Guilt, Shame and Fear – Part 2

“Obeying negative legacy emotions is like feeding wild critters. They will take over and grow in power until we have unmanageable beasts trying to overwhelm us from inside our heads. We need to stop feeding the squirrels in our heads. We can start by refusing to listen or respond to them.” – Peter R. Breggin

“So how was your experience with Somatic Experiencing therapy? Is there anything that you’d like to discuss?”, asked my Internal Family therapist (IFT).

“It was very powerful. Something that I thought I had dealt with came out in the session.” I continued to tell my therapist about the experience and what I felt and remembered during the session.

“Sounds like a part of you felt very scared of your best friend’s boyfriend finding out about your sexuality and the way they handled it. Can you talk to that part and ask it what it was scared of?”

“It says it felt unsafe. It felt guilty about developing feelings for her best friend. It felt ashamed that it could have feelings for a girl. It feels guilty because it feels that it somehow took advantage of her best friend by hiding her feelings. And it felt scared that her most vulnerable feelings were out there in the open without her permission. It did not feel safe. It was ridiculed. It felt like it could be harmed by this guy. It felt let down by her friend who it had expected to have its back, who chose to not take a stand or protect me from that ridicule. It feels disappointed that my friend instead blamed me for not respecting her boyfriend and chose to hide the truth about her boyfriend’s words and actions while putting me down. It feels like I didn’t protect it from all that abuse.”

“That was a very vulnerable part of you that you shared with her. It was not honored the way you wanted it to be. Can you talk to that part and ask what it wants?”, asked my therapist.

“It wants me to acknowledge the pain that was caused by my friend and her boyfriend. They made me feel unsafe. It wants me to stop being in denial about what happened. But I am struggling with it because another part of me wants to see why my friend did what she did.”

“What is this part telling you?”

“That at the end of the day, they were in a relationship. She could tell her boyfriend whatever she wanted. It’s not fair for me to expect anything else from her. And that’s the problem that I had been facing with this friend – I can see how I was disappointed by the way things played out. However, I can also see her side of the story. You know it would be so easy for me to be angry with this person for not taking any responsibility. But I can’t seem to find it in me to be angry with her or hate her. I still care about her.”

“You can care for someone but feel angry with the way they treated you. Do you normally feel that way when someone betrays you?”

“Not every time but definitely with people I care about. E.g., I recently broke up with my girlfriend. You and I have talked about instances in that relationship that were unhealthy. However, while I was in those situations, I kept trying to justify those situations because I could also see where she was coming from. It was only when my body literally screamed at me to take a stance for myself that I finally chose to end it.”

“That to me means that you’re empathetic. You can see where others are coming from. But does that mean that you have to overlook the impact their actions have on you?”

“I guess not. I was scared for my safety that day I hid. The entire situation had a much bigger impact on me than I had given it credit.”

“What does this part of you want to show you?”

“It’s showing me all those instances where I have devalued myself for wanting to keep someone else in my life. I have known about my sexuality since I was a kid. The first time I fell head over heels for a girl, I didn’t know it was anything more than me just wanting us to be close friends. But, the kids around me shamed me for that anyway. They ridiculed and bullied me for months. One person called me weird and told me that it was not normal. They ridiculed me for looking like a “guy”. The girl in question never said anything. I don’t think she realized what was happening either. So, over the years, I told myself that there was something fundamentally wrong with me for having any romantic feelings for a girl. That I had to hide that part of me from my friends, family and even those I developed feelings for because that was the only way for me to keep them in my life. Every time I fell for a guy, I used to tell myself – Finally! Now I don’t have to pretend. Every time it was a girl, I would curse myself internally. Homosexuality became a dark hidden secret. Anytime anyone would make a joke about me and another girl, my entire body would freeze. To top it all off, I grew up in a society where homosexuality was equivalent to a mental disability. People were shamed, made fun of, mistreated, and abused.

Being bisexual makes it very easy to hide behind the shadows. You experience first-hand the thoughts and feelings people hold for same-sex couples. You hear the judgments and start to fear for your safety. I, in fact, am guilty of making fun of those I thought were gay. It made me feel uncomfortable whenever a girl gave me a lot of attention. I couldn’t open up to anyone about my identity for years. I didn’t think I would. But, then, I dated someone from the same gender and realized how I can’t hide anymore.”

“Sounds like one of your protectors was trying to keep you safe. Can you thank this protector for all it has done for you for so long?”

“Yes. Thank you for keeping me safe all those years. Who knows how others would have reacted had I come out sooner.”

“Let’s go back to the scared part of you now. Can you ask it what it wants from me?”

“Trust and believe. I’ve had a hard time trusting myself and believing that I am normal. I’ve had a hard time believing that I deserve more or that I deserve to be loved or valued for who I am. I have also had a hard time trusting people with that part of me. I have felt judged throughout my life. By myself, my peers, my family, and this society. This part wants me to believe that not every person will betray me. All those times when I had kept my feelings hidden for a friend, lived in turmoil, and waited for those around me to accept me, I can let all that go now. I can believe in my own worth and surrender to my truth. All those times I have cried behind closed doors, worried about something finding out about my sexuality, I can let it go now. I can validate that part of me that needs acceptance and tell it that being bisexual is not a crime. Having feelings for another human of the same gender is as natural as having feelings for someone from the opposite gender. I can let go of the need to be seen by those individuals who I was falling for but never confessed my feelings to. I don’t have to pretend anymore and I don’t have to wait around any more. I don’t have to wait for approval to feel.

