Game Therapy: Dragon Age 2- Unpacking Part 4


Here is another shot from foxybcosplay, and you can see other images from this photo shoot and more of Brooke’s work on her deviant art page.

I’ve been thinking about what I said before about Anders, and how I keep choosing to romance him even though I know that betrayal is coming. Why do I do that? What does it say about me? 

The strangest thing to me is that I just feel peace over it all, like there is nothing wrong with walking into pain over and over again. Like giving someone special the chance to hurt me so many times is fine. Maybe it is. After all, what does this really reveal about me?

I think that I’ve really grown as a person. I used to shut people out when they hurt me. Sometimes, that would even be the end of our relationship entirely. (Hurt me once and you will never touch me again.) It was very effective for protecting myself, to be sure. The problem is that no human can live forever without hurting someone, even if they love that person.

Instead, today, I am able to look at my husband and say “He is going to hurt me some day. Sometimes, it will be small and only scratch my pride. Sometimes, he will do or say things that reach into my core and crush a part of me. I know that. And I’m going to let him, because I know that I’m no better equipped to hold his heart than he is to hold mine. I will hurt him too. Sometimes, it will be minor and sometimes, it will feel life threatening. He knows that too, but he’s still giving me that chance.”

Love involves risks, being brave enough to let someone get close to you. 

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Hawke and Anders have a healthy relationship by default, but they spend 9 years of their lives together before everything gets to the explosion point. I’m not sure when Anders becomes consumed by anger and despair- I suppose it’s probably around or after year 6. By that point, it’s easy for me to understand why Hawke stays with him, but things do get messy after that. 

I like to think that those uncomfortable quests (the ones where he flat out lies to you) are signs of Hawke’s trust and desire to see Anders restored to his original state. The results of these quests says more about Anders/Vengeance than it does about Hawke. The only bad thing it says about her is that she sees what she wants to be true, rather than seeing things as they are. She needs to believe that Anders can be saved, that the demon can be removed, but she can live the rest of her life with him. Everyone around her can see that Anders is slipping further and further out out of reach, but she won’t listen to any of them.

I don’t think that I have this problem, honestly. As a pessimist/realist, I don’t often become trapped in unrealistic expectations for outcomes. I have more trouble believing that things are going to be earthshakingly fabulous than believing that they will be difficult. In addition, I’m not interested in changing my husband or my friends. I want to support them if they decide that they need to change part of themselves, but people are people, not projects.

So, whether I should or not, I feel pretty calm about my approach to love. That’s good enough for me.

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Game Therapy: Dragon Age II, Unpacking Part 2

It’s time for me to come back to my last post and examine the contents. This one is kind of complicated, because it includes both an experience and recounting that experience to someone. I will try to account for both layers.

  1. Desire for Intimacy: I use this story consistently, and I can’t really imagine a romantic relationship that doesn’t involve a deep knowledge of one another. Someone who wants me needs to take all of me, including any pain or baggage that I’m carrying.
  2. Selective Vulnerability: Hawke has never shared this story with everyone in her party. Some of her companions would end up fighting with her over her father’s ideals. Some wouldn’t care. She only shares this part of her past with those who really seem to know her.
  3. Growing up Fast: Hawke’s father really asked a lot from a child. She didn’t get to relax and enjoy her childhood. I imagine that she smiled enough to avoid attention and laughed for time to time, but she probably also brooded when no one was watching.
  4. Responsibility Comes First: Obviously, Hawke didn’t want to kill her father, but she did it, because she had sworn she would. She didn’t want to lie to her family either, but she did it. In a single day, Hawke sacrificed most of her life for the sake of her family’s safety and her sworn duty.
  5. Pushing Past Exhaustion: The escape required a lot from her physically, but it didn’t matter. Realistically, someone probably couldn’t do that much running in a few hours without training for it beforehand, and the emotional burden and adrenaline rushes would take a toll as well, but it never matters. Hawke always gets her family away, finds her father, and escapes his captors because she needs to.

I think that’s about all that I can see in this story, and I don’t want to start grasping at straws here. Happily, two of these traits are positive, which is better than last time, at least. 

The desire for intimacy has brought me some really good friendships and a marriage that continues to surpass my expectations. It turns out that the type of people who text you again after you break down crying over coffee and childhood trauma are also the kind of people who are also willing to show emotions and discuss hard things. It’s a real blessing.

