When things keep going wrong in the same sorts of ways, the reason can be personal complicity. This is a really painful concept to explore, so if you take it up, I recommend finding all the reasons you can to cut yourself some slack over why you have been complicit, because this one hurts, but only in dealing with it can the patterns be broken.
How are we complicit? We might be so busy playing out a story we entirely believe, that we don’t notice the story isn’t true, and that only our maintenance of it keeps it going. I believe there is no place for me, so I keep a distance, so there is no place for me, for example. We might be playing out ideas others have taught us, stories from our family about who we are and what we do – we might be not doing the things that call us becomes someone else told us we were useless. Can’t sing, can’t dance, acts a little… We might also be complicit because we are afraid of change or failure, or hurting someone else.
Complicity tends not to be a conscious thing. Even when it comes from self hatred, it’s easy not to know you are doing it. The self hatred makes it so obvious that you deserve everything to go wrong and so you don’t do anything to protect yourself when it does. It takes some work to make that unconscious complicity conscious, but when you’ve hauled it out and can see what it is, change becomes possible. The old story can be dismantled, other ways start to exist. Yes, it is hard and it hurts and it can raise a host of other things that hurt – because complicity has reasons, and serves a purpose and to get out of it, you have to face that down, too.
Here’s one of mine, by way of an example. When someone hurts me, my knee jerk reaction is to explain it: Why I deserved that, why it was a reasonable thing to do to me. I justify and excuse the hurt. On a really bad day I won’t mention it in case saying ‘ouch’ makes the other person cross, or resentful and justifies them hurting me even more. I tell myself that I would be an awful, unreasonable person for mentioning that I’ve been hurt. It’s tantamount to emotional blackmail. It would be abusive of me, to mention being hurt and risk upsetting them, because me being hurt does not matter and them being hurt would be terrible.
And so if someone lands in my life who hurts me – for their own gain or amusement, or out of a lack of care and attention, I’ve just let them get on with it. I don’t resist, or fight back, or even walk away, and this held true up until a couple of years ago when I started to tentatively question my assumptions. I’m still not handling it very well, and struggling to recognise my own complicity and how I add to this.
I suffer from depression – and this is not unrelated. In my head are all the reasons it has been ok to hurt me. All the reasons it is perfectly reasonable not to expect anyone to care about anything in my life. Years of internalising other people’s lies and excuses have left me with very little emotional resilience, no means to fight back when things are going wrong for me, and no way of being gentle with myself in face of my own pain. Because obviously if I’m hurting it’s because I did something wrong, I deserve it, have brought it upon myself or am making a fuss about nothing. Thanks to my complicity, falling into depression means falling deeper into self hatred and self-destructive lines of thought. As I try to break that, the mechanics become more visible.
I could not have got out of this on my own – not least because I did not get here all by myself. I’ve had ‘help’, which allowed me to develop complicity as a survival method. And more recently, I’ve had help to see that I do not have to be complicit when people hurt me. There are other people in my life who do not cause me pain or leave me feeling worthless. All I have to do is allocate my time based on the company I am happy in, and stop believing the story that the people who hurt me are entitled to opportunities to keep doing that. Starting to walk this path was painful and traumatic and forced me to recognise things I did not want to recognise. But, seeing all of that allows change, and I think it gets better from here.