The soul cannot forgive until it
is restored to wholeness and health.
In the absence of love - how can one forgive?

With an abundance of love, starting with one's self,
forgiveness becomes a viable opportunity.
-Nancy Richards

Friday, June 26, 2009

Being Right - Being Wrong - Being Confident

I've noticed a repetitive theme from self-help experts:

Would you rather be right, or happy?
Would you rather be right, or loved?

Would you rather be right, or have a relationship?

I am embarrassed to admit it, but when I have a disagreement with my partner, my knee-jerk reaction is to "win" the argument and be "right."

It appears to me that, at times, most couples seem to get caught the "right-wrong" trap. I believe that for survivors this is a particularly difficult pattern to break. I've recently identified the need to be "right" as yet another layer of "child abuse recovery" that I am trying to navigate.

I grew up in a home where blame was rampant. My step-father and my mother physically and emotionally beat me up, and blamed me for the state of our lives. They said it was my fault that they were angry; my fault that they beat me. In the right-wrong argument, I was always wrong and continued to get hurt. Yet, I persevered in the argument believing that if Mom "understood," I'd be safe and I wouldn't get hurt.

I think that on a very unconscious and "primal" level, the little girl in me still believes that "winning"an argument means that I won't get hurt again.

During my 14 year estrangement from my family, I healed enough to learn not to engage in arguments with my family members, not to fall into the "right-wrong" trap, not to try to change their perceptions, or to get them to "get it" when they didn't. I learned to "hold" their experience separate from mine and to simply say, "I'm sure that was your experience," while I took responsibility for my own life by quietly and confidently standing in my own truth without needing validation from them. To say that was a huge accomplishment for me would be an understatement.

I am able to do this by protecting my boundaries and by not being "vulnerable." This involves attaining a healthy "detachment" and a certain amount of "indifference" to negative comments.

I usually don't feel the need to be "right" in non-intimate relationships; however, in an intimate relationship, I am vulnerable and it is difficult for me not to engage.

In an intimate relationship, when I feel vulnerable and I run into a conflict, I often site facts and examples to "prove" my point, rather than taking the more powerful (and respectful) position of saying, "I don't see it that way," and standing quietly, and confidently in my own experience.

But, I'm working on it.....


Michele Rosenthal said...

I'm like that, too! Not for the same reasons, but I wonder if post-trauma we feel the need to control things so that we feel safe, which means we need to also control an argument - and be the victor - because it does make us feel safer that we're the stronger party, we right, we're the ones calling the shots.

As survivors, too, I wonder if this need to be right has to do with the constant struggle to take back our power. Trauma strips us bare. Does winning an argument put us in the power position? I think so... Is that some part of what fuels our interaction? Maybe.

Oooh, healing is such a bumpy, potholed road. :)

healandforgive said...

Excellent point Michelle!

Thanks for providing this perspective. I agree that "taking back our power" has something to do with the desire to "win" an argument.

There is a very difficult balance between being vulnerable in an intimate relationship and still being powerful, loving, and respectful.

Just Be Real said...

I like what Michele said also, "trauma strips us bare."

Nancy thank you for posting this!

Anonymous said...

All I can say is "ditto" . . . especially about the staying a bit detached and about protecting boundaries . . . I'm still working on this one, LOL.

- Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

healandforgive said...

JBR - Thanks!

Marie - Boundaries; always a tough one for survivors!

Paul from Mind Parts said...

I think like others here that winning is important to us for obvious reasons.

This calls to mind Elia Wise's "For Children Who Were Broken" poem where she writes:

When we run into a conflict
and fight to the bitter end,
remember ....
We think that winning means
we won't be hurt again.

I must say, though, I have become much better at this over the years.


Anonymous said...

I can totally see myself in this too.

I was abused as a child and always beleived that if I could just find enough 'evidence' that the abuse was wrong, something that my parents couldn't argue with, like someone else's testimony, then I wouldn't get hurt any more.
But I always found that no matter what form my 'evidence' took, my feelings and my protests were ignored. My parents would find away to read that 'evidence' differently and continue to abuse me anyway.

I still see myself, wanting, almost burning with the need, to be 'right'. I'm getting better at it. Especially with my husband, because now I can see that if I don't like something, if I don't want to do something or have an opinion on something, he accepts that for just what it is. He never makes me do things I don't want to do, he listens to my feelings and explaines his own. Often times we just have to step back from things and see how different our experiences have been and so how differently we can see somethings.

I have to remind myself that this difference doesn't mean we don't share love and respect for one another. That I won't get hurt by him just because he can't always see things exactly as I do. Even though I'm used to people disregarding my feelings, needs and fears.

As Michele said, being right is a power position for us survivors.
As a child one or both of our primary caregivers (usually our parents)told us that they were right and we were wrong, our feelings didn't count and we could find no way to express to them the pain and damage they were causing in a way that would make them stop. They continued to hurt us anyway because they claimed to be 'right' and we were apparently 'wrong'. So now I feel if I can only be right about things then I will have the power.

But relationships based on that sort of power are tyranical, unhealthy for both participants.

If something hurts and someone tells you so, that's a fact that should never be ignored.


Oh and thanks for another great post!

healandforgive said...

Hi Paul,

Thank you for joining in the discussion and sharing a pertinent quote!


healandforgive said...


Thank you for so eloquently summing this up!

I had the same experience trying to provide "evidence" to my mother. It never worked.

I also like the model you give with your husband - the evolution of learning that we are safe!


Anonymous said...

so relevant for me. i've been experiencing a big set-back these past few days regarding abuse issues and forgiveness. resulting in a falling out with a friend. your blog is just what i need to read today. thank you so much for sharing your wisdom.

healandforgive said...

Dear MM,

I'm so sorry about the falling out with your friend!

All my best on your continued healing,

Anonymous said...

thanks~ my best to you too!