It’s pretty fair to say that in the past, we’ve all been burnt by previous relationships. In fact, that’s why we refer to them as previous. If we’re no longer within them, then obviously something went wrong. It’s something of a rare occurance when you have a relationship that parts amicably. Either you mutually just lose interest and can easily part ways, returning your relationship to friends. Or, you end up with a very messy break-up, the likes of which will go down in the annals of local lore as gossip. I’ve had both. I was lucky enough to part amicably with a couple of girls, and on the other hand, I’ve also had some knock-down drag-out fights with exes that would place me way out of character to those who know me very well. I don’t want to get off on a rant here, but I’m going to anyway.
I recall a conversation a while back, when Abbie, one of my friends and exes, looked at me and said, “You’re damaged goods.” At the time, I didn’t quite know what to do with that statement, and I recall thinking about it for a great deal of time, because in a sense… aren’t we all damaged goods? We all survive bad choices and relationships and the hope is after each one, we want to look back at them and learn from those mistakes. But, how in the hell can you learn from a mistake, when you can’t apply it to the next relationship? Do we make a general assumption about the opposite gender and just say “This is so?” I’m not quite sure about that, because each person is different. Sure, we have some sort of weak frame of personality archetypes, but in the end, the individual personalities are too varies to really put some sort of demarkation against it. Even with all these personality quizzes and four-letter abbreviations of ENTJ or INTP, how can we really try and let others define us when we spend our whole lives trying. Does it give us some sort of sick forfillment to apply a title and say, “I’m (this),” just so we’ll feel better about it?
Where do we draw the line? What is it about fear that grips us so tightly that we’ll do or say the wrong thing in order to satisfy a sense of protection against future pain? Life is pain, to steal a phrase from a good movie. Pain lets us know we’re still alive. If we’re going to go through life by protecting ourselves from pain, then we’re really not living as much as we should. As for me, last night I had a conversation that ended up with me tossing and turning all through the night because I had said some things that made me sound like I was pretty much closing up shop and not willing to risk anything anymore. With anyone. I remember a time when I was much younger and I felt like I could take on the world and not worry about the consequences of my actions. With age supposedly comes wisdom, but in reality, I think with age comes a whole hell of a lot of baggage clearly marked “THE PAST.” When is it all right to let that shit go and move on? I don’t know. But maybe now is that time for me. The past is history, and I study the past with great passion. My own personal past holds for me a lot of experience and some minor wisdom learned the hard way. I’m going to try and take the wisdom, and leave the crap where it belongs.
I read your post.. and remember so many times when all of what you said applied to me as well. I do think we all go through it at some point or another. There are times when you just need to pack up your tent.. and walk for a bit. When you are ready to set up a campsite again.. you do. Hang in.. voice yourself often.. and it all works. You are not damaged goods.. just goods with a nice patina.
I think you have a good point about trying to avoid pain; there comes a point in life where stuffing it into a corner (a habit of mine) to move on stops working. Because in essense, you lose touch with the part of yourself that keeps you connected to the rest of the world.
However, I think you overlook a strong point about personality archetypes and categories. Yes, not everyone fits into an exact category (as the Myers-Briggs and astrology will tell you – each considered to be a classification process for personality during their heydays), but there’s a difference between attempting to identify yourself and allowing others to classify you (as you say). If I choose to note that I’m a INFP, and that I’m a Scorpio, then it means I am choosing to identify with a certain archetype of people – and nothing’s wrong with that. It’s when the line blurrs and others feel that they must pressure me into stay within that box, or I feel pressured by others to stay in that box, is when problems arise.
Knowing who you are, delving into your past, trying to piece together where you fit into the world – it’s all necessary and all messy. It’s fulfilling – and not in a sick way – if it’s done with a balanced approach in mind, because at our core, we all desire to fit in, to know where we belong. To have a sense of community with those around us. It’s when we allow the categories to define us, other than to perceive and sometimes choose our affiliations with the categories we wish to belong to, is when we lose balance.
That said… there’s a difference between exploring one’s past and it being carried through the present. It has to be let go long enough that it can stay in the past, but be remembered for the strengths and weaknesses that it revealed in a person’s life. It sounds to me perhaps as if you’re having trouble differenciating between carrying your past (actively forcing yourself to remember all of it) and exploring it (recalling from time to time what occurred).
It’s a difference in skill I’ve yet to master.
It isn’t so much that it’s affecting me directly so much as it is that it’s affecting me indirectly. It’s when you have all of this baggage and you make decisions that affect others, and then you go back to realizing that you sounded like a complete freak or paranoid idiot.