The things you see in Walmart:
I often think about the angst of psychological abuse and now those traumas ( all too often deemed less traumatic – another fallacy ) adversely affects us, long after we have left the situation, if and when, we ever do.
There seems to be a fine line between normal human displays of emotion – yes even the bad ones, and what is constitutes abuse…
I see it online a lot in supportive groups – the conundrum. And my go to thought Is always this: “ If you have to question whether or not that person is good for you, I’m sorry love, but you already know the answer!”
When I was at the store a few days ago – I came across 2 complete different couple’s shopping. Honestly I get a lot of ideas, just at Walmart alone….
The first we’re an older European couple in their 60’s, arguing over coffee makers on rollback. He called her blind. She called him stupid. Their voice raised and their gestures grand, they were both passionate about being right. It seemed liked a fair fight. I don’t know who won the keurig or the tassimo but they walked away, his wife’s arm in his, as he held a brand new coffee maker in a box, in the other arm proudly.
I’m not saying it wasn’t unnecessary or that name calling is ever an answer but it happens.
We aren’t robots, we are human. The expression of feelings varies, amongst generational norms, one’s background of origin and how much, if any, emotional regulation training one has had. How vastly different various cultures express emotions in a normal disagreement, is different.
One is neither normal nor not normal – it just is.
The second couple in the pharmacy, skirting around either condoms or pregnancy tests – neither one of them appeared happy. My guesstimate would put them at 18 years of age max. The check out line, was long enough for me to observe this one, closely and for a longer period. If I hadn’t had been in line, I would have been lurking about – my spiedy senses tingling.
He yelled but through gritted teeth ( ya know – that one ) which only made me wonder how he sounds, when he’s not in a public place “This is your fault ya stupid effing bitch!”
Then followed by the long winded rant of everything the girl has done wrong since she was potty trained….I suspect he had done this a-hundred times before because we were in Walmart for god’s sake.
Her phone dinged and she looked down.
“ Who is it? WHO. IS. IT? Is it your buddy Ben? “ he asked grabbing the phone from her grip…” I’m gonna kick his ass if he doesn’t stop texting you. You don’t realize how good you have got it, no one will ever treat you as good as I do. Do you know how many other girls I can hit up if I walk away right now? He said as he put her phone in his Columbia Jacket pocket, zipping it closed as he turned and rushed the exit.
Instantly, she followed without hesitation, pleading …….“ I’m sorry. I love you. I would never do anything to hurt you. He’s been my best friend since grade 3. Stop… please stop. Are you actually going to drive away and leave me without a ride again? “
The key word – that this not an erratic angry episode about a possible unplanned pregnancy which would have been abusive regardless.
Again- that says this is not an isolated incident.
It’s a pattern. It’s abuse!
Can she see it?
I suspect not, given how many mature and older people can not.
My blood began to boil, I had to quickly strip off my coat and throw it in the cart – like I do during a hot flash. I wanted to take her aside, hug her, look her in the eyes and say “ THIS, this is NOT love! Run don’t walk, right past the f*cker, I’ll drive you home, hell I’ve got Walmart points – I’ll buy you a new phone and help you change your number block and delete this young man from your life right now.”
But she was gone like the flash, after him and I froze, as I flash-backed to my younger self who had done the exact same thing, so many times before… who has such a strong trauma bond to my first toxic love that when I hear “ Crazy for You” by Madonna on an old school radio station playing overhead in a store, I immediately exit…
I wish I had followed her so I could tell her that she is worth so much more than this sh*t and WHY she is.. but she was gone chasing, after her boyfriend.
All that I mustered was a VERY loud “ That is SO freaking wrong!”
A man in a business suit, shirt and tie in front of me, raised his shoulders, shaking his head: “teenagers!”
“ And…. what if …..she was your daughter?” I asked.
His reply “My girls are 7 and 10 and no daughter of mine would ever be so stupid!”
He is so wrong….
