All images by Cindy Kunsman from Under Much Grace and used with permission.
More than a month ago, I learned about some cruel gossip that’s being spread about me and it triggered a host of complicated hurdles for me. The questions of others sent me back to revisit my history of hopping around through some truly fringe varieties of cultic Christianity, but I also found myself more affected by the deep personal losses that are all wrapped around that history, too.
Ironically, I’d just started blogging about the stages of recovery right before this happened, but I suddenly realized that I was living an experiential reminder, too. Stage One persisted for a good two weeks before it faded into decrescendo, mostly because I still can’t understand that if people took issue with me that they didn’t feel comfortable with approaching me. And the truth is that there may be no rational reason behind their actions.
Concurrent with seeking stability came the grieving of Stage Two (Part 2) as did remembrance (Part 3). That grieving involved identifying and expressing my anger in a healthy way – once I was able to identify it as anger. Some Stage Three surprised me pleasantly in renewal of old friendships. Elements of safety in recovery emerged, too, for I found that while I was coping with my own emotional soup, those who love me also became offended on my behalf. At times, I had to juggle their responses when I wasn’t exactly in the best form myself.
Integration and Reconnection
Though I hate to realize it, this challenge did affect me strongly enough that I’ve recoiled in constriction. Though a string of my own illnesses and my concerns for my aging cat’s health have added to stress, I realized that I’d fallen into my familiar old pattern of retreat. Friends have been calling, wondering where I am and whether I still love them.
As my shock and awe abates, I’m now faced with connecting again with those things and people from whom I’ve backed away. Social isolation never helps, and I find myself working hard to pull out of it. Time with others heals me, but I feel weary. I’ve neglected self care along with my friends. I struggle to attend to work projects as the stress of the conflict seems to run at a low level, but constantly in background in my mind.
And with both Eric and John who could almost be my sons age wise, in my joy over their recent accomplishments, there is a tinge of melancholy. I planned on having my own children but I didn’t get the life I ordered. In this season of remembrance for me and as I approach my fiftieth birthday, the subject of opportunities lost takes on greater significance. Eric has also been a kind ear and encouragement for me as I set out to reclaim my connection to music which I largely buried after I left my church nineteen years ago. (That’s part of another aspect of my ongoing recovery that finally emerged about a year ago.)
Reconnection and Moving On
So here I am, waiting to see what unfolds regarding my relationships with people who are claiming that there are elephants in the room. I have a talent for pointing out the fact that naked emperors have no clothes, often at the worst possible moment. I have to interact with many people involved in the telling and in the hearing of the elephant tales before we all have a good opportunity to address these matters.
I must make it an adventure of learning not to care too much about those things which I can’t do anything about. I may ultimately just chose to walk away from the endeavor that links me to these critics. I might stay involved but just suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous ideas because it’s just not worth the effort of opposing them. I can’t end them, either, but I can address them assertively. Not knowing more about how the conflict will end doesn’t feel very comfortable for me.
Climbing up to the High Road
I saw a meme the other day that was meant to encourage children of narcissists to choose healthy ways of dealing with the difficulties that such relationships create. It affirmed a strong internal locus of control – to focus on that which one can do and to accept what is outside of one’s influence – but it became rather snide. It said that you can’t control what other people think or the lies that they tell or whether people believe them. But a person can sit back and “laugh at the lowlifes who have nothing better to do” than gossip.
On the surface, it sounded good, and a part of me said, “Yeah!” But the more I thought about it, the more I felt that it was wrong to foster more division by essentially returning cruel behavior with equally cruel behavior and condescension. Two wrongs don’t make a right. While the person who lies about someone deserves to face thos consequences, responding in kind doesn’t solve anything. It only fosters more conflict, and it feeds into the power struggle that the first party tried to establish.
I must choose whether I want to stoop to returning evil with evil or whether I want to “take the high road.” When I read the “lowlifes” moniker, I decided that I didn’t want to feed name calling. Ideally and while it may be too much to ask, my ultimate goal in these relationships in particular aspires to reconciliation. I have to follow that course for my own sake, so I need to climb up out of the hurt and think about walking the high road.
Cindy is a member of the Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network.
Cynthia Mullen Kunsman is a nurse (BSN), naturopath (ND) and seminary graduate (MMin) with a wide variety of training and over 20 years of clinical experience. She has used her training in Complementary and Alternative Medicine as a lecturer and liaison to professional scientific and medical groups, in both academic and traditional clinical healthcare settings. She also completed additional studies in the field of thought reform, hypnotherapy for pain management, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that is often associated with cultic group involvement. Her nursing experience ranges from intensive care, the training of critical care nurses, hospice care, case management and quality management, though she currently limits her practice to forensic medical record review and evaluation. Most of her current professional efforts concern the study of manipulative and coercive evangelical Christian groups and the recovery process from both thought reform and PTSD.
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