“He that studieth revenge keepeth his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well.” – John Milton, poet
“Now, he was out of jail and Ted was even more upset about it.”
Theodore (Ted) was a rather short guy, just a little over five feet five inches. He was turning 30 years of age and had been married to Tabatha (Tammy) for about eight years. He was in good shape…fit, athletic, well toned. He told me he was a regular at the gym and a student of karate.
Ted and Tammy had two children, Taite and Telora, four and six years old, respectively. It had been a tough two years for all of them. Telora had been molested by her great-uncle Terry at a family gathering. He’d been charged, convicted and spent time in both jail and a rehab program. Now, he was out of jail and Ted was even more upset about it.
In his discussions with Tammy, she was of the opinion Terry had been drunk, remorseful and had learned his lesson. She felt they should let it go, move on with their life, and just be more vigilant. But for Ted, this was not an option.
“And, Ted wanted revenge right away!”
Ted wanted to pay Terry a ‘friendly’ visit and show him one of his favourite tools…his ‘Louisville Slugger’ baseball bat. Ted wanted revenge. And, Ted wanted revenge right away!
When he expressed this idea to Tammy, she persuaded him to go talk to ‘someone’ before, as she said, “things got out of hand!” That ‘someone’ became me! I asked Ted,
“Are you saying you want to enact some form of revenge on Terry?”
“You’re damn right I do! I would like to take him out permanently, but that’s unrealistic, isn’t it? He’s scarred my daughter for life! And, the family…the entire family, will never be the same, again. He should pay for that, Ken!” he said, his face and voice boiling with anger and pent up, potent violence.
“Do you have some experience with revenge prior to this happening to your daughter?” I asked, wondering how revenge connected to him so personally and so strongly.
Ted paused briefly, looking down. Then, looking up at me he said, with a hint of pride to his voice,
“Back in high school there was this guy who slugged his girlfriend, Tricia. Tricia was in our group. There was about seven of us, guy and girls who had gone through school together since the first grade. We were really close, almost like siblings.”
He paused before continuing as if it was difficult to verbalize what came next.
“Anyway, three of us, Tom, Thane and Trena took this guy outside during a dance and roughed him up a bit. We told him if it happened again he would get much worse. But, we never told Tricia what we did. And, they broke up soon after.”
“And before that, Ted?” I asked.
“I tolerate him now. That’s the best I can do for him.”
He paused again before saying slowing and sadly,
“My father was a drunk and a bully. He terrorized my Mom, my little brother, Tony and me. My high school years were spent trying to protect them from him. I was frequently tempted to show him my Louisville Slugger…but I never did…he was my father, eh?”
“What is your relationship like today with your father, Ted?”
“Oh, he sobered up a few years back and we get on OK…I guess!” he said, hesitantly.
“Sounds like you accept you father now, but don’t love him much…is that accurate, Ted?”
“Yeah, that’s about right! I haven’t forgiven him for what he did to us. I tolerate him now. That’s the best I can do for him.” he said with finality in his tone.
“That won’t be enough for your future, Ted!” I said.
“What do you mean, Ken?”
“How can anyone not love the people who co-created them, nurtured them and enabled them to have life? You still love your father at an unconscious level and your consciousness is still trying to catch up to that fact.”
He nodded silently, so I kept going while wondering if he could process all the links at once.
“These recent events with your family are simply acting as a catalyst to enable you to uncover this and use it for your future.”
“To refrain from imitation is the best revenge.” – Marcus Aurelius, soldier
“That would mean all the stuff…were equally good and bad!”
“Are you saying my daughter getting molested is tied to my lousy relationship with my father?” he asked incredulously.
“Yes I am, Ted! Nature ensures we all get the people and events we need for our survival. There are no mistakes in our past, only learning opportunities for our future.”
“With all due respect, Ken…how can that be? It just doesn’t make sense to me!”
“Let me offer the idea to you in this way. Ted, it is always about time. Nature demands a balanced system at all times and places in its universe. Science has not been able so far to find any exceptions.”
“What does that mean?” he asked, confused and skeptical.
“Ted, simply put…it means good and bad, pleasure and pain, benefits and costs are always balanced for us at all times and all places for all people.”
He thought for a short moment and said,
“That would mean all the stuff we have been talking about, my daughter’s assault, my revenge for Tricia and my father’s bullying were equally good and bad! You gotta be kidding me, right?” his sarcasm and skepticism mounting.
“What about Tammy? How can she let it go…”
“Not at all! Which one should we start with, Ted?”
