I first heard the term, "Terminal Uniqueness," when I was in treatment for my eating disorder. I was learning about depression, self-involvement and how we could believe that we were worse than anyone else and hurt more than anyone else and were treated more badly than anyone else. All that negativity, that attitude, I learned, is a form of grandiosity, a claim to "ultimate specialness." I also call it the "more wounded than thou" syndrome.
We each live inside our own skins. No one else can get into our minds with us. We are on our own in there. Too often we commit the error of judging our insides by the outsides of others. Too often we don't accept our position as just another member of the human race. Way too often, I have learned to my own chagrin, we take ourselves much too seriously while not taking others as seriously as they merit being taken.
While in treatment and after years of attending Overeaters Anonymous and Al-Anon meetings, I have come to learn that Terminal Uniqueness can accompany the worst kind of self-pity. This is the kind of self-pity where we are so sure we are the Lone Ranger, that no one else but those in our position can possibly grasp the scope of our suffering and where we place blame and call names rather than pulling ourselves out of the mire of angst indulgence. This is the "warm pile of shit" they talk about in program. You sit in it so long that it becomes comfortable and you ignore the smell. This is where the fear of the unknown is too great to put aside the devil you know and reach out.
I noted, on my Facebook page, that coerced surrender to adoption and being adopted are not the worst or the only traumas people can experience. I was challenged, by an adopted person, to prove that by naming another experience that might be worse.
OK...try this one. During WWII, the Japanese invaded China. One story tells of a woman who watched the Japanese soldiers kill each of her children and her husband before her eyes and then, rape her repeatedly before taking her a prisoner and forcing her to serve as a "comfort woman"....an unpaid concubine for the Japanese troops. For her, rape became a nightly occurrence. She survived but was totally broken.
A friend of mine had a daughter who had fallen into bad company, was in a relationship with an abusive boyfriend by whom she had children and drugs were involved. My friend had managed to gain custody of her grandchildren right before her daughter's boyfriend beat her so badly he killed her, then cleaned her up, dressed her, put her in the tub and tried to say she went into convulsions. Right after that, this same friend lost her only son to injuries sustained long before in a motorcycle accident and her husband died a few short weeks later. They were not yet in their 60's.
In a little town in SC, three little children watched in horror as their mother put the barrel of a pistol in her mouth and pulled the trigger. Another child, coming home from school, found her mother hanging from the exposed beams in their den...she had hanged herself. A mother came home from work to find her son on the floor, dead from inhaling propane in a self-improvised gas chamber. A man went to his son's house to take him some food, hopefully to cheer him up after a painful break-up only to find him in his blood-spattered bedroom, a victim of his own hopelessness.
In famine-beset parts of the world, mothers watch their children die of hunger while they, themselves, slowly starve to death. People suffer long, slow, painful diseases that can only end in death while their helpless families watch. Children are kidnapped, tortured and killed by perverts. Shall I go on?
So "you got your troubles, I got mine." I refuse to pity myself and I am uncomfortable with pitying anyone else. Pity is not respect. Compassion can only go so far. I hate to see people doing what I once did...sucking on their resentment like a child sucking his thumb. Hate, resentment and derision hurt the person doing the hating worse than the hated. Resentment is a poison and stereotyping the objects of resentment is compounding the dose you consume.
I hate to come off sounding "preachy" but I am telling you what I have learned in hopes it might help you. If this causes one person to count their blessings and re-think their self-involvement, then I will be happy.
I've been molested and raped, but I don't think that all men are rapists or molesters. I was forced to surrender my two firstborn children to the adoption machine because my parents were ashamed, but I no longer resent my parents and I know that not all parents are bad. To carry that resentment with me would not be playing fair with myself or my loved ones. No one should live in pain for a lifetime over what was done to them when they were young and vulnerable.
Another mother and I were discussing how painful it was to talk about the fathers of our firstborns to them. The reasons were varied except for one...we loved these guys, very deeply, and they failed us. That was when she told me about the idea of recalling that piece of ourselves we left with these men and letting go. I thought I had done that, but I hadn't. Betrayal and abandonment was our lot, but it is not our identity. It was past time to move on with THAT one.
How much potential friendship must we lose...how much comfort and help must we turn aside until we just put on our big girl and boy drawers and get over ourselves? How many of us must shake our heads, sadly, realize that we tried and move on to living our own lives when we could have made a difference but for the resistance of the Terminally Unique?
I am sorry for such a downer of a blog post, but it was time for it. We are all special to someone and should be to ourselves. But that Terminal Uniqueness is dangerous stuff. To denigrate the pain experience of another and compare it to our own as being lesser-than is arrogant.
I am sick and tired of pleading the case of the BSE mothers to those who refuse to accept or listen because they are too busy sucking their thumbs of resentment. All you get from doing that is an unhappy life and a pruny thumb.