Thursday, July 19, 2012

Accepting Unacceptance: The Healing Power of Validation

When a relationship suddenly changes; when something we never expected to happen to us, DOES; as living, breathing, human beings, we often have an arduous time processing the unexpected. This seems doubly so when other people are incapable of accepting and empathizing with and validating our experience.

It's like the time my friend was walking home from school and got hit by a car. An old lady was speeding down a road and passed four neon signs that read 25 MPH when school is in session. She had already been stopped just moments earlier while a crossing guard busily escorted students across the street. And now, she was approaching the crosswalk that had blinking lights as a friendly reminder that people were using the crosswalk.


Now laying 25 feet from the point of impact, my friend lay as stiff as a board. Little birdies danced around her head while her brain lagged a tad bit trying to making sense of the chaos. She was out of it for quite a while.

Her adrenaline soared and she managed to peel herself off the ground, even after the on-campus police officer told her it'd be best for her NOT to move due to what appeared to be a few misplaced bones. Cars coming from the other direction had to swerve around her, terrifying her of the possibility that she would be hit again. And, she doesn’t remember this part fully, but, she peeled her skin off the street acting like a crazy person dodging in and out from between cars to pick up her school books, notebooks, and her pencils and pens that were strewn all over the place. Her backpack had been nearly ripped into two - like when opening a box of Fettuccini noodles when, out of the corner of your eye, you see your kid getting ready to pull the boiling water off the stove onto his face.

In retrospect, picking up books, pencils and pens was, at the very least, a stupid thing to do. But when unexpected things happen, human beings do some crazy ass shit! You say to yourself, "I cannot BELIEVE someone hit me, in a designated school zone, going 50 mph! I cannot BELIEVE what just happened!" And while you can't BELIEVE what just happened, you're acting like Fruit Loops and going coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs. You're not grounded in reality, you're suspended above planet earth with one foot in La-La-Land and the other hopefully NOT on the proverbial accelerator in your mind.

After having been airlifted to a hospital 30 minutes away and spending four painful nights in the Pediatrics Unit, she was released with a broken wrist, bruised ribs, and road burn covering the whole left side of her body and face. She said to me with eyes full of horror, "What person in their right mind peels their skin off the street and races through traffic to save their books and pens; especially their school books…?"

But that's exactly what she did and there's no denying it. In fact, a handful of people could attest to it. Thank her lucky stars, all of the other motorists on the road that day decided posted speed limits weren't merely a helpful suggestion. The paramedics arrived in five minutes. My grandpa, a fireman, arrived two minutes prior worried it was one of his four grand kids that had the potential to be in the area. To his relief, it wasn't, but due to her un-recogniability, it was hours later that he figured out that it was/is my older sister's current husbands' baby sister.

Both the paramedics and my grandpa helped save her from herself along with treating her as if she were their own. They made sure her body wasn't exposed to all of the teacher's and student's who had raced down to see what all the commotion was about. And thankfully, they arrived quick enough and had the necessary training to recognize that this was girl in shock after having been temporarily traumatized by what she had no time to react to. After all, God decided it wasn't necessary to have eyeballs on the sides of our head.

As humans, we act unconsciously and outside of ourselves until our brains can apply some order to unforeseen chaos. We do things we'd never - under ordinary circumstances - do. People who do not understand the shock of being blindsided in an area full of flashing lights and neon signs look at us as being one grain short of a full box of Wheaties.

Before picking up our last book, if we're lucky, the little birdies circling our brains will stop going tweet, tweet; and we'll get ourselves out of the middle of the street and out of harms way. If we're really lucky, an emergency vehicle, and maybe even an off-duty fireman, will show up in the knick of time to check us over for our most pressing injuries and sooth us back into reality by taking charge because obviously - we can't; at least not for a little while! We're in pain. We're confused. We need help. But most of all, we need support that respects our temporary frailty and respects our weakness by promising under the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm.

One of the first questions resolved by the police - putting my friend's mind a little more at ease - was the assignation of fault and blame. "It wasn't your fault," the cops reassured her. "She was speeding and trying to dial the numbers on her cell phone that her eyes were to weak to see."