I was right to feel scared that day. To hide because I felt unsafe. I couldn’t have handled that encounter at that time. I tried to be a friend by giving her a chance to apologize, and by letting her know that I could walk away if that’s what she wanted. I even told and convinced myself that I had forgiven her and that maybe it wasn’t a big deal. I took her accusations to heart and told myself I was guilty of reading her messages and went on to justify her and her boyfriend’s words and actions. I can have empathy for her and I don’t think I can ever stop caring for her. It was a beautiful friendship that we had shared but I can also acknowledge that it was not all roses. There was a big lie that left me scarred and an apology that never came. There were no acknowledgments and no confessions on her part.

In her letter, she also accused me of not giving her boyfriend a chance. Of judging him. And I believed her there too. I told myself that I was wrong to judge him. But you know, what? I wasn’t. I didn’t even judge him. I responded to how he chose to treat me without even knowing me. I didn’t even say anything to her about her boyfriend’s blatant disrespect toward our friendship. For me as an outsider, he came across as controlling and abusive because those messages clearly told me how he was telling her to not talk to me. But I knew it was her relationship and ultimately it was her decision. So, I chose not to say anything to her about him. All I wanted and needed was respect for myself which, in the end, she or her boyfriend couldn’t provide. It was wrong for her to expect me to have any respect for someone who belittled me or tried to control my best friend. He lost any respect I had for him when I read those messages. He is her boyfriend and she can choose to spend her life with him. For me, he is an individual who disrespected me and made me feel unsafe, and called me names. He didn’t even spare her. And for what? For trusting my best friend about my core identity and confessing my feelings so that we could create a boundary and respect their relationship? No, I don’t have any respect for him. I can’t respect a person who has no respect for others and who chose to paint an image of our friendship in the most demeaning way possible, whatever his reasons might be.”

“What about her?”

“She is a human. She made mistakes just like I did. She had supported me multiple times and didn’t support me when I needed her the most. I needed a friend who could protect me at that time. I was vulnerable and scared. I needed love and support. The irony is that it was her supporting me and encouraging me to accept myself and love myself that played a big role in bringing me to where I am today. That’s what our friendship was about – love, respect, and support. But, in my most vulnerable moment, I received judgment and criticism. I think I’ve just finally accepted her for who she was – an amazing friend who would stand by her friends and fairness until her romantic relationship was involved. What bothered me the most was her blatant disregard for how her actions or lack of actions had impacted someone – her best friend.

I often wondered what would happen if I ran into them somewhere. I try my best not to and avoid places where I could. I, in fact, tried to limit my interactions with our mutual friends wherever I could. I feel like I am finally at a point where I won’t care as much. I miss her for who I thought she was and the relationship we shared but I can’t ignore the fact that she chose to overlook the impact her and her boyfriend’s actions had on me. I trusted her and she broke that trust. It aches me to wonder how she went on supporting abuse without batting an eye or taking a stance on how those actions had scarred someone. She often talked about justice and was extremely cautious of me opening up about my sexuality to other people because she didn’t want anyone to disrespect me. Apparently, that didn’t apply to her boyfriend. He could call me a “slut” but, in her definition of fairness, that was allowed.

In her letter she said, we’ll be friends again when I find someone because that would mean that I am over her and make it easier for us to be friends. The fact is, I found that someone, and when she asked me if I wanted to speak with my friend, I reflected and told her that my friend can’t be in my life until she takes accountability for the impact of her and her boyfriend’s actions. Their disregard for other people’s feelings is a constant reminder of her supporting abuse over anything else – even if it made her best friend feel unsafe to a point that she panicked. I don’t deserve that and I can’t do that to myself.

I can care for her and love her as a friend from afar but that toxicity that those actions introduced, can’t be a part of my life. I’ll just always wish her well and will keep her in my prayers.”

“Have you blogged about this aspect of your relationship before?”

“No. I was ashamed of running away that day. I was guilty of reading her messages and ashamed of the impact of that betrayal. I am constantly also afraid of her reading these blogs and hurting her because I don’t want to hurt her. And I am afraid of her judging me even more.

I am leaving in a couple of months. A few days back, I asked another friend if I should reach out to her before leaving and close this chapter in a way I would have preferred – with love and compassion. But I don’t know what to say to her. I miss her and I genuinely want us to have a conversation and mend this friendship but any denial on her part will only hurt me more. And the past has shown me, that she doesn’t want to accept or acknowledge the whole truth.

I think it’s time for me to validate myself and stop waiting for her to take any action. And I’ve waited long enough. I kept waiting for an apology that never came and an acknowledgment that I could never get. I kept waiting for her to value our friendship. But I can’t heal until I am brutally honest with myself and I can’t keep waiting for people to validate my feelings.

When my ex-girlfriend and I went to a restaurant, I asked her not to hold my hand because I was scared of how people around us will react. I don’t want that fear to hold me back the next time I am out in the world. I want to be proud of who I am. I want to be free. The last few times we went out, I kissed my ex in public. It was freeing and I want to always feel that free. I’ve now started to introduce myself as bisexual whenever someone asks.”

“That sounds like a big breakthrough. An oppressive past that has been holding you back for years finally seems to be losing its grip on you. I want to keep seeing how your past and present unfold and how you progress with this spirit in your life.”

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