I think one of the weirder things I have learned from Loki is how to accept tough love.
Tough love is a weird and unwelcome concept for a lot of people. A lot of people hide malicious intentions behind the idea of tough love. People with agendas, or a sense of selfishness they refuse to rein in, are often needlessly harsh and fall back on claiming to mean well to avoid consequences. In retaliation, other, better-meaning people want to claim that love shouldn’t hurt, ever. Under any circumstances. Even this crowd hides its own creeping agenda, as a refusal of negative experience is also often a refusal of consequences. All these people do is sour the concept.
Tough love in its true form is best known in the context of addiction recovery, as that’s where the concept originates. While I’ve never grappled with substance abuse, trauma recovery brings out many of the same symptoms, carries much of the same baggage, and results in similarly bad behavior.
I’m a traumatized person, and I need tough love.
The way I have managed my trauma before receiving professional and divine help…didn’t work. Recovery just isn’t something you can do by feel, when the entire problem is that your brain has betrayed you. What makes sense does not necessarily have any genuine logic to it. Just because something feels dangerous or impossible doesn’t mean it really is. Alternately, just because something feels justified in your fear, doesn’t make it so.
I threw hairbrushes at people and screamed unthinkable insults at the love of my life over the stupidest things. It was not sustainable, and I needed a change that I was unwilling to make.
Loki’s a pretty well established boundary-violator. That is terrifying when your trauma comes from violated boundaries to begin with. And you can always, theoretically, say no. Low-value efforts will not be pushed farther than you allow them to be. Our relationships with the gods are a mutual investment–and our gods have things to do, they’re not going to invest in something pointless.
But always saying no doesn’t get you places. You know this. Your therapist knows this. Your gods know this. Someone in this team has to give you a hard time when something is important. If Loki’s on that team, it’ll most likely be him.
And I needed to be used to the idea that other people are smarter than me and have a valuable perspective. A power dynamic is great for making you accept that. It’s hard to believe it with other humans, because we’re all theoretically on the same level and a lot of us are really stupid. I say this on the grounds that I am a human who is really stupid.
And part of distinguishing tough love from malice is recognizing that there is a difference between fearing and being afraid. To fear is to know that there can be consequences if you step out of line, and trusting that these consequences will be survivable and done for a good reason. To be afraid is to fear consequences and to refuse them by any means necessary.
I fear Loki. But I am not afraid of Loki. He is often annoying, and kind of a dick. But he acts with good reason.
And when you are throwing objects at people because you refuse to take a joke, lashing out at strangers on the internet and dropping commitments, torching bridges for petty reasons and sabotaging yourself when you really need to cut someone out, refusing to leave your house…you can’t live like that. You need a loving kick in the ass.
And Loki is more than happy to oblige.
If I had not been pestered into doing some pretty heavy shadow work, I’d be in worse shape than I already was. By contrast, I’m a much more functional person who can recognize when the Bad Brains are acting up, and who has the skills to start addressing the problem and dig up the root.
Religion isn’t a substitute for therapy. But it makes a great supplement.
3 thoughts on “Tough Love Exists”
‘There is a difference between fearing and being afraid.. To fear is to know that there can be consequences if you step out of line, and trusting that these consequences will be survivable and done for a good reason. To be afraid is to fear consequences and to refuse them by any means necessary.’
Thanks for writing this post and sharing it; this ‘fear vs. afraid’ situation is exactly what I need to sort out in my own devotional practice lately.
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No problem! I adore the gods…but damn if they’re not spooky as hell sometimes, you know?
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