“If you’re serious there’s two sides to everything, then I want to start with Telora’s assault. I don’t believe there can be any benefits of any kind for anyone from such an experience. But, you go for it!” he replied, an anger in his voice.
“OK! Who do you think was most upset by the assault? Was it Telora, her mother Tammy, her sister, Taite or perhaps you, Ted?”
He thought for a moment and then said in a halting voice.
“It occurred over two years ago and looking at Telora, you would never know it happened to her. She is just a child and they get on with things, eh?”
Then he continued,
“Her sister, who was two at the time, doesn’t even know it happened. And, Tammy thinks we did all we could and it is time to move on. So, that leaves me, I guess!”
“Telora’s reaction fits some research I came across. It suggested when young children are molested, as long as there is no violence involved, they tend to move through it quite quickly. But, the study noted, the parents can be impacted for a much longer period because of their level of awareness and their value system.”
“What about Tammy? How can she let it go, Ken? I don’t understand that at all.”
“… my past experiences, are really why I’m still upset…”
“It would be because she has a different value system than you. This simply means she has a different set of life experiences which has created her perspective on what has happened to your family.”
“Yeah, I can see the different experiences create different values, but we both value our children…she loves them as much as I do…?”
“Yes, of course she does! But, she loves them differently than you. Remember love is half support and half challenge. So, Tammy supports and challenges your children in different ways than you…right?”
“Yeah, I certainly agree with that. She lets them away with stuff I wouldn’t…like their room is a disaster zone as far as I’m concerned but Tammy doesn’t even seem to notice it…drives me bonkers sometimes!” he said, his exasperation covering his face fully.
“So, you’re saying my value system, my past experiences, are really why I’m still upset by the assault on Telora. And, it’s tied somehow to my relationship with my father who I’m not really close to today…am I getting this at all, Ken?”
“Yes, Ted, you are indeed! Because you perceive your father caused you, your mom and Tony more harm than good, you also are thinking Telora’s great-uncle caused you, her, Tammy and Taite more bad than good.”
Then I added,
“But, that’s not possible in nature, but you don’t see it yet. There are a host of benefits which came to you, Tony, and your mom from your father which have enabled each of you to go forward in your lives since then. When you know them, it shifts how you see your past, your present and your future.”
“Revenge and retaliation always perpetuate the cycle of anger, fear and violence.”
– Coretta Scott King, activist
“I have the tools and your have the memories.”
“So, if I learn the benefits of my father in my life, you’re saying, I will be able to learn the benefits to Telora’s assault and get past it…is that what you mean?”
“Exactly, Ted! There is a part of you, let’s call it your intuition, that knows you, Tony and your mother are all smarter and stronger because of your father.”
He looked at me with both curiosity and caution, so I continued.
“When you connect those memories to who you are, what you do and what you have achieved in life, it changes your perception of everyone and everything. You’re on a very important learning journey Ted.”
“But…how do I do that? How do I find what I don’t see? How do I find what I don’t believe?” he asked, genuinely doubting the possibility.
“I have the tools and your have the memories. We do it together. Are you ready to begin right now?”
“Yes, I am, Ken! But it sounds so impossible…is it OK to be cautious and maybe even a little afraid?”
“Fear is one of our greatest self-motivators. So, it is a healthy sign you are ready and willing to learn! Let’s get started, OK?”
“OK!” he relied with a nervous half smile.
So this is where Ted began his work. He surprised himself when he finally noticed his mother was still with his father. As he started to wonder why she stayed, he began uncovering memories of how strong and independent she became during those years like going out to work, setting up her own bank account and other things he had forgotten.
And, his brother Tony had a close relationship with their father which reminded Ted other people, besides Tammy, have their own perceptions of the past and often unlike his. Then he moved to the assault which happened in his own family. This was tough for Ted because he started noticing and verbalizing the benefits to himself since the incident two years previously.
Near the end of our work together I asked him what were the three most important pluses for him? He thought for a moment and then replied,
“I have found so many during the consults we have had, Ken. But, the top three would be, first, I’m a more attentive father than before, and it reminds me of how my own father is around my kids…so appreciative of them! The second would be it helped me realize a family is a team which needs to work together to protect each other…even from each other. I think I lost sight of that somewhere. Third, and perhaps most important, , it is such a privilege to be a parent, I was taking it for granted.”
“Hearing you say that…it sounds like, in a way, the assault saved your butt as a father?” I offered.
“I really can’t deny that, Ken!”
“Revenge only engenders violence, not clarity and true peace. I think liberation must come from within.”
– Sandra Cisneros, author
Until Next time…
Now you know, …r future.
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