Finding Balance

Difficult situations cause varying responses among individuals. I am sure that this is not new information, but I think that it is an important concept to remember. It is important to keep this in mind especially when analyzing your own responses to a difficult situation. Mala, formerly called PohPoh, seems to have a troublesome time finding this balance when she is reflecting upon the violence she had endured from her father, Chandin. Tyler narrates Mala’s difficulty by saying, “Pohpoh worked on finding that perfect balance between being rigidly alert and dangerously relaxed” (Mootoo page 143). This description of how Mala feels provides a great articulation of the two polar ends of the balance that ignite frustration and hardship. This sentence acted as a lens to my own traumatic relationship as I immediately related to Mala’s feeling of imbalance. Specifically, it pointed out the influence of society to normalize and lessen the severity of the situation and the cry for help in my own brain saying that something was wrong.

This conflict between self and society made it extremely difficult for me to validate the emotions that was feeling throughout the time when I began to realize how bad my experience was. I constantly had a battle between thinking that I was overreacting, since society taught me that “that’s just how relationships are”, and internally freaking out because I knew what happened hurt me physically and continued to hurt me mentally. The main source of my frustration, anger, and hurt was that I couldn’t but put labels on what had happened for a long time. More accurately, I was afraid to admit to myself how bad things were. However, once I allowed myself to assign labels to my experiences, I was able to start moving forward with coming to terms with reality. Unfortunately, that didn’t make these terms any less scary; gaslighting, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, sexual assault, and rape are the words that kept circling around my head as I struggled to truly accept them as true.

Even though the issue of imbalance came into play again, as I tried to nurture my mind’s pain and also appear unfazed for society, I was finally able to determine what could make me feel balanced. I was reminded that, despite what society says you’re supposed to feel that every feeling is valid. Every person processes and heals from an experience differently. Balance won’t form when you’re trying to pick one extreme or another; so instead of being “rigidly alert” or “dangerously relaxed,” perhaps it is necessary to acknowledge and validate your feelings first, which will then allow you to find peace with your emotions.

4 thoughts on “Finding Balance”

  1. This is a very brave post and provides a lot of clarity for Mala’s reactions as well as societal pressures. This is an important concept in Mala’s life because she is able to put up this facade for her community and is unable to break free. I have heard people say in many instances when someone is being abused “why didn’t you leave?” There are societal pressures forcing us to stay out of fear of judgement, yet also pressure to leave in order to avoid victimization. This makes people, and Mala feel trapped and unable to heal.

  2. Thank you for shedding light from your experience. It is a difficult internal battle to find balance, in one’s self and amongst others. To discuss the gaslighting and two extremities from Mala and all other survivors is something that should be centered in the conversation around surviorhood. No one person copes, or heals, or experiences trauma in the same way, but it is essential to elevate these emotions as they are the response to sexual assault culture. They are the result of misogyny and patriarchal behavior that are not put at the forefront of the conversation. Oftentimes the attention is always on invalidating the survivor and not on the perpetrator or the violence itself. To imagine an internal and external balance, there needs to be transparency and accountability.

  3. I am so proud of you for having the courage to share such a powerful story <3 It is absolutely one of the most difficult things to truly accept a situation for how it really is, for how can you possibly admit that someone you might love could be hurting you in the worst way possible? Mala is absolutely struggling with coming to terms with her experience with her father, as she cannot separate his abuse of her from her love for him as a blood relation.

  4. Abuse and trauma doesn’t hit you all at once, and after years and years you find that the rust comes off and you’re hurt in a way you never knew you could be hurt before. I’m glad you’re moving on, and taking baby steps in stride by putting the words to the feeling of abuse and confirming it to yourself little by little. The balancing act of moving on and looking back is difficult, but like Pohpoh for Mala, your past will always be there for you, and it’ll understand if you need some time to look away.

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