Spiritual oppression

On Saturday I took my friend out to lunch for her birthday. We spent a good bit of the hour drive in prayer — among other things she prayed against my chronically recurring sense of being overlooked, marginal, left out. She clearly considered it one of Satan’s favorite tricks for me.

Later, I insulted my friend.

I then spent the next two days loathing myself for the things I say, trying to accept the already offered forgiveness of my friend as well as that promised by God, but not really believing in either.

Sunday morning — I woke up from a dream about spiritual oppression. I don’t even remember what happened in the dream or where I was, but that phrase was stamped on the dream in bold letters.

That night, a phone call from my friend helped settle me somewhat in the security of her forgiveness.

Yesterday, at a different friend’s house for a playdate, along with yet another friend, my child spent most of the morning all by herself. The other two kids were inseparable, giggly and running around and even talking to each other. I’m pretty sure I even remember mine going into the room where they were, and they immediately left. Meanwhile, I sat listening as my two friends talked — they had a lot to talk about, and I didn’t have any two cents to add.

I left feeling vaguely but sharply heartbroken — my little girl already the outcast I’ve always been, the one who walks into a room and sends the others fleeing.

Last night I wrote this in my journal:

Either A) I’m fine and within the range of acceptability — there will be things people don’t like about me but they can still love me anyway, and in a real and true way, and, the corollary, it’s okay for me to act like I think I’m normal and acceptable and lovable, and expect to be loved and appreciated and welcome for the most part.

Or B) I really AM one of the Undesirables, and many people really don’t care for me although they can politely tolerate me and tell me all the right self-esteemy things even though we all know those things aren’t really applicable to the Undesirables, and, the corollary, I had better acknowledge my place with due shame and stay out of the important people’s way, and acting like a normal person will only strain the tolerance and politeness limits of others and make them scorn me more deeply. And asking for reassurance? Expressing my insecurity? Definite faux-pas — that’ll force them to be more polite than they want to be, make me even more a burden than I already am.

And do I actually have any incontrovertible evidence for either position? Not really — what evidence there is is subject to interpretation based on presuppositions.

I need, desperately right now, to have my presuppositions corrected. A sane corner voice tells me B) is a damned lie, and that when I categorize other people as Undesirables that is a projection of my own insecurity and not evidence that such a category really exists.

About evidence and presuppositions — to a normal, happily secure person, the playdate description would present no problems. So one kid is somewhat solitary and the others play together more often. So two mamas had a conversation and the third just didn’t have anything to add. But start with a presupposition that I am an Undesirable and my kid is therefore doomed to be one, too, and the picture looks sinister.

———

Anyway, most of the time I adopt the idea that I really am within the realm of normal acceptable humanity and that people might actually like me sometimes. Today, for example, I’ve mostly been feeling fine.

When this other idea revisits, though, it’s brutal! And it always comes back, sooner or later, and it is really hard to challenge the presuppositions, because they circularly make the evidence look awfully persuasive of the presuppositions’ truth. Arguing in the other direction just doesn’t seem anywhere nearly so likely. And there’s no evidence that can change presuppositions, anyway — that change has to come from somewhere, something, Someone else.

And the consequences of being wrong about A), of thinking A) when B) is really true, seem devastatingly vulnerable and shameful. One must NOT be mistaken in assuming the truth of A).

———

I used my DBT skills pretty well, I think. I observed and named my feelings. I explored my thoughts about them, and challenged them as well as I could. I reminded myself that hormonal changes make my social paranoia worse once or twice a month. I reminded myself that night time is when I am most vulnerable to negative thoughts. I reminded myself that even if the entire human race DOES hate me, God delights in me, and that really is more than enough. I allowed myself to cry, and didn’t get too alarmed by my crying and intensity of feeling — didn’t get sucked into the future catastrophizing of “This is only going to get worse, this is a ball rolling down a steep hill, here comes the pit, and if I tell anyone I’ll just ruin everything AGAIN” — I let myself cry and write and pray, and then I put myself to bed and rested. (After doing my entire BSF lesson for the week, in one sitting.)

