What about the spaces in which we remember feeling deep humiliation, rejection or violation? How can one learn from these places? How can one’s sense of self be reclaimed after feeling such embarrassment? Is it by going back to that place with the lessons you learned, able to wear the hurt you suffered with style and grace? Or not?
The other day I had a humiliating experience in a restaurant I’d placed a to go order at. Between the staff and the eaters I was ignored and disrespected. I left feeling frustrated, embarrassed and annoyed with myself for not speaking up sooner than I did. I was reminded of another more personal situation in which I felt disrespected that same day but brushed under the rug, which then reminded me of all the recent times I’ve just been ‘a good sport’ and kept it together for someone else’s comfort, despite my own discomfort. And so I broke down. I broke all the way down while I was driving and hungry and tired.
A good friend called me shortly after the breakdown and lightened my mood. I was able to actually talk about the situation with him and sort through some of the feelings. I had some wine while we talked, I got some rest and the next day I felt better.
With a clearer head I was able to ask myself what am I supposed to learn from that situation? Why did that happen just moments after I found out some news that elated me? Where are the feelings of humiliation coming from?
I arrived at some answers or at least took steps toward them. And now I have a new awareness that can be applied to my life in general. I don’t need to go back to that restaurant to reclaim myself. Reclaiming myself looks like tracing the origin of those feelings of embarrassment and caressing the little girl in me and telling her “baby, you don’t have to accept abuse as the norm. You can take a stand. Stand for yourself. ” Reclaiming myself is updating my thought patterns so they match my modern day. The same way the room must be consistently modified to meet our changing needs, our modes of operation must be updated as well.
That is how I reclaim myself. I don’t need to revisit that space to do so. If I serendipitously end up there again, I won’t refuse to go in. And I won’t go in carrying my ability to deal with the humiliation I felt there and thus all the hurt I’ve ever felt as weapons in some battle that only I know is going on. I would simply carry myself with the poise of someone who understands that the physical realm is just a stage for what’s really going on. The stage is necessary in theater. It allows everyone involved to see. But what really matters is the show. The spaces we occupy are just stages for the show.
So if I never wanna go back to a past place or a past situation, it’s not defeat because I already got what I needed and I can move on.