Seeds, whether of plants, or ideas or actions, can be planted and germinate in the most unlikely times and places. That happened to me this week.
Last week I answered a short survey by the California Partnership for Domestic Violence. It was aimed at the individual members of the organization, those people who aren’t affiliated with a domestic violence organization. One of the first questions in the survey was whether I was a survivor. I answered “no.” Later there was room for comments. What I wrote was that while I had been in a relationship where domestic violence was present, I didn’t identify with being a survivor because that meant I identified with being a victim.
We all have experiences. Some of them we enjoy. Some we don’t. Those experiences impact us. They don’t define us unless we want them to define us. That experience no longer defines me. Or so I thought when I wrote the comment.
Several days after that, I made a phone call to a friend. The evening before, we had both been at a talk given by a very powerful and insightful woman, Tracy Brown. She challenged us to consider how we can use spiritual principles and practices to address and shift some of the challenges we face individually and collectively as a result of human diversity. Something from that evening seriously challenged me.
The next morning part of me knew that it was a mistake to pick up the phone to call my friend. I was agitated and angry, although both of those feelings were below the surface of my conscious awareness. I made the call and we ended up in an hour long, blaming, yelling, accusing fight.
I haven’t been in a fight like that for many, many years. Right after I hung up, I felt victimized. It took me several hours to realize I had deliberately picked the fight and to take full responsibility for what I’d done. I’ve since apologized to my friend. She was very gracious about my apology.
When I thought about what I’d done, I realized it was self-sabotage, pure and simple. For whatever reason, I needed to feel like a victim and to bring myself down a peg or two.
During the time I ignored the voice of wisdom in my head and picked up the phone, I was operating from an old paradigm, from an old way of seeing, a place I’d declared not a day before that I’d left behind. I was operating from a place that says that you are either a victim or a perpetrator. That if you’re not winning, you’re losing. That there are only two positions in life – either you’re on top and being the victor giving orders and making decisions or you’re on the bottom being abused or misused or taking orders.
That belief system is all around us. Political parties blame each other for the ills of the world and do very little governing. Many corporations put the bottom line before the good of people. When I wrote my comment on the survey, I really thought I had left that old paradigm behind. I’ve been humbled by my own experience, my own anger.
Terry Patton in his book, A New Republic of the Heart, defines wholeness as “an active process-a natural tendency for fragmented or distorted energy to restore its natural, more coherent flow. Wholeness has agency. Things want to move toward wholeness.”
“Ultimate empowerment is fueling and strengthening another’s ability to trust in an ever existing Intelligence. The distinction between constantly seeking and solidly recognizing (trusting) is the distinction between presuming something is lacking, thus working at getting something, to an engaged practice of reenacting wholeness in our entire affairs.”
For many years, I’ve thought about what it would look like to work from a different mindset with domestic violence. Instead of the mindset that sees a problem, sees something or someone to be fixed, what if we knew the person to be absolutely whole, and our job was to help that person trust the truth of that?
When I trained domestic violence workers, I would tell them that they may need to believe in the woman until she can believe in herself. What if we held the same for the man or woman who is considered the abuser? What if we recognize, like I did after the fight, that we each carry the victim/abuser paradigm in our minds.
For several years, the California Coalition for Domestic Violence has been seeking to shift the lens. I believe it’s the lens in our minds that need shifting. In order for the inequalities, the injustices to shift, we must release those lingering beliefs in our thought.
Last week I learned this isn’t a single act. It starts with a decision, an intent and it’s a process that goes on for years. For a person in an abusive relationship, the first step is to consciously begin to break the pattern. This may mean separation. And it may mean something totally different. Something we aren’t able to see because of how we’re looking, of the eyes we’re looking from. If we see problems, if we seek to fix, then ideas won’t present themselves or if they do, we won’t be able to see them.