“He loves me. He won’t intentionally hurt me.”

“I love nature!”

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“I love wildlife!”

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Yes, they will hurt you. Their saying they love you doesn’t even mean they love you. Look at those photos! All inflicted by people who say they love the thing they are hurting. “Well, I didn’t do it on purpose,” they’d say. But, well, you and I both know they knew the impact of what they were doing.

It’s not like they don’t really care. It’s also not like they are having to make the tough choice between their quality of life and the nature stewardship. They just… it’s like they just roll on completely unaware of the expectation that you are supposed to care about things and people you claim to love.

It is easy to say they love you. It is also very possible they believe they love you. And, most importantly, you believe it too maybe because you have this incredibly intense passion to believe that you are truly loved in that deep, genuine, fairy-tale love. Because being loved that way makes you feel worthy. You never have to show up to weddings alone. Your rent will be cut in half, and you can stop stressing about what happens if you suddenly lose your job. And, if a moment of courage allows you to realize that this person’s love isn’t as perfect and whole as you want to believe, you have to give up this ignorant bliss and go back to the foxhole for the pursuit of love.

It doesn’t mean you love each other.

WAIT!

It doesn’t mean you don’t love each other either.

The hurt they cause, the mess they create inside you, the way you feel destroyed by their words or actions may be an indication they simply don’t love you like they say they do, but it may also an indication that they have yet to learn how to care.

It is easy to say they love you, but they possibly actually love you. Here is the thing. We are all work in progress when it comes to avoiding hurting those we love. None of us can claim to know how to avoid every single last little way in which we could hurt another person. Maybe some of us have less practice in it, and maybe some of us have a ton of experience in areas other than the ones you’re particularly sensitive about. It does not mean this person is a sociopath or someone too immature to know how to love someone.

The point I’m trying to make here is that the fact they’ve said they love you isn’t indicative of anything really, but if you have to use “But s/he said s/he loves me!” to defend your choices, you need to think hard about the lack of other facts that should have come to your defense.

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The Adulthood and its intentionally constructed social circle

So, ironically I was “sheltered” in a way. Just not by wealth but by violence. I didn’t learn the things other kids did. I spent every extra second I could in my bedroom, and I kept my heart locked away because even my bedroom with a deadbolt on the door wasn’t safe. Important time frames to learn how to make and keep friends came and went. No one taught me that there are such things as skills to develop relationships and careers weren’t my priority, and these are some of many things kids don’t just notice unless they are pointed out to them.

This obviously caused major difficulties as I transitioned from childhood to adulthood. The friction in interacting with proper social communities and interactions due to my lack of social skills started surfacing in high school. It was full blown around 25 when (or because) I found myself in a serious relationship.

My realization about what was going on and where it was coming from would hit me a lot later. I was 28 when I realized I completely lacked something that other people seemed to know. I was 33 when I recognized that my childhood deprived me of proper mentorship and education about how to interact with other humans and be a member of a community as well as how to aim for and build a career.

It’s been 10 years now. I’ve intentionally and intensely focused my efforts at catching up. Some went well. Some were much harder and took tremendous pain and effort. Others were too late and had devastating and/or irreparable impacts on my life.

I am thankful for everything. Sure, many days I wish I had a much easier life and daydream about the life it could have been; When I started university, an elite career was planned out and laid out in front of me. And, at the same time, I really enjoy the fact I get to experience the things many others do as kids without even noticing. When you do it as an adult, especially a logical scientist, you’re really understanding and analyzing and choosing and observing all of my past mistakes and every bit of my future successes. I’m finding something new to work on every month. It’s exhilarating and fulfilling. So very satisfying since I’m the laughing at self type person.

(Oh, yes. That’s earned. The fact I don’t value myself based on the hierarchical view the society has of my job. The fact I don’t base my worth on my wealth. The ability to laugh at myself. They are learned values.)

What I discovered recently is that I need to intentionally construct my social circles. Hanging out with people who like the same activities and who are also interested in hanging out with you is the default in elementary school, and that’s how I’ve been operating. Then in my mid to late 20’s, everyone accused me of hitting on them, so I became jaded. Today I’m jaded and cautious but really unskilled at making and keeping friends. I have enough, and I have enough close friends, I would say.

