Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Angst, Drama and Our Terminal Uniqueness

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" 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 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.


Unknown said...

Thank you.

maryanne said...

Thanks for the many "worse things". Admitting this keeps us grounded in reality. I just heard one today, ex-husband, disgruntled over custody, shoots his ex wife five times, then takes the baby hostage, finally kills the child and himself. All died, nobody won. Also, the friend who was driving his kids to school, and was blindsided by another car. He was injured but recovered. His 8 year old son died.

The memories of combat vets of seeing their buddies blown apart before their eyes, where life is reduced to kill or be killed; there are so many examples.

What happened to us was bad, and painful, and left scars,but there is much that is worse in the world, and self-pity is a trap that poisons the rest of life.

Lori said...

Yes.... and the pain that is shared is lessened. We are all abandoned. Now let's move forward and be found and together.

Von said...

Thank you for this, it has come at exactly the right moment.
Just one point, some trauma is a one off or in the case of comfort women occurs in a space of time.The Japanese Government has still not apologised to our Australian comfort women, perhaps they're hoping they'll all be dead soon!
The trauma of adoption goes on and on, with new events and never seems to end.
I so agree with ever word you've written and would like to link if I may.

Robin said...

This wasn't about time relevance Von. This is not about similarities in traumas. This blog is about understanding and respect being a two-way street and about the destructiveness of harboring resentment. It is about the fact that there are a lot of bad things that happen to good people without there being a need to castigate and call names. They don't have to have happened at the same time or be of the same nature to be comparable as trauma. I'm sorry, but adoption isn't the worst of the trauma that has or can happen. Please feel free to link.

Marley Greiner said...

Thanks, Robin. I've seen this for years coming from both adoptees and parents. There was a time when it was popular to compare individual adoption situations to The Holocaust, with the Holocaust coming in second. I was shocked at some of the things I read. Whenver I pointed out that this was wrong, I'd be trashed.

Two years ago in my hometown, the abusive ex-husband of a young high school teacher murdered their two small children (oldest in kindergarten) and her mother. He strapped the kids into their car seats and slit their throats as they slept. He did this in the parking lot of the church they attended (the church I grew up in). The he went to his ex-MIL's and beat and shot her to death. He has never said he is sorry for killing the kids and smirked through the trial. He repeatedly said he was happy he killed them so the rest of her life, his ex-wife be would be a living hell. He was saving them, according to him, from life in the future, with a stepfather. I cannot imagine how thisi woman copes with this except she has lots of friends and students who love her.

Chris said...

Excellent blog Robin...thank you.

I've got my 'scars' not only from the pain of losing my firstborn to adoption....but from wounds that would be visited upon me from toddlerhood right into adulthood. But even with that...I have always acknowledged that far more people across this planet, yesterday and today, have had to endure far worse 'wounds' than I.
I heard some of the worse stories when I sat in an Al-anon room for a few years and attending a sexual abuse seminar where over a thousand women sat.
My heart wasn't breaking for me...but for the countless little girls, teens and women who have been wounded by those who said they loved them.
Since the dawn of time...humans have committed the most horrible atrocities against other humans. The World of Adoption isn't unique when it comes to pain...there can be far worse things that can happen in a person's life.
Reading Hiroshima was required reading when I was in 8th grade...and that book left an indelible print on my mind to this day. Even at 13 years of age..I knew terrible, terrible things happened to good people..simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I'm grateful that I never had to endure bombs dropping about my head, causing my eyes to melt from their sockets or my skin to melt away from my muscle and bones.
Yes, there are 'worse things' that can happen in one's life.

Anonymous said...

Dear Robin,
This makes me want to kiss you.

Sarah said...

Oh robin your post is simply amazing and beautiful in its articulation of everything I wanted to share recently but which seemed to fall so deafly on the ears of ppl perpetually living in that place and that time and not wanting to let go and allow themselves some peace and harmony. Thank you thank you

Anonymous said...

Kitta here:

when I was 15, the movie "Judgement at Nuremburg" was playing and I saw it at a local theater. My boyfriend at the time, took me to see it, and he had to take me out of the theater part-way through because i was going to be ill.

And of course, it was real and people had really done that and I knew friends who had lost family in the Holocaust.

We must never forget what people can do to other people.