I’m writing about something I don’t have a lot of personal experience with. I’d like to have balance in my life, but I don’t feel I do as a rule. Sometimes for short periods of time I seem to achieve balance, and it feels real good — so good that I’d like to have it all the time.
I think that many ritual abuse survivors tend to have big swings. We go overboard in one direction and then overboard in the opposite direction. For some of us the swings are rapid, for others it may take years to switch positions.
It’s how we were raised, after all. We had to shift between everyday life and cult life over and over. We were expected to adapt seamlessly to radically different situations and to function competently in each environment. We learned well, or we wouldn’t be here today.
I find it easier to understand huge shifts in belief and behavior in people who are multiple than in people who don’t have discrete alters. One alter may be vegetarian, another may be interested only in meat and potatoes. One alter may be highly sexual, another totally asexual.
It makes sense to me that behavior would change drastically depending on which alter was out. With non-multiples, it feels sort of like a conversion or a relapse experience. You’ll hear people say things like, “I used to eat meat, but then I saw how immoral it was, and now I can’t stand the thought.” Or “I was doing so good. I didn’t have an affair for months and months, but now I’m back to one night stands.”
In either case, the swings are due to ambivalence — we either are drawn to or repelled by things that remind us of our abuse. The attraction to elements of the abuse is often an attempt to “tell the story” or to bring a memory into consciousness. It doesn’t mean that we, in our essential selves, are like the abusers. We aren’t.
I often struggle with procrastination, which is a huge barrier to achieving balance in life. I realized that, today, I am certain that I am not being hurt at any particular moment. But I still have little faith that if I go and do something else I will remain safe. My anxiety is so high that it’s easier to sit in one chair all day than to psych myself up enough to move. It’s better now that
I understand this because I don’t have to spend energy any longer scolding myself for being lazy. I’m not lazy; I’m terrified because I was tortured as a child.
Another barrier to balance is the false belief that I am only worth something if I am being useful to others. Of course it’s great to be helpful to others, but I know that unless I take good care of myself, I will wear myself out and stop being effective. I know this in theory, but my instinct is to put myself last. I need to remind myself that I am worth as much as every other human being on earth — no more, no less.
I need to remember that I count and that I am safe today, and that anxiety won’t kill me. Then I can cook and do my laundry, work on my website, visit the grandkids, go swimming, spend time in nature. The transitions may be creaky, but I can have balance in my life after all.