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12 November 2009 @ 01:20 pm
Mahasraya in Perspective  
This project of memoir writing is a curious one because I am forced to remember how I thought and felt about people and events at the time. I've already had one present-day disagreement with someone who was unhappy about what I wrote about her. I know her in the present in a very different way than I knew her in the past. But I am writing about my past understanding and she couldn't see how I would write something critical of her behavior then if I don't have any grievance toward her now.

Those of you who have followed my guest blog posts at No Longer Quivering have read about my anger towards my mother, for example, although we mended our relationship later on. But there was a time in my life when I felt I truly hated her! Since those early years I've done a lot of work on compassion and forgiveness and can place her in perspective.

Likewise I've had a lot of years to think about my relationship with Mahasraya and put it in some perspective. I myself was young and my own knowledge about how to have a relationship was limited and flawed based on the dysfunctions present in my own family. I played a role in accepting abuse by remaining in the relationship. Now I understand the many forces that keep women such as myself mired in abusive relationships--I've written about it myself. Yet that doesn't mean I don't bear some responsibility for enabling him to continue the abusive cycle without being held accountable by my leaving. I finally did, of course, and perhaps that prevented abuse to others in the future--I have no way of knowing that. Don't get me wrong--Mahasraya is the only one responsible for his behavior. I'm just saying that I am also responsible for my own.


Marianne Williamson said today on a phone conference call that "You can have a grievance or a miracle but not both." For those of us who've had to do that hard work of forgiving an abuser in order to heal ourselves, this rings very true. The miracle of healing is made possible by forgiveness, and forgiveness is made possible by recognizing the core humanity of our abuser, a humanity we share. Once upon a time our abuser came into the world as an innocent baby and life created a situation in which that baby was neglected or mistreated or abused and that person reacted with anger and despair and acted those feelings out on others. It is a sad, sad cycle and it goes on all over the globe both in individuals and in societies. But that innocence is still in there somewhere, waiting to be recovered when (and if) an abuser is willing to look within and do the work to reclaim it.

In Mahasraya's case he came from a broken and dysfunctional family like many of us. He was abandoned by his father who in turn had an alcoholic father who was distant and unavailable. His maternal family also had a thread of alcoholism and his mother and her brothers drank heavily. He lost her when he was only 22 years old. His stepfather abused her, teaching him early on that abuse was an acceptable way to deal with disagreements. He was not really parented during his teen years and dropped out of school, getting involved with drugs and stealing with sporadic odd jobs. He joined the Hare Krishna Movement where it was commonly said that there are three things you are allowed to hit: a mrdanga, a dog, and your wife. His early first marriage had ended by the time I met him and he chose not to support his child, blaming his former in laws for driving him away rather than take responsibility for his actions. He was already lost at that point, not having any idea how to mend his life other than by chanting Hare Krishna and hoping that he would be purified.

My wish for Mahasraya in the future is that he will do that work of looking within. I hope that he will see that he's avoided doing that work by clinging to the false notion that all he needed to do was chant Hare Krishna enough and all would be cleansed magically. I hope that he will learn about the concept of "spiritual bypass" which says that by taking on these spiritual trappings some people try to avoid doing the basic work on themselves and take care of their psychological well being. It is like trying to go to college before finishing grade school.

My further hope for Mahasraya is that he undertake a moral inventory--something I've had to do myself. Once he's taken that inventory I hope that he will endeavor to make amends in any case in which it wouldn't cause further harm. It is a powerful process and I think he would be amazed at the resulting peace it would bring him, the peace of being in harmony with others, not feeling any residual guilt or shame or fear, and not living in concealment worried that the skeletons will come falling out of the closet. After so doing, my hope is that he would finally reap the benefit of his practice of bhakti once he is not weighed down by all of these negative psychological burdens. Those to whom he made amends would also benefit and be empowered to let go of their own anger and sadness over the abuse they suffered. The cycle could stop there!

My continued writing is for the benefit of all women who leave abusive childhoods and enter into abusive marriages without knowing why, and for all of those who complain about why they won't "just leave," as well as those who suffer from mental illness and the stigma that goes with it.

For those of you who already know about his abuse of my daughter, I will say only that it is hers to forgive but if he wanted to take responsibility and apologize and make amends, I feel sure that she would listen.

ETA: From the Ramayana by Tulsidas — “There is no other dharma better than acting for the welfare of others. There is no worst sin than giving suffering to other.”
 
 
 
Elayneelena23 on December 13th, 2009 01:51 pm (UTC)
Once upon a time our abuser came into the world as an innocent baby and life created a situation in which that baby was neglected or mistreated or abused and that person reacted with anger and despair and acted those feelings out on others.

I really love this line.

I am a Domestic Violence Detective. In the four years that I've spent in our Major Felony Unit there have been over 400 total homicides (not all DV-related, of course). I have a particularly vivid memory of working one homicide where a known drug-dealer and pretty bad guy had been shot and killed. But at one point, his mother rushed in, cradled his head, and was keening, "my baby, my baby." And I knew that she wasn't seeing the litany of his criminal history or the things he had done, but the child that was still in there, who she had rocked to sleep at night.

I've interviewed murderers. It would be a whole lot easier if they were psychopaths, or just plain evil. But most of the time, that's simply not the case. They end up sitting across from me because a series of bad decisions has led them to a final, really bad decision.

I don't mean to take away from their responsibility for making those bad choices. I don't excuse them; in fact it is my job to hold them accountable for their actions. And I do. But I can also look across the table and see that everyone I speak to is someone's child. It would be a whole lot easier if it were black and white.
Tapatitapati on December 13th, 2009 05:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

I think people often resort to a binary notion that you can either have compassion for abusers or hold them responsible but not both. I happen to think we can do both. Perhaps we can stop the cycle that way, perhaps not, but returning abuse for abuse is never going to help change anything. It only confirms the world view of the abuser.