Part 9 of a continuing series, (see Part 1 here), documenting and reflecting on a set of states I mapped and moved in 2008. The set revolves around a deeply buried, internalized violence taken on in childhood and adolescence in response to experiences with my father.
Let me share the last two states to round out the pattern: Miasma of Abuse, and Grief.
Miasma of Abuse
“It’s like they (the abusers) pervade all space, there is no escape. In my house, my father occupied all the space, all the time. There was threat in the air. Always with these people there is threat. You never know when you are going to be seen as “bad” and attacked for your so-called badness. And their logic and perception is so twisted there is no hope for appeal, no possibility to be seen as who you really are. There is no compassion, no sensitivity, there is only blind idiocy, reactive hostility, blame and aggressive humiliation and punishment. These people exist to blame and punish, and nothing else satisfies them. If there is nothing, nobody who has legitimately earned their wrath and disdain, they will manufacture something. There is always some reason for them to attack what is good and sane and true.
“It is in the air. You cannot escape it. It poisons you. You breathe it and it contaminates you. You are guilty simply by being around it, by breathing the air. You cannot escape guilt in their eyes because you must breathe or be dead. That is your choice: breathe and be guilty, or be dead.
“Like poison. A contaminant. Even when they are not physically present it surrounds you. Their judgment is everywhere. A toxic gas. It can get in you if you breathe, and poison you. A miasma of toxicity; hazy, thick, cloudy, dirty, gray-green-brown, gross, like wafting incense except 1000 times more dense and it is everywhere. Gets in your pores, you don’t even have to breathe it, because its toxicity is so dense. Gets to your core and disables any strength you have, completely rots any resistance, turns it to putrifying jelly.
“Smotheringly warm, close, choking, overly humid and caustically dry at the same time, like it is moist but chemically incinerates your own moisture. Moving like incense smoke in a still room. It can follow you anywhere. It slowly gravitates toward you, no matter where you are, so its highest concentration is wherever you are. (Interesting use of second person instead of first, probably because this triggers Disengagement.) Sound of choking sobs, choking because of the toxicity, sobs because of the hopelessness of avoiding it.
“It is everywhere, in every small abusive communication (advertising, e.g.), disguised in many ways, overt and accepted in many ways, forcibly oppressive in many ways. There’s no way to fight back because it is so pervasive, and because it is so disabling. I am too weak in its presence to even put up a fight. I am too frightened to resist.”
It’s interesting to read this again, and remember one common theme in my father’s interactions with me. I had gotten so numb around him that often times I could hardly function. He would send me to fetch some tool or other, I would go to the place where he said I could find it, look directly at it, and literally not see it. It was some kind of negative hallucination effect, my mind completely blocking my perception. So I would go back and say it wasn’t there. Of course he would be forced to go get it himself, heaping abuse along the way, and most of the time it would be exactly where he said it was.
I was so shut down that many times when something obvious needed to be done, and the clear expectation was that I should do it, I would just stand there. His constant, jabbing refrain was, “Breathe, Joe! Christ, do I have to tell you everything?” He said it as mockery, but it wouldn’t surprise me to know that I had in fact reduced my breathing to an absolute minimum in response to the noxious atmosphere.
“Very heavy in my chest, my heart, quite large, a good foot in diameter or so, hard solid, resilient like rubber; black/opaque/dull; warm; a very slight pulsing variation in the intensity of the weight of it, corresponding with an expansion and contraction in size, not so much a pushing out or pulling in as just the amount of stuff gets more or less, and more is heavier, a slow pulse, like over a minute or more with each beat. Sound is a long, protracted groan, never-ending.
“I have lost so much joy and pleasure, especially in connecting with and loving others, as a result of the damage I sustained in our toxic culture and the supreme effort I had to make to overcome that damage, (and continue to have to make today, working to help others overcome similar damage). My life may be meaningful, but only in the context of a world of hurt. I would prefer to have been born into a world of goodness and celebrated life every day I was alive.
“This work of mine should not be necessary. These things should be so common as to be taken for granted, a part of the air we breathe. I should have been free to grow up, marry, take a profession, be part of a community, etc, all from a place of freedom and joy in who I am. It is painful to me to think we have had to come to such a fever pitch of worldwide agony before figuring this stuff out, so much pain for myself and others, all could have been avoided. The burden of the life I gave up to pursue this work, the simple pleasures I have not had.”
Can you see how holding this pattern within myself would pretty much prevent me from taking on my own authority, from being able to put my work out in the world with any kind of assurance? All the parts of me responsible for this kind of strong presence in the world were fully occupied containing the bad guy within.