Sinners & Saints: Wasting My Years

When your mate has PTSD or a history of trauma (or the like) they react to events beyond your control. In the end, I think, you cannot make sense of it. The victim of PTSD or Trauma experiences life events through such filters that skew their reality, but it is still their reality. If you ask them, it is still their reality.

Let me AGAIN say that early in my now ended marriage I inherited the bad behaviors demonstrated by my depression era father. For many my age, this would in fact be your grandfather, but I was born late in his life so am a touchstone to a far distant era. It took me decades to undo what was considered by us as normal, and was modeled regularly in my childhood home. His outbursts where just accepted with a shrug, the privilege of being “lord and master” of your domain. As I became first husband, then father, I knew no different. I was required to identify then teach myself new skills on my own volition.

Imagine the crazy making of being told your behavior is acceptable, only later not acceptable, only later that no behavior even moderate is acceptable, finally that you were responsible for the perception of behaviors you didn’t exhibit and lastly that you were responsible rather for the underlying motivations whether actual and just imagined. These are real events, real responses, from the world of people suffering PTSD and lifelong traumas, unable or unwilling to separate and address the component pieces and root causes of their triggered responses. Maybe too hurtful, maybe too complex, maybe just too uncomfortable to surrender the warm blanket of self righteous blame; it doesn’t matter the reason when the difficult self-accountable analysis and therapy is evaded and avoided. Mayhem ensues.

Yes, in my marriage I did crazy things. I thought it a birthright. And as I came to understand it I tried to apologize. But I tried to parse out that which I did was wrong from that which was just disagreeable. Like a child frustrated for accidentally spilling milk so he violently throws the glass against the wall, breaking it into pieces. Obviously, he must take ownership for the inappropriate outburst to grow himself up. He must own it, analyze its root cause, try to understand its trigger, find a replacement response or simply understand and then extinct the motivation. In other words, do the therapy.

However, there is no need to “apologize” for accidentally spilling the milk. There was no intent, no dark motive; if you clean it up, take responsibility, and move on. A matter of fact, you may spill some more milk today and need only respond the same: clean it up and move on. There is no need to “apologize” for some perceived trauma by others.

But in a world with a traumatized or PTSD partner there often is. Overt acts (like throwing a glass) are swirled in with nonsense acts like spilling milk. Hello and good bye, up and down, day and night all mix up together as traumatic, darkly motivated, planned acts based upon evil intentions. The dark world, in a word, is out to get the victim; starting with there closest victimizer, the conveniently randomly overacting mate.

In the world of trauma based responses, crazy inappropriate overacting can never be lived down. One can apologize, do the therapy, and live a clean life; but still it will be about “that time (years ago) you threw the glass against the wall”. Yes, it was traumatic, but if it is forever unforgivable isn’t the solution to dissolve the marriage? When you rob a bank, you go to prison, then onto probation, but at some point you are supposed to return as an equal member of society with a clean slate. If you are to always be second class, why not just banish bank robbers to some island … or execute them and be done with it? So I was often told “sure, sure, you are forgiven” but in the height of passion those myriad of historic inappropriate actions sprung back, like gunfire to a PTSD soldier, as if they happened again and were never put to rest. The actual solution? For the victim to seek therapy, not for the partner to walk on egg shells. In the end, for us the solution was dissolution.

As an engineer and systems designer it broke my heart to chase around the same circle, time after time after time. It neither upsets me or surprises me to hear tell that I am to this day blamed for things I long ago did, then learned on my own were unacceptable, and sought forgiveness and atonement. After all, I did the work, atoned, and moved on.

Another popular phrase is “Gaslighting” where the victim claims the overpowering perpetrator does some thing then simply denies it, slowly driving the victim … stark … raving … mad (Named after the famous play and movie).

The trouble with the accusation is the same as taunt known to every eight year old: “I’m rubber and you are glue”. If you accuse another of denying something, and they deny it … well, that PROVES you correct. If they confirm it … that also PROVES you correct. AHA! So a sufferer of PTSD or repeated traumas, feeling victimized real or imagined, when confronted with any explanation other than “you are right” need only shout “GASLIGHT!”, and can again avoid needing to do painful self-analysis, counseling, therapy. Its somebody else’s fault, see? Not a triggered inappropriate response to real or imaginary stimulus. Fingers in the ears, nyah nyah nyah, I’m the victim.

In that world, any event, any person, can be called abusive; real or imaginary, direct or inadvertent, atoned for or oblique. And if an explanation is offered it is “Gaslighting” and if an apology is offered it is accepted, then discarded at the next passionate discussion.

My regret is waiting so long, trying to solve a puzzle unsolvable by my hands.

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