My friend, Tiger, recently observed that I don’t seem to stay angry at Painter. She believes I struggle with staying angry despite a growing awareness of the mutual fucketty and shitheadery during and after my relationship with Painter.
Tiger is right.
I do struggle with feeling and expressing my feelings of anger.
However, I am also not interested in living in perpetual anger. Historically, I avoided feelings of discomfort. Today I recognize that my growth demands that I learn to sit with my anger, listen and not block the dis-ease.
Tiger also reminding me, I’m allowed to feel my feelings. She read my post and has an opinion.
Don’t we all?
In a nutshell, during mediation, I allowed my feelings of anger to become directives and not simply data. Anger can be vulnerability’s cloak, attempting to hide where we are wounded. It wasn’t appropriate or in my best interest.
In that anger, I revealed an ongoing openness to Painter: I care what she thinks; how she feels; she can manipulate me; she still has power.
Then I got angry at being angry.
By responding emotionally, I bought into Painter’s manipulative tact. A response that briefly changed the topic at hand. In my opinion, it was an approach she used to avoid the burden of being held accountable, a pattern she repeated throughout our relationship.
I’m familiar with this coping mechanism.
Her accusation shocked me.
No one likes to be accused of something that they didn’t do. There is enough shitheadery and fucketty in my infidelity et al that it isn’t necessary to make things up. As I have from the beginning, I will always own what is true. I might not do it skillfully, but I always own it.
Although, I am getting more skillful.
In my emotionally defensive and angry response, I allowed my pain to show. I allowed my feelings of discomfort to hijack the moment, misdirecting the topic and shifting the conversation. I gave away power because of a story someone imagines. An angry response that betrayed my integrity and heart and didn’t serve my motivation for taking Painter to court.
In other words, I surrendered my thinking brain to my need for safety. I thought, “OMG! I didn’t do this! Will I go to jail?! Will people not like me?! What else is Painter accusing me of that I don’t know anything about?!”
Her stories stirred within me a host of fear and anxiety and not a lot of mindful mindfulness.
As Dr. Susan David asks, “Who is in charge, the feelings or the feeler?”
When I’m connected to my thinking brain I know it didn’t happen and because it didn’t happen she cannot prove it.
Unfortunately, I abandoned my thinking brain and let my feelings direct my responses. Clearly, at that moment, my feelings of angry defensiveness drove the bus.
However, my feelings of discomfort are mine to sort through and not Painter’s burden.
In lashing back at Painter’s accusations, I was trying to shift my discomfort away from me. We call it blame-shifting, but what is happening is pain-shifting. I know Painter is neither the problem nor the solution.
I know this.
As such, I am not interested in taking it out on her either directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly. I am not interested in punishing her, regardless of what she does or says. I have consistently honored her decision to end the relationship.
Painter’s emotional, financial, or physical well-being is not my concern. I can care about her but I cannot make choices based on caring for her.
Here is the reality, dig down a bit, and beneath all Painter’s cuntishness is pain. I know it isn’t personal, except where I make it so.
Painter’s cuntishness acts as an emotional flash-bang grenade, confusing and disorienting those she perceives as a threat.
For example, her smear campaign is a coping mechanism, the Flying Monkeys are cover enabling her coping mechanisms, and her silence and victim playing is a coping mechanism too.
Those are all flash-bangs.
I understand there are people with other perspectives about Painter’s decisions, but those people were never there. They can only imagine intentions and, through their imagination, makeup stories.
If I hadn’t witnessed Painter responding this way with other people in her life, the issue might be all me. However, as I’ve written elsewhere, I wasn’t the first boy that disappointed Painter. Her response to the discomfort was to adopt coping mechanisms to leverage rumormongering, passive-aggressiveness, triangulation, entitlement, silence, and contempt.
Although, I do hope for her, and the next boy, I will be the last.
The uncomfortable truth is I often enabled Painter’s responses to other people and other situations.
And don’t misunderstand, I wasn’t a victim; I was a collaborator. There were often emotional, physical, and sexual perks to being Painter’s foil for her discomfort; perk’s that helped me cope with my pain too.
