Archive for the 'betrayal' Category

There’s (always) something wrong

February 13, 2015

I’ve probably written about this before, but I have been thinking about it recently, in part because of the challenges our weather in the Boston area has been bringing.

The difficulties are real, from finding parking at the supermarket because of the snow piles to water damage in the house from ice dams to delays in transportation and communication and to just being able to get stuff done.

So I try to see these difficulties objectively, and when I find part of my mind wanting to see them as more existentially threatening than they are, I start wondering what lies behind that.

For me, it’s the legacy of the Holocaust as my family of origin seemed to process (or not process) it.  “There is always something terribly wrong, threatening, and dangerous, perhaps it is obvious, perhaps it is lurking in the shadows,” was the message.  I think that fundamental attitude results in that part of me trying to tie any new challenge to existential issues.

I didn’t see things this way until I heard of a similar issue in another context.  It was about families struggling with a member’s alcoholism who are pressured to subscribe to the idea that no one can be happy until the alcoholic is happy.  Something like that.  Anyway, it got me thinking about family habits of mind about how to handle the very real suffering of some members.  Putting everyone in an emotional prison does not seem to be a helpful answer to the suffering or to the needs of the others.

The Holocaust issue in my family included the more obvious factors, but it also included a sense of betrayal, and not just by gentiles.  My dad never got over his sense that the rabbis, at the very least, let down their communities, by not adequately reading the writing on the wall and guiding their congregants to plan and take steps while there was still time.  So I grew up with a sense that it could be around the next corner again, something that we are not prepared for and is an existential threat.

I’ve had many personal losses that came quickly and as a shock to me, that were surprising and devastating on that account as well as in their own right.  Some of them also involved people who in the structure of the situation would be thought to know better but dismissed my concerns.  Ultimately what I took from this is that the universe will guide me through these experiences, I may get dinged up, or worse, but if I open myself to the universe, I get through (and I learn, as a consequence, how to mesh with the universe in a way I probably wouldn’t otherwise).  A lot of it for me is learning compassionate detachment and a lot of it is learning to reframe.

On the reframing front, since I wrote my fairly recent post about lava, it occurred to me that my struggle with feeling slimed by others dumping their stuff on me and my having to process it (kind of like cleaning up somebody else’s mess) could be reframed so that I take such episodes as indications that I am doing my job and things are going well — if water ends up in my “sump hole,” so to speak and my pump is working, maybe this is evidence that things are in order, not that something is amiss.  If I take it that way, that I am just doing my part, and being given opportunities to do so, my resistance diminishes; it has seemed to me that resistance usually is a large part of the problem, even if the underlying situation is painful and unpleasant and I don’t like it in some way.

I don’t see who it serves, even the innocent who have been slaughtered, if the living are paralyzed and miserable, or angry and belligerent, or bitter and ego-centric, or anything else that cuts us off from the universe and each other — I don’t think that can be the response to which we are called.

The other side of the roast beef sandwich issue

November 28, 2013

I figure if I have had a hang-up about a guy doing me wrong and withholding something from me (see previous post), I (or the person whom I am helping) probably did something that was perceived in a similar way by a guy.  Here’s a spiritual story that shows a fundamental, spiritual version of this part of the paradigm.  (There’s a version involving sex and what turns out to be an underage girl, but we’ll pass over that one.)

A girl is recognized as having potential to develop as a mystic, and her younger brother feels left out and envious of her training and status in the community.  To placate him, she promises to “bring back” whatever she learns and experiences from her good fortune.  Unfortunately, once she has had the learning and experiencing, she realizes they are not something that can be had vicariously or by proxy.

Of course, her brother doesn’t understand, when she is not forthcoming with what she had promised him.  He feels wronged and betrayed, and here we go with a long and damaging feud.

Et tu, Brute?

October 19, 2013

It occurred to me that I should follow up my previous post with a note that, just prior to my moment of catching the spark of faith while watching a concert on TV, I had experienced one of those “Et tu” moments, when someone you didn’t expect to do something that feels like betrayal, does something that feels like betrayal, and also feels like the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  I suspect this prior experience is relevant to what happened next, perhaps like the drawing back of the slingshot before it releases its projectile.