That settled her obsession of replaying the event over in her mind while wondering whose fault it was and how she might avoid being hit by a car again. What she had done wrong and how she could fix things in the future when crossing the street was a moot point! If the driver hadn’t been negligent in seeing the warning signs, obeying the posted speed limit, and staying off her damn phone while driving, this accident likely never would have occurred. There was truly nothing she, my friend, could do about it. She was crossing the street like you're taught to do in kindergarten: Stop, look and listen! It was only when someone determined themselves superior to the rules society sets to protect us from each other, that she was smashed into before the driver ever looked up to see what was going on.

As the saying goes, "Shit happens!" It doesn’t matter how good, obedient, courteous, and conscientious one may be - the fact of the matter is - not everyone else is! People break the rules and hurt others. They point the finger at everyone else and put up a good fight to avoid responsibility for their choices. In the end, the law decided who was at fault and who wasn't; and who pays the price and who doesn’t. In a law-abiding CIVIL SOCIETY, the guilty are penalized; thus releasing the innocent from their natural instincts to question themselves as to what they did wrong and how they can protect everyone in the future, including themselves.

The religious traditionalist is a school zone menace. A religious fanatic without brakes who condemns others and blames it on his/her god(s) because that's what it says in his/her "holy book" that they've never taken the time to read - has no moral compass if the reason they're against something is because "god says so." Furthermore, since justifying anti-gay bias by citing religious/quasi-religious beliefs has no rational basis in any substantive harm that homosexuality constitutes, public policy codifying this bias verges on the government establishment of religion.

After exposing the flaws in the arguments they put forth as to why homosexuality is wrong and/or why gay marriage shouldn’t be legal, any point-by-point refutation is resented and said to be full of lies, persecution, or violating someone's first amendment rights**. It's all about a traditionalist's views being too fragile and in need of avoiding any sort of scrutiny or any tangible evidence that goes against what they feel is true in their heart.

A literal fundamentalist is a law unto themselves. One who mocks social change and science as being only for atheists, homosexuals, intellectuals, and devil worshippers. One who asserts that gay marriage will destroy the moral fabric of society at best, and hone in the Second Coming at worst. And one that thinks that the end goal is for gays to spread their lifestyle amongst the children and convince them (the kids) to be gay. In a literal fundamentalist's eyes, gays and gay marriage are both weak and inferior, for the downtrodden and the hopeless, and for the vile and the most wicked of all sinners.

I once thought that the only way to negotiate some kind of reasonable marriage and anti-discrimination laws in a society filled with fanfare, fundamentalist, fanatics (say that three times fast), is to seek justice. That means assigning fault and blame where fault and blame are due and not expecting someone like my friend to say, "Okay. I'm half responsible for my accident because I share the crosswalk with people dialing away on their cell phones while speeding through a designated school zone." That would be a legal injustice making a mockery of what we know to be true. It only takes one person to be speeding and not paying attention to cause an accident and the only person responsible for that accident, is the old lady without a foot on the brakes!

What legal justice did to restore my friend's sense of safety again was educative. I was able to watch her start healing once she had been absolved of fault for only doing what millions of people do every day --- walking down the same street and using the same crosswalk as everybody else! She did not spiral into guilt and self-blame that cannot be resolved because it was based on a lie. She did nothing wrong. she cannot suffer remorse for guilt that was not hers to suffer. The law saved her from illegitimate suffering wondering how she could prevent this from happening again. She can't - not if she bore no responsibility for causing herself to be hit in the first place. She'd go half-crazy if she looked left-right-left-right, and then left-right again before taking a single step; or if she simply refused to ever walk home from school again; or never carrying a backpack again because maybe that is why she got sideswiped. She did nothing wrong and even with legal support telling her this, she had to constantly be reminded of this fact over and over and over again. Sensible, good-hearted people are prone towards internal examination of the self as cause to the consequences in their lives.

I never could have imagined, me coming out to my grandparents would be like another accident on the freeway of life. Perhaps there were neon crossing signs and warning lights alerting me to danger ahead, but then again, maybe there weren't.

