A Prison of His Own Making
(continued from previous post, 11/27. Please read it first. This will make much more sense if you do!)
There always came the day of reckoning when I’d be pushed to the wall and the truth squeezed out of me. There were tears and anger at my emotional treachery. My wrongdoings had to be discussed and dissected so the relationship could be closed with finality.
I would listen to the litany of all the ways I had disappointed and hurt her. I did not run from this. This was my penance. Once again, I had selfishly allowed an innocent person to fall victim to my toxic curse. Whatever vitriol and disgust she felt for me, I felt it exponentially more. She would get over me; but for me there was no escape from my worthlessness.
These final conversations, though painful and difficult, came as a relief. I was weary from dancing around the truth. I welcomed the opportunity to relax my vigilance.
If I had withdrawn completely from sex and emotional relationships, I might have avoided most conflict. If I could have merely skimmed the surface of love with no deep or meaningful involvements, I would have taken fewer trips to the black depths of my soul.
I tried. I did enter into these emotional hibernations from time to time, but I could never withdraw completely. I could not forgo passion or the excitement of discovering a new woman. I loved the sensation of falling in love.
To hibernate forever would have been tantamount to abandoning any hope of overcoming my curse. So I tottered on the razor’s edge between optimism and despair, my mood dependent upon which way the wind was blowing.
After every hibernation, came finally an awakening; a desire. The seeds of Hope. But before love flowered, it was strangled by the weeds of her expectations: Reciprocal love. Commitment. Proof of the depth of my feelings. Intimacy. Trust.
None of these desires were unreasonable. Other men seemed able to fulfill them, but (so I believed) they were not as flawed as I was. I, however, always hurt my women in the end.
Believing this, I didn’t trust myself around them. I saw myself like the Frankenstein monster, destroying those who were good and kind to me because I couldn’t stop myself.
This cycle was repeated so many times, with so many women, it wore a deep groove into my psyche. I was exquisitely attuned to every nuance. Long before a woman noticed anything amiss between us, I sensed the moment when the balance shifted. As soon as she cared enough to be disappointed, I started to slowly back away, using the same techniques one might use if confronted by a wild bear: No quick movements; speak softly; do not become agitated lest you be perceived as a threat, and be attacked. Avoid eye contact and walk slowly in reverse, without turning your back. If confronted, play wounded or dead.
I continued this way, one woman after another, around and around, the shape of my life always drawn by someone else’s needs. I felt emotionally distant from my own relationships, and always on the wrong side of the cage.
Unable to understand the root of my problem, I thought of myself as tragically complex. I imagined my head filled with millions of tiny gears, levers, and switches, each acting upon others in arcane ways. I had no hope that anyone would ever understand me, least of all, myself.
From here I see there was only one moving part in my head, and that was the axis of the hamster wheel I ran on.
Each lap, I`d notice something a bit different and I`d think I was making progress. In reality, I never went anywhere. To have gotten somewhere, I would have needed to step off the wheel.
Sometimes to go forward you first have to step sideways.
I spent my life fighting to control my guilt and shame and fear without success. I did not understand that mastery over human emotion is not possible. I did not recognize that others were also caught in their own emotional struggles; struggles which were going to plague them with me or without me.
Humans seek the emotional interactions which move them along their spiritual path. The victim seeks the abuser; the masochist seeks the sadist; the giver seeks the user. Those who cannot bear the truth attach themselves to liars. Those who cannot accept responsibility for their own feelings seek out those who burden themselves with responsibility for the feelings of others. And vice versa.
Similarly, we can only give to others that which they are willing to accept from us. Kindness is not always met with appreciation. Compassion is sometimes fosters anger or guilt; trust can engender suspicion and fear. Love is not always received with love.
Humans radiate uncontainable emotion, broadcasting not only in words, but in body and face; by action and inaction; attention and inattention; fear and trust. Others perceive these emotions instinctively, unconsciously.
So many signals! So much energy! All there for the taking. A boundless emotional bazaar! Find anything you’re looking for! Set out shopping for anger, and you can always find plenty to raise your ire. Seek victimhood, and your ego will become bound by every slight and insult and disappointment. Search for love, and you will find it mirrored back to you everywhere.
In my case, I sought guilt and found it by the boatload.
We choose what we seek. Mastery comes in recognizing when we’ve found it.