In my Theories of Personality class, I show “The Woodsman”. It’s a 2004 movie starring Kevin Bacon as a pedophile who has just served a decade in prison and is now out and trying to turn his life around. He meets a woman with whom he starts to have a sexual relationship, and after they are together a couple of times, she asks what is the worst thing he has ever done. He says he molested girls and she laughs. She can’t believe it. He gets angry and when she sees his face, she realizes he’s telling the truth. He says, “It’s not what you think…I never hurt them.” Later, we learn he would put pre-adolescent girls on his lap, facing outwards, and rub against them until orgasm.
One day, he follows a girl to a park and after they speak for a bit, he asks her to sit on his lap. She refuses but then says, with tears in her eyes, that she will if it will make him happy. After all, she she does it for her dad. Kevin then asks if her dad makes funny sounds during the time she’s on his lap, and she says yes. He sees the pain on her face, and it’s almost like an epiphany. He sees her hurt. Her real hurt. Since his victims were always facing away from him, he never had to see their faces…see their tears…see their anguish. But now he’s faced with it, and he tells her to go. For him, this is the first step in changing his behavior. Not that the impulse won’t be there, but he will no longer be able to justify or rationalize his actions by saying he never hurt these poor girls.
I was thinking about this the other day, and although I know this is a movie…and not real life…I wondered about the idea of hurt. And here’s what I started asking myself: “Are we so ready to point out the hurt others have inflicted on us, that we can’t see what hurt we have inflicted ourselves?” And I also thought this: “Can change really happen? Big change? Real change? Lasting change?”
In terms of the hurt, I’m so guilty of doing that. Hubby 3 used to accuse me of holding a grudge, and I’m the first to admit that’s true. There are times where I just can’t let things go…and I refuse…yes, refuse…to see any part I may have played in the issue, or I excuse that part by saying the other person was worse. “What he did was an ‘8’ and what I did was a ‘5’, so I win! I hurt more!” See what I mean?
Since being diagnosed with bipolar a few days ago, I’ve looked back on my life and saw how many times I inflicted hurt on others. But instead of taking responsibility for it…apologizing for it…or making up for it, I’ve turned a blind eye to my faults, and have shown a spot-light on those of others. So unfair, I know…and I’m ashamed.
My mom and I talked about this yesterday, and she said I needed to move on and quit thinking about the past. I know that! And I am! I am so excited to see what my life is going to be like off this roller coaster, and I can’t wait to see how it affects my various relationships with family and friends. But, this is a very new thing for me…a diagnosis that explains so so so much of my behavior from when I was a girl, that it’s impossible not to think about what my life would have been like without these highs and lows, and what mistakes I wouldn’t have made.
In depressed states, I would ruminate on the hurts. Think about them time and time again. And I don’t know about you, but the more I think about something, the more powerful it becomes in my mind. And the more embedded. And I go over that damn hurt again and again and again and make it bigger than it really needs to be. And it becomes so much a part of my thinking, that it’s hard to let it go. Then, when I’m in a manic state, I’ll blurt things out about the hurt and make sure the person knows I haven’t forgotten, nor have I forgiven like I’ve promised too. And it’s a cycle. A horrible cycle that I know has damaged many of my relationships.
But now that I’m understanding all of this better…and am seeing things a bit more clearly and forcing myself to re-examine things, I can see how I diminished any hurt I inflicted. And if I did admit to the hurt, I only did it because it was expected, or in that moment, I saw the pain on the other person’s face. Later though, I would bury my part yet again and focus on theirs.
Not gonna do that anymore! Wait. That’s too broad of a statement. What I should say is this: I’m going to TRY my VERY BEST not to do that anymore. To be more cognizant of what my role is in arguments, hurt feelings, etc. I want to take more ownership of my actions. I don’t want to use this bipolar to excuse my behavior…I want to use it to understand it better. More clearly. More truthfully.
Now…about this change thing. I thought that IF change is possible, what would I like to change about me? [Don’t you think we always know exactly what we would change in others if we could…but don’t really think about what we would change in ourselves?]. Here’s what I came up with…and believe me…this is NOT a comprehensive list…that would take a hell of a lot more space.
- Not blurt things out so readily and think about what I’m saying;
- Not take things so personally but try to see things more objectively (this may be impossible for me…);
- Not focus on others’ mistakes, but take responsibility for my own;
- Learn to let things go;
- Understand that the world does NOT revolve around me, and in the grand scheme of things, I’m just a little piece of DNA taking up space. In other words, not take things so seriously;
- To build up better boundaries, instead of opening myself up to everyone and everything because it’s extremely hard for me to say no;
- To appreciate each day and focus on the positives and not the negatives;
- To be a better mama, daughter, sister, friend, and professor.
Holy shit! That seems like so much, and I’m wondering how to tackle this. [And by the way, I have this printed out and hung on my refrigerator to make myself more compelled to follow through with these]. Should I go through them one by one? Should I just take each as a situation arises?
But the big question…can I really do this? Change these things? Make myself not into a different person altogether, but a better person from what I am now? And why is it that we can believe in changing ourselves, but are so skeptical when others tell us they are changing? Does that mean we really DON’T believe in change…but are only giving it lip service?
Maybe I’ll be able to do these things and change some behaviors, patterns, and ways of thinking. And maybe I won’t. But I’ll tell you this…I’m going to try my damnest. Because if I don’t try, I’ll never know. And if I do succeed, a whole new me will be emerging. How exciting is that?
Prof K ❤