I am supposed to write the “anchoring” portion of a competition we are having, so basically the introductions for each of the poems that are going to be read in a poetry recitation competition. The thing about this is that I don’t want to do it, because I know perfectly well that regardless of what I do, VP Ma’am will not like it. She asked me to do it and I immediately thought to myself, “It’s okay. Whatever I do, she will be displeased with, so the thing to do is just get it done, give it to her, and then let her redo it.” It seems a lot more efficient to me to just let her do everything, since she doesn’t like what I do, but that somehow isn’t an option, and we must go through the motions of working together.

The other thing is that after having said that, she told me two or three times to do it. In fact, my laptop battery was finished for the day and I hadn’t brought my charger. (I know more or less how long it is going to last, and don’t usually bring my charger to school unless I have more than the usual number of periods free. Work after school hadn’t been figured in.) I had told her that, and that I would do it in the evening. And yet she needed to keep telling me to do it, as if I would let her down.

The thing is this isn’t entirely unusual. Country X-ers seem to think you need to be kind of wound up and frightened to get on something. If you aren’t in a panic, you might slack off. Actually, they are like that. If there’s no sense of panic, they just play. They seem to mostly be reacting to life, rather than planning for it. In her, this is intensified, but it’s not entirely unheard of. I can’t really imagine living like that, just kind of buffeted about by life, rather than taking an active part in directing it, but that seems to be a lot of what goes on. When you are fatalistic, that’s what happens, and it is a fatalistic culture. It feels to me that would be a terribly anxious way to live.

There was one day I was gathering my things to go with a friend—it was raining, and he was going to give me a ride. As I was getting my things, he kept saying to come fast or something like that. As if that would help things. I imagine he saw I wasn’t hurrying, that I was getting my things very deliberately, in an organized way, because otherwise I forget things. And actually I did forget something, and I had to walk back to school that day, track down the key, and get it.

But with VP Ma’am, it’s very pronounced.

It’s very frustrating for me, because the piece I am always struggling with is getting my emotions under control and my arousal state regulated. She winds me up, and I think, “I have all of this work to do, and now I have these emotions to deal with. I can’t do my work. I need to go and regulate for a while.” But you don’t need to regulate if you are just impulsive, so she has no idea that I’m doing this. She has no idea you make better decisions if you can calm down first or that your work is done in a more accomplished way, and things actually go more smoothly if you take time to calm down. I imagine she just sees indifference, and she is reacting to that and trying harder and harder to get some kind of attention from me. She wants soothing, actually, and I have no idea how to give her soothing. I can barely soothe myself. I am learning to soothe C now, but I have no idea how to soothe her, and I end up in a state where I need to spend a lot of time soothing myself. And it’s stressful, because there are other things I need to do also, and it’s hard not to say how much more difficult she is actually making life for me, that she is scaring me, and I really wish she would stop.

I kind of see how this break in attunement happens in a relationship with someone who has disordered attachment and does not know how to self-soothe—which maybe I am seeing everywhere now, but she seems to have, as do I—because you end up needing to disengage from the other person in order to soothe yourself. You cannot be in a situation with that other person and be soothing each other and also soothing oneself, because the other person is not doing any self-soothing and it is pushing you beyond your capacity to soothe yourself also. I’m thinking here, really, about a relationship with a parent who cannot soothe herself and therefore cannot soothe the child either, and the child would need to disengage because the only soothing possible is going to be self-soothing. It isn’t going to come from connection, and so there is this experience of needing connection—because we all do—but also finding connection destabilizing and unsustainable. That dynamic of needing to withdraw from the relationship in order to regulate again creates ongoing rupture in the relationship, and also an expectation of distrust in the child, of never knowing what to expect, because the impulse is to seek soothing from the parent and maybe that happens sometimes, but very often the opposite happens. The child then has to withdraw in order to soothe herself, because the parent is not able to provide any soothing.


4 thoughts on “Self-soothing

  1. Ellen April 19, 2016 / 7:57 am

    It seems really positive you are figuring out why your friend aggravates you so much and is so unhelpful. She sounds terrible to work with. I wish she were able to trust you to get on with it, though you’ve explained why she can’t. It seems a mix of culture and personal deficits.

    • Ashana M April 19, 2016 / 8:45 am

      Yes, I am really regretting my choice. I didn’t know it would be like this. With more distance, all was well. Maybe as the situation with C calms down, she’ll be okay again.

  2. pattyspathtohealing April 19, 2016 / 10:40 am

    You are so right about the need to withdraw to soothe yourself. It is really hard to soothe somebody else when you are in need of soothing and the other person cannot self soothe or help you out. It makes sense thinking about my relationship with my mother and all of the ruptures we had…and how I’ve withdrawn from her for most of my adult life.

    I really hope that VPN ma’am can figure out that you are trustworthy and will do what you say you will. Thinking about you.

  3. Rachel April 20, 2016 / 11:49 am

    Very insightful, thank you for sharing. And it does make a lot of sense, and your frustration is quite valid.

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