Products of the Past

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We are, all of us, products of our past. The daily bullying for years on end that caused horrible self-esteem. Family abuse that normalized the temper-laden outburst. Service overseas that makes the 4th of July a hellish night riddled with flashbacks. The life long love of baseball because it was the one reliable way to lure Dad into conversation. The slight limp on cold days from that splintered femur on the Homecoming field. Marital abuse that causes a voice raised in anger to evoke fight or flight. Daily compliments about pretty hair making it the one thing she loves about her appearance.

All of these things that may have happened as long ago as the day we were born, or as recently as only yesterday, make us who we are. Some of the results can be changed, habits reformed. Some of them are so ingrained that it would be easier to remove muscle fibers. How much should they divulge? How much do they explain to those they encounter? Do the people they consider family have to make excuses to acquaintances for behavior that may seem odd until the reason is exposed?

Furthermore, should they expect the people they love to be sensitive to their past and take it into consideration during interactions? To what extent should they be accommodated?

If Angela were in a wheelchair, we could reasonably expect modifications to be made to her home, perhaps inconveniencing those she lives with, but necessary nonetheless. Her disability is obvious, visible, unchanging, unchangeable. On the other hand, if Fred can’t tolerate the sound of fireworks without having trauma associated flashbacks, what is to be done? Is a petition filed to have his town’s fireworks canceled? Does Fred take a couple of weeks off from work and travel to a country that doesn’t celebrate the 4th? Does he stay and sedate himself into oblivion after dark? How responsible are others for triggering responses to the past? Should Fred be expected to “just get over it”?

When family and loved ones say it’s not a problem, they understand, and then, nearly daily, illustrate otherwise … then what? What happens when being compassionate becomes teeth grindingly maddening? What happens when tolerance becomes “Yes, I understand. I love you and I can’t take your fucking issues anymore”?

At what point do those deeply affected by their past decide they should not inflict their phobias/disabilities/habits/coping mechanisms/all of the above on those around them? That wanting to be loved is selfish? That expecting tolerance is unreasonable? When that point is reached, what do they do? Become shut-ins? Hermits? Become creepy snake guy or crazy cat lady?

Thoughts?

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