the complexity of lying

cw: childhood abuse, discussion of lying, abusive relationships




As a survivor, lying can be a huge trigger for me. Lying has been weaponized to keep me silent, deny my experiences and isolate me. And, in year where I am surrounded by lies about who I am and what I have done, I have chosen to try and hold complexity about why people lie, including myself.

We all lie. 

To  be clear, I am not saying that we lie about having experienced harm. I am in full support of unconditional belief of survivors. The harm is always real and true. These thoughts are not a way to dismiss the actions of those who have caused harm. We all should be accountable in real and meaningful ways for the harm we do to others. And, I think this becomes more possible when we do the reflexive work to think about how we survive, and the ways that the system can infiltrate our survival in ways that do harm.

And sometimes, lying is a harm-reduction strategy, a way of coping and surviving. Sometimes, I need to lie to myself. I survived my childhood by blocking out the violence and abuse I was experiencing: lying to myself that everything was okay. Short-term this was a brilliant survival strategy that protected me from emotions and truths I had no skills or support to deal with.

And sometimes, lying is a way to get your needs met. And your needs are super legitimate. For me, I lied a lot as a kid about being sick. This meant that I didn’t have to go to school, a place where I was bullied and ostracized and felt very unsafe. Lying and saying I was sick meant I could stay home, a place where my need for safety was better met. And being sick meant it was more likely my parents would engage with me, meeting another important need, the need for attention.

And sometimes, lying is a way to establish boundaries. For many of us surviving violence from people who were supposed to love and care for us, it is incredibly difficult to establish boundaries with people we are connected to. Wonky attachment means we often stay connected to people in unhealthy ways, no matter the harm they are doing to us. Lying can make it easier to disconnect. We don’t lie about the person harming us; we create fictions about that person in order to support ourselves ending that relationship. We reduce people down to only their bad behaviors, denying ways they may be kind, or reasons that they perpetuate harm. This is lying, and it can be what makes it possible for us to justify protecting ourselves.

And sometimes, lying is a way to get your truths recognized. In our culture that systemically doubts and isolates survivors, we are conditioned to believe that our experiences of harm are not enough to be recognized. Especially for folks who experienced childhood abuse, we expect that we are not worthy enough to not be harmed and/or that our traumas are not bad enough to be recognized. Myself, I carry so much hurt, intense sadness and shame around the abuse I experienced that has not been recognized. And I know that I have projected this pain on to other situations. These situations were harmful. And their impact was directly related to triggering the truths of my childhood abuse I have never had recognized. I have lied and blamed the person involved with the smaller harm for all the pain because I needed it recognized. People can be accountable for the harm they have done, for the actions that trigger me; I don’t think they can be held accountable for all the hurt and anguish that comes up when I get triggered. But sometimes I want them to be.

I am sure that so many more reasons that we lie; legitimate reasons that allow us to survive in a world that is set up to erase us, harm us and delegitimize our identities and experiences. I think it is important to acknowledge the value of lying as as survival strategy while simultaneously beginning to reflect on the impact of these lies. Personally, I know I have done great harm to myself and others. And I have been greatly harmed by the lies of others. Beginning to think through the complexity of lying is an act of self-love and cultivating compassion for others. My goal is to hold more space for myself and others to be able to reflect on our actions as survivors, our actions as communities, and hopefully transform our ways of being to reduce the harm we do and expand our access to healing. 

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the complexity of lying

on harm reduction as a survivor

things I am trying to remember as a survivor of abuse:

– my hurt is real and true AND I don’t want to project this hurt onto others

– I have a tendency to use controlling behaviours to hurt others, using my history as a justification, which is abusive

– my desire for punitive measures against others is understandable based on the hurt AND does not work towards the kinds of community I desire

– somewhere in my body I believe that people can grow and change and while it might not be my role to support this in people who have perpetrated against me, i don’t want to prevent them from having these supports and connections

-while it scares me, I value when people call me out/in for my abusive and controlling behaviours, many which emerge from my experiences of violence, as it helps me work towards healing and reclaiming my actions from trauma.

In all this I want to recognize that survivorship is a really complex and diverse experience. These are important rememberances for me and won’t apply to everyone who is navigating trauma and survivorship

on harm reduction as a survivor

Needs/Wants

My needs and wants are real and legitimate.
And I am responsible for the ways I meet them.
The legitimacy of my needs does not negate the necessity to engage with the harm that may come about from meeting them.
I can continue to learn better ways to meet my needs that not only cause less harm to others and myself but simultaneously increase others’ abilities to meet their own needs.
I can find transformative ways of meeting these needs that expand the very limits of what I think is possible for myself and the people and spaces I relate to.

