Friday, November 8, 2013

Rerun: Taking Pleasure in Another's Pain

This is actually a rerun from one of my other blogs, The Difficult Things.  I don't write there anymore.  As I've healed, I've gotten to the point that I feel I can share all the parts of me here.

That blog was for the dark things in my life.  There are still dark things, but I don't hide them from others anymore.

The Difficult Things was very important as I worked to shine light into those shadowy parts.  As I did so, I gained wisdom.  It still helps me to go back and read what I learned then.

I offer this to you, hoping it might shine a light into a shadowy area you or a loved one are avoiding due to fear or misunderstanding.

Taking Pleasure in Another's Pain

I was recently accused of gaining pleasure from hurting another person.  Initially it stung.  I got defensive. 

Then I realized that this person was striking out from a place of pain.  I was sad that she either didn't know me very well or couldn't see things as they really are because of her pain.

Other people's pain.  I've spent a great deal of my life concerned about other people's pain, especially pain I caused.  I have given up so much of what I wanted and sacrificed who I am to make sure I don't hurt others.  This is not healthy.

When I first started therapy I was asked what my boundaries were.  I was very confused.  I had no idea what he meant.  I had no idea that I had a right to set boundaries.  The more I learned the more I understood that I had very few boundaries.  I had some legal and religious boundaries, but that was about it.  Other people could push me, manipulate me, into doing what they wanted time and time again.  And the tool they used to do this was their pain. 

By making me feel responsible for their pain they could make me change my behavior.  Even if I knew my behavior was wholesome and healthy, they made me question that and sacrifice that because I didn't want to hurt them.  One of the main motivations in my life is to not cause others harm.  This has been used against me.

I remember sitting in a therapy session sobbing.  I was learning so much.  I was making healthy changes in my life, changes that were so good for me, but they were hurting others.  I remember asking my therapist how these could be good things if they were hurting others.  He told me something that has changed my life.

I felt like I was personally hurting other people.  I was not.  They were hurting themselves.

I had finally set boundaries.  He told me to imagine these boundaries as a brick wall.  They are there to protect me.  I can set these boundaries but others choose what to do about it.  The people who were hurt by my new boundaries were choosing to continually push against that brick wall.  They were choosing to run head-first into that brick wall and then blaming me for hurting them because I built the wall.

I've seen it happen over and over.  Pain is a difficult thing to endure.  We want to blame someone else.  It's easy to see how another person's behavior makes us unhappy.  It's tough to admit that our response to that person's behavior is what determines our happiness.  It's difficult to admit that our own behavior may be causing us pain.

On the other side of it, I've been hurt by others.  By the boundaries that they've set.  Not because these boundaries were unhealthy but because I was unhappy with them and kept banging my head against them.

Seeing another person hurt because of something I did is horrible.  I hate it.  But I must stay true to the boundaries that I need in order to feel safe.  It is my job to take care of myself; this includes setting and maintaining boundaries.  I am not responsible for the pain another person feels when he or she disapproves of my boundaries and keeps running into them head first.  And it's not my job to fix their pain.  Even if they think it is.


Tracie Nall said...

Whew!! I still struggle with this sometimes - the make everyone around me happy, always put others first, not cause waves or trouble. I love what your therapist said about boundaries being a brick wall, and other people choosing to hurt themselves on it. That is such a great way of thinking about it.

Barbara Coleman said...

Perhaps you and I are long lost sisters! I not only started writing for the same reasons, I've kind of moved on myself. I share your problem with boundaries, but I LOVED your brick wall analogy! You hit the nail squarely on the head. I'm leaving you a link to the last post I wrote on boundaries in case you're interested.

@Dayngr said...

I'm currently reading The Gifts of Imperfection so your post resonated with me. This pinterest pin sums it up perfectly:

Such a great book too. I am learning about boundaries and vulnerability and just loving everything that Dr. Brene Brown is sharing. You might enjoy it as well.

Unknown said...

Wow. I love this post...the brick wall analogy is perfect! I'm guilty of letting other people control me too, and I still feel guilt from things I did years ago that I need to let go of.

Laurie said...

Good stuff. Sounds like what we talk about in a women's meeting I am in. Thanks for sharing my SITS Day yesterday!

Sheila Skillingstead said...

Your post is a lot to take in since I think I need to establish boundaries. Off to work and when I get back I think I will read this again. Thanks for the blog ideas. Enjoy your Day.

Stevie said...

Such a powerful post. This is something I have struggled with too. It's a balance between not wanting to cause harm to others, but also not causing harm to ourselves. In Al-Anon we talk about detaching with love. It isn't always easy. Sending lots of love to you. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

2justByou said...

This is such a powerful post. Boundaries can be tough, from any standpoint. Realizing that you have to set and maintain boundaries for yourself is a great start.
Thanks for celebrating my SITS Day and clicking around my blog!
I'm following you via GFC and bloglovin now. =0)