My first experience having my boundaries violated left me feeling like I couldn’t protect myself from anyone like him, should they get a whim one day to come at me the same way. I am (tragically) accustomed to the unsettled feeling now, but I can look back and see that I wasn’t always afraid of the world. I wasn’t before that happened.
None of the strategies I came up with on my own worked or did any me any good. I rolled my eyes and pretended not to take him seriously, he got more aggressively suggestive. I said no, he pushed me up against lockers whenever we were alone in a room and said scary things into my hair, making fun of my discomfort all the while.
I went to my boss and told her that he was making me uncomfortable and received zero empathy whatsoever. I was too young and freaked out to be doing such a thing in her office in the first place, so I don’t remember exactly what her response was. Some version of “I’ll talk to him about it,” but no outrage on her part, no righteous indignation, no concern for me going back to that room for the rest of the afternoon, week, month, or my career.
When these types of things start happening and nothing you do works, you do begin to internalize shame I think, no matter who you are. At least, I did. Also, I was seventeen, eighteen, and an innocent seventeen, eighteen, surrounded mostly by people in their twenties and thirties. Was it not reasonable to assume on some level that these would be closer to my peers than anyone outside the doors? People who valued the elegance and class that ballroom stood for, a place to finally celebrate genuinely being a lady or a gentleman? Yet everyone talked and laughed in this way, his way, all around as if it were the most normal thing in the world.
So, instead of continuing to get angry (me? have the right to get angry? absolutely not. that discussion is coming in a later chapter), I leaned into it. I learned to take his attention, even revel in it.
I was really wrong. That decision normalized toxic behavior that I would find myself recognizing and becoming enmeshed in time and time again for years to come. This is the way it happens, and a big reason why I believe self-forgiveness is so vital for INFJs looking back at their lives, and especially their relationships. We live for so long feeling as though we see everything, then look back at our own journeys and wonder how we could have been so blind. So taken. Such a fool. But we can only do our best with the information we have in the environments we’re in. And if that knowledge turns out to be woefully insufficient for a crushing environment you find yourself in, that’s definitely not something you should blame yourself for. Easier said than done, I know, but there it is.
Even as a coping mechanism, the decision to go passive in the face of overwhelming trauma was an injection of poison. My first. I knew it at the time, but I know it even more now. A poison injection like the flu vaccine. They say it inoculates you; inviting it into your body is a way to toughen yourself up, to protect yourself going forward. But what you’re really doing is allowing poison into your veins with absolutely no comprehension of the damage it can and will do in there, unseen, going forward.