Forgiveness · Maturity · Musings · Personal Growth · Relationships · Silent-Treatment · Vulnerability

Me: The Emotional-Abuser

BATTENING DOWN THE HATCHES

His words and gesture hit a nerve. An internal wound. It’s been replaying in my mind all week – in slow-motion, in fast play, when I’m busy, when I’m quiet. I see it in nauseating detail. I could describe it all pixel by pixel.

I immediately battened down the hatches.

Battening down the hatches means to prepare for trouble. A nautical hatch or hatchway, pictured below, is an opening or doorway in the deck of a ship, covered with a door or wooden grating to allow for access or ventilation to the lower decks.

wooden hatch

Fig. 1 Hatch on old wooden ship (VOC)

“When bad weather was imminent, the hatches were covered with tarpaulin and the covering was edged with wooden strips, known as battens, to prevent it from blowing off. Not surprisingly, sailors called this ‘battening down’.” (Martin, 2019)

I’m pretty good at foretelling a storm and bad weather was certainly imminent last Tuesday night. I swiftly slipped into my deck before he could say “Ahoy mate!”, and securely battened my hatches.

I do regularly-scheduled emergency drills and have gotten pretty good at this. I have done my due diligence and prepared for such events. Down here, it’s cozy, warm, dark, and dry. I have emergency supplies that could last me months. I am in my safe place. I even have a contingency plan for my contingency plan. That’s what it looks like on the inside.

That’s rather different from the outside, where it looks a lot like the ole’ silent-treatment. He hurt me and I shut down. Physically, I am ignoring him. I am avoiding the subject and even eye-contact. When he enters a room, I leave. I use a different tone with him than I do with others.  I withhold attention and affection.

Emotionally and spiritually, I’ve gone from hurt, to sadness, to anger, and entered vengeance-mode. I will have the last word, literally. I think I am better than him. I’m holding him in contempt to make him squirm. I know it bugs him and I hear myself cackling the gleeful anthem of revenge.  I aim to shame him into changing and cooperating with me – or else. I am manipulating. I’m trying to play the parent and make him the naughty kid. I am withholding forgiveness. I’ve locked him out and I’m fondling the key in my pocket. I am punishing him. In my passive-aggressive craze I foolishly think I am winning.

This is emotional abuse!

“They battened the hatches,

But the hatches didn’t hold.”

Bob Dylan, Tempest

I may very well have started off with a good point, but I turned left on Main onto this well-worn back-alley to hell. He hurt me and I had trouble communicating that. I became the victim. I propped up my persona, flipped things on him, and expected him to take full responsibility for the problem that he created.

“Don’t be dramatic, Hannah. You can’t be an abuser,” I hear a well-meaning friend quip, “you’re so sweet.” Wrong!

It’s interesting that this – fundamentally – has little, if anything, to do with him. It’s a lousy coping mechanism I’ve adopted and honed over the years. I’ll save you the details about my adverse childhood experiences and why I am like this. At the end of the day, it’s like hearing from the guy who can’t pay his rent – only the last line matters.

It’s time to call it what it is. I’m unhealthy and immature, even crippled in this area. I have engaged in very pre-adolescent behavior and been driven by fear and shame. In the process, I have hardened my heart.

They say the fish is the last to see the water. Decades ago, he called me out on giving him the silent treatment. I didn’t consciously know I did this. I’d never even heard the term.  After I realized it, I justified it as just a small thing I do.

Recently my friend Patti said the silent-treatment is emotional abuse. Whaaat??!! I was frying other emotional fish at the time so I stuck that one in the freezer. Today, I opened my freezer hatch and it hit me between the eyes like an anchor – this is a HUGE problem I need to be rid of.

I have the resources I need to handle this and need to grow up in this area. I can state I need space. I can process the information and my emotions and come back to it in reasonable time. I may not like how he addressed the problem but it’s on me to respond maturely. For me, this abusive behavior walks hand-in-hand with other avoidant ones such as procrastination and evasiveness, but I’ll stick that in the freezer for now. As Michelle Caswell, of Purely His Inc. states in her book by the same name – which is changing my life – we can choose to have this take 7 minutes, 7 hours, 7 days, 7 weeks, 7 months, or 7 years. I’m going with the 7 second option!

My husband has come a long way in learning how to handle me in this. He no longer stands above and bangs on the hatch to ask if I’m okay or when I’m coming out; or worse, what’s wrong with me and when am I going to learn to communicate. Paradoxically, all this questioning somehow made me rub my hands in satisfaction. He realizes he can’t change me and has chosen to walk the high road. He doesn’t have to play my game. He is the stable one. He continues to say what he needs to and refuses to walk on egg-shells. He finds things to do during times we would be spending together, since I’m not available now. He continues to show affection as I allow.