As long as our society pretends that there is NO FAULT and NO BLAME to be assigned when a gay teenager takes their life; as long as there are groups of people out there that mask themselves behind religion and morals that tell kids and teenagers that who they are is wrong, that they are going to burn in hell, and that they can't live a happy life unless its spent trying to overcome their same sex attraction (sic!) or remaining celibate; as long as these organizations hide behind cutesy throw up names like "One Million Moms," "Family Research Council," and "Focus on the Family" - while being protected by the government to make gay people's life miserable; and as long as gay's and gay marriage is being compared to bestiality, pedophilia, and personal enslavement - there will be no deceleration of gay teen suicide.

When we see judgment or indifference in other people's eyes, we tend to isolate ourselves, withdraw into silence that may lead to depression, prolonged grief, and ultimately, suicide! It's the betrayal or ignorance of the bystander that makes it hard for us to let go of self-blame and move forward. Here are four key steps to consider if you are grieving the shock and trauma of being unnacepted by family members:

1. Know that there is an end to pain. The problem with rejection is that it hurts and depending on the circumstances, it may take a while to get over. What you tell yourself is what you will believe, so tell yourself that no matter what, you are going to get through this and move on. It is always helpful to focus on the pain itself. There is some truth to the old adage of dusting yourself off and getting back on the horse that threw you. Focusing on the rejection and the hurt only strengthens that pain.

2. Don't take it personally. This is probably the hardest thing to do because, of course, most people take rejection personally. Eventually you come to realize that it is not you that its at the center of the rejection!

3. Learn and move on. Truthfully, the only way to get over rejection is to learn from the rejection and move on. Being rejected by someone is not the end of anything; it is the beginning of learning. We need to take the time and effort to work out for ourselves the reason or reasons we were rejected in the first place. This will give us the necessary information we need to overcome the rejection so we can move on.

4. Turn rejection into acceptance. I can assure you the pain does lesson and the hurt does go away if you let it. You must turn the rejection into an acceptance of yourself for who you are and not what you feel the other person wants you to be. Do not try to change yourself only to impress someone else because eventually you may come to resent it. Sooner or later someone will accept you as the person you are and will feel the same way about you that you feel about them. It only takes time and patience.

To sum it all up, accepting unacceptance and getting past the hurt is not easy, but it can be done. Getting up, learning from the experience, and moving on is simple, but it's also that complicated. I can tell you from experience that there are times I still look back and wonder, "What if?" Then, I look at where I am now and think to myself, "I really would not change a thing!"

I believe with every fiber of my being that anyone with a generous heart, a moral conscience, and the intention to create a safe, happy, long-lasting, loving relationship with someone of the same sex, is capable of being sideswiped and flat out rejected by a homophobic relative.

I also believe that there is one person at fault for the stagnated, strained, tenuous relationship, and that is the homophobic relative.

I will also be so bold as to say that there is no one who works harder to save the relationship and support family members in coming to grips with one's homosexuality than the gay person themselves. When we have our reality VALIDATED by someone who shares the same experience and we know that that person is a GOOD person of integrity and conscience, then our healing process gets a kick start.

Our truth must be heard in order to release us from illegitimate blame and guilt. Until we Accept Unacceptance: and Experience the Healing Power of Validation it's far too easy to believe the lie that we are trapped in a wrecked self without any hope of escape.

** Often times a series of legal cases are pointed to, including ones in which, supposedly, Catholic adoption agencies in Massachusetts and Illinois chose to stop doing business with the state instead of being forced to place children in same-sex homes. Massachusetts had legalized gay "marriage," Illinois civil unions. They also warn that redefining marriage can impact what is taught in public schools and could affect the tax exempt status of religious organizations.**


~ SoACTing

1 comment:

  1. I am rereading a number of your posts. I wanted to read them twice, with some space in between, so that I could think before I comment.

    I really like how clearly you state your experiences, and connect them to other experiences that most people, gay or straight, can relate to. If you are interested, I would like to have you share this in my Proud to Be an American, Not So Proud to Be an American series, as an example of Our Country and it's citizens judging without reason, and forgetting that all people deserve love and respect. If you would like to Guest Post in the "Not So Proud" side of the conversation, I would be honored to have you.

    My email is findingmywaysoftly.blogspot. Com (just remove the space)