Selective vulnerability is also good, and a healthy development for me. I lost A LOT of friends when I left college unexpectedly. Like, all of them. Even the ones who tried to keep up contact with me weren’t able to break through my pain to reach me, which isn’t their fault; however, I watched many relationships atrophy and change after my diagnosis became public, which was their fault. Treating someone differently all of a sudden is a choice, not an accident.

So after that, I became… bitter. That words is insufficient. I was angry, hurt, scared, unwilling to trust, and more. I was vitriolic. NO ONE WAS GOING TO HURT ME EVER AGAIN. I WOULD LEAVE THEM FIRST.

False vulnerability became a club, and I slammed people with it as soon as possible. ‘I know we just met, but *insert major pain that someone else has already abandoned me over*, so yeah- go ahead and leave now.’ And many people did. It was great. I could rejoice in my correct understanding of selfish, mean humans. I could be safe.

One day, someone stayed. I hit her with my pain, and she stayed. I tried to scare her off, but she wouldn’t leave. Together, I learned how to build deeper friendships, and later, I learned that I don’t need to wear my pain for all to see. I can feel it without needing to tell anyone. Being vulnerable is a choice.

So yeah. The first two behaviors are actually healthy, and I’m partially pleased by it. I just can’t be fully happy because I read the other three as I typed them, and I need to talk about those as well. Eventually. This is enough for now.

Fast Loyalty

One of the things that I have done routinely is commit to things very quickly, whether it’s a boyfriend, a job, a college major, or, in this case, a guild in an online game. I like being on a team, contributing to something bigger than myself, and giving my all to things and people. I’m an “all in” type of person, and I always have been.

Normally, this is fine… Well, wait. Actually, most of the time, it doesn’t really work out well for me in the long run. Friendships aren’t always as deep as you think they’ll be, boyfriends/girlfriends don’t have to love you like you love them, employers don’t need to care about the work you do, and team members don’t often play the game just like you do. It’s been pretty rare for me to find friends who form genuine, deep relationships; this marriage is my first relationship where both of us can really be hurt or comforted reciprocally; I’ve never had a guild that I could really support fully.

Wow. I… I started this entry with the belief that things normally went well for me when I trusted others. It’s a little hard to know what to say now.

I guess that I’ll just present the issue as a story, bring in the players as they appear, and walk you through the journey piece by piece. That will give you the chance to catch up and it might help me to get the pieces sorted out.

Facing Her Fears

This is another entry about Kuno, my cat, whom I wrote about a few days ago. I thought that it might be good to talk a bit about how we worked through her fear of people. I suppose that I should mention that I am not a cat behaviorist, so this does not constitute professional advice, although it lines up with the research that I have done on the topic.

Anyway, Kuno was terrified of us when we brought her home. At least, it was pretty intense after she got back from the vet and her respiratory infection and ear mites cleared up. (She had a rough kittenhood.) So, at that point, Kuno pretty much only came around when we fed her, but even then, she came after we left the area around her dish. She was scared, and I knew that she didn’t trust us.

I was going through a dark season myself, and I also had trust issues, so I understood that results wouldn’t be fast. On the first day, I picked her up and held her to my chest, supporting her weight and scratching her ears while she hissed in my ear. I only kept her there for a few seconds- maybe 20 or 30- before releasing her and giving her treats as a reward. The next day, I did it again for a few more seconds and with more treats. I increased like this, bit by bit, for maybe two more days, and then I held her for a solid minute. I knew that I was asking her for a lot, so I gave her a full can of tuna after I let her go, and she got the next day or two off.

We started again the next week and just kind of worked our way up to 3 minutes or so, but by then, Kuno wasn’t running away any more. She wasn’t coming to us for attention, but she wasn’t hiding either, so I stopped. She had been learning from her experiences, starting to trust humans a little more each time that we approached her with affection. She knew that she was safe with us, and that was enough for me.

Over the years, she has become more social, and now, she will climb on laps to be petted for whatever duration of time she pleases (but not a second more). It’s really good progress, and I am proud of her for making it.

But the best part of these therapeutic sessions with my cat isn’t really her growth; it’s mine. As I reach out to her and meet her where she is, without expecting more than she can give, I learn to treat myself with the same gentle patience. And that- that is worth the cat scratches and the pain.

Note: The pictured cat isn’t Kuno, because she isn’t really cooperating with me.