Scott and I recently started running again. It feels so incredibly good to be out again in the morning coolness, before my day begins. Just alone with my thoughts and the drum, drum, drum of my feet on the pavement. No sound except for my hot, heavy breathing in and out, in and out, in and out. Arms pumping, hips loose in an easy stride ... I love it.
Since we both want to run while the kids still sleep, we take turns. He'll go out first, and then when he's home I take off. A week ago he came in, sweaty and breathing hard at the tail end of his workout.
"Be careful out there this morning, I saw another snake on the trail. That makes three so far this month." Yikes. So not what I wanted to hear before I headed out on my daily indulgence.
You know how once you start looking for something, you think you see it everywhere? It's like a suggestion gets planted in your mind, and suddenly your brain interprets everything you see based on that suggestion. That's how it was for me when I got out on the trail that morning. Every twig, every crack in the asphalt, I shied at. I was seeing snakes everywhere, hearing them in every rustle of the brush. I even imagined that I saw sticks become animated and start to slither across the trail ahead of me. I made excellent time that morning, and arrived at home with breathless relief.
It occurred to me that relationships can be like that. Especially if there is a history of wounding, of distrust, if you feel unsafe emotionally with a person. Tutored by your experiences to be apprehensive of injury, you interpret every look, every word, every interaction as malicious. It doesn't matter if the person you're interacting with has malintent towards you or not - if they have repeatedly hurt you in the past, you won't trust them in the present, and will constantly be on the lookout for how they will hurt you this time.
The really tragic thing is that sometimes, we internalize the lessons of mistrust so well, having been hurt so often and repeatedly throughout our lives, that we begin to apply the guarded, dubious attitude towards everyone we interact with, not just those who have hurt us. Particularly if the rejection and pain come from a parent, we learn early in life to be on the constant, suspicious watch for snakes in our path.