However, I am now more aware of how I benefited as Painter’s Hero. I recognize I allowed my pursuit of comfort to hijack my relationship goals and values. I am committed to learning new skills.
Painter will be the last relationship where my unconscious unwillingness to be uncomfortable interferes with my intentions.
This objective requires me to learn to express my feelings appropriately. And frankly, not in the middle of a mediation hearing where it is not the topic at hand.
As such, I am making a conscious choice to offer the most generous perspectives on Painter’s behaviors out of love. Just as I recognize the shitheadery and fucketty of my infidelity et al as a coping mechanism, the entitlement to comfort is behind the Painter’s cuntishness.
I also recognize Painter’s behavior doesn’t mean I’m entitled to respond with dickishness.
Although, at times, like in the hearing, I probably will.
However, the more open I am about my responses, the more accountable I make myself when I do make a mistake. The more transparent I am about my mistakes with others, the more opportunities I create for them to see me in a more authentically meaningful light. The more conscious I am about my intentions, the faster I get the feedback that I need to learn to grow in a direction supported by my values.
Committing to making mistakes as I embrace new skills, the more I allow myself to live my own life instead of having it defined for me by the stories of other people.
Owning your experience will piss people off. As much as we demand others’ change and be more or less of whatever, our discomfort about whatever others are doing or not doing is what we want to be changed. It makes sense to imagine our comfort and happiness will return if they stop. As if our comfort and happiness should be someone else’s obligation to maintain. As I joke with Tiger, “Your happiness is my future resentment.”
Primarily, I want to learn how to respond with compassion and empathy while maintaining a connection to my thinking brain.
In other words, how do I act lovingly towards someone (and myself) while remaining accountable to my values? How do I behave lovingly towards other people when they are uncomfortable and behaving cuntishly or dickishly? How do I act lovingly towards another without sacrificing my emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical identity to another’s comfort?
Where do I end, and they begin?
It’s a practice, and I’m learning. And I am learning by practice.
For example, Tiger read my post as minimizing my feelings, avoiding conflict, and enabling more of the Painter’s cuntishness. I see what I wrote as an act of accountability, reflection, and growth.
To her credit, Tiger cares enough about me to be curious and ask instead of imagining intention. Tiger is genuinely interested in what is revealed by what I am doing and saying. She asks, “Is this what you intend, or is this what I imagine you intend?”
She actively owns the story.
If I am going to share my feelings with someone, even Painter, they have to earn that right. Painter no longer has the freedom to witness what lives inside my emotional gates, and by saying it out loud, I take one more step to establishing and maintaining the boundary I have set.
The counter-statement is, “doesn’t your writing invite the Painter inside the boundaries?”
Here is the difference, if she chooses to read one of my posts, that is her decision. I’m not emailing it to her or sticking it to the windshield of her car. Writing on a largely anonymous post is materially different than sitting in court lobbing emotional flash-bang grenades back forth across the mediation table.
Secondly, no matter how many words I use, she only knows what I write. Without asking about what I am saying, Painter will just have stories she imagines…and based on history, she images far more than she knows.
Unfortunately, by angrily reacting to Painter’s cuntishness in court, I demonstrated I still care enough for her feelings, opinions, and safety to try and hide it behind bravado. I demonstrated she can still wound me. I show I care enough to fight.
Although truthful, admitting my ongoing grieving creates a vulnerable and uncomfortable admission. However, the heart is indifferent to truth or practicalities.
Or maybe I’m just codependent?
Secondly, expressing my anger to the Painter left me vulnerable to someone without boundaries and unconcerned about changing patterns. My anger left me susceptible to someone unsafe. Until she can own that, she will remain dangerous, and the gates will remain closed.
Lastly, out of compassion, empathy, and generosity, I recognize my dickishness and Painter’s cuntishness, reveals a rich subterranean river in our emotional and mental lives. As Mo Perry writes, “Dig down a bit, and it’s all pain.”
As I dig, I am forced to recognize people are more than their stories or behaviors; if they aren’t, then Painter is a cunt, I’m a dick, and there is no hope for any of us.
The relationship is over, but the lessons aren’t.