I had already learned (albeit much later than others) that I can’t expect all of my friends to be there for me all of the time. I am now realizing that it’s wrong to expect all of my friends to be all of the things I need from my friends. It’s just not fair. They might want to, and they might be deeply insulted if I tell them that they can’t fulfill all of my needs. Don’t get me wrong. I know that “You pick which friend you go to based on what you need from your friends that day” thing. Some of them are really good at listening. Some of them are wonderfully non-judgmental. Some pamper you. I have my “tough-love” friends. On the other hand, my “sister-from-another-mother” can be counted on to be supportive 100 % of the time no matter how uncomfortable or disagreeable she may find my choices.

And, at the same time, it’s completely unfair for me to be upset when a “friend who likes the same activities” isn’t a good listener and makes me feel unimportant, for instance. Mainly, the mistake I’m clearly aware of now is that my expectation of that friend is often defined not by what kind of friend I see them to be to me but by what kind of friend they see themselves to be to me. 

Yes, I’m thinking about this topic now because I felt hurt about friends who are not good listeners. I pleaded and prayed and sat them down and tolerated, and I’m now exhausted. I realized that the verb that’s missing there is “adjust.” What I need to work on is to not construct a social circle around me so that, as a hive, they meet my needs and I am also a contributing member of their social net, and do it so intentionally not just by chance. Remain mindful of where people fit and resist demanding more from them.

“He should do ___ for me because he is my boyfriend and that’s what a boyfriend does!!” my friend said a few weeks ago. I pointed out how unfair this statement is for her boyfriend. I realized now that I was doing that with some of my friends.

 

Standardization of Psychological Professions

We all know there is an issue, and many people are working on it urgently.

But exactly how urgent is it?

I recently had this encounter in another country that I think you need to hear. The man is a “clinical psychologist.” He is my brother, and I knew that he had absolutely zero qualification to be called that in other countries. He doesn’t have an M.D. or Ph.D., and he didn’t have any practical education or training. His B.A. and M.A. were purely academic, and his M.A. thesis was solely based on his personal view only intermittently supported by literature citations. Say, very reminiscent of a term paper by the North American standard. I didn’t tell him this, but I was absolutely shocked that the university gave him a graduate degree for it.

When we were having just general conversations, I immediately realized that he didn’t even have the basic skills even a crisis line volunteers would be trained on, such as listening fully and validating experiences. I sort of turned a blind eye to it, seeing that he was personally involved with some of those stories and may find it hard to be fair and objective. Then I realized that his dismissive, patronizing, and downright demeaning attitude only increased over time.

He started going through my psych textbook. “You wouldn’t mind if I give you a bit of a rant lecture?” I said no. It was incredibly humorous and painful to listen to him go on and on about things where he was wrong. Yes, textbooks are full of misinformation and it’s healthy to debate about information in a textbook. But I’m talking at a more fundamental level. He, for instance, completely failed to recognize DSM, and when I pointed it out, failed to recognize the term “DSM.”

Then later we were having a bit of a heated argument between my mother and me, and his interventions weren’t helping. I couldn’t finish a sentence without two of them interrupting. I repeatedly clarified “I’m not trying to fight about what really happened or didn’t. I’m trying to share how I experienced those events,” to which he would say “Oh ok.” But he couldn’t help himself interrupting without letting me finish one sentence in the do-over.

When my 5th try at it wasn’t allowed to continue, I said “I’m just thinking… this conversation is getting heated, and it’s not helping anyone. How would everyone feel if I just calmly walked out of here and we continue this conversation another day? I’m not storming out. I’m calm. I just think this conversation isn’t helping any of us.” And he jumped on me. Physically restrained me. Even after about 45 minutes of negotiation and physically freeing myself, I was blocked from exiting my mother’s apartment. I kept telling my brother what he was doing was illegal and unethical, to which he kept responding it was OK because I was family. I said “How do you not know how bad this is? If your employer finds out about this, you will lose your job.” He *chuckled* and said that’s not going to happen. The whole time, he was yelling “No one here will hurt you!” and my mother was screaming “I’d die for you!!” with me telling them that me calmly leaving a fight is not a situation that justifies any of the several things that they were doing and saying, and that they’d watched way too many movies.

I told him that he was traumatizing me.
I pleaded him to let me go to avoid giving me PTSD.
I explained to him that his weight on me was causing difficulty breathing and that I was faint and afraid of passing out.
I repeatedly told him that, if his reason for restraining me is to prevent me from leaving, he has to at least free me to let me walk back into the living room, away from the door. He refused.

I eventually called the police, who agreed that what he did was illegal. The officers demanded my brother apologize to me for touching me let alone physically restraining me. My brother refused, and he, in front of the police officers, declared it was legal for him to man-handle me and forcibly confine me because I was family. The officers then tried to make my brother promise my safety, which he again refused.

