One of the most difficult battles of my life has been coming to terms with others’ unwillingness to apologize. I apologize compulsively- I’m sorry frequents my lips as often as my name, if not moreso- and I haven’t been able to imagine why others can’t do it.
I was talking with my dear therapist the other day, on this subject. I was weeping about what I experienced over the summer, and I said to her that I thought that something that would really help me move on would be an apology from those involved, who neglected to help me. My therapist immediately replied “and you may never get it.” If I still subscribed to DBT, this would be the moment that I’d have to practice the Radical Acceptance skill. And technically, that is the way forward.
But my therapist knows better than to tell me to Radically Accept, anymore. It’s not that it’s wrong, it’s simply that the skill can come across as invalidating if you don’t pad it beyond recognition with intentional validation. Here’s what it ended up looking like.
“What you went through is horrific. You have every right to be devastated and angry, even almost a year later. You deserve endless apologies. But in order to reduce suffering, we have to come to terms with the fact that they’re living in their own world of morality where an apology may not seem like the right way to go.”
That’s exactly it. I hold myself to a high standard when it comes to apologizing, so I can’t easily comprehend what I’m seeing when others don’t follow that standard.
We all isolate ourselves into our own little realities, and insulate ourselves against realities that make us uncomfortable. A world in which people don’t take accountability for their actions horrifies me. I pretend it doesn’t exist, that everyone is operating how I am. But where does that leave me when they don’t?
Everything is always my fault, I muck everything up all of the time, I am inherently corrupt.
If I can just understand- and this practice is much more physical, rather than intellectual, than it seems- that others are not holding themselves to the same standard as I am, that people will make mistakes, that they’ll spin stories such that they can protect themselves with neurotic false realities (as we all do), then I can greatly alleviate personal suffering.
Take the summer for example. I know that the folks who did it likely tell themselves that they did the best they could, that they did nothing wrong. I know that’s protective, delusional thinking. However, it serves me in no way to continue to hold out for an apology from them. People are predictable in their self preservation. If I spend all of my time battling that predictability, I’ll be left scraggly and weary and unable to function.
So, summer folks, I dare you to apologize. Girls from my old school, I dare you too. I’d get along more easily if you did. But know that I’m going to survive the absence of an apology. They don’t think like I do, empathize like I do, almost no one does, anyway. That has to be okay, and it is. What other choice is there?