97) Dear Abuser,

“What is wrong with you?

What is wrong with you?

Jesus Christ, what the hell is WRONG with you?”

Your words echo in my mind like a beaten child’s wails, their residue embedded in my tissues and tear ducts and neural networks like a terrorist sleeper cell living invisibly in the city they are Heaven-bent on destroying.  

Your insinuations sank into my heart-depths like factory effluents seeping into an ecosystem’s groundwater, inexorably strangling Life and Beauty into something twisted and dark and ravenously empty, an endless black hole in my psyche instead of the starlit universe of Mind that our ancestors bequeathed to all of us.  

Yes, even me, and even you, you poor, suffering, violent shadow of self-immolating malevolence masquerading as a God-fearing believer, a wolf in sheep’s clothing who has pretended for so long that now, you practically eat grass and bleat, hoping the other sheep will validate your worth because deep down inside you know you were born for more than this but for far too long you’ve blinded yourself through endless judgement of others, so that you can sit on the Throne that only you can see.  

I once believed you were the Wizard, but behind the curtain, you are starving, sadly trying to subsist on mere illusions.  As with all tyrants, I now see that you are a prisoner. 

But long before I saw this, long before I had the intellectual scaffolding, the emotional distance, or the social validation to see that we both lived in a prison of your making, your words bathed me, held, soothed, formed, judged and condemned me.

Your words were true, and not true.  

They were true because there is something wrong with everybody.  Nobody is perfect; everybody is flawed.  It’s what makes us human, vulnerable, compassionate and beautiful.  Perfection is like a diamond, unscratchable, impervious to all ‘lesser’ substances, and therefore solitary, alone, unable to truly be touched, and therefore known.  

In this one, tiny but potentially profound way, your words were true.  There WAS something wrong with me, beautifully, wonderfully wrong with me, a Real Person born into this universe with a whole Life Path of growth in front of me whereby my soul could deepen.  

How miraculous!  To be flawed, to be born, to be not-yet at the end of my Soul Journey and therefore able to participate in this incredible celebration of Existence!

If only you had known these things, your words could have been delivered as Wisdom, as loving guidance.  They could have been a positive catalyst for my growth, helping me leap-frog obstacles towards Self-realization.  

But your words were delivered as weapons, as cold instruments of torture, and although yes, they must still become the catalyst for my growth because this IS my karmic inheritance in this life, you never intended them that way.  They did not come from a place of Love or Wisdom; they came from your own pain, and I wish, so badly, you could have seen that.  But given that you didn’t, I hope you do eventually in this Life, so you don’t squander your own Soul’s opportunity to grow.  

In all other ways, your words were not true.

They were not true because you were not celebrating my membership in the human species, my vulnerability and infinite potential.  You were not helping me to embrace my Divinity, to face my inner darkness and be transformed by it into Virtue.  

No, you actually did believe there was something “wrong” with me, something that made me lesser, that made me a failure, that made me unlovable, unhuggable, unacceptable.  Something that made me dirty, disgusting, embarrassing, something that was so humiliating for you that you felt you had to humiliate it right out of existence. 

More deeply, this is your own long-ago-child-self’s belief in YOU.  Do you know that?

But that’s your own path to healing, and I hope you do walk it someday, marinate in that pain you’ve avoided for so long, and let it finally soften you.

Because you were, for too long, my marinade.  But, by failing to grow into that responsibility, you poisoned the soup instead of enhancing and bringing out its flavour for the world to enjoy.  

How many times SHOULD one tell a child that they are a humiliation?  How many times SHOULD a child ‘learn’ that they are the reason for a family’s unhappiness?  How many times does someone NEED to hear they are disgusting?  Useless?  Pathetic?  How many times is this required, to “help someone grow”?

“What is wrong with you?

What is wrong with you?

Jesus Christ, what the hell is WRONG with you?!!”

Your words are true, and not true.  

They are true because I heard them so many times that they replaced my own thoughts, became my own words, my own judgement, disapproval and rejection of myself.  

They are true because the only Inner Voice I could hear, for so long, was yours, your dissonance drowning out my own inner melody until I forgot how to Sing.

They are true because, in the end, I made them true.  I have patterned my life around them so thoroughly that they have gathered their own evidence and formed their own self-justifying case. 

The prosecution argues that the defendant is a worthless piece of garbage; lock him up and throw away the key.  

The defense says “I’m sorry”, and looks down at the floor, apologizing to the Universe for ever being part of it.  

And the Judge?  Well, you were the Judge all along, the prosecution and all the investigating officers.  You created all the evidence, refused to interview all the witnesses, and overruled all the objections.  It was a sham trial, an exercise not in ever discerning any truth but in simply protecting the Powerful, you, from having your own ugliness exposed.  

By the time I left you, so many years before a child should have to, your embrace was a distant memory, like a fairy-tale I’d heard when I was too young to remember.  No remnants of your lips on mine, your breasts against my chest.  I could no longer smell the wine and cigarettes on your breath or remember the tone of your voice when you said you loved me and told me, for those brief, ecstatic weeks that I was so, so special to you. 

