Creating A New Identity
Last year, almost to the day, I published a post called “Rebuilding Your Sense of Self.” It talks about the necessity of picking yourself up and forging ahead after the loss of a love, after a betrayal, especially if abuse was involved. I reread that post this morning in preparation of writing this one, and it was good to read it again. It was helpful to go through Sam Vaknin’s “What is Abuse” article again as well.
Abuse comes in all forms. All damaging, of course, but perhaps the damage occurs on a different level when you’re wondering if it even can be considered abuse, something Vaknin calls Covert Abuse, as opposed to Overt Abuse. If the abuser is unaware that they abuse, which, I’ve learned, most abusers don’t realize they’re doing it. They’re acting out of unconsciousness, fear, pain, etc.
It’s still abuse nonetheless.
Last year I also wrote about shame, victimization, and betrayal bonds. All well worth another read. No doubt. Gaslighting and Projected Abuse are two types of very subtle abuse that I’ve unfortunately become quite well acquainted with, types of abuse that keeps everything imbalanced, unpredictable, and unstable. A type of abuse that is so subtle, it often goes undetected until it’s too late. It keeps the target questioning everything, unsettled.
Remember my formula: Words + Supporting Action + Reliability Over Time =Trust
A huge red flag that someone is using one of the more subtle forms of abuse is that their words and actions do not match. That they are inconsistent. Unpredictable and unstable. Turn on a dime and leave their partner wondering what happened.
Throughout the past few weeks, I’ve been listening to and studying Eckhart Tolle near-constantly. If not listening to his gentle voice reminding me to stay present, I’ve been meditating on Thich Nhat Hanh or reading Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.
Tolle talks a lot about using Relationship as a Spiritual Practice in his book The Power of Now, and I’m still quite saddened my ex wasn’t willing to do that. He and I are on the same spiritual path, after all. I can only hope he will read Chapter 8 on his own, as well as Hanh’s book True Love that I gifted him on that last day (ironically), since he was unwilling to read them with me, and stop running away, to face and ultimately transcend his fears. And learn. And see. And remember. And love.
I do not blame him for identifying with his fear, as I did the same thing. We all do from time to time. If we could only remember that it’s fleeting. It’s not what’s real. I hope he will forgive my unconsciousness at a time our relationship needed my presence. I forgive his.
Regardless, my focus has not been on being the survivor of emotional abuse (notice I didn’t use the word victim), but rather on the Now. The Present Moment. Dying to the past in every moment. Changing that with which I identify. Becoming a spiritual warrior, as Chodron calls it, and fighting the unconsciousness of the egoic mind. Going into the pain as it comes and letting it pass. Stopping the obsessive mind loops that replay the past and project into the future. Returning to the only time there ever is.
This has been my mantra: I cannot change the past. I cannot begin to imagine what he’s thinking or feeling. I have no idea what the future holds. Be Here, Now.
And then I ask myself: What can I do in this moment to bring joy and peace into my life?
Then I do that very thing.
After all, there is nothing I can change about what happened three weeks ago. I cannot make a different decision or say something else. What’s done is done. That no longer exists. So I let that go.
Without a word to or from my ex in that time, I can’t imagine what he’s thinking or feeling or doing or planning or hoping or fearing or anything, really. If I try to imagine, it just results in crazy-making mind loops. So I let that go.
When I think about hearing from him in the future, I start to imagine what that might be like and what I’d say and how I’d feel, but then I stop myself, knowing that I have no idea what the future holds. I might hear from him, I might not. He might return to me, he might not. It’s his move, for the final decision to split was his, and I cannot begin to know if or when or how he will make that move. So I let that go.
I am here, right now. Loving in peace.
Throughout all this work, delving deeper within and working on self-knowledge and growth, I’ve realized that I’ve been perpetuating suffering by identifying with it. Last year, I was the “victim” of emotional and verbal abuse, and I really don’t like that word, although it is often accurate. A dear friend suggested I use the word “survivor” instead, as it’s much more empowering to identify as a “survivor” rather than a “victim.”
There are many other areas in my life in which I have formed part of my identity around the pain and heartache of the last year, and I’m changing that. I have identified with being a loving, compassionate, nurturing woman, which I am, but in doing so, it opens the door to predators and parasites who feed off my giving nature, who see that as a weakness and attack. So, my new identity is that of a strong, independent woman. A capable woman. A remarkable woman, as those are all true as well. They are all part of me, after all. Strong and vulnerable. Courageous and fearful. Compassionate and wise. Selfless and selfish.
Now I’m changing my focus. No longer identifying with the anxiety or the pain, but rather with courage. No longer identifying with the weakness that is projected into tenderness and vulnerability, but rather the strength inherent in those qualities. No longer identifying with the sadness and loss, but rather with the joy of being, celebrating life and love. No longer identifying with the struggle of mental voice, but identifying with the deep peace within.
I am recreating myself, changing my identity.
And in every new moment, I die to the past.
I choose peace.
I choose joy.
I choose love.