Is Anything Irreversible?

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Ever been to prison? Me neither.

Kinda hard for those of us who are NOT ex-cons to understand this fully, but I think I get the idea…

Just finished listening to a podcast of “This American Life” where an Iranian is being interviewed about his time as a prisoner. Thought to be a spy, the Iranian version of spooks kidnapped him, locked him in a room and interrogated him, beat him and tortured him…for weeks.

He said that he’d known others who had gone to prison. If they came out, some of them just weren’t the same. At some point in their imprisonment, incarceration, torture or who knows what “got” to them…and they couldn’t recover. Whatever that moment was, it happened. And from that moment on, life would never again be the same.

The former inmate referred to this as the point of irreversibility. As his imprisonment dragged on, he felt himself growing closer to that point; a moment when he’d be unable to recapture the person he was prior to his arrest. When he felt himself approaching that moment, he tried to think of new ways to escape, to fight back, or to give the interrogators the info they wanted.

I think in a typical lifetime, we have many points of irreversibility. But, are things truly irreversible? As mental health experts tell us: people can change, but only if they REALLY want to.

Have you had moments in your life where things changed forever? Times that define the person you are now? Incidents that shaped the person you are today?

Again, I think we have many of these points in our lives. If you met me and learned my history, you may think the moment I lost my sight was a point of irreversibility. And maybe you’d be right.

For me, though, one of the turning points in my life occured about five years after losing my sight…

During the first few years of blindness, I’ll admit it, I floundered. Yes, I had goals, yes, I was focused on accomplishing them, yes, I DID achieve those outcomes. But, like so many young, immature people, I based a big part of my self worth on the love and acceptance of another.

Don’t get me wrong-love and acceptance are the two things all humans strive for. I do. You do. Everyone does. The thing is, before another can love and accept you, you have to love and accept yourself. THAT’S where the hang up came.

When I was in my early 20s and still muddling through life as a newly blind guy, I wanted love and acceptance…from a female. Yes, I had family and friends who cared for me, but I really, really wanted a girlfriend. So, I got one.

As many people do who get into relationships before they’re married (or for the wrong reasons), the dynamics that came into this relationship were, at best, strained. A truer picture would be that they were totally screwed. After many months, I got tired of the stress, the manipulations, the guilt, the underhanded comments and the simple non-joy of it all. I mean, an interpersonal romantic relationship should have SOME benefit, right? With this? Not so much.

Then came the moment of clarity. After an especially bad episode, I said to myself, “Self? I think we’d rather be alone and searching than have the security of an uncomfy relationship.”

So, I dumped her.

THAT was the moment of irreversibility. That was the time when I said, “No longer will I be anyone’s doormat, distraction, whipping boy nor toy. That was when I started to get real with myself about what I truly wanted from a partner….

Since that moment of irreversibility, I’ve consistently worked on myself, my interpersonal relationships (romantic and friendship) and stayed open to what I most wanted. Those irreversible points CAN be a good thing…but they can also work in reverse.

My guidance? Just be sure that every decision you make teaches you something. Learn from the mistakes and don’t make them again. Stay open to new ideas, new people and information-make your points of irreversibility the steps to a better you, not a dungeon from which there is no escape.

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