If you’re a fish, you don’t know you’re in water unless you jump out of it. That stands to reason. We humans are much more self-aware, and yet most of us don’t spend much time thinking about the fact that we’re in air. (Would that we did. We’d probably be less apt to pollute the atmosphere.)
When you think about it, it’s rather amazing how adaptable we are to our environment. It’s a great survival skill. Unfortunately, it means that many of us put up with emotional toxicity that is profoundly destructive to our psyche. It’s really important to pay attention to your surroundings and set high standards. If you don’t think you deserve much out of life, then what you’ll get is utter crap. Water seeks its own level.
Sometimes people tolerate abuse because they think it’s the norm. That isn’t an unreasonable conclusion to make if you were brought up with abuse. Only if you visit other households and discover that they’re not all filled with shouting and fury would it make you realize that your situation isn’t typical.
I once had a coworker who constantly told stories about the police being called to his house. I looked at another coworker and said, “Is he the norm, or am I? Because, my whole life, I’ve never had to call the police to my house. Not once.” Coworker one seemed really shocked by that. Coworker two just shook his head sadly.
In other cases, the abuse sort of sneaks up on you. I wrote about this in a post entitled “How to Become a Battered Woman.” It’s like boiling a frog. You can do that successfully if you turn up the temperature very slowly, bit by bit.
I’m thinking about these things more and more, because as my life becomes increasingly emotionally healthy, and as I surround myself with more and more people who treat me with decency and respect, people who are honest and reliable and communicate in an assertive way, I’m starting to see how much poison I used to tolerate in my world. I can’t imagine ever being back in that unhealthy place ever again.
It really is possible to swim in crystal clear water. It may take some getting used to, but it feels wonderful. The first step to take is to raise your expectations and realize that you really deserve the best. If I can do it, you can, too.