Because it’s not about stupidity at all. It’s about the insidious nature of psychological abuse, that creeps in ever so slowly, that neither himself or his someday teen daughter, would ever see it coming – especially with that kind of presumption!
As a mom with 4 teens and young adults under my roof, I’ve met a lot of other teenagers as well – they are always in my home. And it’s always the one, one would least suspect, to be in this kind of imbalance of power, controlling, manipulative, unhealthy abusive relationship.
It’s almost always the young women and men, who are extremely smart, beautiful inside and out, high achievers, top of the high school food chain of popularity, the head of the basketball team, the valedictorian – the ones who strive to lift a brother or sister up, empower and cheer on a peer – to the detriment of their own mental health.
I remember vividly four years ago – an after semi formal gathering at my home, having a sit down with a teen girl, who’s nice, very nice, respectful, clean cut boyfriend, punched a hole in my drywall after an arguement with Mackenzie ( not her real name ) over jealousy, over whom she was chatting with.
And her reply rings in my ears to this day, like tinnitus “ He’s drunk. He has anger management issues! He will be fine tomorrow.” She uttered cautiously as more of a question than an answer.
I can’t help but wonder where a 16 year old girl had heard this before? Her Mother perhaps?
It looks like, acts like and quacks like strength, loyalty, commitment but they are often also the rescuers of those who don’t want help, that will drown trying to save someone who was not actually drowning but who was damn good at faking it.
This has kept me up for the last 2 nights, wondering how that bullying ended – was it in the parking lot or if it was still going on 48 hours later?
I’ve been in her shoes and I suspect the latter.
And what we learn in those early relationships, have a way of shaping the next ones that will follow. I don’t claim to understand all the many mechanisms involved in Freud’s theory on Repetition Compulsion and as much as I hate it from a conscious perspective, I also recognize it to be truth!
Ironically, Repetition Compulsion by definition that it is the exact same definition
of insanity: “ Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result!”
And it does truly feel like, you are going mad and the fact that you know that you are, is even more frightening because an “insane” person, who is completely out of touch with reality, does not carry that kind of burden!
Ya know people say very naive things to adolescents, like for one – that they “ are too young to know what love is!”
And I always respond “ No, they are too young to know what love ISN’T!”
Love in its early stages, whether one is 14 or 50 looks very similar, the romance, the goosebumps, all those special firsts, the connection, often so intense, you can’t picture a life without that person.
But a teenager, without age, past experience and the advanced cognitive processes and reasoning, to add sensibilities to that HIGH of feel good chemicals of oxytocin and dopamine flooding their brains – It is entirely raw heart wrenching emotionally driven experience with the purest of intentions and perhaps that makes it the most potentially dangerous, for someone who’s derives their sense of worthiness from what a boy thinks of her, or from who she can save or help next!
Older woman do this as well sometimes ( guilty as charged right here)
We get so caught up in the whirlwind of feelings that it affects our vision – so much so that we can’t see the storm clouds brewing just beyond the horizon.
And even scarier as adults, often now our children are watching us, listening to our conversation or arguments or silence – they learning from what they see and hear or don’t see or hear! They are learning from us, what we allow, permit and tolerate under the guise of love…
We can’t change what we don’t know ourselves, so cut yourself so slack. In fact it makes us more relatable and real.
It’s perfectly okay to admit to our children we have made mistakes, did things we regret, chosen the wrong people, often for all the wrong reasons…
Our kids don’t want perfect!
They want us to be HONEST.
They want us admit to all our our own failures, flaws, shortcomings, our weaknesses and our feelings – so they can discuss their own truth freely and honestly too.
Please have these hard conversations with your children and lead by EXAMPLE – so that one fine day #metoo shall actually become #nomore!
It doesn’t have to begin with joining in on a woman’s march.
It begins with showing up in our humility and humanity for those we have within our reach every single day – then, like love…we pass our stories and the lessons we have learned on with wisdom and above all grace.