Needs/Wants

a fine connoisseur of over-developed ego.

an edit of a previous thing I wrote. Can’t seem to write new things, and enjoying going over old stuff.

– – –

My heart is hurting. With a perpetual longing for connection, for healing, for safety. Safety in ourselves, in others, in community. Hurting heart.

My heart is bitter. It has become judgmental, mean, protected. From all the times I thought I would get what I needed: connection, care, community. Bitter heart.

My heart is tired. Tired of thinking there are places for us. Places for broken, messed up hearts.  Places to rest. Places of refuge. Tired heart.

We can sense other hearts. Hurting hearts, bitter hearts, tired hearts. But like us, they are guarded by sharp-beaked, short-fused egos. By brains of great dominance; survivor super organs.  They get us through, keep us moving.

I have become a fine connoisseur of over-developed ego. I am the president of the Protective Brains for Feeling Eradication Society. And I am hurting. I am heartbroken. Broken hearts let egos run rampant.

Head over heart.
We’re Mean. Insecure. Defensive. Malicious.
Big brained. Broken hearted.

a fine connoisseur of over-developed ego.

the condition(ing) of my heart

I needed to take a break from writing. I have been really enjoying learning to write about my trauma, my grief and pain and I am starting to understand it as another important tool for healing, coping, sharing and connecting with others. And it’s fucking hard.

I took to last week to care for myself in the other ways I have learnt  over the last few years. Taking myself for walks, spending time with people who see all of me, solitude, physical activity, treats like Sour Soup and hi-chews.

Today is the first time I have sat down to write in almost a week. The prompt that caught my attention was “What condition is my heart in?” Here is some of what came out.

– – –

My heart is hurting. It throbs with a perpetual longing for connection, for healing, for safety. Safety in ourselves, in others, in community. Hurting heart.

My heart is bitter. In protecting itself, it has become judgmental, mean. From all the times I thought I would get what I needed, that I was going to have connection, care, community. Bitter heart.

We are tired of thinking there are places for us. Places for broken hearts. Places for hurting hearts. Places for bitter hearts. We can sense we aren’t the only bleeding heart in this room, in this community. But like us, those hearts are guarded by sharp-beaked, short-fused egos. By frontal lobes, brains of great dominance, our survivor super organ. It gets us through, protecting our hearts, keeping us moving. We’re mean. We’re insecure. We’re defensive. We’re protective. We’re malice. We’re insecure. We’re heartbroken.

I am a fine connoisseur of over-developed ego. I am the president of the Protective Brains for Feeling Eradication Association. And I am hurting. I am heartbroken. Broken hearts let egos run rampant. Big brained. Broken hearted. Dangerous. Reactive. Unpredictable. Hurting. Lonely. Trauma-bodied, Survivor-brained.

– – –

My heart is an exile. Rejected by community, by relationship, by self. We don’t survive when we hurt. We don’t survive when we feel. Just need to think, to plan, to get in control. My heart lives under the reign of the fascist powers of logic and reason; subject to the judgement, the violence of my brain, my ego’s internalizations of your expectations.

Think. Act. Do.
Reason. Logic. Explain.
No feel. No affect. No flow.
Surviving is “one step at a time”
One calculated, logical step at a time
In the Right direction
Progress.
Move forward.
Not sideways
God forbid backwards.
Integrate.
Don’t disintegrate
ONE self.
Only one self
One brain, no heart
Tin Man ideals
Hold yourself together.
Put yourself back together
Like there was a before

Be the best cog you can be
Functioning means thinking
Means going to work
Means paying your rent
Integrate into society
Not with yourself
Segregate your pain
Eliminate your hurt
Eliminate yourself
Think. Act. Do.
Strategize.
Play the game.
Make your mother proud.

– – –

I have a stronger relationship with my heart than I used to. A direct relationship. Before, I would speak my heart with my brain, know my heart with my ego. Ego knows nothing but itself. Like a politician speaking “for the people” ego only truly speaks for itself.

Me.
I.
Survive.
No Us
just me
just I
Singular.
Logical.
In control.

My body is much better at speaking my heart. My body has always been speaking my heart, even before I understood what it was saying. In anxiety. In panic. In chronic pain. In nausea. If I pay attention, body is always speaking heart. Swollen fingers, swollen heart. Nerve pain, heart pain. Nauseous stomach, nauseous heart.

I have been working hard to learn to listen to my body, to understand the messages my exiled heart is sending through this embodied morse code. I have been learning to decipher the code. And learning to send messages back, learning this body code so that I can care for my heart even when I cannot connect with it directly. This secret code has kept my ego out of it, protected my heart from the violence I enact on it when it directly shows itself.

