Connecting the dots…or not

Written by on September 4, 2013 in The Healing Journey with 5 Comments

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Last year or so, while recovering from a bout of exhaustion I had spent most of one day napping on the couch and watching T.V. I discovered a program on Investigation Discovery, called Who The (Bleep) Did I Marry?

It’s a series about people who think they know their spouses only to find they are, in fact, living double lives. The show featured sociopaths and narcissistic personality disordered spouses and romantic partners. Each episode was a study in the various dynamics of manipulation and usury.

Of course, I had to watch.

The pattern that began to emerge over the course of the day into the evening made me increasingly uncomfortable. Despite the varying contexts and players, there was a common thread running through each episode that struck just a little too close to home.

connect the dots Mona Lisa

by Thomas Pavitte

Story after story after story, individuals who became targets exhibited the habit of either not seeing the red flags or rationalizing them away or denied them altogether after the fact. Anyone watching could see a picture emerging, but the targets in the stories could not. They could not connect the dots.

One story was particularly disturbing to me. It was about Jeff Pelo, a police officer convicted of raping four women and stalking another. What gripped me wasn’t so much the story about Pelo, but his wife, Rickielee.

When his double life came to light whatever suspicions or doubts she may have had were laid to rest by his denial.

Her husband’s habit of getting up and going out in the middle of the night for years, his excuse of house-hunting after being caught by police at 1:00 in the morning — back pressed up against a wall outside the house of a terrified woman, the unauthorized license searches of three of the four victims through his police login, fiber evidence matching his jacket and ski mask on duct tape used on a victim, and the testimonies of the victims themselves were dismissed by Rickielee as coincidence or reasonable or inconclusive or just plain wrong.

Jeff Pelo maintained his innocence, and so did she. Nothing would shake it.

In the above mentioned episode, years later after much personal questioning, Rickielee finally admitted that her husband “may not be innocent”, but added “I’m still not absolutely sure he’s guilty.”

Her daughter stated, “If this really did happen, come out and say everything, come clean.” She said, “I just want to be able to know something.”

I understand the daughter’s desire to hear it straight from her father. So many victims of abuse — and being lied to is abuse — long for their abuser to “come clean”. What a gift in our personal healing and sense of resolution that would be!

But I could, also, imagine as I watched that episode, people sitting in their living rooms wondering, “How can they not know?” I believe, for most people, enough information and facts were available to let a person “know something”, and that something is to reasonably conclude Jeff Pelo was the serial rapist.

Still there is a part of me that can understand how it can still not be real in face of all the evidence for the Pelo women — unless Jeff Pelo says it’s real.

It comes from a personal perspective that may or may not pertain to them. I only know the power it played in my own life and its relevance as a part of the dynamics of covert abuse.

I once wrote that my father could tell us the sun was shining and we would all put on suntan lotion even as the snow fell and buried us in a tomb of white. I have come to appreciate over the years just how less a poetic metaphor and how much a truth that was.

It didn’t help that my father wasn’t a total liar or always abusive. If he was always abusive it would have been easier to see the truth. It was the good times and kind moments that conferred an aura of goodness over the entire relationship that it did not deserve. That illusion lent itself to glossing over other realities much uglier and harsher. It was in that illusion that we sought refuge, and it was there that our loyalties were demanded and given.

The message was clear. Don’t question, and for God sake, don’t point out any inconsistencies or contradictions in what you are told and what everyone around you has agreed to. Don’t rock the boat and you’ll be rewarded with those positive moments that, as a hungry child, I turned into a feast.

I learned the lessons taught by both mother and father well. I took that blind faith of “it’s not real until you say it is” or “it is real if you say it is” into virtually every significant intimate/sexual relationship throughout my life. That’s why someone could say I love you to me, and those words would take precedence over any evidence to the contrary.

Those words became truth and remained truth simply because they were spoken by him, the one I had given this power to. But I wasn’t a total doormat. Just in my love life. I was an activist, an advocate for others, a fierce person to contend with if I perceived an injustice…um, to someone else. I had no small esteem in those areas of my life.

But the presence of one kind of self esteem does not make up for the lack of another, and thus, the far too common reality of high achieving men and women who appear to have their “shit” together, putting up with and suffering covert abuse in the private places of personal relationships or other relationships out of public view.

The fact is, I was a cheater’s dream come true. Not even the other woman could tell me the truth. Until the person I was involved with said it happened, it didn’t happen.

I’m not talking about simply not taking another person’s word at face value but refusing to connect the dots, to read the signs among a mountain of evidence warning me that something was amiss. Without his permission, approval or acknowledgement I could not interpret or discern the reality of the situation on my own. I looked to the very person who had a vested interest in deceiving me to verify what I was seeing, and if by chance I should attempt to take back that power, even hesitantly or momentarily, and actually question his assessment the backlash was swift and furious.

