I was laid in bed thinking last night about the connections we make with other people, especially our families. My brain came up with a metaphor. I get metaphorical at times, it helps me understand the world.
Our links to family are the anchor we’re born with, keeping us firmly in place. We learn to know who we are and where we are, just the basics, a starting point. That’s our port of anchor, our home. Eventually we grow up, and want to sail away, so we haul in the anchor and head out to sea. We take our anchor with us, a security against losing ourselves. Got lost? Drop your anchor, check your compass and charts, rest and then head back out on your journey, safe in the knowledge that you can stop and rest if you need to. You can go home if you need to, to repair the anchor, replace the mooring ropes, get a decent cup of tea.
Sometimes the rope is rotten and the chain rusted. It snaps in time, and you flail around unconnected until someone throws you a new rope, and you can get yourself a new anchor. You might have tried to keep going, with that rusty anchor chain and the fraying rope, hoping to repair it soon, but never being able to. The break, though inevitable, still comes as a shock.
If you’re lucky, you have a few spares, ready and willing to help hold you steady (friends). If not, you’re thrown about on the waves, struggling to get to shore. This is how I think of those with abusive families. From observation, the rope, to an outsider, is fatally flawed, but the sailor keeps sailing, hoping one day things will change but they never do. The rope gets more frayed, the anchor chain rustier. Eventually it breaks, it was going to, but the break is painful for the sailor because they’ve relied for so long on the faulty equipment. This is the part of your brain and society that reinforces the message that says “No, you mustn’t cut of your narcissistic/abusive/controlling mother/father/sister/brother, they’re family.”, or the abusive person that tells them they have no one else, that none will ever love them, look after them, the way the abusive person does, even though common sense and your friends say “Run away as far and as fast as you can. Cut off all contact, they’re bad for you.”.
The fact is, the anchor – the abusive family member – doesn’t care, it’s doing its own thing and now at least it isn’t being hauled around by/constantly connected to the ‘demanding’ sailor. Oh, it might wish you were still there, but only so they can continue abusing you. They’ll say you cut the rope, it’s your fault they left, but that’s just deflection. They were rotten to start with.
Leave the anchor, deep and lost on the seas.
Sail away and find a new way to get to shore.
Call for help.
If you have spare ropes (friends) that’ll hold you for a while, you can tie up elsewhere, find another anchor, one you choose, rather than one foisted on you. Maybe the old ropes and anchor stopped you from getting spares, (social isolation) and you struggle to get to shore.
Call for help.
Someone will answer, maybe they’ll lend you a temporary anchor, just until you find yourself a new one. This is a support group, or a therapist, that sort of thing.
Some people have perfectly fine anchors and ropes, strong, unfreyed, uncorroded, and still choose to cut themselves loose, leaving a dangling rope and a lost anchor. They have their own reasons, even if they don’t make any sense from the outside. They might have other anchors, ‘better’ ones, waiting to be used; or they might believe their perfectly fine anchors and rope are damaged and they need to be thrown away.
Or, maybe they just want to go on an adventure, are tired of being in one place, feel stuck or scared. So they cut their mooring ropes and sail away. Maybe everything will go well, they find temporary moorings, borrow new anchors and rope, and eventually come back. Full of stories, ready to fish up their old anchor, clean it off and start again. And maybe they’ll need help. Maybe, they’ll discover they left the anchor on the seabed for too long and it’s rusted and too far gone to be cleaned up and reused; maybe someone else fished it out, appreciated that it was a fine anchor and decided to make it their own. So, disappointed, they have to get a new anchor. Maybe they’ll keep the one they abandoned but tried to recover as a memory or souvenir, or they’ll see it hanging from another ship’s anchor chain, having been rescued soon after being abandoned, and feel sad they’ve lost something they hadn’t really had the chance to appreciate. And they’ll sail on.
Make of that what you will. My brain in a strange place.