Panic.
Put your feet on the floor
Anxiety.
Take these bones for a walk
Nausea.
Listen to your inner voice
Nerve pain.
Soak these muscles

Panic.
Put your feet on the floor
Touch the ground, look to the sky
Dirt between your toes
Anxiety.
Take these bones for a walk
To the library
Touch every book you desire
Nausea.
Listen to your inner voice
What aren’t you saying?
Write it down, yell it out
Nerve pain.
Soak these muscles
Stretch them out
Open up the channels again

– – –

My heart knows when people are hurting. We can register another broken heart from a miraculous distance, across mountains, across oceans, across conflict, across isolation. We can perceive this hurt, this intensity with such complexity, with such reverence for the pain, the trauma, for those things ego could never speak. My heart always believes you. My heart always knows it’s true.

Sit with it
Be with it
We see you
all of you
all truth
all legitimate
all honest
Your strength
to feel
to hurt
to struggle
Your exhaustion
at surviving
getting through
If you stopped right now
you would be enough
Sublime
Absolute
True

 

the condition(ing) of my heart

the kindness of welcoming in trauma

I am not very good at being kind to myself. I find myself equating it with selfishness. Or with avoidance, like I am no longer doing the work to get better if I am being kind to myself. I act like healing is this intense process of fixing, an almost surgical action of removing the bad and filling up the holes with good. Defining healing this way means I make lots of rules for myself and then berate myself when I break them. I police myself. I judge myself. Healing becomes a process of harming myself.

– – –

Its not me and my trauma. We are not separate entities. I feel like I often treat myself this way. Like trauma is a cancer, a cyst that is other to me; an invader that must be contained, removed, exterminated. As I dig away at myself, searching for these malignancies I claim are not mine, I end up doing so much damage. Uprooting them and expelling them is actually a process of uprooting and expelling myself. It is not me and my trauma. Trauma is part of who I am. Me as my trauma. Me with my trauma. Just me.

Most people acknowledge that we are all formed by the world around us. That we are all a relationship of body, mind, experience, family, community, society. So why is my trauma not part of me? Why are some experiences outside invaders to be denied, hunted, exterminated and others are not? Why are our experiences of love, joy, happiness considered important parts of the journey of becoming who we are while experiences of abuse, violence, loss and trauma are not? Because they hurt? Because they harm?

Honesty. I think it has to do with honesty. We don’t want to honest about the complex mix of good and bad, kind and hurtful, fulfilling and devastating that actually makes up the world we live in, and the people we become. We don’t want to admit that whenever we move into relation to one another we have the potential to both love AND to harm. To relate is a risk, a risk we don’t want to be honest about.

So we pretend that hurt and harm are not part of us, that they are not important threads in the fabric of families, communities and societies. We refuse to be honest about all we can be, all that we are. We are scared that to do so would make connection impossible. If we have experienced trauma, if we have grief and sadness and pain, we will be unlovable.

Finding kindness for myself means finding space for this honesty. Kindness means making room to bring all of us. Kindness means building relationships of honesty and trust that help us to take the risk of relating to and with all our parts. Kindness means learning to how to be responsible for the impacts of these hurts. Responsible; not always in control, but responsible enough to be honest, to say “yes, I am hurting”. To say “yes, I acted out”. To say “yes, I have done you harm”. Kindness is believing this is a possibility.

Kindness is being honest that we may not be able to heal all the hurt we feel. That we might never end pain and suffering. And being honest that we can change what it means to live with these things in our hearts. Kindness means being honest that we can stop casting out those parts of us that ache with trauma, that bleed with grief and sadness.

We can invite them in, speak their existence. We can stop pretending that hurt is an outsider, an intruder in opposition to growth and survival. We can recognize that hurt has been part of us in different ways for a long time. Kindness is being honest that we can welcome it all in.

The kindness of welcoming in pain, sorrow and trauma is not an act of condoning its causes. It’s not saying that the sources of these hurts are okay in any way. Rather, the kindness of welcoming in hurt is about being honest and open that these experiences are real and have real impacts on us. It is about being honest about the hurt, the sorrow, and the pain of surviving. By welcoming them in we create the potential for compassion and empathy.

– – –

I am trying to show myself kindness by learning to be honest about where I am at. Honest about how hard the day-to-day is. Honest about how overwhelmed I feel. Honest about the role this pain and trauma plays in my life. I am trying to welcome in my trauma. I am trying to sit with it; just be there, not fixing it, not judging it, just being present to witness it. Kindness is being an honest witness to my trauma.

Kindness means being honest about what healing is. Not letting others define it for me. Kindness means letting go of who I think I should be, where I think I should be at and being honest about how I am right now, trauma and all.