For me, in my childhood it was about surviving. I could not point out to my father that when he said he loved me after lying with me in his bed downstairs that what he did or was doing wasn’t love. I did not dare to say what it was, because quite frankly that vocabulary and the reality of that situation wasn’t in my young repertoire of words or comprehension. If he said he loved me, then he loved me — regardless how I felt.

This inability to connect the dots is revealed in the manner in which I came to realize the truth about the incestuous relationship between my father and I. It wasn’t that I was in therapy and all of these repressed memories suddenly came flooding over me as they were finally released from their subconscious prison.

It was more like going from non-comprehension to comprehension — connecting the dots, the dots that were always there…and the distance covered from dot to picture could be as short as seeing something and recognizing it for what it is, literally. That moment from staring at something dumbly to realizing what you’re looking at.

And how did I accomplish this connection of which I was so adept at not making? My sister.

In sharing my own personal memories with her, I wondered out loud what they meant. My sister listened in silence and then asked, “If another woman brought your story to you but as her own, what would you tell her?”

Without hesitation I began to connect the dots, describing the picture my sister could see, but I could not — that is until I pretended it belonged to someone else.

And then I saw…just like that. Lightning strike, clap of thunder and all that. All those disjointed images, pieces of memories, unconnected, unrelated and the incomprehensible “I-wonder-what-this-means” dots finally coalesced into one awful, horrible realization.

Yes, my relationship with my daddy had a name…and it wasn’t “love”.

Surely I was on the path to being able to see, but it had been a long path — I was thirty-one. It threw me into crisis…and onto my healing journey. The point is that the most obvious isn’t obvious when you won’t or can’t see.

There can many contributing factors for this dynamic. You don’t have to have been sexually abused. Anything that coerces you into disengaging your ability to discern, define or ascertain and transfers that power to another can give rise to the same or similar phenomenon, to whatever degree. Whether you’re groomed from birth or find yourself wondering how you got here, which can happen through the slow and insidious impact of covert abuse, these dynamics must be disengaged for your own health, safety and empowerment.

To the person who fears I may be writing to them, let me assure you that no matter how scarey the picture that threatens to emerge from those dots seem to you, not discerning them is scarier still.

You need to open your eyes, engage your mind and connect the dots.

You cannot expect the one who benefits from deceiving you to tell you the truth. You cannot wait for them. You cannot hope they will be gracious when you attempt to circumvent what they want you to see with what’s really there. They will not let you do so easily.

But you must. Sometimes the pictures that emerge from those dots of experience, evidence, whispers and shouts are not pretty. But even less so is what happens to you when you refuse to see.

It might be tempting to let dots remain dots, and instead of connecting them with honest, courageous observation color them differently and draw what we want to see freehand. But if it’s a reality, our creative endeavor doesn’t change it. Our choices do, and if we are to use our creativity it must be done from a place of honesty. It must be to craft a life and create relationships where the dots connect with what honors us and others as human beings.

Connect those dots. You have the courage to see whatever picture they may reveal. Whether or not something is pleasant is irrelevant to Truth. What is important is tapping into the courage that is within you — truly it’s there! — your empowerment, and freeing yourself to express and share the love that you are and that you have within you.

And truthfully? There is no more beautiful picture than that.

Demian Elainé Yumei
~DreamSinger

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About the Author

About the Author: Demian Yumei, author, singer/songwriter and artist activist, uses spoken, written word and original songs in her human rights activism. "For the Sake of Love” is her collection of songs written on Demian's healing journey, and “Little Yellow Pear Tomatoes” is a children’s book she wrote for her daughter about the interconnectedness of life published by Illumination Arts and endorsed by Jane Goodall. Currently, Demian is working on recording episodes for her podcast and writing on the "Where There's Smoke Series on Covert Abuse". .

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  • Macoeur says:

    (part II)
    I think it‘s important to at least try asking…and expressing your pain and your need for the truth…if the person is still alive. I truly think that sometimes people don’t have a clue just how much pain they have caused…(mere stupidity is not necessarily evil) .but if they’re unwilling/unable to cooperate we may be tempted to find contentment in piecing “a” story together in our mind which may not be “the” (actual) story of the how & why. This for me is not an option because I could drive myself crazy connecting dot‘s into new and different pictures every day.…It’s clear to me I could never settle on just one of the many possibilities and leave it at that, knowing that it was constructed in my (fallible) mind. I need facts and communication. If I can never get them I’ll have to try to write it all off as part of the absolutely insane human condition (which I don’t doubt is the “unspecific” truth “in general” and what I have tended to use in the mean time as a “place holder”) …and then hope and pray to find some peace.

