When I was a kid, my art teacher provided valuable artistic- and life- advice:
“Draw what you see, not what you know.”
The point being, don’t take for granted what you think you know. Deal with what is. The shape of a triangle, instead of what you and I “know” to be part of a human face. Just focus on the matter-of-fact reality of shape, not conclusions of a human being.
“Just the triangle, Ma’am.”
Unfortunately, whether we have any artistic ability, we too often draw conclusions, wrong conclusions, especially about our imperfectness, and our mistakes. We see something exaggerated, complicated, inaccurate, beyond our human control.
We make it “make or break,” hinging too much of our constant perfection in whatever we do or say, how we look, what we perceive is expected of us to “qualify” as worthy.
No room for error. MUST fix. MUST maintain. MUST produce.
Ergo, proliferation of eating disorders, addictions, panic attacks, and garden variety, all-purpose trauma.
All because “mistake” is “verboten.”
Those of us, coming from abuse, are especially vulnerable.
So, what’s so harmful and precarious about the notion of “mistake?”
What’s the harm in our beliefs about mistakes?
About the Mistake: We drew the wrong conclusion.
We received wrong and inaccurate information from the jump.
So, the case can be made, wrong information in, wrong results out.
Our origin stories about the nature of “mistake” can be woefully incorrect, deceptive, and treacherous.
For some of us, we were simply told wrong stuff.
And we wrongly acted accordingly.
For instance, perhaps the only “birds and bees” sex talk we engaged in with the abuser or disordered person was where we were told pregnancy could not occur if it was “the first time.” So, we have sex with no birth control, and, of course, find ourselves with a pregnancy result.
It “shouldn’t” have happened. So, why did it?
Because we were given wrong information, we believed it, and acted upon it, and the natural, normal consequences happened.
If, however, we were told pregnancy can potentially occur, with any sexual encounter, involving the pertinent, functional body parts, now, we have the data to make the informed choice. We’re empowered.
And, concerning any “mistakes” within that context, we are better equipped to course correct and navigate the realities. We’re not blindsided by “why didn’t it work?”
Short answer: because it was never set up to work that way in the first place.
But there’s another trickier possibility to the wrong information situation.
What if we saw the accurate reality from the start… and we were gaslit and talked out of it? What if the inaccuracy was superimposed on what we pointed out?
No, no one is angry, even though a vase smashed against the wall?
No, Daddy didn’t just hit Mommy?
No, that behavior wasn’t wrong and cruel; it’s acceptable instead?
So, we believe what we’re told, don’t we? This is especially troubling if we’re children or are otherwise vulnerable to a certain disempowering situation.
We drew the wrong conclusion. It was largely because someone else was its author. And often, that author had an agenda beyond heeding accuracy, facts, and truth.
That’s an ugly, disturbing realization. To accept that someone else protecting an abuser, an ego, or a delusion was more important, and more of the priority than instilling realistic, accurate facts about life can feel like betrayal.
And it is.
We deserved to be taught, for our best interests, uncontaminated by anyone else’s personal agenda.
But unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way.
There can be a lot of personal gain for someone else if we believe something that benefits them. It’s often reduced to our abusers avoiding responsibility and continuing their entitlement at another’s’ expense.
But it’s never acceptable treatment for us. We deserved to be taught about life, our mistakes included, and not have it weaponized against us.
About the Mistake: We feel we are nothing but marked up.
“I can’t do anything right.”
“It’s hopeless; I’m hopeless.”
Many of us have operated our lives from these core beliefs.
We have drawn the inaccurate conclusion from personal experience. It’s not about logic, facts, or truth. Our negative personal experiences, often stemming from abuse and mistreatment, determine we are inherently wrong. Any and every mistake we make are proof enough to support this theory.
We are taught, however implied or direct, that no one else makes the unacceptable mistakes we make. Somehow, we are far worse, far more defective than anyone else.
We can arrive at a place of powerlessness and despair.
Mistakes are all that we are. There is nothing more, nothing else to us.
Perception is powerful. If all we see is the harmful, inaccurate determination someone else placed upon us, how can we possibly know any different?
What has been modeled? What belongs to another person? What is truly our own stuff?
Beginning to ask these questions, for those of us challenged by abuse and the individuals who inflict it upon us, can be the first pin pricks of healing and seeing ourselves in a better light.
About the Mistake: We feel we have worn-down erasers.
So much energy is put into parsing, sifting, analyzing, and healing. Forgiveness, including self-forgiveness, is spent.
That is a large impediment for those haunted by the daunting, unforgiving mistake issue. We were not taught, early on, the correct view of human beings making mistakes. That assessment was denied to us; it was distorted. It was crafted to keep us easily controlled, manipulated, and quiet.
Wherever we are on the spectrum of addressing and healing the mistake issue for ourselves, it still takes an incredible toll on us personally and individually. We have had to use up so much thought, time, energy, life, and resources to simply survive; there feels like there is little to nothing left to give to anything beyond the most primitive existence.
We are exhausted.
The punishing association we subscribe to the concept of our fallible human nature can further deplete us. It can drive us to self-medicate to cope.
And those attempts can create further problems, exhaustion, and despair.
We become convinced our tired, failed, depleted state is all we will ever experience. Abusers can work to further exacerbate and encourage that state of mind. This is especially the case if it profits them and keeps us docile.
Again, how can we make another choice if this is all we know?
Mistake Key of Life: Permission:
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…”
Imagine if we could view the concept of grace through the filter of another often unfamiliar concept to us: Permission.
This is dicey. Most of us have lived and operated under such oppressive and rigid rules, that the thought of permission seems unfathomable. We don’t know what that looks or feels like.
It’s probably because we have had to beg for any shred of it from our abusive dynamics.
We don’t have experience with our personal, free will ability to make decisions about money, saying the word, “no,” and personal expression of opinions, just to name a few examples.
And, if we are waiting on our abuser to freely grant permission to freely decide our life issues for ourselves, we’ll be waiting forever.
Therefore, we must grant ourselves our own permission.
Impossible? Yes, it feels like that. But never underestimate the power of starting small.
Permission to be freaked out at the entire daunting concept of permission for ourselves…
Permission to go slowly…
Permission to be scared at the thought of it…
Permission to begin to believe we are deserving of granting ourselves permission…
Baby steps. The teeniest of baby steps.
But often, that’s the shift that gets us thinking differently about our mistakes: the reality we will make them, the ability to get better and learn from them, and the hope that our mistakes are NOT the end of the world.
It just starts by facing the scary monster of mistakes, with the armor of permission.
We are fallible; we are imperfect.
For too long, our abusers have wrongly and inaccurately weaponized that against us. Distortion of those facts can have long- lasting damage.
Permission helps us take some power back and heal some of that damage.
Viewing ourselves through the eyes of compassion, forgiveness, and realistic assessments about life can aid the healing process. Permission grants us that.
Let’s grant that to ourselves.
Copyright © 2022 by Sheryle Cruse