Thursday, 27 March 2014

Versions of Violence

A few Sunday's ago at a recent family gathering, my father told me about the new priest in his parish that quite literally practiced what he preached. Our Lady Sovereign had been blessed with their very own rock-star dominee who decided to visit the not-so peaceful community of Brooklyn Heights whilst taking a much needed sabbatical from his popular online web-show, "Hell yeah, Jesus!" My father, who was somewhat Catholic royalty, couldn't believe how powerful and poignant his sermons were and thought his elaborate performances were the hippest thing since Pope Francis' the 10th's twitter account. Of course it all sounded a bit like Hill Song on steroids to me, a former practitioner whose flesh would probably singe at a single speck of holy water, but daddy dearest firmly believed that Mr. Preacher Man's methodology had the power to convert even the unholiest of sinners. 

We often underestimate the power and long-term effects that words have on a person’s psyche. While actions are believed to be far more audible than the spoken form, words have the power to heal, change, inspire and motivate, make us the best versions of ourselves that we can possibly be. Sadly, they can also have incredibly destructive side-effects, especially when used to manipulate someone we claim to care for. Hurt, pain, suffering, severe emotional scarring. We seldom think about the consequences of calling that chubby girl at school the human blimp, or the effeminate boy who hangs out with the art crowd a raging homo. Instead, we do it to mask our own insecurities and boost our own sense of control and power within that specific social hierarchy.

But what happens when the bully-victim dynamic crosses over into our professional and personal adult lives? What happens when the torment continues to happen on a daily basis and becomes too much to tolerate? Do we fight back and move on or simply cower underneath the covers of indifference? While some people evolve, others remain exactly the same and carry out this obsessive need dominate everything and everyone around them to the grave. They prey on weaklings with low self-esteem and little to no confidence, fuelling their own masochistic desires to break people down. A romantic relationship is nothing more than an arena used to wield brutal strength on human punching bags. Sticks and stones are infamous for breaking bones, but what about words? Do they really do no harm or are they actually the most soul destroying weapons of human destruction known to man?  
Stupid whore. Slut. I don’t know why I stay with you. It’s hard to believe some of the things we say to the people who we claim to love unconditionally, especially when we are fueled with fury and disappointment. Dina and Shayne had been together for nearly five years, and even though they had there fair share of relationship troubles, it was only recently that the cracks in their relationship started showing. Shayne had always been a bit possessive and controlling over her but not so much to the point where friends and family needed to intervene. There were no physical bruises on the surface but what people didn’t know was how turbulent and emotionally unstable their relationship had become.

After years of silence, Dina finally broke down, and opened up to a small group of friends who had noticed how withdrawn and uninterested she had recently become. She’d always had a low opinion of herself which her friends simply put to her introverted personality, but lately, she was far more open about trashing Shayne publicly. She began to put her needs ahead of his own and made subtle, yet extremely awkward jabs about their relationship at every chance she'd get. “That’s just our sense of humor guys,” she’d brush off whenever her friends tried to confront her about it. What her friends and family didn’t know was that for over a year now, their relationship had become beyond volatile.

They argued all the time about issues of the past, barely communicated two words to one another and some nights, they simply slept in separate bedrooms. Dina felt like she was losing control of her life often feeling like she was going out of her mind. She could no longer confide or express her true feelings to Shayne because she was terrified that he would explode. “You want to leave me so that you can go and fuck around? Of course you want to break up because you’re constantly looking for the easy way out? You never loved me because you don’t know the meaning of the word?” It worked every time. Was Dina trapped by Shayne’s emotional guilt or was Shayne just a master manipulator? Did his words bear any truth at all or were they just clever manoeuvres around her insecurities that would prevent her from leaving?

The push and pull had sent Dina into some very dangerous territory. She found herself delving into some old habits and spending as much time away from home in order to avoid contact with her so-called life partner. “It’s like we’ve started living completely separate lives. I sometimes feel like telling him I’m having an affair just so that he can hurt the way I did and leave. This is such an unhealthy situation, one that has permanently scarred and warped my perceptions about relationships. If I ever get out of this mess, I don’t think I want the inconvenience of another person’s baggage ever again. What’s the point of falling in love when it a) eventually fades away and b) leaves you constantly disappointed?” 

Whoever said that words could never harm you has clearly never been in a dysfunctional relationship. Of course, it could be a lot worse, but when words are used to abuse and manipulate, it's time to seriously evaluate the relationship. While most of these versions of violence are subtle and go by unnoticed, they still have the potential of leaving the biggest mark of all. Do we get out? Should we stay? Are the voices inside our head a result of this abuse or am I really a narcissist undeserving of love? Once the grenade has been detonated, there's no telling if we can ever fully recover from the damage?

When it comes to a war of words, when do we begin to surrender?  

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