In my up and too long coming book (Your 18 Year Factor: How your upbringing affected your life), I have a section I’ve titled, Emotional Drugs of Choice.
Emotional reactions to past injuries are often used to gain a feeling of justified relief and/or emotional retaliation.
We feel justified resentment, for example, because we’ve been hurt so badly. And since actual revenge is not possible, hatred and bitterness serve to give us a means of emotional retaliation.
Yet emotional drugs are actually giving extended life to the damage. They allow an abuser or neglecter to extend his control and spread his damage to those who are close to us by poisoning our hearts with resentment, anger, hatred or bitterness.
A common emotional drug of choice is self-pity or self-sympathy.
There is an attractive power in self-pity or self-sympathy. Like other emotional drugs of choice, it blinds us to the justification and permission we give ourselves to resent a person with whom we have had a longstanding grievances. The power of self-sympathy gives us a kind of courage to focus on ourselves and expect others to do the same. It feeds and strengthens our sense of self-justification in resenting those on whom we project a lack of deserved attention and care.
It is easy to be unaware of this default to self-sympathy when it was the only way we were able to receive attention and care at a younger age. It often starts as a protective mechanism to help us survive painful and difficult circumstances.
But seeking this kind care degenerates into manipulative ways of guilting those around us into caring about us. The care of others ends up being more coerced than genuine. It also feeds more cycles of resentment and deeper commitments to self-sympathy.
Some people use actual drugs to escape the painful experiences of life. Others use emotional drugs like self-pity or self-sympathy as a kind of satisfying retaliation against past injuries.
Although these responses feel justified in light of ways we’ve been wronged, in reality, like all other emotional drugs, they only bind us to the wrongful actions of others. They chain our souls to our offenders by giving them extended influence over our lives and allowing them to spread the damage to those who have to be close to us.
We cannot know freedom from these drugs without repeatedly reminding ourselves of the hard truth about them. Every time find ourselves affirming and justifying our cherished resentments and our right to self-sympathy, we must remind ourselves of what is really happening.
A truth to accept
The only thing we can change about the past is how it affects us in the future. Thank God we can change how it affects the future!
A new mission to embrace
Rather than give your offender more of yourself, allowing him to extend damage to others, redirect your emotional energy from lamenting and resenting the past to pioneering and blazing a better future!