Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Taking responsibility

I firmly believe the following:

There are two parts to how we experience what someone says or does to us. The first part is what they actually do—it’s their action, and it is separate from their intent, which we can’t know (unless they tell us). The second part is our interpretation of that action, which is based upon all of our experiences up to this point—every single thing that ever happened to us, everything we think we know.

You’ll have a gut reaction based on all of that, but you can stop there and think it through, and see how your experiences have shaped your interpretation. So when someone says something that hurts you, you can choose to believe the worst, that they wanted to hurt you, or you can be more generous with your interpretation, and believe that they clumsily tried to be kind or neutral, and just got it wrong. And, by 'wrong', I mean wrong for you—because how you react will be different from how others react.

In a healthy relationship, you trust the other party, so you believe the best of them, and don’t assume they want to hurt you. And, if they don’t want to hurt you, then it should be safe to assume that they will want to understand how their innocent actions did unintentionally hurt you, so they can avoid hurting you in future. And it should be safe to assume that they will eliminate or at least reduce the hurtful behaviour, for the same reason. So long as you continue to recognise that it’s as much about your interpretation as their action, they should continue to be responsive to your constructive feedback.

Anything else—any unwillingness to change, any hint of choosing to see the worst in each other, any tendency to dismiss their feelings as unwarranted, any attempts to actually blame them for your feelings…or any ongoing lack of response to your requests to change such behaviours—is unhealthy.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

I object

And you complained to me that I’d ruined your dreams
and that your last memory of us would be of raised voices,
of my screaming at you in rage.

I object, because I had no voice that night.
But moreso,

I object, because my last memory of us is one of clenched fists,
of the cords in your neck, your tight jaw,
the pulse at your temple.
The hate on your face, and
the acid words you spat so clumsily at mine,
'Don’t think I won’t hit you just because you’re a girl.'

About this piece

Rather than taking responsibility for their actions, many domestic violence perpetrators lay blame on their victims, accusing them of deliberately provoking them to attack or even of lashing out first so the perpetrator had to act in self-defence. Some perpetrators seek Domestic Violence Orders in response to the victim's DVO application and, because they are charming and unflappable narcissists, they often get away with it. 

I call you on your bullshit. I object.