Self-Improvement through Self-Awareness

I can be perhaps too willing to take a beating. I am also susceptible to worrying. So it comes as no surprise that I am anxious that I take damage unnecessarily.

Around my twelfth summer, I spent a few weeks with my cousins at their hot, dry place in the desert. One day the neighbor kids mounted a watery attack on us. We counterattacked, of course, but they had us outgunned. The neighbors’ crew-served weapon (garden hose) had us pinned down behind a car. Our supply of grenades (water balloons) was perilously low. While my cousins debated strategy, I did what I figured any good Marine would do: I charged the enemy. Alas, the ferocity of my attack did not carry the day.

During the debriefing (lunch) my older cousin inquired into what particular mental handicap made me think charging their fortifications was a good idea. As I saw it, we were pinned down with no way out. Someone had to do something and, if not me, then who? (My therapist says that it is common for survivors of trauma to think that way.) The enemy had an unlimited supply of ammo and someone needed to change the equation for us to have a chance. (Of course, it would have worked a lot better if I had thought to coordinate with my cousins for them to attack while I drew the fire…)

Now that a few fortnights have passed since I left a particularly unhealthy situation, I naturally turn in the spirit of hansei to assessing what went wrong. In particular, I worry that I contributed to my own mistreatment. Others familiar with the situation insist that I in no way contributed and I am willing to forgo blaming myself. But I do see how certain traits of who I am came into play throughout the duration.

I suppose I must admit that I am willing to take damage to accomplish a goal, to trade hard work for achievement, and to sacrifice myself to defend others. Whether those character traits are strengths or weaknesses depends on the situation. Only by maintaining an awareness of them can I hope to maneuver around the situations where they are weaknesses.

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