But by the time I left you, even though all sensory, sensual traces of you had faded from my awareness, your poison would continue rotting me at the core, toxifying my experience of the world and the world’s experience of me so systemically that the war you waged overtly for the years you were able to, would continue in your absence, like nuclear fallout laying waste to the land long, long after the actual explosion.   

The ways you changed me would almost kill me, many, many times,  My years would blur into a haze of solitude, punctuated by doomed attempts at Love or Meaningful Engagement.  My growth and passion and joy and zest would stultify and wither until they hung like tattered cloths from the skeletal frame of my once-inexhaustible Potential.  In your shadow, Faith transformed into debauchery, innocence into indifference, and childlike wonder into ever-growing walls built from failures and broken promises and wasted time.

Your words are also true, perversely, ironically, because there WAS something wrong with me, at that time — You.

You, who I trusted, like a skydiver trusts his parachute, like a fish trusts its tail, like lungs trust oxygen, like worshippers trust their Deity.

You who at one point role-played the Love of my Life, when I was far too young for such a concept to make any sense.  You were entrusted to nurture my innocence into maturity, but how could you, when the substrate in which your own self was supposed to germinate was so dessicated that your own inner shell never cracked open?  I can’t truly be angry with you, when your own suffering has lasted decades longer than mine, and what you dumped into me was merely the outflow of your own inner festering.

THIS is where Shame comes from.  It is downloaded into the innocent from its previous victims.  Thus, your suffering became my self-hatred.  

Your touch became my longing and your withdrawal, my craving.  

Your ridicule became my silence.  

Your anger became my isolation. 

Your derision became the knife blades that cut my skin, your alcohol, my vomiting, and your shamelss insistence that you walk in the light of God, my existential recoil. 

“What is wrong with me?

What is wrong with me?

Jesus Christ, what the hell is wrong with me?”

I was once a shining child, as every child is, but I learned to hide, to be ashamed of my vibrancy, and to believe that Freedom and Worthiness were the birthright of every human except myself.  

You were once a shining child too.  I don’t know what happened to you, but that’s not my fault, nor my responsibility to fix.  I do know what happened to me, at your hands, and I finally see that it’s also not my fault, but it is my responsibility to fix.  

I believe that the purpose of Life is to take the karmic inheritance you were gifted from the universe, and improve it.  Undo some of the knots, smooth out some of the rough spots, heal some of the trauma, and pass on something better to the inter-woven sentience that is Reality.  

In doing so, you change the future.  And you also change the past.  In my healing, I am cleaning up the detritus and wreckage of your own suffering, so that my karmic legacy may be, I hope, more like a symphonic experience for others to enjoy than like a pustulent boil I leave for others to lance.

After all, flowers can grow from excrement. There is no shame in the inescapable shittiness of being flawed.  Your choice is whether you turn it into fertilizer, or whether you just make things shittier and leave the work of growth and transformation to others.

I am making the choices you were not able to.  But you will, someday.  I hope it’s in this lifetime, that your current incarnation may finally know peace.  

  4 comments for “97) Dear Abuser,

  1. Anonymous
    April 23, 2021 at 7:49 pm

    Hi Dan, this is one of the best things you have ever written. You have shared your experience so vividly and in beautiful language. It rips my heart out and I see the strength that you are now finding in yourself. I am very proud of you for facing this and sharing it so others will benefit. You have a real gift in your ability to write like this. Love you brother. Donna

    • dandolderman
      April 24, 2021 at 11:56 am

      Thanks Donna. 🙂

  2. porcelinaofthevastoceans1
    April 25, 2021 at 3:37 am

    Hi Dan,
    Thank you so much for writing this. It is an incredibly powerful and brave thing to share. I really appreciate and admire that you were able to be so honest, vulnerable and authentic. I just recently stumbled upon your blog and I’m so glad that I did because I’m really learning a lot from reading your perspective on various topics and enjoying learning more about you as a person. As a former student of yours, over a decade ago now, I still remember how much I looked forward to your insightful (and very funny I should add) lectures and how your mere existence genuinely gave me hope for the future of humanity at a time when I was pretty cynical. The standing ovation you received after the last lecture was very well deserved! You’ve affected my life in such positive and profound ways that you couldn’t possibly know and I’m glad I get to take this opportunity to thank you for that. Also a friendly reminder that there have been (and will be) many many more people that have been positively impacted by your contributions 🙂 Also I thought your videos about toxic shame on YouTube were very important and impactful. I would love to watch an update if you’re ever in the mood to continue the series and/or provide an update! They really helped me learn what not to do when supporting loved ones who may be dealing with more than mild shame. I found the videos to be very eye-opening. And besides that it was so refreshing to see someone openly sharing their struggles rather than just pretending to have all the solutions. I’m happy to see that you’ll be exploring this topic further on this blog.

