12/08/2008

avoidance

I realized something about myself recently. When I'm hurt by someone or something I tend to go into avoidance mode. As an example, one time someone humiliated me while we were playing charades. I haven't been able to do a charade since then (although I will support others who want to play) and for many years I lost interest in party games of any kind. The same thing goes for an incident with some photos that someone took that really hurt my feelings. It took about five years for me to pick up a camera after that and I still have some resistance to taking pictures of people for that same reason.

My inability to participate in Mormon services is certainly part of wanting to avoid situations that cause hurt. I feel a bit like a lab rat running in a maze who once I've been shocked a few times in a particular lane, learns not to return there again.

I don't think this is an entirely healthy safety mechanism. I think I need to learn better how to face the things that have caused hurt. I can't always just run the other way.

7 comments:

earthtomeryl said...

From my (limited) perspective it looks like you have admirable responses to things that really matter. You have a healthy marriage and relationship with your kids... those things aren't possible if you always run away from things that hurt.

It's always good to work on self-improvement things, but don't beat yourself up too much! On the other hand, I'd love to get to play charades with you some time :)

Linguini-Nini said...

I know what you mean and I think I do the same thing. For me the frustration is knowing that my reaction, no matter how safe it makes me feel, is re-active not pro-active.
Before we got hurt, the things we were participating in gave us pleasure (at least to a certain extent, otherwise we likely would not have been doing them). When we run away after a hurt, part of us knows that we are not as in control as we'd like to be.

Sometimes I admire people who can say "damnit, I'm not letting xyz push me away from activity N!" or who have that kind of defiant 'f*you' attitude. Sometimes I can conjure up a similar attitude, other times not.

What also can add another dimension to the equation is who (or what) caused the hurt. People operate on so many different levels. But if we truly respect each other (and this is something I find myself falling short of too often) then in many situations it would be right to acknowledge that they would be horrified and remorseful if they knew how much pain they had caused us. By saying something to them, we honor them as people and give them the opportunity to right the wrong, and we also strengthen our bonds with each other.
So yes, I know how you feel, and you are not alone. Grab life, enjoy it proactively whenever you can, try to cultivate a tender spot for those who hurt you, and don't stress it when you can't.

Megan said...

I got my... well the first phrase that comes to mind is release papers... from the church yesterday. Still can't face the thought of a meeting though.

jana said...

Meryl:
I enjoy watching you and T play charades. I hope you'll understand if I just continue to enjoy on that level and don't join in :) I guess I don't always run away from pain, but I do often enough that I think it's something I should work on.

Denine: This comment has given me so much to think about. I really dislike feeling being in a re-active mode. I want very much to be in control of my behavior and my emotions. At times I wonder if my desire to always be in control is entirely healthy. I really hate when I 'lose it' in front of anyone. And to not always be able to simply suck it up and go ahead with things even when they cause pain is hard for me, too.

Wow, Megan, are you doing ok?

Megan said...

I am. I stopped attending years ago (easily, simply - we moved to a new state and just... stopped) because many of the cultural and doctrinal practices of the church were destructive to me personally - if you pray sincerely and live as righteously as you can and never get that promised answer to prayer, never, it can only be because you're not good enough can't it? I have been happy and peaceful about that choice ever since. The recent church actions over Prop 8 convinced me that, along with other serious moral concerns with church actions in the past, I could no longer be affiliated in any way with an organization that preaches love, tolerance and understanding and acts with ignorance, bias and hate. Researching the resignation process has been enormously healing as I discovered entire communities of people who left the church for similar reasons, as well as for other carefully reasoned issues. I had not realized how much I had absorbed the cliched idea that the only reasons to leave the church are a) you have sinned b) you want to sin c) you have been offended or d) you are lazy. No matter how thoroughly I understood that leaving was the right thing for me, I found I still felt somewhere that it was my fault. Now I feel that journey is complete.

By the way - a couple of days before I got the final letter of acknowledgment I received a phone call. The man on the line called me by name (well, "Sister" of course) although I had not identified myself, then asked for my second child using the wrong name. This child has an unusual name so his version was identifiable. The odd thing? None of my children were ever baptized - they are members of record but not church members. This particular child has quite a negative view of the church (not from me, it attended for a few months) and is also a little nervous about its privacy. This phone call, which I have no doubt was done with the best intentions of reaching out to a lost sheep, was unnerving even to me, and made the poor child feel it was being stalked. I had heard of an organization in the church that searches for inactive members and tries to contact them (using internet searches and tips from friends and family members) but I had discounted it as being too bizarre and controlling an idea. Now...

jana said...

Megan:

Thanks for sharing your story here and congrats on the closure that your resignation has given you (wow, and how creepy about that phone call!).

Because of what you said about leaving the church because of offense (this is why many of our leaders seem to think that we left), I wanted to just add that while I was hurt by the church it wasn't because of a nasty interaction with a leader or a member. It was because I was hurt by the church itself--by its doctrines and by its culture. Continuing to participate in an institution with values that were so out of line with mine was what brought the pain.

Beijing said...

If someone made fun of me for reading books, and if I avoided reading as a result, that would be unfortunate. I'd hope that I wouldn't let one person's rudeness keep me away from a fun and educational activity.

But if I were reading a book depicting and promoting values that I profoundly disagree with, in a shocking and disgusting way, and if I put that book down as a result, there would be no reason to pick it back up again. I could read other books instead, and it would be no loss.

When people leave the church (and by extension, all religion) because of one incident with one individual who offended them, it could be like the first scenario. But for you, I think it's more like the second scenario, because if you went back to the church, it would pick up offending you right where it left off.