I took Intro to Counseling when I was in undergrad. I remember my professor sitting on the edge of his desk, cross legged, looking like Buddha himself. From this position he would speak like the expert that he was. We would all hang on his every word and learn more than we could have asked for. Too bad he only tested us on the reading or I would have made impressive grades. I was far more interested in his dialogue and experiences than the text books he assigned us.
One afternoon, from his typical perch, he said, “In situations of abuse, where one person is abused, it is important to remember that this abused person will never let anyone abuse them more than they already abuse themselves.”
I had never heard this before. I’d always quaked and raged when I heard of abusers getting the best of the people they struck or manipulated. The idea that someone would submit to this was beyond me. I had not yet come to understand the subconscious. I did not yet know of the inner voices of people that break them into tiny pieces of despair. The self abuse that stabs and aches more than any physical pain or cutting word. I was just vaguely aware of the self inflicted injuries or attempts at suicide that soared quietly under the social radars of my college days. In short, I was oblivious.
Fast forward, I am in class again. This time I hear our leader say, “We do it to ourselves before we do it to others.” He made sure we all knew that this was a rule for life.
Again, I was quiet, pondering what this meant.
He said that this goes both ways. When we spit venom on one another, it is because that poison has already had its way in our own minds. When we fling a fist into someone’s brow, it is because we have already beaten ourselves up about something. In the same way, when we give someone a day off out of the blue, it is because we have given ourselves a chance to refuel and be whole. When we reach out to someone in need of compassion, it is because we have given ourselves compassion instead of ripping our shortcomings to shreds. When you forgive someone, it is because you have already forgiven yourself.
I still have a lot of life to decipher but I think this idea is in line with what I have experienced so far. What do you think?