    “After all, flowers can grow from excrement. There is no shame in the inescapable shittiness of being flawed. Your choice is whether you turn it into fertilizer, or whether you just make things shittier and leave the work of growth and transformation to others.” This is truth and in my humble opinion, you are living proof that we can all make the right choice. I look forward to engaging with your future content! Hope you and your loved ones are safe and doing well <3

    • dandolderman
      April 28, 2021 at 3:12 pm

      Hi Porcelinaoftheavastoceans (omggggg I love your name btw!!),

      I’m a bit at a loss for words here.


      Sometimes….no, most of the time, it seems impossible to have a positive impact on people, or to change things, even one’s own trajectory, in a significant and lasting way. Of course, I “know” differently, and have literally decades now of learning to back up the beliefs that change is always possible, ‘plasticity’ is practically limitless, and what emerges in any present moment can be altered through powerful processes of feedback, right up until that very moment. Every moment is, in a real sense, new, and brimming with possibility.

      But oh my god, is it ever, sometimes, hard to sustain that belief, in the concrete, with regards to one’s self. Easy in the abstract, bloody near impossible in the moment.

      It’s not necessary to get super-complicated about this. I think it just boils down to practice. If a person has practiced feeling ashamed of themselves, and has been greasing the cognitive pathways of The Theory of Self Shittiness for a long time, then their whole neurophysiology will now be working to convince them that negative, shitty, failure-and-rejection-type-stuff, is more REAL than anything else. Especially anything “positive”.

      So my practice, these days, is to take actions, in the present, to undo those old practiced pathways a little, and start “greasing” new ones.

      For example, specifically with regards to your letter, I can tell you that instantly, upon reading it, I felt ashamed. First, for letting everyone down, even back then, by not giving my full self to what I was doing. I know how much I hold back, as do most people when they are really honest with themselves, and sometimes, I feel terrible about that. Like in squandering my own moments, I’ve also squandered everyone else’s.

      I feel shame for not having done more, for not having been more present, more able to sustain connections with people, more able to heal and therefore hold space for others, more able to assert healthy boundaries and therefore more able to help others effectively. etc.

      Mostly though, it brings up shame in the present, for not being ‘able’ to overcome certain obstacles that have made life rather….different….than I had anticipated, planned or hoped for.

      In the past, and when I felt powerless against shame, these types of feelings, even small ones, would quickly spiral, trigger others, and escalate into a big, bad, nasty, Impossibility-To-Ever-Deal-With. And my conditioned response, from childhood? To shut down. Go numb. Blank. Dissociate. Withdraw.

      Great strategy in a moment of true crisis, sometimes. Terrible strategy in all other moments. And even most crisis ones!

      So what’s a new strategy? How CAN a person practice doing something different, when their resistance/avoidance/withdrawal behaviours are so deeply automatized?

      It starts with awareness. By SEEING the dynamics at work, in real time, you START to develop a more powerful self. Because it’s more powerful to step back, even a tiny bit, and SEE something, than to merely succumb to it. So, awareness, even though it may feel like “not much”, is a Super Power. It leads to everything else.

      For example, in being aware of the arising of shame and the tendencies that follow from it, one can ask themselves, “Do I want to go with this? Or do I want to do something different?”

      Again, that’s a very powerful question. Even if, and even if for a long time, the answer is “yeah, fuck it, I don’t care, I can’t do anything anyway”, and then the formerly-habitual “coping” behaviours manifest yet again, this is still different from unconsciously living out those patterns. Because if Awareness can lead, even ephemerally, to Questioning, then you start to create the real, felt, embodied POSSIBILITY of doing something different, of changing. If you can merely ask a question of yourself, then you’re telling yourself it is POSSIBLE to choose how to answer it.

      So, awareness leads to questioning leads to choice.

      And I don’t care how many times a person has chosen the “wrong path”. In the present moment, this choice is, at least in some tiny way, New. And all those other choices, while they may have made it easier to keep choosing to go that way, also CAN build awareness, motivation, and ability, to choose differently.

      Psychologists are fond of saying that the best predictor of the future, is the past.
      And this is true. Until it isn’t.

      So honestly, thank you so much for the things you’ve said. I am definitely choosing to “let them in”. And after responding here, I plan to sit, for one minute, and just feel whatever is going on inside. I know I feel embarrassed, and ashamed. But I also feel more things, like grateful to you, a sense of meaningfulness for the sheer fact of this connection between us, and you know, even a tiny bit of ‘healthy pride’ in myself, for having done SOMETHING in the past that affected someone in a positive way.

      It’s going to be a good minute. I’m looking forward to it.

      This is something everyone can do. And THAT choice is a genuine practice in re-programming oneself. 🙂

      And wow, I do really appreciate that you listened to/watched the shame videos. My “healing plan” didn’t go quite as I had hoped, as you probably intuited. It wasn’t a “failure”, although it felt that way for a while. As corny as it is to say, it was genuinely a learning experience. And I am, for sure, going to record new videos with what I’ve learned over these months. So thank you, sincerely, for the encouragement to continue. You have told me that my words have had power for you, and I can tell you in return, yours have had power for me too.

      I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well, also!

      P.S. I just re-read this before posting it, and have to laugh…..So I said “I’m at a bit of a loss for words here”……hehehe….I guess it turned out, I wasn’t! 😉

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