———

This whole episode reminds me so much of “The Rules”:

In Operating Instructions, Anne Lamott tells about the “five rules of the world as arrived at by this Catholic priest named Tom Weston.”

* The first rule, he says, is that you must not have anything wrong with you or anything different.
* The second one is that if you do have something wrong with you, you must get over it as soon as possible.
* The third rule is that if you can’t get over it, you must pretend that you have.
* The fourth rule is that if you can’t even pretend that you have, you shouldn’t show up. You should stay home, because it’s hard for everyone else to have you around.
* And the fifth rule is that if you are going to insist on showing up, you should at least have the decency to feel ashamed.

Then she says that she and her therapist “decided that the most subversive, revolutionary thing I could do was to show up for my life and not be ashamed.”

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8 thoughts on “Spiritual oppression

  1. Though I understand you had some powerful thoughts on this topic, I don’t think you are an undesirable. It’s not odd that you had these thoughts, either. People have them. Sometimes maybe we got treated poorly by some people in the past, or maybe even bullied as children, and certain kinds of negative experiences (like when someone was mean) can all add up and trick us into thinking that no one likes us when it really isn’t true. I like you.

  2. Oh Marcy,
    I am in tears and laughing at the same time. Your last paragraph with “THE RULES” hit home with both hubby and I. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Even as over 60s folk we have carried those rules in our heads.

    As for the rest of the post, being ‘normal’ involves such a range of behavior. Your sweet little girl will probably be as talented as you are in some many ways and maybe never like the chit-chat and societal requirements (my opinion) of large or small groups. It’s who she IS, not something that is wrong with her.

    I love your ability to sort out on paper what you are feeling.

    Jan

  3. Marcy: I don’t know you in “real life,” but through our exchanges in this unreal web world, I have a strong feeling that I’d really enjoy you in person. I think I’d find you far from undesirable, and in fact, fun to be around. But, of course, that could be because I am an undesirable and we are both part of the losing team! But, hey, wouldn’t you rather be a member of Cynics Anonymous than all those happy people who are in denial?

  4. Marcy,

    My heart really went out to you while reading this blog post. I think I’ve never felt like one of the “desirables.” Even with my friends and family, there is just so much deep-rooted insecurity that I feel myself holding them at arm’s length, afraid to not be invited to join in, afraid that if I am I won’t be worthy of it. Sometimes, like you, I don’t have anything to say. I’m more of a thinker than a talker, which is unlike most people I know. It does cause me discomfort at times. But then I wonder why do I always feel as if I’m the one who should go against the grain and talk more, why can’t the others go against the grain and talk less?

    Do you know the roots of your insecurity? I’m just wondering if there’s anything in particular, especially from your childhood, which you could pinpoint as the beginning of your emotional angst. Not that a measure of it isn’t normal, I think everyone wrestles with such thoughts and feelings from time to time.

    I found the way you sifted through your emotional reaction and thoughts very intriguing. Do you keep an ongoing journal?

  5. Beauty,

    My insecurity has lots of roots. Among other things, I started out boldly enough, and had to be knocked on the head many times (figuratively) before I learned the lesson about considering others, particularly considering that they might NOT want to do what I want, be with me, etc. I learned it rather too well, though, and have been working backwards a bit for a decade or so — considering that others might like me, might want to be with me, etc. And that I myself, and what I want, is something worth considering, too.

    I’ve been journaling since 8th grade. Some days, some months, some years more than others. Sometimes it’s a place to write my prayers so I don’t get distracted while praying. Sometimes it’s a place to jot down thoughts and reactions. Sometimes a place for working through things a little more thoroughly.

    All that sifting is largely due to things learned in therapy; with Joe, and with my DBT support group.

  6. Hi Marcy,
    I liked this post. You will work through these feelings through a growing process of prayer, soaking yourself in scripture & the natural process of growing in Christ. Our pastor often quotes, “I will lead her into the desert. And there I will show her my love.” The rewards of a desert experience are many.
    BTW, have you considered monetizing your blog? Anita

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