(When I pressed, the police officers agreed that my brother was not complying with anything they were asking him to do, but they told me I had no choice but to comply with their demand to stay in my mother’s apartment till the next morning. The police and their lack of education in domestic violence is a whole another topic, however.)

I fled once both captors started snoring. I ran out with shoes in hand and hid in the airport for 10 hours till my flight home. I felt very confused about the local culture, and I no longer trusted police officers. I was also very afraid my brother would use his credentials as a “clinical psychologist” to try to do harm to me. I made sure I knew where the nearest person with an American or Canadian accent was so I could run to them if needed.

I hesitate to contact his employer because I am frightened of the consequences I’d suffer from my family if they found out.

But this man absolutely should not be practicing any psychology let alone have the title “clinical psychologist.”

“Your inability to accept does not justify your rejection.”

“Pfffft. I don’t believe you.” We’ve all said in various forwardness. All the way from really rude “God, you’re stupid” to knee-jerk “really?” to the subtler “Ok…” where the doubt is indicated by the trailing off alone.

If you take just one second to look at it, this is so casually used for such an incredibly violating statement.

What’s not violating about it? When someone says that to you, they reject your reality. Your experience. Your knowledge, intelligence, wisdom. Your objectivity. Your ability to research, consider, and deduce. They reject your chance to explain and provide evidence. They shut their ear and stop listening.

I don’t know why this type of status is delivered with so much jubilation and triumph. It’s for a psychologist to explain to us. We have to be mindful that there is this tendency in a human and constantly check in with empathy in order to combat against it. Especially dealing with such sensitive issues as personal choices, their past experiences and trauma, and gender identification.

Inspired by this article:

The Punctuation That Kills

The “second comma in the Second Amendment” is considered the deadliest puncturation and is blamed for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of people. That’s not entirely correct.

There was a discussion regarding the interpretation of the Second Amendment whether it said an individual’s right to a firearm was not to be infringed or not, and Justice Scalia decided that it did based on that now-infamous second comma. He argued that the second comma made everything that came before it to be just a little decoration.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The people keen of grammar would most likely put the emphasis on the third comma, however. Words and clauses that are bracketed by a pair of commas are inserted “sidebars,” and the sentence does not lose its core meaning with them omitted. In other words, there cannot be a comma placed between a true subject of the sentence and its verb, disqualifying “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” from being the thing that shall not be infringed.

I am not saying this is wrong. It took the Justice’s will to interpret it the way he did, and the use of interpretation is what got him appointed as the supreme court justice. This is how it works. What I’m saying is that this is the “well… you could interpret it that way if you really want to” interpretation, not the “yeah, that’s the most natural interpretation” interpretation.

The second comma didn’t kill anyone; it was made a patsy.

A thought about flawed heroes.

People comment that they are shocked about my comfort with myself and my challenges. I wonder if this is a part of Japanese culture that’s not well known.
 
The Japanese are known as accomplishment-oriented and very hard on ourselves. That’s not untrue.
But when you look at Japanese cartoons, movies, and TV drama, the heroes/heroins don’t just have struggles. The struggle is the central story. (And, often, a strong, highly-accomplished female heroin comes in to rescue them, but that’s a discussion for another day)
Having what others perceive as flaws does not affect my self-worth one bit. In fact, it adds to it.

What to say to a victim of violence

Last week, I was physically restrained and forcibly confined by family members when I was demonstratively calm, sane, and logical, simply getting up to go home after explaining calmly that I was getting up to go home. They screamed irrational soap-opera-y things like “I’d die for you!” that seemed to be completely disconnected from reality. My limbs and torso were pinned to the wall, and I could barely breathe with their shoulder shoved in my mouth.

I didn’t try throwing the small one to the ground and kicking the male one in the testicles to get free. I stood limp and verbally negotiated because I knew any marks on them may be used to justify restraining me after the fact. At no point did I thrash, flail, ram, or shove. Those bruises you see below were made simply from them holding me against the wall so violently so long.

I gave them several warnings before I moved against the restrain to grab my phone to call 911. Cops came and left without me even though they repeatedly tried and failed to get a promise of my safety from my captors. I made my escape with my shoes in hand when the captors fell asleep.

 

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After I got home, I had this very strong desire to stay silent about it, and that’s when I knew I had to write this piece. There are a ton of articles on why victims/survivors of violence stay silent. One common thread seems to be the responses from their friends and family’s ill-prepared, albeit well-intended, responses. So I want to take this opportunity to encourage us to have a little preparation so our actions don’t betray our good intentions when/if the time comes.

