walked on.

…I took the chaos and damage with me…

The worst of the damage was emotional. I didn’t understand that for a long time. I understood “symptoms” – complex PTSD has many – diagnosis in hand, I recognized that I seemed to have no ability to manage my emotional volatility, as a symptom – as something that happened to me. I didn’t understand how accountable I actually was for my actions, though. I didn’t really “get” that like it or not, when my feelings become choices that become actions that affect other people, I am responsible for my actions. There’s no argument there, so just don’t. “Hormones”, “PTSD”, “a terrible headache” “a tough day” – none of these things actually make it okay to be emotionally violent with someone (most especially and particularly someone I say I love). I didn’t understand that I could – no, seriously, I totally mean this – I could choose to behave differently. My experience is my own. My emotions are entirely mine to feel. My choices are mine to make. I am responsible for my actions. Not one moment of personal misery really excuses treating someone else badly.  I was slow to learn this lesson. I carried the violence forward into my future with me, woven into the damage I’d survived, and expressed it as uncontrollable impotent rage, meltdowns, tantrums and frequent loss of rationality. I’m done making excuses for emotional violence – few people die in a literal way from emotional violence, but the life they are left with is changed. It’s really not okay to behave that way. (Nope, PMS, PMDD, they don’t excuse it either. Get help. Make amends. Say you’re sorry, for fucks sake. Do better over time.)

I’m glad to be moving. Escalating domestic violence next door is uncomfortable to live around. It fucks with my head when I hear the yelling through the walls, the slams and bangs, vague and undefined. There are no good guys. Only human beings unwilling to choose differently and calling it “love” (it isn’t).

Look around. There’s a lot of that going on. We can choose differently. All of us can do better. I can. You can. That person pulling out a gun on the highway to shoot a teenager can choose differently, too; they chose their actions. Think about what that means. Feel your feelings. Behave well. Treat others well. Recognize the subjective nature of your emotional life, and don’t inflict weaponized emotions on other human beings. Fuck your hormones. Fuck your PTSD. Fuck your anger. Care. Care enough to choose better behavior. Care enough to be the person you most want to be. Care enough to seek help if you need help. Care enough to take care of you – well. Care enough to take a step back from a difficult situation. Care enough to understand that each of us is having our own experience – and it’s ours, not to be taken from us. None of us belongs to another.

I say that, then sadly spend minutes contemplating the very real continued existence of slavery and violence around the world. I don’t really know what to say. I am saddened by the constant awareness that there is so much violence loosed on the world. That we wear the face of our own destruction, as a species.

We can all do so much better to treat people well than we actually do. What will you do today to become the person you most want to be? We become what we practice. What are you practicing?

It’s a true thing; language functions by agreement. We understand each other because we believe we share definitions of terms. It’s often true that we do (more or less, individual subtleties and variations notwithstanding). Language also fails to function – by agreement; we often implicitly agree that in order to “keep peace”, to avoid “starting shit”, to evade “drama”, we overlook failures to explicitly clarify our meaning, even though we’ve seen that we are not communicating with clarity.  Well, damn, people, don’t do that. Just saying.

My idea of a beautiful Thanksgiving holiday and yours may differ – it’s generally not the sort of difference that causes terrible heartache, unless someone defies some commonly held familial, tribal, or community tradition based on novel (or merely outside the group) thinking. What about words like “equal”, “truth”, “non-biased”, “fair”, “considerate”, “honest”…? Our dictionaries differ, and we do tend – as human primates – to give our own point of view a great deal more weight than someone we perceive as “other” than ourselves. We find a lot of words to fight over.

It's hard to unsay the words.

It’s hard to unsay the words.

Last night OPD made a special delivery to my place, unexpectedly. My peaceful evening was shattered by angry voices. Not just angry – the sort of enraged fury that seems unique to people who are frustrated, struggling, emotionally invested, feeling unheard, and coming from a place of learned helplessness and impotent rage. Domestic violence makes that sound. It’s that bit just beyond lovers quarreling, that scary place where imminent violence seems highly likely…. and it’s not okay. Entirely unacceptable to treat love in that frightening, disrespectful, and callous fashion. It’s entirely unacceptable to treat one’s neighbors to it, either. It was after 10 pm, after community “quiet hours” begin, and completely audible through the walls. I could have put in earplugs and turned up the stereo to mask it… but I was acutely aware of two very important (to me) things: firstly, those are my friends over there, treating each other in that shabby fashion. Secondly, and most importantly, many years ago I promised myself I would not be a bystander to domestic violence. No excuses, no fear, no “it’s not my business” – no standing by and letting someone go through that, the way I once had to, isolated, frightened, hurting, injured, and without emotional support.

