Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Never Again - How the Fear of Yesterday Can Kill the Opportunities of Tomorrow

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” ~ Mohandas K. Gandhi

A few days ago, I met with a friend I hadn’t seen in years. She called me out of the blue the previous week and we decided to get together for lunch. It was great to see her, and I was eager to hear all that had been going on in her life since I had seen her last.

Her story did not take long to be told – she divorced four years ago and has been living the life of a recluse from the time her husband walked out of her life until now, only finding solace in her work and company in her two cats. When I asked her if she is planning on going out again with someone new, she looked at me as if I had lost my mind. “Why?” she said, “to be hurt like that again? I’d rather be alone for the rest of my life. At least I know I won’t walk out on myself.”

Well, it seemed to me that she had already walked out on herself. Her self-imposed isolation and fear had created such a wall around her that she could no longer even find herself. Her eyes, which used to sparkle with joy over the smallest things, were now dull and lifeless, and the enthusiasm for life I remembered her exuding, evaporated and escaped when her husband opened the door to leave – all that was left of her was a mechanical ghost of the woman she used to be.

In all fairness to her, the story of what happened in the final months leading to her divorce is quite atrocious, and her husband really did treat her wrong, but by saying good-bye to any future expectation to love again she gave him more power over her life than he ever deserved to have. He started the emotional abuse, and she picked it up where he left off. In her mind, if one man had hurt her, all men were going to do the same, if given the opportunity.

When something particularly traumatizing happens, memories remain attached to the emotional charge built during the traumatic events. Another friend, for example, was molested as a child by a man with a moustache; even if she had dealt with most of the emotions connected to the abuse, she still found men with facial hair repulsive. Similarly, the friend I had lunch with had created a mental link between emotional pain and relationships in general, thus willingly writing off any potential future connection.

In reality, each person we encounter is a unique design, and regardless of how much they might remind us of someone else we have met in the past, they are not those people. Running into a few bad apples can happen to everybody, but believing that all apples are rotten will only lead us to one unhappy certainty – never again will we taste a delightful apple pie.

Just like apples, rotten people are out there walking in our midst, but their percentage is small when compared to the amount of good people we can potentially run into, and gets washed by the good nature of the majority. No one said life is supposed to always be fair, but in the end it’s always worthy to be lived.

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