A year ago I would have brushed him off with a response of “Sorry, but I don’t know much about getting into the city,” subsequently referring him to the conductor or some other recruit. Six months ago I would have responded with “Well, I only know a little bit about getting into the city, but I think this is what you need to do….”. This morning my response was confident and decisive. I knew exactly what this gentleman needed to do to get to the city and was able to recite the instructions with clarity and specifics.
My point is this: experiences insidiously alter how we weigh our choices, and what we consider to be our normal. So this morning, it was simply taking a not-so-simple route into mid-town Manhattan, with a change over somewhere in the middle. It could have easily been replaced with a change of diet that one struggles with before suddenly becoming second nature, or even an abusive relationship. I also know that without intervention, a depressed person can eventually forget how to be anything but depressed, so the chances of recovery diminish over time, and the skills of the therapist become more and more crucial.
Life impresses upon me how we are able to adapt to just about anything, including the most inappropriate or detrimental circumstances. I wonder. Once we’ve adapted, what does that mean to the reality that we’ve left behind?
I know that even if I stop working in the city, and that familiar feeling about the train ride diminishes, I’ll still have a certain comfort level about taking the train. It’ll almost feel like meeting up with an old friend.
The same, I believe, applies to abusive relationships. Once we accept the abuse as an integral part of living, and adjust our decisions around that abuse, that familiarity never leaves us, whether consciously or sub-consciously. Then, whether it’s a month later, a year later or a decade later, if we experience a similar dynamic with someone far removed from the original abuse, those past feelings come rushing back, like an old friend, and unless we are consciously aware of the re-run being played in our memory, we tumble into that abyss of enablement once again. It can be a daunting task to scrutinize every relationship to identify possible abuse, yet if one doesn’t do so, getting caught in that same conundrum seems inevitable.
The only compromise that I can ascertain is to increase our awareness without becoming neurotic or obsessive. Indeed this is a lot easier said than done, and sometimes seemingly impossible. Ultimately however, our pursuit to find the balance between acceptance and resistance is an integral part of the complicated journey of life.