Coming back online

I watched this other video on Youtube, just a short clip. No babies in this one, just a guy talking. Dan Siegel or something. Anyway, he says the obvious actually: in disorganized attachment, the attachment system is saying, “That’s your attachment figure. You need to go be close to her.” And the fight-or-flight system is saying, “That’s a dangerous person. You need to run or hit them or maybe go hide under the bed.” That’s why you get these behaviours that seem to make no sense, because the child has been conditioned to see the attachment figure as dangerous, and the brain is sending two very contradictory messages to the body.

That’s what I feel inside. It is a physical sensation in my body, of needing to go close and needing to flee or fight back. It is most intensely in my stomach, like a terrible clenching feeling, and it lasts a really long time. Like all day or all night. I dissociate to get things done, and come back and, oh, there it is again. I did, for the first time, seem to be able to make it subside the night before last. I think it went away—not just numbed out. It was mostly just a lot of deep breathing that did it, but that doesn’t mean I can repeat it.

It seems to be a mix of longing and fear. So Dr. Dan Siegel or whatever his name is makes that sensation makes sense. That is my baby feeling. I need to go close to that person. I am feeling vulnerable and need physical proximity right now. And, at the same time, I am afraid of that person. I need to run away from her. She is going to hit me.

I was thinking about this also, because I was with VP Ma’am yesterday, and after a few hours, she began to behave very oddly towards me. It was clear she was going into modes, that she wasn’t the normal VP Ma’am anymore. She didn’t attack me, but she got very needy. Her voice became very high-pitched and panicky, not just in interacting with me, but about everything. At one point, I reached down to pick up my things where I had left them on the ground, and she grabbed hold of my sleeve, like I might run away. She was trying to pull me somewhere, and I didn’t have any idea where or why, and it made me very angry, to be prevented from picking up my things. But I didn’t say that. I just said, very lightly, “I want to pick up my things. What is it you feel so worried about?” So she wanted a photo with me. Okay.

When she gets like that, I have absolutely zero compassion for her. She strikes me in this completely different way than C does, and I wonder about that. C can behave however the modes prompt her to behave, and I don’t really feel angry at her for any of it. I might have a flash of anger for a minute, and then I soften towards her. I realize why she is doing it, and I soften. I don’t exactly know why there is this difference, if it is just that C is a child, and I don’t feel threatened by C—pretty much no matter what C does, I feel like the adult. I feel in charge of the situation, and it is much, much easier for me to stay calm. I also want to meet her needs. I don’t want to VP Ma’am’s. I want VP Ma’am to take care of herself. It puzzles me. There are explanations, but I don’t really know what fits.

Maybe it is also that C expresses the modes more fully. When C is feeling young, she looks very young. Without thinking, I respond to her little self as though she really is little, because she becomes that way. VP Ma’am is able to maintain a certain veneer over her young feelings, and they are harder to recognize.

But I don’t really think that is it either.

Anyway, VP Ma’am was behaving oddly, it was clear that the modes were surfacing, and physically she wanted to be near me. After the Literary Club program yesterday, we had a meeting, and she sat next to me. She wanted to be near me. And I was thinking later I can’t relate to that. Country X-ers—in general—want to be near other people. They feel very scared to be alone, and if there is a problem, they want people physically next to them, and I can’t really understand that. There is a tradition of visiting people when they are sick, which I totally cannot understand, because basically the sick person has to try to get up and function and play host. To me, it seems absolutely like torture. I feel like hell, I want to lie in bed and moan, and here there are people visiting and I have to comb my hair at the very least and make tea for them. But people here like that.

I mean, I would like people to visit me when I am sick if they did something helpful. If they brought fresh vegetables so that I don’t have to go to the market, or if they washed up in the kitchen, but that is not the tradition here. People visit and the family of the sick person entertains them and the sick person does their best to look perky and presentable. So we visit people when they are sick, do absolutely nothing to help out, and create more work for the family. But Country Xers feel better, because physically someone is present.

I cannot relate to that at any level. I do not feel better just because someone is physically present with me. If they are physically present, and actually helpful to me, then I fee better, but otherwise they are often just one more stress for me. But not everyone is like me. Clearly, Country Xers are not. VP Ma’am’s son has quit his job and moved back in with his mom to be a presence there, which is part of the reason for the money problems. Now, VP Ma’am is supporting herself and 2 grownup children and one teenage grandchild on a teacher’s salary. But the son seemed to think it more important that he be a body. So there is something physical that happens, maybe almost chemical, when your loved ones are present, that is soothing, and it doesn’t happen for me.

Except with C. It hits me usually later, as I am walking home. I just feel very, very calm. Whatever has happened while I was there—whether it was a nice visit, or a dramatic, confusing visit, there are many times when I feel deeply calm after I leave. Because attachments do that. They are settling, and C is making my attachment system come back online.


One thought on “Coming back online

  1. Rachel August 16, 2016 / 3:43 am

    I love Dan Siegel’s work. He has a clear way of explaining the brain.
    I really like how you responded to her “I would like to pick my things up..” Very assertive without being forceful or unkind.
    This is all very insightful and helpful. Is it hard for you to find people you can connect with on an intellectual level? It struck me the other day you must have a pretty high IQ.

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