Striking a Chord

I was reading this entry that Chris had written about guilt when the last sentence really struck me:

“I guess I’ve carried that warped child’s perception of the world into adulthood. I am responsible for everyone, and yet I am unable to completely please anyone.”

Now those of you who aren’t survivors of child abuse or who were brought up in a fairly normal fashion look at that last statement and think “That’s ridiculous!”, don’t you? And, of course, it IS ridiculous! But those are the things children who are in abusive situations believe, and those are the beliefs that they have to be freed from. We struggle with the belief that everything that happened to us was our fault. That we were the ones responsible for the abuse, not the adults or the abusers. It was our job to make sure everything was just fine, and if it wasn’t just fine and someone had to be abused verbally or physically for it, well that was our own doing.

Now since, obviously, you can’t be completely responsible for someone else, and you can’t possibly completely please another person, survivors live in a whole lot of fear, and deal with a whole lot of disappointment. As much as I love my wife, it is impossible to love her perfectly, and it is impossible for me to always make her happy. All I can do is my best. Unfortunately, that means that sometimes I disappoint her. I still, after all these years of therapy and healing, am devastated when I fail her. It still drives me to fits of self-loathing, depression, and fear that she’s going to stop loving me. I’ve gotten better at recognizing these things in myself and snapping out of it, but it’s ridiculous that I, as a grown adult, go to these sorts of extremes. My perspective is completely out of whack with reality. The reality is that, while I don’t ever want to disappoint my wife, when it happens, it happens. Apologize, learn from it, and move on. She doesn’t expect me to be perfect, and she doesn’t expect me to be responsible for her. She’s perfectly capable of being responsible for herself.

Maybe that’s the thing we all need to learn. That what happened to us and the expectations that were put on us by our abusers were not tied to reality. Those people are the delusional ones. Expecting another person to be please you and be responsible for you is wrong. You are responsible for you, and no one else. Whatever level of commitment you have to another person by marriage, family bond, etc. they are still responsible for themselves. The most you can do is help them along the path of their lives, but their ultimate happiness and contentment is their own responsibility. We can’t take control of our own lives at the same time we’ve taken on this level of responsibility for theirs, and people who try to make us responsbile for their happiness, in the end, are too weak to do it themselves.

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