Why Did I Do That?
Why did I do that? What was I thinking? Was I even thinking? Today I am sharing the answer to some questions I’ve had for a long time. Why did I make the choices and behave as I did in my early adult years.
Wrestling with Questions
For several years I have wrestled with some questions as I have reflected on my early adult behavior. My prayer life often was a struggle as I tried to understand where my “freewill” was exercised and “something else” was driving me. I don’t know how it is for other people, but the answers to my heart’s questions come little by little as I continue to travel this life. The healing journey that I have experience since ending counseling has been largely moved along by books that I have read and conversations with other people.
The most recent answer to a “why” question came while reading the book, “Walking Prey”.
In this passage from Walking Prey powerful understanding came over me.
“If a child’s boundaries are violated early on, her sense of where her rights stop and others’ rights begin can be compromised. Abuse teaches her that her rights to personal space and integrity—of body, or thoughts—are unimportant, and that she is not allowed the power to say no. Indeed, an abused child may not even be able to conceive of saying no, since her past attempts to say no were either ignored or punished.
Importantly, there is emerging evidence that the trauma of abuse can create a kind of “off switch” that works like this: a cue related to the earlier trauma enters the person’s conscious (or unconscious) awareness, the person dissociates (checks out cognitively) and does not even process the threat as being a threat. During the earlier abuse it was necessary to dissociate, to mentally check out, in order to survive the horror of it. [Now the disassociation is an innate reaction to threats.]
It’s important to understand that this is a mechanism entirely outside of conscious control. I happens in the autonomic nervous system. It’s a protective mechanism, at root. This is why we must never blame a victim of abuse of any kind. I have heard it said far too many times, She should have seen the red flags. Well, this evidence indicates that she may, literally, not be able to see the red flags.” (Walking Prey, Holly Austin Smith)
Help and Hope
This passage gave my husband and me so much insight to my behaviors before our marriage, and also some of the ways that I related to him during the early years. Dissociation, I now realize” has been a very real way of relating to life. Some time back I was told “the tools used to survive back then were important and necessary, but now they get in the way of developing deep and intimate relationships.” For some time I’ve made a point of “being present” because I realized that often my mind wanders or “checks out”. I didn’t realize that the checking out was a residual way of doing life. It is no longer is necessary or helpful.
I am thankful for the way healing and understanding and growth come from others sharing their stories.
And maybe as I unpack bits and pieces of my story, hope will extend to others.