Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Tilt.
Under a dark moon, I finished some spiritual work with a friend but in the process of saying goodnight, she pulled up a very old fear of mine. It was a simple phrase that I was not expecting and a feeling that I’m desperately trying to track back to its origins and slay.
“Good night, Hon,” she said in her usual sweet way. “I really enjoyed playing with you.”
Such an innocent comment, but it stopped me in my
tracks. She must have sensed it because she went on to explain that doing this type of work with me feels like playing to her. It does to me, too, and I’ve used that verb quite a bit to describe how I feel about new spiritual learning experiences. They’re fun and it’s almost like being a little kid again.
But somehow the word play conjures up something
else and I’m not quite sure why and why now.
Perhaps the connotation is fresh on my mind because earlier in the evening, we talked about how we both sensed that a friend of mine is being played. He’s going through a terribly hard time right now, but he’s deter- mined to break free of it. We talked about the sense that there is someone playing him, messing with him, doing little things that could take away his dream and his livelihood, but that he will be successful in breaking free. We talked about the flourishing of his dream and the prosperity and abundance that will come much more quickly than he thinks. It is, in so many ways for him, a repeat of his previous year. It’s the lessons all over again, but this time instead of running away, he will find success.
Somehow with the worry and annoyance on my mind that he’s being played, the verb simply stands out in my mind and triggers old fears. I can say it’s a trust issue, in- security, but if I could track down its beginning, perhaps I could get rid of it.
I’m afraid of being played. There. I admit it. There have been too many times in my adult life when I have been played and played with, led on, manipulated, hurt, all for someone else’s entertainment or their gain. And just when I think I can trust again, I get that niggling doubt that once again I’m going to be wrong about where I put my faith.
I can trace my fear of being “played with” back to my teen years, back to those mean-girls days when I was fodder for the popular kids who were bored and enjoyed activities that were the moral equivalent of pulling the wings off of a butterfly and dropping the poor thing into an ant bed to watch it writhe.
I can go further back and then I hit a veil. I was maybe 6 years old, no more then 7. Perhaps younger than that, and I can’t remember the exactness of it but I do remember different adults playing with me, telling me my worst nightmares, inventing terrible things and traumatizing me. Not my parents but other relatives. Older ones who took great pleasure in seeing me frightened and then held my fear up to each other and laughed.
And I would cry for hours, and my mother would scold my torturers, and all they would answer was, “We was jes’ playin’ with her.”
As a grownup, it’s easy to look back and see how pathetic my persecutors were. It’s also easy to see how con- trolling and manipulating people are who try to play with my friend or me, for that matter, and how it’s all about power and control and putting someone in a position so they could be used later for personal gain.
Just because I see it, doesn’t make it go away, and it doesn’t make it right either.