When I was seventeen a young man threatened me at knife point, tied me up and held me hostage. He was the ex-boyfriend of my friend and he figured this action would somehow get her back. (I know, I know – and yes, I did point out that even if she came running she wasn’t likely to stay. My logical reasoning made not a jot of difference.)
You might be wondering what on earth this has to do with being thankful. Well, here’s what – on most of my posts the Ten Things of Thankful Blog hop I have included something that has brought responses along the lines of: It’s so great/cool/amazing that you feel thankful for the negative things. This got me thinking about what is negative, what is positive and so on. Actually it didn’t get me thinking about it, since I’ve thought about this whole positive-negative thing a few times. But it got me thinking: it would be interesting to do an entire TToT post on things that seem negative. I had that thought months ago, and then my wonderful Dad died, and I didn’t feel like dredging around for negative things to be thankful for. But then today, my first time back on this hop for several weeks, I had the thought again. As with every other time I’ve thought about it, that incident from all those decades ago came into my mind. I’m guessing this is my intuition telling me it’s time to write about it.
First, I’d like to say that although I no longer hold ill will against this man, I do not condone holding people hostage. It was a terrifying experience and can never provide a solution to any relationship problem!
Yet, looking back over the years, I know that experience taught me many lessons. I didn’t understand most of them at the time, but better late than never. So I can be, and am, thankful for those lessons.
Intuition guided me to do what was needed to escape so I learned that I can cope in a crisis, that I can think on my feet. When danger strikes I can trust that intuition to help me survive. I haven’t always remembered this over the years, and in fact it took me a long time to really appreciate it. But now, it does give me a subtle confidence that I can cope. I am grateful for that.
I used to tell myself that I could cope in crisis, but went to pieces afterwards. Now as I look back I see that wasn’t true. It would be truer to say that without any form of counselling my already fragile confidence meant I came to conclusions about myself that often made life feel difficult and distressing in months and years that followed. But it didn’t make me go to pieces. I made many, many poor choices over the following years but I had already begun to do so before the attack. Therefore, I have no way of knowing if I would done anything differently. I’m not entirely sure why that’s something to be thankful for, but somehow it makes it easier to just let go.
I learned that we do not forgive others for their sake, but for our own. Holding resentment is a huge burden to bear, and letting it go is immensely freeing. I honestly have no idea how I’d feel if I ever came face to face with this man again, but I have no fear of him and haven’t done for years. I don’t wish ill on him, and would prefer to wish him growth and healing. (Someone who acts as he did was very troubled, and this I knew from the start.) So I am very grateful that pretty much from the start I was able to forgive the man who did this. What took longer was forgiving myself for getting into such a dangerous situation in the first place.
I learned very rapidly, that it is not wise to try to help someone who is deeply troubled when you do not have the internal resources (or external resources) that are needed. At seventeen I had plans to be a social worker, but absolutely no understanding of how dangerous my misguided attempts to help really were. I was guided by sentimental fantasies and books I’d read with names like: The Cross and the Switchblade, and Where Angels Fear to Tread, where all that was needed to protect you from drug-addicted gang members was a mighty dose of love. Perhaps it was true for the books’ authors. It wasn’t true for me. This does not mean any of what happened my fault, but it took me a long time to realise that. I am thankful for self-forgiveness.
Another thing that took me many years to learn was that when we don’t value ourselves, we aren’t valued by others. Had I truly valued myself then, I would have found a safer way to help that man, if I had still felt the need. Now I can see there were ways I could have helped that didn’t mean placing myself at risk. I can also see my desire to help was driven largely by wanting approval, wanting to be good, and fear of the consequences if I didn’t. That’s not love. It’s good to see that now, so I am grateful for that.
The experience let me see the effect of a mind that was truly obsessed. He was obsessed with my friend, but even then, I could see that his obsession mirrored my own for a different boy. At the time I didn’t have the self-worth to look fearlessly at myself and say, “I’m worth more than fantasizing over a boy who doesn’t want me.” Not then. But eventually that came. Eventually I decided I’d had enough of trying to get love where I couldn’t. And I do think that seeing how deranged unchecked obsessive “love” can make a person was a lesson worth learning.
I’m not sure if I’ve reached ten things yet, but really I’m thankful for taking the time to do this post. I wasn’t sure before I began if the time was right, if I truly had let go of the feelings about that time. Now, having written this, I know I have. The incident is well and truly in the past where it belongs.
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