Fri Aug 01 2003 10:47AM -0600

Growing up with a predominantly Republican extended-family, I've definitely been inured in the concept of personal responsibility and the dishonor of assigning blame to other people. Unfortunately, this also leads to self-loathing and the tendency to blame things that I have no control over on myself.

So, yeah, I'm a little skeptical on the theories of how childhood trauma can excuse maladaptive adult behavior. I mean, sure, as I do have some grasp of the theories of neurological development, it is self-evident that experiencing fucked-up things as a kid will definitely affect you. But the thing is, once you recognize this, then you are, to an extent, responsible. But bad habits, I understand, are hard to break. But you can't use it as a rationalization for continued transgressions.

That's my opinion. (Again, opinions and assholes...) And like my asshole, you don't have to like it.

But still, I have to reflect. I realize that my experiences with betrayal and mistrust began long before I myself was actually betrayed. In fact, as far as I can remember, I've known that this kind of shit happens all the time. Despite the fact that my parents have been married for 26 years, their relationship isn't exactly what I would call healthy. In fact, I think that the reason they can stand each other now is that they only see each other for a few hours every day, as my dad works a regular 9-to-5, while my mom works nights. Force them to stay together for too long, and an argument will break out, often about them most juvenille, ridiculous things. But I digress.

My dad is not exactly the paragon of fidelity, let me just say. So, truth be told (though only in retrospect), my childhood wasn't exactly filled with stability. What with my dad taking off for the Midwest because of having to redo his residency (and God only knows what else, leaving him free to do a lot of fucked up things), it was basically just me and my mom for a couple of years. I mean, sure, I was too young to understand, but I wasn't too young to remember.

I do recall one particularly fractious argument that got particularly physical, with my parents screaming at each other and grappling. I don't think my dad ever actually hit my mom. Now that I try to focus on that memory, I think my dad was actually trying to leave the house at 2am, no longer able to stand things, but my mom dragged him to the ground and wouldn't let him. But I remember waking up and thinking that my dad was hurting my mom, and I wanted to take a chair to the back of his head. I know that I must've been less than 7 years old when this happened.

I suppose this presaged the time when I was 16 and had a fight with my dad and then ran away from home for a couple of days. But that is another story.

Anyway, the fact of the matter is that I grew up thinking that it was, well, natural for a guy to be a cheating bastard. I mean, it wasn't good, but it was expected. I suppose I grew up thinking that about a lot of things. It sucks, but it happens. So you could say I've always been cynical.

I suppose one could implicate Filipino culture, particularly the machismo imparted by the Spaniards (because a successful man is supposed to have a wife and a mistress), but I think, like I've noted above, that that is a cop out.

It didn't really hit home until I was actually cheated on. (Like they say, nothing teaches fire safety like getting burned.) But, now that I apply hindsight, I think I really did expect that it would happen. And, unfortunately, I've also learned that these kind of things are self-fulfilling prophecies. You distrust someone for no good reason, and soon enough, they'll find a good reason why you should distrust them. (This reminds me of a quote by Henry L. Stimson: "The chief lesson I have learned in a long life is that the only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him; and the surest way to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him and show your distrust.")

Which comes to the heart of the problem: I have an incredibly hard time trusting anyone. Lately, the best I can seem to do is trust people to fulfill certain limited expectations, but also to fail me in other, often critical, ways. I believe I can only push people so far. I do not believe in the unconditional, I suppose. And for the longest time, I liked to blame this on the fact that I had been betrayed, but really, now that I think hard about it, I guess I've always been like this.

Unfortunately, deep down inside, I can't help but believe that everyone leaves you in the end, and when the shit really comes down, you are alone. From a (perhaps pathological) third-person perspective, I find this incredibly sad. (But self-pity is basically emotional masturbation. You're only screwing yourself.)

Such is life.

Catch 22. I can't trust anybody unconditionally until I am 100% sure that I can trust them, but no one will ever be that trustworthy if I don't trust them in the first place. Lovely.

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