Free Rent

Monday, April 30, 2012
I have a conundrum.

As recently noted by the observant Megan (a psychologist by training), I have a family member who is currently enjoying free rent in my mind. No, I don't care for this turn of events. No, I don't know what to do about it. Yes, I'd really like to resolve this situation and regain some mental peace.

Here's the deal. In the last year, I came to the conclusion that the best course of action for me was to make a break from a close member of my family. I have no doubt that this decision was appropriate and correct, nor do I doubt that the situation is permanent. When the single greatest characteristic a person displays in the context of relationships in an overwhelming selfishness, it seems unlikely that reconciliation is possible. Even if I had the capacity to invite her back into my life, the fact of the matter is that others' pain simply isn't a consideration in her behavior, and never has been.

So I made the decision, and I've accepted it. And yet -I can't let it go. Obviously.

Drama-Me* has middle-of-the-night conversations with Adult-Me, basically consisting of "She better hope she never needs a kidney!" Adult-Me would really like Drama-Me* to just shut the fuck up and let it go - it's over, there's nothing to be done, and dwelling on the situation serves no one.

But I don't. Because, quite frankly, Drama-Me* is simply enraged. 

I realize intellectually how very unproductive my anger is. It hurts no one but myself, and I've been working on letting it go for some time. I've read a couple of books on the subject, but I have to admit they didn't really suit me. Most of them posit that "God forgives you, so you should forgive whoever hurt you! Now let go of your anger, let's hold hands and skip through the daisies, lalala!" Yeah, not very helpful for a materialistic Atheist. In fact, it makes me want to heave, in spite of my hard-won knowledge that the way to peace is through forgiveness.

I know that this family member is simply a fundamentally broken human being. I've spent my entire life learning that lesson. Purging her from my life is the best thing for everyone, including her. But there's a part of me (Drama-Me, did I mention how I hate her?) that wants the family member in question to pay for a lifetime of selfishness and misdeeds. I know it's not my place to wish ill on someone else. I know what's right and moral in this situation. I know what's best for me and my mental health. I know my quality of life will improve once I achieve some emotional resolution. And yet, here I am. Still worrying the issues, unable to get past my anger, my grief, my sense of betrayal.

To be fair, I have been making progress. Those middle-of-the-night conversations with Drama-Me* are far shorter now than they were a year ago. I don't think about it every day unless something reminds me of it. But I still have significant work to do. Part of the work I'm carrying out here at HCDSM through my cryptic (and not so cryptic) writing. Most of the work will take place between my ears.

Eventually, I will execute an eviction.


________
*I hate that bitch. Really - Drama-Me's values are completely fucked up.

15 comments:

Megan said...

I struggle with this, too.

Jeri 2.0 said...

As a borderline obsessive/compulsive when it comes to holding a grudge and reliving past transgressions against me, I've learned that once it gets to the point where you're at -- in other words, nothing good will come from further analysis or dwelling on the issues except to make you miserable, not the person responsible -- when I find myself starting to think about those things or people I replace the thoughts with something pleasant. It sounds stupid and it sounds like avoidance, which it is, but it can work. If you have some fantasy or dream or long-term goal of any kind, try and switch gears and focus on that every time you find yourself starting to think about this woman.

That's really all I've got in the way of suggestions other than when you start thinking about her, look at yourself in a mirror and grin and smile at yourself like an idjit -- ear to ear, all your teeth hanging out, eyebrows raised like you mean it. Keep doing that until you laugh at yourself for looking like such a fool and your brain kicks into happy mode because your face is telling it you're happy. Again, this sounds insane but can change your attitude at least in the real short term. Obviously, this shouldn't be used at work or in meetings or anyplace too public.

Matt said...

I feel for you on this one, I truly do. I know you'll come to your own conclusions and continue on with you ever more fab life (you've come a long way from the shippie I had on the Jason, and you were pretty fab then) but I'll share with you a couple of things that helped me in a similar situation.

First, I learned that forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself, not the one that you forgive. Instead of looking at it from the Christian point of view (do it because god says its the right thing to do), I came to realize that forgiveness is a necessary part of my own personal mental health. Carrying my anger and resentment around only resulted in hurting me, while the object of my anger went unburdened. It took time and effort, but I learned that I deserved to be free of those feelings and the only way to accomplish that was to concentrate on the things in my life that made a positive impact. You deserve to devote your mental and emotional energy to those in your life who bring you good things.