Today I listened to Dr. Les Carter on his YouTube post “The Silent Treatment” and journaled, “Thank you Lord that he is his own mature adult despite my behavior.” I’m also happy to note that, over the years, I’ve gone from having a massive automatic hatch, pictured below,

massive hatch

Fig. 2 Massive hatch (Folding type, 2017)

To the medium sized hatch pictured below. Note how much muscle it takes to open it. I was willing to do that hard work rather than change.

medium hatch

Fig. 3 Medium-sized hatch also called a dog-hatch

(howlingpixel, 2018)

To this little guy:

small hatch

Fig. 4 Small hatch

I’m done being the hatch queen. The batten queen. It is a fruitless work of darkness, regardless of its size. As I strain towards maturity, I am learning about and living the power of vulnerability; and stripping the false security of shame and fear by unmasking myself. As a powerful healing tool, the Lord gave me a picture of a big red button on my forehead. It says “Expose It”, as driven by the words “Everything exposed by the light becomes visible and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” (NIV, Eph. 5.13).

red button

The “Expose It” Button

So I just pushed that button. I’m doing the arduous work of stripping my safety cabin of its supplies and charm. I’ve spent too much time making it cozy. I’m packing up the comforts and bringing them on deck. I’m locking that last little hatch and tossing the key overboard into the sea of forgiveness.  I did the best I did with what I had. So long little room. It’s a new day. I’m growing up… I’m going up.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. VOC  ship old hatch cannon port rope wooden http://m.imageafter.com/image.php?image=b3_woods023.jpg
  2. ‘Batten Down the Hatches’ – the Meaning and Origin Of This Phrase
  3. Gary Martin – https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/batten-down-the-hatches.html

Dylan, Bob. “Tempest.” Tempest, Columbia Records, 2012.

4. osprey-marine.co.uk. “Folding Type” https://www.marineinsight.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/ospera.jpg, Tanumoy Sinha, Naval Architecture, Different Types And Designs of Hatch Covers Used For Ships, 2017.

5. A hatch on USS Blue Ridge with the hatch dogs clearly visible. https://howlingpixel.com/i-en/Dog_(engineering), 2018.

6. “Construction of ship hatches.” http://www.crewtoo.com/crew-life/helpful-info/don’t-play-with-hatches-construction-of-ship-hatches/

7. The Holy Bible: New International Version. Zondervan, 2011.

 

Musings · Personal Growth · Thankfulness

A Heart of Gratitude

“Show me an ungrateful person and I’ll you a selfish person.”

Hannah T. K.

It is a staggering thought that if you are not currently or regularly grateful, you are dealing with a case of acute self-absorption and pride. If you have not thought or expressed gratitude within the last couple of hours, you could use a dose of  reflection on what you perceive your role to be in your own universe. Like the proverbial 3 year-old, almost all of us harbor the thought, maybe even sub-consciously, that we are the most important person in our universe. After all, if we didn’t exist, life would be over, right? Wrong!

The reason I don’t notice that someone held a door open for me, or slowed down to let me in in traffic is either because I am distracted or I am entitled. The former is excusable based on circumstances. The latter is abominable. Many of us have worked incredibly hard to get where we are in life but we may forget that there are others who work infinitely harder than we ever will and may never attain to what we have. Let us also not forget that despite our greatest efforts, our successes ride on the shoulders of others, past and current, who poured and continue to pour into our lives. It is a short step from taking things for granted to being entitled.


The benefits of gratitude and boundless to our physical, spiritual, and emotional selves. It infuses life and vitality. The harm done by ingratitude is equally incalculable to the ungrateful person. Those who have to be around that person soon feel drained and sucked dry – physically, spiritually, and emotionally. May we strive to be thankful people and to be reputed as such. May we aspire to be annoyingly thankful. May we be thankful for big things, and for small things, for really, there are no big or small things. Our thanks need to be expressed verbally and in actions.  Aim to make your verbalization of thanks deliberate, heart-felt, a sacred moment; not flippant or glib.

The antithesis of gratefulness is expressed in chronic grumbling, murmuring, complaining, frustration, and, worse, in put-downs and disappointments in others. These can be against ourselves, our loved ones, strangers, the government, and on and on.  These soon become habits, then a way of life that defines us. 


