Do you know people who get overly attached to their drama? They protest loudly and often about what happened TO them, but seem to find a bittersweet comfort in holding on to the pain. They may even have good reason to feel hard-done-by, but they must be getting something out of holding on to their pain or else they would see that life is so much fuller without the drama.
There is a great example of this in Woody Allen’s movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Vicky and Christina are Americans spending the summer in Barcelona. They meet the smooth talking artist Juan Antonio played by Javier Bardem. Juan Antonio takes Vicky to meet his Dad, a brilliant poet who refuses to publish his own work.
The following dialogue takes place between Juan Antonio and Vicky-
Vicky- So, uh, tell me, why won’t your father publish his poems?
Juan Antonio- Well, because he hates the world, and that’s his way of getting back at them — to create beautiful works and then…to deny them to the public.
Vicky- My God. Well, what makes him so…angry toward the human race?
Juan Antonio- Mm, because after thousands of years of civilization…they still haven’t learned to love.
He’s right of course. We have learnt very little about love after all these years of evolving. But the irony is that by withholding his genius, he is doing the very thing he is critical about. The only antidote to a lack of love is to give more love.
We all know people like that. More to the point, we all have a little piece of “poor me” IN us. Nobody knows the trouble we’ve seen. Cue the violins in the background. We breathe our stories of abuse, injustice and despair like oxygen, sucking the air out of space and sucking the life out of any hope we have of healthy, new relationships going forward.
Rights and wrongs are beside the point now. Your truths are worn out like old slippers. They don’t fit the person you want to become. Beware drama in truth’s clothing. It may be keeping you warm with the glow of self righteousness, but the fever of your folly will catch up to you eventually. Your story is at best a half truth and you may even have the wrong half, the half that is holding you back. It’s time to exchange the half truth of injustice for a new truth called liberty.
As the Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron says, “The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new.”
Who would you be without the victim story? As long as you choose to think of yourself as a victim, everything that happens to you will feed this story. Your walls go up, your heart closes and you recreate the sagas of your past hurts like painted bodies in a crime scene. Life will continue to happen TO you as long as you tell this tired old story.
On the other hand, if you close the book on the victim story and choose instead to see yourself as an intrepid adventurer, with an open mind and heart laid bare, then everything that happens will become an opportunity, even loss and injustice. Life will start to happen THROUGH you, and WITH you. You will claim your power, and leave yesterday’s drama in a vault marked “things I’ve grown through but don’t define me.”
Healing Wounded Truths
Forgive my bluntness. I realize there is a time and place for this brutal honesty. Believe me, I’ve met your ex husband. You’re right. He IS a narcissistic pig, and he DID treat you badly. But that’s his karma. Live your own values and don’t drag yourself to his level. Yes, you’re right. I’ve seen the worst that religion has to offer. It IS hypocritical and it did take advantage of you. But don’t let it control you any longer. Live your own values.
If you’re not ready to read this, then forgive me. Take it in the spirit it is intended. I offer this with compassion and in the interests of every person realizing your full potential as a human being.
We don’t do a service to anyone when we allow each other to wallow in self pity. Nor do we do each other a service when we perpetuate wounded truths. Wounded truths are spoken with tilted head and muffled tone. We ask for peoples least rather than inviting their greatest. This is not about denial. If we were inviting fullness for each other, we would talk about survivors of crime rather than victims of crime. We would emphasize recovery rather than addiction. We would describe people as managing chronic illness rather than “having” diseases. The disease doesn’t define the person, nor does the crime.
We do well to avoid the other extreme of blame as well. We can allow people to feel their pain and not deny the wrong doing. But at some time, and somewhere in between victim mentality and blame lies a healthy form of present focused responsibility.
Finally, closure is a myth. If you are waiting for all the answers and absolute justice to be done before getting on with your life, you could be wasting opportunities to live. A Buddhist story describes the wounded man who wants to know who shot the arrow, what material the arrow head is made from, what direction the arrow was shot and how deeply it is lodged. He refuses to have the arrow removed until he has all the answers. The tragedy is that he will die before he has what he is looking for. In the Buddhist text, the wounded man is compared to the person who wants to know the nature and origin of the universe before truly living. It’s a great parable for wounded truths. If you are looking to understand the nature and origin of your wounds before you are prepared to move beyond them, you could run out of time to live while you are alive.
Picture yourself moving through life on a set of monkey bars. The only way you can swing freely from bar to bar is if you let go. Let go of the wounds. They have held you captive for long enough. Forgive all those who have hurt you, not for their sake, for yours. The longer you leave the victim’s arrow lodged in your heart, the less time you have to live the life you were born to live.