  • Macoeur says:

    (Part I)  ..sooo sorry!  Inadvertantly posted this first in Creating Your Reality 1.  Please feel free to delete that  🙁
    So right on…Initially “seeing” the covert abuse/manipulation/exploitation that I was unable to clearly see, much less articulate when I was younger was agonizing and so necessary. By “was“… I’m mean the initial “impact”. I’ll never be done “connecting dots” gradually bit by bit .knowing it’s unlikely I’ll ever be 100% settled. About the need to hear an admission from one’s abuser… For me it’s more about feeling if we could just talk about it, I could ask What were you thinking? WHYYyyyyyy? etc…I mean it’s one thing to know that certain events happened (facts), but trying to connect the dots of how and why… is quite another, and not something I feel that making up a story about would be helpful with. I have an insatiable hunger for truth which is both necessary on one hand, and like self torture on the other to need something I may likely never get.

  • DemianYumei says:

    @Macoeur I can relate, Macoeur. I do understand the need to understand and asking “why?” 
    It appears to me there may be two things happening here. First, I see a need to speak to the person(s) who hurt you. I think that is something only you can decide for yourself and if it is right for you, then I would support you in that.
    I would just be careful in your expectations of what will come out of it. That’s the second part. Speaking your truth is important. Sometimes it takes the person who hurt you to make you feel heard. Sometimes it only takes another person to make you feel heard.

    But having that need met needs to be separated by how they respond. You may never receive the “right” response. They may never tell you the truth. They may never acknowledge it. Then again, they may surprise you. The bottom line is it has to be okay either way, because in reality, you have no choice or control over any of that.
    If you go hoping, needing, wanting, demanding in whatever degree a certain response from them, certain information then you set yourself up. If you go with no expectation except for you to exercise your voice, to speak your truth, then you will succeed no matter what they do or don’t do. Anything on top of you empowering yourself to no longer be silent is icing on the cake…or disappointing and wanting, but you walk away feeling good about *yourself* if not the situation.
    I’ve come to where, in my life, I accept that not all questions have answers, and one of those questions is “why?” Sometimes there are answers, and sometimes there simply are none. There is no reason, no justification, not even understanding. 
    There is only the decision to heal. And that is what I wish for you in whatever way that is right for you. I think your desire to find this peace for you is beautiful. Don’t despair. It will come.
    ~Demian

  • Macoeur says:

    Thank you so much Demian!  You’re so amazingly articulate.  Yes, the people I’ve needed answers from the most have been unwilling and/or unable to give them, and it took me a very long time to accept that I was wasting my time and to realize I didn’t actually need their validation after all (Thanks to people like you and and others who’ve taught me what Narcissism is)   Was just mentioning this because I know that it’s very easy sometimes to jump to wrong conclusions…I’ve done it myself and had it done to me as well…but I suppose that’s not likely to be the case in these “covert abuse” cases where it’s usually a long standing pattern and really can’t be denied (unless we ARE in denial 😉  …a bit from another of my “faves”…Martha Beck
    (Life Lessons to Un-learn) Loss is terrible. Ten years ago I still feared loss enough to abandon myself in order to keep things stable. I’d smile when I was sad, pretend to like people who appalled me. What I now know is that losses aren’t cataclysmic if they teach the heart and soul their natural cycle of breaking and healing. A real tragedy? That’s the loss of the heart and soul themselves. If you’ve abandoned yourself in the effort to keep anyone or anything else, unlearn that pattern. Live your truth, losses be damned. Just like that, your heart and soul will return home.”

  • DemianYumei says:

    @Macoeur Oh, I love this: “If you’ve abandoned yourself in the effort to keep anyone or anything else, unlearn the pattern. Live your truth, losses be damned. Just like that, your heart and soul will return home.”
    “Losses be damned”! Perfect. This is the gem of a gift I needed to hear…something my heart seems to keep revisiting…regrets.  So easy to get stuck in those places…not so much for myself, as I can accept my own consequences, but the impact on others…well, not that I haven’t needed to accept responsibility for that, and have, nor does it mean I haven’t needed to make things right for those who depended on me and I wasn’t there, because I was totally wrapped up in this whole sad endeavor, but there comes a time when you need something stronger than thinking about finally forgiveness yourself and letting go. “Losses be damned” is just such a jump starter to not only moving on, but truly being there for those who depended on you then and love you still. 
    Thank you, Macoeur, for sharing this.
    And you make a very good point concerning connecting the dots when it means jumping to the wrong conclusion. I’m actually writing something about that, but didn’t make such a direct correlation between the whole connecting the dots thing so this is very helpful. Again, thank you. 🙂

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