13 October 2013

Blood, wood, and bronze.

My struggles with this current writing project have led me on an artistic journey the past few weeks. They've ranged from wood-burning projects to metaphysical reinforcements. It doesn't feel as though the creative energy is lacking this time. It is simply this powerful subject matter leaves me struggling with how best to evoke the emotions and response from the reader audience that I intend. Part of that is parsing free just what I intend. There are many times when I don't know for sure.

Sandalwood malas.
I think it's safe to say that each of us lives in a society or culture that has a number of forms of acceptable violence and aggression. It's called any number of things; discipline, punishment, a tradition of hazing, tenderizing the fresh meat. And really, it's a failure to communicate, right? Communication is a two-way channel along which we give and receive information. Transmission and reception; both parts carry equal import. Without it, frustration and irritation and confusion result. It leads some to attempt more extreme measures to get their point across, and this is where the slippery slope of abuse comes into play, be it sexual, emotional, physical, mental, or psychological. Abuse is "wrong or improper use or treatment," and as such incorporates a broad spectrum. Through the course of creating my story and its characters I have found that they all find occasion to abuse one another in due time.

Is it justifiable to abuse the one who abuses you? Or does that simply lower you to their level of ethical lack? What happens when someone takes a punch or three because they perhaps consider it a price worth paying to manipulate the physically abusive individual into doing precisely what they want them to do...
Who, then, is the aggressor, or are they both equally culpable?
Do they just deserve each other, and what they get? Should we leave them to wallow in their vicious cycle of misery?

I once had a very heated conversation about whether or not it was possible to save someone who did not want to be saved. Like the drowning person who in their panicked frenzy bludgeons their rescuer almost senseless, the one being saved resorted to verbal, physical, sexual, and psychological abuse to avoid the enlightenment that would lead to their personal healing.

My argument was that they would save themselves, or not, but that nobody could do it for them regardless of how much they cared or wanted to. They would save themselves when they were ready, and to attempt to force them would only make them resist all the more fiercely.
Does it depend on how strong your loyalty or devotion is? Are the wounds worth the effort?

Sandalwood mala, bloodstone amulet.
I've come to the conclusion that you must be willing, in your loyalty, to stand at their side and wait them out. To let them thrash to the point of exhaustion. To wait until they slip beneath the surface one final time and have surrendered, so that they can be rescued with minimal injury to ones' self. I guess it depends on how strong your support structure is. How strong your resolve and determination are. How much you take care of yourself in the process, refilling your tank at regular intervals so that the other may drain it from you. Because they will. It's what they do.

Not terribly unlike a lyche, really.

I still find it difficult to justify. I feel quite strongly that persons with such severe damage should not be in an intimate relationship with anyone but themselves. But if they want intimacy to distract them, they'll find it somewhere. A drowning person will grab onto anything they can find, regardless of who or what it is. It's one of the first and most important lessons a lifeguard learns: make sure what they grab isn't you.
You need to have a line which you will not cross. You need to know when to back off and surrender your efforts to more capable persons. You need to know when to get them help whether they want it or not--the issue of suicide prevention is a large part of this, both in the military and civilian sectors.

That whole conversation is coming back to me in full force. Not a discussion of legalities, but of ethics. Those ethical struggles from the past are relived in vivid clarity and tear at me. The quandaries that have no clear answers, no cut and dry simplistic solutions. Watching someone willingly submit to abuse because they choose it, over and over, just to try saving someone from themselves... It's a difficult thing to witness. Is it still abuse? Does their conscious, voluntary involvement negate the culpability of the abuser?

Caretakers and spouses of combat veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury (TBI) and combat-induced post traumatic stress go through some of this, to varying degrees. Persons caught in that vicious cycle of abuse and nonexistent self esteem, a form of PTSD in its own right, go through this as well. The symptoms are similar, yet the situations may be so highly deviated as to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. I'm not calling anything black or white.
In my mind it's all mist and smoke, gun-metal gray and charcoal.

But it's also impossible for me to tackle the creation of this story without engaging the shards of my own life experiences and weaving them into the words as well. So I've had to create some reinforcements of my own. Of sandalwood, and bloodstone, and bronze. To anchor and ground, to shield me from the negativity and dark thoughts that I must wallow through to forge this story. A bit of self love to refuel my tank, so that this labor doesn't sputter out before it's finished.

4 comments:

Kassandra said...

It seems (to me) that it is harder for a person to stand by and watch a loved one be hurt and offer no assistance than it is to stand in for some of the swings. A close friend and I have a saying "You can only feel sorry for a fool for so long". That may seem cold or uncaring but we see it as a self preservation tactic. You are no good to the person in need of help (that includes yourself!) if you are drowning with them. *shrug* LOVE YA (I fell a bit responsible since I pointed you there....) /hugs

Kassandra said...

fell = feel
I'm a DA
>.<

Rhi Etzweiler said...

@Kass- Oh no, you're not allowed to feel guilty for pointing out the project. My awareness may be due to your influence, but I don't lay blame anywhere. I enjoy challenging myself with daemons in my past when it comes to artistic expression. After all, that's a large part of what one's growth as a human in terms of spirituality and enlightenment encompasses. /hugs/

Kassandra said...

@Rhi-- Through adversity we find strength and growth, even when that struggle is completely within our own selves (especially so!). I look forward to seeing this particular project come to fruition. (taking no blame along the way >.<)

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