Fault

Good Will Hunting is one of my all-time favorite movies.   There is one scene that stands out in my mind.  One scene that is particularly meaningful to me.  And it has haunted me since I first saw the movie when it had just come out.
 
It’s the scene where Robin Williams (the psychologist, Sean Maguire) tells Matt Damon (Will Hunting) that the abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of his father wasn’t his fault.
 
The first time the psychologist tells Will it’s not his fault, he responds casually, logically, “Yeah, I know.”
 
Then, Sean tells him again.  “It’s not your fault.”  Will again responds, “Yeah, I know.”
 
The third time Sean tells him that it wasn’t his fault, Will is a little more perturbed when he answers.  But the wall is still firmly in place.  His heart is untouched.  “I got it,” he responds testily.
 
The psychologist tells him again.  Now Will is getting upset.  There’s a warning edge to his reply.
 
But the psychologist persists.  He tells Will that it wasn’t his fault again and again.  Until finally Will loses his cool, the wall is shattered and he attacks Sean.  But in that moment, he experiences a breakthrough.  His intellect, which has been in the way and kept him from seeing / feeling / deeply knowing the truth, the reality, is overcome.  The emotions that have been frozen in his soul are suddenly released and Will is in tears.  Broken.  He gets it.  He finally gets it.  It wasn’t his fault that his father beat him repeatedly and brutally.  He didn’t do it.  He didn’t cause it.  His heart understood at last.
 
I think this movie, and this scene in particular, touched me so deeply because in my heart, I have always believed the sexual abuse and physical abuse I experienced as a child was my fault.  I have always felt there was something about me that made it happen.  I didn’t know what that “something” was, but I believed it was present in me and it somehow caused my parents to abuse me.  They couldn’t help it.  They couldn’t resist because that something in me compelled them to do the awful things they did.  So it was my fault, I deserved it and therefore, it wasn’t wrong.  In the deepest part of my being, I longed for a “Will Hunting” moment.  A moment when I would finally be set free from this belief…that the abuse was my fault.  I knew logically / intellectually that I wasn’t to blame.  But knowing something intellectually and knowing it in your heart, your soul, in your core, well, that’s a very different thing altogether.  The bottom line was, I truly, deeply, firmly believed I was the cause and was therefore to blame.  No logical argument was going to change my entrenched belief.  No matter how much I wished it was different.
 
I have held that belief for many decades.  I am now in the early winter stage of my life.  I have never had an “ah-ha” moment.  I have blamed myself, not my parents, for the abuse.  In spite of logic.  Disregarding reason.  Ignoring intellect.  The sad little girl inside of me has continued to believe she was to blame.
 
My counselor has recently been trying to get me to find my anger.  He has assured me I have some.  It’s just all directed at me.  And, according to him, this gifted person who holds a PhD, it shouldn’t be aimed at me.  It should, he tells me, be aimed at my parents.  Forgiveness aside, when something wrong happens, people should respond in anger.  And anger is just an emotion…neither right or wrong.  It’s the behavior or reaction to the emotion that is either right or wrong.  He has told me repeatedly that I can have the emotion without having wrong behavior.  I can have anger and sin not. 
 
But anger is scary ground for me.  My parents were volatile, out-of-control people and that’s what anger is to me.  I desperately don’t want to be like my parents.  So I have avoided anger like one avoids an atomic explosion.
 
Additionally, I recently read that anger is something people have when their value is challenged.  I don’t believe I have any value.  So why would I become angry when my non-existent value was in question?
 
My eating disorders counselor has also been encouraging me to find the anger and aim it appropriately.  She encouraged me to work through the anger chapter in the “Courage to Heal” workbook.  I’ve had the workbook for forever.  I’ve never done the anger chapter because it didn’t seem relevant.  But on her advice and in a moment of desperation, I decided to give it a try. 
 
In that chapter, they urge you to go back to an earlier exercise dealing with who is at fault for the abuse you suffered if you’re having trouble finding your anger.  I hadn’t done that exercise either.  Again, moment of desperation, something has to give or I’m going to fry, I decided to do the hokey writing exercise they suggested.  Stupid.  Waste of time. But then I figured, what the heck.  What do I have to lose?
 
In this exercise, you are to picture a child who was the age you were when your abuse began.  You are supposed to notice what she looks like, what she’s wearing, give her a name.  You know she is being abused the same way you were.  You are to take 20 minutes and write her a letter explaining to her why the abuse she is experiencing isn’t her fault.
 
Groan.
 
Lamely, I started thinking of a child of about 6.  But the only child I could picture was me.  Okay, fine.  So the little girl looked like me and she was…tiny.  She was really…vulnerable.  Innocent. Sweet.  Huh.
 
I had to walk away for awhile.  But I came back later and wrote the following letter:
 
“You are so small.  So defenseless.  People who should have cared for you and protected you have done horrible things to you instead.  They are evil.  You are innocent.  You did nothing, not one thing to deserve what happened to you.  They did everything wrong.  They failed you.  You should have been the light of their heart.  But their heart was so dark and ugly, they destroyed your light.  That is on them.  Forever.  It is not and was not your fault.
 
You are beautiful and special.  They couldn’t see or appreciate your beauty.  But that is their failure, not yours.  They only cared about themselves, their selfish needs, wants, desires, lusts.  Their failure.  What they did to you was wrong.  You are not wrong.  They wounded, fractured and scarred you, but you are still beautiful.  You are still worthy of love.  Your brokenness doesn’t mean you are worthless.  Your value remains.
 
They were adults.  You…you were just a sweet, sensitive child who loved them and wanted to please them.  Evil touched you, but it did not make you evil.  Darkness held you, but it could not make you dark.  Only you can put out your candle.  Don’t.  Don’t let them win.  Keep it burning.  It was not your fault.”
 
Such a hokey exercise…except…it got through.  It touched something.  I had my Will Hunting moment in my therapist’s office when I read him this letter.  Something finally broke.  Clicked into place.  A scream was released from the deep chasm that resides in my soul.  A primal scream.  A violent, tearing release.
 
I think I finally get it.  It’s not my fault.  It’s really not. my. fault.

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