So yesterday I experienced one of those events that makes you question everything you thought you knew about the world. You know the kind of thing I’m talking about. Like you are just going along, minding your own business–the grass is green, the sky is blue–and someone comes along and explains that the sky is actually neon pink. And they are right.
I had a personal counseling session and at the end of it we were discussing the boy who touched me inappropriately at summer camp when I was twelve. It was a humiliating event for me and I had always been mad at myself for not stopping it (another boy, named John, came to my rescue and stopped it. To this day, I will always think more favorably of a guy if I find out his name is John, whether he deserves it or not). Five or so years later that same boy (not John, the Inappropriate Toucher Boy) put his arm around my shoulders during a group prayer, once everyone had closed their eyes. It infuriated me, because I felt like it was him further tormenting me.
My counselor had a different insight. “What if he had a crush on you and didn’t know how to properly express it?” she asked.
My brain went like this:
Only less sarcastically.
That thought had never entered my mind. For one, I would be the very last person, back then or to this day, to think that anyone, anywhere would ever have a crush on me. It is not a script my brain possesses. I have mentioned this before, but guys have literally had to come up to me and say, “Hey, I am trying to ask you out on a date here,” because I just did not get it. Secondly, I was not in a good place back then. I had been bullied so much that I assumed all attention was bad attention. Whether directed at me or not. There are people laughing together in a group 50 yards away from me? They must be laughing at me! It was pretty self-absorbed, I will admit, and something that I occasionally still wrestle with today (though I can snap out of it now, whereas when I was a kid I could not).
Co-worker: “Hey, I like your shirt.”
My Brain: Is something wrong with it? Are they making fun of me? No, wait, you’re being neurotic. Answer before they think you’re crazy.*
Me: “Thank you.”
So the thought that Inappropriate-Toucher Boy had intentions that were not odious was not something I had ever before entertained.
I don’t know what his motivations were, and I never will, but looking at them in an alternative, more positive light has made me feel so much better about it all that I do not care if it is accurate or not. Like the random quote I heard somewhere goes, “Life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it.” I can choose to look at it in a way that makes me feel better, rather than in a way that makes me feel worse. So I will!
*My counselor wants me to cut the negative self-talk, so I am working on that. What my brain should have said was: …No, wait, they are being nice to you. Tell them thank you because you are a polite person and can appreciate a compliment.