A few days back I received an email from a person I have known and interacted with for years. Here is what she wrote:
“Oh, the irony of it! I exchanged an email with Raksha on the ***** of March, telling her that I would write something for Bonobology - all the time wondering if there’s anything for me to really write about. My life was perfect. I knew nothing of infidelity, of betrayal, of loss. Little did I know that life would teach me all about it. And the very next day too!
“On the ***** of March, my husband of 10 years came home early to tell me that he’s met someone. I asked him if she was an Indian woman. Later, this moment of truth would remind me of Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘I heard a fly buzz when I died’. At that moment, however, it seemed like an urgent bit of information!
“I’d like to say that what transpired in the following weeks was different from what some of my close friends had faced under similar situations. Sadly, it was just the same. I was externalizing. I was looking outside of myself for answers to emotions happening within me. I was seeking out reasons why the affair happened. I wanted to know why he did what he did. I wanted to know if I will ever be able to trust again. I was doing this because I believed that finding the ‘reason’ might help me heal.
“Partly because I stumbled upon the answers to some burning questions in spite of the repeated lies I was told. And partly because I needed to come to terms with my own emotions before I could / should have engaged him in conversations. I learned the hard way.
“On two separate occasions, with two separate friends, I had witnessed the trauma of betrayal and how it can tear one’s world apart. But what I was/am experiencing seems a little complicated when I see it first-hand. I am sad right now. Angry the next moment. Laughing the next. Vicious at times. Normal at others. I wish I could pick a mood and stick to it. But clearly, that has not been happening. But when I look closely enough during moments of lucidity, I find a common theme behind these emotions. A sense of deep and utter shame. It makes me feel so dirty inside. So unclean. I walk down the street and wonder who can sense my shame. Who can tell that I have been shunned. That I have been disgraced. That my love was not enough. And if I catch someone’s eye, I am unable to hold the gaze because I feel exposed.
“Close friends call to ask me how I am doing at that instant. They know things flicker from one moment to another. I tell them that I can handle sadness. I can handle anger, or bitterness, or pain. But how do I heal from a sense of utter and complete shame? How I look beyond the indignity? How do I heal from the loss of self?”
Obviously she is under a great deal of stress and undergoing painful emotional trauma. There is certainly a loss of self-esteem, of self-confidence; she is afraid of not being able to trust in a relationship in the future. But what set me wondering was this feeling of shame, so natural for the person at the receiving end of this kind of a situation and yet so unfair. Moreover as she wrote to me, do we, as family, friends and society, even as we side with the ‘wronged’ one, still somehow add to this sense of shame?
What, dear readers, would you tell her? How can she heal herself?