“Insanity - a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.” ~ R. D. Lang
When I look back at the most difficult time in my relationship with Angus I can see how I felt justifiably victimized. I felt like the good one. I was working full-time, keeping us financially afloat while his photographic career tanked. He was caring for our two daughters which was what I wanted to be doing, and I resented that. Not only did I resent that I wasn’t the one staying home with them, but also I resented that when I got home Angus was usually angry. I had little or no compassion for his suffering. I had a romanticized vision of what it meant to stay home with a nearly 3-year-old and a 3-month-old.
It is not surprising that after a year and a half of this resentment building my wisdom found an escape route from my victimhood. My exit was illuminated by feelings for another man. Prior to this, I felt so exhausted and downtrodden that I had no energy to leave the relationship that I was convinced was the source of my suffering. But, God, the universe, spirit, something greater than myself, found a way to way me up. And the way was, of course, consistent with my level of understanding at the time.
My understanding was that Angus was the cause of my suffering. Based on that understanding it made sense to find someone else who would not cause me suffering. I still feel some stings of shame and guilt about the affair. It is embarrassing to admit. I wish I had been more emotionally mature and empowered at the time, but I wasn’t. That was me doing the best that I could. I try to soften the blow by acknowledging myself for talking to Angus about it and being honest about my feelings. At least we did have that kind of openness of communication in our relationship, but nonetheless, I was the one that moved forward.
We may not always like how we learn our lessons, but what is important is the lesson. This time in my life was pivotal. The surge of infatuation gave me the energy I needed to move out of my feelings of victimization and showed me I could change my life. Looking back, I see the co-mingling of spiritual awakening with distorted thinking. My fantastical reality was that this man was going to save me even though there was no evidence of that. What did save me, however, was my waking up to the power I had within me to change.
Prior to that, I was afraid to leave Angus. It felt too overwhelming. I didn’t know how I would survive financially. By this time, I had switched to a lesser-paying job because I thought it would give me more time with our girls, and Angus had found some consistent photographic work that made our finances work together. I was resigned and settled until the major upheaval of my romantic feelings showed up. They felt bigger than me. They were a yes, I didn’t feel like I could refuse. What I didn’t realize is that I found a person to hang the feelings on. What I was saying yes to wasn’t about personal love, it was about me opening to the deeper YES inside of myself.
In opening to that “Yes”, I found my health. I found my optimism. I found my drive to not settle for a miserable life. That required blowing up the miserable life that I felt I was a victim to. It meant breaking free and taking risks and stepping into the unknown. I didn’t know a spiritual awakening could also feel like a trial by fire. I felt like a bad trip that lasted three months. Even though it was scary and uncomfortable, it resulted in insight and it was life-changing.
I remember feeling out of my mind and behaving irrationally. Making multiple phone calls in distress like a crazed woman. My paramour probably felt like he wound up with Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction. Guzzling a beer and smashing all of our wedding china in the backyard. Making so much noise that the neighbors called the police. It must have been a slow day for Hollywood PD because they actually showed up at our cottage in Hollywood. Unlike the time when we called them because we thought a prostitute was being murdered in a nearby alleyway and they never showed up.
None of these things sound very crazy, but at the time I felt like I was reeling out of control, ungrounded and untethered. But it was what I needed. Sometimes health needs to swing to extremes to find balance. I had not been honest with myself. I had been so caught up in my conditioning of trying to be a good mom that I drifted into insanity. So when sanity showed up it felt unhealthy. The rubber band of my psychology got pulled too far in one direction. It needed to snap back.
None of this was on me personally. I didn’t know that I was repressing myself. I didn’t realize I wasn’t speaking up. I didn't mean to be disingenuous. I didn’t consciously choose to package up my anger and contain it. How was I to know it would become nuclear?
My fear of anger, other peoples', and my own, had me put it into the shadow as Jung would say. I couldn’t own it consciously because I believed having anger meant I was bad. I could only be good by being the victim. I didn’t see how my anger was a black liquid seeping out of my pores in my looks, my tone, and my persistent criticism. My anger was like a slow dripping torture of unrelenting disappointment in Angus that allowed me to feel better than and holier than thou. I got to sit on my high horse and wail from above, “Woe is me.”
It took falling off my horse and tumbling into insanity for me to wake up. I had to get down and dirty in my humanness in order to be honest and whole.
I share this because I know I am not alone. I am not unique in this coping mechanism of finding my worth in feeling better than by being a martyr. I am not the only one who feels good enough by looking like the long-suffering competent one. I am not singular in my capacity to enable and then feel resentful for my own actions. I am not a rare breed who grins and bears it and doesn’t speak up for myself and say, “This sucks. I can’t do it this way anymore.” And instead soldiers on like I did swallowing my pain and fatigue along the way, licking my wounds, and carrying a backpack of rage that I didn’t have to look at or take responsibility for. But I felt the weight of it daily and refused to put it down.
I tell my story. I don’t share answers or solutions. No one could have said anything to me that would have made it different. I needed to find my own way. I needed to learn based on the teaching that life gave me.
What I can say is that you have the same capacity within you to be taught and to have life wake you up. You might have very different blind spots than me. What I experienced might be completely unrelatable, but the deeper point is that life is for us and we all have the capacity to learn and grow. There is a space in our consciousness that is infinitely creative and always moving toward health even if we don’t understand what health looks like.
I wouldn’t have imagined an affair was healthy. I wouldn’t have imagined smashing our wedding china was progress. I wouldn’t have imagined falling apart was really moving forward. I wouldn’t have imagined blowing my marriage up was what was needed for a fresh start. But now I know. This was all part of my health and awakening.
I encourage you to open to the wisdom of the impersonal intelligence within and surrender to it. It is always looking for ways to be expressed. Let go of any judgment you have about the inner promptings that come from the deeper self. Trust them. You may not understand them, but it seems the earlier they are followed, the gentler the ride. I have learned to follow the tap on my shoulder of my common sense rather than wait for the sledgehammer of realization to wake me up.
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In this season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couples' intensives that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilding Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.