made you flinch

by Andrea Elizabeth

Let’s say that traditional, non-modern psychology is right. What about post-traumatic stress? What if it is a lack of faith?

We adopted a dog from the animal shelter who is pretty skittish and seems excessively afraid of feet. I have ambivalent thoughts of, poor thing must have been kicked a lot, countered with hurt feelings of, can’t you tell that I’m not abusive? and wouldn’t do that? She was also incontinent indoors for a long time after we got her. Now she seems on a schedule where she is outside during her necessary times. She hasn’t messed up in a while. What if they kicked her when she was incontinent, and instead of humbly bending to their abusively enforced wishes, she got really good at dodging feet when she pee’d on the floor. That way she could have her cake and eat it too. What if it became a way to assert her dominance in the house?

Her feet dodging is now an irrational (to the current circumstances) self-defensive habit. If it becomes a priority to break this habit, the modern way is to desensitize her through exposure therapy where you have exercises to introduce a more positive experience with feet, such as one person cuddling her while another strokes her with their foot. A really agile person could do both.

My understanding of the Orthodox way for a person to overcome this on their own is to learn to anticipate the stress reaction that comes with the approaching foot, decide if the foot is to be avoided in a ‘my time has not yet come’, calm way, or decide to bear it in a ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do’ way. Panicky flight with passive-aggressive sabotaging revenge is counter-productive to advancing in theosis. There also needs to be the consideration that the foot may not be aimed at them. But how is one who is used to it being aimed at them to know that it isn’t, if it is coming towards them in a similar way? This is where faith comes in. I think you have to learn to be comfortable with doubt if it is not completely clear what the person’s intentions are. I will stay here until I know for sure. I hope that they don’t want to hurt me, but if they do, it’s their problem and God will take care of me. Or, if it’s my problem, and is it ever completely not in imperfect people? Lord help me repent.

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