This doesn’t mean I have given up on things changing. It means that I am giving up on my fears of not changing; giving up on my fears of being in this place forever. Kindness means being honest about the here-and-now of surviving. It means learning to rest with my trauma, find a home in it. Kindness means being honest enough to know healing won’t be a purging of the my trauma. Healing will not be a process of forgetting but rather a process of honest remembrance.

I am tired of attacking myself. I am tired of judging myself. I am tired of denying myself. I am tired of hiding myself. I just want to be kind to myself. I just want to be honest. I want to welcome in all the parts of myself, no matter how pained, how dark, how damaged. I want to learn to sit with all of me, break bread, share stories and gain comfort from being in this together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the kindness of welcoming in trauma

things for others to know about grief and survivorship

today’s prompt was about what you would tell others about grief, something they cannot know if they aren’t in your shoes. here’s what came out:

 

This one is tricky for me. I feel like I have tried to be honest with people in my communities about pain, trauma, grief and they have not been able to deal with it. I know that in part it is because in some ways they also feel these things. And I wish we would build the spaces and skills to be able to wade in, to exist in a place of hurt and sadness and darkness and still exist in relation to others in healthy consensual ways.

I feel caution about speaking my pain, my experiences and my feelings. It often comes out as prescriptive, controlling and defensive. “you need to do this”, “you don’t get it and that hurts me”. I find it hard to just speak my truths and not to demand something of others or to project my pain onto others. I feel like when you have spent most of your life searching for the words, for an understanding of where all your pain comes from, it can be really hard to not blame others for how hard it was to find those words and understandings. This feels particularly acute when you are supposedly part of a community that wants to talk about pain, struggle and hurt but in actuality isn’t in a place to go there, to be in the thick of it together.

I don’t want to judge others for not being able to be in it with me. And I also want to be honest that we aren’t there, and that if we want to be, there is so much work to be done.

– – –

It feels like a lie when you say that you get it, when you say its ok to not be ok but cannot actually hold the space for others to be messy, to fall apart, to fuck up. This lie, though I know it’s unintentional, can be triggering, especially for those of us who are already dealing with the mistrust that trauma fosters.

– – –

Don’t deny my truth. Don’t pretend to understand. Don’t say you have space for me, for my pain, for my messy coping if you don’t. Know your own boundaries and be honest with me about them. My pain is not a learning tool for you, and we can grow together but its going to be fucking hard work.

When you are dishonest with yourself about what you need and pretend that you are there for me, and then reject me, talk shit about me, villianize me, thats fucked up. I want you to have boundaries. I want you to know what those boundaries are. I want you to feel that you can communicate those boundaries with me. When you don’t communicate them I flounder around trying to know how to be with you, what you need to be near me, what I need to do to be seen and accepted, doubting my ability to respect you and care for you. And to be honest, I already have enough self-doubt; I already feel lost and confused from all this pain in my chest. I don’t want to take on more.

– – –

Trauma make me so lonely. It hurts on this level I cannot articulate. I feel it in every cell of my body. There are days when it fully eclipses me and I cannot find a moment of myself. I am imploding. I become a black hole: all the energy, all the light gets sucked out and I collapse in and over myself. And it hurts; it hurts so fucking much.

Imploding is a lonely state of being. I have no idea how to reach out when i am turning in on myself. I have no idea how to connect with others when I cannot find myself.

I worry that I will pull you in, that I will suck the light out of you. I have done this before. I have hurt people I love when I am imploding.

How do you be a black hole and live in community?

 

– – –

It’s not your responsibility to make it better. You will never know my experiences just as I won’t know yours. It’s not helpful for you to be prescriptive about what “getting better” means. Maybe better means not getting worse. Maybe better means getting worse, being open to sinking below the surface. Maybe better means embracing coping behaviours that are self-destructive. Maybe better means momentary acceptance that I am going to be fucked up forever.

Better for me definitely does not mean getting over it, moving past it. It doesn’t mean letting other people tell me what is best for me. It doesn’t mean hiding parts of myself so that people can find me manageable.

If you want to support, sit with me.
If you want to support, deal with your own shit.
If you want to support, be honest about how much you want to give.
If you want to support, be honest about how much you can give.
If you want to support, be honest about what you don’t want to give.
If you want to support, communicate your boundaries with me.
If you want to support, recognize that support for me is reciprocal. If you aren’t in place to receive support (totally legit place to be) this isn’t going to work for me.
If you want to support, be willing to call me in when I fuck up.
If you want to support, realize it’s going to be an ongoing process of negotiation and communication.

 

 

things for others to know about grief and survivorship