"Heads I win, tails you lose."

Wait a minute.

Those grimy whiskers, that rank smell and trashy abode?

A rat hole.

You know the scene.

A gallery gathers taunting "fight, fight, fight" and a petty despot blocks your path.

Reacting instinctively, the mind grabs the wheel and plunges head first into the province of the schoolyard bully.

And before you can complete three rounds of "are to, am not", the fight or flight responses kick in and you're completely awash in heart pounding chemistry.

Mind racing, your blood boils and you launch into cascades of defensive and offensive maneuvers.

Swinging wildly, with the battle cry "this isn't fair", your mind wages war with yesterday on the battlefield of today.

Or, to your great shame and humiliation, you scramble for cover, vanquished and trembling with anxiety, renouncing your right to breathe, sleep, eat or to be at ease in the world.

Wait. Wait a minute.

Haven't the schoolyard bullies long since faded in the rear view mirror?

Aren't we all grown-ups here?

Apparently the mind has other ideas!

Whether applied directly within the tender confines of one's family, or meted out through broader social or political injustice, the memories of past abuses shape our reactions to the present.

And when exploring the mind's rat holes, each of us discovers the topography of the victim inside.

"Emotional abuse is an intentional assault by one person on another to so distort the victim’s view of self, that the victim allows the abuser to control him or her." G.L. Jantz, Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse

Does your mind distort your view of your self?

Do the memories assault you as a means to control you?

Can you see your mind retelling these horror stories? Assuring you that this time there will be a different ending?

Wait. Wait a minute.

The mind is not bounded by time or space. It possesses the ability to construct memories and travel through them.

Through this ability we experience the villains of the past appearing as regular cast members in the stories of the present.

Is your mind replaying all three roles? Bully, victim and rescuer?

Like ghosts inhabiting a play, the aggressors drift in and out, awaiting the chance to start the action anew and open our eyes.

The helpless victim suffers mightily, wailing the story to an attentive gallery as the rescuer fastens her cape and prepares for her big entrance.

A shove here, a rejection there. An outrageous offense. An injustice that must be righted. Our minds draw us again and again into the story.

Ready to vanquish evil at a moment's notice, the costs of war be damned!

To be human is to suffer.

Depending on your own story, it may have been no small thing.

And practicing assertiveness in the presence of aggression is a hallmark of compassionate maturity.

Just be sure to check the expiration date on that story before you begin.

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