I recently read this amazing piece in The New Yorker by Pulitzer Price winning author Junot Díaz titled "The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma." In this autobiographical article, Díaz described how his early experiences of sexual abuse followed him throughout his life and contributed to the destruction of many meaningful romantic relationships. He reflected on his self-sabotaging behaviors and recognized that deep down, he was afraid of facing his trauma, afraid that he was broken and unlovable, and afraid to hope for something better. I felt both deeply empathetic for his pain and validated by his experiences. The root of self-sabotaging behaviors in romantic relationships is often fear and insecurities as a result of past traumas, difficult family dynamics, and experiences of abandonment, enmeshment, or neglect. The topic of self-sabotage is so broad and complex that I am going to divide it up into several blog posts. In this blog post, I will focus on how to identify self-sabotaging behaviors in ourselves.
"Super ironic that I write and talk about intimacy all day long; it’s something I’ve always dreamed of and never had much luck achieving. After all, it’s hard to have love when you absolutely refuse to show yourself, when you’re locked behind a mask."
- Junot Díaz
The recent tidal wave of individuals, mostly women, speaking up about their sexual harassment and sexual assault experiences is the culminations of years, decades, centuries of pent up fury and silence. The #MeToo movement is growing stronger and louder every day, led by courageous individuals in the public sphere and in my personal circles on social media. I have been wanting to write a blog post about this topic for awhile; it has taken me some time to digest the growing accounts of sexual violence and make sense of my own reactions. As I am writing this post I am still not sure I can clearly articulate my emotions related to all of this. As a woman of color and a survivor of countless sexual harassment experiences, my first reaction is of fierce pride for the individuals who have risked so much to speak up. My second reaction is of disgust at the perpetrators who have abused their power for so long with the assumption that their behaviors will be protected and rewarded. My third reaction is of anger at our society (a.k.a. all of us) for creating and maintaining a system that benefits perpetrators and perpetuates sexual violence. In this blog post, I want to address the question that I often hear asked about survivors of sexual violence: if this really happened, why didn't they speak up before?
This week I have been thinking about forgiveness. I was inspired after listening to the TED Radio Hour episode on forgiveness. I was particularly moved by the TED Talk by Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger titled "Our Story of Rape and Reconciliation." Thordis and Tom talked about their shared experience as the perpetrator and survivor of rape. Thordis was 16 years old when her then boyfriend, Tom, raped her. He was an exchange student from Australia and he left for home shortly after the incident without recognizing what he had done. After 9 years, Thordis decided that she wanted to confront Tom and to find forgiveness. She said so powerfully in this talk, "But deep down I realized that this was my way out of my suffering. Because regardless of whether or not he deserved my forgiveness, I deserved peace. My era of shame was over." They talked over email and then met in person to work on reconciliation and forgiveness. Tom acknowledged then took up the responsibility and blame for his actions. They co-wrote a book about their experiences: South of Forgiveness: A True Story of Rape and Responsibility. The Dear Sugar Radio podcast titled "Dear Dad, It's Over" also touched upon forgiveness of hurtful relationship with parents.
"Because regardless of whether or not he deserved my forgiveness, I deserved peace."
My partner and I recently started couples therapy. Phew! There, I said it. Admitting that I am going to therapy, especially couples therapy, makes my heart race and my face flush. Although I work in the mental health field, there is a stigma against the therapist having problems and seeking help. We expect ourselves to be superhumans who have it all figured out. After all, we can apply our training in helping others to help ourselves, right?
I created this blog to share information about living a healthy, happy, and fulfilling life. I am constantly learning new things and making mistakes along the way. This blog is my way of chronicling my discoveries, musing, and lessons learned as a person and a professional. I invite you to come along on my journey of self reflection, discovery, and thriving with challenges. I also hope to exchange wisdom and enlightenment from you, my readers.
The information provided in this blog is not a substitute for professional mental health treatment.