I threw on my coat, and went next door. We have a shared understanding on the knock we use; a roommate opened the door, knowing it was me. He had that “I’m staying out this, sorry about the noise” look of apology and discomfort on his young face. I nodded as he opened the door ever so slightly wider, and I walked purposefully past him toward the ongoing screaming. I could feel my symptoms surging from my own stress; this particular kind of verbal violence, emotional violence, the screaming at each other with such relentless deaf fury triggers my PTSD just about faster than anything else can – and I needed it to stop. For me. I stepped between them and began the process of separating them, helping them de-escalate, reminding them their behavior is simply not acceptable adult behavior (and no, I don’t care who you are, or who did what, or who is “right”, or the why of any of it all – knock that shit off, it’s not okay).

He had asked her to leave. It’s his place. I backed him up on that, knowing they definitely needed some moments or hours to calm the fuck down and get their heads right. She threw drama “I’m not taking anything! No one will ever find me! I’m never coming back!”. It was bullshit and drama, spoken from an emotional place, feeling hurt, angry, frightened, stressed out, not heard, treated badly… all of the things. Still unacceptable drama and bullshit, and I really wish someone had firmly said as much to me when I was a much younger, very volatile woman, myself. (Boundary setting is a useful skill. I am grateful to have survived my first marriage to undertake to learn some.)

She left, he was still storming, wanting to justify his anger, to explain himself, to demonstrate how his reaction was understandable. I didn’t argue those points, just kept reminding him the situation was not about “right”, only that it was an emotional situation in which his behavior was not appropriate. I pointed out how much time he has taken to grow as a man, to become the man he most wants to be, on his terms, and that this behavior was no part of that. I reminded him that his own dignity and self-respect were at stake here. I reminded him how young she is, and that we are each having our own experience. I reminded him that I, myself, for my own reasons, cannot tolerate that kind of violent behavior in my vicinity, and that indeed I do consider that emotional and verbal violence to be “violent” and that it causes human beings great pain. Hell, he was obviously hurting, himself. He was hurting himself. Hurting her. No one needed to raise a hand in violence; the damage was being done quite efficiently using only words.

I went home, hoping things would stay quiet. Already pretty stressed out to be exposed to the drama and bullshit. Triggered, aware, sad for them – hoping I’d done more good than harm, and hadn’t burned bridges with friends over it. Would I choose to intervene if I knew with certainty it would end my friendship with someone? Yes, I would. That shit is not okay – and its high time people (all of us) were more committed to saying so, each and every time it comes up. Violence? Not okay. Racism? Not okay. Exploitation? Not okay. Being a dick to people on mass transit? Not okay. Small stuff and large stuff. None of my business? Well… I suppose if I am content to watch the world burn, maybe that would be reasonable. I think we can do better. I think we can treat each other well; there are verbs involved, and a shared responsibility for the quality of life for all our neighbors and brothers and sisters and strangers and “others” who are not like us. The screaming and abuse has got to stop though. Non-negotiable, at least for me.

I heard the door open and close next-door, a little later. Quiet voices. I sat with my memories. It was a long time before I slept. I woke this morning, Thanksgiving Day. I woke this morning, grateful. I’m grateful to be alive. To have survived domestic violence – to have survived hell – with a heart still capable of loving, and eager to see my Traveling Partner; the first person to look me in the face in a moment of emotional violence, utter hysteria and rage (years ago, early in our relationship), and say “this is not okay, and you have to stop”. Thank you, Love.

Love matters most.

Love matters most.

Today is a good day to be grateful for the easy stuff – and the hard stuff too. Today is a good day to appreciate love and lovers and moments of profound change of perspective. Today is a good day to be honest, to be frank, to be compassionate, to listen deeply, and to love well. Today is a good day to change the world. ❤

Thank you for reading. Thank you for everything you do to become the person you most want to be. If you’re feeling up to it – let’s change the world. 🙂