In the beginning, there was Accusation. And Accusation felt so horrific that the Family learned to do whatever it took to avoid It. Differences in opinion and preference came to resemble Accusation, and were suppressed. Claiming space for oneself, and setting boundaries are other examples. A sensitivity developed that created alerts whenever approaching the threshold, even coming near to it.
There were some exceptions. Adults could feel free to accuse children.
I've written before about people who resented being held accountable for their actions or inaction. I see this now as the responses of people who felt accused, and lashed out. I've been surrounded by people like this my entire life, and I've lived my life to appease them. I've learned to self-censor when I get that tingly anxiety that tells me something I'm about to say will sound accusatory.
There have been times when I'm in conversation and notice that I'm feeling uneasy. I may be talking about an action I took, or a response to another person. Suddenly I find myself bent in an orbit where I imagine the other person thinks I handled it 'wrong', or that I'm rationalizing and making excuses for myself. It's as if suddenly I'm in a glass sphere, where no matter how I move I can't escape the gravity that seems to be bending me into a defensive feeling.
I see now. I learned to defend myself against accusation by attempting to beat the Other to the punch and accuse myself first.
I realized how it goes: I was talking with my friend Marti about my son Scott. I was telling her how he's been disclosing to me details of a summer baseball camp 2 or 3 years ago. Since these details involve some cruelty they are very difficult to hear and absorb, as is the realization of the courage he showed. The situation predisposed him to act out aggressively. He did not. I was marveling to Marti about his self-control when she said, "He's had problems with anger before, hasn't he?"
I felt very awkward, because suddenly it seemed as if our orientation had shifted, and no matter what I said I'd be confirming something I suddenly wanted to defend against: that I am a mother who minimizes my son's weaknesses, makes excuses for him...is in denial. One of those mothers, whose widdle baby can do no wrong. I didn't even have to say anything. It's as if this was our context and anything I said would merely confirm it.
I spoke with my counselor about this, because this is by no means an isolated example of suddenly feeling...odd, as if I'm in a universe where I'm in agreement about something that I'm not, really, yet feel anything I say will merely prove that I am. Sharon said, "Whenever I feel like that, I realize that it's usually because I'm thinking I'm not supposed to be a certain way, or a certain person. And so I've not given room to that person, or quality inside, and the only way it has to speak is in the voices outside of me, in others."
So who is this person I'm not supposed to be? Well, I'm not supposed to be a mother who minimizes and denies her son's problems, and makes excuses. Is it possible I could be that person? And I realize I could. Because inside of me there is a person who is afraid for her son, and has great hope for him. She knows that the qualities he has that set him apart from being 'typical' put him at risk. The field is tilted toward him becoming a behavior problem, if his needs aren't met. Something needs to happen to engage him so he can participate meaningfully in activities, like school. I have such hope that what is going on with him will not tip him into a pattern of how he sees himself and how others see him that will be very difficult to undo. I have such hope that many of his issues are caused by the pace of the maturation of his nervous system. I have such hope that he will mature to the point where his nervous system can tolerate some of life's perturbations with resilience.
And I realized: This is the person that I am accusing. This hopefulness is what gives a grain of truth to the accusation that I'm in denial. It was so automatic for me accuse it and fear that it confirmed my worst fears about myself. And, the grain of truth to the accusation really isn't so awful. I also can reflect on the fact that I've put in place all of the systems that can support Scott should his issues be beyond what maturity can resolve (or at least protect him while the maturation continues). So there is evidence that I'm not in denial and making excuses.
So I suppose what I can learn from this is that whenever I feel that odd bending of reality, I should look for the accusation, then look for the grain of truth in the accusation that I have in turn accused. As a means of defending myself from the accusations of others.
I've had a feeling like a band around my chest for so much of my life. It makes my breathing shallow, unless I get really conscious of it. I feel it loosen. Perhaps this is the knot that's been at my center which finally is beginning to soften, unravel.