Many of us are asking ourselves if it’s ok to feel a sense of vindication, even celebration, that certain people got some bad news this week. As a licensed clinician and survivor of complex trauma, I thought I’d share some insights about what’s happening.

When someone’s behaved in ways that recklessly demolished the hopes, dreams, safety, freedom, sanity or lives of either ourselves or people we love, it’s normal to fantasize about hellish revenge against that person. I had, admittedly, violent day dreams about the tribe of grade school bullies who routinely tortured me (and once, almost actually killed me) until we moved to a different state. In those childhood day dreams, I had unlimited super powers which I used to publicly humiliate and mercilessly punish my diminutive enemies. I flew through the air like a miniature Neo, kicking, slapping, punching and otherwise smashing my infantile oppressors to smithereens. I verbally assaulted them in smarter and even harsher ways than they’d verbally, physically and psychologically assaulted me. I wanted them to hurt harder than the ways they’d hurt me, foolishly hoping inhumane punishment would somehow transform them into human beings. Even in my closet of darkness, I knew these were fruitless intents but they offered temporary reprieve from the next miserable tomorrow, until I opened a book and drowned myself in one of many beautiful distractions about victims, bullies and heroes who had better costumes than me.

I had different but darker revenge fantasies about my physical, emotional, psychological and sexual adult abusers. I dreamt up tragic deaths for them, followed by elaborate funeral scenes in which I gave impassioned speeches to the people who could’ve stopped them from hurting me but who, for all kinds of reasons, failed to protect me from harm. Sometimes the speeches were to god, sometimes to the abusers themselves. Other times, in my mind, I’d strut assertively to their mourner-less headstones and curse them in their graves. All these visions were created in the defenseless mind of an angry, terrified, grieving, powerless, wounded and hiding child. Now, as fully grown, statuesque, 5 foot 5 inch, hundred and something pound adult, I think and feel much differently.

Systemic oppression stunts our biopsychosocialspiritual growth, rendering us angry, terrified, grieving, powerless, wounded and childlike, until we acquire whatever we need to see clearly and stand taller. For Dorothy, it was a bonk on the head, a few good friends, a fairy godmother and a fabulous pair of heels. Maybe some of us also need a shrink or a sponsor?

It’s not that we come to condone the sick, cruel or twisted actions of broken people. It’s that we realize sickness, cruelty and twistedness are the result of succumbing to sickness, cruelty and twistedness until we surrender to truth and the work of cultivating the light of understanding. It’s a giant pain in the ass to cultivate that light but it’s easier than lugging around untold tons of misery and hate. I think it’s called forgiveness, boundaries, recovery, being woke. Consciousness is what separates humans from animals, though I still think my dog is nicer than I’ll ever be.

Less than one percent of humans are broken past the point of restoration according to sources who previously committed women to insane asylums for accusing abusive spouses of domestic violence. Therefore, we’re entitled to our rational doubts about statistics. That being said, if you’re finding yourself looking at your heart and wondering is my death wish towards this nightmare of a jackass a sin? Nope. It’s a normal and natural part of the healing process.

There’s no right way to feel when we’ve become the dehumanized target of a barbarian’s emotional shrapnel. However, somewhere between righteous rage and saintly absolution lives the only freedom I’ve yet to know in this worldly plane of honeyless, sour milk, and that emotional freedom, I wish for everyone.

In other news, he is profoundly revolting.

13 thoughts on “Feeling Right

  1. Those revenge thoughts have been on the back of my mind. But I’m careful not to bring them forward. Someone reminded me that this man is likely a sociopath and/or narcissist. I think of “A Christmas Carol,” a troubled man confronted with the spirits of reality. At the end of this, if he survives, we will see if he is sick, or sends a fat goose to the family of Tiny Tim. (If he is sick, that justifies his actions, as twisted as they are.) My dad thought Regan was “the antichrist.” He has so many words for the present guy, I have asked him to change the subject. We know each other’s minds, to a degree, and feel it a safe place by not talking about it. Dad worked with DD/ED people for much of his career. I am putting most of my hopes in the election.

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    • Hey Brand. Always good to hear your thoughts. I love the comparison to A Christmas Carol! That story is full of lessons and the ultimate hope that people can change. Pessimistic as it might sound, I don’t think Tiny Tim we’ll be getting a goose anytime soon.
      I hear you on reaching a limit regarding the rants. I wonder why they can’t stop complaining or pointing out obviously flaws? I’ve got family who are like your dad. It seems to border on obsessive, and again reminds me of the hypervigillence that accompanies PTSD; as if pointing out all signs of danger might keep us safe when all it really does is steal our peace. Both of our fathers worked with individuals who had DD. How bout that?
      My husband and I watched The Crucible this weekend and I thought, huh, it wasn’t too long ago that people cheered at public hangings. We’re like spiritual infants. How are we to separate ourselves from the barbarians if we’re also acting like barbarians? I guess by toasting to hopes for their well-being. And praying someone else gets their old job. 😉

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      • Many good things are being brought to the surface by the internet. Sometimes it takes longer to understand. But once you get slapped in the face by global warming and covid-19, well then it becomes validated. (Still people feel a need to blame others. Tuning into Fox News last Friday, for the hell of it, they were spinning china as the culprit for the virus.) This leads to the downside of the internet and social media. If you’re interested, watch “Social Dilemma” on Netflix. Several experts who once worked for these behemoth companies are speaking their concerns about how these social venues are eroding democracies all over the world. Talk about creating trauma, yes, creating. A percentage of the ex investors and employees believe it can still be corrected. Though they didn’t dive too much how.

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      • So many friends have recommended that documentary. I’ll have to check it out. I wrote my undergraduate and graduate thesis on the psychological effects of the media. It’s incredibly powerful in shaping cultural attitudes and beliefs, which can be used in both good and not so good ways. In the absence of mindfulness (rational thinking), the media can definitely contribute to a trauma response, which is what people are taught in marketing school; highjack the amygdala, make people afraid of missing out, or just make people afraid in general.
        There are a few ways to correct it. Individually we can educate ourselves and filter information objectively. Systemically, those who create the media could share unbiased, trauma-informed information about everything from news to products. Have you ever seen the movie The Invention of Lying? There are a few funny scenes about what commercials would look like if humans didn’t know how to lie.

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      • Here’s a thought quoted from Quora on how Scrooge died as the ghost of Christmas yet to come showed: “I’d like to think that Ebeneezer Scrooge was so miserly that he kept his house cold in Winter, thus catching a chill which became the pneumonia that killed him.”

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    • Puzzling indeed. A friend recently introduced me to a concept called Terror Management Theory. Basically, people align themselves with someone or something big and seemingly powerful as a way to manage feelings of powerlessness. Kind of like fans (fanatics) of a sports team.

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