The threads of our lives really are like webs. When one is traumatized in childhood, one does not gather memories along those threads to weave into your life. One gathers terrors, and fears, and triggers. One gathers sense impressions that are indelibly marked into your biology and that you must work to extricate, to bring to the light, to name and heal. And to connect those sense impressions to something real, something that was a threat years ago.
Abuse inherently involves someone dominating you. As a child, to be dominated in an abusive, shameful, threatening way invokes terror. I watched my father choke my mother, turn over the breakfast table and shatter the dishes. I watched him threaten to kill my mother. Such violence made me fear for my life. Someone much bigger than me who was capable of easily breaking furniture could surely snap my neck if I displeased him. Even when he wasn’t being violent, I feared him. I feared my mother’s anger too. While I knew my dad could cut me down to size with physical blows, and my mother, too, to a certain extent, my mother could cut me down to size with words that rejected and subjugated me. More shame and criticism.
Growing up in an atmosphere where it was important that I knew I was small and parents were big and threatening, while also being big in that they provided my needs, was not just confusing. It set me up to always feel small, to seek feeling small in my relationships. I don’t want to feel big in the sense of lording my status or will over another. Becoming big has meant becoming more adult. It’s different and I’m still learning how to jump off of the big/small train and into the field where I can lie down and rest in trust, good will, beauty, and love.
This morning I had to see an ex who wielded himself as big in our relationship. I reincarnated parts of my parents in him, and the parental triggers still remain. He is always the critical one, always needing control and power. In our relationship, while he cut me down to size, in my heart, my little child placed him on the same parental pedestal, with the same terror present with the same longing for love. A dictator won’t always love you. They will always love their power.
But this morning, while he was speaking and asking questions, I realized how little he knew. I saw him posturing himself as someone who knew and did more than he actually does. He said he completed a training that he only partially completed. He implied he taught a curriculum that he has nothing to do with. I saw him needing to be bigger than he was and only having one way to do that. This posturing made me realize how small he really felt. It has taken me years to realize that inside of this person who was my designated Big Man Tormentor, was basically someone who is a child, a minor bully on the playground, someone sick and distorted.
When in the thick of a re-enactment of trauma, this tension of size must be reconciled. When your perspective has basically been erased, coming back to objective reality helps you gain perspective. There is no doubt these guys are scary. They really do wield control and manipulate the perceptions of others, they take take take, they have no normal level of conscience or remorse, and they really can hurt you physically, financially, emotionally, and sexually. They can hurt your children. And it is difficult to grasp the art of transformation and growth while under siege…while someone has made you their enemy in a war that is all in their head. However, feeling small in the battle just gets you more abuse. Growing up through interpersonal war is not impossible, and gives you more options to be able to handle anything your personal fucktard hurls your way. They actually become your strength, and placing all the smallness on those who needed to defend and posture makes you solid and adult.
Let the small be small. The small of heart will hurt others out of their smallness. But those of us who grew up being reminded of our smallness will rise up to our full height, out of love and not ego, out of trust and not fear, out of thoughtfulness and not triggers, out of fully expressed grief and not compulsions to control. We rise up because we can.
Then we can all appreciate that the size of us has nothing to do with dominance or hurt, but with what is in our beautiful hearts.