Today I had an Alive session and faced a new violent archetype in the mirror – the fighter. The first time I remember being a fighter (rather than a passive receptacle for whatever was thrown my way) was in 7th grade when I stood up to a girl bullying me and it turned into a physical fight. I came out of it with a black eye that I wore with a strange sense of pride. That same year my parents were doing crank and drinking heavily. There were loud fights in our tiny one-bedroom apartment on a regular basis.
My mom was a bullying narcissist and my stepfather would let her dominate when he wasn’t sky-high, but would oh how they would fight when they were both wrecked. He would rip the phone out of the wall so she couldn’t call the police. Things were broken. He never hit her, but he was physically violent to our home as he tried to defend himself from her verbal attacks.
Those fights are the first experiences of violence that I can remember. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I stood up to a bully with physical violence the same year that violence became a part of my home life.
I was in two more fist fights. The first was my sophomore year in highschool. We were highly competitive as the two high sopranos in the school choir. It was one of only two instances in my life where I felt competitive with another woman. I started the physical fight by slapping her across the face when she was verbally assaulting me. The other happened when I was 20 and I jumped in a fight to protect a friend when a hood was pulled over her head so she couldn’t see to defend herself.
In later years the fighter manifested with my ex-husband when we fought at least quarterly about his unwillingness to be a partner and father (he refused to work for 4.5 years). I recreated life with my parents. He put holes in doors and a wall. He would try to stop me from leaving a room and I would push him against him. I remember how much I wanted to hit him when he bullied and cornered me with his larger size and strength. Instead I threw my wedding ring at him, weaponizing our marriage.
Now I understand that I have PTSD triggers around bullying, verbal violence, and emotional abuse. My fighter comes out to defend myself or others when I lose myself in the fear and rage of adolescence with my mother and stepfather. I can imagine how as a young empath I took in all of the fear and pain my parents inflicted on one another, in addition to the bullying and other abuse I experienced directly. When I am conscious I am disassociated from the pain of those years, but when I experience a triggering event the floodgates open.
Following this particular thread of violence brought me to tears because I don’t want to be a fighter who harms others. The fighter is the exact opposite of my highly empathic and loving authentic self. I try to understand where people’s pain is coming from, to build empathy bridges across conflict and difference, to find ways to get everyone’s needs met. Empathizing with the pain I’ve caused loved one is really hard. It hurts deep.
The Alive harm reduction and intimacy nurturing work we have been doing the past 9 months continues to transform me and the ways I relate. More and more I am able to choose to stay with my hard emotions and stop myself from going into what they call the hitman – the part of us that reacts by trying to control and coerce ourselves and/or others – and choose to stay with my authentic self, the deep hurt, and the opportunity to find relief by creating fulfillment plans.
But I am worried about an anger that occasionally arises that I don’t yet know how to manage so that it’s not a geyser ready to explode. I don’t know how to consciously do anger, feel anger, or express anger. Anger scares me, because for 30 years it inevitably led to the fighter taking over. Now that I understand the harm and hurt I’ve caused when I let the fighter rule I really really really don’t want to ever let it out again. Not ever. Except that repression isn’t helpful and the fighter has a light side – she fights for justice, equity, and inclusion. I have made a difference when I wielded my fighter archetype for good in work and leadership situations. So I need to figure this out – how to feel and transform anger in interpersonal relationships without causing harm to others.
I am scared to face whatever is in the depths of my geyser of rage, but I will puzzle and process it out till I find my way since that is what is needed to make myself safe to be with.
Thank you for witnessing.