I was thinking about the cycle a little bit more. Warmth, terror, shame, decompensation. And I wondered if there was any way to intervene. It’s really terribly hard to stay in that place of terror. I was trying to stay in that place of warmth and that kind of helped—I tried thinking that these are natural feelings, and to give myself some imaginary warmth. But it didn’t seem to be possible to stay in it very long. I always shifted to terror. So I started to think what helped C, when she got to that very decompensated place and began self-harming. It helped when I was firm and authoritative. She stopped and shifted back to warmth, which then shifted to anger—I think she goes to anger more quickly than shame, or the shame is very quickly passed through. Or, since I don’t leave and won’t allow her to leave, the shame doesn’t work. Whatever. I think it’s the equivalent of my shame.

I thought about my class, that I am warm and also authoritative. On good days, when I am my best teaching self, I am very loving and very strict and rules and rules and you will behave. You will enjoy yourself and we will have fun, but we will have fun on my terms, because I know how to create fun without things getting away from the learning. It is just my style. Kids seem to like it, at least here in Country X. It’s protective. It’s loving and it’s protective. It’s not all happy cuddles.

Well, it works for them. Maybe it will work for me. The next time I spiraled to suicidal thoughts I was authoritative. No, you will not hurt yourself. I will not allow you to do that. I imagined warm protective arms. Now, go take your vitamins, get dressed, and eat your breakfast. It really, really helped. Then I began to have warm thoughts about myself and I spiraled again. Okay, rinse, repeat. You will not hurt yourself. I will not allow that. Warm, protective arms. Rinse, repeat.

It’s related to what people suggest about dealing with trauma: imagine standing up to the abuser, do something to take control, but it’s much more infused with love, and it feels safer. I can’t really imagine standing up to my abusers or having that be a positive thing. If I stood up to my mother, she would get dysregulated and self-harm, which doesn’t help anything. If I stood up to my dad or to Yuri, they might very well kill me. So I can’t realistically imagine doing that. I kind of know it’s lying to myself. I have stood up to both of my parents, but remotely, from a safe distance, and I don’t think it has the same power. But this helps. Strong, warm arms helps.

It does make me think this was absolutely what I was missing in childhood. I did get warmth from Aliya. I got protectiveness from the girls, but they could not actually protect me. My own mother seemed to have no protective instinctive whatsoever. She protected herself, and it was 100% rage—no warmth whatsoever.

I’ll try this and see what it does.