To get this started, below are some things I noticed solely based on my own experience. This post is by no means meant to be full or comprehensive and is not meant to replace a professional advice.

When a victim of violence comes to us, I suggest we focus on listening. We are human, and we get these strong desire to know details so we can decide for ourselves if we “accept” the story. Like “What happened exactly?” “What led up to it though?” “You sure you didn’t say anything to trigger it?” “Memory is a funny thing.” We have to remember we can’t be a judge and a friend at the same time. We have to keep recommitting to being a friend.
Those of us who find it hard to operate without all the details, let me make this suggestion to you. What matters to you at this moment is how your friend experienced the event, not every little details of everything that happened concurrently. You don’t care, for instance, about the size of litter the rabbit next door had that night. From that view point, everything you need is in the words and also in the omissions of your friend’s story.  So keep listening intently.

I think it’s important to be aware of questions and comments that victim-blames, which we are often unaware. Not all victim-blame looks like “What did you do to trigger it?” More subtly, “I’m sure they remember it differently,” “Memory is not linear,” “It’s over. No one else’s thinking about it any more,” “Look forward, not back,” and “You need to forgive them.” Sure sometimes in special cases this is what the victim needs to hear as reality checks. But I raise caution that “devil’s advocate” and “reality check” are frequently used to justify our desire to hear our own voices instead of coming from a calm and educated assessment of the person’s mental state and suitable journey to healing.

On that same note, did you know we very often defend the perpetrators? We were raised to be fair and try to see things from different perspectives, and this slips right out of our mouths if we aren’t mindful. “Even parents are humans. They just made a mistake.” “Family loves you. No way they meant to hurt you.” “They must have had a good reason.” “We don’t know what they were really thinking, do we?”

For some reason, a lot of us believe it’s helpful to make light of an experience. I’ve heard “Oh put some spit on it and suck it up!” shouted out triumphantly to a young man suffering a devastating heartbreak. Some victims battle with their own disbelief and denial. The last thing they need is for us to make them question their experience or the severity of it. “I’ve heard worse.” “Oh, my family beat me up too. No big deal.” “That’s nothing. You should see my bruise from my hockey game.” “I remember my friend’s mom. Now, THAT was domestic violence.” “Be positive. Some people don’t even have a family.” “Nothing ice cream can’t fix.”

Focusing on listening is also helpful in knowing exactly how they are feeling so we can respect it. It’ll be confusing for pronouns, but let me tell you a story about my experience as a victim. I’ve had well-intending people say things like “After what you went through, a hug is probably not what you want” and “I’m angry on your behalf.” I don’t know why they didn’t ask me and let me tell them if I wanted a hug (yes) and if I’m angry (I take great pride in the fact I’m not angry in the slightest). I encourage people to remember to respect a person’s own voice in any situation for anyone but especially those who just had their autonomy disturbed.

And, the easiest pitfall of all, let’s remember not to start offering them solutions and opinions without being asked. “Think of something you love.” “It’s over, isn’t it? Look forward not back.” “I know a great counsellor you should see.” “Do you meditate/exercise/journal?” Or the ones where we try to be subtle and gentle but end up being passive-aggressive, like “I know someone who’s gone through that, and they found yoga to be very helpful.”
Every human has this strong desire to be important, and it gets in the way of setting ourselves aside and helping a friend. Let me rephrase. Wanting to help is awesome. Deciding what that help should look like robs the friend of autonomy and control. So how do we know what help they want? If they came to us to talk, my guess is they want to be listened to. If listening alone doesn’t feel like enough and we feel like we need to say something, that’s a prime example of a human struggle: our own issue with our ego getting in the way of being a good friend.

Now, this has been a bit of a long list. It’s probably easier to think about what to do than what not to do.
If you ask me what to say to a victim of violence, I’d say “Say nothing. Just nod and listen. Those of us who are trained in active listening, listen and validate. It’s not up to us to decide when we should start talking. When it’s time for us to say something, they’ll explicitly let us know.” (with the exception of discussing making a police report in a time-sensitive matter or when someone is in danger, of course.) We are human, and we will always and repeatedly get the urge to start talking to satisfy our self-importance. We need to recommit over and over to feed our friend’s need over our own.

What I’m suggesting here is really hard. It goes against all our habits and natural urges, and we seldom have opportunities to practice. But I think we can try.