The second was a bit of closure in a mechanical sense. The simple fact is, you rarely get the "Hollywood" type of clean break in any emotional situation, and it sounds like telling this person how you feel would only lead to more conflict. I wrote the object of my anger a long letter about my feelings in vivid detail, including every episode I could bring to mind, the emotional turmoil they had caused and the damage they had done. I then wrote that they were forgiven for those things, though I would never forget or have them in my life again. I never sent that letter (I burned it whilst having a really good beer), and never intended to, but the catharsis is provided helped to put me in a state of mind to move on.

I hope this helps, knowing that these situations are profoundly personal and that the answer is different for everyone. Hang in there hon! This personal improvement shit isn't for wimps!

Random Michelle K said...

Yeah. It sucks.

But all those books have the basics of it right: until you can give yourself to forgive her unconditionally, you won't truly get past your anger.

This is really really really really hard.

But the books are right--until you let it go, that anger will keep eating away at you.

Unfortunately, I found that for once the Dali Lama's book on the subject to be less than helpful, because it's from a workshop he gave, rather than a straight-up book. But in general, he's good at saying things in a non-god manner.

Random Michelle K said...

Also: what Matt said.

Stacey said...

I feel ya sista. I think you aren't searching for the intellectual piece, you already know that. This is not intellectual, if it were, we'd be talking about something else. I don't know the answer. If I did, I'd give it to you. I find it comes in waves. Sometimes I feel it's no big deal and then other times, I'm mumbling and looking for the shovel of doom.
I think maybe a hike and then some good beer and food are in order - call me. ((hugs))

Headlight said...

Drama-you has some valid points that she shouldn't get to make quite so often. But, she's tapering off. So, good. I think tapering-off-the-drama is either better than forgiveness or what real, useful forgiveness actually looks like under the hood.

Anne C. said...

Darn, I thought Stacey would bring out one of my favorite bon mots: "Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies." Or something like that. Forgiveness really is about you and your health (as Matt put it very well).

And, to turn things topsy turvy, next time you wonder why in the heck some people believe in religion and heaven and hell, think about this: I really think it's partly because they cannot conceive of a universe in which "bad" people (how ever they define that) do not get punished in some fashion. That desire for comeuppance is a long held human trait - be kind to yourself when you realize you've come along way in this. :)

At least in Atheism, "you reap what you sow" is a logical concept, not one of faith, so you've got a grain of possibility there. ;)

Janiece said...

Thanks, all.

I do recognize the importance of forgiveness in my life - I firmly believe it's the gift I give myself, and I've managed to find it in the past.

It's just tougher this time.

As for comeuppance, I know by any reasonable standard that my life is fabulous in all of the ways that matter to me, and that hers is not. I know intellectually that "living well is the best revenge," and I don't want to poison the aspects of my life that I love with comparisons.

So I try not to do that.

But Drama-Me is still a spiteful bitch. Sort of like gravity.

Janiece said...

Also: Welcome, Headlight.

Stacey said...

Drama-Me needs to meet Justice-Me (the one in my head) and maybe they'll leave us the fuck alone.

Anne C. said...

I don't like the "living well is the best revenge" saying. Partly because the emphasis is still on revenge (and hence free rent) and partly because it skews the definition of living well, or success, to a more conventional standard. "*I* have a husband. *I* have a higher paying job. More people like *me*." When really success should be measured by your own values. I've seen people who are proud of their spiritual/moral superiority, but in doing so, they diminish it.

So, you're right, comparisons do poison what you have, whether you're feeling superior to others or, as many of us did in our youths, feeling envious of others.

Headlight said...

Thanks!

Megan@MondayMorningMusings said...

I'm with Jeri on this one. I recommend the highly sophisticated psychological tool of "fake it till you make it". I do like the mirror exercise but it would only work on some people (losing my straight face). Okay, seriously now, I think you need a little time off from this to start thinking with your head instead of with your emotions. Right now, you're all emotions, which are attacking your reasoning when it's telling you what to do (let go). You need to get some perspective that only time and distance can afford. Then, you can revisit this again, and hopefully by then it won't even matter, but you will be at least a little bit more objective. Makes sense?

Also, I think that you should have midnight conversations with me instead of yourself. Just sayin' :)

The Mechanicky Gal said...

Perhaps I should make arrangements for you to come out and help Mechanicky Guy and me with the pergola? Maybe a little knock on the head with some, uh, kindling would be helpful?