Last week I sat down with two serious movers and shakers in the mental health community to ask them for help in starting an advocacy group. The meeting went well. Not only were they enthused with my ideas, they actively supported my effort. One of them offered me a speaking position (unpaid, of course) at an upcoming seminar on the mental health system. I had come into the meeting nervous and shaking. My expectation was being laughed out of the room. I was genuinely shocked at the response I actually received.
I don't know why I keep expecting people to be unreasonable. I'm quick to anger and quick to resentment. It's constantly gotten me into trouble throughout my life. Ashamed as I am of it, I can admit I'm capable of hate. But so much of that hate is really presumption, and so much of that is really fear. Paranoia is an enormously destructive force. For me to continue my recovery, I must understand it.
I come from a world where trust was impossible. My mother had ulterior motives; my father broke nearly every promise he ever made to me. The subject didn't matter. School was as violent as it was humiliating. Children fear embarrassment more than anything else. I still do, in many ways. I've written about this before. I was so goddamn gullible. It was never the fistfights that truly bothered me. It was all the times someone led me on. Girls and romance. Boys befriending me just to take advantage. In my heart is a little boy, naive and wide-eyed who just wants to believe. I get hurt so many times I become in my worse moments a bitter cynic who just wants to lash out. Hurt others as they've hurt me. But I get angry at myself the most. In my heart I know I'll be back for more the next opportunity I get.
Those are my two personalities: the boy and the angry man. I don't know if they can be reconciled. To live with one or the other is incomplete. I need both. The boy gets hurt by people like Suzy Cherry Blossom and the scars feed the man. The man brings me to situations like I faced last week. I can tell myself the two aren't mutually exclusive, but it feels almost impossible in practice. I cling to the boy because I know what the man can be. The man is the person who calls into talk shows with an axe to grind against the world. The paranoid gun nut who readily believes President Obama is a communist Manchurian candidate sent on a mission of pure evil. The teenager who kills his family and shoots up a mall. But the boy is no good either. He lets himself be hurt because he wants to believe deep down that everyone is as pure as he is. Maybe that's true on some deep level, but never in practice. The belief sells well short the complexity of human emotions, too. So what do I do?
I've explored two solutions, neither one of them perfect. I can tame the man and I can empower the boy. The truth is, I need both. Right now they oppose one another. They need to come into balance. We're neither as good or as bad as they claim. Yet it's so easy to think in absolutes. Maybe then it's absolutism that's the problem. People always think I'm a joke. People always lead me on. People can always be trusted if they sound nice enough. Like anyone else, I'm a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Who I am is as much where I am as what I want to be. How many people do I know that never learned this lesson? Myself included. I try. It's neither easy or fun. This belief that people are all assholes, waiting to mock, humiliate, and betray me is as deep-seated as it is commonplace. The boy needs the man and the man needs the boy. Otherwise, the world is a very frightening place indeed.