I once knew someone who told me that truth is a chair. That you can describe all the details that make up the chair and it would still be a chair. Such as you could describe all the details about truth and it not be changed either.
She's was wrong.
The details that make up the chair do matter. They matter because they tell you what kind of chair it is. And if you are going to apply this truth philosophy to human beings it matters greatly the detail of truth that make up who we are. We are not black and white- we are vast amounts of grey.
Nothing is more terrifying to a survivor of abuse than this truth.
We come out of abusive relationships and situations determined to protect ourselves and to never be victims again. So we paint the world in black in white so that we can differentiate between the people who are good for us and the people who might harm us.
And this serves us well for a while- especially while we are regrowing parts of ourselves that were damaged from the abuse. We need that protective barrier to heal. But once we are farther down the path and can have full ownership of ourselves we come to a crossroads and we face a difficult choice. Stay within the protective barrier of black and white or venture out to experience the world and trust ourselves to know and decide what is best in a world that is largely grey.
Within the abuse we lost all trust for ourselves and that we could decide who was healthy for us and who was not. Often many of us were subjected to growing up with Narcissist parents who told us we could not know what was good for us. I so often refer back to the movIe Tangled and Rapunzel because it parallels this struggle with narcissistic parent authority that may have ruled so much of our lives. And then when we venture out into the world there is this crossroads where we have to decide to trust things and to trust ourselves.
Rapunzel's mother taught her that she could not trust her feelings or her intuition and that she would not be able to differentiate between people and things that would be bad for her or hurt her. All through the movie she tries to point out the bad and the people who are certainly going to betray rapunzel and she paints a pretty black and white picture. But all throughout the story the things that should be black and white are really grey- from Flynn Rider to the characters Rapunzel meets at the fuzzy duckling. Her mother told her that Flynn Rider would betray her- and while Flynn is a selfish thief at the time he meets Rapunzel that is not all he is- and that is not who he decides to be. Just like Rapunzels mother is supposed to love and protect her and makes it out as that is what she is doing- but the truth is she is selfish and controlling and while Flynn Rider makes a choice to take a different path she does not.
People are complicated and all the details that make them up matter right to the end- because those details are what allow them to decide and at any given moment they have the power to choose something else. The truth is only based on the moment and momentary actions- it is not all defining and all encompassing of the individual. Truth is not a chair- truth is a momentary photography of something or someone. What is more true is the actions and decisions- and even then we grow and redefine those as we go. Truth is unfortunately not static. There is a reason that Tarot cards should not be used to tell someone their future as if it is fixed. Telling anyone their future is fixed bad karma- because what you tell someone is just a snapshot of possibility in that moment or even that second. And the events that would make it true could all be interconnected in such a way that even a slight change can alter the whole outcome. I like to think of seeing or knowing things intuitively or futuristically as wibbly wobbly timey wimey. Time is not linear, nor is truth or human beings.
Not having a simple straightforward answer can be so frustrating and scary to a survivor. What I am learning though about venturing out into the world is that it is less about protecting myself by shutting everything scary out- but by letting the scary in- right into the tower just like Rapunzel did. And when it comes in and shows itself to be bad I trust myself to handle that shit- even if it means wacking it over the head with a cast iron pan. I don't have to shut everything out, and I don't even have to shut out the hurtful people I may encounter because I can trust myself to handle them when I meet them. I trust myself to stay safe as I venture through the world instead of staying in the tower and never seeing the world at all. Hagrid in Harry Potter says "what's comin will come, and we will meet it when it does".
When we venture out into the world we might also find that every now and again people will surprise us- that is the beauty of the grey. That is the beauty of coming out of surviving and instead thriving. Unfortunately because it is scary- the point is not to protect ourselves but to live vulnerably and fearless and to decide. The goal is to trust ourselves and to decide. What happens after that doesn't matter- the good or the bad. What matters is that we decided and that we find we have had our own power all along- and people, circumstances or events don't change that. What matters is being empowered not whether or not we fall down, or get hurt by others. What matters is finding we are empowered no matter what and that any given moment we have the voice to say this is not how this story will end. What matters is not that we never get into situations with toxic people again- but that we are not victims of those situations. When you consciously decide at every point and turn of an experience you are never its victim.
I am learning that it is such a waste to only see people as black and white because we cheapen ourselves. We take away from our capacity to be anything other than a victim and our own capacity to be multi faceted. And approaching everyone as a potential betrayal is exhausting. It feels so much better to go through situations knowing you are deciding. Not only that it is important because even healthy relationships can have hurts. And the only way you are going to figure out if the hurt is something that can be worked through or not is to engage in the relationship and trust yourself to draw healthy boundaries when you need to instead of immediately having to draw the line every time.
Equally terrifying to survivors is that there is no right or wrong choice to make. There is only ever the right or wrong choice for us. And to know how to navigate those choices we have to trust ourselves here too. We also have to be self compassionate and forgiving where our parents were not. There is nothing more unforgiving of choices than narcissistic parents or cultural religions. We often want there to be right or wrong because we want those rules to feel safe. And while having a moral compass is important overall- right and wrong choices outside of that are not black and white and they are not permanently character defining. Narcissist parents like to define your character and who you are early on so they have complete control of you- and often cultural communities we grow up in do the same thing- with less of an intent of harmful control but very limiting and hurtful nonetheless.
Rules keep people safe- but rules unlike a moral compass are often not the right rules for everyone. They are not one size fits all and they are created by people who are not always right or good. Rapunzels mother had rules and they seemed like they were good rules made by a caring parent- but they were good rules created selfishly and used badly. It's scary that we have to decide for ourselves when we have been told for so long what is good or bad by narcissistic parents or others in our lives. We think the first time we break away from the rules or from listening to others "who know best" that we are going down a dark path to our destruction. But often the only thing destroyed are the chains that kept us where we were tied up for so long. The path may be dark and winding but we will meet ourselves for the first time- and the hurt or pain we encounter won't destroy us but give us the tools to decide.
It's okay to see and decide that truth is not a chair. It is okay to see all the pieces that make it what it is. It's okay to say that the chair is actually a tree with leaves, roots and branches. I am slowly reaching the place where I am not just a survivor anymore, I am brightly and brilliantly thriving and I love trees.
I am a former country girl and abuse survivor. I enjoy blogging because I find it personally therapeutic. It also allows me to share my experiences with others, and bring to light issues of abuse. I write under a pseudonym for my personal safety as well as to negate any potential legal trouble over sharing my story.