And as a footnote to this note, I would mention that the particular incident that produced this feeling of betrayal did not at the time really seem to me intellectually to be the big deal it felt like to me emotionally — I wasn’t entirely sure at the time why it bothered me as much as it did.  In retrospect, I can understand better why it had the impact on me it did, especially if I see it in terms of its being the repetition or reenactment of an old pattern of events for someone who struggled to find faith and whom I was helping.  I think they had experienced the same sequence of events without achieving faith, and I kind of did it for them, like the narrator in the A.A. Milne poem about Binker.

One last note.  As I was proofreading the last paragraph, I discovered I had typed “achieving space” for what I intended to type as “achieving faith.”  As I said in my last post, I seem to talk to myself.

Low probability events

August 3, 2013

I’ve had a fair number of negative low probability events happen in my life.  Yesterday I was talking to Gita about something that would be a positive low probability event in my life, and when she realized what I was saying, she looked at me with an expression that I read as, “You’ve got to be kidding,” as in “Are you nuts?”  (Ultimately her advice was “Thy will be done.”)

It reminded me of when my sister made fun of my belief in what we would call an imaginary friend, when I was about three or four years old.  It had the same quality of puncturing a certain kind of faith.

So it got me wondering whether this might be analogous to what happens to some people about their faith in God or the divine, or in forces greater than themselves in the universe when somebody without any questions it and for a brief moment the person with faith sees what the faithless person sees.

It’s as if we really do walk on water when we have faith, and then somebody says, “You can’t do that, that’s impossible.”  And so it becomes, becomes impossible, at least briefly.

For me it is faith in the possibility of an unlikely relationship with another human being after a bunch of misunderstandings.

At this point in my life I do the spiritual thing pretty okay, it’s trust in human relationships I find difficult.  Part of what gets me through is the notion that these are the same emotional trials others go through with respect to having faith in God; it gives me more patience and compassion with that.

It helps me realize I should be more patient and compassionate with myself about my faith in a particular relationship.

It’s interesting that I have no problem accepting that negative low probability events have occurred in my life, but I have real difficulty believing that positive ones might occur.

Here, I put this crisis of faith out there because I do have faith that to articulate such a thing and then ask for help with it will lead to help — help in some way, shape, or form.  The first step, for me at least, is to observe that I’m having the crisis, the next is to locate it in a context, to see its pattern and notice where I’ve seen that pattern before.  And then I ask for help.

I am also aware of a pattern similar to what happened to me with Gita yesterday in another aspect, not just the pattern of faith punctured.  This other pattern has been in the past about going to a trusted person with a report of something like sexual assault, only to be ridiculed and ultimately shunned.   I am grateful that the version of the pattern I experienced yesterday was not that.

When the experience of a pattern becomes less devastating and we can keep our wits about us and not be so consumed by it, I think we have a greater opportunity to learn from it, not to mention process it and rebound from it successfully.

Second mother

February 24, 2013

Someone who was like a second mother to me from the time I was eight until I was in my mid thirties sent me a note recently, on the occasion of my father’s death.  She offered condolences for Willy’s death, too, noting their belatedness (he’s been dead almost ten years).

She included two phone numbers, a request to call, and a reference to a “hurtful misunderstanding.”

It took me most of a day to realize that Emily Post doesn’t encourage making requests of people addressed in condolence notes.  My initial reaction had been joy, thinking how it would feel to go back to the old relationship.  Then I felt misgivings when it occurred to me that I couldn’t assume that I would experience the person with whom I had that relationship.  Instead I might encounter the one with whom that “hurtful misunderstanding” arose.

I still don’t know what I’m going to do.  My actual mother suspects the other woman feels guilty and seeks forgiveness.  What I’m not interested in doing is having yet another person ask me to pick up more slack.  I can see that she did the best she could twenty years ago when the parting occurred, but her behavior caused real damage.  The damage had consequences.  I live with all that on a daily basis.  I don’t expect her to do anything about it, but I also can’t be involved with someone who ignores the damage either.

So I’m not sure what I’m going to do.

I find it helpful to look at this as old karma.  I’ve felt betrayed by all my mothers, the two mentioned here and my mother-in-law, but I’ve also been aware that this has happened before and with more painful consequences.  So I see progress.  And as for what to do in response to the note, I will wait until I see what I feel called upon to do.