Vulnerable, Sensitive and Emotional- The Challenge of Authenticity

15 04 2014

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I have spent most of my life in denial- denying (or at least failing miserably at coping with) my emotions, never sharing any sort of sensitivity, and hiding my vulnerabilities at almost any cost.

Part of this was a survival tactic. If I pretended as though nothing could penetrate my thick skin, then maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe I could learn to ignore the teasing and the beatings, and eventually the other kids- my sisters and later their friends, and the kids at school, would leave me alone.
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I didn’t have the strength to fight back, and my calls for help were largely ignored. I didn’t get any peace until high school when I had a car and access to large friends.

Empathy and caring were liabilities I could not afford. In order to live in this world I had to create a convincing façade. I had to “out-normal” the normals.  I had to be tougher than them.  I had to be able simply stand and take it and never surrender.
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For most of my early adulthood I was NOT a nice person at all. I was cut throat, ruthless and not terribly concerned for anyone but me. But I was living a fake life. In reality, I was still the scared shitless little kid with the thick glasses and ill fitting clothes who got tossed in the bushes every morning before school.  I had made up my mind that if any pounding was going to be done (now more in a figurative sense) I was going to be the one doing it.  The pound-ee became the pound-er, in what I think was sort of a preemptive attempt at self defense.

I wasn’t going to let anyone hurt me- physically or emotionally- again. I can be a good actress.  As long as I understand the role I’m playing, I am pretty good at showing other people exactly what they want to see. For someone on the spectrum, being “socially acceptable” and learning the rules of both etiquette and power is a pretty big deal.  I admit I’ve done well with both, and for a long time, too well for my own good.

Living the soulless, emotionless façade is positively draining, and for me, dishonest. Keeping up that façade has also cost me greatly in terms of physical, emotional and spiritual health.

I am not “Iron Guts.”  Far from it.  I just don’t process emotions very well.  I can’t really feel until I have a chance to put those feelings into words, to mull them over, and actively think about them.  Sometimes that act of processing can take hours, or days, years, or even decades.

 

 passage of time

Two things are inevitable in this world- death and taxes.  Everything else…is negotiable.

I can make a good argument for the theory that time isn’t necessarily linear as we process it, but that it might just be a more cyclical thing.  Most of the time I don’t process emotional stuff in “real” (or linear) time.  I can break into inconsolable tears and that deep and breathless despair and mourning 20 years after a loss, (with or without an appropriate trigger) even when at the time of the event I couldn’t process anything other than facts.

Maybe that phenomenon of the super-delayed reaction is simply my faulty wiring taking its time making the heart-head connections that normal people just sort of do on auto-pilot.  I’m sure that the primal, emotional part of my brain has to take the long way to get the message to the analytical, logical part of the brain that can dissect, categorize, and to a degree translate those vexing and foreign raw feelings into a format I can understand.

I can guarantee that quite a few of those emotional maelstroms get lost in the translation, and that’s probably a good thing.

I know that I’m weak.  I know that sometimes my intellect makes assertions that the rest of me, for whatever reason, can’t (or won’t) understand, or back up.

I  know that I would be tempted to make the same statement as the apostle Peter – “Lord, I would never deny You,” while at the same time being willing to sell the Lord up the river for the equivalent a few silver coins.

The self-preservation instinct runs deep within humanity, but the irony is that loving the finer things in life and/or trying to save one’s hide are sure fire paths to spiritual death.  We supposedly know better, but we do it anyway.

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I don’t want to think about betrayal, but I know I do it too.

I’m beginning to believe that many of my misanthropic tendencies (dislike of people) come from the fact that I never know who is going to stab me in the back next.  I don’t trust people.  Not at all.  I didn’t trust people when I was a little kid who was beaten up every time the adults turned their backs, and I don’t trust people any more today because I never know who is going to (figuratively) throw me under the bus to save their own hide, or set me up to fail to make themselves look good at my expense.  Betrayal is part of the human condition, and it is bitter to forgive it.  I know I want retaliation. I want revenge.  “Give me my pound of flesh!,”  is usually my knee jerk response when I am wronged.

It’s sort of hard to imagine Jesus being betrayed to his death by one of His intimate friends, and then denied by one who was closest to Him.  It’s even harder to imagine forgiving those guys for doing that.  I have a hard enough time forgiving those every day slights.

Yes, I am broken.  Yes, I am a betrayer, not to be trusted.

And yes, Jesus forgives even me.

 





Matthew 27:62-66 Jesus in the Tomb (Holy Week- Holy Saturday)

30 03 2013

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The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, “After three days I will rise again.” Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, “He has been raised from the dead,” and the last deception would be worse than the first.”  Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.’  So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.”  Matthew 27:62-66 (NRSV)

The last thing the Pharisees wanted was a risen Christ.  They were convinced that Jesus’ disciples would raid the tomb, claim Jesus had risen from the dead, and cause even more uprising among the people.

So Jesus was sealed in His tomb and guarded by soldiers- ostensibly to assure the Romans that the disciples could not stage a phony resurrection, which was a logical step, given the Pharisees’ assumption that Jesus was just another false prophet and fake.

The disciples could not move the stone, but all things are possible with God.

The disciples were having enough problems with believing Jesus.  Although Jesus had hinted at the necessity of His death and had given the promise of His resurrection, they were confronted with what they could see.  Jesus was dead.  People don’t just come back from the dead.

Maybe they were wrong about Jesus.  Maybe He was just another snake-oil salesman, a charlatan, and a fake.  He was their beloved Teacher, but had they been naïve and been deceived?

Today we as Christians know the rest of the story, so in our liturgical traditions  Holy Saturday generally doesn’t invoke the same maelstrom of emotion that it would have held for Jesus’ followers that first Holy Saturday.  They were afraid- both of the Pharisees and of the Romans.  They had deep and lingering doubt between what Jesus said and what they were seeing unfold before them.  They mourned the loss of their Friend and Teacher.

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The irony is that we as Christians today don’t really say much about the tension and anguish and doubt of Holy Saturday, even though we live in a Holy Saturday kind of world.

We know Who Jesus is.  We know what He said- but all around us we see plenty of evil that would seem to contradict the Good News that Jesus has risen.  His Kingdom is all around us, but it’s pretty hard sometimes to see it.

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It’s easier than we think to imagine the anguish of Jesus’ friends and followers when they viewed His dead and broken body lying in a cold, dead tomb.

It’s the same disappointment we feel when tragedy happens to us, or when events unfold that we didn’t expect and can’t comprehend.  We are left to wonder, as Jesus’ friends and disciples were, “Is God really with us, or are we just following a false god and deceiving ourselves?”

Tomorrow Jesus’ friends and disciples get to see that He is real, that His promises are good, and that He is Who He claims to be.

I pray that in the moments we feel abandoned or betrayed by God that the Holy Spirit will help us remember, yes, Jesus is Who He says He is, and that yes,

He is Risen, He is Risen, indeed.

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