Updated: Jun 21
I recently heard the story of the Golden Buddha, the legend is loosely based on a true story. In Thailand sometime around 1780 there were a group of monks that had a golden Buddha in their temple. They heard they were about to be invaded by the Burmese army, in an effort to protect their Buddha they covered the statue in a mixture of stucco and glass to disguise its value. The strategy was successful the Burmese Army ignored the statue and over the years it was forgotten that a Golden Buddha was hidden within. The statue remained in its location for centuries, with no one paying much notice. This was to change when during the process of relocation, to the horror of the attending monks, it was dropped crashing into the ground. The force of drop had caused cracks to develop in the stucco covering revealing hints of the gold underneath. Upon this discovery the monks carefully removed the covering and to their amazement they found a golden masterpiece had been sitting unnoticed in their midst. Now that it's true value has been discovered, it has since been moved from its non descript abode to its own special shrine and a long forgotten statue now has become a major attraction for visitors.
I believe that every human being has a golden core, EVERY ONE, when subject to abuse this golden core gets buried under accusations, misrepresentations and devaluation. The true beauty and value of the human underneath becomes distorted. Hidden under a a layer of muck. And, sometimes what first appears to be destruction can lead to the discovery of the golden beauty lying within. This story presents a useful metaphor when we think our own hidden value.
A hallmark of emotional abuse is the victim will be denigrated and debased to the point they themselves believe they are unworthy. It is the goal of the abuser to obscure your value both to you and to others. You forget who you were before you got into this relationship. You forget what is there, just as the monks had forgotten. I certainly experienced this phenomenon. I believed I was an introverted anti-social outcast who lacked the capability of relating to society. My ex had told me the only way I was ever going to be happy is if I was alone. Part of that was true, I am certainly more happy alone than with him. Now that I am free of him, I get the opportunity to enjoy people. I have had almost a complete personality change. Previously my natural tendency was to avoid human interaction. If you would have asked me at the time, this is how I would have described myself, I believed it was my personality. I wouldn't even call for pizza. The truth is, it was a trauma response.
This type of behaviour becomes a self fulling prophecy. I had my blinders on and I did not see the others attempts to befriend me. I gave off a cold unapproachable vibe. I became more and more isolated. The external world was validating the negative messages that I had been told, that I was a horrible person no body wanted to befriend. I believed there was something fundamentally wrong with me, that I was not entitled to the air I was breathing. I had the deep sense of not being good enough. I expected rejection so I just did not risk reaching out. I stayed as small as I possibly could, doing my best to blend into the background. I dressed in oversized and plain clothes. Jeans and sweatshirts. I avoided as much as possible to draw attention to myself as this would invite ridicule. I approached every situation as the underdog.
I remember as a child truly feeling sorry for my parents that they had me as a kid instead of one of the other more valuable kids in my class. I lived with shame of my mere existence. I felt dirty, unworthy and unwanted. I was genuinely surprised anyone wanted to be in a relationship with me. I had been smeared for years and was covered with the filth of abuse. But, he had seen my value, but for him, it was something for him to steal from me and take as his own.
Divorce was the force that cracked the shell exposing the gold that had been buried deep within my soul. Sometimes the best thing that ever happened to you starts as a disaster. I tried to hold my marriage together for far to long. Not realizing that once I let it go I would find something far more valuable I am sure the monks who witness the statue fall towards the ground were horrified thinking of losing all they knew.
When everything falls apart that destruction gives the opportunity uncover the valuable core that we have buried and forgotten deep inside. A chance to find the shine from deep within.
I have been very slowly peeling back the layers. It takes time to uncover who you really are after years of your identity being defined for you by your abuser.
In my case, a personality that was previously completely unknown to me began to emerge. It even surprised me to discover everything I thought I knew about myself was untrue. I was unaware that I had adopted the narrative of those sought to diminish me. It has been with astonishment that I discovered I am not actually a social avoidant introvert. I had just accepted my role of being small and doing what I needed to do to survive. I discovered I really enjoy exploring my femininity, and I love meeting new people. I can talk to strangers and make new friends. I can call for my own pizza. Much to my own surprise I am likeable and some people even find me funny. I am no longer reactive, and I do not have anger issues. Now that I am no longer under the emotional pressure of an abusive relationship, I have the emotional reserves to allow me to give others emotional support as well. And most surprising is I am not crazy. I won’t lie, I have done some crazy stuff in my life, I mean like bat shit. But the reality is, that was not me that was the situation I was living in. You cannot shine when someone is constantly throwing muck at you.
The beauty of breaking free is you get the opportunity to let your own personal Buddha out. The shine is emerging.