Dealing With Destructiveness

A few years ago, I was in a short-lived and long-regretted relationship with someone I thought I knew quite well, only to then discovered that I had no idea who I was dealing with.

It was partly a mistake in judgment (=naivety), partly I guess unconscious psychological trouble becoming visible in the partner I chose (believe me, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that one in the last years), a dose of rebound after another mess of a relationship a few months earlier, and partly me not having heard about the bad experience others had with this person before me, whether in terms of dating type relationships or work relationships.

What I had seen and experienced myself until then seemed good. Seems unbelievable now. But especially in the ‘run-up’ to our acquaintance becoming a relationship, all I could see was someone sweet and sensitive, somewhat troubled but trying to fix things, intelligent, creative and kind. I trusted that person and accepted what I knew of difficulties. Who am I to judge…

The consequences of my decision to give this relationship a try are still with me now – I still worry about meeting this person. About being shouted at in the street, about being alone in that situation and about what might happen apart from shouting. I think geographically we still live quite close to one other, so the occasional meeting is a real possibility.

For quite some time after the inevitable break-up, we had to deal with each other through work which became increasingly difficult. My then ex’s behaviour towards me and colleagues grew more and more destructive, starting with offensive emails, texts and phone calls, and moving into unhinged shouting at people in public etc. It became clear that old addictions were back in the game again, as well as a deep-seated anger at everyone who didn’t play according to this person’s rules.

All in all, this is one of the most destructive persons I have met in my life, always feeling the need to gain control of what others think and do (and be ‘looked up’ to as the one who ‘knows’), feeling above responsibilities and agreements, and feeling the need to take down everyone who doesn’t accept playing the game according to these particular rules.

Everything and everyone who could be a threat in this particular worldview has to be pulled down to the lowest place possible. Destruction will solve it. The thinking being, “If you don’t agree with me, you have failed me, and you cause me pain, and the unhappiness you caused me this way will lead to me failing at keeping my addictions in check – so it is you who has caused me to… (drink, take drugs, shout at you etc)”.

The Self is an ideal to this person, perceived at some distance, and in combination with a distorted perception of everyone else’s seeming destructiveness towards the idealised Self.

It’s always others who are to blame. So it’s others who should put this person’s life right. The world at fault, the Self wronged – but also the Self potentially perfect.

I think that’s where I’ve got to, trying to make sense of all this. I find it hard to get my head around what happened there. At times I think it would be better for me if I let go of trying to understand this person. But making some sort of sense of it might help me to put this behind me. And I need to understand how I slid into this relationship, so I can do my damnedest to not experience anything like this ever again.

This is all on my mind today because I met someone who used to be in a relationship with this same person, a few years before I was… And we actually had a conversation about that. And I understood that the poison of this experience affected both of our lives, we both struggle to claim ourselves and our self-esteem and confidence and trust in our own judgment back after having been in that relationship.

And because I know now that it’s not just me who ran into this trouble, I understand that this destructiveness didn’t actually have anything to do with me.

I was only a construct in someone’s destructive mind, and I as a person, the actual me, had nothing to do with that mind’s distorted idea of reality.

All I did is cross this person’s path in good faith. I did nothing to cause this person pain or unhappiness.

Unhappiness, destructiveness and hurt are some sort of inherent part of that person, and they are being passed around to as wide an audience as possible in an attempt to make everything more familiar and controllable maybe  – but in the end, none of this belongs to me. I don’t have to carry it around on my shoulders at all. This person would like me to carry it, but that doesn’t mean I’ve got to accept the load, any part of it.

This whole game has nothing to do with me.

None of the behaviour of this person is my fault.

The blame I received for real or invented trouble was in no way justified. I was given the role of a prop in that relationship, there was no real interaction between two people. It was just the same sad play on endless repeat, with one of the actors exchanged for every new staging. And since I hadn’t seen previous performances, how could I have known?

What a waste of time.

Not just having been in that relationship, but all the time I spent thinking about it later on. What a waste of energy with so many people having to deal with this destructiveness, with this sort of bullying. What a waste of happiness, people ending up mired in self-doubt that makes them try to figure out whether this distorted view of them and their surroundings bears any semblance of truth. Whether the bully is right… 

How come it is so much easier to doubt ourselves than to doubt a bully?

Mindgames. Manipulation. All of this a waste of what could have been time and energy and strength for something good and creative and truthful and life-giving.

There’s no point in regretting the past and wishing for a different one. That is what was, and here is what is. 

It is good to know who owns which part of the experience.

Long ago the Lord made a road through the sea, a path through the swirling waters. But the Lord says, “Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already—you can see it now! I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there.

Isaiah 43:16, 18-19 

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