Visualize a gratefulness meter on a continuum – with ungratefulness on the left and gratitude on the right. Make an honest assessment of yourself or ask those who walk life with you where you are on the scale. Make it your goal to slide further and further to the right every day, and so increase your GQ  – your gratitude quotient. Thank God and people for
 for who and what they are, for what they do, and that they are. Thank the same person – your spouse, your kids, –  for the same thing you’ve thanked them for.  Open your eyes to something new to thank them for. Thank a person you’ve never thanked before. If you feel a complaint creeping up, rewire your brain by coming up with something positive to be thankful for. If you can’t think of it, keep your mouth shut, unless you can express the complaint constructively and offer helpful solutions.

A grateful person recognizes that they are the fortunate recipient of innumerable and constant blessings. They live in an incessant state of  awe and awareness of the beauty and the bounty around them, even in hardships, sometimes because of their hardships. They no longer take things for granted, indeed every experience and interaction, even the most mundane, becomes sacrosanct.

Be that person.

“Thankfulness is a habit that will grow us as a human being;       a habit that we can start immediately, and practice for the rest of our lives.”

Hannah Kolehmainen
Christian · Intimacy · Personal Growth · Relationships

Deep Waters

depths

Have you ever said or done something in the spur of the moment and thought, “Wow! Where did that come from?”

The other day I sat with a brilliant group of people I love and discussed this wonderful proverb: “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” Proverbs 20:5.

In it, “purposes” pertains to plans.  Anatomically, the heart refers to the “hollow, pump-like organ of blood circulation, composed mainly of rhythmically contractile smooth muscle, located in the chest…”. In many ancient cultures, including the Hebrews, the heart refers to the very soul of who we are. It also refers to our will – our inclinations and our appetites; as well as our emotions; and our understanding.

Is it fair to state that the purposes of a persons heart are as deep, mysterious, and unsearchable as ‘waters’? I emphatically say, “Yes!” The fish is the last to see the water. My own heart can be  enigmatic even to me. What a graphic metaphor! Deep waters conjure up images of the unknown, of wrinkled creatures with savage fangs lurking for a killing. Many a relationship has gone sour at the unleashing of this monster in a partner who, at first blush, seemed as attractive as gentle pool on a hot day. Unfortunately too many are foolhardy enough to plunge into deep waters without the skills to navigate them.

There is nothing like a relationship, on any level, let alone an intimate one, to bring out the purposes of ones heart. Being herd creatures, we long to know and to be known. (https://thukumainen.wordpress.com/2017/10/20/meant-to-belong-to-a-herd/) How difficult this is when we harbor recesses of ourselves that even we don’t know! If we think it is easy to understand people, we are wrong. Even people we have known for decades are still capable of surprising us. Even when we’ve heard all their stories and know “all about them”.

We all harbor things in our hearts that no one else knows – positive and negative. Those may be fears, dreams, resentments, habits, past actions, and various other aspects of who we are. These  are borne in the deep dark recesses of our hearts and are sometimes invisible even to the bearer. We guard them carefully there and they are well trained in not surfacing. We consciously and unconsciously feed them and tend to them. We know how to quell them when they thrash about wildly in the murky depths.

This arduous internal work is attained while externally we look rather well put together. My sister in law tells me of Sheila at her work who regularly breaks down and cries “the ugly cry. ” Full out loud and dramatic – in a professional workplace surrounded by hundreds of people. That’s messed up. We recoil at people who fall apart in our presence. We need them to contain themselves, or keep it together. We don’t have to be as theatrical as Sheila either. Meanwhile the monster grows and grows in the dark.

Intimacy is “a close association with or detailed knowledge or deep understanding of” another person. Blessed and few are  relationships where people are on the road to being completely known and completely knowing the other person. This can take a lifetime. Many of us have felt the thrill of sharing our hearts with another and still being loved and accepted. I would define intimacy as the gift of being with “one who has insight” to draw out the purposes of our hearts. This can be God, a parent, a friend, a spouse, or any other significant other. 

May we aspire to have the insight (skill, intelligence, understanding) to effectively navigate and draw out the purposes of the hearts of those we are blessed to have in our lives. That involves time, active listening, investing in people, compassion, and grace. We must hold each other’s hearts gently. May we have the courage to help them sight, catch, land, and slay their monsters. May we row them along in their dreams and aspirations. May we dare

 

 

Bibliography:

  1. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/heart?s=t retrieved March 21, 2018
  2. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/intimacy?s=t retrieved March 21, 2018

 

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https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/invisible/