Hope

You used to look down on cult members, people who fell under the spell of a charismatic leader and allowed themselves to be deceived and taken advantage of, but now you see that it’s not so simple. Therapy has been good for you; it’s given you insight into your own mind and improved your ability to recognize destructive patterns in your life, but it’s not magic. Some things will still catch you off guard. You used to spend half of your day on Tumblr, soaking up the rhetoric that passed for social justice in a medium where all anyone ever does is post. You learned the rules of problematic behavior and the arbitrary categories that allowed people to determine which millionaires we should feel good about liking and which millionaires we should feel bad about liking, and in the midst of all this you wondered how, how could anyone support someone who had done or said so many awful things? Even later, when you began to emerge from this hazy dreamland and re-orient yourself to the practical problems of the world, you clung to this indignation: surely if you found yourself faced with the realization that someone you knew had committed these sort of awful acts, you would be brave enough to denounce them, to stop supporting them. This, as it turns out, was not true. It was another lie, a way to put yourself apart from the people you quietly disparaged and disregarded. You didn’t lie to yourself on purpose, and you try to remember that throughout your life you have, by and large, been doing your best to respond to situations in an appropriate way given what you knew and understood at the time — again, therapy — but this does not mean you should ignore the reality of what happened. You used to gawk at the unenlightened masses and their capacity for self-delusion, the sheer cognitive dissonance of their beliefs driving you at times to fury. You couldn’t understand how people could hold on to two fully contradictory ideas at the same time, especially when it was hurting them or the people around them. How could you? You were young and you had not lived a real life, so you hadn’t yet seen how the simple process of survival can twist you into an unrecognizable shape. You understood the psychology of abuse, but in a dry, detached, and ultimately useless way that prevented you from recognizing signs of it in your own life. You knew, on some level, always, that love was not always a beautiful salve for a broken world, that it could be destructive, could obscure the truth, but you didn’t really believe it. You didn’t see how love could lead you into that proverbial white and soundless place and keep you there for years and years, could force you to hold two different realities in your head, never touching and never challenging one another. This is because, frankly, you didn’t want to believe the truth, that someone you trusted could do something awful, again and again. You wanted to believe that in some version of the world where abuser and abused could both be telling the truth. You thought it was love that bound you to both these people, long after you should have shut one of them out of your life. But that wasn’t love, that wasn’t love. That was just

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