Friday, February 10, 2012

C is for Compassion

I used to have compassion for some people, by whom I mean my father.

But I have learned that having compassion for, well, people who are frankly abusive, doesn't get you very far. It's a nice idea, and it sure is easy to talk about if it's not your problem, if you've got the distance to be able to talk about it in the abstract, but—

My father was a hoarder. I've only had a name for it for a few years now. Before that, it was just this completely baffling... thing. Now, however, not only do I know that what he did is called hoarding, but I know that it is a serious mental condition, in his case, something called obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

Not obsessive compulsive disorder, let's get that straight. But a personality disorder.

And the thing with those is that the person doesn't change. The person can't change. The person doesn't think there's anything whatsoever wrong with them. It's the entire rest of the world who is wrong, in their mind. It is a fundamental brokenness in the brain. Think sociopathy, or narcissism.

I know, I'm repeating myself. Sometimes I think that saying it over and over again is simply validation, or maybe due to disbelief on my part, which I am trying to break through. It is a strange thing to come to terms with, when you grow up thinking it normal.

So people don't generally 'suffer' from personality disorders; like I said they don't think there's anything wrong with them. But the people around them sure do suffer.

If a person has something wrong with their brain, something that cannot even be perceived by them, never mind understood as something not-right, they are not going to change. They just aren't. They can't. But that person is also not going to be able to help harming those around them. They can't change that either.

I have found that having compassion for people like that, while you are one of those people around them, just means that they hurt you over and over again. And especially when that person with the personality disorder, the, shall we say, self-absorbed, or perhaps, toxic person, has trained you to consider their needs first, always. Well, that's not quite true; in my father's case it was more like his whims came first, before the needs of the rest of us. It was more important to him that he got to pile some rotton boards on top of each other in the yard, than it was to see that the water heater was installed. So compassion, in this case, just gets you hurt.

So fuck compassion.

Now, I may come back to it sometime in the future; I don't know. But here's the thing: there is nothing wrong, morally, with where I am now. Which leads me to the other C's:

C is for crooked path. And C is for curse.

I have never yet cursed anyone; I have, in the past, thought it morally wrong. But that was before I started thinking about things like my dysfunctional family and my neglected childhood.

I spent years, no decades, literally decades, trying to talk my father into cleaning something, anything, up. I memorized the littlest shadings of his moods, the subjects that would get him to open up, just a little, what time of day was best to talk to him. I learned diplomacy, when to push, when to leave things alone, what to bribe him with, how to butter him up, and I had the patience of all the saints combined.

It didn't work. It never worked. It couldn't work, because my father was incapable of change.

I have no patience left, none at all. I used it up. I also have no compassion for him, now; not, in this case, that I've used it up, but that it was coming at the expense of compassion for myself. And that must, absolutely must, come first.

And so I find my outlook has changed. I can see nothing wrong with curses, morally. They are simply neutral. Some things cannot be solved any other way. If someone is abusing you, and there is nothing you can do to stop it? Self-preservation must come first. You, I, have the right.

There is of course no need to curse my father now. He is safely out of the way in a nursing home, after a stroke that damaged what was left of his brain, after the personality disorder and the dementia he had due to age. He can do no harm where he is.

And I am very, very grateful for that.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

You're right that your compassion needs to be for yourself and your own healing process.

Rose said...

We always have to start with ourselves... I think you are still so much in the process of dealing with the mess he left behind. One day, years from now, the whole thing will be a little less raw but for now you have years and years of hurt to work through. You need to keep chewing it over and repeating it. Everytime it sounds slightly different....

Delfina von U. said...

Wow, and I thought MY family was dysfunctional!
Thanks for sharing. Your post answered some questions about curses. Well, maybe not curses as such, but the thing about not being all light and fluffy with people who hurt you. Thanks again for being The Teacher at exactly the right moment.
Hope things get better for you in the future!